Sunday, November 9, 2014

a rushed post on an autumn afternoon

I am turning into such a slacker around this blog. I find time to read but not to write about it, for the most part, and then I end up cramming all these books into one entry. Well, I could be doing worse things.

Read since last posting:

Human Croquet, by Kate Atkinson. Fabulous, because Atkinson is always fabulous. This has some weird metaphysical stuff, and the opening section worried me with its pretentiousness, but it gets past that and kicks ass. And the dog doesn't even die. 

The Book of My Lives, by Aleksander Hemon. Hemon is an amazing writer. But if you have children, don't read the last essay. Don't. Don't. DO NOT. And no, this isn't a "now I have to see what she's talking about!" situation, this is a "Hemon's nine-month-old daughter died of a brain tumor and he writes about it more viscerally than you can possibly imagine" situation. I read that one on my lunch break at work, even though any reader smarter than your average sheep knows that an essay which starts, "Our daughter was nine months old when we took her for a routine checkup" is going to go bad, fast, and then it was all I could do to a) not sob at my desk all afternoon or b) leave the office, pick Perdita up from daycare, take her to the hospital, and demand that they scan her brain THAT SECOND. As things stand, I will probably be measuring her head daily for about three weeks. Spare yourselves, people.

Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection, by A. J. Jacobs. What it sounds like: Jacobs gets a book deal to try every exercise and diet craze around for two years. He does end up healthier at the conclusion, and it's mildly amusing along the way, but I didn't love it. 

Borderlands, by Brian McGilloway. Very uninteresting police procedural. One of those mysteries whose solution you don't even recall a couple days after finishing it, because you had zero investment in it.

Quiet Dell, by Jayne Anne Phillips. A novel about a real-life murder in the 1930s. Very stylized - no one ever speaks a line of dialogue which an actual human would say, and people make declarations of eternal love after ten minutes' interaction - and I could really have done without the ghost, but it was quite beautiful and compelling. 

The Wordy Shipmates, by Sarah Vowell. Short and very funny history of the Pilgrims. Nick Hornby sold me on Vowell in Ten Years in the Tub, and I'll be checking out her other stuff. 

And now back to my Sunday afternoon, with posole in the slow cooker and hot cider rapidly cooling next to me while I keep one eye on the screen and the other on the child motoring all around the room (it's still a military crawl, with her stomach on the ground, but she gets where she wants to go). Soon Berowne will be home from his band rehearsal, and tomorrow is our first wedding anniversary. We will of course be very fancy and romantic, by which I mean we will maybe eat at the table instead of on the couch. Everyday life has always been our romance, home-bound and full of undignified laughter, the kind that begins over something like a fart and ends with helpless whooping. I couldn't ask anything better for an anniversary evening than leftover posole (always better the second day) and our little bear falling asleep on Berowne's chest. Lovers for the working-day. 

May you all find the love in the everyday and the routine, and the beauty in November afternoons. And may you laugh to the point of helpless whooping as often as possible.


  1. I read the Hemon essay when it was published in the New Yorker a few years ago, before I had children. And it still haunts me. His line about the organ whose sole purpose is to excrete grief is one of the most beautiful and terrible articulations of the horror of losing a child I've ever encountered.

    1. I actually read it in the New Yorker as well, but did such a good job of blacking it out mentally that it wasn't until the end of the essay I realized I'd encountered this horror before.