Tuesday, September 3, 2013

floods, mysteries, Australia, and weddings

In books:

American Rust, by Philipp Meyer. I don't often read books in the genre of broken steel towns and frustrated masculinity, and this pretty much fulfilled my quota for the next several years. Lots of violence and despair and the women are not especially realistic and no one has gone anywhere in the end.

We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals, by Gillian Gill. This was okay but when the library loan expired before I was done, I didn't check it out again. Fairly dry.

Fever of the Bone, by Val McDermid. A fairly solid entry in her Tony Hill / Carol Jordan series, although the case does hinge on some unfortunate beliefs about how the ladies go crazy when they want babies.

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, by Sheri Fink. This was just brutal. Fink describes the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans' Memorial Medical Center, where at least twenty patients were euthanized because it was believed they could not survive either the conditions in the hospital or an evacuation. The main culprit was clearly the lack of planning and communication at Memorial: the generators were below flood level, which administration had known for years, so the electricity went out fast; and the main building was connected by a skybridge to a building with electricity the entire five days, but the staff who knew this never mentioned it to any patient caregivers. The evacuation was also a total disaster. The first half of the book is about those five days and the second half about the investigation and legal results (no one was indicted). Both sections were very, very hard to read, but Fink is an excellent reporter and I couldn't put it down. I had been prepared for the human loss because I remember this from the news, but I was blindsided by something else: on the first few pages I learned that it had long been tradition in New Orleans for hospital staff to bring their families and pets to the hospital when a hurricane threatened, since it was usually the safest place to be. I had a very bad feeling about this, and it was justified. The rescue boats refused to take animals, and there are no final numbers on how many pets were euthanized or abandoned.

The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding, by Robert Hughes. Enormous and dense and really, really good.

Snow Angels, by James Thompson. This started out pretty well; our hero is a detective inspector in Finland, and his new wife is American, which means the explanations about Finnish culture and society are actually handled deftly. And I was interested in the mystery's resolution. However, that resolution is clumsy and unconvincing, and along the way we've had a lot of misogyny, from sex outside of heterosexual monogamy being condemned by every character we're supposed to like, to the eye-roll-inducer wherein the "good" female character is effortlessly thin and the "bad" female character has to work at it. Thompson also clearly doesn't know how weight actually works, since he falls into the lazy shorthand of "the perfect woman weighs 120 pounds no matter how tall I make her, because tradition!" (If you don't know this tradition you don't read enough crap. The "she was a perfect size 6" has been replaced, across the board, by "she weighed a perfect 120 pounds".) This shorthand is also stupid because it's always narrated from a man's perspective, meaning we're to believe that straight men a) know how much their wives / girlfriends weigh (not unless he is controlling and creepy) and b) know what size their wives / girlfriends wear (we don't know; I wear anything from a 2 to a 10 depending on the brand and/or style). There are other examples of misogyny I could give; suffice it to say this book started well and then made me feel really icky.

In life:

Ah, the planning of the second wedding. In theory it shouldn't involve any planning beyond: "show up at our house on this day and we'll get married", but because there is family coming from out of town it's going to be slightly more complicated. I still anticipate that the primary time commitment will be getting bow ties on the dogs and then trying to get pictures before they chew them off, but it is possible that the weather will be bad and twenty people and two dogs will be stuck in an 870-square-foot house with one bathroom all day. If so, then so.

Even just having family there almost immediately ballooned beyond what I was picturing, but I'm touched that so many want to come so far for ten minutes of goofy vows and me in a dress from Target. As long as they're happy with it being that informal, I am happy to have them there. I've had the big formal chapel wedding, and it was beautiful and full of wonderful people but I don't want to do that again. By my third wedding, presumably, I'll have learned to not even tell anyone that we're eloping until it's a done deal. (There will not be a third wedding because if this marriage doesn't last what I will have learned is not to get married again.)

In so many aspects of life, not just my various nuptials, I am learning what makes me happy as I go. Apparently this is what happens when you get older! Who knew? I confess to being mildly tempted by the local event hall's autumn wedding package, with its promises of hot cider and a "doughnut station", but I am aware that sending someone on a Dunkin' Donuts run will achieve much the same end, and more comfortably.

In sadder news, my parents' lovely dog with the bone cancer was put to sleep on Friday. He is no longer in pain, which is the important thing. Between that and the tales of pet death in Fink's book, I spent the long holiday weekend adoring and spoiling my dogs even more than usual. They deserve it, the dear silly destructive beasts.

1 comment:

  1. I really wish I could so be there, to meet you and your B (and your lovely dogges). Raise a toast of sparkling apple cider from me to your future marital happiness!