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Friday, July 30, 2010

In Which Marlena Says It Best

For those interested, Marlena wrote a lovely response to my previous post about literary ages, and what our favorite books say about us:

    Her passion for YA lit is unparalleled--she continually provides me with growing lists of authors I "neeeeed" to read--and she offers some wonderful insight. Marlena begins her freshman year at Bennington College in the Fall and I am incredibly proud of her. Also, I hope she continues to blog regularly through her college experience. *cough*hint*cough*

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do we have a "literary age"?

  I think, in my literary heart, I am somewhere between eight and twelve years old.

     My friend Marlena once told me that, as a child, she found teenagers and teen-dom terribly exciting and awesome. She began reading teen/YA fiction (only the good stuff. . . she has impeccable literary taste) probably as soon as her librarian would let her, and today aspires to write fiction for high school students, although she kind of hated high school herself. I've had the pleasure of reading selections from some of her works-in-progress, and for someone so  mature, she really gets teenagers. I mean, it helps that she's fresh out of high school, but still. Another friend, Hayley, once blogged about how she thinks we all have permanent "Soulages". I still think there's a danger in convincing ourselves that we're "stuck" at a certain spiritual or cognitive age--it's the perfect excuse for failure to mature--but my Amazon wish list suggests that Hayley and Marlena have a point. Even at twenty years old, I find myself gravitating toward the shelves of middle-grade readers at the library. Apart from the fact that I love typical middle-grade plot devices (magic, mysteries, well-done humor, nerdy kids) I'm sure there's also more than a touch of nostalgia involved. most of my favorite childhood memories involve reading and rereading my favorite books in an endless loop on the swing in our backyard, while my mom begged me to try something new. Eventually, I'd concede, fall in love with a new set of books, and repeat the process.
    I enjoy many novels "for adults", of course, but I find most contemporary fiction falls into one of two categories: two-dimensional commercial novels, or sentimental and/or political novels with in-your-face social messages. There's nothing wrong with either of these types of book, of course, but it's rare to find a well-written, well-developed adult novel with a great, fun-to-read story, and all that "English-y" stuff to pick apart. They exist, but continue to be outnumbered by sheer number of smart, funny, well-written YA and middle-grade novels in the publishing marketplace right now.

Do you believe in "literary ages"? If so, what's yours?
   In other news, I'm going to make every effort to participate in BEDA (Blog Every Day August) along with some fellow nerdfighting bloggers, just to learn to work up the nerve to hit the "publish post" button more often. If you're participating, let me know in the comments.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sharing the Art, Moving in Joy

    I used to think that I danced because I had to. Because it was me. Like I owed it to Past Sarah to keep dragging myself to classes and auditions, hanging on to shreds of hope that my dream of making a living from dancing would come true. Some of my training environments (and personal mindsets) caused me to focus so much on the ends that I often lost sight of the value of the means. As I  struggled to find my "niche" (or, as Eric Matthews might say, my "niece") as a dancer for so many years, all with the goal of getting a job to validate all my years of hard work, I kept hitting dead ends.I tried shove myself into dancer categories--from ballerina, to theatre dancer, to modern dancer--thinking one of these techniques would be "The One." I had no problem finding my soulmate at age eighteen, but figuring out what kind of dancer I was felt beyond my grasp. 
 Over the past few months, it's grown clearer and clearer that to be a successful dancer I have to stop trying to make myself, and my career, fit some idealized mold I've created for myself. I have to let myself be me.
   And I am a ballet dancer.
     A contemporary ballet dancer, but a ballet dancer in some weird, completely messed up fashion. It feels good to admit that to myself. After some really horrible psychological breakdowns related to ballet and the anxiety I felt (until recently) whenever I took class or put on a pair of pointe shoes, I became afraid of what would happen to me mentally, if I pursued a ballet career, even in the contemporary realm. But I'm not a scared fourteen year old anymore and I'm ready to conquer my self-doubt. I can't fail, because I've already succeeded, in some respect. I succeed just by growing as a person and a dancer, by sharing the art, and moving in joy.
   Since joining In-Sight Dance Company just a couple of months ago, I've learned so much about real artistry and the power of dance. I aim, more and more, to make my dancing not about any kind of selfish goal, but about communication, outreach, joy, and even worship. The commitment and sense of community present in the company completely shattered all of my preconceptions about "real" dance companies. I expected the competitiveness and occasional hostility I've experienced in other performing arenas, but instead found a welcoming, supportive, completely dedicated group of artists. I am so blessed to be a part of such a worthwhile and amazing company, and our performances this weekend reminded me that sharing our love of dance with others--if only for a few moments in time--makes all the pain, stress, and fear worthwhile.

   Man, when did I get so serious and artist-y? Please don't let me write any more of these introspective dance-related posts, unless they're dripping with satire.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Recent Reads

I must have started about ten different blog drafts over the last few weeks, but my incredible lack-of-focus coupled with my newfound inability to string four words together coherently prevented me from hitting the little orange "publish" button. I'll write about my (amazing) experiences rehearsing for an upcoming set of performances soon, but in the meantime it's time to record some thoughts on my other favorite subject--books.

     As much as I like complaining about the MTA,  New York City's occasionally reliable public transportation system, my commutes on the A train ensure that I have at least an hour of round-trip reading time, almost daily. Even without additional hours reading in bed, waiting rooms, and awkward social situations, that's more than enough time to finish a handful of books each week. Except for Ulysses. To make my way  through a day in Mr. Bloom's life exclusively on public transit, I'm going to need a lot of delayed trains. I will, one day, but in the mean time I've tackled some lighter literary fare:

Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier

   With Magic or Madness--the first installment in the trilogy of the same name-- Ms. Larbalestier delivers an urban fairy tale more vivid and compelling than any fantasy novel I've read in the last couple years. Nothing delights me more than a familiar setting (in this case, New York City) saturated in a little magic and mystery. Since I already sound like I'm writing flap copy, I'll spare you a load of plot description and just tell you to get your hands on a copy as soon as possible. I'm anxiously waiting for the second book in the series, Magic Lessons, to arrive at my local library. 

Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

   The latest in Mrs. DeMoss's list of spiritually-challenging books for Christian women, Choosing Gratitude zeros in on the importance of a grateful heart, even in times of adversity. I love that Mrs. DeMoss tackles sensitive issues directly and frankly, but with humility. Her scripturally-based guidance helped me cultivate a stronger spirit of worship. I'm still learning, but her words (and God's!) proved to be an enormous blessing when, the day after finishing the book, my husband and I were faced with a particularly tough financial blow. I also find daily encouragement in the blogs produced by Nancy Leigh DeMoss's Revive Our Hearts ministry.

If You're Reading This, It's Too Late by Pseudonymous Bosch

  No words for this one. Really. Just read the series, beginning with The Name of This Book is Secret.

More reading recommendations (and non-recommendations) to come! What are you reading this summer?

   The Name of this Book Is Secret (Secret Series)