Unearthed Genius Of Lucia Berlin

Unearthed Genius Of Lucia Berlin


Having burned many bridges in my hometown, I had a lot of time to waste over winter break. I desperately needed something to fill my days and, realizing that recommending books to friends and relatives would be but another way to assert my superiority, I decided to read anything I could get my stubby little hands on.

I've always loved reading, but I deplore pretension, which makes tackling the classics a challenge. You can just tell that these books feel superior. Somewhere, right now, Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde are cackling in Hell over their shared eminence, their unrivaled importance in literary circles.

Which is why I've always tended to stick to books like:

Kate Hepburn may have been able to act circles around everyone in Hollywood, but a writer she ain't. I have never felt threatened by books like these. They're entertaining, they're (very) mildly educational, and they have pictures -- the trifecta of lethargy.

But after glancing over my bookshelf and realizing that I had read about the life of nearly every Academy Award winner from 1935 to 1970, I decided to face my fears and give literature a try. I walked into Barnes & Noble, looked over their bestsellers, and picked one based on its cover.

Always judge books by their covers, kids.

I was floored. I poured over this collection of autobiographical short stories, reading and rereading each one, desperate to relish Lucia Berlin's voice, to extract every nuanced meaning from every masterfully constructed line. Berlin's stories span her various careers; switchboard operator, Spanish teacher, nurse. The peripheral characters flit in and out of their respective stories with a realistic grace. Her writing is brutal in not only its stark portrayal of a class of people not typically displayed on bestseller lists, but its beauty because of these much-maligned, rarely-discussed subjects. It's an atypical elegance you won't find within the pages of the classics, but one that radiates with a subdued (tarnished?) dignity off of her description of impoverished suburbs and trailer parks, schoolyard delinquents and dysfunctional families, nuns and alcoholics. The stories take place from the American southwest to South America, but in spite of location, the writing dazzles with its unparalleled, gritty grace.

Berlin's stories are accessible, not because of this realism, but because Berlin doesn't lord her obvious talent over the reader. Her writing is amicable, conversational, a 2 a.m. conversation in a working class bar put to paper. She eschews formality in favor of a style that is both poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. The humor is dark and the characters are the kind that you would encounter in any dimly-lit bar across Texas, with the unspecified yearning of the author revealing itself with each page. Don't let the breezy informality fool you, either. Lucia Berlin is a writer whose every line will require, and demand, all of your attention. Her subtly in meaning is offset by her frankness in delivery in a style that feels more like stories your favorite grandparent might let slip after one too many Miller Lites than the merited work of a talented author.

Berlin passed away in 2004, another example of a tragically talented artist shunned by the public during her lifetime and praised only upon her death, yet this collection, thankfully, presents the genius of this Dorothy-Parker-by-way-of-Albuquerque to a willing and receptive world, affording her the widespread acclaim she earned decades ago.

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.

7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.


Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.

I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.

I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.

As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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