Friday, September 22, 2006

Recent Reading

Some of the books I've read in the last couple of months:

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark – It's quite a feat, this book, and the fake historical footnotes are genius, but they and the somewhat mannered tone grow tiresome. I do not believe this book needed to be so very long. Recognizing author intelligence is not enough to stop me from sighing "Oh Shut UP already" during certain passages.

The Brothers Bulger by Howie Carr – This is a really, truly frightening book detailing the degree of inside deals and mob-like connections of countless well-known names in Massachusetts politics, FBI, Irish and Italian mobs, and more. Carr is not one of my favorite pundits but the book is fascinating and permanently disturbing.

The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka – Non-fiction, an architecture book about creating livable-sized houses that feel warm and inspirational with soul instead of overly big empty mcmansions with rooms rarely used. I walked by an architect in Cambridge who was moving one day and offered me a bunch of art supplies and books, including this one.

Martha Peake by Patrick McGrath – This book is a nice gothic dark and dreary day read, but it seemed to really lose its fire a bit once Martha went West. It was nice to combine reading about its anatomical museum with a trip to the Warren Anatomical Museum in Boston.

Grub by Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry – Daughter of the Diet for a Small Planet woman gets radical about what to eat. It's a little reactionary, but the facts are facts in it. I didn't bother with the recipes as I'm okay in that department.

Dishing Up Maine by Brooke Dojny – I understand Maine cooking, maybe from having come from a long line of it. This book made me very happy. I got it out of the library after reading a review in the Globe, but may purchase it. It's full of the little tips I would ask my mom if she were still alive, like I know a good lobster or crab salad has very little in it so as not to mask the sweet meat, but just how much lemon juice would you add, mom?

My Latest Greivance by Elinor Lipman – A good one for a young adult. An entertaining fast read about a super liberal family living at a boarding school.

Crawling at Night by Nani Power – I enjoyed this short book a lot. It's a tapestry of flashbacks that tell a story. I thought the end was structured stupidly though – a woman's alcoholic downfall is related in terms of a very odd interpretation of the 12 Steps that looks more like a teenager's poking fun at AA than anything interesting.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami – This is an odd book. I appreciated its oddness, but wasn't sure I was catching all the philosophical themes from it that I might were I Japanese. I was avidly turning pages until I got bogged down in details about the war, which I think I was missing the point of. Everyone was sort of excused for everything along the way.

Kissing the Virgin's Mouth by Donna Gershten – This one is written by a non-Mexican and the narrator is Mexican. It was a fast fiery read, but sometimes it struck me as just a little fake sounding but I couldn't pinpoint why.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Add to this Story

Today I was working for a jeweler finishing rings and bracelets most of the day. It makes me restless as I have begun working in my own new studio space and am eager to be there instead. However I am learning patience, diligence, and attention to detail. Today I heard a story about a guy who paid a ton of money for his rings in small bill cash. He explained this because he works helping people liquidate estates and when he finds money in the house he hands it to the family and they often give him some.

So run with this fiction idea...a man who liquidates estates finds himself working the home of a former counterfeiter. . . .


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

30 Year Secret Revealed

Recently a friend of mine was able to tell me exactly when he learned about death as a child. I had no idea when I learned about it. I recalled a time when I was very small and I couldn't sleep because I was crying with the heavy burden of guilt. I had opened up a robin's egg because I had to know what was inside. I felt so terrible about this. That was the earliest related thing I could think up.

However, a revelation came to me the other day. I was flipping channels and the movie version of Watership Down was on TV. I saw this movie in the seventies when I was a wee lassie. There is a massive death to a rabbit warren and (this movie is a cartoon) there was an image of dead rabbits floating down lots of tunnels.

It was completely startling to me because one of the two recurrent dreams I had as a gradeschooler was of friends of mine and I all slithering down these sewer-like tunnels that somehow I associated with the river behind our house... and I knew it was bad and meant death. It was a simple but scary nightmare. (The other recurrent dream involved a parade, Humpty Dumpty, and a fabric warehouse...that one might need more therapy to decipher...) The movie Watership Down probably came out around the time my first relative -- my grandfather -- died, too.

After I made this connection while watching the movie I thought about how nicely that movie deals with death as hand in hand with life, both in it's sudden extremes and the inevitability of joining that black rabbit in the sky. Kids today are allowed to see all kinds of gory violence but not generally to have to deal thoughtfully with the concept of death. It seems healthy and yet I had recurrent nightmares from it. Hmm.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Marriage Advice

On our two year anniversary, glenn's sister asked us for wedding advice for her upcoming marriage. I think we pretty much giggled and said "duh, I dunno." But we talked about it for a few days and then glenn worked up 12 pieces of advice from our discussions which he delivered as his speech at her wedding. (Note: she and her new hubby are big soccer fans) Here they are, as delivered this weekend at a lovely event at the Moraine Farm in Beverly, MA:

1. Your world is getting bigger today, not smaller! More history, more friends, more possibilities. Marriage is not the end of the search, it’s the beginning of all the searches that are more fun to do together.

2. Be the guardians of each other’s solitudes. Not only do you need to give each other space, you need to make each other space.

3. No difficult conversations after 10pm. Not only is it harder to solve problems when you’re tired, but at least half the time being tired is the problem.

4. The Dutch principle of Total Soccer means that any player can attack when there is an opportunity, and any player can defend when there is a need. In Total Marriage you only have two players, so this is even more important. Both of you should be able to do everything your team needs. You’ll have your preferences and strengths and habits, but if one of you goes down, the other one has to be able to cover.

5. Wedding rings don’t really come with magic powers. You will learn how to take care of each other one insight at a time. And even when you’re not sure how, show up and you’ll think of something.

6. Headphones; separate closets.

7. If you aren’t already the world’s leading experts on each other, you will be soon. It is thus your responsibility to be not only the world’s biggest fans of each other’s best qualities, but also the world’s staunchest fans of each other’s weaknesses and flaws.

8. Get pets. By far the easiest way to remember that you have to feed your shared life together is if part of it comes and stomps on you every morning.

9. No ultimatums. Ever.

10. Travel. Surprise and challenge yourselves. It’s easier to have a world together if you have a world to compare it to, and part of the fun of getting to know each other is putting yourselves, together, in positions where neither of you know what you’re going to do yourself.

11. Committing yourselves to one another is one of the most mature, responsible, focused decisions you can make. Balance it out by being immature, irresponsible and playful together as often as possible.

12. When people, especially your relatives, offer you long lists of marriage advice, just smile politely and nod until they finally shut up.