Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cutting for Stone -- All of December -- UGH!

Finally, I finished Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  I had read a review in 2010 by a book blogger who loved this book, so I went in with high expectations.  It took me three weeks to read, which is a long time for me to spend on one book.  The book wasn’t bad enough for me to abandon but not good enough for me to devour, which is quite frustrating.  It’s not poorly written, but the character development is weak, especially the development of one of the main female characters (Genet), and the plot moves from tedious and plodding to rambling and implausible.  The author, quite obviously, is a surgeon, and an excessive amount of the prose is dedicated to (often gross) details of medical conditions and surgical procedures, which was a problem for someone who reads while eating.  If Verghese had omitted all of the medical school informataion, I might have finished the novel in a week and actually enjoyed it.   I’m glad I finished the damn thing, but I won’t be recommending it to friends.  Now, on to January, my month to read the Russians.   First up, Crime and Punishment; Raskolnikov, here I come!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Happily Ever After...Really?

Today’s blog entry gets back to the root of why I blog: reading.  Over the years I’ve tried to figure out how to explain which books speak most eloquently to me. It seems the common threads are damaged, lonely people who come to some kind of grace and redemption, or at least to some kind of love and communion, in their lives. I suppose these books appeal to me because they make me believe happy endings can exist for those of us who feel adrift and alone in the world.

Instead of reviewing each book, I’m just going to note what I remember most about each one. I liked the pondering of such a multitude of religious “truths” in Life of Pi by Yann Martel. The stark beauty of Kent Haruf’s prose in Plain Song, especially in the chapters inside of the leaving mother’s and the older grieving mother’s minds, was breath-taking and made me cry for the depths which are possible in love. The women-children who either narrate or around whom revolve the books Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons and The Honey Thief by Elizabeth Graver made me proud to be a sensible, intuitive, deep-feeling, unbreakable female. I wish our tween and teen culture held girls like these as examples to follow instead of the shallow, over-sexed caricatures they seem to worship. Nightwoods by Charles Frazier and State of Wonder by Anne Patchett were both told from the points of view of solitary, strong but vulnerable women who learned to thrive in their lives in spite of the emotionally dangerous, vast crevasses lurking just below the surface of who they were. (Seeing a pattern here?) Elizabeth Graver describes one of her character’s minds as being made up of night colors and describes his thoughts as being something like stark, grey-limned images. I love how these odd, solitary characters are drawn into each other’s orbits in spite of, or perhaps because of, their detachment and woundedness and find in each other kindred spirits in an inhospitable world of mundane, everyday tragedy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

What IS that Smell?

I feel sure my Nanny Brandon would be proud and my Nanny Byrd mortified at the housekeeper I have become.  I just now discovered that it is possible to clean baseboards AS YOU MOP!  I had never thought of this before, and all that baseboard gunk really gets me down.  I often find myself indisposed and thinking, "What IS all that goo?  From whence did it come?  And do I really have to bend down and wipe it off?!?"  Lo and behold, all I had to do was mop! Who knew?  I NEVER mop.  I have a hard time convincing myself to do housework of any kind with so many books to read, trails to ride and fun to have.  So, if you walk into my house, and find yourself wondering, "What IS that smell?" now you know.  No mopping.  There's the answer.  Maybe that sums up a lot about me:  Needs to mop more.  And now that I have strenuously exerted myself mopping my 6 X 10 bathroom, I'm off to ride Iron Mountain Trail and hike Grayson Highlands for the week-end.  When I'm outside, I don't notice that smell at all. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wake Up Little Amy, Wake Up

I must surely be on the way to a healthier psyche to be writing again.  For far too long I have felt like either I had nothing important to say or like I was too tired of hearing myself say the same old things over and over to keep repeating them.  Today, for the first time, I was able to write a poem again.  I will include it here at the end of this entry.  I'm sure these entries will seem disjointed and unedited (because they are), but as I begin to understand and realize things about myself, I am going to note them here for my own benefit, if for no one else's.

Jeff stresses often to me the importance of always being hopeful in every situation.  While I can rationally understand this viewpoint, it's not easy for me to be hopeful because so many times over the course of my adult life, the things I hoped for were the opposite of the things that happened.  I am glad that people are able to be hopeful, and I would like nothing better than for hope to become the default setting in my life.

And here is the poem that came to me as I read the section of Ellen Foster where her mother dies:

One more day,
Can I have one more day?
But the answer is always the same.
Her heart has stopped,
And mine goes on.

And I wish for some
Kind of reverse mothering,
Where I can keep her alive
With my body, like she
Kept me alive with hers,
But the answer is always the same.