23 March 2012

Passion: Lack Thereof, Origins of Lack Thereof

Been thinking about passion, and a personal dearth of the potent stuff. I used to be passionate, intense. I'm still a bit intense, but...it's been too long since I felt passion. I guess I got the stuffing kicked out of me at some point. The how or why is not nearly as important as, How to get some more?

It seems to me that the first step should be a general de-clutterization: of the mind, the home, the body. Much easier said than done. This is where religion comes in, I suppose. The closest thing I've got is yoga. God, I used to have this deep belief in myself. Where did it go? No, the better question is, How did I let it go? Who or what did I allow to take it? Is it still there, or do I have to go build it from dust, or ashes?

I think I know what happened, what events and consequences kicked the stuffing out of me. It started in law school, but I am not blaming law school. It is the inauspicious event that accompanied my first month there: the unexpected death of my stepfather. I've always been a cool character, so to speak, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, as is habit, with no idea how much I was grieving...until The Nervous Breakdown of the Summer after My First Year, which was followed by The Nervous Breakdown of the Summer after My Second Year. But I kept going to school, and doing law school things, like writing for a legal journal, entering writing competitions, hanging out with friends, drinking a lot (trust me, drinking is an extracurricular activity in law school, especially in the Big Easy, where no one has a drinking problem). In hindsight, maybe the leave of absence offered by the Dean of Students should have been accepted, but at that time I didn't know how to take a leave of absence. I had never quit anything. A little bit of a tenacity problem. Quite a few situations where perseverance did NOT serve me well. Honestly, I have never understood how anyone has ever dropped out of school. To me, if there was an end point, it had to be reached, no matter how ill-advised the decision to begin may be. (Which is not to say that I regret for one second going to law school, especially when and where I did. It's one of the best parts of me.) But it made it hard to give up on relationships that weren't working, that sort of thing.

To be continued...

28 February 2012

Resistance Redux; Oscar and His Movies

It's been awhile since I posted. I have list of excuses handy, but excuses are irrelevant: the truth is that I have been resisting. I have gotten overwhelmed and, for some reason, when I feel that way the idea of writing is frightening. In the face of the behemoth of unwritten works I am but a timid mouse.

The following is adapted from comments I made in my online literary club, Le Salon, Librarything.

Two Saturdays out of every February since 2010, I have gathered up my Twizzlers and bottled water and trooped off to the cinema for the Best Picture Showcase: all the BP nominees. A couple of mini-marathons, but I usually make it through. This year I made it through six of nine. Here are my comments:

War Horse. Really? Best Picture? Really? It was a good movie, I guess, but the whole time I was thinking, I would not be watching this if it hadn't been nominated and why the hell was it nominated? It's a movie about a damn horse! And an extremely manipulative one at at that (the movie, not the horse). Completely implausible. What was Spielberg thinking?


However. I think the horse should have been nominated for Best Actor.

Moneyball - Loved it and I find baseball a snore. Dialogue was outstanding (thank you Mr. Sorkin), acting was solid. I found myself reviewing scenes from it later, which to me is a sign of a good movie.

Tree of Life - fascinating. It's a love it or hate it, and I loved it. Typically I shudder from the pretentiousness of art films and avoid them strenuously. This one had enough real movie in it to make the art-movieness not only palatable but entrancing. And to the naysayers, Brad Pitt does have a range. Moneyball back to back with Tree of Life. Not the same guy. I think he's underrated. He was my favorite part of Inglourious Basterds. Anyhoo, TofL is thought-provoking and a bit surreal. And, boy, was I surprised when the dinosaurs showed up. It went 20 minutes too long, but that's my only complaint. 

Sadly, my energy waned and I was unable to stay for The Descendants. Perhaps next week I will sneak into that one while The Help is playing. I've seen The Help and I liked it (awesome performances), but I've also read the book and it was a good enough movie that I remember much of it like yesterday.

I was challenged to name the thoughts provoked by Tree of Life by a non-believer, so I responded: 

Thoughts provoked: musings on families. What is the effect of parenting with both affection and authoritarianism, on different types of children? What would be required for reconciliation of the ambivalence that the Sean Penn character clearly had for the Brad Pitt character? What was meant by "grace" as it was used at the beginning of the movie? Where the hell did Malick get all of those incredible nature shots? They were astounding. How were they procured? Why don't more movies just stop the action and show things unfolding, with awesome music to go with it? Why did that dinosaur do what it did? 

And others. :-)

Like, how can a father fail to see the damage he is doing to a child he clearly loves?

Unfortunately my energy flagged AGAIN, and I had to skip The Artist and Midnight in Paris, and I am sorely pissed about that.


Hugo - was wonderful! An intelligent use of 3-D that did not involve explosions and car chases, but clockworks! It was a gorgeous movie and it made me smile big. The child actors were winning. The special effects were fun and surprising. And books were even featured a little bit. Best thing about it was that it got me thinking about passion, and you know where that leads....

I ended up watching The Help again, and found myself mesmerized. Every minute of Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain was a delight, especially when they were together. I don't know where this Chastain person came from, but it's the 3d movie I've seen her in, in a year and, well, me likee. Let's add her to Emma Stone for citygirl's fave young actors. (btw, I adored Emma Stone at the Oscars. Too bad Ben Stiller was such a dud partner for her.) Also, Ron Howard's daughter was so odious as Hilly that I don't know how she stands herself. (That's praise.)

Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, gets my vote for worst movie title. It took me a little while to warm up to this movie and its protagonist, but by the end I was sold, and there are two scenes involving an answering machine that are just devastating. The kind of devastating where I wanted to run out of theatre screaming, Don't do this to me! It hurts!

Max von Sydow, and the kid. 

In the end, I was rooting for no one to win any particular Oscars, since what I saw had merit (with the exception of stupid War Horse). I was happy to see Ms. Streep win, b/c 30 years is a long time to be taken for granted, and she always gives the best acceptance speeches. "Whatever."

Back to current thoughts:

The thing I remember most about Sunday's Oscars was Angelina Jolie and her weird jutting leg pose. It was the most perplexing thing that happened. My thought at the time was: she usually dresses so beautifully, but why did she choose a dress that required a contrived pose to show to best advantage? And then the writers of The Descendants mocked the pose during their acceptance and that may have been the most genuinely funny moment of the show.

I kinda felt bad for Billy Crystal.


I was laid-out sick for close to two weeks, and am now mostly on the mend, tho I still feel like crap. The alien in my body has apparently co-opted my immune system for his own use. Yes, his. Unbelievably, my tiny companion is male. Given the high incidence of female offspring on both sides of my family, and my own strong intuitive conviction, (Rarely has my intuition let me down like this. Totally shakes my confidence. How to recover?) I thought a soon-to-be son was nigh on impossible, at least for the first go-round. It took me about 90 minutes to recover my equilibrium and begin to make little-boy plans.

Perks: 1) another addition to my adoring male fan club. You can't have too many adoring male fans, unless they turn stalker, of course, and I've very rarely had that sort of problem. Too mean, probably. 2) I won't have to teach him that his value is not in pleasing boys. Yay! Grrrl power. At least, I think I won't have to. 3) He won't steal my clothes and shoes. Probably. 4) As one friend pointed out, boy toys are cooler than girl toys (allow for more creative play). 5) Less elaborate hair-dos to maintain. 6) I hear you can just throw them in the washing machine when they get dirty.

However. It is so freaking hard to name a baby boy! I wish I had no imagination, and then I'd just call him Junior.

19 January 2012

No Problems, Just Resistance

I struggle with depression. While it's not the soul-sucking vortex of self-loathing and shame that it was a long time ago, it still presents itself. A grey cloud that follows me around, giving me a headache. You know? Well, I figured out quite some time ago that depression is good for exactly nothing. When you're still becoming a real person, in your teens and twenties, you think there might be something of value in the pit of suffering. After all, lots of cool people seem depressed. Artist-types. But no. It's just not like that. Depression's a killer, and not just of bodies.

So. Now when I feel depressed, I try to find the express train outta Mopesville. Cuz there is absolutely nothing to be gained there. Nada damn thing. I haven't completely lost track of my point...Right, so the other night I was feeling unhappy, so I meditated. Something occurred to me that had NEVER occurred to me before: I actually have no problems. Seriously. I do not have a single problem. All I have are things to do, and Resistance to doing them. Now, thanks to Steven Pressfield's phenomenal book The War of Art, Check it out.I am aware that Resistance is a fact of life and that anyone who wants to accomplish anything of value must learn to overcome it. Every damned day. That is not a problem. That is a job.

Wish me luck.

03 January 2012

Literary Drive-By #00005: I Am Half-Sick of Mysteries

Otto Penzler's The Line Up introduced me to some heretofore unexplored mystery series. I find at least 95% of mystery series disappointing (Who doesn't?), so I rarely try something new on my own. I get recommendations from like-minded mystery lovers, so that's how I got turned on to Louise Welsh, Tana French and Ian Rankin, for example. I read The Line Up and got super-excited--over-excited--truth be told. I went out and got a bunch of new mysteries, and I think I OD'd.

The Guards - Ken Bruen. The best of the lot. Bare bones, lyrical writing. Anti-hero who doesn't play by the  usual rules of "How to create a fictional detective." Jack Taylor is possibly the worst drunk I've run into in a crowded field of drunk detectives. This guy is so wasted that I wouldn't be surprised to turn the page mid-sentence and find on the new page: "Story aborted: protagonist died of alcohol poisoning." But he's also a soulful fellow: a reader, lover of poetry and music, insightful, sharp observer of social realities, self-aware (of course). Excerpt: On his work:

There are no private eyes in Ireland. The Irish wouldn't want it. The concept brushes perilously close to the hated "informer". You can get away with most anything except "telling". 
What I began to do was find things. Not a difficult task, it requires only patience and pig stubbornness. The latter was my strongest point.
I didn't come to one morning and shout, "God wants me to be finder!" He could care less.
There's God and then there's the Irish version. This allows Him to be feckless. Not that the doesn't take an interest, but He couldn't be bothered.

An exchange with the family priest:

Malachy was like Sean Connery, minus 
        The tan.
        The golf.
You couldn't call him a friend. Priests have other loyalties. I knew him since I was child. He took in my injuries, said,
"You're still drinking."
"This was unrelated."
He took out his cigarettes. Major. The green and white packet. As strong as a mule kick and twice as lethal. I said,
"You're still smoking."
"Me and Bette Davis."
"She's dead."
"My point exactly."
He watched two nuns and said,
"Great shiners."
"Polishing. No one can touch them for it."
I looked round then asked,
"Where's the Church on suicide these days?"
"Leaving us, are yah?"
"I'm serious. Is it still the 'can't be buried in hallowed ground' stance?"
"Ah, you're very out of touch, Jack."
"That's an answer?"
"No, that's a sad fact." 

 So, I've got the next in the series The Killing of the Tinkers on my shelf.

Resurrection Row - Anne Perry. I wanted to start with the first in this series, but it wasn't available at the used bookstore, so I had to go with No. 4. Set in Victorian London and good at giving a sense of place. Thomas Pitt is a police officer and he solves crimes with his wife, Charlotte, former society lady. This one had an interesting premise: dug-up corpses are staged in various places around London. I like this series. I will continue.

Service of All the Dead - Colin Dexter. I didn't finish this one. I was trying to get over the description of a skirt as "nigger-brown" (who does that?) when I ran into a description of a "Chinaman" and his "oriental" mien and gestures. I guess I'll just have to live in ignorance of the charms of Inspector Morse.

Baltimore Blues - Laura Lippman. The first Tess Monaghan. It was okay. I keep reading all this praise for Lippman, and this is the second book of hers I've tried, and I just don't get it. She's a perfectly competent genre writer. And that's it. I'm not averse to reading another one, but only if my choices are limited. There's nothing wrong with this series, but there's nothing pulling me forward.

The Ritual Bath - Faye Kellerman. The first Pete Decker/Rina Lazarus. The hook for this series is great: Orthodox Judaism and culture clash. Pete is an LAPD detective in Sex Crimes and Rina is a young Orthodox widow living on the campus of a yeshiva where a rape has taken place. There's an instant attraction between the two, but the relationship is verboten. I went on to read the next Sacred and Profane and I will continue, more to find out how things evolve between Pete and Rina than because of the mysteries, which are good.

29 December 2011

Bluehairs wit Attitude

So, I may have mentioned that my recent cruise experience left me with the strong impression that, en masse, the geriatric brigade are deranged and a menace to society. Before you jump all over me I'll have you know that I have anecdotes. That's right..anecdotes. As in anecdotal evidence, aplenty. Also, I am quite aware not all, and maybe not even most, members of the 70+ plus crowd are rude, obnoxious, oblivious, violent, confused and pervy...just the ones I'm about to tell you about.

Did you know that North American old people have no compunction about just cutting in front of you in line? (I don't want to speak for those of other nationalities, and the ones I saw cutting spoke like Americans, or close to it. And, you rarely see young or middle-aged North American adults doing this. I have no idea about the denizens of other continents.) And there are a lot of lines on your average cruise ship. You're just standing there waiting to disembark or whatever, perusing the Indentured Servant of the Month photos, and by the time you've figured out what Great-Gamma's been maneuvering that walker to do, it's too late: she's in front of you. And who has experience chastising random old people? Not me. It is ingrained that we treat them delicately, and boy do they take advantage. Since I'm still not comfortable giving little old ladies the what-for for their bad behavior I had to develop a blocking mechanism. This worked well as I move faster than they do and refuse to make eye contact. What are they gonna do? If one of 'em hits me with that cane the gloves come off.  And I'll win.

Thirty-seven old people and nine scooters will pile onto an elevator with no regard for the weight limit. It is really best to get off at that point because you don't want to get stuck with them if the elevator malfunctions. Also, this is way too good a situation for POGs, or pervy old guys. (See below for more detail.) And speaking of elevators, and this is just sad, sometimes they have difficulty navigating. It's truly cringing and painful to see some poor old dear who has apparently gotten separated from her keeper going up and down the elevator because she can't figure out where she got on and where she should get off. I walked in on this situation when some slightly less geriatric people were snootily steering her off the glass-enclosed elevator to wander god knows where. Did I intervene? Hell no. I am an observer. I observe and snark, I mean "report." I'm sure she found her way home, or at least to a deck chair.

Ok, POGs. Yeeuucckk! Day one: I'm attending the mandatory life vest, muster station training in the Princess Theatre. Here's another line: this one to get out of the theatre, now that we all know how to put on our vests and blow our whistles, which I am tempted to try out because, really, it doesn't look all that functional, but I refrain because I don't want to put it in my mouth unless there really is an emergency. And also, I don't like to call attention to myself. So, because eighty per cent of the passengers are over age 55 and 65% are over age 70, this line takes awhile. Okay. Uhh...what's that on my waist??? I whirl around. It's POG who up to now I thought was a harmless old guy who'd been sitting next to me, with his nice old lady wife. "Excuse me," he says. I'm too stunned to answer and I just want to get away. Excuse you? That was not an accidental touch. How do you "accidentally" cup your hand around a stranger's waist? When I get a chance I glom on to my husband and whisper what happened. "So what'd you do?" What'd I do? Nothing! He said "excuse me." He took away my power! Ugh! Just reliving it makes me feel dirty. Yak!

Another thing about POGs: they must have just completely lost their filters. More than one boarded the elevator and proceeded to gape at my breasts for the whole trip. Granted, they are spectacular, but do these POGs think I can't see them? Discretion, please.

Moving on. If you think my menace-to-society characterization was too harsh, try this one on. The very first night my husband comes to bed (I'd turned in early) and tells me I've missed all the excitement. Up on the top decks, the passengers had to clear out and the crew had to batten down the hatches (or something like that) to make space for the helicopter from Aruba. (Btw, I  now know where Aruba is. It's nice. You should go there, and as long as you don't wander off with strange young men, you won't be abducted and sold into white slavery. I promise.) Why, you ask, would an Aruban helicopter need to land on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean, in the middle of the night? No one knew for sure, but they knew that someone was sick enough to need more medical attention than Doc could provide. (Did you know that Princess Cruise Lines was the same one that the Love Boat was part of? But I didn't see Isaac or Gopher, and the captain's name was Fabio.) Several days later my husband, apparently having found the ship's gossip hub in the cigar lounge, reports the following: that first night an 87-year-old male victim of a scoot-and-run was discovered hobbled and possibly maimed writhing in some hallway and, in addition to missing the whole cruise, is now responsible for the $16,000 that it costs to get an Aruban helicopter to airlift your broken ass out of there. Did you notice that I said "scoot-and-run"? Yes, a crazed scooter driver ran over this poor man and just left him there. Now, I think they could figure out who did it if they wanted to. First, there were a limited number of scooters on board. They should have interrogated all the drivers! And examined the scooters for forensic evidence! And, I heard tell of one particularly reckless scooterer who would barrel down hallways and through doors with no regard to what was in front of him. I'll never see those commercials for scooters with all those harmless-looking old people in them in the same way.

And, yes, I am fully aware that if there is a hell, I am going to it.

But then again, so are THEY!

22 December 2011

Hi, Kiddies! I'm back! (sort of)

Hello there! I am back from my floating Caribbean journey, and while I wish I could tell you that I am refreshed and full of verve, I must be honest and tell you that I'm sick in bed. Maybe with a virus. I've got a weird and extremely unpleasant combination of sinus pain-cum-neck pain and nausea. Yesterday morning things got explosive and quite disgusting. I'm a little better today and will see the doctor this afternoon. Living on a diet of ginger ale and saltines, which gets old quick.

Well, I have lots and lots to write about.

Geriatrics are deranged and a menace to society. (I have proof.) Gilead is a most lovely book. I may be sick of mysteries. (Heaven forfend!) Cruising involves moral conflict. Everyone should go visit the Sloth Sanctuary in Lim<´>n, Costa Rica. I love snorkeling!, when it's not inducing asthma-related panic. I'm too ADD to really appreciate the Panama Canal, apparently. Princess Cruise Lines will be receiving a detailed letter about the emotional and thus marketing effects of nickel-and-diming its customers to death.

Uh oh. Starting to feel queasy. Gotta go. Be back later.

07 December 2011

The Near Future, Random Musings, Literary Drive-By

On Friday, I shall set sail for minute stops in lovely locales (tourist-approved areas only). On the itinerary are Aruba, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Grand Cayman. Since I am not yet independently wealthy I will not be paying the exorbitant internet usage rates charged by Princess Cruise Lines. Even if I were, I probably would not pay on principle. So, dear readers, all 1.5 of you, hold steady, I shall return. Let's hope that I will be refreshed, relaxed and overflowing with creativity.

Enceinte update: Had the NT scan yesterday. This is some sort of ultrasound test that purports to tell you whether your baby's neck is thick enough to possibly have Down's Syndrome. They do this if you're of "advanced maternal age," or over 21. (Don't even get me started on the teen moms on my internet baby  boards. "Why is my family so unsupportive?" Ummm, maybe because you're a moron who'll have a baby with thug-of-the-week and then complain because he doesn't pay you any attention.) Citybabe's neck is thin. Citybaby also has hands and feet, which I noted while watching it show off its yoga moves. Citybabe is as yet shy about revealing her gender, but those of us in the know, know she's a girl. The doctor also moved my due date up a week. Oooo-kay. I tried to explain to him my targeted approach to babymaking and the less-than-likely possibility that the baby was conceived sooner than was originally thought. But he didn't listen. After all he has an MD, a machine and memories of delivering Shirley Temple, and I just have my calendar, my brain and my own damned body. I'm glad he's not my regular OB.

As for books: Must confess, I'm happier than Tim Tebow's agent that I've discovered so many new mystery series thanks to M. Penzler. Perfect for a cruise. Light, entertaining, some humorous, some violent. Finished The Guards by Ken Bruen (brilliant Irish guy), Right as Rain by George Pelecanos (recognized some stuff from The Wire) and Resurrection Row by Anne Perry (delightful!). And I've got a stack more stashed for the trip. 

30 November 2011

Books Make Me Insane, Which Means That I Have No Idea What Sanity Feels Like

My life with books is not sane. Books are my passion, but I can't seem to get any focus. It has always been this way. I've tried capturing my reading life with lists, reviews, this blog and I can't. I just can't. This doesn't mean that I will stop trying, because it is my nature to do so.

This post might come off a bit incoherent, but that's okay. If so, it will accurately reflect my state of mind vis-a-vis books, which is slavish and frustrated.

I must accept that I will never gain control of this process. Let me see if I can explain what the problem is, if indeed it is a problem, which is not a given:

Ever since I can remember I have always had a dozen or so books going at once. Some of these books are read in a day or two, some in a year or two. One famous example, Mating by Norman Rush (awesome, unusual book), took me nine years because a) it was so chewy and b) I didn't want it to end, ever. That was the first time. The second time only took a week or so.

Maybe a description of the current state of affairs will help:

The Guards by Ken Bruen. This arrived in the mail yesterday. I had ordered it because I am in the midst of reading The Line-Up, ed. Otto Penzler, which has a dozen or twenty well-known detective writers telling how they created their famous detectives. I don't remember how I found the Penzler book, but I bought it because Carol O'Connell has a piece about Mallory in it. Behind the scenes with Mallory? Irresistible. So after I'd read the essays by the authors I'd read previously: Rankin, Lescroart, Alexander McCall Smith, I read the brief bios of all the other authors. And then I began reading about the detectives from the beginning (alpha by author). Ken Bruen was up first. I was smitten. I ordered The Guards. It's a quick read and will probably be finished tomorrow. I will probably order Killing Orders by Lee Child next, because his Jack Reacher sounds quite interesting.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. This one is almost done, but I'm drawing out the end because I don't want it to end. It is fantasy and horror and it has the most unusual photographs. It is very popular this year, and I'll jump on the bandwagon. I hope there's a sequel.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I have been reading this for about a year. I am about a third of the way through. I recently bought a different edition because I don't like the mass market paperback I'd started reading it in. So I bought a trade paperback, with illustrations by Phiz, b/c that was recommended by someone in my online literary society. I want to complete it before I start group reads of The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake and Moby-Dick in January. But other books keep drawing me away....

Villette by Charlotte Bronte. This book is awesome, and I want to discuss pieces of it as I read it, so look for that. However it is a bit heavy, and I needed to take a break from heavy books, so I read I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith last week. How had I gone my whole life without reading ICtC? A travesty. If you haven't read this book about an eccentric, formerly wealthy English family living in a crumbling castle trying to figure out how to make ends meet and told by an aspiring writer who misses nothing, well, you should go read it now.

Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem. I'm struggling through this one. It's a good book, but it's not propelling itself forward. I enjoy it when I read it, mostly, but I'm not really relating much to the characters: a fish out of water white boy in 70s Brooklyn, his black best friend who barely acknowledges his presence, their fathers: a frustrated visual artist and a frustrated recording artist, respectively. I suspect it is one of those books that will become page-turner-y about halfway through. Either way, I'll finish it because Lethem is one of those modern authors I feel I should have some experience of. But maybe I should have picked Motherless Brooklyn instead.

I would like to finish Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, but it's gone missing.

And as if this isn't bad enough, I guarantee you that there are two or three that I have forgotten. I am currently reading books that I have forgotten that I am reading, but when I come across them today or next week, I will pick them up right where I left off.

And then there's the backlog of Early Review books. Ach! What is wrong with me?

I will finish probably another dozen books before I finish this entire list.

I tried to organize my reading at the end of last year by making this fabulous reading list (exhibit via right sidebar) and I stuck to it for about seven months, and felt very edified. And then one day I started reading P.D. James mysteries and didn't stop until I'd read all 17 of them, more or less in order, one after the other, and nothing else, which is so out-of-character. Maybe a tight reading schedule isn't my thing? After the James, I went into heavy chick lit mode, which I was, thank god, led out of by Jane Austen, the unintentional high priestess of chick lit. There's some really excellent chick lit out there, but you've got kiss a lot frogs to find it, ya know?

I read too fast to review most of what I read.

This is my life.

22 November 2011

Literary Drive-By #00004: Women You Don't Want to Run Into in a Dark Alley

I've been holding off posting because I've felt so tired that I've been thinking that nothing good is gonna come out, but then I realized that I'd better do it anyway. Right?

A week or so ago I read Dirty Weekend by Helen Zahavi. Sounds promising, right? It's a short, fast-paced book about a British woman who wakes up one day, decides she's sick of being stalked, used, demeaned, etc. by men and says "enough." The only thing that will make things right is to spend the weekend getting medieval on any hapless rapists and abusers who decide she looks like a good target. She and Lisbeth Salander would make one scary-assed team. This book could have gone so wrong: if the prose wasn't tight enough, or the tone less ironic, even if Zahavi'd decided to beat you over the head with the moral...but no. This was quite a fun ride (if you enjoy humor so black it'd make the Grim Reaper smile, and if you're on a first-name basis with your inner feminist rage demon). So, I'd recommend it, but not for the gentler among us.

I also read my ARC of Carol O'Connell's The Chalk Girl, the tenth in the Mallory series. I liked it, but I fear O'Connell is relying a bit on repetition. That said, the best part of the book is, again, the relationships drawn between the characters. There's an adorable child character...and the usual human monsters. I'll be back with some prose from the book.

16 November 2011

Literary Drive-By #00003: It's Raining Books!

I am a rich, rich girl. Two nights this week, so far, I have come home to unexpected printed bounty. My darling friend Jane, or Sodium as she has recently wanted to be called (don't ask me why; part of Jane's charm is  that she is largely inexplicable and unintelligible), had sent me books for my birthday, or I assume they're for my birthday, since there was no note. And not just any books. Books I actually wanted to read. In fact, that very day I was digitally fondling Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and wondering when I would buy and read it. How weird is that? The other book I had been eyeing, but we'd not yet gotten to first base: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. In fact, as soon as I opened the box and saw Miss Peregrine, I knew my mysterious friend had been thinking of me. Confirmation came in the form of: "Jane sent you this." I love Jane, even though I almost never see her and she's allergic to the telephone. Or maybe that's why....

The second night I came home to an Advance Reader's Copy of Chalk Girl by mystery writer extraordinaire, Carol O'Connell. This woman flies under the radar of the genre I think, but she is a treasure. She invented Mallory, and Mallory, I think is at the top of my fictional detectives list. (One can never be absolutely sure about these things. I mean, there's Wimsey, and Flavia de Luce, et al.)

Chalk Girl is the latest in the Mallory series of mysteries. They started in the 90s and kind of blew open the door to the mystery genre for me, because they, the protagonist, and the supporting characters were so very different from what you usually encounter. They are set in NYC, are extremely dark, and get down uncomfortably deep into psychological motives, even for the initiated. The prose is exquisite and by the end of a book, you're usually devastated, in that sacred way that fiction can do. The best part is the main character, Mallory. She's a mystery herself, and unraveling her story through the series is part of what's cool about the books. She is gorgeous, thoroughly brilliant, taciturn, joyously lethal, frighteningly aloof, appears to be amoral and is generally considered by those who love her to be a sociopath. (The relationships drawn between her and her small circle are...well...beautiful and revelatory.) Her origins are dark, heartbreaking and mysterious. Much of the story is dedicated to trying to figure out why she is the way she is and just how far she will go to meet her aims. 

O'Connell writes the occasional stand-alone (Judas Child will break your heart, to keep beating that dead horse), but it's been five or six years since the last Mallory, and the way it ended could lead one to believe that there would be no more. 

If I were you, I would start with Mallory's Oracle. NOW!

15 November 2011

Random Musings of the Enceinte #0005: Slugfest

Wow! What a slug I've been. I'm finally feeling teeny bit more alive. I don't want to get overconfident, so I'll keep my expectations modest. Day in the life: 5:30 - husband gets up for work. Me too, because I'm hungry, so I go down and eat and make his lunch and breakfast. 6:00 - go to bed. 8:15 - get up, put on clothes, go to work. Work: 9 til whatever time I can get out and still appear to have worked a full day. 5-ish - go home, undress, go to bed. 45 minutes later - get up for food. If I'm lucky, Husband will have cooked dinner. If not, throw something together. Take nice relaxing bubble bath. (Highlight of the day!) Go back to bed. 10:30 - wake up for food and tv shows saved on Netflix streaming. Repeat at 2:00. 5:30 - husband gets up for work.

But today! I stayed up when Husband went to work, and so I've been awake for 4 hours! Let's cross our fingers....

07 November 2011

Random Musings of the Enceinte #0004: 24/7 Feeding Machine

Well, my embargo against morning sickness seems to be holding, but there's another digestive-type problem: food insatiability. Never thought I'd hear myself say this, but I am sick of eating. I am sick of food. This blasted blastocyst demands food 24/7. She does not care if I am working, or driving, or SLEEPING. It's Feed Me Feed Me Feed Me. Ever since this whole person-growing thing started I've had to get up in the middle of the night and have a bowl of cereal (high-fiber, high-protein, low-sugar, she smugly informs you ), but the past few nights..three times she's getting me up. I am sick of cereal. I tried to appease her Saturday night with a cup of warm almond milk. Nope. An hour later, more demands. And you would think that with this new food schedule I'd have gained a ton of weight. I have gained some, but not near the amount I would have gained had I eaten like this pre-pregnancy. So what's going on? Is it twins?

That'd be kinda cool.

Combine this with my half-dozen nocturnal trips to that thing that flushes, and you've got my reason for blog slowdown. I'm EXHAUSTED. As if I wasn't tired enough recovering from last week's cold.

Damn it! I've got to go eat again.

Is this normal?

03 November 2011

Note to Readers: The Library

I have been, bit by bit, updating The Library to reflect what I am reading and what I have read this year. Just so's ya know.

TV: Cagney & Lacey, Pt. 2

I've finished Season 1 (with erstwhile Cagney Meg Foster, she was growing on me). It was like riding in a time machine! I am big fan of the police procedural. and have spent many happy hours with Olivia Benson, Brenda Leigh Johnson, Kima Greggs, et al. Becoming acquainted with Dets. Cagney and Lacey for the first time from this vantage point...WILD!

An epi on domestic violence.  C&L respond to a call where a little girl is standing on a rooftop ledge of a 14-story building. Lacey rescues her with her particular superpower, Mommy Genius, and the kid won't say a word, for hours. They release a photo and then the kid's grandma calls, the next day, and tells them where the kid lives. So, they take the kid home and leave her with her spooky weird vibe family, very few questions asked. The questions not asked: why didn't you report her missing? why is a six y.o. hanging out on the ledge? why won't you let your wife answer any questions. As they leave the apartment Lacey asks Cagney, Did that seem weird to you? Cagney: Nope.

I won't spoil the rest of the story for you, except to add that when C&L go see the department shrink to help them get a read on the situation, he tells them that their experience as women has made them too sensitive and over-likely to suspect abuse.

The show has a very realistic vibe, so all I have to go on is to think that their consultants kept things pretty true, but...did women detectives really conduct police work in skirts and heels (even though loose and short, respectively)? And I'm not talking about Benson-type chunky heels. I mean the kind that I would not want to pound the pavement in. And, note: Deputy Chief Johnson does not pound the pavement, so don't throw her back to me as an example.

I was not expecting the ongoing love affair that is the marriage of the Laceys. It kinda reminds me of my own domestic semi-bliss. How adorable is Harv? And how gorgeous are those kids?

The last epi of Season 1 has C&L protecting a Phyllis Schlafly-like character who's receiving threatening phone calls and stalkings, etc. The ERA! How did that not pass? But on the other hand, it's kinda good to know I can't be drafted. The look on the anti-feminist's face when Lacey uses her Mommy Genius to apprehend the stalker is priceless, and no more needed to be said.

I gotta say, it's nourishing to a pop culturist's soul to watch a show that relies solely on excellent writing, acting and directing. No sensationalism, no gizmos (they didn't even have cell phones? How is that possible?), nobody is impossibly gorgeous and well-dressed, no gory details (CSI, I hate you!)....   It's like one of Harv's home-cooked meals. (I'm pregnant and constantly starving, so expect frequent references to meals over the next few months.)

01 November 2011

TV: Cagney & Lacey, Pt. 1

Cagney & Lacey is one of those classic shows I've always meant to watch. Tyne Daly! Groundbreaking! Crimes to solve! I'm home sick, so yesterday I started watching. The first thing I noticed was that Sharon Gless was not in it. This is interesting, so a little bit of research was in order. Meg Foster played Christine Cagney for the first season, which was six episodes, eventually replaced for being a bit too butch. God, that must have pissed her off, especially with all the acclaim the show eventually went to garner. She'd not be considered butch at all by today's standards, and even if she were....We've come a long way, baby. Also, what a risky move (unless the backlash gave the producers cover), to replace the actor for an established character? I'm only on Ep. 3, but I'm very curious to see how this transition goes. Foster had great chemistry with Daly.

Something else to notice. In Ep. 3, the issue is a murdered Guatemalan teenager brought over illegally by a coyote. Cagney and Lacey have a tiny argument about illegals taking jobs. (I guess this was when Americans actually wanted those jobs?) And someone gives a statistic about 2,000 illegals entering NYC every week. If that figure was true, and held true, that's 3 million over the last 30 years.

Speaking of 30 years...wow! It is so cool to watch this time capsule. More later....

25 October 2011

Actual Book Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

This is cheating. :D.  I wrote this review a long time ago. (Note: I use the term "review" loosely.) I've got piles of 'em. So, let's go with a motherhood theme for the next little while.

Feb. 6, 2010. Damn. This is one of the most frightening, frustrating books I've ever read. I'm a thirty-something woman planning motherhood, and Stephen King couldn't have scared me more. 

Why: This book gets a lot of praise, and I've loved the other books by Shriver that I've read.

This happily-married 37-year-old career woman has a baby because her husband wants one, and she resents the intrusion into her life. Whatever. That could be a million people. Some readers think that she's so horrible because she's cold to her uncuddly little sociopath Kevin from the beginning. I think she should have drowned him in the bathtub.

But, anyway, Shriver sure knows how to wield a pen so that the ink gets under your skin. The story just draws you in further, and the horror quotient creeps up as Kevin gets older and his mother grows increasingly powerless. His father's willful ignorance gets more and more alarming, and I just want to scream at the main character: Run, Eva, run!

Exceptionally well-done. A few flaws. I found the ending a bit implausible, but maybe not. It's very thought-provoking, but I don't want to provide spoilers.

As a nice tie-in, I found this article by Shriver re unlikeable characters on Slate this morning. (This is legal, right?)

Today's comments:

I once told my neighborhood bartender that the most controversial word in the English language (besides "God," probably) is "mother." Kevin lends validity to my theory. This book is, at base, about what we can expect from mothers, and what mothers expect of themselves. This isn't a book about the father, although he's there the whole time, too. Shriver said that it would have been irresponsible for her to have written the book if she had children.  I've pondered that. Does she mean that if her children ever read such a story by their own mother...yeah, I get it now.

Back to controversy. Ask ten different people about Kevin's mom and her part in making a sociopath and you'll get probably six different answers, at least. From what I gathered on LibraryThing chat boards, my opinion is a bit in the minority. But I don't really see why: absent extreme abuse, which did not occur--no abuse occurred, on the part of the parents anyway--, Kevin's extreme actions are his own.  And if maternal ambivalence can create a school shooter, we'd all have had one in our high schools.

So, really, what did Eva do that was so terrible? Full disclosure: my own mother is not a bit maternal, and look how well I turned out ;-)

UPDATE: I watched the trailer for the upcoming Kevin movie.  It look awesome, but I don't know if I'll be able to watch it. It would be like reading the book again, but worse, in a way. I got creeped out from two minutes of snaps and clips. How could I take a prolonged narrative? So torn.

24 October 2011

Random Musings of the Enceinte #0003: Ramblings of a Former Erstwhile Crazy Person

I feel like a crazy person, and this is not cool. You know why? Because I have worked very hard on not being a crazy person. I was a crazy person, and I thought that one of the perks of becoming a grown-up (a real one, like Suze Orman, or my friend Jeanette) was that I would no longer have to be a crazy person. I wouldn't have to get my feelings hurt over imagined slights: since I'm not crazy, I give people the benefit of the doubt and recognize that the world does not revolve around me.  I wouldn't have to review, and re-review, every bad decision of the last two decades because I know that we cannot change the past and I have learned to appreciate the present. Right?

Wrong. I am now a crazy person. And the worst part about this sort of crazy is that I can feel the crazy as separate from my normal thought processes. I am watching the emotions from...well, as much distance as you can get inside your own head, and I am saying to myself, Hmm, haven't felt that emotion in a long while. What is that? Insecurity? Geez. Wonder what's causing that, cuz nothing has happened to make me feel that way.

It's almost like I'm faking it, but I'm not because if I were faking it I could stop faking it. These feelings are chemical! They don't have a cause that needs to be addressed!

So. Now what?

Random Musings of the Enceinte #0002: What Would Tina Fey Do?

I left work early on Friday to sleep. I slept all weekend. I am still sleepy. This is outrageous! I am actually sick of sleeping. But that doesn't keep me from looking forward to lunchtime when I plan to have a nap. I think I can make the car real cozy for this sort of thing. My house is only 10 minutes from my office, but I'm thinking that's 20 minutes that I could be sleeping.

Seriously? How hard is it to build a placenta? It's not like building the Pyramids. Is it?

If I seem incoherent, that's because I am. I also managed to watch the entire Season 3 of 30 Rock. Netflix instant streaming is my new best friend. But of course, while I'm watching all I can think is, how did Tina Fey do this while she was pregnant? Maybe I should ask her. Wonder if she's on Facebook.

19 October 2011

Writer, You Are Far Too Effective

I was just on Goodreads' Listopia, which is crack for a tech-savvy bookworm btw, and was playing on the list about books you've read at least twice. That got me thinking about another kind of book: The book that was absolutely amazing, searing, a true literary achievement...and which you will never read again, because it was just too damned traumatizing. Truthfully, you don't even want to think about it. Here's mine. Please tell me yours.

1984 - George Orwell
We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
Bastard Out of Carolina - Dorothy Allison
Carrie - Stephen King (this is when I made the decision not to read any Stephen King that is strictly horror. I can read The Eyes of the Dragon or Dolores Claiborne, but not The Shining.)

I am sure there are others, but it is possible they have been blocked out.

Literary Drive-By #00002: Mr. Woodhouse

Am I alone in finding Mr. Woodhouse, Emma's father, one of the most annoying characters in literature? Not amusing like Mrs. Bennet or Mrs. Dashwood, but just...I wish I could just scream, Shut up and eat your frickin' gruel! Well, I supposed I could scream that, but I don't think he would hear me, and if he did he'd probably just faint, which come to think about it, would shut him up. But it's a moo point.*

I'd rather hang out with Marianne and Elinor's sister-in-law than Mr. Woodhouse. But I don't suppose Miss Austen would care much for my opinion. It is the first time in my reading of Austen that I wished she'd cut some words. Feels sacrilegious, like criticizing Oprah.

*I prefer the usage of "moo" to "moot," from future classic sitcom Friends, in which dim bulb Joey says, "It's like a cow's opinion. It just doesn't matter. It's moo."

18 October 2011

Random Musings of the Enceinte #0001: On Being Cissexual

I am convinced that this child is a girl. I am so convinced that I am afraid that if it is, in fact, a boy, I am at this moment transgendering it with my belief. Not to be overly cissexual-normative, but being transgendered  seems really difficult, and dangerous....so sue me if I'd rather have a cissexual child. If you are transgendered and you are still reading this, I think you ought to give me points for knowing the word "cissexual." But I know you won't because that would be like me giving you points for knowing the word "African-American." No...that's not right. For knowing the word....damn it! I can't think of a sufficiently esoteric and politically-charged word to describe myself. I am soooo cissexual.


OMG! I have followers! Is a follower anything like a minion? I've always wanted minions. Hmmm. Maybe that's why I'm starting a family...I can minionize the children and they won't even realize what's happening. I've tried to minionize my husband and it has turned out quite poorly. He keeps grumbling something about autonomous beings. What a drag.

Literary Drive-By #00001: I'm Going to Die! One Day.

LDB No. 1: I had this dream of writing detailed, in-depth literary reviews for this blog. But that's just not me. I can do it every now and then, but not every day. So, now I have another dream: The Literary Drive-By. Since a single day can find me reading anywhere from one to, say, four or five books, and my brain operates more like a hopped-up gangsta than a patient, disciplined sniper assassin, the drive-by is a good model for sharing my literary life.

No further ado.

I'm going to die! This is what His Holiness the Dalai Lama told me yesterday in the audio book, Becoming Enlightened, and I swear it's the best news I've heard in some time (other than the whole enceinte thing of course). I was just as surprised as you that it had this effect on me. As I was kind of half-sleeping (very comfortably) in bed last night, I kept having the thought: I'm going to die! Me, yours truly, citygirl, is going to die one day! Let me tell you something: it was, and is, intensely joyful and liberating. Now before you chalk me up as some foggy depressive (sometimes true) with suicidal tendencies (not at all true), let me give you a little context. HHtDL says that our problems come from viewing this life as permanent and told me in no uncertain terms yesterday as I was driving that I, indeed, was going to exit this life at some point. No matter how much I ignored this fact it was not going to go away. It is inevitable. Therefore, he suggested that I face my own mortality. Now, of course, I was aware, before I heard this, of a rumor going around that human beings, every single one, is born, lives, and then...dies, vampire lore notwithstanding. And I gave this rumor a lot of credence. In my experience, several people that I have known personally have, in fact, died. But the much larger majority of my acquaintance is still living, so it is not a proven fact, just a likely theory. And, vaguely, I was aware that most intelligent people would agree that I, citygirl, would probably die some time in the future, and I guess I also subscribed to this theory, but truthfully, I'd avoided thinking too much about it. Don't we all? I mean, other people die and are going to die, but not us. Right? It's really kind of inconceivable. But yesterday, I learned, with certainty that I am going to die...one day.

The relief was, and is, intense. My whole perspective shifted, for the better. Now that I know that I am going to die, I am soooo excited about living! Like right now, I am at work, and I could be playing addictive, smart-making Asian logic games (you have got to try Hashi) or fondling my virtual books on their virtual bookshelves (LibraryThing and Goodreads) as a way of avoiding the paper debris on my desk, but no, I am WRITING! The thing I am usually miserable about not doing, and I am doing it. Why? Because I am going to die one day, so if I'm going to get any writing in, I had better do it while I'm alive. I mean, I don't know how Tupac does it, but I think posthumous creative activity is beyond my abilities.

So have a great day! And, if you want to feel good, try contemplating your mortality. Mazel tov.

15 October 2011

Reading List

Btw, the Reading List has gone bust. More on that later.

Enceinte: Things Change

Enceinte. Most probably you know the story about how the censors wouldn't let anyone on the cast of I Love Lucy say the word "pregnant" when Lucy Ricardo was carrying Little Ricky, so the French word enceinte was substituted.

Undoubtedly it is more appropriate for a somewhat prissy (but never prudish) citygirl to be enceinte than preggo, pg, knocked up (though I kind of like that one), with child (how Virgin Mary), in a delicate condition, in trouble, in a family way (ugh). And please, no effing buns in any effing ovens. If I want to bake, I'll bake! (I don't bake.)

So, the point is: the focus of this blog is going to change a bit, which is fine, because I was way too precious about it before, so precious that I hardly ever blogged. Not to worry. Gory details will be limited, not only because it is rude to blog about them, but also because I am squeamish and will be trying to avoid them myself.

27 May 2011

Reading List, Wherefore Art Thou Created?

Since my toddlerescence, when I spontaneously began reading (according to family lore; of course I don't remember), I have had at least one book on me at all times, in case of emergency, and a pile of them in the spots of my usual be-ness. For years I read pretty much willy-nilly, sauf class-assigned tomes. (More on that later or somewhere else.) Whatever caught my eye or my fancy. I reread a lot in childhood and pre-adolescence (I think it's  a trait of the age; you want to re-capture, or something.) Partial to Judy Blume and Paula Danziger and the ever-satisfying Harriet the Spy and the strangely fascinating Diary of a Young Girl by the posthumous Anne Frank. (Who doesn't try to fall asleep by pretending to be in hiding from the Nazis and therefore lying absolutely still so as not give away one's presence? It doesn't work.)

For years and years I read whatever I damned well felt like. Fortunately my tastes improved over the years. I don't mean that Blume et al. were not worthwhile, they were; I mean that before I knew better I read things like Judith Krantz and James Patterson, not exclusively--there was also Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison and Milan Kundera among many others. 

Then a funny thing happened during my first year in law school: one day I found that I just couldn't read crap writing anymore. Where once I might have turned to Danielle Steel in a fit of desperation, that was no longer an option. I didn't turn to a steady diet of lofty tomes, but even the escapist writing had to be done wellI suppose everyone has mixed feelings about her law school experience, but I can unequivocally say that at the very least it did my reading a favor.

And I was still reading what I damned well pleased. 

In 2007 my life changed forever. I discovered LibraryThing, a reader's dream. If you're a reader,  check it out. I won't go into the ecstasies to be had right now, but I will say that Tim Spalding (founder, developer) is a jeeeeeeeen-yuss of probably the first order, if there are orders of genii. In 2007 I started logging my reading; attempts in the past had been unsuccessful. And I learned of thousands of books that I just had to read. LT has a place to catalog your wish list and I was able to follow the reading of others with the same tastes and interests. There was whole world of authors about whom I knew nothing. No more aimlessly wandering bookstores, wondering if the $15 dollar investment will be worth it. My addiction to LT precipitated a three-year long book-buying spree. A particular delight was finding the best books at the lowest prices (thank you, Amazon, and library book sales everywhere).  And of course I bought the books way faster than I could read them, and newly-acquired books were often read before the older ones. 

Something had to give.

So, I compiled a list (which experiences changes from time to time, being a living list) of books that I had been dying to read or at least add to my literary mental database for a while now. The books are listed in the previous post.