Wednesday, February 5, 2014

gotta read some more cheerful books

The books, lately:

Nemesis, by Lindsey Davis. A late entry in her series about ancient Rome, and feels both too grim and too truncated. But they've been tending that way for a while. 

Red, Green, or Murder, by Steven Havill. Havill writes cute little mysteries set in a fictional county in southern New Mexico. They often make me hungry, and this one was no exception - the suspicious death centers around a take-out burrito. (The title is a shout-out to New Mexico's official - as in, voted on by the legislature - state question: "Red or green?" This is what you are asked when ordering food in any proper New Mexican restaurant, referring to the kind of chile you want. If you want both, you order your food "Christmas", which was the most valuable piece of information I gave Berowne before our first trip out there.)

Never Mind, by Edward St. Aubyn. A while back the New Yorker did a piece on St. Aubyn's novels and said they were just the smartest, funniest thing imaginable, so I picked up a set for the Kindle. This was the first in the series the New Yorker was lauding and I really have no idea if I will read the others. I can handle dark humor, yes, but people being nasty to each other, child abuse, and drug addiction all played for grim laughs? Not my thing, regardless of how good a writer is wielding the reins. Yikes.

The Kindly Ones, by Jonathan Littel. Thank GOD this is over. It's an absolutely enormous novel about a Nazi bureaucrat, who Littel decided was not unpleasant enough simply by dint of being a Nazi bureaucrat and so must also be sexually obsessed with his twin sister. I totally respected a lot of what this book was doing, even if it felt like experiencing WWII in real time (I believe that was intentional), but I lost patience with the (very graphic) incest subplot and the far, far too many dream and fantasy and hallucination sequences. Our protagonist gets a head wound at one point and the next forty pages are a hallucination sequence about a dirigible. I skimmed that. I also skimmed the, literally, one hundred pages of him wandering through his sister's empty house masturbating. I'm not even kidding: one hundred pages of that. When you cross a line that Nabokov wouldn't have crossed, something is wrong. This book is, for the most part, a really impressive feat of writing, and (mostly) horrifying in all the right ways. But the flaws were very flawed.

Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years, by Tom Standage. Really fascinating and well-written, and I learned a ton. Did you know that telegraph operators formed, essentially, the first chat-rooms in their off hours? I had no idea! 

In life news:

Darcy's lab results were "inconclusive". He'll finish up this round of antibiotics and then get a larger sample taken for a proper biopsy. Other than favoring the paw, he's acting like his normal goofy self, and I'm trying to focus on that. 

A co-worker, who shares an office with me, came in deadly sick three days last week (our boss sent her home one of those days, but she could not be persuaded to stay home the other two). I ate as many oranges as I could, and took my iron pills, but around Friday I started to feel the tickle in my throat, and we are now back in the midst of another full-on Death Cold. I am pissed about this. There is so much for me to do before going on leave, and I have to hoard every second of my accrued time for said leave, but the non-immuno-suppressed twenty-something, who could have gotten over her cold with twenty-four hours of rest, wanted to impress her supervisor, so she came in and coughed germs all over the ancient pregnant lady for two and a half days.

I suppose that's something you only learn with age. Not "keep your germs away from immuno-suppressed people", although that's important too; but the idea of time management based on self-care where needed. When you're terribly sick, taking one day off to get better and then having the strength to play catch-up for the next two is a much better bargain, productivity-wise, than struggling through work for three days while physically miserable and mentally foggy. I should know, given that the rest of this week I'm going to be working at about 60% capacity. But any day I take off now is a day earlier that I have to put the babe in day care and return to work, come July, so I don't have the option of that bargain. My co-worker did, however, and I'm cranky about it.

We did, at least, get a snow day today, so Berowne and I are home and I can just take it easy and drink lots of tea and hope that tomorrow I feel better. I should probably be doing as much work from home today as I can, but pooey on that. 


  1. Was The Kindly Ones my fault? I can't remember, but I've heard it phrased that way before. I agree with your take on it. I bought a copy, first because I couldn't get through it within the library renewal limit, but additionally, I decided, so that I can lend it people with sections paper-clipped as optional. Neither I, the person who got me to read it, nor any of the people I have gotten to read it can come up with any convincing narrative reason for all the sister-parent stuff, and we've decided there are a number of reasons to leave it out. I'm planning to read it again (not in winter) with some skimming.

    1. You were the one who mentioned The Kindly Ones, but I am pretty sure that was in response to me reading a million books about Nazis, so I wouldn't consider it your fault. I was quite impressed with most of it, once I learned to start skimming as soon as the words "another dream about the Metro" appeared, but the masturbation section at the end was too long and too late; I was already exhausted. So it sort of lost me after that.