This summer, I’ve been attempting to finish several books that are kicking my butt: Inés del Alma Mía (yes, it’s in Spanish), The Histories (yes, it’s Herodotus), and Anna Karenina (yes, it’s Tolstoy). I’m also working on a book review for T&P and… I joined the Marine Corps reserves.
When I left active duty in 2013, I didn’t intend to return to the military. I was so decided on this, that I ignored all emails with subject headings like, “Professional Military Education Opportunities”, and “Opportunities in the Select Marine Corps Reserve”. A few more months of this and my officer commission would have been revoked and that would have been the end of that. But it isn’t the end; rather it’s a new professional beginning. All this to say, that I have also been busy this summer catching up on my heretofore ignored Professional Military Education requirements. This includes a self-study course where I learn about how the Marine Corps makes war in far away places with words like war fighting, doctrine, maneuver, and operations making regular appearances in the reading material.
In my twenties, I learned to be a military officer. What I’ve realized is that for me, what I learned to do in my twenties is what will stay with me for the rest of my professional life. This has much to do with the fact that family life has made it difficult to launch a second career because that season of my life, my twenties, in which I could devote nearly all my attention to the pursuit of a vocation will never again present itself– at least, not in the same way as before. In hindsight, it’s curious to me that I wanted to leave behind the Marine Corps so completely. Why would abandoning what I spent my formative adult years learning to do be a no-brainer? It turns out that being in military for me is as natural as riding a bike: I know how to do it; I know what to expect; I instantly feel the benefit of the years I’ve put into it; I feel right at home.
It’s amazing how many hours of entertainment I’ve found in Jane Austen’s work. Pride and Prejudice and Emma, written over 200 years ago, still offer characters and situations so amusing and heartfelt that they made me giddy with excitement when I reached the pinnacles of each story.
But reading the original stories is not the only way to enjoy Jane Austen. Thankfully, the BBC has produced miniseries of each one (available on Amazon Prime), that made my reading experience far more satisfying.
Pride and Prejudice was my first introduction to Jane Austen. Admittedly, I had trouble visualizing the story at first, especially because of to the number of characters introduced in the first chapters (Elizabeth Bennett has four sisters, after all). But when I started the BBC version, my enjoyment improved dramatically; NOW I understood that all these characters are sisters; NOW I understood that Mrs. Bennett is, in fact, a very silly mother. The dialogue in the BBC version is almost completely preserved from the book, and the characters are perfectly cast. Mr. Darcy, portrayed by Colin Firth, is stolid and proud, and nothing short of dreamy. As a reader, I knew how it would all end. But the journey was still so, so fun.
By the end of the story Austen imparted to me a little truth, which is that Elizabeth Bennet, though headstrong and independent, is still by all measures, a lady. Considering the state of being female today, this is enough to make any woman stop and realize that being independent and empowered does not preclude one from being ladylike or, as Jane Austen would say, well-bred. In this way, Elizabeth Bennet should rank high with the likes of Wonder Woman and Princess Leia, as a strong female characters we ladies should all want to be like.
The world of men and boys had always felt foreign to me. I suspect one reason why is that I didn’t grow up with a brother. Even so, while I served in the military I thought myself attuned to the guys by virtue of being immersed in a masculine culture. But several years later when I had my son, my delusions about how well I understood the opposite sex were once and for all set straight: I didn’t get it. Continue reading
This is part of the draft for the book I’m writing, “The Crucible Experiment.” I’ll continue to post excerpts as I continue to write.
The crowd dissolved into complaints and speculation over who had ratted out the fight. Our tight throng scattered like spilled paper clips in a race to make it back to VMA in time. I later learned that some cadet—still unknown who exactly— had called the Officer of the Day from the Foxhole and reported the fight.
But I had Edwin deal with. I went over and helped him to his feet as everyone around me ran off. Mel pulled at my shoulder.
“Carla, we’ve got to get back to the academy, they’re going to shut the gate. Get him up and let’s go.” Continue reading
I put off reading the Book Thief for some time. Something about its cover, its title, and the Young Adult marketing, led me to assume that The Book Thief was a Pollyanna-esque story about a girl in the foreground of a trying time in history who discovers the power of books and reading.
I was way off. Continue reading
When I read this play, I could not help but appreciate the talent Oscar Wilde had in storytelling, especially crafting dialogue. A playwright is almost completely limited to dialogue when painting a picture for the reader. There is no description, no narrative voice. And yet without me having seen the movie (of which there are several), or the play itself, Wilde’s characters, setting, and situations all come to life based entirely on what the characters say and do. Wilde’s dialogue is so precise; so specific. It goes to show how unimportant, how unnecessary, description can sometimes be. Continue reading
Here is the first part of the draft for the book I’m writing, “The Crucible Experiment.” I’ll start posting excerpts as I continue to write, and I would love to hear your thoughts.
If you want to hear how it all happened Mr. Montgomery, I have to start at the beginning, a few days before The Crucible. It was Thursday night liberty; a cold front had just blown in— I remember because the air felt cold and wet and I’d forgotten my gloves. I had gone out with my roommate Mel and nearly all of our Virginia Military Academy class. When nineteen hundred hours came around, many of us ventured the mile walk east out the main VMA gate into the Triangle town square. We would make an odd sight walking in droves down the shoulder of a country road in uniform, but the Triangle locals passing by are used to seeing us.
Last month, I watched “The English Patient” on HBO for the first time. I remember trying to watch it years ago and thinking it was boring; I was a teenager of course and not mature enough for the “high-brow” storytelling style. This time around I had the opposite reaction from years ago, and I admit that I haven’t been so moved by a story in a long time. The movie led me to Michael Ondaatje’s book on which the movie is based.
People sometimes assume that the best war stories are fact based. Logic tells us that truth is more authentic than fiction. But Adrian Bonenberger and Brian Castner challenge that assumption in a new anthology of short story fiction, “The Road Ahead: Stories of the Forever War.”
Read the full review on Task & Purpose
They say that a good book is one that changes your life, but I like to be more specific. A good book changes your behavior, and no other book has changed my day to day behavior like “Bringing up Bebe”. Continue reading