Thursday, December 31, 2015

quick round-up

I don't have any particular deep thoughts about 2015, I have to say. It flew by in ten feet of snow, a loved one's illness and death, my own health terrors, an enormous transition at work, Berowne embarking on a new career path, and height measurements on walls. Perdita ends the year speaking in complete sentences (even if sometimes I am the only one who understands them), singing in the car, and "reading" to herself when given a book. At least once a day I get choked up by how grown-up she looks, and at least once a day I am stymied by her defiance.

We have just returned from a Christmas trip to New Mexico, where - in addition to having a wonderful time - I ate tons of cheese and contracted a nasty traveling cold and slept for three nights on an uninflated air mattress (it never occurred to us that the pull-out couch bed involved an air mattress, so we slept on springs for three nights until Berowne discovered the issue) and my upper lip chapped so badly that it looked like a chemical burn and I'm still not entirely sure it isn't going to scar. There is a lot of physical rest and healing that needs to go on, is what I'm saying. Berowne is off to a party tonight; my plans include bathing and tucking the toddler into bed and then doing the same for myself.

I'll try to post more often in 2016, and have more to say than "Still tired!" but I make no promises. It's a tiring life, but a good one. Something I realized the other day: I do often wonder what it would be like to have stupid amounts of money, but I never wonder what it would be like to be rich. I already know what that is like.

Read in December:

Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World, by Leo Damrosch. Very, very good. I knew almost nothing about Swift and have never read Gulliver's Travels, even though the definitive edition of Swift's journals was edited by my grandparents. I loved this biography and had no trouble with it despite my previous lack of exposure, though I have to confess I am still not very interested in reading GT.

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery, by Robert Kolker. This wasn't bad reportage about four murdered escorts - and the story is just brutal - but I never really got sucked in, particularly with knowing from the title that there wasn't going to be a resolution. Kolker, I felt, doesn't keep track of the various family members and friends of the victims well enough for the reader to do so. I kept forgetting who was linked to which victim, and that added to the feelings of detachment.

A Drink Before the War, by Dennis Lehane. Never read any Lehane before, and this was not a good place to start. I don't really care if two-thirds of the way through your book you have your hero examine his racism, you're still asking me to spend the entire book with a racist. And of course he doesn't have to examine his misogyny or homophobia, no, because that would emasculate him or something. Blech.

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America, by Jill Leovy. Oh lord, speak of brutal. Leovy succeeds in every way where Kolker failed, in telling the story of a young black man killed in California. She makes everything both personal and political at once and it is impossible not to be heartbroken and furious. So well done.

The Bookman's Tale, by Charlie Lovett. Sure, let's just keep re-attempting Possession over and over, because so many other writers have Byatt's talent! Oh, wait.

TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann. McCann is so amazing I can't even say, and I think this was the best one of his I've read yet. So beautiful. Although, perhaps because it is about Ireland, in every storyline a child dies.

The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell. This book is what happens when authors are too famous to get edited. After struggling through six hundred pages of painfully-forced fantasy battles and "futuristic" dialogue (sure, five years from now we'll all be saying "device" instead of "call", as in, "I'll device my sister," because FUTURE), I glanced at the last hundred pages, saw they were all McCarthian post-apocolypse with children in danger, and called it a day. If you hated every part of Cloud Atlas except the future-sci-fi bits, then you might like this, but even then the digressions would probably trip you up. Not enjoyable at all.

A Barricade in Hell, by Jaime Lee Moyer. Woman in WWI-era San Francisco sees ghosts. Decent premise and plotting, but our main characters are all interchangeably impossibly attractive, impossibly gifted, impossibly boring.

The Dog Lived (and So Will I), by Teresa Rhyne. Memoir about Rhyne getting a beagle, having that beagle diagnosed with cancer, and then being diagnosed with cancer herself in quick succession. Not bad, though she talks with much more feeling and clarity about her fears for her dog's life and health than she does about her own. Which I understand: dealing with a cancer diagnosis yourself is so frightening that you end up numbed and detached out of necessity. Your brain has to stop examining your emotions or you wouldn't be able to function, and looking back your memories are pretty vague, so it actually doesn't make for the best memoir fodder. I mostly read this for the title, of course.

Children of the Revolution, by Peter Robinson. Not a remarkable entry in his Inspector Banks series, and I'm pretty done with the fact that if Banks meets an exotically beautiful woman half his age during the investigation, you know that they're going to start dating (at least until two books from now, when he will find a new one). It's getting laughable.

Have a safe and happy New Year, everyone. May you all be rich.