Sunday, December 14, 2014

a little post

So this week the family all had an astonishing stomach bug (Berowne suggested I title this post "Love in the Time of Cholera"). Berowne and I took our turns staying home from work rapidly becoming dehydrated, while Perdita's diapers overflowed like a slightly smaller but far more pungent Vesuvius. One morning she also projectile vomited. While sitting on Berowne's lap, facing him. He did have his mouth shut at the time but the poor man has a beard, which took the brunt of the explosion. Good times.

Read lately:

Bury Me Deep, by Megan Abbott. A Nick Hornby recommendation (well, the author; the book of hers he actually recommends in his column is, according to him, all about how universally lust-worthy teenage girls are, and having been a teenage girl once upon a time I have no patience with that middle-aged male fantasy). Anyway, this book is pretty amazing, with its dialogue that no one would ever really speak but that somehow works and its creepy depiction of people descending to scary places. 

A Death in Summer, by Benjamin Black. It would seem John Banville writes mysteries set in 1950's Dublin. It would also seem that I don't like them any more than I like his novels under his own name.

The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt, by Kara Cooney. My Early Reviewers book, and pretty good. I feel like I learned a good deal, and Cooney is quite interesting on the topic of Hatshepsut's iconography becoming male, as opposed to portraying herself as a female king, which is what she was doing at first. 

Re-read Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. Reading it as an adult was fascinating. As a preteen I remember thinking that while I myself would not have been perfectly happy with Max de Winter, this was probably due to some failing on my part. As an adult of course I can see that the man is an abusive douchebag, and thoroughly intended to be so (though du Maurier might not have used quite that word), and that we have only his account of Rebecca's "depravities" and death to go on. (The scene he relates in which she tells him how utterly perverse she really is and laughs about how she fooled him, after which she presumably flies back on her broom to her den of iniquity in London where Black Masses and women discussing politics take place, is so, so unlikely that only someone as inexperienced and desperate for love as our narrator could ever believe it.) It's a very different book now, and deeply disturbing, and still incredibly good. 

Without a Summer, by Mary Robinette Kowal. I was told to avoid the second book in this series, and did, but perversely thought the third might be okay. It wasn't. 

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Fascinating and comprehensive and, for me, as terrifying as any late-night Google-symptom foray. I need to just not read about cancer. 

The Five Red Herrings, by Dorothy L. Sayers. I thought that I would indulge in some winter comfort reading with old British mysteries. Unfortunately, this book was not only completely dull and confusing but contained a casual use of the n-word that had me reeling. And at first I thought, "Oh jeez, completely unnecessary, if I were an editor of the modern version of this book I would take that RIGHT the hell out," and then I started thinking that it's important that modern readers see just how acceptable the word's usage was. I mean, throughout the rest of the book, "bloody" and "bastard" are written as "b_____"; at the time you couldn't print those words, but you could print the n-word in its entirety and with no apology. And that's important, because from my perspective of white privilege it's too easy for me to think that racism is always violent and overtly hateful, that the only use of that word would be from shouting ignorant mobs, even back then. To be reminded that it was a matter-of-fact thing for an educated upper-class hero to say, "We've been working like n*gg*rs," is something I needed. Especially now, when I was recently asking Berowne, "Where are they FINDING the people for these grand juries??" What a privilege it is to not know where they found those people. 

I don't write about current events here, because that's not the purpose of this blog and because often (as now) I am too sputtering and helpless to articulate anything well. I will make editorial comments about abortion rights and such, sure, but generally I leave the news alone. And I am very self-conscious about how badly I'm expressing myself here. Also a bit defensive: it's not like I just wasn't thinking about the news until Dorothy Sayers reminded me, heaven knows. And it is perhaps the whitest most privileged thing ever to have one's white privilege checked by a passage in a British 1930's mystery novel. I guess I'm just saying that this book did check my privilege, and these are the thoughts I had about that. 

So today we end on a sad and frustrated note, because we live in a sad and frustrating world. But it's also an exquisitely beautiful world, which I will try to keep in mind.

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