Wednesday, February 27, 2013

reading Wednesday

I have my period, T has the flu, and I am probably getting the flu, so this will be short. I wanted to write something about Janet Reitman's Inside Scientology, but that will have to wait. Ain't nothin' goin' on but the rent around here.

What are you reading now?
Rebel Angels, Libba Bray -- yeah yeah as always with the popular books I'm years behind everyone else. I started A Great and Terrible Beauty before I felt like shit but these books are perfect sickbed reading: light, fluffy, silly and not requiring that terribly much concentration. So far the middle book is unpromising, filled with if-you-didn't-read-the-first-book exposition dump, and you can see the Plot Gears grinding grudgingly into motion.....fifty pages in.  The GoodReads reviews (I know, I know) universally lament the third book as terrible, so I'm guessing this trilogy follows the Hunger Games plan: good first book, sequel squeezed out under contract, third book a piping hot mess. I am so tired of genre authors apparently submitting one good first novel and then having trilogy contracts pressed upon them. DON'T SIGN! DON'T SIGN! (In case you think I am exaggerating: "Do you remember when you broke the [spoiler] and freed your [spoiler]?" WHY NO, MY FAITHFUL YET MYSERIOUS COMPANION, THANK YOU FOR REMINDING ME. Gahhh.)

What did you just finish reading?
See above. I did comfort-reread some Pratchett, which is almost de rigeur when I'm getting sick (favourites: Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Going Postal, Night Watch). When I grow old, fuck wearing purple, I want to be Granny Weatherwax. I also reread "Peter and Rosa" from Winter's Tales a couple of times, because it's gorgeous. ("Peter and Rosa," "The Sailor-Boy's Tale," The Pearls" and "The Dreaming Child" are my favourites from that book.)

What do you expect to read next?
Probably The Sweet Far Thing, altho it does sound just terrible. 

-- Well, not a terribly thrilling update here, but I do want to keep in the habit of writing this every week, even if I'm sick.

Monday, February 25, 2013


That is one damn amazing trailer. I just bought the soundtrack and I'm going to stream the movie on Netflix later tonight.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

"a blue story"

Inset tale from "The Young Man with the Carnation," in Winter's Tales:

“There was once,” he began, “an immensely rich old Englishman who had been a courtier and a councillor to the Queen and who now, in his old age, cared for nothing but collecting ancient blue china.  To that end he travelled to Persia, Japan and China, and he was everywhere accompanied by his daughter, the Lady Helena.  It happened, as they sailed in the Chinese Sea, that the ship caught fire on a still night, and everybody went into the lifeboats and left her.  In the dark and the confusion the old peer was separated from his daughter.  Lady Helena got up on deck late, and found the ship quite deserted.  In the last moment a young English sailor carried her down into a lifeboat that had been forgotten.  To the two fugitives it seemed as if fire was following them from all sides, for the phosphorescence played in the dark sea, and, as they looked up, a falling star ran across the sky, as if it was going to drop into the boat.  They sailed for nine days, till they were picked up by a Dutch merchantman, and came home to England.

“The old lord had believed his daughter to be dead.  He now wept with joy, and at once took her off to a fashionable watering-place so that she might recover from the hardships she had gone though.  And as he thought it must be unpleasant to her that a young sailor, who made his bread in the merchant service, should tell the world that he had sailed for nine days alone with a peer’s daughter, he paid the boy a fine sum, and made him promise to go shipping in the other hemisphere and never come back. ‘For what,’ said the old nobleman, ‘would be the good of that?’

“When Lady Helena recovered, and they gave her the news of the Court and of her family, and in the end also told her how the young sailor had been sent away never to come back, they found that her mind had suffered from her trials, and that she cared for nothing in all the world.  She would not go back to her father’s castle in its park, nor go to Court, nor travel to any gay town of the continent.  The only thing which she now wanted to do was to go, like her father before her, to collect rare blue china.  So she began to sail, from one country to the other, and her father went with her.

“In her search she told the people, with whom she dealt, that she was looking for a particular blue colour, and would pay any price for it.  But although she bought many hundred blue jars and bowls, she would always after a time put them aside and say: ‘Alas, alas, it is not the right blue.’  Her father, when they had sailed for many years, suggested to her that perhaps the colour which she sought did not exist.  ’O God, Papa,’ said she, ‘how can you speak so wickedly?  Surely there must be some of it left from the time when all the world was blue.’

“Her two old aunts in England implored her to come back, still to make a great match.  But she answered them: ‘Nay, I have got to sail.  For you must know, dear aunts, that it is all nonsense when learned people tell you that the seas have got a bottom to them.  On the contrary, the water which is the noblest of the elements, does, of course, go all through the earth, so that our planet really floats in the ether, like a soap-bubble.  And there, on the other hemisphere, a ship sails, with which I have got to keep pace.  We two are like the reflection of one another, in the deep sea, and the ship of which I speak is always exactly beneath my own ship, upon the opposite side of the globe.  You have never seen a big fish swimming underneath a boat, following it like a dark-blue shade in the water.  But in that way this ship goes, like the shadow of my ship, and I draw it to and fro wherever I go, as the moon draws the tides, all through the bulk of the earth.  If I stopped sailing, what would those poor sailors who make their bread in the merchant service do?  But I shall tell you a secret,’ she said.  ’In the end my ship will go down, to the centre of the globe, and at the very same hour the other ship will sink as well—for people call it sinking, although I can assure you that there is no up and down in the sea—and there, in the midst of the world, we two shall meet.’

“Many years passed, the old lord died and Lady Helena became old and deaf, but she still sailed.  Then it happened, after the plunder of the summer palace of the Emperor of China, that a merchant brought her a very old blue jar.  The moment she set eyes on it she gave a terrible shriek.  ’There it is!’ she cried.  ’I have found it at last.  This is the true blue.  Oh, how light it makes one.  Oh, it is as fresh as a breeze, as deep as a deep secret, as full as I say not what.’  With trembling hands she held the jar to her bosom, and sat for six hours sunk in contemplation of it.  Then she said to her doctor and her lady-companion: ‘Now I can die.  And when I am dead you will cut out my heart and lay it in the blue jar.  For then everything will be as it was then.  All shall be blue round me, and in the midst of the blue world my heart will be innocent and free, and will beat gently, like a wake that sings, like the drops that fall from an oar blade.’  A little later she asked them: ‘Is it not a sweet thing to think that, if only you have patience, all that has ever been, will come back to you?’  Shortly afterwards the old lady died.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

the one. the only.

Tom Jones!

reading Wednesday!

Reading Wednesday, whoo! .....damn, fewer people I know appear to be still doing this. Oh well.

What are you reading now?
Lawrence Wright's book on Scientology, which is much less awesome than his book on Al-Quaeda -- it reads more like a bunch of fragmented pieces stitched together, and I get tired of reading about nothing but Tom Cruise and Paul Haggis (to the extent that there is a long loving description of the latter's Crash -- surely one of the most awful White Liberal Guilt movies ever filmed) (Haggis seems like EXACTLY the kind of guy who would never think about racism until his Porsche got carjacked on Wiltshire). Haggis is Wright's main informant, so of course he gets off very lightly, and if you've read Wright's New Yorker profile of him, that's the structure for the book. I'm not sorry I bought it, because I want to support critiques of Scientology (I remember wayy back when this was just about the only critical piece online) but it's just not very informative or enlightening. In a way it's a blessing some of the atrocities are so sketchily reported -- the breakup of families, forced abortions, spouses informing on each other, slave labour that would rival Communist prison camps -- because just realizing how terrible Scientology is for everyone but a few hundred people on top is upsetting. I wanted less dwelling on the psyche of the rich white privileged man who felt really bad about being in denial for nearly four decades, and more of the actual stories about people like Paulette Cooper and Lisa McPherson, or even just more from Haggis' own daughters.

What did you just finish reading?
The Horned Man, by James Lasdun, which was very well-written but sort of....airy? Fluffy? Hard to get hold of. It's very self-referential in a way -- the narrator mentions teaching the Bacchae to undergraduates and then, many chapters later, there's a very long (and unconvincing) sequence where he cross-dresses to try to get into a women's shelter (don't ask).  Other literary references -- to Kafka, mainly -- play out in the character's "real life" as well, but somehow the parts just don't organically come together into a meaningful whole. It's very well-written, though, and features perhaps the most unreliable narrator ever; intriguingly, he can be read either as a complete victim, or a self-deluded monster.

What do you expect to read next?
Scientology makes me feel rather ill, but I might read Janet Reitman's Inside Scientology, or the amazing Paulette Cooper's The Scandal of Scientology -- available in full, for free. It would just be nice to read something about "the church" that wasn't so intently focused on Hollywood starfucking. Am hoping those books will be better, or at least have fewer pages devoted to Tom Cruise's motorcycle's paint job.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Jonathan Swift was a difficult and unaccountable man: a parson without piety; a chaste adulterer; an Irish patriot who longed to be an English bishop, and lamented that he would die in Dublin like a poisoned rat in a hole; a grave man who rarely laughed but wrote outrageous satires; a misanthrope capable of great kindness to individuals; a social climber who habitually sabotaged himself with his mutinous tongue and pen; a fussy man obsessed with order, notorious for his disorderly relations with two women; an establishment man with the bomb-tossing instincts of an anarchist. If every joke is a tiny revolution, as Orwell said, then Swift is one of our most dangerous and unlikely revolutionaries.
- Shakespeare's Tremor and Orwell's Cough, John J. Ross

“Dying From the Top Down: The Dementia of Jonathan Swift”

Oh man, this chapter is one of the big reasons I BOUGHT this book (well, that and the Bronte chapter….and Joyce….and Yeats…..and….), but just the epigraphs to it are nearly making me cry. //clutches the Dean

Swift is a diseased writer. He remains permanently in a depressed mood which in most people is only intermittent, rather as though someone suffering from jaundice or the after-effects of influenza should have the energy to write books….Yet curiously enough he is one of the writers I admire with least reserve, and Gulliver’s Travels, in particular, is a book which it seems impossible for me to grow tired of.

- George Orwell, “Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels”

The least miserable among them, appear to be those who turn to dotage, and entirely lose their memories.

- Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels

Young….found Swift at some distance gazing intently at the top of a lofty elm, whose head had been blasted. Upon Young’s approach he pointed to it, saying, “I shall be like that tree; I shall die first at the top.”

- Thomas Sheridan, Life of Doctor Swift

Epigraphs from Shakespeare’s Tremor and Orwell’s Cough, John J. Ross (it really is quite well-written)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

reading Wednesday 2/13

Reading Wednesday! Holy shit, nearly forgot.

What are you reading now?
I haven't reread any of Isak Dinesen's story collections in years and years -- seriously, maybe a decade? -- although I often reread Out of Africa (hey, Carson McCullers reread it every year), so I decided on Winter's Tales. I had forgotten "The Sailor-Boy's Tale" is in it -- the first Dinesen story I ever read, as a teenager, in some gigantic Stories of the World anthology, and what made me track down her books originally. It is just as fantastic as ever.

The bewildered boy began to stammer his thanks to her. "Wait," said she, "I shall make you a cup of coffee, to bring back your wits, while I wash your jacket." She went and rattled an old copper kettle upon the fireplace. After a while she handed him a hot, strong, black drink in a cup without a handle to it. "You have drunk with Sunniva now," she said; "you have drunk down a little wisdom, so that in the future all your thoughts shall not fall like raindrops into the salt sea."

 What did you just finish reading?
Mad Girl's Love Song, which was terrible; American Isis, which was slightly better, but hampered like all the would-be Plath biographies by the writer's inability to quote from her work without permission from the Estate; The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which seemed less awful than a lot of my friends thought it was, but wasn't that great, either. (Someone wryly called it "The Harry Potter of science writing," which....yeah, pretty much.) Was immensely put off by the writer's website bragging how she began publicizing the book eight years before it was even published, which I guess paid off for her, but EIGHT YEARS? In all that time you could have written two or maybe even three much better books. But you wouldn't have the fame and money and Oprah deal, which is what matters in our culture. A much better, less personalized and less patronizing book on cross-cultural misunderstandings in medicine is The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down, which I recommend without reservation to everyone.

What do you expect to read next?
I want to read more fiction -- still -- maybe Seven Gothic Tales, or The Matisse Stories, or Vampires in the Lemon Grove. I did just get two nonfiction collections by Katha Pollitt for my Kindle, tho, so I might not be able to kick nonfiction just yet.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted, Andrew Wilson

Damn this book is disappointing. It has a wonderful premise -- after all, Sylvia Plath met Ted Hughes in a famous collision in early 1956, when she was twenty-three, and the couple separated in the summer of 1962, after which Plath wrote most of the poems which made her famous, in a single autumn. As the jacket flap copy of this book says, "Before she met Ted....her father had died when she was only eight; she had....been unofficially engaged, had tried to commit suicide, and had written more than two hundred poems," as well as winning dozens of scholarships and awards, many for important publications. Plath herself insisted that both her poetry and life were born anew with her marriage, and supposedly dismissed everything she had written prior to 1957 as "juvenilia" (her Collected Poems, which won the 1982 Pulitzer for poetry and was, inevitably, edited by Hughes, begins with that year as well). (This sweeping assessment is diluted slightly by a later announcement that everything she had written prior to "The Stones," in 1959, was juvenilia, and most modern critics go even further, dismissing everything written prior to October 1962 (a view Hughes pushed whenever he could, usually in introductions to collections of her work he edited), with a few exceptions such as "You're," "Morning Song," "Tulips," and so on. Plath gladly apprenticed herself to one master male poet after another: W.H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, Theodore Roethke, Ted Hughes, Yeats, Blake, Shakespeare, Pound (female poets such as Dickinson, Teasdale, Millay and even Anne Sexton were more subterranean influences). In the last explosive year of her life, Plath vehemently cast off all the men she had idolized, from her father to her husband to all those long-worshipped literary mentors, and deliberately reclaimed what she saw as an authentic, speaking, long-buried and female individual self, fluent and authentic. To understand and appreciate her breakthrough, which came only after her marriage broke up, it would seem helpful to examine her life -- and writing and publications -- before that marriage.

Unfortunately, if you have read the first turgid biography of Plath ever, by Edward Butscher, you have read this book, down to its utter pathologizing of Plath (one acquaintance claims that she had tried to cut her throat at ten -- as far as I can tell this is a complete misconception based on a line in "Lesbos": "She'll cut her throat at ten if she's mad at two" -- yet three biographies I've read have repeated it without questioning its source, yet another disappointed boyfriend ((there are many)) ). Plath's drawing on life for her writing is seen as vampiric, her considerable literary success at a young age is desperate perfectionism, she is boy-crazy and father-fixated, and only disappointed would-be and ex-boyfriends like Eddie Cohen and Gordon Lameyer (both of whom she rejected) really understood her. Even the debilitating sinusitis which she suffered from all her life (a condition she shared with her father, which suggests a genetic susceptibility possibly based on facial structure) is diagnosed by Cohen in the early fifties as "purely psychosomatic": "every cold which you have written me about has come on the heels of a breakup". Wilson unquestioningly picks this up, despite Cohen's complete lack of medical and psychiatric training whatsoever, and echoes "....the first occurrence of the illness came in the week after her father had died. It seems probable that her repeated attacks of sinusitis were physical expressions of separation anxiety." This is straight-up misogynist literary history: the actual illness suffered by the woman in her physical body is blamed on her inadequate psyche, which is fixated on men.

The rest of the book is pretty much just like that. I'm over two-thirds done with it, yet finishing it is a struggle, because of the terrible writing and even more terrible ideas. Illness as a subconsciously willed physical expression of separation anxiety from men! Really!

Friday, February 8, 2013


Often I question whether or not I "deserve" to be on disability, and then when I run out of antidepressants and can't afford to get any more over the weekend, I also can't get out of bed. (Let's not even talk about what happens when I run low on the mood stabilizers/anticonvulsants.)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

From the Elysian fields you will see me as queen of the profound Stygian realm

I am Nature, the universal Mother, mistress of all the elements, primordial child of time, sovereign of all things spiritual, queen of the dead, queen of the ocean, queen also of the immortals, the single manifestation of all gods and goddesses that are.

….Though I am worshipped in many aspects, known by countless names, and propitiated with all manner of different rites, yet the whole round earth venerates me….Some know me as Juno, some as Bellona of the Battles; others as Hecate….the Egyptians who excel in ancient learning and worship me call me by my true name….Queen Isis.
- Apuleius, The Golden Ass, tr. Robert Graves, used as the epigraph to American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

the Grauniad's contemporary review of The Bell Jar

reading Wednesday 2/06

Reading Wednesday! Aww yeah.

What are you reading now?
Just started The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which.....isn't great, but is at least about one topic and the life of one person, which makes it a lot easier to read compared to....

What did you just finish reading?
.... Andrew Solomon's Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, which, OY, can be best described as a Piping Hot Mess. Remember how I said there's one book every season that everyone else loves which I am baffled by? Yeah, I was wrong, it's this one. Everyone else I know (especially people of the parental persuasion) is writing sniffly teary-eyed reviews about how this book is about Hope and Acceptance and Love, and I'm stuck going "....but this is bad. Well, I guess its.....heart....may be in the right place?" (DOUBTFUL) " -- but it's so bad." This is what gains me the reputation of Heartless Bitch. But, seriously: while usually I complain that most modern nonfiction books are clearly expanded magazine pieces, this book's topic bites off not only more than Solomon himself can chew, but more than that guy who's won the Nathan's Famous Forth of July hotdog-eating contest for the past six years running could chew, in all six years. Solomon's approach works okay with more limited topics such as "Deaf," "Dwarf," and "Down Syndrome," especially since he's written, well, magazine pieces about them before, but -- to take just one example -- with "Rape" he veers wildly from women raped by strangers to sexual abuse in families to (oh no, he's not going to go there....oh yes he is) rape as part of genocide and extreme torture in Rwanda.

And this points up a huge problem with his entire project: there are experiences that just aren't comparable. He makes all sorts of interesting points about disability identity and whether conditions like dwarfism or deafness should be viewed as disabilities (and what happens to people with those conditions if they aren't), and his personal hook into the topic is that his own parents thought his homosexuality meant he would be cut off from having children, or any family at all, and homosexuality itself was not removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the famed DSM) until 1973 (that always amazes me. I was three years old then). But the sudden introduction of the horrific rapes in Rwanda -- which topic could fill a book, or several books, just in itself, and which also is taken as a kind of shorthand to stand for similar horrors from the Sabine women to "the former Yugoslavia" -- reveals the shakiness of the entire scaffolding. To a lesser extent, his interview with Dylan Klebold's parents at the end of his "Crime" chapter does the same thing. There's something grotesque about summarizing such huge, terrible, almost cripplingly tragic topics into soundbites to support a thesis, and this problem underlines another, greater flaw with the book.

Essentially Solomon's book is about what happens when you're a hit-and-run victim of the Wheel of Fortune. Some people collapse under the terrible crushing weight of tragedy. Some people are deformed by it to such an extent that they lash out themselves, and help ruin someone else's life. Some people can find the inner strength and grace -- usually enabled by things like familial support, social status, and money -- to not only integrate the tragedy into their own lives but somehow transcend it, and while Door Number Three is the one we all, including Solomon, like to focus on and what Oprah specials are made of, there is a particularly modern American viewpoint I've talked about before which views this kind of extreme spiritual grace as an expected duty. One reason Americans ate up that terrible novel The Lovely Bones a while back was the philosophy contained in its title -- that in the absence of someone dearly loved who was taken away by extreme horror, love itself can create something almost beautiful. This can be true, but the limitations of this viewpoint are shown most clearly in his treatment of Susan Klebold, whom he compares to Cordelia, which....makes no sense. (Again, we're back to the Heartless Bitch thing: "Hers was a love as dark and true, as embracing and self-abnegating, as Cordelia's." This makes no sense. Dark love? And why is it admirable for a mother's love to be self-abnegating? And isn't parental love so blind that said parent entirely misses out on any danger signals that can lead to violence not a good thing?)

"Privilege" is a very loaded word nowadays, but I was struck, over and over again, reading this book, by how many parents Solomon spoke to were very affluent -- they could afford to have one parent (usually the mother) stop working in order to become a full-time caretaker, or retrofit an entire house for the benefit of a disabled child, or even better, build an entirely new one. Solomon does interview some poor families, but the way he treats them veers between a kind of weird exoticising and extremely patronizing -- this is shown to greatest effect when he goes to Rwanda and makes judgements based on the personal appearances of rape survivors: one is "mousy" and beaten-down while another, described much more approvingly, is stereotypically tall and elegant and spotlessly groomed despite extreme poverty. Solomon never appears to think how these women might feel about talking to a man about their brutal experiences, much less a well-off inquiring white male visitor -- in short, a tourist. The book is filled with such unfortunate sentences as "To understand how children of wartime rape differ from children conceived in less systematic rapes, I traveled to Rwanda" (there are equally unfortunate and self-revealing moments in the "Crime" chapter, including one truly stereotypical moment where the Repressed White Man visits a Swingin' Black Church).

This kind of misery tourism inevitably brings to mind the spectre of celebrities visiting "war-torn areas" and dutifully reporting back that for the extent of their visit, their bubble of privilege and good fortune was heartbreakingly pierced, as was ours, sitting at home and listening to them in the five minutes before the commercials for luxury goods air. It is the equivalent of a television reporter flying in to a place they would never visit otherwise to do a "stand-up" in order to give the illusion of authenticity. It is the opposite of such true immersive journalism like Wiseman's documentaries or the amazing Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, where the focus is not on how the reporter feels but the people themselves, in all the glory and misery of their daily lives.

This privilege is most unfortunately -- and probably unconsciously -- flaunted in the triumphant end to Solomon's book -- in the end, through the rather labyrinthine modern methods that lead to such phenomena as "twiblings," he and his husband have their own baby boy who is part of an extended, happy family, and one cannot help but be happy for him, especially after his poignant descriptions of lifelong yearning for children of his own. But there is a terrible moment just after his son's birth when a concerned doctor orders a CAT scan and it seems Solomon himself will have to face the "difficult love" a parent can have for a challenged child, which he has been praising for the past seven hundred pages -- that in Woolf's inimitable phrase, "tragedy had once more put down his paw, after letting us run a few paces." But, as in the occasion Woolf was describing, the wheel of tragedy swerved away; Solomon's son was perfectly healthy. Again, one cannot help but be happy for him, especially given the wrenching details so many families supply in his book, and yet at the same time the author celebrating his own good fortune after chronicling the disasters so many others have endured cannot seem anything other than exquisitely tasteless.

WELL THEN. I also read Learning to Drive by Katha Pollitt and In Praise of Messy Lives by Katie Roiphe (yes, that Katie Roiphe), both collections of well-written essays with intriguing insights by totally different women into the same self-mythologized kingdom of New York. I finished the "Rivers of London" series by Ben Aaronovitch, which is up to three books so far: Rivers of London (badly titled Midnight Riot in the US), Moon over Soho, and Whispers Under Ground. The first book is fantastic, tightly plotted and almost wholly lacking in the awkward "infodumping" of so many genre novels; the second and third installments are less impressive, but still very enjoyable, especially in their treatment of multicultural London and female characters. The first-person narration by a mixed-race constable who also finds himself apprenticed to magic is vivid, witty, sharp, and utterly real. I'd recommend this series highly, except I do hope some dangling series plot threads get wrapped up, or at least embroidered a bit, in the next few novels. The next one, Broken Homes, is scheduled to come out June of this year, I think.

What do you expect to read next?
After Henrietta, I'm still hoping to get to Seven Gothic Tales. Or possibly the shorter fantastic fiction of A.S. Byatt; I have the series of those small black-covered hardbacks and they look sort of like delightful candies for the mind, or something.


Skeptical acquaintances -- or even friends -- have often expressed disbelief at how much and how fast I read, implying that I lie about it or something (I mean.....why? Why would you lie about being a book nerd? It would be like lying about your USCF rating, like, the opposite of cool) or, worse, that I don't retain anything from reading so quickly. First, that "reading is my superpower" tag is not a joke: it's one of the few things I am good at. Very, very good at. You know that theory that talent doesn't count (haha; Solomon actually writes about this), it's more the ten thousand hours of practice? I have logged a lot more than ten thousand hours of reading books. I can't tell you how many impromptu pop quizzes I have had to endure from friends or even family members -- "You did not read that whole book in one day!" "Yes, I did." "What did you think when so-and-so DIED, then?" "He didn't die, and you're being rude." It takes me longer to read some books than others -- about two days each for The Looming Tower and Far from the Tree, I think. Also, because of agoraphobia, I rarely leave my apartment. I can't work. But this is the main thing:

I don't have a television set.

Sure, I have DVDs of movies and TV shows, I waste way too much time on the internet, and I don't read half as many challenging books as I'd like. (Let's not even talk about my awesome ability to procrastinate.) This means I am tragically out of step with most modern pop culture, but, well, that's been the case since I was about eight, so it's a little too late for me to try catching up now.

Reading: it's what I do.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

master list of books read in 2013

I am ALL ABOUT THE LISTS, baby. I make lists of lists.


covers from the Rivers of London series

books read in February 2013

Fiction is in red.

17. Elegy for a Soprano, Kay Nolte Smith
18. Rivers of London, Ben Aaronovitch (I am enjoying these A LOT. I am also picturing Peter as a young Colin Salmon)
19. Moon over Soho, Ben Aaronovitch
20. Whispers Under Ground, Ben Aaronovitch
21. Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon
22. In Praise of Messy Lives: Essays, Katie Roiphe
23. Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories, Katha Pollitt
24.  American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath, Carl Rollyson
25. Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted, Andrew Wilson
26. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
27. Notes on a Scandal, Zoe Heller
28. To Die For, Joyce Maynard
29.  Finding Henrietta Lacks, Michael Rogers (another Kindle Single thing. Kingle? How do I count these? I have no idea. I don't care about how long they are, I just want to keep track of when I read them)
30. Shakespeare's Tremor and Orwell's Cough, John J. Ross
31. Winter's Tales, Isak Dinesen
32. A Card from Angela Carter, Susannah Clapp (beautifully written, only there should have been plates, not smudgy b&w reproductions -- and not of the banal postcards, but of Carter's writing on the "back." Still, lovely)
33. The Horned Man, James Lasdun
34. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, Lawrence Wright
35. Inside Scientology, Janet Reitman
36. A Great and Terrible Beauty, Libba Bray
37. Rebel Angels, Libba Bray
38. The Sweet Far Thing, Libba Bray 

2013 booklist