Piggy-backing off of A World of Randomness who apparently piggy-backed off me, which I’m sure I ripped off someone else at some point… It seems we book bloggers love revisiting this bit of fun every year.
Using only books you have read this last year (2015), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title.
Describe yourself: A Scattered Life (Karen McQuestion)
How do you feel: Screw-jack (Thompson)
Describe where you currently live: Paper Towns (John Green)
If you could go anywhere, where would you go: The Haunted Bookshop (Morley)
Your favorite form of transportation: Bombardier Beetles and Fever Trees (Agosta)
Your best friend is: Wild (Strayed) [Not really, it’s just the only thing that seemed to fit.]
You and your friends are: Looking for Me (Hoffman)
What is the best advice you have to give: How to Build an Android (Duffy)
What’s the weather like: Rain (Kirsty Gunn) / Storm Front (Jim Butcher)
You fear: Everything I Never Told You (Ng)
Thought for the day: It’s About Time (Evers)
How I would like to die: Peace Like a River (Enger)
My soul’s present condition: A Grief Observed (C.S. Lewis)
My Complete 2015 Reading List is as follows (kid /young adult chapter books were read aloud to the kiddo):
1. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice – Laurie R. King
2. Serendipities: Language & Lunacy – Umberto Eco
3. The Haunted Bookshop – Christopher Morley
4. The Death of Woman Wang – Jonathan Spence
5. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis
6. Magic Tree House #20 – Mary Pope Osborn
7. One Hundred & One Dalmatians – Dodie Smith
8. Guide to Wild Foods & Useful Plants – Nyerges
9. A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin
10. The Excellent Wife – Martha Peace
11. Garden Crafts for Kids – Diane Rhoads
12. The Homeschool Life – Andrea Schwartz
13. The Gardener’s Bed Book – Wright
14. Wild – Cheryl Strayed
15. One Woman Farm – Woginrich
16. The Quarter Acre Farm- Spring Warren
17. Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
18. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch – Philip K. Dick
19. Here’s Your Hat, What’s Your Hurry – Elizabeth McCracken
20. Dirty Pretty Things – Michael Faudet
21. How Reading Changed My Life – Anna Quindlen
22. The Penultimate Truth – Philip K. Dick
23. Observations on the River Wye – Gilpin
24. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick
25. Bombardier Beetles and Fever Trees – William Agosta
26. How to Build an Android – Duffy
27. The Pythagorean Theorem: The Story of Its Power and Beauty – Alfred S. Posamentier
28. Clans of the Alphane Moon – Philip K. Dick
29. Minority Report – Philip K. Dick
30. A Grief Observed – C.S. Lewis
31. The Man of Numbers – Keith Devlin
32. Pheromones and Animal Behavior: Communication by Smell & Taste – Tristram D. Wyatt
33. Ape and Essence – Aldous Huxley
34. Solar Lottery – Philip K. Dick
35. Deadly Ruse – E. Michael Helms
36. The Almagest – Ptolemy
37. The Clover House – Henriette Lazaridis Power
38. The Thief Lord – Cornelia Funke
39. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
40. Looking for Me – Beth Hoffman
41. The House of Paper – Carlos Maria Dominguez
42. The Colossus and Other Poems – Sylvia Plath
43. High Moon – E.J. Bosley
44. Nerve – Bethany Macmanus
45. A Scattered Life – Karen McQuestion
46. Liber Abaci – Fibonacci
47. Vanity Fare – Megan Caldwell
48. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven – Sherman Alexie
49. The Martian – Andy Weir
50. Critical Lessons – Nel Noddings
51. Echo – Lorena Glass
52. Jewel of the Seven Stars – Bram Stoker
53. The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd
54. Haunting Jasmine – Anjali Banerjee
55. Casey of Cranberry Cove – Susan Koch
56. The Christie Curse – Victoria Abbott
57. City of Dark Magic – Magnus Flyte
58. Screw-jack – Hunter S. Thompson
59. CATastrophic Connections – Joyce Ann Brown
60. Where I Was From – Joan Didion
61. Getting the Girl – Zusak
62. The Secrets of Droon #1 – Tony Abbot (read this aloud to kiddo)
63. Storm Front – Jim Butcher
64. The Pharaoh’s Cat – Maria Luisa Lang
65. Paper Towns – John Green
66. The Quick and the Dead – Louis L’amour
67. Early Bird – Rothman
68. It’s About Time – Liz Evers
69. The Secrets of Droon #3 – Abbott (read this aloud to kiddo)
70. Better With You Here – Gwendolyn Zipped
71. Rain – Kirsty Gunn
72. Sackett – Louis L’amour
73. Transcendental Wild Oats – Louisa May Alcott
74. Fern Verdant and the Silver Rose – Diana Leszczynski (read this aloud to kiddo)
75. Secrets of Droon #7 – Abbott (read aloud to kiddo)
76. 16 Lighthouse Road – Debbie Macomber
77. The Emotionally Destructive Relationship – Vernick
78. Peace Like a River – Leif Enger
79. Keeper – S. Smith
80. The Year of Learning Dangerously – Quinn Cummings
81. Anemogram – Rebecca Gransden
82. The Summer We Read Gatsby – Danielle Ganek
83. Wren – Regina O’Connell
84. The Writing Circle – Corinne Demas
85. The Good Neighbor – A.J. Banner
86. Spelling V – Meb Bryant
87. Ross Poldark – Winston Graham
88. Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
Disclaimer: If I was a coward or a sensible human, I’d post this as some sort of fictional work. I am neither. But if you know me and would rather pretend this post isn’t real, for the sake of our friendship, that’s cool.
I’ve been trying for days to figure out how to write this post without sounding like a bitter, unfeeling hag. Then, I realized, more than that, I have to find a way to say what I mean to say without sounding like a pitiable, whiny, woe-is-me turd. Finally, I came to the conclusion that I just need to say what I’m going to say, post this “review” and let it sound however it will sound; because ultimately, though I am a writer and can be precise or flowery with my words, I cannot control how you hear/ read them. I am not that powerful. Maybe that just means I’m a terrible writer, but we’ll let those insecurities ride for another day…
I finally read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It was my dead friend’s birthday and I thought he deserved a proper wallow, what better way to have a healthy wallow than to read a classic novel written by a woman who put her head in an oven?
So I took a bath, all appropriately scalding hot, and settled down into this:
There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: “I’ll go take a hot bath.”
This, of course, made me giggle at the wisdom of my selection.
Mostly, though, I felt a familiarity about the book, the characters, and all the feelings, that just outright angered me. She talks about things that make her sad and tired, and then how thinking about being sad and tired makes her more sad and tired. I found one of my own personal college friends in Doreen, the party girl from the deep south. I found myself in the narrator’s alter ego, inspired by an outing with Doreen, the party girl.
As I read, I got deeper and deeper into the narrator’s not-so-dark and twisty brain and followed her around as she thought about killing herself and received shock therapy while being hospitalized with the other crazies. I thought of Girl, Interrupted and Susannah Keyson and realized why, exactly, this book was familiar, and enjoyable, but ultimately a deep itch under my skin.
Everyone feels that way – the way Sylvia Plath’s autobiographical character feels. Everyone struggles to live, and if they don’t then I’m shocked. Reading The Bell Jar I just wanted to scream at a very dead Sylvia Plath, and every other depressed person I’ve known, and even the depressed person I’ve been and sometimes still am:
WHAT MAKES YOU SO SPECIAL? What makes you so special that you get to bask in your insanity? Nothing. That’s what. You’re just taking advantage of living in a world that works harder than you to exist.
That’s probably unfair, and shows an utter lack of compassion, but it’s how I feel.
Because it is hard work. Getting out of bed every morning is a mental exercise. Keeping yourself from crawling back in – or worse being a drunk slob for the hours you’re awake – is a physical exercise. Every day you have to create and maintain specific habits to keep yourself from sliding into the glorious abyss of a terrible wallow… a wallow of anxieties, simultaneously deep and restless sleep, an attitude called The Mean Reds (thanks, Holly Golightly), and a conflicting desire to both eat yourself into obesity or starve yourself to death – it could go either way.
Every day is a challenge to make the counting in your head stop. And with all this counting, it’s a struggle to actually sit down and count the things you’re supposed to. My drawer was ten cents off at work the other day, which naturally (and I would have said the same thing to anyone else), they teased me about not being able to count – because it wasn’t actually off, I had just documented it as off. Want to know what that sounds like? If your brain is anything like mine, which for the sake of this entire post I’m going to assume that for many people it is, my brain processed the comments a bit like this…
A Rising Panic Attack
Recognition that this was a joke
Panic Attack Subsides, only to start up again wondering if they think you’re stupid, or, worse…
Did they catch on to the fact that you were counting dimes over top of the counting already happening in your head – the one that finds itself ticking in time with any and every clock on the wall, the one that falls in tune to your steps as you walk across tile floors, still looking at your feet when you walk even though you are now in your thirties. The rhythm that helps you get your work done fast when you’re methodically shelving and alphabetizing, but might trip you on the street if you encounter a crack in the sidewalk – because you’re never sure if that day is a no crack day or a step ON the crack day… not until you do one or the other and the part of you begins to panic. Did they notice this?
While all this is happening in your head, you realize your rhythm is gone. Your heart was racing, but now it suddenly stopped altogether and you find yourself both mentally and physically trying to catch your breath, but you play it cool when you remind yourself that even though you *feel* like your head has bubble wrap duct taped around it and that you’ve been thrown into a swimming pool – that’s not what you look like. No one sees your bubble wrap face. They also don’t realize, hopefully, that you can’t hear them right now.
Your left pinky finger starts to tingle and you crack the knuckle to make it stop, to regain feeling. Only this time it hurts and you look down and see it is more bent than usual. Long ago it was broken, right now it simultaneously feels numb and broken. You wonder if you re-broke it sometime this week and didn’t notice.
The Heart Flutters.
Post-it notes are raining on your head, but they are in teals and oranges and easily arranged and filed into your handy-dandy mental filing cabinets – alphabetized and roughly dated. (Yes, I have those. If I’m too terribly distracted, the notes turn yellow and green, they’re only their orange and teal shades when I’m looking directly at them. The filing cabinets are the old metal kind, the ones you find on the side of the road or in ancient school building, rickety and decidedly thrown away by someone more sane than me.)
During all of this, life goals and contingency plans are running in the background. What if my husband dies? I could come back to work full time here. We’ve accomplished x,y,z so it’s probable. But I can’t count dimes, that might be a problem. If he died by car crash, I go _____. If he dies by _____, I go ______. If I die, he does not die…. If this than that. It takes me 30 seconds to map out a life plan from a newly presented scenario. It takes another 30 seconds for me to make a list of resources I think I need to implement this life plan effectively. Life Plan 3,069 logged away in filing cabinet 192, June 2015.
Your ears pop – as though you’ve ACTUALLY been under water, which briefly makes you wonder. Wonder about what? The Matrix, of course, are you in The Matrix? Or God’s brain? My husband thinks we are all synapses in a giant God-head’s brain. I ponder the biology of that while I – or you – think about The Matrix and how Neo didn’t realize he was stuck, naked, in a bubble of goo while his brain was plugged in to what he thought was real.
Suddenly, you’re cold all over and briefly wonder if you might be in goo too. Then you realize that for some inexplicable reason (the smell of old books? the comfort of the books? the smell of the person who just passed you by?) you’re not in goo, you’re just horny and why haven’t you ever had sex in a library or a bookstore? Oh, because the NSA is watching, yes, that’s why.
Less than a minute has passed since you were teased about the dimes and your inability to count. People have been talking around you, and you’ve even piped in – whether sensibly or not, you can’t be sure – and finally a customer asks you a question. This part is easier. The question is a book title, or an author. (I honestly don’t remember now.) But when someone asks something like this, it’s easier to get around all the warehouse like noise in the mind. The color coded post-it notes of fragmented thoughts are discarded, the flow-charts of contingency plans for life are swept momentarily aside and you consult your filing cabinets and bookshelves for the answer to their question. Maybe they asked you about dystopian fiction and you’re walking them through a list of your favorites. Maybe they just want a book that reminds them of red fields of grass, which they have to read for sophomore English – naturally you pluck up Catcher in the Rye by Salinger and they marvel at how you knew, or (depending on the customer) take it for granted that of course you knew exactly what they were talking about because they described the book so well.
The point is, this is constant and every day. Everyone has a thousand things happening in their heads that no one knows about. And frankly, not everyone needs to know about. When I’m having a hard time quieting the characters for my fiction, who like to gather around my filing cabinets and gab at me, or making the what if flow charts stop, when I can’t seem to stay out of the damn bubble wrap pool party – I chatter. I get clammy and chatter to whoever will listen. Because if my mouth is running, then I don’t have to listen to the chatter in my brain as much… I can ever so briefly shut them the hell up. The point is, I’m not sticking my head in any ovens. I make do.
It’s not fun. It’s not easy. It’s down right exhausting. It’s noisy, and it’s lonely. It is an effort to remember to feed myself and to feed others, and when I eat – not to eat too much. I am held together by the fact that I must sweep and mop this floor every day, that the things happening in my husband’s head are far worse than mine so someone has to keep it together. That some people out there have worse problems – like being raped and or being torn from limb to limb as they refuse to renounce Christ.
Yet, this twat, who was an amazing writer and artist, who had two kids that needed her… stuck her head in a freaking oven. Would that be easier? Yes. Was she crazy? Yes. But no more or less than anyone else, in my self-admittedly judgmental opinion.
Despite all that, I checked out her Bed-Book and read it to my daughter – it’s a lovely children’s picture book, and am currently reading both her diaries and her letters to her mother. Because I like her, I do. I feel like I know her and have been her. I feel like if I am not careful, I could be her again – but at least I’ll have the sense to keep my head out of ovens. (Although, when I was a kid, I used to bend over in the laundry room, holding a button down, to dry my hair in the clothes dryer – very effective…)
I’ve never felt like a bigger idiot than when trying to read Ptolemy’s The Almagest. First of all, I inevitably always pronounce the P when speaking about it. And constantly get corrected, but can’t stop doing it. Secondly, I switch the m and the g of “almagest” in my head so often that in my deepest heart I’m not reading The Almagest, I’m reading The Algamest. Third, it’s a lot of information that I’ll never remember. I hate knowing that what I’m reading is not going to sink in… it’s all just a passing whimsy and I’ll be able to tell you nothing of value about it when I’m done with it.
Nevertheless, I’m enjoying reading it. Mostly because I’m a glutton for punishment, I think. Also, it’s included in The Great Books, it’s fat (roughly 600 pages), and it’s part of our ancient history – which I’m a huge sucker for.
Reading stuff like this is kind of like watching certain sports for me. I can follow the games, I know what’s going on, and I thoroughly enjoy them – but I don’t have sports lingo dripping from my lips and I rarely will discuss them with people because I know I’ll just sound like a moron. I like the ambiance of the game and the thrill of hard work and athleticism paying off. Just like I love the exertion it takes to read things slightly outside my knowledge base. They are similar experiences for me. Dropping me into a martial arts ring is more like breezing through fiction – I know it so well I can function there with my eyes closed.
It sounds completely absurd, even as I type it – but Ptolemy is like watching The Rockets play. I’m there. I get it. I’m enjoying. I love it. I will devour it – with chips, salsa, and beer. I will not, however, scream and shout with the other fans or talk about it tomorrow; and if you try to talk to me about it, I’ll clam up. Mention apogees in anything other than reciting a chant from Bedknobs and Broomsticks and you’ll see the same blank expression on my face when people shout “Wet!” I read that, I heard that… I internally absorbed it somewhere in my brain. But please, please, don’t quiz me. That’s recipe for an anxiety attack right there.
There are some things in life we should be allowed to simply enjoy without analyzation. Therefore, just like I will never be any good at fantasy leagues, I will also never be able to give an intelligent lecture on Ptolemy and his great work. But I’ll have fun being a half hearted amateur/ closet fan of both.
I got to see B.B. King live in concert once. I realize that millions of people have, that he toured relentlessly until now when he will never tour again. But, despite not being unique in this trait, I consider myself special for having experienced it.
It was 2004, and my friend (who had recently broken up with me) had already purchased tickets. “It’s ok if you take Tim,” I told him. His room mate at the time is just a big of a music geek as any of us, and quite a guitar player. Tim would have loved it. “No,” my ex said, a No I will forever appreciate, “No, I bought them for us to go, we’ll go together. It’ll be fun.”
To be fair, we’re not the awkward exes of dramatic literature and over played movie cliches. We’re friends, always were, and hopefully always will be. I respect him as a human, he is part of what grew me into an adult. Also, to be fair, even if he had been the ex from hell – I wasn’t going to argue too adamantly about whether or not I got to go to the Eric Clapton Crossroads Concert. It was Eric Clapton. It was B.B. King. It was… everyone who made guitar history ever…
It was beautiful.
I drove up from Houston to Dallas to attend. In June, in a car with no AC. I stayed the weekend in dorm rooms that were closed for the summer. It was worth it just to hear that man play.
It was a hot, sunny day – until the end when it wasn’t and ZZ Top got rained out – sweltering even, but it was good. It was several generations of men in the most relaxing and amazing jam session on stage that I’d ever heard. It was Texas in a stadium of fans born and bred in Texas – I’m not great with crowds, but good old country boys listening to the blues is a crowd I can manage. I was laying in the grass while an old hippie with boobs down to her waistline swayed, clapped, and danced, depending on what was most appropriate for whatever song was playing.
I wish I could record my journal entry from that weekend here for you, but that journal is in storage, and I doubt I was very articulate anyway… I imagine it was a lot of: Oh My God, that was AMAZING. I do know that I lamented the fact that my now husband hadn’t been able to get tickets and go himself. It was something I knew he would have enjoyed. My ex is my friend, but my husband has always been my very best friend – especially then. Now, I lament that he missed it completely. Seeing B.B. King together was something I thought we’d get around to eventually. I should have known better, the man was old. But he seemed so epically immortal. Even though he sat through the whole concert, I didn’t see it then as a sign of an older man – I saw it as a sign of a King on his throne.
I remember John Mayer coming out. I remember being so proud of how respectful he was to all the men who had come before him – especially B.B. King. I didn’t like John Mayer until that moment, until I saw him bow with such grace to a man that I adored and would come to adore more and more as I aged, as I married, as I had a baby who would live the first year of her life listening to jazz and R&B in our living room while my husband smoked a cigar on the porch after work with the door open so the music and the smoke could play a wafting dance on the threshold. B.B. King, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald… my child knows these voices well.
B.B. King, you have shaped so many lives with your talent, you beautiful, beautiful man. Thank you for gracing the world with your presence. Thank you for all the concerts, all the performances, and all the love for music that has always seemed to radiate from your entire being and existence. Bless you. Thank you, and bless you.
After my phone call was declined:
I love you but every single human in my life is asleep right now I am not answering the phone and chancing a mass awakening hahaha.
My internet keeps crapping out and every other message I’m holding my laptop up to the mysterious signal like Rafiki lifting Simba to the sun on Pride Rock.
I am a half a step away from chanting in Afrikans.
My words are worth it.
WORK FOR MY WORDS!
I was scouring the internet looking to see what Cosmo was all about. I’m a freelance writer, I should know these things. Also, I was submitting an article to them after receiving an ad for blog contributors. Of course, I had to consult my college room mate, that’s what gal pals are for, right? “I have no idea what I’m doing…” She read what I wrote, checked it for grammar, and helped me pick my already published content to include on my Cosmo tailored resume.
After I hit send I messaged her, “I did it. I sent it. That would be cool if they picked that up.”
“Agreed,” she responded, “Then I could finally learn YOUR 19 Top Secrets To A Hands-Free Female Orgasm.”
- Like the person you are having sex with – or don’t, sometimes that helps too.
“Both work with my husband,” she piped in.
2. Take a bath and shave your legs. This is an important step to remember when you are over 30 and have children. Or, you know, don’t – if you’re a dirty hippie, get off on the smell of human grease, and think hair friction will truly light your fire.
“Hair friction can help at times, yes. Continue…”
3. Despite all your favorite chick-flicks – don’t order Chinese food in advance. All that fried goodness, fried rice, and MSG will just make you feel gross. You will not have the appeal of a genetically blessed tiny acrobatic Asian after you order Chinese food. You will instead have sweet and sour sauce drippage down your right boob from where you almost lost the chop sticks. You will feel fat and bloaty after *so much* rice, and, to top it all off, you’ll smell like shrimp rolls and crab puffs.
4. Make sure all the children are asleep, or completely preoccupied. Nothing is worse than that ten minute quickie turning into, “But mommy, why can’t I come in? Mommy, I need another fruit pouch. Mommy…” Knock. Knock. Knock. “Mommy…”
“Basically,” my husband says as he reads over my shoulder, “You’re saying people should have sex with somebody.”
“Yes. Of course.”
5. Have sex with a human.
“Yes, hands free otherwise implies non-masturbatory. You’re welcome, Jonathan,” my Emily says to my husband.
“This article is not Cosmo material. You’re supposed to be talking about leading people in the direction of using hands-free toys. Like using a sub-wolfer. Or, rubbing your vagina against a fence post,” my husband continues to say.
I have no idea what he is saying to me right now. I don’t want to get off on a radio… I want to have sex with a person.
“Number six needs to be drive a shitty car with old shocks down a shitty road,” he tells me.
I’ve done that. That works. It was accidental of course.
6. Drive a poorly maintenanced junker.
“Does hands free include my hands? I’m just wondering what your requirements were for hands free,” my husband is way too into this.
7. Use someone else’s hands.
We can explore all our options later…
I officially quit hosting the Half Price Books Humble Book Club tonight. I was there and no one else was. Again. So I’m giving it up. Along with giving it up, I gave up attempting to read The World Is Flat. I liked the first chapter – a lot, actually. And then I couldn’t get into the rest of the book. It’s old hat. It’s no longer interesting. Yet, it’s far too recent to feel like history to me. Friedman talks about things I remember, but the memory isn’t exciting. I was bored.
I used to be one of those people that could not stop reading a book I started. Now, I find I start a lot of books and only finish about half of them. I’m still reading more books than I did before, I’m just a little less masochistic when it comes to suffering through things I just don’t have time for. There are too many phenomenal books out there to suffer through ones that either don’t suit my mood at the time or are flat out BAD. Friedman’s was a little bit of the first part, not really the second part, but a whole lot of just plain boring.
I find I’m bored more often than I’ve ever been before. The world has always been so intriguing to me that boredom was not much of a problem. With a TBR pile taller than Goliath and a bucket list a mile long, how could I possibly ever get bored? Add a kid to the mix, and man, who has time for bored?
But lately, I’m bored.
I simultaneously find myself missing the noise and the quiet. I’m desperate for a research project alone in a proper library and also nostalgic for downtown dancing of my college years. I want the glorious silence of noisy strangers in a crowded room. Except I’m a terrible dancer, I hate crowds, and noise makes me twitchy. Yet without it, I find myself being that annoying chatty person that doesn’t know what to do with my hands.
You would think that all this internal angst would make for some great writing stints, but I’m not so sure that’s the case. And with my reading enjoyment being on the decline the way it is, it’s hard for creativity to come out when there’s not a lot of it going in.
I’ve been reading gardening books. Yes, gardening books. What the heck? Am I 85? Apparently.
I’m 31. I spent my birthday day sitting in a cold house wishing for sunshine. And reading Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club. Actually, I kept putting down the book to write – in my journal, not my computer, as I didn’t have one. Actually, I had 3 computers and none of them would turn on. So I bought myself a new one finally – my publisher will be so proud – as I finally have a computer that even he will admit is worthy of being called technology. I am now an Apple Girl.
Hopefully, this new computer – and this extra year of wisdom and “old age” – will push me into being a more productive writer (both blogging and being a novelist has suffered at the hands of my poor entrance into the realm of gadgets).
At the Apple Store today the guy asked me if I wanted to sign into my i cloud or some such nonsense. He spoke some gobblygook that meant nothing to me about joining my computer files to my phone. I told him no thank you and finally had to wave my flip phone at him before he understood. I thought having my techie brother-in-law all but literally hold my hand through the entire computer purchasing experience was enough for them to know that I don’t normally do this. Apparently, it was not enough, they had to see the flip phone for themselves.
The most interesting thing about this gadgetry world was how I spent my pre-birthday evening. On the 21st, when my brother was turning 31 alone (Alone, as in without me, not necessarily actually alone. He is my favorite birthday partner.) somewhere in Austin, I was hanging out with a younger crowd. It was interesting to watch them play video games, the same games I watched people play when I was in my 20’s, but searching for cheat codes from cell phones instead of spirals and laptops. I wanted to read a book amidst the noise, but hadn’t brought one. At home there’s the noise of the four year old, but I find it distracting instead of soothing.
Noise from a four year old makes you feel oddly old. Noise from boys ten years your junior make you forget that you’ve just blown through ten years of your life and are not quite sure what happened to them. They’re gone, like sand.
Reading a memoir during your birthday week is an interesting task. It reminds you of all the things you’ve forgotten. Especially Mary Karr. She remembers with such clarity, and the things she does not she can at least describe the fog of the memory with such clarity that you’re amazed that she can remember that there was a memory lost there.
The Liar’s Club was described by newspapers as being “un-put down able.” I’m not finished reading the book because I find the opposite to be true. Although I love and adore every aspect of her writing, I find it easy to put down. Too easy. It’s so Texas. It’s so familiar. I’m still stuck in the 60’s and not much has changed between 1960’s mentalities in Texas and the ones I grew up with. It was the last book I should have tried reading during this week, but I couldn’t get the energy to finish the other books I had started.
I’m currently in the middle of reading The World is Flat. I was extremely excited about starting this book. It’s been on my shelf and recommendation list for years. I like economic philosophy a lot. I love history. I love fishing for “textbooks” for my daughter to use as she’s older and I build curriculums about of source books. She will not be forced to read this book. It’s so dull. I don’t know that I’m going to get all the way through it. It came so highly recommended! But there is a reason there are ten of them on the shelf of any given bookstore you visit and the copy I bought cost me 50 cents.
All this technology and aging, memoirs, and history that isn’t really history… it reminded me that I bought a kindle awhile back. I haven’t used it since I reviewed The Year of the Hydra. I find my kindle handle, but I still haven’t really fallen in love with it. In fact, I simply forget about it most of the time.
I’m not old. But I’m still trying to figure out if there are any “new tricks” in me. Therefore, I have committed myself to attempting to learn something new (other than the new POS system at the bookstore, which will simply be depressing if I admit how much it irritates me) this week: I’m going to attend a Magic game and see about that. I played Warlords in college for a bit, so maybe it won’t be so bad.
I have been hosting a book club at Half Price Books in Humble for over two years. In that time, I’ve managed to procure two consistent clubbers. One comes in person, one joins us by phone. We’ve had others briefly come and go – but Glenn, Thom, and I, we are the club.
Glenn chose The Beekeeper’s Apprentice to discuss in January. It was fast paced and lovely. Glenn had already read it before and was very excited to hear my thoughts. We’ve read 25 books together over the years and enjoy picking things out for each other. We disagree and argue a lot, but in a pleasant way. I’m 30 and he could be my father. Thom is older too, and as I read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, I kept thinking how fun a parallel it was that Holmes and Watson took a young Mary Russell under their wing. I may be more well read than Glenn, but he has the perspective of age on many topics and discussions which have proven useful.
The day of the meeting, “Mary Russell” responded to a tweet I sent out into the twittersphere and offered to answer any questions we may have regarding the book. I hoped that another customer I had met during the week would arrive because she passionately hated the book, and Glenn and I both passionately loved the book. But Glenn didn’t know how much I loved the book, because we hadn’t spoken of it yet. We only see each other once a month for club.
I sat at the table in the bookstore waiting for his long lanky figure to come striding down the aisle, wearing his hat and carrying his books. His gate is that of a number of tall men, long and lumber-y. He always takes copious notes and wants to methodically go through each point, each thought, and each word that struck his fancy. I speed read through things and like to talk about themes and over all feelings of the story. Thom pipes in on speaker phone with all sorts of knowledge neither Glenn and I have. I look forward to our exchanges every month.
Glenn didn’t arrive.
I stayed and waited, but gave up and went home, thinking perhaps I missed an email or a phone call explaining his absence.
Glenn Ray passed away that evening.
Laurie R. King and Mary Russell will always be simultaneously loved and tainted by the fact that they were the last words shared between me and a man who I had started to believe was my friend.
Of all the books I read in 2014, 103-ish by my count, I want to share my top ten. In reverse order, because I actually put a bit of thought into this listing, with my favorite for the year listed last. Although, I openly admit to being moody, and tomorrow any one of these titles should shuffle to a different number in the list with a bat of an eye.
These are titles that no matter how much I read, they have stayed with me. Some caught me by surprise, startling me out of numbness into enraptured feeling. Some taught me things. Some I went back to over and over again… Each one, for some reason or another, helped shape 2014 for me, and I am thankful for them.
10. Papyrus – John Oehler
9. The Mother Tongue – Bill Bryson
8. Cruel Devices – George Wright Padgett
7. The King’s English – Betsy Burton
6. The Beginner’s Goodbye – Anne Tyler
5. The Book of Secrets – Elizabeth Joy Arnold
4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
3. Not Even Wrong – Paul Collins
2. A Shropshire Lad – A.E. Housman
1. A Circle of Quiet – Madeleine L’Engle