Tag Archives: my brother

“Are We Gonna Let the Elevator Bring Us Down?”

21 Apr
purple-rain
My mom’s from Minneapolis so while most kids were growing up on Disney tunes, I grew up on Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and “I Would Die 4 U.” Back in the early 80s when 1999 seemed impossibly far away, we would go crazy in the basement to “Purple Rain” while my mom vacuumed.

Years later, my sister and brother used to repeatedly quote the Dave Chapelle episode where Prince served pancakes.

“Why don’t you purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka?”

I’m saddened to hear the news of Prince‘s passing today. His songs were the soundtrack to my childhood (along with Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder) and will live on.

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Memoirist Michael W. Clune Speaks on Exploring Solitude in His New Book

30 Sep
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My brother could probably play video games before he could walk. He recently told me about a book he was reading about a woman from the same tech sphere as him.  Big sister as I am, I naturally clicked on an article a video-game inspired book when I saw it in case it might be something to pass along to my brother. What I discovered was an interview that resonated with my own life and work.
In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered, author Michael W. Clune talked about Gamelife, his memoir about growing up playing video games that speaks to the idea of solitude. He says:
My mother told me early when I was young that what’s most meaningful in life are the relations you have with other people. In this book, what I really wanted to explore was the part of life we have — the part of life we live — when we’re not with other people. The part when we’re alone.
There’s the cliche that we’re born and we die alone, and I take that quite seriously, and I believe that our most powerful and profound experiences in many ways are solitary experiences, and I believe that computer games, like literature and like some other devices in my life, were a means of training me for that kind of solitude.
Though I did play videogames as a child, it wasn’t a large part of my life. Solitude, however, was. And just as Clune said, it was suggested to me that solitude was a negative thing. Though my parents and teachers praised me for reading and writing, I was also made to believe that I was abnormal for indulging those pleasures at the expense of playing outdoors with other children.
Even as an adult, as I’ve struggled through writing my memoir, I’ve heard mentors and instructors say again and again that protagonists have to be decisive, goal achievers at odds with outside forces. They can’t be writers. They can’t be people who just sit around and think.
They can’t be me?
I feel a little vindicated when Clune says, “I believe that our most powerful and profound experiences in many ways are solitary experiences.” Maybe he doesn’t mean this literally. Maybe he means that even when we’re in relationship with people who love us dearly and whom we love, our experiences, even when shared are, at their core, are so highly individualized that they are solitary.
Relationships—family relationships, friendships, romantic relationships, literary camaraderie—are relevant, important. But so are times of solitude. We need quiet, private moments to ourselves to know ourselves, to be ourselves, to reflect, to dream, to pray, to read, to write, to rest, to imagine.

How Is It Possible that Close to Half of College Graduates Don’t Read?

23 Sep
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“I’m not as big of a reader as you,” my brother said to me over the phone.
Dismissive of his reading habits as he was, my brother is a reader. He was telling me about a book he by a woman he’d heard about on a podcast. Felicia Day‘s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). This wasn’t a once-in-a-blue-moon event. He’s not a prolific reader by any means, but he loves a good book. When I’d asked him the year before what he wanted for Christmas, he wanted a Malcolm Gladwell book. Back when he lived in Greece, he asked me to bring him books. He always wanted Dr. Pepper, but I couldn’t bring that on the plane.
These days I sent a lot of books to my mother since it’s difficult for her to get books in English where she lives in Greece. She reads them slowly, savoring them. My father, on the other hand, reads like I do: if he likes a book or thinks it’s important, he will sit and read it until he’s done. My sister, too, reads regularly. It’s a family trait. I come from a family of readers. A long line of readers, perhaps. My grandmother always had biographies laying about her home.
Last year a report came out that said that 42% of college students will never read another book after they graduate. Forty-two percent! I don’t know how that’s even humanly possible. I can certainly understand that there is a percentage of college graduates, depending on what they studied, who might not read literary fiction or nonfiction again. I can imagine some might read graphic novels or chick lit or Tom Clancy novels or self-help books, low-brow books.
The fact that close to half of college graduates don’t read books seems impossible to me. It seems like a deliberate, adamant choice not to read. It seems like they’re anti-book. Are they never, not even once, curious about a bestseller? Not even Harry Potter, Twilight, or Fifty Shades of Grey? Do they not feel the least bit embarrassed if they haven’t read classics like The Great Gatsby? Do they feel no shame in not being able to answer what the last book they read was? Or do their friends never mention books? Do these people never step inside bookstores? Do they never read a business book to advance their careers?
I just don’t get it.