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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

No Alternative by William Dickerson Book Review and Giveaway!

I stumbled across the No Alternative Blog Tour on Facebook. I have not reviewed a book for quite sometime and I have fond memories of 1994, so I asked to be part of the book tour.

 Coming into the story with no preconceived ideas, only knowing that Kurt Cobain's suicide would feature prominently, I was curious and hesitant. Suicide is such an enormously verboten topic, I don't know that many of us like to poke a stick at it, much less read about it. So I took a deep breath and dove into the story and read and waited for the inevitable shoe to drop. And it did, and with the darkness of that death, came awakening.

No Alternative;, is rooted in the depression and disassociation felt by all its characters and it is through the inevitable suicide of one, that everyone around that character is transformed and infused with life.

William Dickerson's story begins in a documentary style.  A staccato sharing of this time, the 1990s and this music, grunge. Throughout the book we are reminded of what was: the 1980s, what is: 1994 and what will be: 2012 and beyond.  This  time shifting throughout the book by our omniscient  narrator was a writing technique that I felt worked and I greatly enjoyed. 

The protagonist of No Alternative is Thomas Harrison and intelligent and average suburban 17 year-old who idolized Kurt Cobain. The book begins several months after Kurt Cobain's suicide, after a time of mourning, Thomas is ready to submerge himself in music and decides to start a band. The story moves forward from there and we are introduced to Thomas's younger sister Bridget, his parents and his band mates.  Each character is isolated from others, living behind the mask of what they think the world would prefer them to be.  It is a pleasure to read how those barriers breakdown and see these people washed clean of their perceptions.

 Below you can find an excerpt from the book. I am thrilled that the excerpt provided to me focuses on Thomas's sister Bridget. Bridget is compelling, Bridge is a force and as I read on through the book, I wanted more Bridget, I wanted to pen Mr. Dickerson quick note asking him to start work on a follow-up novel of Bridget.Take a moment, read the except, and run over to Amazon and get this book. You'll thank me.
 
Bridget is parked in art class, surrounded by her classmates at their individual easels. Ms. Sheehan, her skinny, exceedingly longhaired, Earth-mother of a teacher, makes her rounds from student to student. She stops behind Bridget, eyeballing her canvas. While others concentrate on drawing bowls of luscious fruit, glistening and ripe, Bridget touches up an image of fruit, apples and such, impaled on several razor-sharp meat hooks. Ms. Sheehan surveys the depiction with interest, “Do you think you’ll ever actually follow the assignment, Bridget?” Bridget adds some luster to those metallic hooks, “Not likely.”“I do kind of like it.”“It needs more blood,” Bridget observes.“Of course.”Sheehan shakes her head, but has to smile, as she continues along to another student. Bridget places her pencils down, closing her eyes, and exhales. Bridget exhales for the therapeutic value of the act.Bridget has been prescribed anti-depressant medications, many different medications, a bounty of medications, medications as plentiful as Baskin & Robbins ice cream flavors, medications in all shapes and colors, in colors much more numerous than the colors of the rainbow, medications in quantities nearly equal to the many languages of the human race, a tower of Babel of medications and she has been on this laundry list of medications since she was eight years old. What childhood malady could have justified this salad bar of meds being visited on Bridget? Sure, a casual observer with an eye for analysis might have detected her lack of motivation on the soccer field at an early age, like the way she’d shy away from the ball whenever it was kicked anywhere near her, or noticed her brittle temper, like the time she smashed all the windows on the garage door with a hockey stick. An ever-increasing percentage of the medical community views these childhood failures as justification for testing new wonder drugs on innocent children. Bridget suffers much, there’s no doubt about it and most of all from a debilitating anxiety. The bone-chilling anxiety that accompanies her while being forced to give classroom presentations. The gastrointestinal stomach ailments that she swears are there, but no doctor can officially confirm. The anxiety of her compulsive drawing and erasing, drawing and erasing. Bridget suffers.Just breath. In. And then out. The phenomenon of syncing one’s breathing with another’s is seldom discussed, but is a considerable fear held among the anxiety-ridden. It’s something Bridget obsesses over: the idea of someone other than herself controlling her breathing. It is simultaneously smothering and freeing. During an anxiety attack, breathing becomes front and center, you can actually convince yourself to stop breathing if you’re anxious enough. Or so you think. But it’s what you think that matters. It matters enough to actually cause you physical pain and discomfort. And that’s a problem. Inevitably, nobody thinks you’re crazier than you think you are.In an attempt to combat her anxiety while giving a presentation on earthquake preparedness – an endeavor not worth the chalk when you live in the northeastern quadrant of the country, but an assignment is an assignment, and who knows what part of the country one will abscond to when free to abscond – Bridget focused on her classmates around her. She attempted to picture them in their underwear, a ridiculous cliché, but one that had worked for her in the past. It didn’t work this time. She couldn’t picture anything. No boxers, no panties, no edible thongs, no pierced labia or Prince Alberts; just her breathing – And the sound of other people breathing. Bridget became deaf to her own rhythm as her classmates began breathing in the same tempo. At least that’s what she thought was happening. In actuality, it was Amanda Welsh, and only Amanda Welsh, overweight by acceptable Westchester standards, with dimples the size of pomegranate seeds and the crease of her belly pinching the plaid of her uniform with every exhale. Her breathing eclipsed that of her peers, thunderous sound waves created at a distinctly lower frequency and emitted from the inner depths of her flesh. She was like a bag of bagpipes squeezing itself.Bridget could hear nothing but her breathing; in fact, she honed in on it, on the wheeze of air passing through a crowded windpipe.Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.Like the equalizing knob on her stereo, Bridget’s brain shut off the treble and turned up the bass, louder, louder, louder; all the way to the max. Every word out of her mouth was garbled, as if she was speaking underwater. The only frequencies allowed into her ear canals were those from the bagpipes. As a result, she adjusted her breathing to mimic those of the bagpipes, because if she didn’t begin and end her breath at the precise moment the bagpipes did, she would cease breathing. And, of course, die. The bagpipes were her assisted breathing machine: at this very moment, standing before her class, every movement, every word, every breath, being judged by her peers, her teacher, the loiterers in the hallway passing by, and her breathing was regulated by a bag of human bagpipes. She was a stock car stuck in its groove, unable to change lanes. Then she stopped. Breathing.Either the overweight girl she was listening to stopped breathing, or Bridget mercifully broke free of her often unforgiving burden. Either way, the end result was the same: Bridget’s knees buckled, her legs collapsing underneath her, and the side of her head smashed into the corner of her teacher’s steel desk. She was knocked instantly into blissful unconsciousness. She likes this moment the best.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spring Finally #WordlessWednesday

Spring, Finally!  I've missed you so!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Amelia is giving me dirty looks

Amelia is giving me dirty looks. We are at the vet's office and she doesn't like it one bit.

I figure this is for two reasons. One there was a stool sample taken by the vet tech, I can only assume that is highly unpleasant for beast or man.

Secondly, she is rightly upset that I have not gotten her groomed and she looks like a ragamuffin .



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tales from the Backseat

First day of Spring Break arrived with the weather I've been waiting on all winter. Sunny, seventies, and silly. Well the kids were silly anyway.

The minds of middle schoolers.

In the car on the way to golf lessons. Bryce (5th grader) says to Will (3rd Grader):

"Hey Will, wanna hear a story about the birds and the bees?"

Bryce doesn't wait for Will to respond. "The birds ate the bees, end of story."  Cue peels of laughter from Bryce.

*****

Patrick, 7th Grade says to me: "Hey Ma, I forgot to tell you we dissected a frog last week at school."

Me, trying to make sure and sound blasé, considering Patrick middle name is Squeamish. "Interesting Patrick, how did it go?"

Patrick responding with great enthusiasm, "It was gross and super cool at the same time."

****
"You know people judge other people on what they wear, like people get picked on cause they aren't wearing what's in and who cares what people wear. It's stupid, that's like bullying."  Patrick said.

Bryce then chimes in "As the great author Dr. Suess  said: 'Why fit in, when you can stand out.'

****
Surprisingly, Anna was in the car but didn't contribute to these conversations, she must have been asleep.

To end today's insight into the Middle School Boy, here is Bryce with his Face Mug.  Thanks to an endowment all the Art Students at Hayesville Middle and High School were able to make and take these fun mugs.  The artist behind the mugs is  Rob Withrow if you click the link you'll be taken to his website.  Fun Stuff!  He does Face Mug Parties, so it's like a Tastefully Simple party but you make your own mug!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mmmm popcorn

Just past April Fools. If I had a dollar for every email I got today with "no fooling" in the title, I'd have ordered a pizza tonight.

But I didn't, so late tonight after 7 hours of customer service calls, I rummaged around and came up with popcorn for my dinner.

Not just any old popcorn, not microwave popcorn. Tastefully Simple popcorn. I made it on the stove using Roasted Garlic Infused Oil. Then I took it one step further and mixed dry Roasted Onion warm dip mix into melted butter and tossed the popcorn .

Served in our serving bowl. Yum. Next time I will try Basalmic and Basil Dipping Oil and Parmesan cheese !