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Anyone There?

I feel like it’s been quiet around here when I realize it’s quite the opposite. Despite the long weekend, every day was filled with at least something for hours at a time, whether it was brainstorming (aka eating Chinese food and cookies) with my 8Asians buddies or playing badminton or sweeping the endless amount of leaves and twigs that fall from our enormous tree in the backyard.

I’ve been spending most of my free time recently trying to finish up Jonathan Franzen’s book, Freedom. I wasn’t a huge fan of The Corrections but I’m realizing now that I didn’t like the book for the right reasons. Franzen’s ability to seamlessly slip you into the emotional fractures of a family’s world is almost addicting. Even though the situations and settings are quite different, Freedom reminds me a lot of his first book, which made me feel upset and anxious over how the family basically unraveled over a serious of events. Nothing drastic, crazy or out-of-this-world happened to the Lamberts, only life.

The same thing happens in Freedom, where the characters are directed by their own neuroses, passions, insecurities, regrets, and competitiveness. They get old and make mistakes. They become happy and make mistakes. They look back at their lives and keep making more mistakes. Franzen makes it all sound so simple and close to home, but I can’t help feeling like it’s something that could happen to me one day. I’m not saying it will, but it’s the realism of their lives that makes me realize how even the most mundane of worlds can fall apart.

I’m almost done but I’m already over the bouts of anxiety that come over me after I finish each chapter. I literally go to bed worrying about the state of my marriage, whether or not we’ll have a good relationship with our future children, if we’ll all get along, if we’ll be happy, if we’re going to stay in Los Angeles, if we’ll be healthy and so forth–even though absolutely nothing has happened in reality to give me these thoughts. This was exactly why I didn’t like Franzen so much before but now I realize that’s the genius of his writing: he has such a simple way with words that can jar your core emotions. Worry and anxiety is all around us, but it really takes talent to take to touch those basic feelings through several hundred pages.


A couple of years ago, I decided to take on a personal challenge of reading at least 50 books a year. The first time, it turned out to be easy because I don’t know, maybe I was bored or something. Last year, I only made it to 25 but that’s because I don’t know, I was busy. This year, I failed again because I don’t know, I was too busy thinking about not eating donuts. That being said, I just started my 40th book (One Day by David Nicholls lent to me by the coolest sister in law ever) and I might just stop there, unless I somehow lug around 10 books during the holiday sin the next week or so. Do you think I can do it? IS THIS ANOTHER CHALLENGE?!? Okay.

In case anyone cares (and I know the answer is no), here’s what I read in 2010:

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Ghost-It Note

A while ago, I grabbed an old Sanrio notebook from my room at my parent’s house to use for class. I first bought the folder for school during one of the summers I spent in Japan between 7th and 8th grade, but I thought it was too cute to actually write in it. I even filled it with extra notebook paper so I could use those before wasting the actual paper (covered in Sanrio puppies) that came with the folder, so all of the pages are still intact: clean and white with maybe only a touch of fading around the corners. Other than that, it’s still perfectly brand new, and that’s how it collected dust on my book shelf for over 10 years.

I’m weird like that, I guess. I liked collecting stationary but the thought of “using it all up” and eventually throw away was a day I wanted to push back as much as possible. Looking back, I guess it was the dislike that something so new, pristine and pretty would soon age, wither away and become ugly. I hated when crayons would lose their original sharp edge or when the felt tips of markers would become soft and dry. This explains why I still have a perfect set of scented markers that I stole from elementary school, because I was afraid to “use them up.”

Coming across these saved stationary items can be a shock, though, especially when I opened up the Sanrio puppy notebook and found a post-it note from my grandfather, who passed away when I was in 10th grade. I have no idea why I stuck this paper on the inside of my notebook, but he used to scribble on everything with a big, fat permanent marker (I think because his eyesight was going bad, so writing everything in large print would help him see what he was doing). He also used to try to push me to read more (if that was possible) and get serious about college. One time, he had me read aloud all the names on the college football schedule in the newspaper and I had no idea why, until I later realized he just wanted me to get to know college names better–the irony being that I ended up going to a school where football barely existed. At least, that’s what I think he wanted me to do. I never asked him. Maybe he thought I was retarded and just wanted to make sure I knew how to read. Anyway, I’m pretty sure he gave me this post-it note so I could pick something he had on hold for me in a Downtown bookstore.

I have no idea if my Obaachan and I went to get the book or what happened with it, but it’s still unsettling to see his handwriting after so many years. And I mean unsettling in a good way. I guess it’s a reminder from the past, and that not everything important is something that’s happening right here, right now. Unless it’s my birthday. That’s coming up soon and should be the most important thing in your life. Yes, YOU.

*Kudos to Mike for coming up with the most awesome title ever.

Hancock Poop

So the ever amazing Lindsay lent me her copy of Hancock Park, which was a young adult chick-lit story based on our pretentious, prestigious all-girls high school in an old school affluent neighborhood of Los Angeles. I’m only one page 30 and I already know how horrible it’s going to be: Xanax-taking junior faces a crossroads in her life with her wealthy parent’s impending divorce, her equally wealthy best friend moving across the country and finding herself hanging out with the popular girls in her school. JUST LIKE ME!!!

Wait, except for the Xanax prescription (which seems a little disturbing for a young teenager), the divorce and the best friend. I had seven best friends, mind you. And Asian parents don’t really send their children to therapy, unless something super traumatic happens.

Let me guess. This main character meets boys, goes on a date, finds a hot boyfriend but then finds herself torn between being her true self or conforming to the expectations of her snobby, popular friends? I’m not sure yet. I think that happens on page 31.

Anyway, this book is evoking all sorts of strange emotions inside me, from the gross familiarity of the setting, feeling incredibly old (I am going to be 30 in 2 years….holy shit), complete despair that this now college student already has a book deal while I spend my day talking about what I want for Valentine’s Day and annoyance that this girl’s writing is strong enough to be published. I’m also feeling a lot of aches and pains, but that could be due to the bag of fiber cereal I ate this morning.

Maybe I’ll try to write my own version of Hancock Park, where the main character just studies all day, attends SAT prep classes in Koreatown, never talks to any boys, suffers through braces and a horrible 7th grade science teacher, discovers the Internet, still doesn’t talk to any boys, and then suffers through the whole college application process. There’s real conflict and character development right there, I tell ya.

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