Wednesday, April 3, 2013

colonists, introverts, crimes, and games

Since last posting, I set aside The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro. This new thing I'm doing where I allow myself to just not finish a book is highly disconcerting. It can probably only last so long before a bad thing happens and I attribute it entirely to the wrathful Finish Your Books demigod*, whom I will never dare cross again, but in the meantime at least I don't have to spend more than forty-five minutes with an impossibly-perfect heroine and the Wikipedia entries on "Isabella Stewart Gardner" and "art forgery". Frankly, the true story of the Gardner art heist is miles more interesting.

Books I did finish:

Caleb's Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks. I wanted to like this more than I did. There was very little plot and a whole lot of description of life in seventeenth-century Massachusetts. The titular Native American gentleman is a minor character on whom all the Noble Savage stereotypes a 21st-century author can get away with are projected, and the narrator/heroine is so freaking spunky and feminist that I could tell by the tenth page she was going to bug the pants off me: "I will speak the Wampanoag language better than any white person ever! I will have more convincing arguments about religion than any trained minister! I will win over every man I encounter with my desire to learn Latin! I will participate in Wampanoag rituals and paint with the colors of the wind!" So instead of being about the actual journey between English and Wampanoag worlds that the actual person Caleb Cheeshahteamuck experienced, it's the story of a made-up English girl who is better at everything than everyone, and Caleb's only narrative purpose is to give her an entrĂ©e to the Wampanoag world so she can be awesome there too. Having read Brooks' other books, I know she can do better. 

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. Awesome. 

Tess Garritsen's The Surgeon, which is the first in her mystery series set in Boston. It was... not good, but not-good in a decent-waste-of-time way. The city is evoked nicely and it only wasted about an hour of my life. I'll probably skim a few more in the series to see if they improve.

Resolution, by Denise Mina, the last in her Garnethill trilogy, about a young Glaswegian woman taking matters into her own hands when she discovers women being abused. The plot set-up in this one was a bit forced - I just couldn't believe that our heroine would get as sucked into a stranger's life as she does, and there is so much going on from the previous two books that it becomes a little cluttered. Also things get really, really graphic: there's one chapter I barely made it through. But I like Mina's writing, and am going to check out her police procedurals.

So, on Easter weekend something came up. A recurring situation in which I get incredibly anxious and have to either suffer through a high-stress environment or risk being seen as anti-social / over-sensitive / no fun. I refer, of course, to someone suggesting a game.

We were visiting friends of Berowne's, in Vermont, and after brunch it was decided we would go outside and throw a Frisbee around, because it was Vermont. This is not the game to which I am referring: I am actually okay with the concept of throwing a Frisbee around, though it never goes anywhere near its intended destination once it leaves my hand, and I can tell that my face wears an expression of deranged concentration more suited for open-heart surgery when I am preparing to catch a thrown disk ("Don't fail me now, hands!"). But after that there was suggested a game of cribbage.

Certain members of my family are cutthroat when it comes to card and board games. So cutthroat that an eight-year-old roped into a card game for the first time will be shown no mercy. As that eight-year-old, I forgot one of the rules and didn't play the right card, and as far as one of the adults at the table was concerned you would have thought I killed her dog with a hammer while drunk. I can only assume she would have won had I played properly, and that her winning would have spared us all three Bush presidential terms, in which case her anger and scorn were completely justified and I apologize to everyone. My bad, Iraq.

So when cribbage arose, I had a massive stress reaction: it's basically like those nightmares in which you have to take an exam and have never attended the class. Oh god no. I don't know how to do this. Everyone else knows how to do this and I don't, and if I don't pick it up brilliantly within the first thirty seconds I will ruin the game for everyone and they will never again think my name without mentally tacking on, "who ruined the cribbage game that one time".  

In the event, I stammered my way through some sort of excuse for merely observing the game so I could learn the rules ("Iraq has enough problems; I should probably sit this one out just to be on the safe side"). Everyone was very nice about it and I gathered that the rules seem to involve the number fifteen a lot. It bought me some time. 

Amusingly, once I do know a game, my own competitiveness comes out. Berowne saw a whole new side of me during a friendly game of Apples to Apples early in our relationship. (I won, but considered the win tainted because on the final hand Berowne was the dealer and knew which card was mine, and I would not shut up about it. "You LET me win! Don't DO that!") I still am never sure whether I like games or not. 

I continue to chug through Nabokov's Adventures in Incest and Vocabulary, aka Ada, and have another Inspector Lynley to read. I'd say I also need to practice my cribbage, but let's not go nuts here. 

*My personal pantheon consists of sixty-five gods who enforce the commandment You Should Generally Feel Guilty About Most Things Most Of The Time.

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