Sunday, August 30, 2015

the (bi)annual panicfest, etc

So, had an MRI. It found something that merited further investigation. A targeted ultrasound found two cysts: one that was definitely benign, and one that contains "debris", which could be harmless calcifications or could be Total Death Cancer (may not have been the doctor's actual words). So they want to do another MRI in three months.
Not. Reassuring.
Adding to the lack-of-fun was the fact that because the ultrasound was performed in the mammography suite, Berowne was forbidden entry, and so I was alone back there, and without the crucial second person asking questions and able to, later, confirm what was said. This is absolutely vital at these types of appointments, and I was really pissed off that they wouldn't let my support person come into the room just because he was male. Especially considering that if the ultrasound had been done down the hall, in Imaging, he would have been expected to accompany me. Grrr.
I am also being transferred between oncologists at the moment, so scheduling even the follow-up appointment is needlessly complicated. Bitch bitch bitch, I know. But this periodic panic has been a thing for four years now, and it gets exhausting.
I have been reading, rather desperately and without patience, as tends to be the case in times of needing-distraction. And in times of "eh, I figure the toddler can roam the downstairs area unattended now", which means keeping a sharp ear peeled. Especially for silence. (She can now reach things near the edge of the kitchen counters. Oh boy.) And in times of feeling the clammy hand of mortality, not just because of the screenings but because this month marks TWENTY YEARS since I arrived at college as a freshman. TWENTY YEARS. Plain and awkward and sure that I was going to be finally appreciated and loved for my brains, instead of having to be "popular" or "outgoing" or "a nice person", only to find that compared to everyone else in that freshman class I had the brains of a mildly advanced sheep. But that is a story for another day. Suffice it to say: I feel old.
The books:

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, by Alan Bradley. The Flavia De Luce series is getting kind of weird, but I suppose any premise for keeping an eleven-year-old girl constantly involved in murder investigations would become strained sooner rather than later. In this one Flavia goes to Canada, in an attempt to prevent the per capita murder rate in her tiny English village from surpassing that of Compton, but by the end she is sent home again, and I don't know what Bradley's going to do from here. I'll keep reading them, though, most likely.
The Wench is Dead, by Colin Dexter. An Inspector Morse mystery: the first I've read. Since this one is about said Inspector being bedridden and trying to figure out a centuries-old crime, I don't know if it was at all typical of the series. And the resolution mostly depended on women being naturally vicious and conniving, which didn't sit well. It mostly made me want to re-read The Daughter of Time.
Murder 101, by Faye Kellerman. Unfortunately, this series has crossed a line from "mindless indulgence" to "so badly done it makes me cranky". The supporting characters just get more and more bizarrely self-aware, and talk in sentences no human has ever uttered, and this one had the added unnecessary silliness of having a murder take place in the Massachusetts town described as being next to Medford, but naming said town "Summer Village". (The locals call it "Slummer Village"! Oh ho, so clever, Kellerman!) I mean... really? Why on earth would you bother? Also, if I can remember that ten books ago your heroine had a hysterectomy, then why are you writing a scene in which she theorizes that she might be going through menopause? Eeeesh. What a hot mess.

With Fire and Sword: The Battle of Bunker Hill and the Beginning of the American Revolution, by James L. Nelson. Quite good popular history for where I was at mentally these last few weeks, by which I mean it was probably a little bit dumbed down. I enjoyed it.

Unnatural Death, by Dorothy L. Sayers. I cannot even any more with the early Lord Peter Whimseys, and I'm afraid to re-read the later ones, which I loved as a tween (though that wasn't a word then, because as we've established I'm ancient). They are the most racist things I've ever read this side of a Post-Colonial Literature seminar.

Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacey Schiff. Solid popular history; Schiff does a good job sorting out the probable from the mass of legends around Cleopatra, and presents her conclusions intelligently and interestingly.

And now, as I'm rocking the beginnings of a cold (my usual reaction to a week of living off adrenalin and fretting), I'm going to eat some chicken chili and take a nap. And then treat myself to a Louise Penny even though it's not next in the queue. The decadence! May you all enjoy such luxury.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

very brief recap

A quick post, trying not to fall behind, and trying to do things that involve as little movement as possible because it is 90 degrees and so humid that the diapers which have been on the clothesline in full sunlight and the aforementioned 90 degrees for almost eight hours are still not dry. Gross.

Anyway, what I have read lately:

Bad Feminist: Essays, by Roxane Gay. Essays about feminism, politics, pop culture, race, and Gay's personal life. So smart and incisive. I can be honest enough to say that sometimes I was made uncomfortable, and I was made uncomfortable because I am white, and I was being called out on the enormous privilege I have because of that. One of the most insidious things about privilege is that I think it is literally impossible, no matter your liberalism or effort, to be constantly or fully aware of how much the world is designed for your comfort and not for someone else's. And it is very possible to get complacent in your outrage on behalf of the someone else, because your outrage comes from a safe place, which is in itself a privilege. Being reminded of that is a good thing, and I hope I can keep it in mind when that complacency starts to creep in again.

The New World, by Andrew Motion. The sequel to a fun book in which the children of Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver go hunting for treasure. This book was not fun, nor did it even make much sense. Racist as balls, and our attractive early-twenties protagonists are so weirdly asexual and occasionally irrational that after a bit they stopped being characters at all to me. I barely finished it.

Revelation, by C. J. Sansom. Another in the series featuring a lawyer during the reign of Henry VIII solving crimes. Very well-written, very disturbing, totally kept me up reading at night.

The Mad Sculptor, by Harold Schechter. 1930's murder in New York. Decently-written and interesting. Will fall into the seemingly limitless category of "has 'trial of the century' somewhere in the title" books that I read, which all blend together after a while.

The Belton Estate, by Anthony Trollope. Young woman must choose between two men. That is the entire plot, as is not unusual with Trollope, and in his hands that's really all you need. Especially if one man is a cerebral scholar and the other is a bluff, hearty, broad-shouldered farmer, and you deeply enjoy reading about a lady who can only imagine herself marrying the first type and slowly comes around to the other point of view. Broad shoulders and vegetable gardens and getting up early in the morning? I can't imagine many happier things, myself.

Stay cool, everyone.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

summer books

Heavens, I have been remiss here. Things have been very busy, and then very relaxing albeit buggy (five days in Vermont), and then very busy again. Plus it's been 95 degrees and airless, so the diaper pail is a living beast in the corner of the room and the kitchen ants have stopped even pretending to give a fuck ("oh, you're washing dishes? I'll just march my enormous self over your arm to get to these crumbs on the other side of the counter, no problem"). The less said about the earwigs living in our mailbox the better, but if we don't get mail delivery again until October I would not blame our carrier one bit. I tend to get a little hamstrung by my own sullenness under such circumstances.

But I have been reading! Perdita was magnificent about the newly-instituted "quiet time" that I tried in Vermont, which meant informing her it was quiet time, putting her in the play pen with a stuffed animal and some board books, and settling down myself to read. I tended to get about forty-five minutes to an hour of her happily looking at her books or marching the stuffed animal around the play pen while chatting to herself, presumably about his adventures. Amazing.

The books:

On Immunity: An Inoculation, by Eula Bliss. I almost put this book down two minutes in, when Bliss says that she was undecided about vaccinating her child, but I'm very glad I didn't. Bliss writes elegantly and compassionately about her journey from "meh, vaccines" (although it ultimately sounds like she was never as "meh" as she initially states) through the history and science of vaccinations, and her arrival at being a passionate advocate. Should be required reading for anyone similarly undecided.

The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases, by Michael Capuzzo. I hated this. It's ostensibly about the Vidocq Club, a group of people from various law-related arenas who get together and work on cold cases, but it's really only about three of them, and they are all incredibly sexist and homophobic. Capuzzo cheerfully recounts their dialogue about homosexuality being a perversion and how sexually-active women should have known that they were inevitably going to be murdered, and expects us to find these three guys just as charming and fascinating as he does, and I have no idea why I finished this.

Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest, by Carl Hoffman. I am not sure that Hoffman convinced either me or himself that Rockefeller's collecting of "primitive art" because of daddy issues was actually a Tragic Quest, but getting eaten is still not a good way to go. I enjoyed this book, though pop anthropology is so hard to do without paternalistically othering hard-core. Hoffman acknowledges his urge to do so, which is maybe all we can ask. And he writes well.

The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. This took me a long time to read - kept putting it down for a while and picking it back up. It's astonishing in some ways, but the four impossibly-different sisters felt like a gimmick to me, especially since for the first two-thirds of the book we have to get every plot point retold four times in their different voices, meaning this book really didn't have to be the length it was. Also the fact that one kid is going to die (not a spoiler: we're told this at the very beginning) made it hard for me to keep going. (I am such a wuss about this now that I have a kid.) Once that fatality was out of the way (it's horrible, but the anticipation of it was worse) and the three remaining sisters all go their separate ways and start having separate adventures, I enjoyed it much more.

Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three, by Mara Leveritt. Meh. This was redundant for me since I've seen all the documentaries, and not that great.

The Day of Atonement, by David Liss. Revenge Monte-Cristo-style, except that our hero is a pugilistic Jew who returns to eighteenth-century Portugal and beats up everyone he encounters on his way to defeat the Inquisition, and then there is an earthquake. Utterly silly and fun.

Sovereign, by C. J. Sansom. A lawyer during the reign of Henry VIII must solve mysteries (this is a series, apparently). The period detail is glorious and the infodumping as painless as possible. I liked it a lot.

Dead Run: The Murder of a Lawman and the Greatest Manhunt of the Modern American West, by Dan Schultz. Interesting at the time but I can already feel it fading from memory.

The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters. Rather engaging, rather beautifully written, but you can see what's coming a mile off and the supporting characters are broad-stroke stock.

Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial, by Kenji Yoshino. A wonderfully clear, compassionate, and wise description of the legal challenge to Prop 8. Very timely read right now.

May you all avoid earwigs and have whatever adventures, or quiet time, or adventures during quiet time, that you desire.