Archive for the 'books' Category

New recommendation!

I’ve been slacking in media recs for a bit (read: decade) but here’s a new one in a genre I wish we saw more of: You from Netflix. It’s a dark comedy, a la Dexter (and also based on books from what I understand), though it’s far more sexual and not as sophisticated nor beautifully photographed or acted. That said, the show is a total delight! Penn Badgley is INCREDIBLE as Joe, doing an Adam Brody as Michael C. Hall, which is Ahmazing! The show really is funny and weird and fun and tense and suspenseful without the viewer having too much on the line (I mean that in a good way). Just great entertainment.

And there’s an overriding theme of both tactile books and storytelling, which is fun. The physical books are a beautiful background to the crazy story. And every time Zach Cherry (I Feel Bad) is on screen, we all take note.

But the show is not without its probs and I’ll just one note one. I think binge-watching it in particular may have really highlighted the shortcomings of the depth (excuse the weirdness of that phrase) of the writing for Beck, Joe’s love interest, an aspiring writer. Beck started out strong but as the series played out, I realized how oddly underdrawn she was. Listening to her call herself a mess in nearly every episode while always sporting a perfect blowout was rough. But hearing her always whine about how she should be writing, but she couldn’t write, made me want to scream, “Maybe you need to find something else to do. Or something to do.” Oy. And let’s not get started on the Salinger business. She really bought that agent stuff?! But it’s a credit to Elizabeth Lail, who plays Beck, that I wanted to stick with her—and I really did—because the writing for her often made it difficult.

But seriously. That was fun. Bring on season two!!

Words

I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t know here, but Khaled Hosseini is one hell of a writer. I loved The Kite Runner, but when I read A Thousand Splendid Suns, I thought, “Holy bananas. This guy is for real.” He weaves amazing characters with imaginative stories in breathtakingly simple prose. And he has the ability to sneak up on me, emotionally. For example, I’m nearing the end of his newest tome, the lyrical And the Mountains Echoed, and he hits me with this:

Many years later, when I began training as a plastic surgeon, I understood something that I had not that day in the kitchen arguing for Thalia to leave Timos for the boarding school. I learned that the world didn’t see the inside of you, that it didn’t care a whit about the hopes and dreams, and sorrows, that lay masked by skin and bone. It was as simple, as absurd, and as cruel as that. My patients knew this. They saw that much of what they were, would be, or could be hinged on the symmetry of their bone structure, the space between their eyes, their chin length, the tip projection of their nose, whether they had an ideal nasofrontal angle or not.

Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly.

And so I chose my specialty to even out the odds for people like Thalia, to rectify, with each slice of my scalpel, an arbitrary injustice, to make a small stand against a world order I found disgraceful, one in which a dog bite could rob a little girl of her future, maker her an outcast, an object of scorn.

I can’t wait to read his next one.

Gems

I feel pretty blessed. I really can’t complain (though sometimes I do). I have friends who are like family and family who are like friends. I have a job that I (usually) enjoy. I live in a town I love with a little nuclear family we’ve created that is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Notwithstanding all of this love fest, I admit to getting a little down from time to time. And a little overwhelmed. I felt the overwhelming nature of things creeping up on me lately and I decided today – rather than letting it get out of hand and taking it out on those closest to me – that I needed to take some time off. I know this is a luxury that so many are not afforded, but I didn’t think I’d be doing those less fortunate any good by stewing in my overwhelmingness just for the sake of solidarity. So, with knowing that I had done triage on my work at the office and could afford a vacation day, I woke up and said to AO, “I slept really poorly last night. I think I’m going to stay home this morning.” He said, “Ok, but why don’t you take the whole day off?” The whole day? Done and done.

These hours off have felt decadent, blissful and all too short. I’ve stripped the bed and am washing the sheets, but I’m still in my pajamas and watching Income Property on HGTV. An hour or so ago I finished Sisterland. I’m still sort of sitting with it, but I declare Sittenfeld has produced another excellent book. It’s no American Wife, but what is?

For a long time while I was reading the book, I wasn’t sure how much I liked the story or characters, but I did appreciate the writing. But as I approached the end, I began to realize that I was relating to the characters and their struggles with love and forgiveness, for accepting their loved ones despite – and sometimes even because of – their flaws. I really have a lot to learn.

When Kate’s father says to her, “‘We all make mistakes, don’t we? But if you can’t forgive yourself, you’ll always be an exile in your own life,” I nearly cried. I hope I can instill this in Mollybear. When I read this, though, I did cry:

How peculiar, that morning we pulled out of our driveway on San Bonita Avenue for the last time, to think that Rosie and Owen wouldn’t remember living in this city, this house; if Rosie did remember, it would be only vaguely. There are, I have learned, so many gifts of motherhood, and so many sadnesses, and one of the sadnesses is the asymmetry of the family experience: that in spite of all the daily nuisances, and in spite of the unforgivable way I transgressed, these years of the children being little are the sweetest time in my life. And yet, for Rosie and Owen and Gabe, these won’t be their best years. They’ll grow up and go away, they’ll find spouses and have sons or daughters, and no matter how much we loved them, they’ll probably recall their childhoods as strange and confusing, as all childhoods are. The happiest time in their lives, if they’re lucky, will be when they’re raising their own families.

I got choked up again, writing it here. This is the happiest time.

Booksbooksbooksbooksbooks

I admit I’m feeling overwhelmed at the moment and I’m pretty sure it shows. I have a bunch going on at work (I know, who doesn’t?), we’ve decided to put the condo on the actual market with an actual realtor (which means keeping the place clean for showings and open houses), Bear’s early rising has risen again with the time change, hosting Thanksgiving is on the horizon, we’re in the midst of trying to get the Union’s members to recertify us, I’m behind on my transportation committee duties (like getting up to speed on everything), and I’ve been slacking in the running department and haven’t run since last Friday. I’ve been having tons of stress dreams lately – last night I dreamt I was way stressfully behind on  orthodontia appointments that hadn’t seemed like my responsibility to make (and I was somewhere between two and four years old in the dream).

What I really want to do is just sit and read and let all of the rest of it wash away for a bit. Last night, I started reading Curtis Sittenfeld’s new book, Sisterland. And I also just picked up from the library (after having it on hold for what seemed like forever) Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed. And I just got an alert that Joanna Trollope’s Sense & Sensibility is waiting for me on a sweet little library shelf! Where. Is. The. Time. I don’t know: but I’m going to find it.


December 2019
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