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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.

Game-changing Books


We've all read them. Books that literally seem to change the game of the way books are usually written. Or what they're written about. The Hunger Games comes to mind, only because I don't know if I've ever been more unable to put a book down. On a plane (where, granted, it's easy not to put a book down), I stayed in my seat with my nose deep into my gifted hardcover copy as the rest of the passengers deplaned. Just. One. More. Chapter. Kids freaking killing kids. It was disturbing. It was sickening. It was mesmerizing.

The one I've been thinking about this week was a book I read in junior high. I've probably mentioned it on here a time or two, but this book completely rocked my world when I read it. I was a teenager and a lot of things rocked my world--Birkenstocks, The X-Files, Devon Sawa--but this book positively made me pay attention because of its difference. Its felt significant to me, even then. And when I finally got around to watching the movie this past weekend, I couldn't help but feel disappointed. Because I remember how I pictured everything, especially that last scene--how epic is that last scene, the snow, the hill, the what-is-really-happening conjectures--and of course I pictured it as nothing like the movie. Now isn't that always the way?

Yet, I digress. If any of you readers have a book that felt like a game-changer to you when you first read it, please share! If what you want to say is longer than a comment's worth, submit it on the website and I may post some of them!



Remembering The Misfit

I was thinking yesterday about a quote I heard years ago about how good writing should make you feel like your head has been cut off. I think I heard it while in college, and at the time it resonated with the part of me that enjoys being moved, even uncomfortably so, by the written word. I was reading Flannery O'Connor back then and can remember feeling this very way when reading "A Good Man is Hard To Find." The moment I realized what was about to happen was eye-popping. I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped. Oh. My. Gosh. Filled with a desperate panic, much like the Grandmother herself, I felt like I'd been through something once I finished reading. I was affected. And I couldn't shake it.

This wasn't the first time I'd felt that way, and I can remember several other works before and since that have been, shall we say, literary game-changers. Maybe not in the classic sense of the word, but at least in terms of the way I felt while reading them. It's Jonas learning to see the color red, it's Katniss in the games, and all the other things in stories that you can't believe are happening. Because no one has ever written a situation quite like it. I suppose that's the reason I can't wrap my mind around writing fiction. I'm not sure what I could add to the party that would create this new, awe-inspiring sense of having been figuratively beheaded. Not that this means I won't ever come up with one, but for now, I'll stick to what I know. And let you keep your heads.


Forgetting Katniss

I'm in the process of studying for a final. (No, there isn't an education-related addendum being written to Schooled. Although I can confirm that these hobby-esque classes will be tied into the subject of currently half-done book two.) And particularly when studying for a class that requires the memorization of a gazillion facts and figures, I am reminded often of both how much the human brain can retain, as well as how much it does not. As I've gone back over all the quizzes I've taken for this course over the past six months, it's embarrassing how much I've managed to forget. But as I dedicated myself to preparing for this final, it's amazing how much I've been able to re-learn, and in not very much time. The brain is just so...spongey.

I suppose it's one thing to forget facts and figures, but what about other things? What about things we learn for fun? What about reading books? Having studied English in college, sometimes I feel like all I can remember is a single story that manages to blend together everything I've ever read; that every literary character becomes a composite of every other character. For example, Silas Marner came up in conversation recently. While some strands of familiarity surfaced, I was stumped. My mind took inventory of male literary characters and produced some combination of Bartleby the Scrivener and J. Alfred Prufrock, and I realized I had no idea if I'd ever read Silas Marner. If so, I could not in that instant pluck out a plot line. Still can't. Or for a more contemporary example, I was discussing The Hunger Games trilogy with family members over Thanksgiving, and my sister-in-law brought up the "vote" at the end of book three. Um, vote? What on earth? How is this possible? I mean, I positively inhaled those books, yet here's how the Thanksgiving discussion went down:

Me: "Uh, vote?"
SIL: "Yeah, when they're all sitting around the table. And she's the deciding vote."

I do not remember this.

Me: "Who is?"
SIL: "Katniss."

I do not remember this at all.

Me: "What are they voting on?"
SIL: "On whether or not to make The Capitol's children do a hunger games."

Oh. My. Gosh. How intense! Go for it Katniss! Make them pay! But wait, shouldn't you of all people want to end the games once and for all?

Me: "Does she vote for it?"
SIL: "Yeah."

Who knew? Except me. Two years ago.

Of course, it's impossible to retain everything we put into our brains, and that's OK. I'm not beating myself up over my lack of ability to recall every detail about the world of Panem. Or scrivenry. The good news is we have the ability to learn period. And the ability to re-learn even when we forget. So if Silas Marner is worth re-reading, someone please tell me.