Reading to Reels: Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

838488For Gene Wilder (RIP). Thank you so much Mr. Wilder for being a wonderful memory and an icon of my pop culture loving childhood. You will be missed.

Can you believe the much beloved movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is now over 40 years old? It seems just yesterday my sister and I were sitting in front of the television, transported to a world of candy, Oompa Loompas, bratty kids who get their just desserts and of course, the mysterious Willy Wonka. My sister and I loved this movie and we watched every broadcast.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is based on the classic Roald Dahl book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Played by Gene Wilder in the film, Willy Wonka is the reclusive proprietor of a world-famous chocolate factory. In the beginning, Willy Wonka makes a huge announcement. He is granting five lucky people a chance to tour his factory, learn some of his tricks of the candy trade and win a lifetime of free chocolate. The catch? You must first purchase a chocolate Wonka bar, and if one of those bars has a golden ticket, you are a winner. The world loses its collective shit and the media goes wild for the story (and this is the pre-Internet days). Who will win the golden ticket?

One person who would love to win a golden ticket is Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum). Charlie is good hearted but his family is broke. Even buying a simple candy bar could put a dent in the Bucket family budget. But somehow Charlie gets the money, and he purchases a Wonka bar. Charlie rips open the chocolate bar with anticipation, and low and behold, there lies a shining golden ticket!

However, before Charlie arrives at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, he is offered a proposal by the devious Arthur Slugworth, the owner of a rival chocolate factory. Slugworth wants Charlie to steal Wonka’s secret recipes, most ideally, Wonka’s recipe for his latest creation the everlasting gobstopper. Will Charlie succumb to Slugworth’s shady plea, or will he stand by his convictions and not steal the recipe?

Being a minor, Charlie has to bring along a chaperone to tour Wonka’s chocolate factory. Charlie brings along his beloved Grandpa Joe played by the irascible Jack Albertson (yep, the “man” from Chico and the Man). Along for the tour are four other rather vile children, and their equally vile parents. First there is the gluttonous Augustus Gloop who doesn’t say much but sure loves to stuff his face. Violet Beauregard talks a mile a minute and is always chomping on a piece of gum. Mike TeeVee is obsessed with television and pop culture (wait, this is a bad thing?). But most odious of all is Veruca Salt, a spoiled, entitled brat. Hmm, if Veruca existed today she’d probably have her own reality show on Bravo.

Willy Wonka meets the winners and their adult chaperones at his factory’s elaborate gates. After freaking everyone out by pretending to be feeble, falling, and then finishing his “fall” with the perfect somersault, Wonka invites Charlie and the gang into the factory. Before anyone can go further they must read and sign a very elaborate contract, which pretty much looks like the contract you had to sign when you got your credit card. Now it’s on to the tour of the magical Wonka factory.

The first room the winners visit is a totally edible garden with flowers, mushrooms and a chocolate river. The winners also meet the Oompa Loompas, Wonka’s vertically-challenged, green-haired, orange-skinned helpers. Veruca Salt tells her daddy, “I want an Oompa Loompa right now” because she’s a snotty bitch, and you pretty much realize she is going to work your last nerve. However, it is Augustus Gloop who is the first to be eliminated from the tour when he falls into the chocolate river and gets sucked up in a large tube.

Still, the tour goes on. The winners and their chaperones visit magical room after magical room. They even go on a crazy boat road right out of a bad acid trip (it was the 1970s). Throughout the tour, the kids misbehave and are punished. Even Charlie gets up to some mischief. He and Grandpa Joe sneak into a room to try some Fizzy Lifting drinks, and start floating up towards a menacing whirling fan on the ceiling. Will they be beheaded? Fortunately, Charlie and Grandpa Joe find out belching will help them get their feet back on the ground, and they join the others on the tour.

At the end of the tour, only Charlie is left. However, Wonka finds out about the Fizzy Lifting drink fiasco, and he is pissed! He denies Charlie the ultimate prize because he defied the contract’s rules. Charlie turns to leave dejected, but not before he hands Wonka the Ultimate Gopstopper he swiped to give to Slugworth.

But all is not lost! Wonka turns to Charlie and tells him, “You won!” It turns out Slugworth is not rival and a spy; he’s actually one of Wonka’s employees and his name is Wilkinson. The Everlasting Gobstopper predicament was actually a test, and Charlie passed!

As the movie ends, Wonka leads Charlie and Grandpa Joe to the “Wonka-vator.” The Wonka-vator is an elevator that goes up, down and in all other directions. The Wonka-vator blasts through the factory’s ceiling and flies over the city below. It is at this time Wonka tells Charlie that the factory is his once Wonka retires.

I loved Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as a kid, but I saw it again as an adult and I loved it even more. There is something so subversive about it, but at the end the good kid wins out. Sure, Charlie isn’t perfect but his heart is in the right place. And the bad kids are punished which totally fills me with schadenfreude. Jeff Gordinier even covers this in his book X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep from Everything Sucking.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was later remade in 2005 and starred Johnny Depp; but to me, Gene Wilder owns the role of Willy Wonka.

And while doing research for this piece I found out some interesting trivia. Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt) and Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregard) totally crushed on Peter Ostrum. I can’t say I blame them. He was adorable. And speaking of Peter Ostrum, Charlie Bucket was his first and last film role. He’s now a veterinarian.

What else? The flower-shaped cup Willy Wonka drinks from in an early scene was made from wax (ew). However, many of the props found on the set like the giant mushrooms were edible. Jean Stapleton was slated to play Mike TeeVee’s mom but had to back out due to another acting role. You probably know her best as Edith Bunker from the 1970s classic TV show All in the Family. And Julie Dawn Cole admits to hating chocolate!

I don’t have kids, but I do have a niece and nephew. And I’d love to share Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with them. And I bet there are a lot of Gen X parents and aunties and uncles who have done just that.

Book Review: The Importance of Music to Girls by Lavinia Greenlaw

the importance of music to girlsMusic. It’s a life force for so many people. Music forms our ideas, passions and opinions. A song on the radio makes us recall a distinct moment in our lives. A song can inspire us to change ourselves or change the world. A song is there when we fall in love or when our hearts our broken. Music is so much more than “it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.”

But when music is discussed in these terms, it’s usually done by the boys. Nick Hornby and Chuck Klosterman can obsess over bands, discuss guitar solos and argue over the importance of lyrics. Girls gossip over the cuteness of the band members or service roadies in hope to meet their favorite musicians. They shake their barely-clad butts in videos. If they are lucky, they might inspire a song. When it comes to music, girls have to fit very narrow stereotypes-groupie, muse or slut.

But British poet Lavinia Greenlaw knows girls and music add up to a lot more, and she tries to explain this in her memoir The Importance of Music to Girls.

In The Importance of Music to Girls, Greenlaw captures what music meant to her as a young girl in 56 brief essays. Greenlaw, who came of age in 1970s Britain, uses the soundtrack of pop, disco and punk to describe the sometimes mortifying and often thrilling act of growing from girl to woman.

The Importance of Music to Girls starts with the vague memories of early childhood. Music comes in bits and pieces-her mom singing folk songs, learning how to play piano and classical music filling the family home. But Greenlaw ached for a different type of music.

This music came to her once she got older. Like lots a young girls, she squealed and got crushes on baby-faced pop idols like Donny Osmond, hanging posters of Donny and his toothy grin on her bedroom walls. Any young woman who felt the same way over other teen idols whether they be David Cassidy, Duran Duran, New Kids on the Block or (someday) One Direction will nod their heads in recognition.

When she wasn’t pinning posters of pop stars on her walls, Greenlaw was attending local youth discos, watching the iconic music show Top of the Pops on TV and trying to maneuver the tricky world of the opposite sex. Despite the fun of dancing and dressing up in her finest, Greenlaw felt awkward, like she didn’t fit in.

Fortunately, she discovered punk. Punk’s promise of rebellion liberated Greenlaw. She wore garbage bags in a declaration of anti-fashion and dyed many of her clothes pitch black. She spiked her hair and put on bondage pants. Suddenly, Greenlaw felt free from the shackles of acceptable femininity. She writes, “Punk had nothing to do with being a girl. It neutralized, rejected and released me. I made myself strange because I felt strange and now I had something to belong to, for which my isolation and oddness were credentials.”

Punk was more than just a pose; it was the music that truly spoke to Greenlaw. And the songs of the Sex Pistols and Joy Division became a part of her DNA. Punk was more than music; it completely altered her life and her sense of aesthetics. Greenlaw found herself dissecting lyrics and taking passionate positions on different bands.

However, punk didn’t mean girls had become truly liberated. Greenlaw wanted her ideas on music to be taken seriously. She wanted to discuss music on the same level as the boys. But the boys just wanted to make out and take off her clothes. And often her obsession with punk was off-putting to her peers who just considered music a good time and nothing more. Still, it was punk that gave her life meaning.

Despite Greenlaw’s teenage allegiance to the brashness of punk, her writing is muted. It takes a while for The Importance of Music to Girls to gain steam. The early chapters seem to be barely- focused, perhaps this is due to Greenlaw’s young age at the time. Who has exact clarity as a three-year-old? However, once the book arrives at Greenlaw’s early adolescence, it becomes more gripping. Greenlaw’s descriptions of smoky, sweaty discos, the acidic pink and yellow cover of the Sex Pistol’s album Never Mind the Bollocks and the roving hands of pimply teen boys are written with poetic explicitness. And youthful diary entries and school reports give the reader a sympathetic look at a teenage Greenlaw. Who can’t relate to embarrassing scribblings in a diary or less than flattering comments from a teacher?

If I have one problem with the book, it’s the title. The Importance of Music to Girls is too broad of a title for one young women’s experience in the trenches of pop, disco and punk. A book about the importance of music to girls of all generations, races, experiences and favorite musical styles still needs to be written. But fortunately, we have Lavinia Greenlaw to show us that music to one girl was very important indeed.

 

Book Review: Again and Again by Ellen Bravo

again and againOver thirty years ago, when she was a student at Danforth University, Deborah Borenstein came back to her dorm room to find her roommate, Liddie Golmbach, being assaulted and raped by the campus dream boat, Will Quincy the III. But even though Deborah is a credible witness and Liddie’s injuries do not deny the facts, these two young ladies aren’t believed by campus authorities. And why would a rich, handsome and popular frat boy like Will have to rape someone? He can get sex from any girl on campus. Besides, everyone saw Liddie drinking with Will and flirting with him. She wanted it; she was asking for it. Liddie Golmbach is just a loser slut who should thank her lucky stars Will deigned to even talk to her.

At the time there was no term “date rape.” Rape was something that was done by shadowy strangers jumping out of alley ways at unsuspecting women (and even then these unsuspecting women might “asking for it” because they were drunk, wearing a short skirt or walking around in a dangerous neighborhood).

Fast forward to 2010, Deborah is at the helm of Breaking the Silence, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group for victims of rape and other sexual violence. She is married to a Democratic political consultant named Aaron, and together they are raising a daughter named Becca. Liddie is living a quiet life in Wisconsin with her husband and she has gained some success as a weaver and quilter.

And Will Quincy the III? He is running for a Senate seat as a pro-choice, pro-women’s rights Republican (yes, obviously Again and Again is a work of fiction). His opponent is a very conservative Democrat who is pro-life and not exactly a supporter of women’s rights.

Soon Deborah soon finds herself in a bit of a quandary. She is being hounded by a take-no-prisoners investigative journalist to spill the dirt on Will Quincy the III after rumors begin to surface about his collegiate past (Liddie, it turns out, wasn’t his only victim). And Aaron is slated to work on behalf of Will’s opponent (who as I explained, is not exactly a friend to women’s issues).

As for Liddie? She wants the past to be the past and is not exactly comfortable with re-living the horrible night. And her long-time friend, Deborah, understands and supports her much to Aaron’s chagrin. This causes problems in what seems like an ideal marriage between two equals.

Again and Again flips between the Deborah and Liddie’s collegiate past and the roadblocks they faced as they tried in vain to bring Will and his crime to justice, and to the modern day of this issue causing conflict in Deborah and Aaron’s marriage and their career aspirations, the PTSD Liddie still suffers from and how rape is now more or less understood as a truly detestable crime.

And this is where Again and Again stumbled a wee bit for me. Though I admired Deborah for her commitment to women’s causes and her friendship with Liddie, I found her to be a bit of a Mary Sue. Liddie, at times, seemed to be a mirror, shining brightly on Deborah’s qualities and not so much of a compelling character whose PTSD and the decades since her years at Danforth I desired to see more of a focus on her. And I also found myself not caring that much about Aaron or Becca.

As for Will, well, you can read the book to see what his reaction is to being outed as a serial rapist back during his college years and if he truly feels contrite or not.

However, I do want to commend Bravo for having the balls (or should I say ovaries) for taking on a subject-rape-where the victim is often put more on trial than the actual criminal. Again and Again is a book that would make a strong book club selection and one that will inspire much needed discussion about a crime that is still not understood.

 

 

Shelf Discovery-The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick

shelf discovery“We Must, We Must, We Must Increase Our Bust”

In her “Fine Lines” column on the website Jezebel, Lizzie Skurnick re-read many of the novels she loved as a young girl, looking at them through the eyes of an adult. Now many of these (somewhat altered) essays are in book form in Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading. Ms. Skurnick is no stranger to young adult books. Not only is she a reader but she’s also a writer of some of the Sweet Valley High books. She also brings along writers like Meg Cabot, Jennifer Weiner and Cecily von Ziegesar for the ride down memory lane.

Shelf Discovery does not cover the books we had to read for school, books by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Eyre and Austen. No, this book covers the books that weren’t on any teacher-approved reading list. These are the books that kept us up long after our bed time or the books we hid behind our text books during social studies. These are the books we loaned to our friends only to get them back with tattered covers and dog-eared pages. Well, at least this happened to me when I loaned my copy of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by uber-goddess Judy Blume to all my friends in Miss Wilson’s fifth grade class.

Not surprisingly, Judy Blume’s books are reviewed in Shelf Discovery as are the Little House books. Skurnick also takes a look back at books like A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene, The Cat Ate My Gym Suit by Paula Danziger and I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier. Shelf Discovery covers books that were considered too old for us but we read them anyway like Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear and VC Andrew’s My Sweet Audrina. And books that I thought only I had read like To All My Fans With Love, From Sylvie by Ellen Conford and To Take a Dare by Paul Zindel and Crescent Dragonwagon are also covered.

These essays are thoughtful, reflective and funny, and brought back a lot of memories. Not only of reading these books, but also how they made me feel and how they inspired talk among my gaggle of girlfriends. I loved reading the Little House books, feeling some cheesehead pride because Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in Wisconsin. And I was quite comforted to know I wasn’t only the one who found Laura’s sister Mary an insufferable prissy-pants though I never went as far as to call her a “fucking bitch” like Skurnick does.

And where would we be without Judy Blume? Sure, some people want to ban her books, but to most of us, we loved Judy Blume because she introduced us to characters we could actually relate to. These were characters who experienced divorce or the death of a parent. They dealt with sexism, favored siblings and peer pressue. They questioned religion. They also dealt with the difficulties of growing up, physically, mentally and emotionally. Blume did not hesitate to make her main characters somewhat unlikable such as the protagonist in Blubber, Jill, who bullies Linda for being fat. And then there was Tony from Then Again, Maybe I Won’t who spied on his friend’s hot sister with his binoculars. What a perv!!!

Long before Gossip Girl, the books covered in Shelf Discovery introduced us to the world of S.E.X! Forever proved a girl could have sex and not get pregnant the first time or become a raving lunatic. It also kept generations of women from naming their male offspring Ralph. Wifey totally had a dirty mind. Flowers in the Attic introduced us the idea of brother/sister sex long before the Jerry Springer Show. And Katy Perry may have thought she was so lesbian chic when she sang, “I Kissed a Girl” but Jaret and Peggy were getting it on thirty years earlier in Sandra Scoppetone’s Happy Endings Are All Alike.

I’m not familiar with all of the books featured in Shelf-Discovery, but many of you might be. And I’m also not a fan of some of the books I did read. I wanted to fling Go Ask Alice across my teen-age bedroom. Even back then I knew it was a load of shite, and Go Ask Alice, which was allegedly based on the real diary of a teen girl messed up on drugs, was debunked several years ago.

I was also amazed to find out that many of the books we enjoyed as kids are now being enjoyed by today’s kids. Sure, kids have their Harry Potter and their Twilight books, but Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret also resonates with them. While visiting Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, Meg Cabot sheepishly tells the girls she is re-reading the Judy Blume classic. She expected blank stares from the students, but instead she got thunderous applause and cheers. Even though these girls live half a world away from suburban New Jersey, they totally adore Margaret. I still adore Margaret.

Reading Shelf Discovery reminded me why books always meant so much to me growing up (and still do). How fun was Sally J Freedman? And was I the only one who though Rosemary from Sister of the Bride was way too young to get married? But at least my mom and dad never sent me off to boarding school to die like the awful parents in The Grounding of Group 6. If you’re looking for a literary walk down memory lane and more than “seven minutes in heaven” you can’t go wrong with Shelf Discovery.

Why Read? by Guest Reviewer NoraTallTree (A Book Review of Sorts)

barbara's+bookstore-01This isn’t a book review. However, it is a review of how a Japanese-American girl raised by a single father in a gritty, pre-gentrified Chicago discovered a love for reading through a small, somewhat anarchic independent book shop called Barbara’s Bookstore. To learn more about NoraTallTree, read her bio below.*

So let me tell you about myself. I’ve officially become “middle-aged” this year. I’m not too sad about it – just stating the facts. I’m accepting of it because 1. I don’t really have a choice, do I? and 2. I don’t want to be any other age. I mean that I don’t want to go back or forward in time or age. I think younger people have it way worse than I do (i.e. look at their bleak future!) and the older generations always seem befuddled and mournful for their lost youth. I’m at the perfect age that I can do both: I can be woeful and relate along with younger people in “real time” and I can wish for the “good ole days” with older folk.

I can do this, especially the latter, because I sort of remember the “olden days” or at least I remember the wanting for the old days to come back. It seems like ever since Reagan was in office, there has been a standardized American cultural yearning for “olden days” or perceived “simpler times.” I don’t really know if say, the 1950’s, was really a simpler time – in my opinion, no time is simpler if women frequently had to wear girdles and had to defrost meat without a microwave, but so be it! Who am I to argue? There is a definite and palpable perceived impression that these times were the “Golden Age” and the best days of America.

Since I am too young to have really lived through the girdle years and the turbulent 1960’s, I can go right along with my elders missing those years. I don’t have any real memories or regrets because I wasn’t there, so my yearning for simpler times is just a mental entertaining exercise for me. It’s like remembering the best scenes from an episode of your favorite childhood TV show: You remember the best stuff, which describes about 5 minutes’ worth, at the most, and you edit or erase the drivel that represents the majority or the rest of the program!

But what is real and nostalgic for me is my love for books. Love, love, love books and its motherlode flagship – the bricks-and-mortar bookstore! There is no other out-of-body experience for me or as intoxicating as walking those first few steps into a bookstore – the smell of strong coffee (thanks to the modern bookstore with its Starbucks Cafés for wiring this into my sensory brain), bound paper and the smell of, “Is that glue or sugar, paint maybe?”, all mixed in with cold canned air! WOW! Isn’t that the best?!! It my “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” nirvana/heaven, slightly orgasmic moment – POP! It instantly calms me and presses my “happy” button. No one is truly alone or can be unhappy at a bookstore – it’s just not possible!

The love for the bricks-and-mortar bookstore goes back to my childhood. I have memories of growing up in 1970’s urban Chicago’s Lake View area. Instead of going to a proper after-school sports program at the nearest field house like my 10 year old contemporaries did, I would walk a mile or two through an interesting, sketchy neighborhood (considered downright “red light” by today’s standards) to the alternative/gay/radical Barbara’s Bookstore. (Obviously helicopter parenting wasn’t invented just yet).

Lake View, back then was the hosting neighborhood for a wide range of diverse group elements – Latin street gangs, aging hippies (that time’s “hipsters” – the owners of the crafts/ethnic/back-to-the-earth, think lots of macramé); pockets of Jewish-ness, anchored down by their temple; gay forefathers and newly out gay singles and the chase for the latest young hot trade (obviously pre-AIDS); seedy SROs (why are all the tenants missing teeth?) and pay by the half-hour hotels. The random Japanese-American businesse,. leftover from post-WWII Chicago neighborhood segregation made of Japanese-internment-camp- refugees” who weren’t welcomed in any other neighborhood except Lake View where the rents were cheap and they could work at restaurants near Cubs’ ballpark. And no one would rent to the “untrustworthy” Japanese, only except neighborhoods like Lake View. Lake View, in the 1970’s, seemed to be the landing neighborhood that gave respite for all those either going up or down Chicago’s social and economic ladder.

Well back to Barbara’s Bookstore. I would walk past, but more like slink past, the tall cashier’s counter at the front of the store. The male bookstore attendants would ignore me, probably too busy reading their latest socialist/commie/radical rant to look up at me, but there was a woman, I childishly thought she was the actual “Barbara,” who became aware of me and thought I needed adult supervision.

This new bookstore clerk supervision forced me to “slink”. I would wait and go in with other customers, so as to not be seen so much, and go straight to the back. The back-of-the-store is where the magazine section lived, along with its right and left henchmen bookshelves, the self-help/sociology/psychology section and gay/straight/alternative sexuality section. In this little trifecta of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, away from view from the front of the store, I would basically spend about 2-3 hours every school day for years reading the latest periodicals and books.

Let me tell you about how books were arranged back then. First of all, there was no ordained, real order to shelving and “facing” incoming books. I mean after a while the bookstore owners would get lazy and not want to move sections around – at this particular store, there was very heavy art and photography books in the front. You know the kind – the heavy book that costs a lot of money and if it fell off of its high shelf it could kill someone. Plus there were naked people on its cover, seen by giggling kids from the street view. No marketing/sales consultant/child advocate around to tell bookstore owners how to pander to the general public’s taste. No marketer or sales space consultant to shudder in revulsion or gasp at the lack of consideration for big sales. No big box bookstore list to tell you a strategic schema as to where to put which books.

Anyways, for the customers, though, once you were in the store, you were basically left on your own to explore. Even book covers didn’t call out to you with any eye catching or visually stimulating designs, only the titles and authors’ names. (That’s what made romance novels back then really stand apart from real literature, the outlandishly colored covers. They were cheap-looking and garish.) Real literature was bookish and library-ish, not just meant for entertainment like romance novels, but prized for its true meanings and love for words. The “truth” behind its simple cover – that was what was going to sell the book.

(A sidenote: There was also no advertising or posters for any events or books or anything. That was considered “gauche” and commercial…)

So in this maze and forestry of book discovery and word luxuriousness, I flourished and grew up. Books filled in all my missing childhood gaps and taught me how to live in and deal with the general world. Having no mother since I was almost 2 years old, being a latch-key kid (kids ask your moms and dads what that is), and having older siblings who were busy doing their own extracurricular activities, I had no real direction or guidance (maybe “Barbara” at the front was right to worry about me!).

My siblings were extremely smart; I was too, and I had an immense curiosity. After the mags and periodicals became stale, since the sellers would change them only monthly (yes, monthly! and that’s if they felt like it), I would venture to the henchmen bookshelves and end up reading self-help books, religion books, and spiritual books. New Age books before they were deemed “New Age” and sociology and psychology books (yes, folks, there are sections in a bookstore called “sociology and psychology” and they weren’t just all about aberrant crime or anything catastrophic). These books would explain why regular folks are “who they are” and “why they do things” – either as individuals or as groups.

Books gave me the vocabulary and some semblance of social awareness that was lacking in my lonely and singular sphere. I mean what’s a “woman, living in the post-feminist movement” should be thinking or feeling about her world? (Granted I was 10 years old but I wanted to know about “my body, myself”). Who would teach me how to be woman? My old-fashioned Japanese father? The one who grew up in post-WWI Japan? The one indoctrinated and marinated in “bushido code”? (What is bushido code, by the way? A book in the sociology section would know and be available to read!).

A free-roaming, disorganized bookstore would have something on any subject and topic. Since the bookstore is kind of organically random, I had to learn to use word association and thought siphoning to help me field my way through. Exploring all kinds of books gave me some pretty good highly educated guesses and theories that were tailor-made for me by me. I learned how to find out how to “find out” answers, ask questions, explore feelings, describe emotions, learned what was normal, what wasn’t, what works, what doesn’t and why it doesn’t, and most of all – the beauty of words and its power when it clicks and resonates with you. Reading books allow you to test your theories without having to risk living them out, experience cultures you’ll never meet in real life (like an African tribe who shuns all technology and outsiders) and learn about events you’ll never know anyone personally who was involved, like reading a book about Tibetan Monks who were deposed from their homeland in the 1950’s. Reading novels can put the words in your mouth and help you clearly define your thoughts, even if the stories are from a couple of centuries ago and from the other side of the world!

Books also keep you company, distract you from your daily worries and anxieties, broaden your world in taste and beauty – self-discovery at your fingertips. It’s one of the greatest pleasures this world has to offer, having been made solely from and of this world, and helps you create your own world within the world.

Hi, I’m NoraTallTree. I’m a person stuck in the middle: In-between Baby Boom I and Baby Boom II, punk or hippie principles, both groups simultaneously exciting me and also get on my nerves; stuck between Christianity passion & Buddhist calmness; stuck between American boldness & Japanese subtlety; I’m even stuck in the Midwest, between both coasts. Sounds kind of mixed-up, doesn’t it?!! Oh, well, it’s just me.