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This weekend, I survived the Spanish Influenza,* cholera,** and the plague.***

It’s a miracle I’m here to tell the story. My dear roommate also survived untold horrors as she finished Octavian Nothing (dear, dear Octavian Nothing) and I laid it to rest, so to speak, in the spot waiting for it on my shelf, right inbetween Rose in Bloom and The Secret Garden. For some reason, that really cracked me up. I think Mary can handle Octavian, but Rose might be a bit of a prude about it. When, oh when shall we have Volume II in our hot little hands?

Earlier last week, I also survived a hail storm. That walk I went on with K & the girlies? Five minutes into it, the heavens opened and the trails of Tryon Creek became white with hail. K & M took shelter under a blanket, Q had her pink poodle coat (if you know Q and have never seen her in this coat, you’re really missing out), I had my raincoat, and we shuffled along merrily. Until the hail stopped and the sky became blue and we continued to wind our way around, dodging overly energetic runners.

I can’t think of the last time I went for a run. Sometimes I see people running and my legs want to join in (for about 2 seconds) and other times it exhausts me just to look at them. Especially when they come in youthful herds, running through all manner of hail and tempest.

In other news, February reading totals are in! Yeah, it was really difficult to tally it all up, people were really slow with getting their results back to me. What a pain.

  • Total: 15
  • Nonfiction: 2
  • Audio: 4
  • Children’s/YA: 11
  • Adult: 4
  • Rereads: 3
  • Newbery Winners: 2
  • Printz Honors: 2
  • Brand-spanking-new 2007 titles: 2

So far for March, I’ve read entirely historical fiction. Josephine, Hattie, and the plague. If I hadn’t just started Accidents of Nature, I suppose I could try to keep the trend up. Wait, it’s set in the 70s, right? Does that count? It’s before my time, at least.

Heretoafter, March shall be known as Historical Fiction Month. Let it be known.

And, since I like making resolutions and then breaking them, I shall promptly break it.

Listening to these days: The Thirteenth Tale, Three Men in a Boat.

*Hattie Big Sky, Kirby Larson

**The Painted Veil. Mmm, Edward Norton. Favorite line: Kitty: “I’m pregnant.” Walter: “A baby?” Me: “No, the other kind of pregnant.”

***Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks.

Dear Mr. M.T. Anderson,

I have to confess that I dogeared your book. Octavian. You know the one. I was reading along and thinking about smallpox and vaccines (a subject on which all my knowledge derives from fiction) and whether or not they really ate Brie at the time of the American Revolution (“‘I could eat Brie until I looked like soap'”) when you’ve just got to pull me out of the story with something like this:

“‘When I peer into the reaches of the most distant futurity, I fear that even in some unseen epoch when there are colonies even upon the moon itself, there shall still be gatherings like this, where the young, blinded by privilege, shall dance and giggle and compare their poxy lesions…We are a young country, a country of the young,’ he said bitterly. ‘The young must have their little entertainments.'” (page 203)

A trip to the moon, anyone?

We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”

You just had to be clever. Can you help it? Probably not.

And may I point out that the blotted out bits were eerily chilling? I may? Oh, thanks.

And a request for Volume 2, if I may? Could you talk your publisher into making a book with uncut pages, so that we your humble readers can sit with a letter opener and have the heretofore unknown pleasure of slitting the pages apart ourselves? Because the faux-cut pages look is so trendy. Everyone’s doing it. And I’m sure you don’t have much control over these things, so I’ll understand if it can’t happen. But could you at least put in a word with Candlewick? They seem like reasonable people.


Library Girl

This afternoon, to reward myself for finishing up my “design a network for a small office” (blech!) assignment (12 hours late, naturally), I went to the twitch-inducing Barnes & Noble at the mall to return Case Histories.  Not because I’ve lost my desire to read it, oh no.

I was at the library, waiting by the elevator with a cart of books.  This is the prime grazing location for our ‘sale books,’  the stuff that people donate that doesn’t make it to our own shelves.  And there was a copy of Case Histories.  Slightly beat up.  The UK edition.  A mere $2.  So of course I buy that.

Which leads to me trundling back to the mall to pick out something shiny & new.  I go through the same dilemmas again.  I still want The King of Attolia to own & cherish, but if I returned the ‘new to me’ book, I should get a new ‘new to me’ book, right?  I considered the  Pevear/Volokhonsky translation of Crime & Punishment (I own a different translation and can’t seem to make it through in one piece), I again circled past Kavalier & Clay, but then, with near-perfect certainty, I fell upon Octavian Nothing.  Worth the extra $4, I’m thinking (well, $6 if you add the $2 I paid for Case Histories).

When will I have time to read these?  Sometime after I finish The Girls  and The Secret River.  And the other five library books on my shelf.

I just picked up the Six Feet Under soundtrack (volume two) from the library* today and listening to that song, the one at the very end of the very last episode makes me feel like I’m in Six Feet Under. And kind of like Kate’s tipsy post about everyone dying. And vaguely sentimental and contemplative, like I should just stand at the window staring out at the rain. Um, yeah, okay.

I started out the day by finishing up John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines (check out the cover art, it’s super – as is the book**). Yesterday was like the Longest Day in the History of the Earth (or at least of being at work). Like my usual Saturday workday, on 5-6 hours of sleep and caffeine to go. I was there from 8am till 6:30pm. 10.5 hours, ie too long. I was getting slightly hysterical at the end because my brain was telling me GO GO FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GET OUT but the list of things I needed to take care of kept growing and finally I clocked out and practically RAN to my car.

And this morning I woke up feeling the effects of a compromised immune system. A groggy throat, headache, and general lack of a will to do anything other than read and drink coffee. Sorry, God. Laying in bed felt more important than getting up in time for church.

*The across-the-street Hippiewood Library, not MY library. My library didn’t have the CD when I went looking for it.

**As in, I was laughing so loudly that Kitri, in the next room, wondered what was so funny. I also fell asleep the other night trying, unsuccessfully, to anagram my first name. I was out before I managed to add my middle & last names to the mix.  I’ll work on it and get back to you.

Bike to post office…check.

Bike to pick up milk…check (note to self: avoid carrying full gallons of milk in your backpack.  V. uncomfortable.)

Put beef stew to simmer in crockpot…check.

Manage to finish yet another children’s book (Rules – “I’m sorry, Frog”) in spite of massive quantities of school reading…check.

Let yourself fall under Susan Cooper’s spell once again…check.

Find mysterious discussion board that everyone else in your class has been posting to for a week…check.

Post drunk (okay, tipsy – okay, just a half glass of wine)…check.

The sweet freedom of a day stretching out in front of me. Full of school reading.  I want to surround myself with delightful fally foods, like sweet squash and pumpkin & banana muffins and roasted chicken.  Outside, a cat is trying to chase a squirrel up a telephone pole.  I’m reading about “America’s Love Affair with the Internet” and trying (unsuccessfully) to resist the siren call of my bookshelf.

Last night I stayed up past my bedtime to finish Dear Enemy (dear, dear enemy as it turns out).  The fact that I could see the resolution coming several miles away did nothing to detract from its entirely satisfying epistolary form.

*From Daniel Pinkwater’s Blue Moose, which our children’s librarian recommends as a cure for all that ails you.  I agree.  It’s also made me add clam chowder and gingerbread to my list of foods.  All I really want to do is cook and read.

For the first time in, oh, four or five years, my siblings and I are all in school. Or rather, we will be come Monday. In a sane, civilized way, our respective universities, colleges, and institutes wait until autumn has officially begun to start classes. I approve of this. The leaves on my street are just starting to turn yellow here and there, the pool is closed, and the air smells a teensy bit like a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.

Today is my last official day of freedom. Tomorrow I work and drive to Seattle. The sky is a perfect September blue, not a cloud. I should have some marvelous plan that involves being outdoors and Taking Advantage of My Last (Sunny) Day. But here’s the thing: I think I’ve forgotten what to do with a Saturday. Sure, I can laze my way through it and take a walk and shop for wedding gifts and maybe go down the street for coffee later. But none of it feels like enough. I’m in that in between state, where I feel like I ought to do more than be lazy, but I lack anything specific to do to get that Taking Advantage feeling. I feel the day slipping past and it freaks me out.

Kind of like how the summer slipped past. I barely picked blueberries. I never went swimming. I only harassed my brother a little bit before he left for college. I did manage to eat a hell of a lot of raspberries early in the summer, so there is that. It wasn’t a total loss, berry-wise. And it was a busy summer. So I suppose I can cut myself some slack. But still! I only have one teensy tiny tupperware of blueberries in the freezer to last me through the long winter. I’d make a terrible hibernating animal.

*Sing Through the Seasons, baby. And if you go here you can read comments from people who had it sung to them as children. When we homeschool, we used to sing this and jump off the couch, pretending to be leaves falling.

Currently reading (in a mad frenzy before school starts):

Donuthead, Sue Stauffacher

Funny Little Monkey, Andrew Auseon
Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett

Just finished:

Digging to America, Anne Tyler (excellent comfort book)

Embroideries, Marjane Satrapi

Caddy Ever After, Hilary McKay (did I already mention this one? Probably. But it’s worth a second mention.)

On the shelf (too numerous to mention, really, but):

Busman’s Honeymoon, Feed (both audio for the car ride), The Position, The Secret River, Victory, Rules, Skellig, At the Sign of the Star, Eat Cake.

And? I’m now addicted to the Sopranos. Plus Kitri has the beginnings of the second seasons of Lost and Grey’s Anatomy. Which are all exerting a magnetic pull on me.

I think I’ll go make some chocolate pudding. But only because it’s possible to stir pudding and read simultaneously.

First of all, I’m pleased to say that I’m getting hits from people searching for Henry VIII related information. It adds a nice note of prestige to an otherwise everyday bit of writing.

Also, I’ve been asked to report back on that “must spend $25 at Barnes & Noble” thing.  Here’s what happened.

I wandered.  I circled.  I paced from fiction/literature to teen to young readers to picture books to mystery and back again.  My first impulse was The King of Attolia, which I know I’ll reread, but they didn’t have it in stock .  And who doesn’t want immediate gratification?  Plus, I was slightly horrified that they didn’t have it (all they had was The Queen of Attolia.  Not even The Thief.)  And I didn’t want to order it and make another trip to the mall.  (Although of course I had to go back to shop for a bridal shower gift & look for bridesmaid dresses with my sister (for her, not me, thank God).

Then I spent a long time in the picture books, lamenting the absence of certain fabulous titles and muttering to myself like a crazy person.  (I only scared off a few toddlers.)

I thought about How I Live Now, Harriet the Spy, Gaudy Night, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, This is London…

And ended up with Miss Rumphius & Case Histories. One old favorite to clasp in joy, and one new safe-ish bet (considering I loved Behind the Scenes and Human Croquet).

Just finished…

Gaudy Night.   My God, I could almost listen to it again from the beginning.  I cried listening to the last bit.  (Of course, I’d just come from vespers, where I felt like a ball of yard unraveling (but in the best possible way), and half an hour of holding a sleeping M with her little cheek cuddled up against mine.  All it took was Dorothy Sayers to do me in.)

The Doctor’s Daughter.   Which was described as “tidy and predictable” by Kirkus and “alternately claustrophobic and insightful” by Booklist.  Huh.  I liked it, but it was predictable.  I almost gave it up 50 pages in, but I’m glad I stuck to it.  I liked the cover, really, which kept me going.

Now, finally, I have Caddy Ever After in my hot little hands, and the Cassons are as splendid as ever, although the eccentricity is ever so slightly toned down, in a good way.  The “this is how I do special” bit was perfect.

Yesterday afternoon I started reading A True and Faithful Narrative. I picked it up (and by picked up, I mean put on hold and had it sit there for a long time until I got around to it on this historical fiction kick) because it was well-reviewed on Nina’s Newbery.

At around one in the morning, I finished it.  I read it on my break at work, and while I ate dinner, and straight from about 11 to 1.  I briefly considered putting it down, but what’s more fun than staying up late to finish a book?  Well, okay, some things are more fun.  But this is pretty high up there.

It wasn’t one of those books where I had passages I wanted to mark or share, or where there were particularly clever lines.  But it was one of those books where you are led into somewhat familiar territory – a girl who is unconventional for her times, but who contemporary readers can sympathize with, is approaching marriageable age and wonders whether it would be better to remain unmarried, and allowed to write like she wants, or whether she should accept one of the young men wooing* her.  You start one to think, oh this will be one of those nice solid books, with an engaging character and a glimpse of history.

Which, yes, it is.  But it has that extra oomph & strength beyong the ordinary.  For starters, it’s not one of those books where it’s SO obvious which guy she’ll end up picking (because they always pick one, don’t they?  are there any books where they don’t?)  Edward would be the more romantic pick, with the adventures and the story to tell.  But Meg doesn’t really know him all that well, and you reserve your judgment with her.  And Will doesn’t think she should write, and that he would run the household, but he & Meg have this nice banter/teasing thing going on, where you can see that he’d never quite have his way.   And the book presents views & stereotypes of the time as they would be perceived then, but also shows how individual people can grow & change without leaving their historical context behind.

Anyway, READ IT.

*Perhaps one of my favorite words.  Woo.  Woo.  Woo.

Once, when Bronwen and I were living in Ireland, we took a trip to Donegal. The hostels in Donegal Town itself were booked up, but we called a hostel outside of town and they had rooms. Actually, I don’t remember clearly. We might’ve just gambled on them having rooms. And rather than figuring out the bus (or maybe we just didn’t want to wait…can you tell I remember this story very clearly?) we decided to walk there (closed until further notice?? gah!) – 5km, according to the website. Five kilometers with heavy backpacks. On a gorgeous sunny day. Which had been a bleak, rainy day when we left Galway.

So, we weren’t sure exactly where we were going. We just had directions. And it took a while. But every time a car passed us, I realized: we are taking a very different trip than they are. Sure, their feet don’t hurt, but they aren’t noticing these flowers hiding on the side of the road. They aren’t stopping to admire the view, or that farm, or the sun on their faces.

Whew, I just got a trifle sticky-sweet there. My point is, a walk like that isn’t necessarily something you choose, but you end up appreciating it. Also that each way you get someplace leads to a different view. A different sense of things. And for some reason every time I think about this, I think about the walk to Ball Point Hostel.*
I’ve been noticing this as I zip (or dawdle) along on my bike. It’s a view somewhere in between a pedestrian and a car. You’ve got some speed, but you notice the hills (your thighs, especially). You can admire the view, but don’t look away too long or you might lose your balance. You notice the bumps, the dips, the best places to get through traffic to make a left.

In other news, I just finished The Other Boleyn Girl, which is a bit sensationalistic and apparently not quite historically accurate, but sheesh. It’s entertaining. And has me on a total historical fiction/Henry VIII & his wives kick. Picture the scene in our living room,something like this:

Me & Kitri (my new roommate – say hello to her): talking, blah blah, did Henry have a son? Did he die young? Did Anne Boleyn really have six fingers? How many children did she end up having? What about those illegitimate sons? Etc. Etc. Etc.

Travis (Kitri’s boyfriend, who I went to high school with – freaky, no?): eyes glazing over, nodding off to sleep as Kitri & I talk with unending enthusiasm.

It’s a good thing he wasn’t around yesterday, when read the entries on Wikipedia for every single heirless wife. And we’ll have to make sure he’s busy when we watch the documentary, The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Which I have on hold at the library.

*Not it’s real name, as you’ll see from the link. But really, it should be called Ball Point. There’s a lovely beach there for swimmy-dipping, and rustic rooms, and a nice hill to lay on and watch the moon rise. I feel like I’ve blogged about Ball Point before, but I don’t have the will to look for it.

October 2021

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