Apologies for the absence! I have been busy staring at my sleeping dogs with helpless, overwhelming love. These things periodically happen.
So there is a church, past which I drive about once a week, and it has one of the information signs that all churches seem to have. And I have become convinced that the minister's wife is in charge of the sign, and that I am witnessing the demise of a marriage in sign form. The quote is always something about unfaithfulness or the weakness of man. Some examples from the past few months:
CONFIDENCE IN AN UNFAITHFUL MAN IS LIKE A BROKEN TOOTH AND A FOOT OUT OF JOINT
PRIDE GOETH BEFORE DESTRUCTION AND A HAUGHTY SPIRIT BEFORE A FALL
THORNS AND SNARES ARE IN THE WAY OF THE PERVERSE: HE THAT DOTH KEEP HIS SOUL SHALL BE FAR FROM THEM
And those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. They are all like that, and all somehow clearly intended for just one guy, rather than a congregation at large which needs chiding.
You might think that this makes me sad, or at least causes some cringing. Instead I find it delicious, and only wish that I had had a sign set up in the front yard over the past year:
COURTESY ITSELF MUST CONVERT TO DISDAIN, IF YOU COME IN HER PRESENCE
WOULD THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUR MIND WERE CLEAR AGAIN, THAT I MIGHT WATER AN ASS AT IT
I am sure this would have made him more eager to come home. Also it would have been very popular with the neighbors.
The last two weeks the church sign has had something incomprehensible but clearly Tea Party-related on it, which is no fun at all. A few nights ago I drove past it, thinking, "Has the marriage improved? Did he stop his messing around? Do these crazy kids have a chance?"
I turned the corner.
AS A DOG RETURNETH TO HIS VOMIT, SO A FOOL RETURNETH TO HIS FOLLY
"Oh, DUDE, you thought she wouldn't find out, but she DID!" I said out loud, and giggled helplessly for the next five minutes.
(It is entirely possible, given the clear politics of said church, that the man referred to in all these quotes is actually the President. I like my version of the situation better. Passive-aggressive Bible quotes: the best!)
On to the reading:
This weekend I finished Mary Anne, by Daphne du Maurier. It is not her best. The first third, which sets up our heroine (real-life personage Mary Anne Clarke, the mistress of the Duke of York and du Maurier's ancestor) and the life that led her to become a duke's mistress, was quite interesting and fun. Like a PG-rated Slammerkin, almost. But the rest of the book was full of very dry politicking and confused time frames and the assumption that the reader just knows that Lord X and the Attorney-General were one and the same person in 1803 and so that connection never needs to be made explicit. I spent a lot of time thinking, "Wait, how does sleeping with Lord X give her an advantage in her trial?" And there were about six trials, which didn't help. Ultimately a disappointment. I should read Frenchman's Creek again.
Then I read Dancing with the Virgins by Stephen Booth. It's a mystery set in the Peaks District of England. Not badly done, but I didn't find any of the characters fleshed out or sympathetic, and wasn't invested in the solving of the mystery. The connection the hero feels to the standing stones where the murder was committed just comes off as him being a daydreamer while on the job, rather than anything mystical.
Next up was In Plain Sight, by C. J. Box. I do love Box's mysteries and have no shame about that. The hero is a game warden in Wyoming, and the landscape is described so wonderfully and lovingly that I always finish one of his books wanting to go there. In this installment, the matriarch of a crazy family has disappeared and there are violent aspects to the rivalry among her sons. The big reveal at the end is seriously creepy and I should have figured it out beforehand, but I didn't. I enjoyed this thoroughly and spent the rest of my Sunday re-reading the other C.J. Box books I had on hand. A solidly written mystery series, with an appealing protagonist, set in a vibrantly drawn locale, is not to be sneezed at. Many try, but few actually succeed. Box's success puts him up there with Hillerman, Peter Robinson, Rankin, and Craig Johnson, in terms of authors in whose works I get happily lost.
Oh! I also finished The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History by Stephen Jay Gould. I did not read all of that in one sitting, by a long shot. Full disclosure: Gould and the New Yorker are bathroom reading. (I know, I am the Tea Party's nightmare: a childless single woman who admits to having bodily functions and reads elitist book reviews and evolutionary discussions. [Actually, their nightmare is a black man in power, or someone who knows what socialism actually means.]) I love Gould: he is very challenging for me, because my adventures in science and math ended after junior year of high school (except for the disaster which was Physics 1 in college), but always accessible. I mourn his death anew every time I read his work. I Have Landed is amazing, and made me cry.
Next up: Critique of Criminal Reason, by Michael Gregorio. Looks very Matthew Pearl-esque. Often those type of books disappoint, but sometimes (The Geographer's Library is what comes to mind) they pleasantly surprise me.