Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Hey! It's me! I'm back from an incredibly busy stretch of the summer. Since we last chatted, I have:
- taken Sawyer aquarium
- had two book clubs
- chauffeured Sawyer to and from art camp for a week
- drove to the Bay Area to pick up my sister and while there spent the day in San Francisco 
- spent a day in La Jolla with Sawyer and my sister
- had a park reading date with the above two
- did eight miles of hiking with friends in Big Bear (our Half Dome trip was canceled because of a fire, but we rallied and made the best out of it!)
- met family for the day in San Louis Obispo, which is four hours a day

I started back at work yesterday and was quickly reminded as to how much planning goes into being a working mom, if things need to run smoothly. Luckily this happens every single year and I rapidly acclimate to the rush of work days (Sawyer hasn't even started school again yet, nor do I have any grading! That's when the true craziness begins.

My husband and I got to go out to a non-child-friendly restaurant in a different city last night, since my sister is in town. And in a few weeks we get to go out again, since we finally found a babysitter. A miracle!

I am about 100 pages into Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin and I love it so much. Don't be put off by the synopsis- it's really great and not about videogames.

I read seven books last month- all of them were really solid except Cult Classic. I definitely prefer Sloane Crosley's essays. 

I'm kind of at a standstill in terms of how I want to handle reviews here and on Instagram. I've tried doing quick little bullet points and monthly round ups, but nothing really sticks. Honestly, I think I'm probably just going to do whatever I feel like! Definitely a round-up picture/post, but maybe just mention the ones I really like or have time for. 

We finally caught up with Yellowstone and this is totally the fastest I have watched anything since Sawyer was born- I love the show so much I'll probably start re-watching episodes on the treadmill. All I know is that I wish there was a little more Beth in me, because there are have needed some of her sass. 

So, how did I do on the list of things I needed to finish up before ending the summer? 

- finish six books (YUP)
- finish current embroidery project (NOPE)
- embroider a necklace (I have these little sort of metal settings that are clearly hard to describe) (YES, but redoing) 
- have a fun weekend in the bay area/SF when driving up to get my sister (YUP)
- have loose ideas for the first week and a half with students (YUP)
- do some boring yard work (YUP)
- Half Dome ready (I need to go to REI, stay active, etc...) (YUP, but didn't actually go)

Bookish Banter: Middlesex

Hey! It's me! I'm alive! Until my next update, here's a conversation between Julz and I about a reread for both of us- Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex. It's hard for me to reread things, since there are just sooooo many books to read as is, but I always walk away with a new, deeper understanding and appreciation that I should do it more often.

Christine: Obviously fate versus free will is a huge thematic component in the text, which is a nice tie back to the classical references and ancestry. Then there’s also the idea of nature versus nurture, which is an interesting extension of that concept. How much control did the characters have of their lives? Their futures?

Julz:  I think free will was more prevalent than fate.  Sure, there were things that were beyond the characters’ control, like civil unrest and the goings on of the wider world, but every decision they made shaped the lives of their family.  Like, um, marrying your brother! 

I could totally relate to Callie here:  “Gradually as most of the other girls in my grade began to undergo their own transformations, I began to worry less about possible accidents and more about being left behind, left out.”  That was so me until my junior year of high school.

Christine: Father Mike and Jimmy Zizmo both marry into the family and end up showing their corruption (although Zizmo is much more overt and immediate). Both are religious figures and are outsiders- what do you think Eugenides is saying about those not blood related to the family? Or even religion (I know Zizmo’s organization wasn’t exactly traditional)?

Julz: I think the way Eugenides addressed religion made it sound more like superstition and it felt like he was rolling his eyes at the concept of organized religion. Maybe that’s why he portrayed Mike and Jimmy as corrupt, as they were a reflection of those institutions.  Hmmm?

Christine: Agreed! Speaking of secondary male characters, what do you think of Dr. Luce? Part of me hated him for treating Cal as a mere specimen, but if I try to look at things objectively, he’s a scientist and this is a really, really different time period when it comes to sexuality and patient transparency. 

Julz: Well, that can circle back to the nature versus nurture concept.  Luce was convinced that despite her maleness, Cal could continue as female because that’s how she was nurtured.  I didn’t really feel strongly either way with how Luce handled Cal.  I think he expressed enough compassion toward her, and yet, there was a bit of detachment when studying her.  Hey, it was the 70’s they were all probably smoking cigarettes in his office.

Christine: I loved this book, despite forgetting a lot of it (I did read a really long time ago, in my defense), but I had one criticism, and that was of some of the symbolism being a bit too obvious, namely the spoon and the house address. Any nitpicky problems? 

Julz: I didn’t think Eugenides was hitting me over the head with symbolism any more than say, John Irving.  I read it probably 15 years ago, and it was pretty much like reading it for the first time again.  This book definitely cemented my love for multigenerational family epics (unabashed plug for Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill). 

My one irritation was that we didn’t get the punchline to Cal referring to her brother as Chapter Eleven until the very end.

And funny enough, the first time I read this book, I highlighted the following (about the house on Middlesex Boulevard): “…communism, better in theory than reality.”  I’m guessing I did that because it’s so similar to a quote from the Simpsons.

Christine: I will have to check that one out. I always say that I don’t like them and then end up eating my words, hah!

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I have never had such an immediate nostalgia for a vacation before, this one for the Tetons starts basically immediately upon returning home (Yellowstone was cool, but those Tetons... man). In order to curb this I made a list of some places to go to shake things up a bit this fall, to get me out of suburbia. One plan that I'm most looking forward to is at one point taking a half day on a Friday, driving up to Visalia, and then going to the Sequoia National Forest to hike on Saturday and then returning the following day. I've also never been to Joshua Tree (honestly, I don't have a huge calling toward desert landscape, but I have National Park pass now, so I might as well use it) nor have I taken the aerial tram from Palm Springs up to San Jacinto Mountain to hike. Sigh. I'm trying.

In an attempt to escape through the written word, all three of the books I am reading right now are nature-based (and so good!)- Fuzz by Mary Roach, The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, and 100 Hikes of a Lifetime by Kate Siber. I need to finish something so that I can start rereading Middlesex for a buddy read with Julie (and then start Young Mungo for book club next week!). 

Last week we laid low after Sawyer got a twenty-four(ish) stomach bug that through him for a major loop. We tested him a few times for Covid, but luckily it was just a quick virus (that no one else got!).

Yesterday the three of us went to Legoland, which was lots of fun. We got there when it opened, did all the rides before the crowds started, and let Sawyer obsess about the model cities. 

We are supposed to hike Half Dome in two and a half weeks, but there's a pretty bad fire at the south entrance, where we enter from, right now. I'm also concerned about air quality and the heat... 

I finished the LEGO typewriter set the other day! It was a bit tedious and maybe not as fun as the other sets I've done, but it wasn't too hard. It moves like a normal typewriter but doesn't actually type. 

There are three weeks left of summer vacation- here are my biggest to-dos:
- finish six books
- finish current embroidery project
- embroider a necklace (I have these little sort of metal settings that are clearly hard to describe)
- have a fun weekend in the bay area/SF when driving up to get my sister
- have loose ideas for the first week and a half with students 
- do some boring yard work
- Half Dome ready (I need to go to REI, stay active, etc...)

A Few Things About... Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris

This collection of essays from Sedaris is in line with his others, covering topics ranging from family, his partner, culture, his book tours, and current events (including BLM protests and the pandemic). This isn't a bad thing- it's what he does, combined with his candor, wit, and quirky observations.

Sedaris said he answers snail mail fan letters, so I am going to write him one and ask him to by Fitbit friends with me, since we are both hardcore step fiends. I told Scott and the look he gave me was PURE judgement, hahahaha. I told my two friends who are also reading this and they totally egged me on. True friends, true friends. 

Sedaris always writes about his family, but he spends quite a bit of time discussing the death of his father, whom he had a rough relationship with. I appreciate that he doesn't romanticize his feelings after he loses him- so often once someone dies they become a hero, despite sometimes hurtful flaws. 

No matter how I feel, pandemic writing is here to stay. Sedaris' doesn't make me feel pessimistic or anxious, but thankful we've come so far. 

A Few Things About... No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

If you want to feel guilty about how much time you spend on your phone or other device then THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU. The unnamed main character spends most of the book completely and totally absorbed in "the portal" which is basically just her online presence. Eventually a family crisis brings her out of it a bit, but the fact that she was just so entrenched is a lesson for us all. 

Lockwood's satirical, over-the-top writing may not be for everyone, but despite laying it on a bit thick at time it certainly is effective. So much of social media and "softer" news sites is so trivial and mundane, and we know it. Lockwood also provides continuous commentary on the ever-changing internet vernacular, forcing her audience to question the origins of phrases and words that pop into circulation. 

While Lockwood's efforts are admirable, I do think that at times she overuses shock value, whether it's in passing online comments the narrator is reading or her sister's baby terminal disease. I think this can be a really useful technique, but just a touch overused here. 

When David Sedaris promoted it at his reading (and Lockwood came out and read from it!) he mentioned how it was perfect for millennials with short attention spans, since the format is comprised of super short paragraphs.