Wanderlusty Wednesday: Hydra

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I think I’ll make this a thing. Because Wednesdays can be boring, and because I like alliteration.

I envisioned having this amazing travel blog, where every day I’m posting these gorgeous exotic photos. BUT, due to reality, I only travel travel like once a year (and by that I mean to places other than the Jersey Shore and upstate New York). We’re saving up for a big trip this November (the location is still TBD–suggestions welcome! Only requirements are that we haven’t been there and it’s not rainy season) so most of the photos I’ll post will be from my epic adventures of years gone by.

Today: Greece. If you need ideas for your next trip, rent a catamaran in Greece. (I’m not rich, in case you were wondering. A catamaran trip is affordable when you squeeze eight people (plus the captain) and make it a week long.)

These photos aren’t from Mykonos or Santorini–they’re from Hydra. I like going to places I hadn’t heard of before (not that I’m knocking famous places–I am still in love with Paris, after all). It’s a tiny island with one port and no cars–you get around on foot, or by donkey. It’s magical. Go there.

Hydra!9060573043_617f8fcf9d_bPublic transportation:9062752496_a252b5b519_bA view:9062778412_eafd0d7f45_bSwimming in the sea:9062428942_f280b9ab58_bAnother view: 9060829567_82632bea5e_bWe went “hiking”, which is really just walking for a bit–the island’s so small you’re never far from where you started.9062689414_4456cc325e_bHydra’s also the home of lots of homeless kitties, which broke my heart–but at least they’re homeless in a beautiful place which stays warm most of the year.9060412355_eb135b086a_bWe couldn’t stay forever, but hopefully I’ll be back someday.9062657880_46ed5434f8_b

What (I Think) Really Happened in Tana French’s In the Woods

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THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP

This is the second best book I’ve ever read. (The first best is Tana French’s follow-up novel, the Likeness–I’ll get around putting my love for that beautiful novel into words at some point I review that here).

The fact that this book has anything fewer than five stars on Goodreads and Amazon is one of the main reasons I tend to disregard reviews from people whose tastes I don’t know when deciding what to read next. This book is perfect: the characters, the beautiful sentences, the plot, the themes. Perfect, I tell you.

The premise is chilling and engrossing: In 1984, three children disappear into the woods outside a suburb of Dublin. Hours later, only one little boy is found, with blood on his shoes and slashes on his back and no memory of the previous hours. The other two children are never found. Twenty years later, Rob Ryan, the found boy, is a detective, investigating the murder of another child in those same woods. And though the mysteries are well-spun yarns, it’s the characters that get to me in this novel, especially how beautifully drawn Rob and his partner Cassie are. That, and the beautiful sentences.

Reasons to read this book:

1. The aforementioned beautiful sentences:

Picture a summer stolen whole from some coming-of-age film set in small-town 1950s. This is none of Ireland’s subtle seasons mixed for a connoisseur’s palette, watercolor nuances within a pinch-sized range of cloud and soft rain; this is summer full-throated and extravagant in a hot pure silkscreen blue.

2. The voice of your narrator, Rob Ryan:

The truth is the most desirable woman in the world and we are the most jealous lovers, reflexively denying anyone else the slightest glimpse of her. We betray her routinely, spending hours and days stupor-deep in lies, and then turn back to her holding out the lover’s ultimate Mobius strip: But I only did it because I love you so much.

3. The relationship between Rob and his partner, Cassie:

The girls I dream of are the gentle ones, wistful by high windows or singing sweet old songs at a piano, long hair drifting, tender as apple blossom. But a girl who goes into battle beside you and keeps your back is a different thing, a thing to make you shiver. Think of the first time you slept with someone, or the first time you fell in love: that blinding explosion that left you crackling to the fingertips with electricity, initiated and transformed. I tell you that was nothing, nothing at all, beside the power of putting your lives, simply and daily, into each other’s hands.

4. Its ability to maintain its sense of humor through its devastating, sometimes gruesome story:

I recently found a diary entry from college in which I described my classmates as “a herd of mouth-breathing fucktard yokels who wade around in a miasma of cliché so thick you can practically smell the bacon and cabbage and cow shit and alter candles.” Even assuming I was having a bad day, I think this shows a certain lack of respect for cultural differences.

5. The sheer truth of its sentences:

We think about mortality so little these days, except to flail hysterically at it with trendy forms of exercise and high-fiber cereals and nicotine patches. I thought of the stern Victorian determination to keep death in mind, the uncompromising tombstones: Remember, pilgrim, as you pass by, As you are now so once was I; As I am now so will you be…. Now death is uncool, old-fashioned. To my mind the defining characteristic of our era is spin, everything tailored to vanishing point by market research, brands and bands manufactured to precise specifications; we are so used to things transmuting into whatever we would like them to be that it comes as a profound outrage to encounter death, stubbornly unspinnable, only and immutably itself.

6. The incredible themes, and I think this is what a lot of people who posted negative reviews missed. They’re somewhat subtle, but so finely spun once you find them. I can’t get into them without getting spoilery, so SPOILERS after the jump.

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The Difference between Pros and Amateurs

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The other day I came across this article and found it fascinating. Basically it states that the difference between writers and non-writers (or experienced writers and amateurs) can be measured in the way they brainstorm:

Lotze asked 28 non-writers to copy some text from a page as well as finish a story based on a prompt, all while they were hooked up to an MRI machine. When it came to copying text, he didn’t see much activity in the participants’ brains. When they were coming up with a story, however, some of the vision-processing regions of their brains lit up, almost as if they saw their tale unfold.

While visualizing your story may seem like the right way to approach writing, it turns out that for full-time writers, the brain performs a bit differently. When Dr. Lotze watched writers from a competitive creative writing program perform the same tests, he found that experienced writers, while brainstorming, used parts of their brains associated with speech instead of vision.

Amateurs visualize; pros immediately go into how to describe it with words.

It got me thinking a lot about my own process, because I do tend to visualize the scene first, then go about figuring out how to describe it. But this process should come faster; it’s not about that beautiful image in my head, it’s about how to best transmute that image into the heads of others.