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The cool weather is a welcome break from the sun and heat – cool enough that a cup of tea in the afternoon sounds nice and pants don’t feel suffocating.

I finished up The Last Olympian – a bit disappointing but still entertaining (too many battle scenes) – and The Explosionist, which was completely absorbing.  The spiritualist elements worked nicely with the plot, without taking over, and all of the science provided a nice balance.  I was fascinated by Sophie’s gradual realizations about the society she lives in – and of course we get to gradually understand them, as well.  The scene in the library, for instance – I didn’t see that coming, and despite it being pretty chilling, I also had to laugh at the power given to the head librarian, being grouped in with government ministers and so on (sorry for being vague – don’t want to give anything away).  Anyway, if a blend of alternate history, science, mystery and spiritualism appeals to you, I strongly recommend this.

Now I’m reading The House at Riverton by Kate Morton, which I think Val recommended – yup.  Only a few chapters in, but good so far – English country house, suspense, old woman reminiscing about secrets in the past – that sort of thing.

I’m in an audiobook slump, though – all I want to listen to in the car is music, which is most unlike me.  Sometimes you just need to let your mind wander in the car, but it’s been way too long since I finished an audiobook, and it means I’m reading fewer books each month.  Oh well, I guess.

Time to have that cup of tea before work – only one more week at the boring job!

Have I mentioned how much I love being out of school?  Since I moved right after I graduated, it’s like I made a clean break with that school part of my life.  When other people talk about tests or homework, it seems so long ago and far away.   Being out of school feels “normal” – which is to say that I haven’t gone all hog-wild with my free time.  Instead, I’m just trying to find new habits and patterns and enjoy my freedom until the day when I might have to show up for work at 8:30 (yawn) am.

Instead of thinking about things like projects and deadlines and the intricacies of the library catalog (although I still think about that sometimes), I can contemplate life’s big questions:

  • Should I have coffee or tea?  Coffee is more satisfying and creamy (when I add cream, which is always), and it involves more elaborate preparation rituals.  Tea gets honey, which is lovely, and it’s simple and never makes me jittery when I drink too many cups.
  • What should I read next?  Right now I have out Looking for Anne of Green Gables, Well Witched, Pippi Longstocking, Crossing to Paradise, Tales from Outer Suburbia, Wintergirls, The Home-Maker, The Surrender Tree, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, and some cooking and gardening books that I keep forgetting about.  I’m listening to The Ghost in Love in the car and enjoying it although it’s pretty off-beat.  It’s one of those books that talks about food a lot, which I love, and it has these occasional brilliant observations that you would never have made but recognize as being true.  Actually, the same is true of The Air We Breathe, which I’m also reading, although the observations have a different feel and the food is described with less reverence, and it’s not off-beat – just compelling in a 19th century novel way.
  • What shoes should I wear for Bronwen’s wedding?  This one needs research.
  • Why am I incapable of finishing bananas before they turn brown?  And how many loaves of banana bread can I bake before I cut myself off?
  • Will my balcony get enough sun to keep my plants alive?  And will the sun ever stay out for more than two minutes at a time?

In the meantime, though, I’ve answered the “what to bake?” question (chocolate chip cookies) and the “what to eat for lunch?” question (tuna on sourdough with a pickle – and yes, I eat lunch at 3 pm – and you would, too, if dinner was at 10).

It’s a dreary, dreary Saturday afternoon and I would much rather drink my rose tea and read The Tea Rose (I did that on purpose – not the rose part, but the tea) than read about management or contribute to class discussions.  I would really like to bake something.  Read and bake and drink tea all at once.

Julia left a comment on an earlier post of mine about how, since she doesn’t have access to an English-language library, she does a lot of rereading of the books she owns.  Which started me thinking about reading vs rereading and the benefits of each.  In a weird way, it’s almost appealing to think of being forced to reread.  My take is, if a book is good, it’s worth reading at least twice.  Sometimes I finish things and want to pick them right up again.  I don’t, though, because there are so many new things to read, and because time is limited, and because I have this silly idea that reading something fresh is better – more worthy of my time – than rereading.  But it’s not.  Of course, ideally, one has a lovely balance between the two things.  If only people would stop writing new books.   But some of those are bound to be ones that are worth rereading.  Oh, the agony.

When I reread, I notice a whole new set of things about the book.  The structure, or the character development, or the setting, or the way tension builds, or the way the story jumps around in time, or the sentence structure, or the vocabulary, or the thing that really made me love it in the first place.   For me, plot ceases to be so important, and it’s all the little things that end up mattering.  The first time I read The Wednesday Wars, I loved it.  I liked the story and the characters and the tone.  But the second time, I LOVED it.  I loved the way Holling talks to the reader, and the fact that we never know Doug Swieteck’s brother’s name, just that he’s Doug Swieteck’s brother, and the way the first line of Lieutenant Baker’s telegram tells you everything you need to know, and the way Holling’s father doesn’t change – he’s still the man who thinks of architecture as a blood sport and doesn’t understand his son.

AND, when you reread something later, even just a year or two later, you respond to the book in an entirely new way.  I loved Anne of the Island in middle school and high school – I have no idea how many times I read the whole series – but when I read Anne right after I graduated from college, I reread it and thought yes, some things never change.  Even though they didn’t allow male callers most nights of the week, and had a woman to keep house for them, the essence of living with a group of your best friends in college was unchanged from Anne’s day to mine.  Something that I wouldn’t have known before then, and something I might not pick up on now, a few years later.  Who’s to say what I’ll get out of Anne next time I pick her up?  Or Elizabeth Bennett, or Dorothea Brooks, or Ruby Lennox?

Is there a correspondingly pretentious word (for a school you are about to attend) to alma mater? I’d like to start using it, if there is. Also, it would save me the hassle of deciding whether or not to publicly declare where I intend to enroll and save any privacy hassles.

I find it almost physically impossible these days to not round out a meal with a cup of tea. Breakfast just isn’t the same without (in the absence of coffee). Perhaps a cup of Earl Grey. After lunch, a cup of English Breakfast it nice for clearing the palate. And what is a slice of wacky cake (studded with chocolate chips) without a cup of decaf Irish Breakfast? (I choose to ignore the strangeness of drinking “breakfast” teas after noon.)

The one nice side effect to your pregnant friend suffering from back problems is that her daughter becomes much more eager for you to pick her up. Q likes to ignore me in church these days, or limit herself to casting icy glances in my direction. In her own home, it’s another story. Read her Fox in Socks and Goodnight Moon and The Maggie B. Swing her around the room. Cuddle her. Play catch with a stuffed cat. Make her laugh by swiveling around her baby doll’s head to face the wrong direction. Get a couple kisses as I leave.

I remain on pins and needles about what they will choose to name the baby currently residing in an alleged three cups of amniotic fluid.

On Tuesday I dropped some books off at my neighborhood library (not my place of employment) and just kept walking until I was at my friendly neighborhood used book store, an exceedingly dangerous little house stuffed full of books. I have this problem where I only buy books I know and love. I don’t like to take chances. But, I did manage to pick up Motherless Brooklyn – which had better live up to all the glowing praises of bloggers – as well as The Thief in a cheapo paperback and Beauty in a gorgeous hardcover, identical to the copy I first read at the library as a wee thing.

I would rather keep blogging than go to work.

I was well on my way to be virtuous last night, as I got into bed at 11 pm and set my alarm for 7. But then I realized I was quite close to the end of Never Let Me Go and so I might as well finish it, right? Right. Appropriately for the title, it’s a difficult book to put down. You reach the end of a chapter and think, “okay, now I’ll turn off the light,” but suddenly you find yourself halfway through the next chapter. While I’d recommend it, I do have to say that after reading the last page, I wasn’t too sad about letting it go. I didn’t want to clasp it to my bosom like, say, Pride and Prejudice. Nope, just tossed it over the side of the bed (onto the book heap that permanently lives there – side effect of a tiny bedside table) and went to sleep.

I’ve also been on another little Dorothy Sayers kick – listening to The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club and got Gaudy Night on Netflix. I think my favorite part about the Gaudy Night movie was watching them drink all that tea. The guy who does Lord Peter left something to be desired. He was missing a certain snappiness. No one can come close to the vision in my head. But the tea! The dons with their fine china and pouring in milk and careful stirring. I love England for its tea-drinking habits. Thinking about it, I realized that I love the way tea and coffee are both used in books and movies – an offering of a cup always introduces a nice note of comfort and sustenance. Beverages you could live off.

Go check out Kate’s goats. She emailed me saying, “Keith got me two awesome surprise presents.” And I said, “sweet. are they goats?” Their names are Beezus and Ramona. I am jealous.

Still life with Narnia, new mug that I can’t put down, and Earl Gray. Posted by Picasa

December 2021

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