Christopher Thomas Knight spent 27 years alone in the woods. He was not completely isolated by from human culture as it advanced over the decades, but he was almost completely devoid of human contact. According to Michael Finkel’s book The Stranger in the Woods, based on his conversations with Finkel after his arrest, the one time he spoke to someone was the only time he was spotted by a hiker in the Maine wilderness he called his home. Knight asked the hiker to make a pact that they would both never speak of their encounter. The hiker broke that pact, a sharp betrayal for Knight, after Knight was arrested for the over 1000 burglaries that kept him alive over the years.
Sebastian Kanczok “He would see It naked, a thing of unshaped destroying light.” Clowns are inherently scary for many people, and when Stephen King chose to make a clown the initial form of his monster in his epic novel It, he was both responding to and enhancing the public’s curious revulsion at popular painted jesters. What “it” truly is in the novel, though, is something intangible. It is the essence of fear projected and manifested. When the adults confront It… Read more »
Jeannette Walls wrote The Glass Castle to conquer shame about her hardscrabble past, but the metaphor of the Glass Castle is almost universally relatable. It represents the impossible dreams for the future that most of weave for ourselves, the glittering dreams instilled in childhood, a fantastic goal to reach for that we can never quite touch.
Patricia Highsmith wrote The Price of Salt, the novel that was rereleased as Carol decades later, in 1949 while undergoing intense psychoanalysis in an attempt to get herself into “a condition to be married.” Being gay was so socially unacceptable at that time that even a free-thinking, tradition-bucking, iconoclast like Highsmith temporarily bowed to the intense pressure to mold herself into who society thought she was supposed to be.
I haven’t seen the film, but I recently read the book version of Diary of a Teenage Girl in a few feverish sessions. It’s a devastating book in many ways, but I wanted it to go on and on. It’s shocking, heartbreaking and absolutely honest. There are some universally relatable things explored in the book, but the reason why it is so empowering and captivating is because it so raw and specific. What’s relatable isn’t necessarily the details but the bravery in the telling. My year of being 15 was very different than Minnie’s, but her story makes me feel less self-conscious about my internal world, both now and then.
I just discovered Richard Wright’s Black Boy pretty recently. It’s not quite a direct memoir (many of the personal facts and anecdotes are fuzzy and were inserted for narrative effect) as it a vivid impression of what it was like to be a young black man in 1920-30ss America. It makes that time period from that perspective alive and present. Reading an evocative account of another person’s experience closes the distance between you. We can never fully know what’s it… Read more »
Pamela Moore wrote Chocolates for Breakfast, an eyebrow raising 1956 novel about lost teenage girls living privileged and depressing lives, when she was only 18. The book was a hit and put the female name Courtney on the map (Courtney Love counts herself among one of the girls named after protagonist Courtney Farrell,) but Pamela never had another hit and killed herself when she was only 27 years old. The popular book had several prints but lay dormant for years… Read more »
Ariel is grand, but you don’t know the tale of the little mermaid until you’ve read Hans Christian Anderson’s version. His decadent and mournful twist on mermaid lore has shaped our imaginations for centuries, and shines a searing light on the pains of growing up, identity crises, and, of course, unrequited love, which can snap an indescribable place in the heart. Cloaking this particular hurt in a macabre mythological tale gets this feeling precisely right, especially if you throw in the problems of bisexuality in an especially unaccepting time.
Entwined in the thick, decadent audacity of Valley of the Dolls, is The Sleep Cure, a seductive nightmare to treat both nerves and weight loss. In the novel Jennifer North, an amalgam of all troubled blonde Hollywood ingenues, signs into a Swiss clinic to sleep off 10 pounds.
In 2010 author Zadie Smith offered these 10 tips for writing as part of a project for The Guardian inspired by a similar list Elmore Leonard provided The NY Times 10 years earlier. Other authors participated in this exercise, but Zadie’s was the one I found on Tumblr today, and it stopped me dead in my tracks with it’s leveling wisdom. Numbers four, nine, and ten can apply to absolutely anything in life, but number three gets down to the core of it: “You can either write good sentences or you can’t.”