Thursday, July 31, 2008

Me-Ville

I was going to introduce this post with a funny little story about me as a kid conflating words in songs and thinking they said something else . . . and then I realised that the post would end up being about me, instead of about the book my friend the Zimmerman recently had published. Which would be ironic, since the book is called Deliver Us from Me-ville.

Me-ville, where everything is all about me. That would be in my head. And, respectively, in most other people's heads, too.

This is a tricky topic to tackle. How do you write about self-absorption without being self-absorbed, and yet also without sounding as if you think you're preaching to a whole bunch of people who you think are self-absorbed, while you yourself are exempt?

I'm not sure how the Zimmerman did it, but he definitely did it. It doubtless helps that he has a knack for self-deprecation, although even that can become an outlet for selfishness if overdone. He did not overdo it. He's just self-aware enough to know that he can be as guilty of self-absorption as the rest of us. He admits it, but doesn't get mired in a self-gratifying public guilt-fest.

As a reader, reading it was a different but similar kind of challenge: if I happened upon a part to which my gut responded, "Hey--he's talking to me!" I then had to pull back with a, "Hey--wait a minute . . . " How can I not resonate with talk of self-centeredness? But . . . it did seem a little suspect.

I'm glad he wrote the book. I'm glad I read it. I don't want to tell you you're selfish or anything, but you might want to pick up a copy and read it, too.

While you're waiting for your order to come in, you could play along with this little game which the Zimmerman devised recently in a brief email exchange we had about the prophets of the Old Testament:

"Which prophet's trials and tribulations would you be least unwilling to endure?"

He says this would be a good icebreaker for Bible nerds. I agree. But even if you weren't the kids whose hands they tied down in youth group so that you wouldn't answer all the trivia questions, I think you can play along . . .

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Vignettes

Yesterday, I bought a mattress set. The one that it is replacing, I think I got when I was 14 or something. Yes, I still have a twin bed. It is true that I have spent large swathes of time since acquiring said bed, not using it (having lived in many other places). However, this does not take away from the fact that it is over 20 years old, and I have been sleeping on it regularly for the last five years. It also does not take away from the fact that I have been unable to sleep comfortably on it for some time.

I do not like spending money on myself, particularly in amounts over three digits. This purchase would have been over four digits if it hadn't been for the kindness of the salesman and the powers that be in the bedding universe. As it was, I can now say I have officially spent my allotment of the money the government sent us this spring. The bed is now twice as tall as it used to be. It comes just below my waist, and looks something like a loaf of bread, or a muffin. I think I will no longer be able to loll over the side and pick books up off the floor without some danger of falling on my head. But it's sooo nice and soft . . .

*****

My parents have returned to Ireland. Actually, they're probably boarding their plane right now. Some time after they get back, they are going to attend a birthday party for a friend of theirs. It is a Medieval party, and requires "fancy dress" (which means "costumes," for our American readers). My mother tells me that some of the children who will be attending this party intend to dress as rats . . . because of the bubonic plague. I think it's wonderful. Not the plague, of course, but the inventiveness.

*****

In the next town stands a gas station called "Global Village Fuel." It sounds simultaneously ominous, obvious and light-heartedly realistic, and I chuckle every time I drive past it. I don't believe I have ever fueled up there, however.

*****

Yesterday, I tried silkworm pupae. Eating them, I mean. They had been marinated in soy sauce, which is, therefore, pretty much what they tasted like. The texture was brittle and slightly internally fuzzy, in a preserved-with-soy-sauce kind of way. I don't know that I'd go out of my way to buy the things, but if I'm ever in similar positions to the ones I was in the three times I had to eat chicken livers, I know I can at least get them down.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Apparently, My Niece Is a Girl After My Own Heart

When I was two, my parents made an audio cassette of me opening presents. (This was because we didn't have anything more technologically advanced, and we were living in Honduras at the time, and they wanted my grandparents to be able to "hear" our Christmas.) Fortunately I was a highly verbal two-year-old.

After some paper-crinkling and discussion of what I was opening, my mother said, "Jennie, would you like to open some more presents, or read some of your new books?"

Without a moment's hesitation I said, "Read books."

There you have it, folks. It looks like Hannah is heading in the same direction . . .

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's That Time of Year Again

Actually, I guess I get older every day. But this is when everyone's all, "Hey--you're older!" And in case anyone didn't know enough to say it, I like to post it on my blog so they can: it's my birthday tomorrow.

We've already celebrated it. My parents are doing their Annual Summer Tour thing, where they come home and make sure their mothers are okay, and I'm okay, and this year they got to see their new little granddaughter, too. Then they came here, and on Sunday evening we had a nice dinner and I got my presents. In my family, we tell each other what we want for our birthdays and Christmas, because even though we know each other pretty well and surprises are awesome, it's also awesome not to feel like someone you love spent money for you on something you don't. Plus, none of us like to spend money on ourselves too much, so this is one way of saying, "If I were going to splurge on myself, I would get this, but since I'm not, you can get it for me!"

This year I was both pleased and surprised: I got what I asked for, and I got everything I asked for. (Also, the Milk Guy didn't get the wish list but managed to come up with some great presents all on his own.)

It isn't always thus, but this year, everything I asked for was books.

I feel like I should mention them, because they're all books I heard about from you, Dear Readers. One is LL Barkat's Stone Crossings, one is Tim Keller's The Reason for God, and one is NT Wright's Surprised by Hope. I didn't have to ask for Dave Zimmerman's Deliver Us From Me-Ville, because I already have it. But this new influx of reading gave me the impetus to finish that one (and a couple of others), so expect to hear more about it here soon.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Blatant Self-Promotion

Stephanie, who goes to my church, has written an article about me/my book for a nearby publication. You can download the current issue here. The article about me is on pages 16 and 18.

Two corrections, though: The publishers who liked the story but didn't feel it fit their niche did not point me to CFP--my aunt did that. (They did try to point me in a helpful direction, but I didn't fit that publisher's niche either, it didn't seem to me.) And secondly, CFP is in Scotland, not Ireland. Given that I was just in Ireland, though, with my parents, I guess this is an easy mistake to make . . . !

Friday, July 04, 2008

Sneaking Up

The Milk Guy has morning glories. Well, they don't yet have their glory (i.e. flowers), even in the mornings, but the plants are growing in profusion, with the promise of more beauty even than heart-shaped leaves, to come.

There's a fence for the tendrils to wind up, and some of them are doing so, but others are growing back along the ground. The Milk Guy was contemplating training them up the fence, too, but they're too far entrenched along the stonework or whatever it is down there, so he said, "I guess there'll be some 'creeping glories,' too, then."

"That sounds funny," I chuckled. "'Creeping glory.'"

"It would make a great name for a band," he said. I'm sure it would. The band we saw recently was called "Raging Grace." I'm not positive it occurred to him right then how similar in genre the names are. Regardless, I just think it's an unmitigatedly great phrase, whether it's referring to a band or not.

It seems like it should be mitigated. Creep, creeping, creepy--none of these have very nice connotations. They make me think of certain customers we have . . . There's a sinister undertone to any word with "creep" at its root. But I think it's apt anyway. I think sometimes the onset of glory feels sinister, even if it's--well, glorious, in the end. Ultimately, we probably have to die first, which doesn't have really fantastic connotations either. And even the hints and whispers of glory we receive here are often hard-won and feel a little bit like dying.

Also, they're usually just hints and whispers. "Creeping glory" reminds me that sometimes the glory of God doesn't burst upon us like a thunderclap, but sneaks up and surprises us. It makes me think of the parables Jesus told about the coming of the Kingdom--it's like a mustard seed, which surprises us with the large shrub that's inside it; or like a tiny bit of yeast, which surprises us by rising a whole batch of bread dough; or like a treasure, hidden in the ground.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I Can't Think of Any Clever Titles Playing on the Word "Meme"

The Zimmerman seems to think I need to lighten up around here. I have been suspecting that I do, even before he suggested it. So I am going to play along with this meme he tagged me for. Then I am going to tell you something else about the Zimmerman.

Here are the rules for the meme:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.


Here are the seven things about me. (Do not get on my case if I repeat myself from previous similar memes. I am also not sure how random or weird they are. I am probably not that interesting.)

1. I once started a collection of Dr. Seuss books. After collecting seven (only a few of which were my favourite classics), I quit, but not before getting a first-edition copy of Horton Hatches the Egg.
2. I have only taken one art class in my life, which is why I have no technique, but I still like to try to draw and paint things on occasion.
3. I have an uncle who is on tour with Emmylou Harris and was recently seen on David Letterman.
4. My favourite colour changes every so often, but I am still stuck on green these days.
5. Growing up, my brother and I had a cocker spaniel named Chocolate Chip (aka Chippy), who was adorable, very stupid, and did not live a long and healthy life (but we loved him for as long as we had him).
6. I am six feet tall.
7. Today I talked to the local librarian about buying a copy of my book for the children's section of the library and she said she would. Yay.

Here are the people I am tagging for this meme:

1. The Greek Geek
2. The Llama Mama
3. The Burnside Writers
4. The Jeff Campbell
5. The Pastor Marty
6. The Rhonda
7. And The Dave (or The Elizabeth) Madeira

And here are some more words about the Zimmerman:

1. He has written a second book. (I have a signed copy of his first one, and a copy of his second.)
2. It's really good.
3. He wants me to review it here, which I will be delighted to do, once I have finished reading it. (Sometimes my reading projects take some time because I get sucked into all the fresh writing in my Google Reader subscriptions instead . . . ) But stay tuned for more about his book.
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