Not-Wednesday Reading Post

Reading now: Stagestruck, by Sarah Schulman.

I got the dreaded TOO MANY RENEWALS message on this one. I renew everything about once a week, so 100 renewals is a couple of years it’s been sitting on the library-book shelf. Like every other time I looked at it, I asked myself whether–although I love Sarah Schulman!–I wanted to read a whole book of her complaining how Rent ripped off her work.

The answer is yes, yes I do. She has so much heart. She is a truth-teller. And this book excerpts and recaps her theater reviews of the mid-90s and all the what it was like that has been her torch to carry.

In case Pagefever is wondering whether to read it… it does completely, completely dis Rent. But it’s some great Rent gossip, too. Make your call.

Just finished: Kill Switch, by Chris Lynch.

Wow, surprised how many terrible reviews this got on Goodreads! It’s YA, short and pretty violent. A boy about to go off to college is caring for his grandfather whose dementia is getting worse. Da is starting to say some pretty weird stuff about his job, which maybe wasn’t for the USDA after all? And some scary co-workers are coming around to check up on how much he’s talking.

If you like the family dynamics in Holly Black’s Curse Workers series and don’t mind the absence of the curses and magic part, you might like this. I did.

Waiting for: Dinny Gordon, Sophomore, by Anne Emery.

Because I just finished Dinny Gordon, Freshman, of course! These are malt-shop books from 1959 (Freshman) and 1961 (Sophomore) about a high-school girl getting excited about being an intellectual, and also navigating the social and dating scene. I loved the part where she spent her winter break in the library, all cozy and working on her Pompeii project!

After reading a couple of academic articles on the series, I’m thinking I’ll skip the Junior and Senior volumes, which sound like they have too much Bad Boyfriend material that I would just find frustrating.

If you like Betsy-Tacy or The Luckiest Girl, Dinny Gordon would probably suit you fine.

Current bus book: Dangerous, by Shannon Hale
Current bathroom book: The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
Current bedside book: Sport, by Louise Fitzhugh
Current audiobook: Fire, by Kristin Cashore (will it ever end?!)

Hmm, I’m starting to develop a theory of why I don’t seem to get much done from day to day.

sipping

I got a filling replaced today, and while I was deciding whether to go home or back to work afterwards, I stopped at a coffee shop for a cup of chai. (It seemed like the most substantial option since I wasn’t supposed to have solid food for a couple of hours.) Sipping with a half-numb upper lip is surprisingly difficult. After awhile I went and got a straw for my hot chai.

And then I did go back to work. Work is pretty frantic right now and my dental phobia has ebbed to nearly nothing, so I didn’t have to go cave up at home. Last time I listened to my hypnosis tape (on a walkman I could barely remember how to work), it was still nice and relaxing, but the lady seemed curiously obsessed with dentists. :)

an’ you’ve got to be a Janeite in your ’eart

I am taking calculus this term. There is hours and hours of homework: at our last KFC meeting, I paged through my notebook and it was all algebra and trig and f(x)s. “This is what I’m doing instead of writing now,” I said pathetically, although there were plenty of KFC meetings before I started taking calculus at which I showed up with no writing.

But calculus is going well, partly thanks to Sanguinity, in whom I have an eager live-in tutor. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I catch the early-early bus and eat a Luna bar and get downtown in time for a 7:45 start in our basement classroom. I finish off my travel mug of blessed blessed coffee and watch our instructor, who is a peppy grad student named George, do stuff on the whiteboard. It’s like TV. It’s a pretty quiet class, but on Friday we had this conversation:

George:*mathy talk*

student across the room: *makes a joke I didn’t quite catch*

George: What?

student: Oh, it was just a Jane Austen reference.

George: I don’t know what that is.

everyone: *stares at George*

George: Is it a comic?

student: No, she’s an eighteenth-century romance author…Pride and Prejudice? Emma?

another student: It’s a girl thing.

me: What?!

male student in front of me: yeah, those are good books.

George: Okay, well. *back to mathy talk*

So today I was tickled to come across Jane Austen Goes to War, showing the editions of Austen novels sent along with soldiers to World Wars I and II, with a link to Kipling’s WWI story “The Janeites.”

Counting by 7s

On Friday I rode the bus to work and when I got downtown I was getting close to the end of Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan. I tried to get my usual mile of walking in, but it started raining, and I ended up at McDonald’s, eating breakfast and finishing the book and crying over my coffee and potato triangle. It was just so awesome. I was forty minutes late to work.

The experience was similar to reading The Fault In Our Stars, in that I’m blowing my nose and saying, “it’s, sooooo, gooo-ooo-oood!” and at the same time my brain is working over some things that are maybe not that good.

Like, the treatment of the guidance counselor is such an odd comic note. The realism of the book in general seems to fluctuate wildly. And although I love the majority-POC cast, in the end I found the Nguyen family underdeveloped. There’s a reveal about the mom at the end, and if I had been the daughter, I would have been like, WHAT? And why had the mom made the decisions she did all along? But the book is so focused on our heroine that it was let slide. The Nguyens didn’t feel stereotyped to me, emotionally, but in the absence of more context about them, some stereotypes are the best available explanation for some things about them.

Anyway, if you’ve read this book, I’d love to know if the tone and point of view worked for you, and if it made you bawl in a McDonalds or anything. By the way, I also loved it because there’s housecleaning!

last night’s dream

We decided to go to the beach, maybe the river beach. My boss Diane found my orange flip-flops from the dollar store and declared them perfect, she would wear these. The others went out to the car and I was in the kitchen putting my shoes on. The music from the end of Star Wars was playing, the award ceremony part, and I picked up a Star Wars novel on the kitchen table and started reading it.

Diane burst back into the room, going WHY ARE YOU CRYING? I’m not crying, I said, I was reading longer than I thought. Sorry, I know, everybody’s waiting, sorry.

Washing Dishes

As soon as she came in from the garden, Peter came and took the book out of her hands and presented her with a cloth to tie round her waist instead. Then he led her to the kitchen, where the mysterious and horrible process began. Peter thrust another cloth into her hands. “You wipe and I’ll wash,” he said, lifting the steaming saucepan off the fire and pouring half the hot water on the soapflakes sprinkled in the sink. He heaved up a bucket of cold water from the pump and poured half of that in the sink too.

“Why are you doing that?” Charmain asked.

“So as not to get scalded,” Peter replied, plunging knives and forks into his mixture and following those with a stack of plates. “Don’t you know anything?”

“No,” Charmain said. She thought irritably that not one of the many books she had read had so much as mentioned washing dishes, let alone explained how you did it.

DWJ, out to rectify this. <3 <3 <3

Bus

Yesterday my boss and I went out to a rural-ish suburb to conduct a focus group of elementary school teachers and see what they thought of the after-school program. The school draws from a low-income area, and about half the kids speak Spanish at home. Near the end of our session, my boss told the teachers to forget about the grant and its constraints–if the sky’s the limit, what would you ask for to help the kids at your school?

The first answer–and it got a lot of uh-huhs and nods of agreement–was a bus. A dedicated bus, so they wouldn’t have to request one through the district transportation office, which never has them available. They could put the kids on the bus and get them out into the world, go to OMSI, do field trips.

They also told us about how some of the third-graders are getting to partner with an indoor soccer club this year. It’s a huge hit, because the kids are part of the group out there with all the other kids. It brought home to me how hard it is for poor families to get out much or even feel like they’re part of what’s going on.

Weather Machine

The front page of Wikipedia is one of the few websites I let myself visit without guilt while I’m at work. Most of the internet I keep blocked off most of the time with the Strict Workflow (formerly Strict Pomodoro) Chrome extension, but if I get that want-to-chew-my-arm-off feeling, Wikipedia’s allowed.

Anyway, today’s featured article is about Weather Machine, a weather-predicting sculpture in Portland’s Pioneer Square that’s been here since 1988 and I never heard of it til now. How did this happen? I knew about the green and red light on top of that building downtown, but not this?

Must figure out when I can get to Pioneer Square at noon. And actually, I’ll need at least three visits.

2013 Books

These are the books I’ll be adding to my Librarything collection this year, along with the description I jotted down for each one when I put it on my running list of books read. They’ll bring the collection to 99 books I love–although more are represented, because I let one book stand for a series and sometimes for a whole author.

  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews. Profane, funny book about kids making bad films, having inappropriate thoughts, and having different connections with each other than the adults think they do. Love Earl’s black-Pittsburgh language.
  • Winterbound, by Margery Bianco. 1936 novel of siblings navigating a country winter in New England. By the author of The Velveteen Rabbit, incidentally. Not much happens, but I liked the characters and the details of day-to-day life.
  • A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Ridiculous yet addictive. Oh, Sara Crewe!
  • Charlotte Sometimes, by Penelope Farmer. 1969 novel of a girl at boarding school who wakes up as another girl in 1918, and they switch each night. A time-travel story that raises questions about identity and whether the people around you see the “real you.”
  • Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell. Cath and her twin are both freshmen at UN Lincoln; she’s the shy, anxious one and is also semi-secretly a top fanfic author. Romance, friendship, and family drama ensue. (Note: I only just finished this before the end of the year. Curious to see if it stays prominent in my memory or fades.)
  • The Gentrification of the Mind, by Sarah Schulman. The interrelation of the AIDS epidemic and its fallout with the gentrification of New York City, followed by ruminations on what has been displaced, forgotten, and lost in gay culture and politics. Outstanding, with personal stories about her choices as a teacher and her interactions with Kathy Acker and other icons.
  • Among Others, by Jo Walton. A Welsh girl goes to English boarding school after her twin dies in an auto wreck. The fairies she knew in Wales, are they real or part of her psyche? Many SF and fantasy book shout-outs.
  • The Lake, by Banana Yoshimoto, trans. Michael Emmerich. An art student in Tokyo falls for her neighbor, but he has heavy secrets in his past. Liked the even-toned writing style and subtle emotions; my opinion kept flip-flopping on whether this romance was advisable or not.

What my LibraryThing additions don’t reflect is that this was a wonderful year for rereading. Lots of Mary Stoltz. The Ramona books plus Henry and Beezus and Henry Huggins. His Dark Materials. Zahrah the Windseeker. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For.

Also, I combined picture books, poetry, comics, and graphic novels into one category, 22 books (including rereads), yet no new Librarything additions are in that category.