Showing posts from December, 2016

Cephalopod Coffee House: An Unnecessary Woman

Welcome to the Cephalopod Coffee House hosted by the Armchair Squid. The purpose of the Coffehouse is to share the best book you read in the past month. month I read An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine. This National Book Award Finalist tells the story of Aaliyah Saleh - or rather, she tells her own story - an elderly Lebanese woman who secretly translates novels as a way of coping with her life.

An Unnecessary Woman is a rather formless novel. There isn't much of a plot to speak of, and most of the narrative is given over to vignettes of Aaliyah's childhood, her early marriage and divorce, the civil wars of the seventies and eighties, and her thoughts on literature, music and philosophy. The book is more a novel of themes exploring loneliness and isolation

For most of the novel, Aaliyah seems to take pride in herself as a woman living apart with no familial or societal responsibilities. She relishes in the idea of being different, and of being unsentimental. Her favorite authors are people she feels are like her: alone, socially awkward, living outside their respective communities. However, as the novel goes on, cracks begin to show in her facade and it becomes obvious that Aaliyah is a woman who is nearly drowning in her isolation.

I'm usually not one for plotless literature. It generally irritates me, when characters mope around for three hundred pages, but Aaliyah is not that sort of character. What the novel lacks in forward momentum, it makes up for with the complex character of Aaliyah Saleh. She's keenly observant of her surroundings, brilliant, wryly humorous and sad all at once. Each memory she relates, every anecdote, every literary reference reveals an aspect aspect of her personality, her way of thinking, and her world outlook. I would recommend An Unnecessary Woman just for the character of Aaliyah Saleh alone.

Thanks for stopping by for my review. Now visit some other reviews at the links below:

Hello From The Outside: a Blog Manifesto

I've been busy. There's no other way to explain where I've been for the last 7 or so months. I have been psyching myself up to get back into the blogging game for a while, but I had to first decide what I really wanted this blog to be. So sit back and relax, prepare your bag of sighs and eye rolls as I unveil yet another Blog Manifesto from yours truly.

I originally started A Creative Exercise to have a place to write, to improve my writing and to meet other writers. I started off strong - well strong for me - but I soon found that this little online space I had made for myself had little focus, and I just don't have the attention span to keep up a rigorous posting schedule. So I had to ask myself, "Self, if you're going to keep this up, what do you really want A Creative Exercise to be? What do you expect to get out of it? What can you do to meet those expectations?"

It's taken me a couple of months to figure it out, but I think I finally have. I need to go back to my original goal of writing and improving my writing. I want to especially focus on non-fiction and personal expression, two aspects of writing I'm actually quite terrible at. I feel that working on this type of writing will help me improve my fiction writing. I would also like to post some bits and pieces of fiction as well, but as far as the blog hops, Insecure Writers Support Group and frantic networking go (all networking is frantic when done by me), those are going to take a backseat to my main goals. I'm going to rejoin the Cephalopod Coffee House, because to be honest they were the only regular posting I actually enjoyed doing. I'm going to try to be at least a regular monthly poster, but fair warning: starting in January the next six months are going to be a beast for me, personally.

Most importantly, I want A Creative Exercise to be a place to proclaim my successes, not chronicle my failures as it has been so often in the past.

I know I've promised to "refocus" multiple times in the last 4 years. I know I've lost focus a lot in that time frame, but in the end I think it went bad because I was trying to make this blog into something that I'm not: a person who knows what the hell they're doing. I haven't a clue of what I'm doing most of the time, in any setting. Online, IRL, none of it.

In conclusion, (a phrase that I use at the end of every paper and essay to indicate that you, dear reader, and I are finally nearing the end of a long slog), I plan to bring my expectations of this blog back to earth and to ease up on expectations of myself. In the end, I hope that my ability focus my thoughts into written expression will improve, thus improving other areas of writing. I also, plan for this blog to be a place for personal expression and something I enjoy doing, instead of dreading it as I have in the past.