Literary Inspiration: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones Collage

It’s the great unanswered question: What happens to us when we die?  Where do we go, what do we do, who do we become?  Alice Sebold’s 2002 novel, The Lovely Bones, seeks to answer those unanswerables, as viewed through the lens of a 14-year-old murder victim analyzing her death – and its devastating effects on the living – from the afterlife.  It’s a sad, contemplative, upsetting story about a bright life cut brutally short, and the familial fallout experienced by those left behind.  But it’s also a hopeful story of imagination, exploration and, finally, acceptance – on all sides – of those things we vehemently wish we could change, but cannot.

Did I love The Lovely Bones?  No.  I’m not sure it’s a book – or a subject matter – that lends itself to love.  It’s tremendously difficult – not to mention unpleasant – to listen to a naive teenager recount the horrifying circumstances of her rape and murder at the hands of a next door neighbour.  And that’s in the first 20 pages.  The ending actually fares much worse, undoing hundreds of pages of largely unearned goodwill with a laughable deus ex machina that fares particularly poorly in today’s consent-conscious era.  And absent Milton’s efforts in Paradise Lost, I’ve never jived well with simplistic descriptions of heaven, even the ones where every day ends with a musical dog party.

The story is this: Walking home from school one chilly winter afternoon in 1973, 14-year-old Susie Salmon is lured into a rudimentary bunker dug in the field behind her house by her neighbour, Mr. Harvey.  While her mother stands on the back porch calling her in to dinner, Susie is raped and murdered, her body dismembered and disposed of by Harvey with indifferent, ruthless efficiency.

When Susie next becomes aware of her surroundings, she’s in heaven – in this book, it’s always with a lower case H.  That’s because this is Susie’s version of the afterlife, a young girl’s heaven populated by joyous evenings filled with stirring music and ecstatic parties-in-the-park.

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For those descriptions, this novel, an Oprah Book Club entrant, earned the colloquial title of “That book where the little girl describes heaven.”  But Susie’s musings on heaven – a place where you are supposed to be at eternal peace – are actually few and far between, and are of a kind of boring, static place where questions about the past are discouraged.  Which sits poorly with Susie, a young woman caught somewhere between knowing ALL the secrets of the universe, and none.

Back down on Earth, Susie’s friends and family are faring even worse.  They have absolutely no answers, and for a time cling to the dim hope that she has been snatched.  But after mounting physical evidence points to Susie having come to great harm, they accept that she’s been murdered, and then set about the unenviable task of completely setting fire to their lives, in ways great, small and utterly predictable.

As the Salmon family’s lives spiral, Harvey evades justice, if not suspicion – you just can’t be a dollhouse-constructing, bridal tent-erecting single weirdo in a neighbourhood where a young girl mysteriously disappears without arousing some suspicions.  But with no evidence to tie the man to the crime, beyond a grieving father’s absolute certainty that this is the bastard who killed his daughter, Harvey walks, and after a period of laying low, silently moves out of the neighbourhood in the dead of night and out of their lives.

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From her heaven, Susie sees all of this, and as the days, weeks and months following her death stretch into years, her friends and family try to move on without her, while at the same time being utterly consumed by her memory.  Much like the idea of being granted a personalized heaven, this is a simplistic approach to loss – that our passing has so much impact, decades will pass before anyone will even attempt to make themselves whole again.  I also found I didn’t much care for heaven’s “What’s done is done, now let’s all calm down with a cup of tea” approach to grief.  Over and over, Susie is advised by Franny, a kind of heavenly caseworker, to let the past be, that there’s nothing to be gained from tormenting herself over things that cannot be changed.  But in doing so, Susie is robbed of an important part of the healing process – pure, earsplitting rage.  It’s not the most productive emotion, but it is satisfying, and if a person can’t take a grim sort of satisfaction from challenging the circumstances of their own death, when can they?

The Lovely Bones was a fine book, but for all the things I didn’t care for about it – the least of which was the appalling subject matter – it’s not one I’ll be picking up again.

I read this one in service of my friends’ reading challenge for the 19th theme of “Pick your own.”  Long before I ever read The Lovely Bones, I did, however, think that its cover artwork was beautiful.  The lush tropical blue fading to a light, washed-out haze is the perfect design choice to convey Susie’s insistent, but fading, presence in the world, as is the image of her dulled, but beloved, charm bracelet.  So I chose that as the inspiration for these nails.

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Literary Inspiration: Dreamcatcher

Dreamcatcher Collage

Right, so because I can’t stop whinging on about it – one of my New Year’s resolutions is to stop bitching about my life! – I may have mentioned a time or 30 that 2019 was not a particularly good year for your friendly neighbourhood blogger.  It just stunk.  And a good chunk of that stinkiness came directly from the source, like a self-perpetuating loop of doom and gloom I was utterly unable to drag myself from.

Absent a November and a December that were so jam packed with activity, I may never need to socialize again (joke) I didn’t get much done last year.  Blogging was a sad afterthought, favourite TV shows failed to inspire, and virtually every challenge or project I began fell by the wayside, even the ones I was excited to participate in, like my friends’ 2019 reading challenge.  It just seemed like every time I’d pick up a book, I’d find some reason to set it right back down again.

But I tried!  And in doing so, somehow managed to best my 2018 score of a dozen reads with 14 whole books!  And only two and a half of them were Stephen King, I swear. 😉

Jay and Julie have created another reading challenge for the new decade, but before I leap into that (gotta find somewhere to slot that half-King, right?) I’d like to finish up my 2019 efforts, starting with – yup, you guessed it – Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher, which I read in service of the 25th prompt of “A happy little accident…or a book that has a title Bob Ross would appreciate.”

But I guess the real question IS, does Bob Ross enjoy ass weasels?  ‘Cause this book be chock-a-block with alien critters, and they’re all comin’ out our butts. *mic drop*

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The familiar Kingsian story goes a little something like this: Four friendsbound by childhood trauma in the haunted town of Derry, now in their 30s and with various responsibilities of their own, head off to the Maine woods for an annual long weekend hunting trip.  While there, aliens – Gray Boys to the trigger-happy government installation also banging about the woods – crash land in the forest.  And then shit completely goes to hell.

Literally.  Because King seems wildly preoccupied with providing as much squicky detail about how the aliens enter – and exit – our bodies as possible.  It’s not just enough to describe the itchy, blazing red, sumac-type virus that spreads across our skin.  Naw, we also have to describe – in intimate detail! – the skinless, eyeless creatures I call butt weasels (ass weasels, if you’re nasty) and their amazing adventures in, and outside of, our lower colons.

This book is SO PUERILE.  Also juvenile, scatological, and deeply, deeply inane.  It’s also hilarious.  I defy anyone – even those of us mired in a year of bad luck and unfortunate events – not to laugh at a folksy Maine hunter insisting that the screaming and various other apocalyptic noises coming from the other side of the bathroom door are merely the result of eating some bad berries out in the woods, and not a lower GI tract stuffed with ass weasels.  I literally shrieked with delight when the folksy hunter with the tum full of alien parasites grumpily responds to the concerned men gathered outside the bathroom with a “Can’t you go away and let a fellow…let a fellow make a little number two?  Gosh!”  That “Gosh!” just utterly slayed me.  Think we’re a bit past the “Gosh!” stage of things when the bathroom door is bulging outwards on its hinges, dude, but you do you.

Written in 2001 following the car collision that nearly claimed his life, Dreamcatcher is both bound to and untethered by King’s typical style.  The usuals are all here – Maine, childhood friends with secrets, Derry, telepathy, cloaked government installations, good guys, bad guys and guys somewhere in between – yet there’s a kind of weary, been-there-done-that feeling to the setting and the story.  At this stage of his career, King seems tired.  Tired of pain, probably, but also maybe a bit tired of his own schtick.  Hence the introduction of the ass weasels to, I dunno, shake things up a bit?

In the end (heh) I really enjoyed Dreamcatcher, needless gory bits aside.  It was exactly the kind of low committment, high entertainment paperback I needed in my life at that time, and I’m glad I read it.

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Also glad I decided to go with this design inspired by the sumac-type Ripley virus (Ripley, get it?) as opposed to the butt weasels.  Some things should just stay off your nails, you know?  Bob Ross would certainly approve. 🙂

Bubbly

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Didn’t actually have any on New Year’s Eve – these shimmery nails are as close to champers as I got this year.  We actually went to an 11 pm showing of Rise of Skywalker at the theatre just down the road from our new home, and rang in the new year staring at Poe Dameron’s handsome face (SO handsome!)

All part of my 2020 plan to get out there and live a little bit more.  And by that I mean step outside my comfort zone, do something a little unexpected, and just deal with the (temporarily) scary feeling that goes along with trying new things.

I’ve never been one to make resolutions, but I think that’s going to change this year.  Here’s a few I’d like to stick to:

Deal with things head-on.  I can – and occasionally do – procrastinate myself into a hole in the ground.  I’m just not great at dealing expeditiously with the administrative aspects of life.  But after organizing pretty well the entirety of our move, as well as the sale of our condo and the purchase of this house, in a little under a month, I KNOW I can do these things.  So I should.  It’s actually pretty rewarding to strike that thing you just didn’t want to do! – say, going to the DMV to change your address – off your to-do list.

Flowing from the first point, I’d like to get out and engage with the world a little more.  I’m a real homebody, which means I have the great/terrible problem of both loving my home and never wanting to leave it.  Believe it or not, going to the movies the other night was a pretty major leap – the urge to stay at home, cozy warm and unbothered by everything beyond our four walls, was nearly overwhelming.  But I also really wanted to see Rise of Skywalker on the big screen, and I wanted to do something a little bit unexpected to ring in the new year.  Adventure is out there – I just have to occasionally leave my house to find it.

Beyond that, here are a couple of specific resolutions that I’m already doing quite well on – cutting Starbucks out of my life, because I hate it (to clarify, I hate the culture, not the coffee) and nixing my perverse addiction to American political news.  I go through phases where I forget how furious and anxiety-ridden both tend to make me, and suddenly I’m haunting CNN 24/7, two venti mochas shoved into either side of my latte-drinkin’ helmet.  I like staying informed, but I also need to protect my sanity.  And lose some weight.  Cutting out the mochas will definitely help with that. 🙂

Have you made any resolutions for 2020?

Yippee Kayak, Other Buckets!

Regrettably can’t claim that one for myself – that’s a Die Hard joke from Brooklyn 9-9, a snappy – but wholly inaccurate – rejoinder uttered by devoted foodie weirdo, Charles Boyle, after he heroically saves his friends from a Christmas Eve robbery.

Ah, so here we are, on the eve that Nakatomi Tower is descended upon by Alan Rickman and his band of well mannered, ballet-dancing terrorists (true story – one of the Gunters, the guy with the long, white blonde hair, was a ballet dancer first, stuntman second.)  Or it’s simply Christmas Eve, if you’re looking for a slightly more traditional interpretation of the season. 😉

Okay, so it’s been nearly a month since I touched fingertips to keyboard, and you may be curious as to where the hell I’ve been.  I’ve certainly wondered a time or two myself!

Well, we moved! From our two-bedroom condo to a four-bedroom house.  You’re right if you think we’ve possibly lost our minds – sometimes I think we certainly have!  Here’s a pic of the new homestead:

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So as of late, my life has been something of an insane goat rodeo of packing and moving and schlepping, and then it was immediately CHRISTMAS!!!  So thank goodness I had my priorities wildly in order, and had this white artificial tree set up and all aglow in our new family room the day after we had officially moved in.  Bed not delivered, you say?  Pfft, who needs a bed when you’ve got a Christmas tree?!

Tree Collage

I even managed to squeeze in the first bit of nail art I’ve done in well over a month.  Such wild productivity!  Actually, I should cut myself some friggin’ slack – life has somehow been both a sprint AND a slog for about two solid months now, and I’m ready for a bit of holiday downtime.

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I have so much more I want to share with you about the sale of our condo, the purchase of this house, our move and our lives, but now is not the time.  Now it’s time to get our holiday on, and bask in the love of our nearest and dearest, and oh dear lord, run out to the mall RIGHT FRIGGIN’ NOW! because the shops close in five hours!  Merry Christmas, and happiest of holidays, peeps.  See you on the other side. 🙂

You So Cheesy!

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Or me so cheesy.  Actually, if the video that accompanies this post – a Disneyfied salute to cheese I put together for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish! – is any indication, WE so cheesy.  Honestly, who has three solid minutes of cheese-related content to compile into a video?!  Us, apparently!  (Questionably fun bit of trivia about your friendly neighbourhood blogger: When I was a kid, I had an appendicitis scare that thankfully – but kind of embarrassingly – turned out to be nothing more than Sandy Drew and the Case of Too Much Cheese.  It would seem I haven’t learned much about moderation when it comes to one of my favourite foodstuffs.)

I like these nails, even if the little cheese holes (heh) look more like planets than delicious bacterial culture (to mangle a Beasties Boy song, it’s “Intergalactic Plan-e-tare-CHEESE!”)  Or they’re Cheese Nibs (more like Cheese Nubs, on account of the fact that I broke off two of my good hand nails, right down to the skin, and then had to sacrifice the remaining three to the broken fingernail gods.)

Anyhow, hope you enjoy this cheese-covered edition of a new feature I think I’m going to call Nail Art and a Movie. 😉

Zombie Cakes

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Here’s a terrible joke for you – what do zombies use to bake their cupcakes?  A brain pan.  Wah-waaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh. 🙂

Zombies were the name of the game for the fourth prompt in the nail art challenge I’m participating in on Instagram.  I wasn’t in the mood for your more traditional blood ‘n’ guts design, choosing instead to go with this cutie pie cupcake manicure, which even features two of my favourite zombie-themed polishes, Girly Bits Cosmetics’ Dead Man’s Toe and Dollish Polish’s Look at the Flowers, Lizzie.  Can’t go wrong with brain cakes drizzled in sanguine coulis and snot green frosting, can you?

Zombie Cakes Collage

 

Ruby Friday

Ruby Friday Collage 1

You know, “Goooood-bye, Ru-bee Friday, who could hang a name on you?”  That’s how that Rolling Stones song goes, right? (massive joke here – my Boomer parents are hardcore Stones fans, particularly my mom, and have been since they were about 16 years old.  I’ve sent them off to Toronto on more than a couple of occasions to catch their shows, always with the vague fear that my mother’s head is just going to explode, simply from breathing the same air as the leathery, seemingly indestructible object of her lifelong lust, Keith Richards.  Anyhow, long joke short, I’m well versed in the Stones.  Also the Animals, the Kinks, the Traveling Wilburys, Bob Segar, bit of Springsteen – that’s the music I grew up with.  No wonder my taste in music skews so very rock.)

Anyhow, I may have gotten the day wrong on these ruby-esque nails, but whether it’s Tuesday or Friday, I think they’re still pretty dope.  I actually did this manicure last month for the nail art challenge I’ve been participating in on Instagram for the theme of gemstones.  I’ve been doing gemstone and stone-type nails for a little while now, actually had a few in reserve that I could have whipped out for just such an occasion, but I decided to try a little something different with this manicure, opting for a jelly sandwich mani wherein I layered sponged-on silver and glittery red polishes between thick, glossy coats of a vibrant, ruby red jelly.  It turned out to be a pretty good technique – I think these nails look like the cross-section of a cut gemstone, so pretty.  I think they look particularly nice in the matte finish – gems before they’ve hit the buffer ‘n’ polisher.

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And they don’t look too bad in WAY SUPER UP CLOSE MACRO MODE either.  It’s always amazing the level of detail that shows up in a macro shot, huh?  By the way, NEVER turn a macro lens on, say, your skin.  You’ll walk away convinced that you’re desiccating on the spot.  Hey, just like our leathery man, Keef! (kidding, Mom, I’m kidding – c’mon, you know Keith’s gonna outlast us all.  And thank goodness – we’re going to need sweet riffs in the apocalypse.) 😉

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