Saturday, August 15, 2009
Author Jeremy C. Shipp is never content to merely give his readers a diversion. Sure you laugh; you fall in love with his characters, are emotionally swept into his world; but his work is always so much more than emotive string pulling.
Shipp wants your mind. He wants your heart. He wants you to be so taken in by his words that by the time he is through with you, you see the world differently. He wants to wake you up, and he won’t sugar coat the brutality or the beauty of life as he delivers his message. In making you honestly examine yourself and the world, he offers you a great gift – a chance at healing. Shipp’s second novel, Cursed, is such an adventure and is due for release this October. It is available for pre-order at http://www.rawdogscreaming.com/cursed.html.
Cursed resonates as a love story to those of us who feel like outsiders. Though Shipp makes explicit use of a physical disability in this novel, that sense of being “other” could come from any of the millions of details that make up our personal story such as one’s faith or sexuality. It is a reminder that being unique is not a curse as society would have us think. In fact our differences are our gifts. We are meant to celebrate them and use them to heal ourselves, each other, and ultimately the world.
One immediately has great empathy for Shipp’s lead characters. Cicely and Nicholas can be nothing other than the cursed beings they are, but thank God for that. In the book, they literally hold the fate of the world in their hands. There could be no more intelligent, humorous, kindly souls to be at the mercy of. They are given an awesome responsibility, and through their journey we can see the best and worst within ourselves as well.
Like many, Nicholas just wants to blend in. He wants to pretend he leads an unexceptional life. But for Nicholas there is no out. He must do what he is destined to do. In the end, the same goes for us all. Shipp is calling out those who would wear masks and try to live a small existence. Not following an authentic path would have consequences in Cursed, just as it does in the real world.
Shipp forces us to confront the pain, fear, loneliness in our lives. They are a warning that action needs to be taken. We are given a very explicit reminder at the very beginning “This isn’t only your life that you’re messing with. We’re connected. We’re all connected.” My pain is your pain; your pain is my pain. And what is most vital for ending our personal nightmares? Forgiveness. It is through this we heal.
There is also a recurring theme of being ignored, not being heard. Nicholas constantly faces this in his attempts to connect with others. But he can’t truly be heard because he is hiding. He is afraid if someone really did see him, truly know him inside and out they would be horrified. In contrast Cicely has the strength to claim who she is and fight against those who would dismiss her as wrong. She faces the world with an open heart and creativity. She is the kind of empowered being that comes from living from a place of love instead of fear. She pushes Nicholas and hopefully the reader to a breakthrough where they find themselves capable of more than they had imagined.
As in his short stories and his first novel, Vacation, Shipp’s prose in Cursed is distilled down to the finest essence. No triviality remains. With a lot of wit and a huge heart full of passion, he enthralls the reader. The writing is elegant and quite simply a pleasure to read.
Shipp’s work always carries with it a sense of magical realism that I find incredibly seductive. I’m always eager to see what rules he’s playing with in each new piece. And I must admit as a writer I’d kill to have a little bit of that awe-inspiring creativity Shipp has in his deliciously demented mind.
So in the end does Cursed succeed? In a word: yes. Readers can’t walk away unmoved. They will recognize themselves in the characters. They will see the indictment of the energy spent on imaginary problems while the real ones burn the world down.
He gets you – mind and heart. And I have to believe that his readers and the planet will come away altered for the better because of this experience.
Jeremy C. Shipp may be just one author, but maybe that’s enough.
Please Visit Jeremy Shipp’s site at http://www.jeremycshipp.com/ and then pre-order the book at http://www.rawdogscreaming.com/cursed.html
Monday, August 10, 2009
“You’re brave and you’re beautiful
So hold your head high
Don’t ever let them define
the light in your eyes.” -- Fight Like a Girl by Bombshell
Resistance. Oh how it can make a simple task feel Herculean. I have been facing a lot of inner resistance lately as I’m working on my first book. Quite honestly it feels odd to even say that. It’s like that evil little voice inside my head is going “Yeah, right! Hah!” It’s hard to break out of what I have previously defined myself as capable of.
I’ve been thinking lately about how I went from fueled and productive to resisting writing lately. I think my ego picked up on the fact that I was making a true change and threw up a wall. We’ve all run into those times. It is a moment where you have to ask yourself how much will you fight for what you want. We fear what might come if we lived authentically. What if we fail? Would those we love reject us? Just who do we think we are anyhow?
It is hard for artists. We create because we want to move people, change things, share our inner world. We don’t create just to have the work disappear into a vacuum. We want to make a difference. We want to hear on occasion that we made someone laugh, cry, see things in a new way. Yes, we would be driven to create no matter what, but feedback does matter. It does help us get through those moments of starring at a blank page or canvas. Creation is a joyous and painful process. Knowing our work matters helps us to push on.
Suddenly I’m acutely aware of the fact that people I truly love won’t even read my work. Some of my dearest family members and friends won’t read my work. I want to believe that they want to be close to me, to get to know me, and it hurts to think that they find what my writing reflects of my soul ugly. It has shut me down many times.
I’ve tried to lock away what is within in order to stay acceptable. I’ve tried to lead the responsible, ordinary life. But that doesn’t work. It’s not fulfilling. It leaves me sorrowful and wanting more. Those around me can pat me on the head and say, “Good Girl” when I behave “properly” but I know in my bones that I am worth more than that -- that my life is meant to be more than this. The hard thing is to silence the doubts. The hard thing is to say, “Damn it, this is important to me” when everyone else around you thinks it is trivial or a joke.
It is funny how we dampen our inner light, how we wear masks to “fit in.” The reality is most people are screaming inside, wishing they could truly be who they are, could chase their passion. Quite frankly the world would have a lot more joy and beauty if they did. The reality is there are people who will become angry if you don’t act in ways they desire and you have to be strong enough to do it anyhow.
The answer to the “Just who do you think you are?” question is actually a simple one in the end. It takes effort to strip away the illusions, the fears, the doubts, but once you do, the answer really is beautiful. We are Spirit. We are Love. We are that divine creative energy here to have a human experience. Our essence is powerful. Our souls are wise. We just have to shut out the outside noise off and find the strength to believe, to try. Only in listening to our highest self, following its wisdom can we ever create the life we want and finally find the peace we so crave.
To those of you also chasing a dream: Be brave and beautiful. Never give up.