Andie M. Hayes

Author | Artist

Filtering by Category: fiction

An Ode to Toni Morrison

Mourning. What is mourning anyway? Does someone have to sit in a dark room and cry, howl, jeremiad and lament for days on end to really, truly be considered “in mourning”? I don’t know. But I do know that I don’t feel the same after the death of one my all-time favorite authors a few days ago. You know who I’m talking about: Momma Toni, Mother Morrison, the one, the only, Toni Morrison.

James Baldwin died three years before I was born and when Maya Angelou died, I admit I was sad, but nothing like how I feel now. I did write a pretty substantial blog post that’s now long gone on the Tumblr interwebs, though. And when Gabo (Gabriel Garcia Márquez for the unfamiliar) died in 2014…chile, please. Do NOT get me started. I lost it. THAT was true mourning. It was almost as if I’d lost a literary grandfather, you know. No. I suppose you don’t. That’s how deeply his work has touched me.

Today, I started reading Love and I can honestly say I don’t know how popular this particular Toni Morrison book is because it’s one I haven’t heard of before. But three pages in and I’m enraptured. I only stopped reading to write this blog because I needed someone to know the depth of my pain when I realized there will never be another Toni Morrison book. Think about that for a moment. Toni Morrison will never write another book…

When I was eleven, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I’d just read How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and honestly, the book was probably much deeper than any girl my age should have been reading; but it was in my middle school library and I was already reading at a college level, so I had my pick of the bunch. It wasn’t until many years later that I came into contact with the illustrious Momma Toni, but when I did my decision to write was totally and completely solidified. I knew that no matter what I had to do to make money, writing would always be a part of my life and it would one day be how I made a living.

Because of authors like Toni Morrison, writing…has become a part of my very soul. Let me explain. I don’t just write for fun. I don’t just write for money. I don’t just write for other people to read my thoughts and say “oh, that’s deep”. I write for solace. I write to cleanse. I write to release. I write because I am free to do so and because others before me have paved a path where I have the freedom to write what I please when I please for the audience I please. Whew!

But there is so much more to writing. Toni Morrison wrote: “The vitality of language lies in its ability to limn the actual, imagined and possible lives of its speakers, readers, writers.” One more time for the people in the back… The vitality of language lies in its ability to limn the actual, imagined and possible lives of its speakers, readers, writers. Language with its twists and turns and complexities and eccentricities is what makes writing worth writing! If that makes any sense whatsoever. And Morrison understood that. She lived for it just like I do. She breathed it. She felt it in her soul. She felt the power of a single word and she knew how to use it! She knew how to make you feel something by using the right word at the right time and that, my friends, takes more than skill. It takes more than talent. It’s a gift. And not of us have it. I’m not sure I have it. But I keep working at it and I stay inspired.

As I write this my heart is heavy and my throat is tight. I feel as if I’ve lost an old friend I haven’t seen in far too long. Yesterday, I bought Love and The Source of Self Regard, hoping to reconnect with that friend before too much of her memory fades, knowing she’s already too far gone. Maybe reading her stories and essays will remind me of what I need to do as a writer in order to be successful and make my mark. Or maybe they’ll just take me to that place I’ve been needing to go in my heart to find myself.

If you love love, this book is for you!

I speak of the type of love that brings sight to the blind. Of a love stronger than fear. I speak of a love that breathes meaning into life, that defies the natural laws of deterioration, that causes us to flourish, that knows no bounds. I speak of the triumph of the human spirit over selfishness and death.” –The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

So I'll just be honest, I'm a bit of a hopeless romantic. I love to see people in love and I hope for that for myself too. That true love thing, not the superficial stuff. So kind of needless to say, I love a good "romance" book. But not that stereotypical, I know what's gonna happen before it happens type book. The kind of book that screams purity, devotion, and the type of love that changes lives. You know, that real stuff that is unending and long suffering. The kind of book that makes you tear up and leaves you questioning every moment of your life not spent with that kinds of passion in your life. That's the kind of book I like. 

When I first picked up The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, I was pretty sure I'd be getting some of that, but I didn't know how much. The story picks up with a girl in search of her father. One day he picked up and moved to Burma. No explanations, no apologies, no nothing. One day he was just gone. Just like that.  And so she does what any kid would do and begins the search for her father and the woman she thinks he left their family for. 

 What unfolds is a love story between two human beings that has stood solid for over 40 years. A love that didn't waver despite decades of total silence, years of wondering and, (what for me would be no less than total insanity), what ended up being the purest, truest love around. BRUH.

But, I digress. Basically Tin Win (daddy that is) was forced away from his home, eventually got married, had a family, a career, an entire life without his true love and yet somehow his love for her, his first love, never diminished. Everyday of his life was one day closer to seeing her again and everyday he made the moves (in secret) to get back to her. SOB.

I can’t tell too much more without spilling the goods, but let’s just say the writing is beautiful. I felt ALL. THE. FEELS. I absolutely loved this book. Can you tell?

Go pick up a copy of The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker you’ll love it. Promise.

-A

 

What's up with Alice?

When I was a little girl, I absolutely loved Disney movies. (I mean can anyone name a kid who doesn't?) And if we're being honest, I still do. They're timeless and in a world as crazy as today's, they're refreshing. They suspend reality long enough to give you that warm fuzzy feeling before you have to get back to adulting. And I believe we all need a little of that from time to time. 

So, needless to say, I love books that play with the "original" storylines of the movies I hold dear. (pro fact: Walt changed virtually everything about every story he came in contact with, so we're not gonna call Disney movies the real thing 'cause honestly, they're not. Have you read the real Little Mermaid?!) Gregory Maguire's books, for example, are some of my faves. He's a master at creating an alternate universe for characters we already have connections to. I mean I actually feel bad for the Wicked Witch of the West after reading Wicked over and over, don't you?

But anyway, we're not talking about Elphaba today. Today's post is about the little girl that fell down the rabbit hole.

When I came across Christina Henry's Alice I was pretty pumped. I love seeing how authors take something old and give it a new life. And Alice in Wonderland is one of my absolute favorite Disney movies, though if you ask me why I'm pretty sure I won't have a legitimate answer. But! I've read other takes on Alice and Wonderland before so I figured why not give this one a try. 

But, even though I hate to say it, I'm disappointed. 

I'm not sure what I was expecting from Alice, but I'm pretty sure it isn't what I got. And I have to admit that I'm also not sure if Alice is supposed to be a YA book or not, but that sure would explain a few things. 

Just to be clear: Henry isn't trying to retell Carroll's story. Her spin on his classic is much, much darker. Sinister even. And that's not the disappointing part. That's actually what kept me reading. And I suppose that should answer my questions about this book being for young adult readers, but somehow it doesn't. 

When we meet Alice, she's in an asylum. She barely escaped being the next hot item in the city's sex trade and her "next cell neighbor" is an axe-murderer named Hatcher. Dark, right?

And so (without telling too much I hope ) within the first few chapters Alice and Hatch (as she calls him) escape from the asylum and start off on the journey of all journeys. Kind of like Frodo and Sam (but I'm telling you now, Frodo and Sam are definitely a more iconic duo than Alice and Hatch). 

Throughout their trek they have run-ins with several different personifications of Carroll's classic characters-the Cheshire Cat, the Blue Caterpillar, the Walrus, and the Jabberwocky- each of whom is involved in his own shady dealings. Each of whom is also only a stepping stone on the trail to the man Alice dreads seeing- the White Rabbit. 

The story itself is good and you definitely find yourself eager to know what happens next, but I also found myself rooting for the axe-murderer instead of the book's namesake heroine. 

Alice aggravated me to no end. Like: Girl, this is a QUEST! Ain't no cryin' in saving the world! 

I don't know if pain in the butt cry baby was what Henry was going for when she did her character sketch of Alice, but that's totally what she got from my POV. 

And, unfortunately, Henry's writing is just...okay. I kept reading solely to find out what happened to Alice and Hatch, not because Henry's way with words beckoned my soul. You might be thinking that the two are one in the same, but they're not. Trust me. They're not. 

Alice is a part of a 2 book series and a month after finishing installment one, I still haven't found the desire to read book two. And honestly, that makes me a little sad. I really And maybe it'll all be different for you. Give it a gander and see!

Thanks for stopping by,

-A

 

You Sly Fox

One thing I'm always telling myself I need to do is read more books. I think after enduring four years as an English major, I (even though I hate to say it) got tired of reading. So much so that I've been starting and stopping two chapters into a novel for the past two years or so. Disgraceful, I know.  

But, anyway, l've been forcing myself to sit down and read some really good books and well, some not so good ones too. ("To each his own," right?) Books I should've read in college, but didn't. Books I missed out on as a kid. Some of the classics and some of the not so classic. Basically, anything I can get my hands on. 

I was getting ready to reread an old favorite last week (Love in the Time of Cholera, for those curious minds) when my mom decided she wanted to scope out some new bookstores. Never one to turn down a free book or a midweek adventure, I jumped in the car and off we went. 

I'm not gonna lie, this book store was AAA-MAZING. It sits on the corner lot of this très chic strip mall situation and the building is a circle! Literally. It looks Rapunzel's tower. I was sold before we even made it to the front door. But, I digress. 

After perusing for a few minutes and picking up everything that looked interesting, I spotted this little pale blue book sitting all alone on a wall shelf. It was Mr. Fox. 

I wasn't really sure what to expect. I'd never read any of Helen Oyeyemi's work. But the back cover made it seem interesting enough and I've been searching high and low for a new page turner for months.  And lucky me, after the first few pages I wondered how I'd gone this long without Oyeyemi in my life!

Oyeyemi's writing is tantalizing. Intriguing. Addictive. Her words flow so fluidly that it's just about impossible to stop reading. (I'm not ashamed to admit, I went out and got the only other book Barnes and Noble had: 2014's Boy, Snow, Bird before I even finished Mr. Fox.)

If I sound like a teenage fan girl, then my mission has been accomplished. But by now I'm sure you're wondering, "What's all the fuss about"? 

Well, I'll tell you. And I'll try not to spoil too much of it for you while I'm at it. 

So, the book is about this guy named (of course) Mr. Fox. He's a writer and from what I can gather he's a pretty good one. But, like so may of us, he's stuck. Not on a plot or character development or anything like that, though. St. John Fox can't stop killing off his female characters. No matter what type of story he's writing, some poor lady is gonna die. He can't help it. It's like an addiction. 

Enter Mary Foxe. Woman. Mistress (or is she?). Muse. 

Mary's fed up. She's tired of dying in St. John's stories and so she comes up with an idea. Foxe challenges Fox to a game. Can he write a story where his heroine actually lives?

Maybe he can; maybe he can't. The heat is on and what we get is this incredible conglomeration of, what I'm calling, call and response storytelling from all the parties involved. Figuring out who's telling the tale gradually gets more difficult, but that's a part of the fun.

Oh. Did I forget to mention that St. John Fox is married? He is. And while all of this is happening his wife Daphne is growing more and more suspicious of how her husband is spending his time. Is he having an affair with this mystery woman? Is she even a real flesh and blood person? Well, my friends, you're gonna have to see for yourself. 

If you're looking for something clever and deliciously amusing, I definitely suggest picking up a copy of Helen Oyeyemi's 2011 award-winning (no really, Google it!) Mr. Fox

Until next time, 

A.