At the end of last month, Sanguinity and I went on vacation. It’s kind of a new thing to me as an adult, Going On Vacation when it’s not a race or dog-sitting or helping someone move or visiting relatives. It feels strange to optimize purely for enjoying ourselves and doing or seeing something memorable.
Our first plan, a fire lookout reservation, fell through when I realized it required a 4WD. Then Sanguinity suggested we go east, and I reserved a state-park cabin by the Prineville Reservoir. The desert!
We heard coyotes every night (Sanguinity has trouble waking me up usually, but I woke up for coyotes, every night). Quail and little lizards ran around, and the black-tailed jackrabbits stood on all fours with their back legs unfolded, so they looked like tiny deer with big ears. And there were magpies, a bird I miss from my Colorado days. The water was so hard it tasted salty. And man, the stars.
On our way home we visited two of the three parts of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, skipping the one with the visitor center. We are wimpy drivers and everything is an hour or more from everything else in Eastern Oregon, on beautiful but winding roads. But every “okay, let’s do it” call turned out to be the right one.
We also happened to drive through Antelope, Oregon on the way back to the Gorge. I hadn’t realized how tiny it was– old buildings, some abandoned, plus some mobile homes. I can only imagine what the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh days must have been like for longtime residents. I mean, the gossip value alone! o_O
When we got back to Portland, the season had changed and October rains were here. I was ready.
Somehow I requested Jacqueline Woodson’s newest book, Another Brooklyn, in both audio and print versions from the library. The audio version came in first. Robin Miles is a wonderful reader and I’m going to seek out her other work– she’s recorded books by N.K. Jemison and Nnedi Okorafor too. It wasn’t the technical show of “doing all the voices” or characters at different ages, although she was fine at that. Her voice took its time and matched the poetic rhythm of the text, without ever becoming “poetry voice.”
Even so, listening was frustrating sometimes, because there were so many moments that I would have looked up and paused for awhile if I were reading in print. But maybe that’s why, when I finished in the middle of a long run at the track, it was so easy to go back to the first track and start all over again.
The one thing I wasn’t thrilled about in Another Brooklyn is the grown narrator’s career as an anthropologist who studies death rituals. It felt like a literary-fiction device, choosing such a thematic career and then every now and then mentioning that the x people do y with their dead. Ah well, every genre has its tics and tropes, lit-fic no less than the rest.
I quit my next audiobook, The Mother-Daughter Book Club, because I don’t have time in my life for a character arc that starts with making fun of kids’ lack of money and unstylish clothes. Even if Little Women is involved, apparently! Sigh. Maybe I’ll try it in print if I run across it.
Now I’m listening to Jo Baker’s Longbourn, and loving it so far because there’s LOTS OF CLEANING. I can’t explain why this is so surefire for me.
I’ve been enjoying The Billfold’s “What Children’s Literature Teaches Us About Money” series– the essays on Harriet the Spy and Bridge to Terebithia are good examples. I especially like the chance to re-evaluate adult characters. Yeah, Mr. Waldenstein does sound suspiciously no-one-understood-my-deepness. And there was always a slight whiff of the ridiculous in Leslie’s parents, but it’s much darker when you zoom out and consider why they’re in Jess’ town in the first place.
Does any adult lend himself more to re-evaluation than Pa Charles Ingalls? It’s probably a lifeling project for me, raised as I was in thrall to the books, the TV show, and my own little slate and calico bonnet. It was always, always so much easier to dislike Ma than Pa as a child reader. Parenting by the Books: On the Banks of Plum Creek takes a look at that.
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.
I signed up for my first fic exchange, The Exchange at Fic Corner 2013! About a hundred people signed up, and assignments will come out tomorrow. The fandoms I requested are:
Ramona Series – Beverly Clearly
The Melendy Quartet – Elizabeth Enright
Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – E. L. Konigsburg
Zahrah the Windseeker – Nnedi Okorafor
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
Arlene Sardine – Chris Raschka
The President’s Daughter Series – Ellen Emerson White
As you can probably tell, it’s a kidlit and YA exchange. My letter here has more of my thoughts about these fandoms and what I like and what I wonder.
So I’ve been keeping the Melendy Quartet by my bedside (I like syndicated comic strips or many-times-reread children’s books for bedtime) and reading the chapters all out of order. I wish there were a Great Brain at the Academy type book about Rush at boarding school. That’s the kind of book you dream about reading and then wake up and feel so disappointed that it doesn’t exist after all.
Things I was surprised did not get nominated for The Exchange at Fic Corner: anything by Daniel Pinkwater, The Westing Game, Jean Little’s books about Kate and Emily, the Little House series, and The Hunger Games.
Meanwhile, I read the first book in the British YA adventure series about Alex Rider– Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz. Oh, it reminded me so much of reading Nancy Drew books! Better prose, but since I didn’t notice the bad prose in Nancy Drew as a kid, that felt the same too. Our hero is fourteen and always knows how to land the necessary karate kick, except when he doesn’t and gets tied up. So much aplomb, plus spy toys and a giant Portuguese Man o’ War! There was a movie version, but it got a whopping 33% on Rotten Tomatoes.