Friday, January 27, 2006

Who's Afraid of Blair Brown?

Drowning Ruth, my current book on tape (well, mp3, we are in the 21st century here, people) is read excellently by Blair Brown. I chose it based on her sample reading of a book I really wasn't interested in--she's very good. It's kind of a harsh book, about crazy people. It's interesting that I thought I must be coming close to the end and am only halfway through. There's no way for me to tell how far along I am unless I plug my mp3 player into my computer.

My misjudgment was not based on boredom but on the arc of the story. The child is growing up, years are passing. I'm starting to realize in a way I hadn't before that the story is full of crazy people.

Change of topic: Kathy was telling me about a book called, I believe, The Last Record of the Miracles at Little No-Horse. This reminded me of the story of Pope Joan, which I read about in a novel by Donna Cross (I believe), but which may or may not be a true story. Apparently Pope John VIII reigned for two years and then surprised everyone by giving birth on the side of the road (in the novel, she actually just starts to hemorrhage, if I recall correctly). Anyway, if it's a true story, all documentation of it was destroyed/suppressed for about three centuries, and she was only mentioned in the 1500s, 350 years after she supposedly reigned. So who knows?

But it's an interesting story--there's a lot of fiction (esp. YA, I think) about girls who disguise themselves as boys and beat the system; I'm about to reread The Lark and the Wren by Mercedes Lackey, one of my favorite such stories. But such a true-life scandal! It's very exciting to think that the world can be so unpredictable, the system so beaten.

Sorry; this is a little stream-of-consciousness. I'm a little edgy today. Monday's going to be a rough day at work; wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

She's Back!

Vacation is so wonderful, but it drifts away so fast when you settle back into your day-to-day. Which day-to-day has been seeming particularly overloaded lately, but who's surprised by that? No one.

Anyway, there's of course book club drama--I'm very sensitive to the unpopular feeling of people not being able to come to MY meeting. I do understand that I didn't remind anyone till yesterday, and I'm aware that I'm being unreasonable. Still. Anyway, rescheduled (Monday, everyone!) and I'll have more time to gather resources for the meeting. Mmmm....resources.

But I'm reading On Beauty by Zadie Smith, at Mike's suggestion. I appreciated White Teeth and saw how good it was, but I'm really happy to say that I'm both appreciating and enjoying this book. It might be that the setting is American (Boston, in fact), or that I'm familiar with the nature of the elite liberal arts institution, or that I've been waiting for ten years for an educated insider to tell me how silly deconstructionism can be. (I also love that she never calls it that.)

But she does so many interesting things. Though race is clearly present in the story (and it's by Zadie Smith), it's a little while before I realized that it would be a major theme. Though the title is On Beauty, it was a while before I realized how it would shape the story. She lifts chunks of the plot directly from Howard's End, characterization and all (even sneaking in a walk-on character named Wilcox). She cuts away at the beginning of a major climax, to resume the story months later when all the characters have gotten used to the aftermath of the incident. It's really excellent.

Highly recommended. I'm resisting the library, though perhaps not for long, having just bought Collapse by Jared Diamond and the His Dark Materials trilogy. I have so many books I must read at home, but I've been seized, after seeing a bit on CNN at the airport, with a need to read books about people who are leaving isolated religious communities. For this, I need the library.

I could really stand to be under house arrest for a few months. Or bedridden (God forbid).

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Working ten hour days not only cut into reading time, I don't post as often, either. It's been just over a week of working till 6:30 or 7:30 or 9 every night. I know some of you do that every day, but a) I don't know how, and b) you're lawyers; you knew what you were getting into.

This bonanza of productivity included Sunday (8 to 5, baby!), which means I've been reading the same two books for about two weeks; I don't know if I've finished a single book this year! The Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis, a classic of sci-fi that mostly takes place in the middle ages (time travel, don't you know) and Four Ways to Forgiveness, by Ursula LeGuin, who I like but don't have a real handle on yet, I think. I haven't read any of her classics (Earthsea), but I read Gifts, which was a small, sweet book.

Forgiveness is actually a series of interlinked novellas. It's pretty good, though I don't think I'm much of a fan of novellas. I think Katie had the best definition; a novel is about something that happens, a novella is usually about the time leading up to something happening. The real meat begins as the story ends. I don't know if this is a universal definition, but it definitely relates to how I feel about them.

Anyway, I'm stealing time and have to get back to work. Maybe one more entry before vacation next week; if I have something new to mention!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Personal Library Renaissance

We've been here before. I certainly know I've been here before, and I think I've dragged you with me. I have shelves groaning with books I haven't ready yet, a gift card burning a hole in my pocket (my half of the card, anyway), and I need to STOP CHECKING THINGS OUT.

So when I finish what I have now, no more libraries till at least after vacation. I have a short list of books from the shelves at home that I want to read before I check out again. It's time to rediscover my collection. Also, to finish reading all those books I've borrowed! So: The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton. The Tiger in the Well, Phillip Pullman (at Katie's suggestion). Crispin, by Avi (Christmas present). Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman: Volume 1 (Christmas gift). And a collection of Richard Yates' short stories that Brenda lent me. All these and much much more (I hope) before I lunge into my next library collection.

I just finished rereading Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro) for book club, and I really hope everyone's willing to get on board with the discussion. A lot of people might not be able to come to the meeting, to the point where I'm thinking of rescheduling. But I think this book is deceptively simple, and I really hope there's a lot of good discussion.

And now I'm reading The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, a classic sci-fi novel, to be followed by My Last Library Book for a While, Four Ways to Forgiveness, by Ursula LeGuin.

I fell down the stairs this morning and my back hurts. Wish me luck.