Friday, January 30, 2015
With thanks to Jaime and to the designer who made this guide look so lovely — and to the programmer who made it available.
“Rivetingly captures the destructive effects of mental and physical illness on a likable, sweet-natured teen.”—Kirkus Reviews
Something very bad is happening to 17-year-old Nadia.Ever since her family relocated to Florence for her father's sabbatical, she's been slipping out at night to steal random objects and then weave them into bizarre nest-shaped forms she hides from her family, and she's losing her ability to speak. The first section of the novel is related by Nadia in brief, near-breathless, panicky sentences that effectively capture her increasing disintegration. Switching smoothly between entrancing flashbacks of her promising past—"It was so easy, being me"—and her painful, confusing present, which includes visions of a "fluorescent" boy with a pink duffle, real or imagined, Nadia relates her story in fragments. Her parents, remarkably slow to realize Nadia isn't just having trouble adjusting, finally contact wise, nurturing Katherine, a doctor, for help. The narrative switches to the voice of Maggie, Nadia's beloved friend and soul mate, who joins the family in Italy to help Nadia and to find the duffle boy, whose existence—or not—has become critically important. It is he who narrates the final brief section. With Nadia's jumbled personality slipping away, the change of narrative voice is especially disquieting, offering few guarantees of a happy outcome. Disturbing, sometimes unsettling and ultimately offering a sliver of hope, this effort rivetingly captures the destructive effects of mental and physical illness on a likable, sweet-natured teen.
Sometimes you almost forgot: that you didn't look like everyone else. In homeroom or at the drugstore or at the supermarket, you listened to morning announcements or dropped off a roll of film or picked out a carton of eggs and felt like just another someone in the crowd. Sometimes you didn't think about it at all. And then sometimes you noticed the girl across the aisle watching, the pharmacist watching, the checkout boy watching, and you saw yourself reflected in their stares: incongruous. Catching the eye like a hook. Every time you saw yourself from the outside, the way other people saw you, you remembered all over again.
You are twelve attending Sts. Philip and James School on White Plains Road and the girl sitting in the seat behind asks you to lean to the right during exams so she can copy what you have written. Sister Evelyn is in the habit of taping the 100s and the failing grades to the coat closet doors. The girl is Catholic with waist-length brown hair. You can't remember her name: Mary? Catherine?
You never really speak except for the time she makes her request and later when she tells you you smell good and have features more like a white person. You assume she thinks she is thanking you for letting her cheat and feels better cheating from an almost white person.
In his countryWith thanks to Nathaniel Popkin, whose craft essay in Cleaver Magazine last week reminded me that I had meant to buy and read this.
There were scenes
Of spectacular carnage
Hurricanes welcomed him
He adored typhoons and tornadoes
Houses lifted up
And carried to the sea
Unbolt the doors
Fling open the gates
Here he comes
Chaotic wind of the gods
He was trouble
But he was our trouble
Al tended the bar at night. He'd been in the merchant marine and ate with a fat clunky thumb holding down his plate, as if he were afraid the whole place might pitch and yaw and send his dinner flying. He was dwarfish and looked like an abandoned sculpture, a forgotten intention. His upper body was a a slablike mass, a plinth upon which his head rested; he had a chiseled nose and jaw, a hack-job scar of a mouth; his hands were thick and stubby, more like paws than anything prehensile. Sitting back behind the bar, smoking Pall Malls, he seemed petrified, the current shape of his body achieved by erosion, his face cut by clumsy strokes and blows. His eyes, though, were soft and blue, always wet and weepy with rheum, and when you looked at Al, you had the disorienting sense of something trapped, something fluid and human caught inside the gray stone vessel of his gargoyle body, gazing out through those eyes.
I replied that I wasn't sure it was possible, in marriage, to know what you actually were, or indeed to separate what you were from what you had become through the other person. I thought the whole idea of a 'real' self might be illusory: you might feel, in other words, as though there were some separate, autonomous self within you, but perhaps that self didn't actually exist. My mother once admitted, I said, that she used to be desperate for us to leave the house for school, but that once we'd gone she had no idea what to do with herself and wished that we would come back.
I said that, on the contrary, I had come to believe more and more in the virtues of passivity, and of living a life as unmarked by self-will as possible. One could make almost anything happen, if one tried hard enough, but the trying—it seemed to me—was almost always a sign that one was crossing the currents, was forcing events in a direction they did not naturally want to go, and though you might argue that nothing could ever be accomplished without going against nature to some extent, the artificiality of that vision and its consequences had become—to put it bluntly—anathema to me. There was a great difference, I said, between the things I wanted and the things I could apparently have, and until I had finally and forever made my peace with that, I had decided to want nothing at all.A rosy world view this is not. Easy entertainment—it's not that, either. But it is fierce and different and part of a new world order in fiction written by women. A movement to which I think we must pay quite close attention.
A long time ago, when I began to write the book that became One Thing Stolen, I thought of it as a book called Mud Angels. Perhaps because it is the story of a rescue—of more than one rescue. Perhaps because parts of the tale take place against the backdrop of the November 1966 flood that destroyed so much of Florence.
Today, when there is so much rain where I live, when my own car nearly slid into a stone wall earlier this morning, I share a few minutes of the Florence flood and of those mud angels who inspired my work on One Thing Stolen. This is an unusual, hybrid video that tells the important story.
... After my horseshow he wanted
to know why I slumped
the minute the judges appeared
and at swim meets why I dove
deep off the side of the pool.
He said that I swallowed up
luck. He'd learned from watching
I didn't want to win. No other grownup
talked to me like that.
... The sky there was wide, sharp,
attentive and as if from that wild
and very blue place
came a soft little gesture
that suited my hand.
It's a rite I still practice dozens
of times every day where my thumb
rubs my forefinger in smooth tiny
circles that say we're each here.
(Wild Blue Place)
The making of an urban outdoor oasis.A series of projects has transformed Philadelphia into a hive of outdoor urban activity. Dilworth Park, formerly a hideous slab of concrete adjoining City Hall, reopened this past autumn as a green, pedestrian-friendly public space with a winter ice-skating rink (and a cafe by the indefatigable chef Jose Garces). Public art installations, mini "parklets" and open-air beer gardens have become common sights. The Delaware River waterfront was reworked for summer 2014 with the Spruce Street Harbor Park (complete with hammocks, lanterns and floating bar) becoming a new fixture, following the renovation of the Race Street Pier, completed in 2011, and offers free yoga classes on a bi-level strip of high-design decking and grass. The city’s other river, the Schuylkill, has its own new boardwalk. To top it off, this spring, Philadelphia will get its first bike share program, making this mostly flat city even more friendly for those on two wheels. Nell McShane Wulfhart
One Thing Stolen is a nest of words, pieced together to build a shelter. Like Laurie Halse Anderson does in SPEAK, Kephart has created a character who cannot speak, only she does, punctuating streams of consciousness."
— Glenda Cowen-Funk, NEA Master Teacher Project, NBCT, Teacher at S. D. # 25, Highland High School, Pocatello, Idaho
Every week men sit comfortably at the cinema and look on at the bombardment of some Shanghai or other, some Guernica, and marvel without a trace of horror at the long fringes of ash and soot that twist their slow way into the sky from those man-made volcanoes. Yet we all know that together with the grain in the granaries, with the heritage of generations of men, with the treasures of families, it is the burning flesh of children and their elders that, dissipated in smoke, is slowly fertilizing those black cumuli.
The physical drama itself cannot touch us until some one points out its spiritual sense.
Antoine De Saint-Exupery, Wind, Sand and Stars
Next, with surprising nimbleness, my brown velveteen recliner climbed down, then passed by me in a stump-legged gallop. My wood-armed Dutch sofa shuffled graceful as a geisha. My desk chair seemed to think it had wheels, which it doesn't. A green-globed desk lamp went by. An ordinary plastic dustpan. A heavy skillet, scorched. My things. They were all heading east. With an enviable sense of purpose. An old set of Russian nesting dolls from my father, the ladder I used to reach my storage loft, a forgotten feather duster (blue), a pine cabinet with round hinges, two high kitchen stools I had painted, one of which had a yellow splatter I liked to run my fingers across.... "Stuff" is such a childish word. Sheets passed as if floral ghosts. My books rustled by like a military of ducks. My mother had never liked my books. She'd said they kept me from real life, by which I think she meant men, or money, or both. Always accusing things of precisely the crimes they haven't committed.
For me, a book is already finished once I've come up with the first sentence. Or rather: the first two sentences. Those first two sentences contain everything I need to know about the book. I sometimes call them the book's "DNA." As long as every sentence that comes afterward contains that same DNA, everything is fine.
From within the fissure I rise, old as anything. The gravel beneath me slides. — Flow
Once I saw a vixen and a dog fox dancing. It was on the other side of the cul-de-sac, past the Gunns' place, through the trees, where the stream draws a wet line in spring. — UndercoverIn the summer my mother grew zinnias in her window boxes and let fireflies hum through our back door. She kept basil alive in ruby-colored glasses and potatoes sprouting tentacles on the sills. — House of Dance
There are the things that have been and the things that haven't happened yet. There is the squiggle of a line between, which is the color of caution, the color of the bird that comes to my window every morning, rattling me awake with the hammer of its beak. — Nothing but Ghosts
What I remember now is the bunch of them running: from the tins, which were their houses. Up the white streets, which were the color of bone. — The Heart Is Not a SizeFrom up high, everything seems to spill from itself. Everything is shadowed. — Dangerous Neighbors
My house is a storybook house. A huff-and-a-puff-and-they'll-blow-it-down house. — You Are My Only
The streets of Seville are the size of sidewalks, and there are alleys leaking off from the streets. In the back of the cab, where I sit by myself, I watch the past rushing by. — Small Damages
There was a story Francis told about two best friends gone swimming, round about Beiderman's Point, back of Petty's Island, along the crooked Delaware. "Fred Spowhouse," he'd say, his breath smelling like oysters and hay. "Alfred Edwards." The two friends found drowned and buckled together, Spowhouse clutched up tight inside Edwards's feckless arms. — Dr. Radway's Sarsaparilla Resolvent
We live with ghosts. We live with thugs, dodgers, punkers, needle ladies, pork knuckle. — Going Over
If you could see me. If you were near. — One Thing Stolen
There’s a persistent idea in our culture that what we experience is “true,” while what we imagine is “untrue.” But without exploring the possibility of imagination in nonfiction, we leave out a fundamental part of the human experience — digressive wanderings, the chaotic interior self and, most important, our empathy. Empathy, after all, starts as an act of fiction. We must think ourselves into the lives of others.
Where my outings to Prague had been comprised of the joy of thousands of people forever rushing at me—I learned that to live life is to lay oneself down to a wave, to feel as best one could the direction the current was flowing and then allow one's body to go slack and have the wisdom not to fight it lest one drown—London at night during that anxious period of the war was tensile as the thin frozen sheet atop a moving river.
Kephart at her poetic and powerful best. ONE THING STOLEN is a masterwork—a nest of beauty and loss, a flood of passion so sweet one can taste it. This is no ordinary book. It fits into no box. It is its own box—its own language.
ONE THING STOLEN is a tapestry of family, friendship, Florence, and neuroscience. I’ve never read anything like it. Kephart brings the reader so deep inside Nadia we can feel her breathe, and yet her story leaves us without breath.
A.S. King is the author of Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, Reality Boy, Ask the Passengers, Everybody Sees the Ants, Please Ignore Vera Dietz, and The Dust of 100 Dogs
The headmaster spoke of a boy who woke up at four-thirty six days a week to lifeguard at the pool, who taught himself to swim as a freshman and who was now among the top ten butterflyers in the state, who led quietly and by example, who spent hours each week officially and unofficially working as a math tutor, who would have been valedictorian if a C in freshman art class hadn't knocked his grade point average down to a 3.97—third in the class—and who had grown up with nothing and now had college acceptances to Hopkins, Penn, and Yale
Rob's role as a dealer was already more complicated than the next guy's, because he was now a Yale graduate tagged with all the many stigmata that simple word carried in this neighborhood's underworld. Like a bird handled by humans whose flock would not accept it back, Rob now wore the unwashable scent of the Ivy League.
Spartz calls himself an aggregator, but he is more like a day trader, investing in pieces of content that seem poised to go viral. He and his engineers have developed algorithms that scan the Internet for memes with momentum. The content team then acts as arbitrageurs, cosmetically altering the source material and reposting it under what they hope will be a catchier headline. A meme's success on Imgur, Topsy, or "certain niche subreddits" might indicate a potential viral hit.
When she writes Dose headlines, she said, "there is a part of Syracuse University Chelsea that's like, 'I don't know if this is the way I should write it.'" The headlines that "win," according to Spartz's testing algorithm, are usually hyperbolic, and many of them begin with dangling participles or end with prepositions. "But then another part of me is, like, 'Actually, there's pretty definitive evidence that this version will get a better response.' So is the goal for people to look at it and be like, 'Wow, that girl wrote a really articulate headline'? At some point, you have to check your ego."
Since the early nineties, she has reliably published a novel or a memoir every few years. But in an interview with the Guardian last August, Cusk said that she had recently come to a dead end with the modes of storytelling that she had relied on in her earlier novels. She had trouble reading and writing, and found fiction "fake and embarrassing." The creation of plot and character, "making up John and Jane and having them do things together," had come to seem "utterly ridiculous."