Monday, August 12, 2013

memoir, mysteries, and history both personal and national

Since we last checked in here, I have read:

Bossypants, by Tina Fey. It was okay. I chortled a few times, but wasn't overwhelmed with delight. It's mostly just Tina Fey talking about how she's unattractive, which doesn't exactly make normal humans feel good about themselves.

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War, by Tony Horwitz. This was just fantastic. I love Horwitz's writing: he manages to be so detailed in his research while maintaining a thrilling narrative momentum, as opposed to just info-dumping. There were a lot of character sketches of Brown's company members, and that got dangerously close to too many people being introduced all at once, but I kept track of them much more easily than I often do in such situations. I highly recommend this.

Report for Murder and Beneath the Bleeding, by Val McDermid. McDermid's Tony Hill / Carol Jordan mysteries, of which Beneath the Bleeding is one, are so grim and so graphically violent that I have never been able to re-read one (re-reading mysteries is one of my ultimate self-comforts). So when I found she had written another mystery series said to be far lighter, I picked up the first one (Report for Murder). Alas, it was too light, and bored me so emphatically that I had to go back to a Tony Hill. BtB wasn't as dark as its predecessors, though the character of Carol Jordan continues to irritate me no end. I was intrigued and invested, which is really all one can ask of a mystery.

Acceptable Loss, by Anne Perry. A late entry in her William Monk series, which is grimier than her Thomas Pitt books. It was all right; seemed very short, as if truncated, and there was never any doubt about the villain. A decent afternoon's distraction.


This past weekend Berowne and I loaded the dogs into my car and drove up to my family's old farmhouse in Vermont, where my brother and his girlfriend stay for many weeks every summer. The canines bore the long drive bravely (although the return trip, in heat and traffic, was not as fun), and we all had a wonderful time eating and strolling and chatting and dog-brushing and eating some more. Berowne found an old logbook in which my grandfather recorded the summers spent there, from 1951 when he purchased the house to sometime in the 90's (I didn't finish reading the whole thing). It was simply wonderful: my grandfather's wry intelligent voice coming through the brief entries as clearly as if he were speaking, and all these cute little notices about the family:

My parents driving all the way from Arizona in their glorious Triumph sports car (pre-kids, of course); their departure is recorded as "D & H leave, top down, by 8". 

The many adventures of my grandparents' sheltie, who was easily startled by chipmunks. 

The entries about my brothers' developing tennis skills, in which I am kindly either described as "a soccer player" (at five? I was?) or as "hanging in" when it came to tennis. In later years the entries say that Beatrice "plays a little [tennis], reads a lot". Indeed.  

The result of every Wimbledon game which my grandfather watched on the tiny television set in the attic. (You may be thinking that tennis is important to this side of my family. You would not be wrong.)

It was the most charming thing imaginable, and a charming weekend overall, though we couldn't stay two nights. Next summer we'll stay longer, we swore as we drove away (top up, alas). Back at work this week, though with another vacation coming next week, and the associated delight of picking out the vacation reading. Play a little tennis, read a lot. What more do you need?  

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