21 May

I am finally going to see how the other half lives.  And I don’t expect to like it very much.  The children’s father and I will essentially reverse the conservatorship arrangement for the month of June.  They will stay primarily at his house.  I will have them in the evenings two nights a week, and they will be with me on two weekends and with him two weekends.  Miss Pat is going to go to his house every day to keep the children while he works.

I feel very fortunate to have had Spring Break 2011 wherein I stayed home and read nonstop for 10 days.  I didn’t cook anything.  I barely ate.  I worked and I lounged around.  It was just like my life before I had children, except that I am significantly less well-rested and poorer now.  Money-wise.  In terms of love, activity, adventures, new skills, random knowledge, interestingness, sense of humor, heart, appreciation of the absurd, automatic self-sacrifice, minivans, legos, Nancy Drew books, hotwheels, big wheels, tricycles, bicycles, crisis management, triage, days spent outside and really bad jokes?  I am much, much richer than I was 10 years ago.

Anyway, spring break was a trial run in life without distractions.  I survived it.  I had my books and my poetry to protect me.  And so the month of June will be.  But I will need some books.  The Wehners have books.  Lots of them.  I shall have to call on them.  SA has a brand new, gorgeous library.  They have a few books, too.  Probably not as many as the Wehners, but it’s certainly close.  I can raid my parents’ condo for reading material, and while I am there, return their books that I borrowed previously.  I still have Sonya’s copy of Henrietta Lack, and I want to read that one.

I plan to re-read Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety.  But I don’t have it anymore, so I shall get it at the library.  Fitzsimmons Allison’s Cruelty of Heresy sounds fascinating to me.  Does it to you?

I don’t deliberately choose sad novels, although it wouldn’t be a story worth telling if there were no human drama, would it?  Who cares about the kind of tale wherein nothing really happens and there are no challenges, no failure of character, no triumph of virtue, no difficult decisions, no weighing of the trade-offs implicit in every decision you make? 

I am asking for your recommendations.  Please.  It doesn’t even have to be profound.  Lite is okay with me.  Humorous is even better.  Tragedies need not apply.  I see enough of that at work.  My mom was telling me about a novel called Left Side Neglected, and the two parents have high-powered jobs in Boston and she makes more than he does and they have 3 young children and they are already spread too thin and then she is looking down at her blackberry while driving (I know, can you imagine?  Who would do such a thing?!?  Probably someone with 3 children, a high-powered job, too many obligations who is overextended and driving to work is the only quiet time she will have all. day. long.  Just a guess.)  And then there is a car accident and now she suffers a brain injury and her left side just won’t rehabilitate and she has all these obligations and this family and this job and she can hardly function.

And my mother just went on and on (in a good way) about what an interesting book it really was and so informative about neurology and medicine and how the brain and body heal and fail to heal, and how will she ever recover enough to be useful in her work and effective in her crazy east coast, urban life?  I swear I just tuned out.  I think I am way too close to that precipice on a daily basis to find that tale the least bit palatable.  Sorry, Mother, but I won’t seek it out.  I am more interested in stories of ultimate justice and redemption.  I may need an anthology of mythology.  Wherein the good guys win.

But please, post your recommendations.  I want to know what you have read lately that you’ve enjoyed.  But please, no mothers with terminal illnesses or paralysis.  I am trying to cut back on the nightmares.


8 Responses to “syllabus”

  1. dad May 23, 2011 at 3:04 am #

    I agree…Left Side Neglected? Ugh. In REAL LIFE we all encounter enough sad tales and tragedy, heroic coping with, and to some extent overcoming, difficult obstacles and problems.

    If you’re in the mood for it, one really fine read is Rising Tide, by John Barry, a fascinating account of the 1927 Mississippi River flood (dovetails with Lanterns on the Levee), a very nicely written account of one of the formative events of this country.

  2. btc May 23, 2011 at 4:36 am #

    I will read that. Also Unforgotten by Laura Hillenbrand who wrote Seabiscuit is supposed to be great.

    Mom said that LSN turns out great because they all move to a farm in Vermont where the family found they were more content than ever and they all lived Happily Ever After.

    So in the alternative, she recommended one called She-wolves. That’s more my speed.

  3. sec040121 May 23, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

    If you can find a copy (Alibris, maybe?), Mildred Spurrier Topp’s “Smile Please” and “In the Pink” are funny, with lots of early-1900s Greenwood stories and barely disguised local nuts. Skip “Henrietta Lacks,” not worth the time: Mom dies, cells grow, family is crazy and greedy. Ditto Dad on “Rising Tide.” Also “Fall of the House of Zeus,” “The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise,” James B. Stewart’s new one, “Tangled Webs.” I still think “The Postmistress” is the best book I’ve read in several years, rivaled by “Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society,” which is very similar.

  4. btc May 23, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    thanks MC.

  5. dad May 25, 2011 at 2:04 am #

    …and in Vermont the family has ready access to Ben and Jerry’s–further shoring up the happyeverafter.

  6. btc May 25, 2011 at 2:28 am #

    Mary Carol, I have the Postmistress, have read Guernsey Literary (loved it), got Rising Tide at the library today. Couldn’t believe they had it. I should be set for the first 3 or 4 days at this point.

    • sec040121 May 25, 2011 at 11:42 am #

      Great. But what could be better than a dangerously unstable stack of books waiting for you? I’m reading “Lost in Shangri-La,” the new one by Mitchell Zuckoff. Fascinating recount of a WWII plane crash in New Guinea. Also “The Devil and Sherlock Holmes” by David Grann. He wrote “The Lost City of Oz,” which was great, one of that genre of historical studies that read almost like fiction. Anything along those lines by Simon Winchester and Erik Larson (also have his new one, about an American family caught up in 1932 Berlin); Hampton Sides’ “Hellhound on His Trail” was a masterpiece, now out in paperback. Anything by Malcolm Gladwell (What the Dog Saw is on my Ipod currently). I can’t seem to get around to much fiction, but you can knock out a Janet Evanovich in one evening; the earlier ones are better. And I think you’ve read “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.” Stay away from “The Passage,” by J.Cronin….It got all the buzz last summer and was just bizarre and disjointed. “Caleb’s Crossing,” by the same author as “March” (told from the viewpoint of the “Little Women” s father, really enjoyable) is getting a lot of good reviews. And, if you’re not saturated with this yet, I found John Grisham’s last one to be his best-written in several years: “The Confession.” You may not want legal stuff.

  7. Ann May 26, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    Henrietta Lacks is a good one… slow at times, but definitely a really interesting read. I think you’ll like it. I haven’t read Left Side Neglected, but I read Still Alice by the same author. It was a very good book, but very depressing too. It is about a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s. I’m guessing Left Side Neglected is similar. I’ve thought about reading it, but I’ve read a few sad books in a row, so it isn’t one for right now. Have you read Sarah’s Key? It is set in the holocaust – so definitely has sad moments, but I really loved it. My book club read it this past month, and we all liked it. Right now, I’m reading fluff – Always a Bridesmaid. It is just fun chick-lit if you want something mindless. I’m guessing you’ve read The Help, right? Loved that. Another one I’ve heard good things about but haven’t read yet is The Kitchen House.

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