Monday, December 17, 2012


Once again I disappear for ages and re-emerge with nothing much to say. Pathetic!

There is a massive project at work, which means I am working longer hours than usual (and working through my lunch break instead of reading), and coming home exhausted and sitting tuber-like in front of "Castle" episodes. There is the fact of my decision to re-read The Count of Monte Cristo, for which Dumas was paid by the word and the result is not quite as delightful as when Dickens was paid the same way. There are feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, with which I will not bore you, taking up a lot of my emotional energy. There are horrors happening in the world which I cannot get my head around. It's all a rich tapestry.

In breaks from slogging through Monte Cristo, I have also read a couple other books:

City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago, by Gary Krist. I've already forgotten most of what I learned from this book. It was ostensibly about twelve days in 1919 which tested the government of Chicago by featuring a blimp crash, the kidnapping and murder of a small girl, and race riots. However, it was actually about the mayor at the time, his rise to power, and the workings of his inner circle. The opening chapter, about the blimp crash, was pretty neat, but the narrative lost momentum immediately after that. The child-murder and the race riots were sandwiched in between long chapters about political machinations, which didn't interest me very much.

Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All, by Christina Thompson. This is a memoir about Thompson's falling in love with and marrying a Maori man when she was a grad student in New Zealand, and the challenges of building their life together; it's also a very informative study of the Maori culture and the history of its interaction with Western peoples. I really liked it, and Thompson's willingness to look honestly at her own prejudices were fascinating to me: she discovered that she had no prejudices about race but had plenty about class (she comes from wealthy, educated New England stock, and her husband has a high school education and is a laborer), and then has to look both at those biases and at how race and socio-economic status are entwined.

Thompson's attempt to equate the history of the Maoris to the history of the Native people of America doesn't quite work, for some reason; I think the analogy is valid but she hesitates to commit to it and to the conclusion that her ancestors were complicit in eradicating a native population. Other than that I found it a very good book. (The title comes from what a young Charles Darwin was told the Maoris were shouting at an English ship which approached their shore.)

I'm going to try to make some time in the next couple weeks to take stock of the year, which was an overwhelming one in ways both good and bad, and post about that. Hopefully my schedule will permit. Hard to believe it's already been a year since this.

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