Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June Reading

I've attempted to read several books in the last few weeks, maybe more actually, and they've all sucked and disappointed me beyond belief and two of them were by my favorite authors, so I was kind of devastated. It was so bad that I couldn't even find anything to read on my trip and that's sad.

But then Oprah started her book club again! Yay! Oprah and I have the same taste in books and I credit Oprah for setting me on the path which eventually led to me becoming a writer. It's a long story. It's in my book, but basically I started reading Oprah's book club selections, got really into reading good quality fiction and memoirs, realized I wanted to major in English because I liked stories so much, started writing myself and now here I am. Because Oprah and I have a long history of liking the same books, I was so excited to read her first pick and really excited that it was a memoir because I'm not so much into fiction the last few years unless it involves a lot of magic, but that's another story.

FINALLY, a book I loved. Thank you Oprah for Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Oprah's Book Club 2.0)

Cheryl Strayed's Wild is a memoir about her solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, a journey she made to heal the wounds from her childhood with an abusive father, her mother's tragic death from cancer at 45 and her divorce from what appears to be a very sweet and understanding man. At first I had a hard time understanding how hiking in the woods for several months could possibly heal a lifetime of suffering like that, but as I read on I came to understand that Strayed needed to learn to be by herself and to face fear and discomfort of all kinds head on without any convenient outs to numb her pain like drugs or sex. It ended up making a lot of sense.

I am not an outdoorsy person in this sense. I've never been to an REI and probably never will. I like being outside but only if I'm close to an inside and I've often said if I were on Survivor there is no doubt whatsoever that I wouldn't make it through the first episode. I'd probably vote myself off the island. I am a wuss about those things, but I love reading about people who aren't and I loved reading about Strayed's trek through the mountains of the west coast. You'd think that a story about a long hike might be dull but Strayed switches back and forth between her present (the hike) and her past which led her to the hike and she's a damn good writer. Scary good. What have I always told you? A good writer can make ANYTHING interesting. This book was more than interesting. I was absolutely riveted and kept reading and reading to see what she would encounter next on the trail and how she would get past the next obstacle in her (literal) path. It was fascinating, and she doesn't gloss over a single detail. Yes she poops in holes and yes her toenails turn black and fall off. She often describes how bad she smells and I appreciate those details for their honesty and because that's the stuff I wonder about when I hear about people living in the wild.

Next November, my birthday weekend to be exact, Cheryl Strayed is teaching a memoir workshop at the Sanibel Island Writer's Conference and I'm just going to put this out there for the Universe. I need to be in that class. I need this to happen.

Writers like Cheryl Strayed humble me. She made me want to pack it in and quit writing because here I've been struggling to finish a memoir about a strip club, typing on about boobs and pubes and then I read something like this, of real and lasting substance and I feel like I'll never be that great of a writer or that brave of a person, but then it makes me want to keep writing anyway, a word at a time over and over, in hopes that one day I can find my way on the trail of good writing and get better.

Last week I started going to hot yoga and I'm going to write about that in its own post for you this week. I hate hot yoga but this was something I had to do and something I'd tried and failed at in the past. Hot yoga is my Pacific Crest Trail and reading Wild has actually helped me get through yoga, though it seems to really discount and trivialize a several month wilderness hike to compare it to an hour and a half of hundred degree stretching in a room of rich white people, and I don't mean to do that. The comparison I'm making is about getting over one's fears, whatever they happen to be and about learning to endure physical unpleasantness, for which I have zero tolerance. 

In reading Wild I was constantly reminded of another favorite book of mine,Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. I'd LOVE to be in a book club, or better yet a nonfiction class, that would read these books together. A compare and contrast discussion of the two would be pretty cool and I love the idea of reading books about two people who went into the wild: a woman who saved herself and a boy who couldn't and I'm interested in contrasting a memoir about it as compared to a second hand account by an author trying to piece together the mystery and motivation of another person who felt compelled to leave his life behind to also heal, but who didn't make it out alive and thus, could not tell his own story. Both books, by the way, are excellent. If you haven't read Into the Wild, buy it along with Wild and read them together as I've suggested. I think that the books complement each other and that reading them together would be a fuller and more enriching experience for the reader.

So yes, Oprah hasn't lost her touch. Loved this book and can't wait to see what she picks next. If you've read Wild, let me know your thoughts on it. I'd love to discuss it with other readers in the comments.


One Mean MFA said...

I'm glad Oprah started her book club again because I now have even more incentive to get my book revised.

TheTruther said...

This book originally caught my eye because I've been researching hiking and getting out in the wild beyond. My research includes a daily hikes to and from a slide-on truck camper with a potty in civilized national parks however. I am looking into solar panels for it at least.

I got completely caught up in her journey. Two o'clock in the morning and still reading caught up. Even though I have to get up at 6 for work.

Cheryl is so brave. I don't believe I have ever been as honest as she is, not out loud anyway. I completely get the being totally alone, that's what calls to me on this hiking thing I'm stuck on. I just am not as brave to leave civilization so far behind tho. She is so brave to lay bare such intimate feelings and to go to it in a hostile environment where she relies totally on herself to come out at the other end. The trail and emotionally.

There was one part of the book that completely pissed me off. I'm still angry about it. When she accidently wanders off the PCT to another trail and runs into the bow hunters. The elements and nature have no agenda with her, they are simply what they are and she must cope within it. But those two dicks is what would scare the shit out of me of hiking alone. Which is why I will not be unarmed when and if I ever get to realize my journey. Geez...who are the real animals out there.

Through the book, Cheryl's voice seemed so familiar to me. After finishing it, I wanted to find out more about her and found out why she is so familiar. She's Dear Sugar at The Rumpus. I'd been following her all along. Even used a quote of her's when my son was going through a break-up. Look it up, just love her advice columns.
I know now why her advice and wisdom is so no bullshit for real. She's got cred with me.

I hope you get to see the author on your birthday and I hope it is all you want it to be.

TheTruther said...

I also read Into the Wild, quite awhile back. I remembered I didn't enjoy it, so much that I didn't have any desire to see the movie. I read some Amazon reviews to jog my memory because I don't want to re-read it. So, I admit that my comments may be colored by what they said, but only to the extent to what I agreed with.

These two people are polar opposites. Where I see bravery in Cheryl, I see arrogance in Chris. Not because she survived and he didn't, but because his renouncement of all things material was the result of his feelings of superiority. No one measures up to him and his purity of thought, so he's going to show them how it's done.

Chris burns his car, the cash in wallet and erases himself from the world he knows and the people that love him on the outset of his journey and begins it with little more than the clothes on his back and a sack of rice.

Cheryl researches and prepares and overpacks. She has to sell her belongings and work extra shifts at a shitty job to be able to do this. On the trail, when she is down to her last 2 cents, she hangs on to them.

She still has to fight the elements, makes some mistakes along the way that could have cost her life, but she submits to the fact that she is still a part of this world and will have to come back to it at some point.

Chris just comes off as being above it all and it cost him his life. No life is a throw away. It wasn't just his alone to lose, he had people that loved and cared about him and he took it from them as well. I can't stop thinking about how his mother must have felt and must still.

greyspasm said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I just requested this from the library (and with 93 holds, I probably will forget about it by the time it's available).

I never read memoirs until you started raving about them. I recently picked up "Riding the Bus with My Sister," which I liked a lot, esp. since I have a daughter with developmental delays (and, no, not just having trouble saying S's). If you haven't read it, give it a try.

Just got done reading 11/22/63. It was OK. I was never a Stephen King fan, so not too surprised. But the time travel element intrigued me.

Wide Lawns said...

It's the differences between Chris and Cheryl that fascinate me and not just the differences in characters, but the differences in the actual books and the way they had to be written too. Into the Wild is journalism, which is why it couldn't be made into a narrative film. A documentary would've worked better because in trying to make it a narrative, they had to strip the book of all the journalistic elements that gave it depth and made it interesting. Chris came off as very arrogant and a total ass, however, if you read between the lines of Krakauer's writing, there are hints that Chris suffered from some pretty serious mental illness. I have a theory that he was bi-polar as there is clear evidence of mania, depression and delusions of grandeur in his behavior.

Gwyne said...

I read Into the Wild a couple years ago. I'm the type of person who absolutely hates movies about survival/climbing mountains/plane crashes, etc. But I got really into it. It's a quick read, but it really surprised me how much it affected me. I have yet to see the movie. I don't know if I even want to. It would probably just make me too sad.

Green said...

I read Into the Wild. Or maybe I just saw the movie. I can't remember. Probably both. Fantastic though.

If i saw a book about a woman who went hiking to find herself I'd be like "Oh. It's Eat, Pray, Love in crunchy granola format. PASS." But if I saw a book about a girl working at a strip club, it'd be all "Hmmm.... " and I'd be checking out the cover. Stop being intimidated by silly things.

jenjellybeans said...

I just devoured Wild. Thanks for the recommendation! I would love to hike like this someday, just so long as my toenails don't fall off, I don't run into bow hunters, and some sort of hovercraft follows me at all times, ready to take me to the nearest hotel. Woo-hoo, nature!

jenjellybeans said...

I just devoured Wild. Thanks for the recommendation! I would love to take a hike like this someday, just so long as my toenails don't fall off, I don't run into bowhunters, and some sort of hovercraft follows me around, ready to take me to the nearest hotel. Woo-hoo, nature!

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