Archive for the 'Currently Reading' Category

Sandman Read Wk 2: THE DOLL’S HOUSE

Sunday, December 14th, 2014


It is 9:30 on Sunday night, and I’m staring at this page, and it’s staring back to me, and I wonder, how on earth can I do justice to the sprawl of flaming crazy awesomeness that is volume 2 of The Sandman, The Doll’s House?

If you’re on twitter, join us with the hashtag #SandMN. If you’re not, then follow along here on Mondays. The reading schedule is here.

This collection opens with #9 “Tales in the Sand”, an African “folk tale” made up entirely by Gaiman, and refers to other tales, which he also made up.

(You really have to watch out for Gaiman. In American Gods, he made up some Slavic goddess, Zorja Polunochnaya, and depending on how you look her up online it’s really easy to believe that she was an actual goddess, and not something Neil just pulled out of his…head.)

We get the story of Nada, the woman we briefly met in #4, A Hope in Hell, who had been imprisoned there after rejecting Dream, or Kai’ kul, the incarnation of her people. If this is the men’s version, how much more scathing must the women’s version of it be? We got some indication of this before, but Dream can be a real jerk. Also in this story, we get images of hearts, as well as the difference between men’s and women’s stories, both of which will be themes throughout the series.

#10, “The Doll’s House” in which we meet the twins, Desire and Despair, as well as Rose Walker, who learns she is the granddaughter of Unity Kinkaid, who was impregnated and had a baby while she slept in issue #1. When Rose dreams, the page goes sideways. We get to see one of my favorite recurring characters, Goldie the gargoyle, who adorably says “meep” and “aarkle”. We get yet another appearance of the three witches, one of Gaiman’s favorite myths that he deploys throughout his work. And we meet the Corinthian, an escaped dream, and a very bad man.

#11 “Moving In.” Rose moves into a house in Florida so she can track down her younger brother Jed. She’s watched by Matthew, Dream’s talking raven, who used to be Matthew Cable in the series Swamp Thing. Jed is in a very bad place, and is having odd dreams that are homages to Windsor McKay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland.

#12 “Playing House” we meet Lyta and Hector Hall who have been playing Sandman under the tutelage of two escaped dreams. Hector is really a ghost, but Lyta has been in a suspended pregnancy. Dream, being a jerk again: “The child you have carried so long in dreams. That child is mine. Take good care of it. One day I will come for it.” And then he lets Jed get away and fall into the hand of the Corinthian.

#13 “Men of Good Fortune” seems plopped in there, but it’s the prior engagement Dream mentions when he runs off after telling Lyta he’ll be back for the child. We meet a guy named Hob, but even better we meet some hack playwrite named Will. Dream talks to them both, and interesting things happen. This is one of my favorite issues (all the ones with Shakespeare are.)

#14 “Collectors.” That’s Neil Gaiman modeling for the Corinthian on the cover. If you didn’t like the horror in issue 6, 24 Hours, this one is pretty horrific too. But Dream unmakes the Corinthian, so while he may be a jerk, he’s pretty badass. Plus Gilbert comes back with Jed, yay!

#15 “Into the Night.” Barbie has the coolest dreams, doesn’t she?

#16 “Lost Hearts.” That’s Neil Gaiman again on the cover. Does it bug anyone else that he is his own Mary Sue/model for the King of Dreams?

Gilbert turns out to be a place, Fiddler’s Green, and while he can’t stand in for the death of Rose, Unity can. I love this exchange:

Dream: I don’t understand–

Unity: Of course you don’t. You’re obviously not very bright, but I wouldn’t let it bother you.

And we learn that the whole thing has been a long game played by Desire to bring down Dream, and he threatens Desire, whose house is a doll.

I love this, too:

Dream: We of the endless are servants of the living–we are NOT their masters. WE exist because they know, deep in their hearts, that we exist. When the last living thing has left this universe, then our task will be done. And we do not manipulate them. If anything they manipulate us. We are their toys. Their dolls, if you will.

So, what did everyone else think?

Gods & Monsters Book Discussion: “The Children of Men” by P.D. James

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Gods and Monsters is a free book discussion group in the Twin Cities, open to the public. We meet monthly, usually the last Sunday of the month, to discuss books with themes of religion, myth, spirituality, and more.

May’s selection is P.D. James’ Children of Men. From Wikipedia:

a dystopian novel by P. D. James that was published in 1992. Set in England in 2021, it centres on the results of mass infertility. James describes a United Kingdom that is steadily depopulating and focuses on a small group of resisters who do not share the disillusionment of the masses.

The book received very positive reviews from many critics such as Caryn James of The New York Times, who called it “wonderfully rich” and “a trenchant analysis of politics and power that speaks urgently”.

Sunday May 25, 2014, 4 pm to 5:30 pm Central Time.
Granite Studio, Eastside Food Co-op
2551 Central Avenue NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

Food and drink are provided, or bring your own.

The co-op’s parking lot is in high demand on Sundays. Please park on the street or in the lot across the street at Central Avenue Liquors.

Find Gods & Monsters on Facebook.

RSVP or questions to

Our book for June will be Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

A Little Light Reading

Friday, December 14th, 2012

I’m not quite sure how I got here, but first, my friend Amy at New Century Reading said she was doing a Bleak House readalong, with each serial segment a week, just about 40 pages. Easy, I said, and was glad to pick it up again after I tried and failed at an earlier readalong this year.

Bleak House B & N

Then, my husband says he wants to see Les Miserables on Christmas Day. I’ve never read it, I said. (except for an excerpt in high school French called Les Chandeliers de L’Evecque.) Why don’t we read it together? So we nerdishly compared translations and decided to go with the unabridged Fahnestock/Macafee in the mass market paperback.

Signet Les Mis

The small type, the several typos, and the general sludginess of the prose all brought me down. I’ve switched to a much prettier edition translated by Denny, and we’ll see how it goes from here.

Penguin Les Mis

Also, somewhere in there, I decided to pick up volume 2 of Carla Speed McNeil’s excellent Finder Library, perhaps when I was waiting for the MMPB of Les Mis to arrive and after I’d read my weekly allotment of Bleak House.

Finder Library v 2

Thus, in the middle of December, and holiday frenzy, I find myself in the middle of 2700+ pages. What was I thinking?

Bleak House readalong

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

A reminder that my friend Amy is heading up a readalong of Dickens’ Bleak House at New Century Reading, and has a very reasonable schedule that follows the original serial release of the book. This next Monday is only the 3rd week, where we’ll be discussing up to chapter 10 (p. 144 in my edition), so you can still catch up if you want.

I highly recommend this. So far I’m loving the prose, the umpteen characters and their descriptions, and the mysteries and romances that are brewing. This is rich, heady stuff, and I’m glad to be reading with others, and doing it a little at a time.

Bleak House Readalong, Week 2

Friday, March 9th, 2012

I find the Dickens entertaining to read in this second week of the Bleak House readalong at Unputdownables, but had a lot of back-and-forthing this second week as I struggled to remember who was who, and at one time was even confounded by the incomplete list of characters when I went to find the name of Esther’s godmother. (It’s Miss Barbary.) But when I finally got my Jarndyces clear from my Dedlocks and such, things moved along at quick pace.

In Chapter 6, Esther, Richard and Ada are introduced to Mr. Skimpole, an importuning friend of Mr. Jarndyce’s, who descibes him as childlike. Does he mean childlike, as in selfish and without remorse or appropriate empathy for others? Because that’s what it seemed to me. We are again shown how sweet and good Esther is when she comes to his rescue over a bad debt. Again, this is Esther doing the telling, so what do we make of her own tendency to toot her own horn?

Chapter 7, ‘The Ghost Walk’ transports us to the Dedlock’s house, while they are in Paris. We meet the proud housekeeper, Mrs. Rouncewell, her grandson Watt and the pretty housemaid Rosa, who gives a tour to Mr. Guppy and another man when they show up to see the house. Mr. Guppy mostly droops about, but perks up when he sees a portrait of Lady Dedlock, who he thinks looks familiar. Hmm, now who could he be reminded of?

Chapter 8, ‘Covering a Multitude of Sins’ we meet yet another dreadful do-gooder, Mrs. Pardiggle and her angry gaggle of allowance-deprived boys. There is a very sad story about a brickmaker’s wife and a baby, but of course, it’s Esther and her goodness that are in the spotlight of her own tale. As far as I’m concerned, Esther more than deserved all the pinches those boys gave her.

Chapter 9, ‘Signs and Tokens’ we meet Mr. Jarndyce’s friend Boythorn, a good man and loud, who had been in love as a youth but lost her. Hmm. Who could he have been in love with? Also, Mr. Guppy pitches woo at Esther who does not handle his advances with equanimity.

Bleak House
is good fun to read, and has moments of humor and sadness, though some do feel contrived. It’s full of delicious sentences, and I look forward to the next section.

“Raging Storm and Beating Rain…”

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Three weeks of that [month] were hot, fair, and dry, but the fourth and fifth were tempestuous and wet. I do not know why that change in the atmosphere made a cruel impression on me, why the raging storm and beating rain crushed me with a deadlier paralysis than I had experienced while the air remained serene: but so it was, and my nervous system could hardly support what it had for many days and nights to undergo… Charlotte Bronte, Villette (chapter 15)

How fitting to read these words as wind and rain lash my house, and the temperature drops steadily toward freezing. Here in Minneapolis we had a lovely, long “Indian” summer, and I believe it’s time to pay the price. Winter is coming. Last week and this, I found myself glancing out the window in the morning, out of habit to look for snow.

As for why Lucy Snowe, the narrator of Villette, and perhaps Charlotte Bronte, its author, don’t know why bad weather results in bad moods? I realize they didn’t know about Seasonal Affective Disorder then, but still, isn’t it pretty clear? Lucy is either being disingenuous, or wilfully obtuse.

I picked Villette for my book group this month, and will have to apply myself diligently to finish it. About every other page (I exaggerate not) I find some reference or phrase unknown to me, and I wish heartily I’d ordered the Oxford World Classics edition, as these editions have good editors and notes.

The reason(s) I did not were sound. I owned two copies already, both old. While not valuable, they are attractive on the shelf, and pleasing to leaf through; one has photos within. These were too fragile to accompany me in my present hobo bag; nothing comes out the way it went in. I visited used bookstores to look for an inexpensive, “beater” copy of Villette.

The ridiculousness of the phrase “beater copy of Villette” is not lost on me, reader.

I found a used, unmarked, sturdy mass-market paperback for a mere $2.50. I deemed myself satisfied until I began to read, and longed for notes. Neither of my present copies possessed them, either. Determining that three copies of one book I had not yet finished was more than sufficient, I soldiered on, jotting phrases in my Field Notes journal to look up later. For the first time I found myself longing for an e-reader, on which I might toggle back and forth between text and reference.

I went away this past weekend, though. On a train from the suburbs to the city, I remembered I’d forgotten to put my book in my bag. Facing a long ride home with the aforementioned book group approaching, I resolved to visit a bookstore in my peregrinations about the city, and procure yet another copy. The Penguin and Modern Library editions were attractive, but expensive. I opted for another cheap MMPB, which I dutifully read on the return train.

On reaching my destination, however, I wondered why my bag felt so heavy. I began to remove items from its depths. Imagine my chagrin when I unearthed both the new and old MMPB copies of Villette. FOUR copies, now, none with notes. I struggled mightily this morning, tempted to do what I should have done earlier and order that Oxford edition. By the time I slogged through slow connections and a forgotten password, though, my compulsion had passed. I will continue with the newer, more compact and less typo-ridden copy, looking up phrases and terms, (e.g., sternutation: a sneeze) as I go. While this will certainly be time consuming and thus unhelpful with a looming deadline, perhaps I will learn something from the experience. What that might be, I’m still not sure.

Quicksilver, Book 2 “King of the Vagabonds” by Neal Stephenson

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

I did finish Book 2 of Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver a few days ago, and then plunged ahead to book 3, which I’m frantically trying to finish by tomorrow, thus the lack of blog postage lately. And so, this’ll be quick.

Book 2 finds us in the company of Jack Shaftoe, a London urchin who, along with his brother Bob, hangs on the legs of hanged men to help them die more swiftly. They had procured payment previously, of course. Bob grows up to be a military man; Jack becomes the vagabond of the title. During a mercenary stint taking Vienna from the Turks, Jack manages to rescue a pretty harem girl and a good horse. Eliza is the girl, and she was sold into slavery after being kidnapped with her mother from the shores of Qwghlm (familiar to those who’ve read Cryptonomicon) by a Bad Man who dines on rotten fish. Eliza has sworn revenge on him, and vows to end all slavery.

Jack and Eliza make a good team. He teaches her about thieving, and she teaches him about subtle trickery. She becomes expert at financial markets, and they travel to Amsterdam and Paris, encountering Natural Philosophers like Leibniz along the way. But as Eliza becomes more savvy by the day, Jack slowly goes mad from syphilis. They meet up in Amsterdam, only to part acrimoniously, and then befall two different and very bad fates.

Jack and Eliza’s story is much more of a romp than was Daniel Waterhouse’s in Book 1. This is swashbuckling adventure, with some science, finance, and math thrown in for good measure. Heady stuff, indeed.

Things I looked up:

Huguenot is pronounced in French: [yɡno]; in English: /ˈhjuːɡənɒt/, or /huːɡəˈnoʊ/.

One of Jack’s nicknames, L’Emmerdeur, is vulgur slang for “pain in the ass.” Or arse, since he’s English.

Thus far, I’m very much enjoying my summer reading choice, even if it does make my purse quite heavy to tote around.

Infinite Jest Progress

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Infinite Jest progress

I’m in the home stretch of Infinite Jest, with fewer than 100 pages to go in the novel, and only short end notes remain. I was reading along with Infinite Summer, which had an end goal of September 21, but I had the week to myself, so decided to read ahead. I’ve continued to love this long, weird, wild book.

“Not for Me” not the same as “Not Good”

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

I’m nearly halfway through David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, which I’m reading along with the crowd at Infinite Summer. Along with some incisive commentary, there’s a lot of griping, which I find interesting.

One of the sites “guides”, Avery, recently wrote that she was not enjoying the book:

I resent that I’m having to work this hard, that I feel like I’m indulging the author. I resent having to read enormous blocks of text, with no paragraph breaks, for pages and pages at a time. I resent the endnotes that (more often than not) only serve to either waste my time or confuse me even further. I resent that I’m continually reaching supposed milestones (”just make it to page 100!” “get to 200!” “300 is where you get rewarded for all your effort!”) that don’t actually represent any appreciable change in tone, style or plot.

I feel like my time is being wasted with an overabundance of technical explanations of subjects – tennis, drugs – that are largely irrelevant. DFW is explaining the wrong stuff.

Many commenters suggested she put it down, but she said she’d continue, if only because she’d agreed to as one of the site’s guide. For clarification, Avery was invited as a guide to represent younger, i.e. twenty-something readers. Her opinion is not atypical; many commenters voice some of the same complaints: the text is long, uninteresting, deliberately irritating, rambling, unfocused.

These comments usually are met with other readers, often those who have read the book before, telling them to Hang In and Keep Coming Back, advice that’s echoed from the text’s AA segments. There are frequent exhortations to trust the author and assurances that he had a plan, and many of the disparate themes will come together. Even so, it’s easy to see where the criticisms are coming from. The text is a challenging one. For example:

Last spring’s airless and B-redolent section of Thode’s psycho-political offering ‘The Toothless Predator: Breast-Feeding as Sexual Assault,’ had been one of the most disorientingly fascinating experiences of Ted Schacht’s intellectual life so far, outside of the dentist’s chair, whereas this fall’s focus on pathologic double-bind-type quandaries was turning out to be not quite as compelling, but weirdly–almost intuitively–easy. (307)

I’m reminded of when I taught first-year composition a few years ago. The course was structured around non-fiction essays and one book, The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass. Some of my classes were for “remedial” students, though a more PC term was used. Many of theses students spoke English as a second language, and most were the first of their families to attend university. Some of them boasted they’d never read an entire book. The course progressed, and the students struggled with the assigned essays and reading. A frequent theme in their papers was complaint–they didn’t like the author, they didn’t think the author did a good job.

On one hand, this was a good thing. They were actually reading it, engaging with it, and forming their own opinions. Further, they were voicing a contrary opinion, something I could see took courage for many of them. Dissent was often discouraged in their secondary schools, they told me.

On the other hand, their criticism was not supported by their experience as readers. They were not experienced readers, and while that didn’t make their emotional reaction to the texts less true, it did fail to support a reasoned, academic analysis of them. They contended that because they didn’t like an essay, or because they didn’t understand it, that it wasn’t well-written. It was my job to try to bring them beyond an emotional reaction to the text to a critical one. That I sometimes succeeded was tremendously rewarding, for both me and the student, I believe.

And but so, I see a strong similarity between my former first-year students and those who are struggling with and rejecting Infinite Jest. It’s a challenging, at times deliberately provoking text. It’s also extremely smart, funny, and the further I read in it, the more intricate, layered and connected it becomes. My husband and I are reading together; we’ll frequently share connections we find to some other, at the time seemingly throwaway, bits earlier in the book. These ties bespeak planning; the careful layering of information withheld then shared bespeaks great care and precision. I’ve been puzzled by some readers’ claims of carelessness and inaccuracy.

For example, there was a discussion about a character described as weighing 200kg. Many commenters criticized this for impossibility, or criticized the author for sloppy writing. Few noted that it was a good deployment of hyperbole. Fewer, if any noted that this exaggerated figured appeared multiple times later, drawing connection through the text.

I’m enjoying the puzzle nature of the book, but I can understand why it’s postmodern puzzley-ness alienates and even offends some readers. I wish, though, that some didn’t take their dislike as equal to IJ not being a good book. Liking a book is not an index of its quality. Ditto for “getting it”. For example, a lot of DFW’s math commentary flies over my head. I don’t, though, claim he’s inaccurate or untalented to include it. I go with it. I Hang In. I Keep Coming Back. And for that, this book rewards me.

“Infinite Jest”: Week 5

Monday, July 27th, 2009

As part of Infinite Summer, I’m at page 390 of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, or about 40% through it. The past week’s pages featured two very long segments, one on a nuclear arms race game that the students at Enfield Tennis Academy play, and another on the ethnography of Boston AA. Both sections had few breaks and were tough to read, but both, as is typical of the book, were full of humor, pathos and increasing connections between characters we’ve met previously.

On AA old-timers, known as Crocodiles in Boston AA:

Of course–the Crocodiles dig at each other with their knobby elbows and guffaw and wheeze–they say when they tell Gately to either Hang In AA and get rabidly Active or else die in slime of course it’s only a suggestion. They howl and choke and slap their knees at this. It’s your classic in-type joke. There are, by ratified tradition, no ‘musts’ in Boston AA. No doctrine or dogma or rules. They can’t kick you out. You don’t have to do what they say. Do exactly as you please–if you still trust what seems to please you. The Crocodiles roar and wheeze and pound on the dash and bob in the front seat in abject AA mirth. (356)

This made me wonder, briefly, if I could approach parenting my small children this way. “Drake, I suggest you: look both ways before crossing the street/get that Lego out of your mouth/quit hitting your little brother Guppy/stop calling me stupid.” Then wait for whatever inevitable reaction/consequence there is, then laugh at him. I don’t think this would work very well.

Annoying, Not Ironic

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Yesterday I posted about an experience I thought was ironic. Today, I told 3yo Guppy to take a nap while I tried to finish my chapter in Infinite Jest before taking my own nap. Guppy whined, cried, and made such an utter pest of himself, saying he wasn’t tired and just wanted to play quietly downstairs, that I gave in.

This is what I found on the couch when I came downstairs after my little lie-down:


Any idea how hard it is to read Infinite Jest, in general but the section about Eschaton in particular, while being pestered by a 3yo? For example:

Uninitiated adults who might be parked in a nearby mint-green advertorial Ford sedan or might stroll casually past [Enfield Tennis Academy]’s four easternmost tennis courts and see an atavistic global-nuclear-conflict game played by tanned and energetic little kids and so thus might naturally expect to see fuzzless green warheads getting whacked indiscriminately skyward all over the place as everybody gets blackly drunk with thanatoptic fury in the crisp November air–these adults would more likely find an actual game of Eschaton strangely subdued, almost narcotized-looking. (327)

And but so, I think Guppy’s nap is annoying, not ironic.

“a dense, complicated, scattered work of immense volume”

Monday, July 20th, 2009

From Infinite Summer, a comment on reading Infinite Jest by guest guide Brittney Gilbert:

Infinite Jest takes focus. I cannot listen to music while reading this novel, nor can I take it in with television on in the background. I can’t skim parts and still get the gist. The text requires 100% participation on my part. It has become a meditation. I have to be present and mindful in order to fully ingest the words before me. I cannot click to open a new tab, to check to Twitter to see if anyone famous has died, or refresh D-Listed. (Which I am proud to say I have not done even once during the drafting of this post. Yet.) It’s just me and the lavish landscape Wallace created.

“I am in here.”

I have chosen to care about this book, to give it a place in my life. In doing so I am rewarded with messages in IJ about the importance of being present. Of just breathing. Themes abound in IJ about focus, about choosing what it is that you pay attention to, and how crucial it is to do that with the utmost care. If only because our whole lives depend on it.

By virtue of being what it is, a dense, complicated, scattered work of immense volume, Infinite Jest enforces its own themes. Focus, presence of mind and conscious choice are all things thrust upon the reader when they enter into a contract to finish DFW’s IJ.

The Thundering Herd

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

From Infinite Jest:

Feral hamsters are not pets. They mean business. Wide berth advised. Carry nothing even remotely vegetablish if in the path of a feral herd. If in the path of such a herd, move quickly and calmly in a direction perpendicular to their own.

Rhett Miller and David Foster Wallace

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Rhett Miller, at Paste, on figuring out what one of his recent songs was about:

I realized, you know, “Oh, my God. I think it might be about DFW.” I started going through the lyrics, and there’s the one, “Same time tomorrow I know where you’ll be / same place as always / right here beside me,” and while I was thinking about it, I looked and over and on my bedside table was my copy of Infinite Jest, which is always right there

I fell in love with the Old 97’s when I saw the only-OK movie Clay Pigeons. Miller’s got some interesting insight into his writing that reminded me why I enjoy his music.

“Infinite Jest:” A Problem on Wednesday

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

From Infinite Jest, which I’m reading as part of the Infinite Summer challenge, an example of the late David Foster Wallace’s weird, esoteric humor, ongoing sentences, vocabulary gymnastics and unique phrasing:

Wednesday is the U.S.A. weekday on which fresh Toblerone hits Boston, Massachusetts U.S.A.’s Newbury Street’s import-confectioners’ shelves, and the Saudi Minister of Home Entertainment’s inability to control his appetites for Wednesday Toblerone often requires the medical attache to remain in personal attendance all evening on the bulk-rented fourteenth floor of the Back Bay Hilton, juggling tongue-depressors and cotton swabs, nystatin and ibuprofen and stiptics and antibiotic thrush salves, rehabilitating the mucous membranes of the dyspeptic and distressed and often (but not always) penitent and appreciative Saudi Prince Q—. So on 1 April, Y.D.A.U., when the medical attache is (it is alleged) insufficiently deft with a Q-Tip on an ulcerated sinal necrosis and is subjected at just 1800h. to a fit of febrile thrushive pique from the florally imbalanced Minister of Home Entertainment, and is by high-volume fiat replaced at the royal beside by the Prince’s personal physician, who’s summoned by beeper from the Hilton’s sauna, and when the damp personal physician pats the medical attache on the shoulder and tells him to pay the pique no mind, that it’s just the yeast talking, but to just head on home and unwind and for once make a well-deserved early Wednesday evening of it, and but so when the attache does get home, at like 1840h., his spacious Boston apartments are empty… (34-5)

This sentence was preceded and followed by five lines apiece that I haven’t included, and followed by one other sentence in its large paragraph. I’m not sure which part I find most amusing: the Prince’s Wednesday Toblerone binges, the phrase “febrile thrushive pique”, or “it’s just the yeast talking.”

Infinite Summer, week 2

Monday, July 6th, 2009

I have hit all the page counts thus far reading Infinite Jest for Infinite Summer, and am paused at page 169. I’m flat out loving this book, even while knowing that tons of stuff is sailing over my head. I’m so boggled by all the little things that match up , e.g. Hal’s uncle’s modified tennis academy motto, “The Man Who Knows His Limitations Has None” (81) with the section on Schtitt’s take on tennis play a few pages later (83-4). I’m curious but not (yet) obsessively so about the seemingly (though I seriously doubt it) random divisions marked by an icon of what looks to be a crescent soon after a new moon.

What do I think it’s about, at 169 pages in? Getting out of one’s head and relating to people in person, among other things. And the irony, deliberate I’m sure, of that theme ensconced in a huge book that requires concentration and shutting out of distractions, is not lost on me.

This week’s vocabulary search was much helped by the Infinite Jest glossary, though I did have to use other sources as well. Note to self: looking up words later in a clump? Not helpful. And yet, jumping on the computer each time I don’t recognize a word? Unhelpful in a different way. Reading and ignoring the words I don’t know? Ooh. Crazy.

incunabular, annular, raster, synclinal, uremic, leptosomatic, quincunx, bradykinetic, varicoceles, tympana, aleatory, somatic, pedalferrous, fulvous, halation, ephebes, agnate, erumpent, vade mecum, rutilant

Infinite Summer, week 1

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

I’m the potentially gifted ten-year-old tennis and lexical prodigy whose mom’s a continental mover and shaker in the prescriptive-grammar academic world and whose dad’s a towering figure in optical and avant-garde film circles and single-handedly founded the Enfield Tennis Academy but drinks Wild Turkey at like 5:00 a.m. and pitches over sideways during dawn drills, on the courts, some days, and some days presents with delusions about people’s mouths moving but nothing coming out. (p. 30, Infinite Jest)

I’ve made it to page 63, the first goal for Infinite Summer, and I hope to go all the way. Infinite Jest is challenging, funny, and too heavy to cart around with me, so I may have to get a supplemental book to read when I’m on the go. I was please but unsurprised to find the word “nauseous” used correctly. I’m keeping a list of characters, of year names, and of words to look up. This week, it was “apocope” and “fantods.” Neither, of course, was included in my MMPB dictionary.

Apocope: the loss of one or more sounds from the end of a word, and especially the loss of an unstressed vowel.

Fantods: A state of extreme nervousness or restlessness.

And So It Begins

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Infinite Jest Infinite Summer, here I come, fueled by a blueberry toaster pastry and a double cappuccino.

The First Book into One’s Heart

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

From The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon:

Once, in my father’s bookshop I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into [their] heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later–no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget–we will return.

I am feverishly trying to finish The Shadow of the Wind in time for my book group tomorrow. My reading has slowed considerably, as my time on Facebook playing Lexulous has risen. Coincidence? I think not. But at least both are about love of words and learning.

I think what the quote implies is that there is some book that is each person’s first love, with that same devastating impact, no matter how many others come later. If I _had_ to pick _one_ (yanno–gun to the head) I think it would have to be Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion, thankfully back in print after being MIA for many years. Hardly high lit, but the Trixie Belden series was so influential that it’s echoed here in the blog’s title and ethos decades later.

NB: I did not pick a fancy-schmancy award winning book, or geek-cred choice. I went back as far as I can remember, and picked one. Book-snobby comments about Gatsby, long lists, claims of how you fell in love when you started to read at age two, or some such will be disbelieved and mocked appropriately.

Lost in “Shadow Country”

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

It’s been over three weeks, and I’m still reading Peter Matthiessen’s nearly 900-page Shadow Country, winner of the 2008 National Book Award. The long book is worth the read, but was slow for me to get into because of a huge panoply of characters–I stopped about page 60, went back to the beginning, and kept a character list.

Shadow Country
is historical fiction, taking on the myriad legends surrounding southwest Florida pioneer Edgar Watson. About 30 years ago, Matthiessen submitted a 1500+ page manuscript to his publisher. They said it was too big, so the whole was carved, apparently inelegantly, into three parts: Killing Mr. Watson, Lost Man’s River, and Bone by Bone. Matthiessen merged the three, then edited to create this new version and complete tale, Shadow Country. I see it as Matthiessen’s “director’s cut.”

It’s a dark, complex, fascinating book about a similarly dark, complex, fascinating character. I can see why Matthiessen has spent his life wrestling with the life and legends of Watson. But I hope to find my way out into the literary sunshine again soon.