Wednesday, January 9, 2013

life in list form

Have you noticed yet that I love lists? No? You will notice.

1. Finished Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919, by Stephen Puleo. The introduction set the tone for this book, and unfortunately that tone is that Puleo takes himself really, really seriously. Said introduction consisted of two sentiments: "no one has ever written as thoroughly and awesomely about this as I have", and "people think because it was molasses that this event was funny; IT WASN'T FUNNY." Now, I see Puleo's point on the latter: people died, after all, and fairly horribly. But there's a difference between "funny" and "absurd", and I believe what most people who know of the molasses flood think is that it was absurd. Events can be both absurd and tragic. And, let's be frank, nothing gets me giggling more than someone saying, "THAT'S NOT FUNNY."

Also, Puleo was wrong about his awesome writing prowess. This book was only okay, and his attempts to prove that it isn't funny to die in molasses (I grant you that it's not, but still) led to a level of melodrama in his descriptions of the trapped victims that actually detracted from my empathy. I refuse to believe that there wasn't at least one person who, even at the time, had a sense of the absurd about it: "I'm going to drown in molasses? Are you KIDDING me?"

2. I did not attend the Moby-Dick marathon this year. Paulina had pet illness on her plate and Berowne is listening to the Big Read and didn't want to get ahead of himself. Instead Berowne and I saw friends of his briefly on Saturday night and spent Sunday walking the dogs through the snow-covered woods. Could have been worse.

3. That Saturday morning I was trying to get an early start to head down to Berowne's place, and even though I got up at five o'clock it was just one of those days when everything takes so much longer than anticipated. I did a brief ritual (steam, smudging, etc) but only long enough to bring all the toxicity to the surface, not long enough to cleanse myself of any of it. So then every little hiccup in my path towards leaving the house filled me with disproportionate rage, and I actually found myself, when the little washing machine's hose detached from the sink and spewed water all over the kitchen floor, bursting quite seriously into "Vissi d'arte" (how, how I wish I was kidding).

4. Fortunately, my own hyperbole ended the rage cycle by making me laugh. "After all," I said cheerfully to the dogs as I hoisted the laundry basket, "when is it not like Tosca around here?"

5. I also read The Library at Night, by Alberto Manguel, and really can only say that everyone who loves books needs to immediately read this. It is so beautiful and wonderful that I could hardly bear it, and forced myself to read it slowly. It's part a history of libraries and books, part a meditation on books and reading, and part Manguel's love letter to his own library and the lifetime of reading behind it. I learned about the Biblioburro, the Columbian traveling library which brings books to rural patrons via donkey. I learned that at the end of WWII, as the Russians were entering Prague, the local librarian (who happened to be Vladimir Nabokov's sister) marched around the war-torn city knocking on German officers' doors and demanding they return their library books before fleeing the city. I learned tons of things just as delighting, and many devastating things as well - the chapter entitled "The Library as Survival" is mostly about Jewish books, and concentration camps, and is not easy to read. It's an amazing book, and I loved it.

6. Yes, I'm still talking to my dogs even though I have a boyfriend. They really do know that it's frequently like Tosca around here; although when I say that I mean it's like the performance someone I know saw in which the mattress catching the actress playing Tosca was a little too springy, and after falling to her death from the tower she visibly bounced back up into audience view. The dogs see me do the emotional equivalent of that all the time. "SCARPIA, WE MEET BEFORE GOD - you know, I'm just going to eat some cheese." Boing!

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