Hungry for Fiction

Courtesy of Scholastic

Since I am not in school right now and starved for something to read other than textbooks and nonfiction support of those textbooks, a coworker offered up the three book series The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. And since I still had some Amazon gift cards left, I said what the heck, I’ll bite.

I had no idea what the books were about, just that my coworker said they were “greeaaatttt!”.  Okay.  What I failed to take into consideration was the fact that my coworker is half my age, my daughter Nenè’s age to be specific.  I guess I should have known something was up when I saw that they were printed by Scholastic.

Now, the last time I read a book that had a teenager as the center was when a friend loaned me the Twilight series several years ago and insisted I read them.

I don’t mind my vampires twinkly, but I did get rather mired in the teenage angst.  A bit vapid for my tastes, which run more toward Lestat (the non-Tom Cruise version) and Armand. So when I realized that the central character was sixteen I was a bit hesitant to dig into the storyline.

But since I was really in the mood for some reading, I bit the bullet and took a chance on the first book.

The premise sounded interesting.  The setting is a futuristic North America caught in the grips of a cruel and sadistic central ruling government referred to as the Capitol.  The country Panem is now divided into thirteen districts, twelve of which supply all the material needs of the Capitol.

In order to keep the populous under control (as if keeping most of them in a near starvation state and under the watchful eyes of official “Peacekeepers” wasn’t enough), the powers-that-be maintain a yearly televised contest, whereby one girl and boy from each district are chosen lottery style to compete to the death.  Each tribute is wined, dined and given a team of stylists before being deposited in the arena for battle.

Think The Lottery meets The Most Dangerous Game meets Lord of the Flies meets Project Runway.

The story line is pretty much the archetypical fable and fairly predictable – missing parent figure, non-parent mentor to substitute, supporting cast to represent needed virtues, a seemingly omnipotent villain to overcome.  The one additional component – teenage angst—vapid, teenage angst.  The constant overwhelming crush of emotions amid the child genocide and governmental overthrow.

Does Gale really like Katniss in that way?  Does Peeta really love her?  Why does the President hate her so?  What was the true meaning behind that kiss?  Will Katniss forgive her mother for becoming a catatonic robot when Katniss’ father was blown to bits in a coal explosion?  Will Luke really defeat Darth and find out that the girl of his dreams is really his sister?  Will Dorothy find her way home?…Oops.  But you get the drift.

There was only one twist that I didn’t see coming in the entire series and that was one scene near the end of volume three Mockingjay– I won’t be bold enough to spoil it for anyone who wishes to read the books – but honestly was that truly necessary for the storyline?  It seems extraordinarily out of place and even more contrived than anything else in the entire series.  Left a bad taste in my mouth for the rest of the book, much like when John Jakes killed off Anne in the bicentennial series The Kent Family Chronicles.  Never forgave him for that one.

Lost my train of thought there…

I read all three volumes to satisfy my curiosity and my coworker.  She was astounded that I finished all three in a week.  Really?  By the time I got to the third one I was ready to be done.  No witty repartee or exciting sex scenes, nope just lots of glossed gore and emo.  I can see there being a “team Gale” and a “team Peeta” coming when the movie is released.

Ah, yes…archetypical story lines and teenage angst.  I think I’ve had my fill once more.  I’m going to write a note to keep up – “Books. Ask someone over thirty.”

Tarzan and the Art of Communication

Tarzan. The name conjures up a wide variety of images doesn’t it?

My favorite is of Johnny Weissmuller standing on the fabled escarpment in his loincloth.  But this is not about fighting alligators, saving Jane or looking really good in animal skins. No, something entirely different.

While Tarzan is a fictional character (to most), there is no denying he holds true command of the world he lives in and frankly, I admire the way he had to learn the secrets of the jungle world in order to survive.

Millions of words are used every day, but only a portion of them are put together simply and directly enough to get their true meaning across.  Tarzan spoke and was understood.  This could be a lesson for us all.

Tarzan was a man of few words.  Tarzan was a man who didn’t know a whole lot of words.  But he was able to become Lord of the Jungle with the simple vocabulary he possessed before gaining an extensive British education.


He used direct, specific and simple language to rule the jungle he presided

over.  He called it as he saw it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Tarzan always cut right to the chase of the matter.  In his world, there was no time for misdirection or misunderstanding.  When you are wrestling with your despotic, great ape, step-father Kerchak, you can’t take the time to state:

“Please, my elephantine friend would you be so kind as to throw my recently stone sharpened, seven inch dagger in my approximate vicinity?”

Nope.  You’ve got to state it directly, “Tantor, knife!”

You will note that Tarzan is also very specific without being verbose. (A challenge of mine for sure.)

In the novel, Tarzan the Ape Man, there is a note written to the would-be squatter in Tarzan’s house on the beach. (I have p.c.’d it a bit. ERB wasn’t known for his outstanding feminism or race relations.)

“This is the house of Tarzan, killer of beasts.  Do not harm the things which are Tarzan’s.  Tarzan watches.”

The note reveals in no uncertain terms that the house belongs to Tarzan, who will probably kill you if you mess with his stuff.  And to make sure nothing happens, he adds the unveiled threat that he is going to be watching to make sure nothing does!

You can’t get much more specific and direct than that.

The simplicity of Tarzan’s message is self evident.  His language is simple and clear.  He doesn’t overload his audience with extraneous details, be it jungle or urban animal.

If he needs a knife, that’s what he asks for.  If he doesn’t want you on his territory, that’s what he tells you.

Try this – read the statement and then translate it to its most common phrasing.  Answers will be at the bottom.

  1. “May I please have the distinct pleasure of escorting you out to the floor so that we may ambulate in rhythmic time to the melodious sounds emanating from the gathered musicians?”
  2. “Two siblings traversed a local geographic land mass to retrieve a cylindrical container filled with the potable liquid confined within the walls of a manmade, hollow depression located at the apex of said mass.”
  3. “I would like to initiate an invitation for you to join me in entering my personal vehicle of transportation powered by a combustable gasoline engine, so that we may voyage about the general surrounding areas.”

Fun, huh?

So while Tarzan may not inspire you chuck it all and go running amok through the jungle, you do have to admit he was a leader who proved that a direct, specific and simple message is often the best approach in a complicated and competitive world.

He did after all manage to conquer the jungle, lead a nation and get the girl, without wasting time or confusing the issue.


  1. “Wanna dance?”
  2. “Jack & Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.”
  3. “Let’s go for a ride.”

First Lines

Last night before turning in , I was served up a site that challenges one to come up with a story in one line ( There are some great ones on there, check it out.

Anyway, this set my mind off on a tangent, as it is wont to do and I got to thinking of the first line, “It was a dark and stormy night…”. Many don’t realize these are the actual words from the 1830 novel Paul Clifford, by Sir Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton.

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents – except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

Baron Lytton also gave us “the unwashed masses” & “the pen is mightier than the sword”, but I digress.

My mind was churning with the now melodramatic language and when I woke in the wee hours of the morning random lines kept popping into my head. I offer but a few here:

Zoos, as a whole, bothered me.

She hated plastic bags.

She smiled as the exhaust choked the pretentious bastard in the convertible
behind her.

The curve of her hips reminded him of the smooth swerve of ice cream carved
out by a spoon.

He was right, I’d never seen one before.

Who knew that an elephant can’t jump?

There is a precipice at the edge of sanity.

It was a childhood dream come true and she wished she could wake up.

And the dish ran away with the moon, what’s up with that?

George continued to stare wondering how on Earth it got there.

Now if I could just get the second sentences going, I might have a chance in The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. (