Sunday, April 24, 2016

brief report from the consumption ward

I went on a trip for work last week, and was away from Perdita overnight for the first time. I missed her and Berowne terribly, but at the same time it would have been restful (able to sleep ten hours a night, nothing to do after the conference ended for the day but lie about in a hotel bathtub with a book) if not for the fact that on the flight back I came down with my usual Deathly Travel Bronchitis and have now been miserably sick for eight days. But at least I got a lot of reading done during the trip, and since then while sitting up at night unable to sleep for the cough.

(I also had travel-related gas so bad that I experienced the worst audible public fart of my life, right in the middle of Powell's bookstore. I had only acquired five books at that point but had to flee, and for the next three days it was a toss-up over whether social anxiety or bibliophilia would win out in terms of daring to return. Sadly the anxiety did, which seems a huge waste. There is always the internet, I suppose.)

What I did manage to read while not occupied with flatulence:

Prophet's Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, by Sam Brower. Rampant child abuse in the name of religion is always a good time. Clear and horrifying.

Hell at the Breech, by Tom Franklin. Novel about the rural South at the end of the nineteenth century; it begins with a sackful of puppies being drowned and goes downhill in terms of brutality from there. Amazingly written, but so violent and upsetting that I almost put it down many times.

The Distance, by Helen Giltrow. A really bad thriller, and I don't have the faintest idea why I finished it.

The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis, by Thomas Goetz. Appropriate reading as I hacked my way through my return flight. Fun popular history.

No Man's Nightingale, by Ruth Rendell. Good engrossing mystery.

On the Move: A Life, by Oliver Sacks. Jumps all over the place, to an extent that sometimes makes it difficult to follow chronologically, but Sacks' voice is so endearing that I was willing to forgive that. In one of those fun book coincidences, I had just read Bill Hayes' The Anatomist but had no idea that his partner Oliver was actually Oliver Sacks, until reading this book.

In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors, by Doug Stanton. SHARKS SO MANY SHARKS. I wanted more at the end of this book, about what happened to the men we'd come to know, and instead it ended very abruptly. Otherwise solidly written history about terrible things happening to people.

Jane Austen: A Life, by Claire Tomalin. Just wonderful, as Tomalin's biographies are. I actually cried at the end, though the fact that Jane Austen dies isn't exactly a spoiler.

The Vicar of Bullhampton, by Anthony Trollope. When I started this, and the young lady is attempting to choose between her two suitors, one heroic and the other a rake, I actually felt for a moment that I couldn't read yet another Trollope book about that, and thought about putting it aside. But fortunately that turns out to not be the main plot, so I enjoyed this. (And the girl actually ends up with the rake, and the hero acts very non-heroically about it, so that was interesting.)

The Scold's Bridle, by Minette Walters. Mystery about disturbing people doing disturbing things. Oddly, more Ruth-Rendell-ish than the Ruth Rendell I read on the same trip.

A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design, by Frank Wilczek. This was very challenging for me. Wilczek makes physics as accessible as he can, I think, but my brain just doesn't process physics the way it is able to comprehend biology or chemistry, so I struggled with this.

And now I need more tea and cough drops. May you all be feeling better than this.

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