Sunday, November 29, 2015

quick thoughts and books

Terrifying moments in the life of a toddler's parent:

 - When you approach the daycare door at the end of the day and can't remember what you dressed her in that morning, and become convinced you will not recognize her. (I actually didn't, the first time they put her hair up, and couldn't find her in a group of other children. The staff had to be like, "Um, right there? Staring at you?")

 - When you realize just how much karma was accumulating every time you judged the parent of a child who was out in public with unbrushed hair. I have to factor ten minutes of chasing her around the house with a comb into every morning, and her ponytails still look like they were created by drunken sloths.

 - When you have to run into the other room for a moment, and you ask her, "Perdita, will you be all right?" and she looks up at you with huge eyes and nods very solemnly, and you get hit with a pomegranate-scented wave of all the future moments when she won't be all right and you won't be able to fix it, and you start crying so hard that you almost fall down the basement stairs.

 - Attempting to zip up the deadly-snug thigh section of the footie pajamas without snagging a roll.

Read lately:

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, by Denise Kiernan. Tells the story of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the community that processed the uranium for the atomic bombs. Decent but not really as much about the individual women as I wanted it to be - lots of digressions into the political backdrop, which meant that the ubiquitous old white dudes running the show became major characters.

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel. The premise is that the world has ended and a troupe of Canadian actors wanders North America performing Shakespeare. HOW COULD I NOT. However, it turned out that that storyline was really annoying / upsetting, and I was glad that there were plenty of other storylines. It was annoying because our ostensible heroine is impossibly beautiful, impossibly bad-ass (can hit a target with a thrown knife while blindfolded, we are told), and supposedly the best Shakespearean actress the post-apocalyptic world has ever seen (comment withheld). She is, not coincidentally, really boring and I didn't care what happened to her. It was upsetting because since I had a child I cannot handle apocalypse scenarios, unless I convince myself that in the event of 99% of the world succumbing to a death flu the remaining 1% would be really nice to each other. (Also surely someone would have gotten the power back on after twenty years - as Berowne pointed out, hydroelectric dams are going to still be around, and it's not like instruction manuals will cease to exist.) I kind of have to believe that people will be nice to each other. Otherwise you start thinking like Cormac McCarthy, and then your idea of post-apocalyptic mothering is a woman who talks about her "whorish heart" and her pathetic womanly inability to protect her child, and then kills herself, and then you end up divorced three times which I'm sure is a total coincidence.

I didn't want motherhood to turn me into a total wimp about death in books. It was already bad enough that the mention of a dog's mortality in even, like, the acknowledgements of a book would make me bawl, but now I'm just a total disaster. The week I was reading Station Eleven I seriously had to hold myself back from trying to pack a year's worth of supplies into the car (which, for the record, is a Ford Focus) JUST IN CASE.

Also, I know that bicycles are undignified, but we have all (meaning the internet) acknowledged that their lack of dignity is no longer a good enough reason for post-apocalyptic stories to keep pretending they don't exist, and so reading a book published this year that continues said pretence was frustrating.

The Weight of Blood, by Laura McHugh. Boo-ring. Our impossibly beautiful teenage heroine attempts to find out what happened to her impossibly beautiful mother, and I am excessively not into stories about things happening to women because they are beautiful / women getting away with profoundly stupid behavior because they are beautiful.

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, by Judy Melinek. Good and interesting. It's almost too light in tone some of the time, but at the end, when she tells the story of being one of the pathologists working the World Trade Center remains on and after 9/11, it gets just the right tone and is really affecting.

The Swan Gondola, by Timothy Schaffert. SO twee. Not badly written by any means, though it does just go on and on, but it's simply a Manic Pixie Dream Girl fantasy set at the end of the nineteenth century, and those are eye-rolling no matter when you set them. No, really, you do have to give me more than "she's adorably unpredictable and dresses uniquely and has a tattoo" to describe a love interest the pursuit of whom can interestingly take up a whole, long, book. I finished it through stubbornness.

And the little miss has woken from her nap! Time to dash.

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