but I am resolved to stop complaining about my basically self-imposed exile in Cambridge, Mass. (that's MASSACHUSETTS, not England--there is some cognitive thing that makes people hear the words "Cambridge" and "fellowship" and literally phase out the whole Mass. part and congratulate me on spending the year abroad). I must be allowed to give brief praise, though, for the completely idyllic five days I have just spent in NY, everything was perfect barring a few minor glitches (heat and humidity; blisters from having followed the principle of packing light rather than the principle of never wearing brand-new shoes on a 5-day trip without bringing a spare pair; a misunderstanding with some guests about what the words "till late" meant in the party invitation for my post-move going-away shindig on Saturday). But if there hadn't been anything like this, I would have thought I was in a Matrix-like fantasy, so perhaps it was just as well. (These were the offending shoes, by the way, though I blame myself for wearing them without socks; I had to splurge on a new pair of sneakers, which were pretty much these but with a beige stripe instead. I like how they look but they are not nearly as comfortable as you might hope, partly due to the damage already done by the previous shoe-wearing incident.)
I came down on Tuesday morning for a guest lecture to a very interesting group of students in Columbia's new Master of Arts in Journalism degree program; it was on a favorite book of mine, Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year, and I was pleased with how the conversation went (though not so pleased with the fact that the students had been asked to read it in a version like this, which is NOT a good idea for reasons that will be obvious if you click on the link).
I hung out over the course of the week with lots of my very favorite people (and got a huge haul of free books from one of them--in fact, everywhere I went, I accumulated books and CDs at an astonishing rate, it was a backbreaking load to get them all home again), saw an interesting and thought-provoking production of Dorothy Parker's incredibly depressing co-authored play "The Ladies of the Corridor", returned library books and shopped for/co-hosted the aforementioned party and also read three great novels (two quite closely comparable to each other, one completely different--guess which...): Marcy Dermansky's excellent hothouse-gothic-eating-disorder-neglectful-parent-fairytale Twins (I really liked this, though it has a rather voyeuristic appeal; I was incredibly relieved when it turned out to have what seemed to me a reasonably happy ending, though others may not find it so); the also altogether excellent and similarly dark Chasing Jordan by Heidi Boehringer (a Serpent's Tail book); and Thud! by the peerless Terry Pratchett.
(Then last night I passed Twins on to my brother M.'s girlfriend J., an identical twin dating an identical twin. Which led to much ribaldry among the male friends of the male twins when it started, though I think they have since grown acclimated. This book should have a warning sticker, it's that good! I hope she'll like it, it only occurred to me as I was giving it to her that it was really an extremely tactless present. My enthusiasm got the better of my manners.)