Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Closing tabs

I often find January challenging, and this year is no exception! A close family member is facing a difficult medical situation and we are all, I think, bracing ourselves for what's to come. Taking things day to day and trying not to worry too much about the failure to accomplish pretty much any of the work I'd hoped for (there were more other bits and bobs of work than I had admitted to myself, including Skyping in for a day and a half of MLA interviews for our eighteenth-century search). School starts next week, and will be crazy from the get-go....

However there have been many good things this month too.

Two Days, One Night is utterly mesmerizing in a terribly depressive way (glimpse of hope at the end); also, who knows whether everyone in Belgium eats their ice-cream cones like that or whether it just happens that the two actors in that scene were asked to lick in distinctive and identical fashion?

My friend Tanya's show Sorry Robot is absolutely delightful: like Hedwig, only with robots, and the exact right balance of existential and hilarious! It is really about the human condition, and I am only sorry that the song "Tears on the Treadmill" is not yet available as a Youtube link.... (A nice review at the Times.)

This is the sporting activity I have just taken up. It is making me extremely happy.

Lots of tabs to close:

Peter Hirsch on how a trip to the spa could end your marriage.

Greene Street soundscape c. 1972!

Memorable reference questions at the NYPL.

Identifiable images of bystanders extracted from corneal reflections.

R. Crumb on the Charlie Hebdo deaths.

Checking in with Thomas Lauderdale at the Pink Martini world headquarters in Portland, OR.

And quite a bit of light reading, all things considered (very soon I'm going to have little time for it, between teaching Clarissa and the TRAC committee shifting into heavy mode, although really the quantity speaks to the fact that I've been slightly struggling to get from day to day!):

Two very enjoyable albeit largely fantastical crime novels (I can tolerate preposterousness in the grand scheme of things so long as the sentence-by-sentence and paragraph-by-paragraph developments are plausible, which is so in this case) by Pierre Lemaitre, Irene and Alex. Which I read the wrong way round: ignore Amazon's use of the term "prequel" to describe the first one I list, it was written and published first in France, takes place chronologically prior to the subsequent volume and only happens to have been published belatedly in the US! More on Lemaitre here.

Comfort reread that reminded me of my deep conviction that I should write a long essay or a short book about Diana Wynne Jones, The Islands of Chaldea, posthumously completed by her sister Ursula Jones.

The first three books of Adrian McKinty's excellent Sean Duffy series, set in Belfast during the Troubles: The Cold Cold Ground, I Hear the Sirens in the Street, In the Morning I'll Be Gone. Another installment coming soon, but I felt bereft when I'd finished these three: the comfort of finding a really transporting fictional world and knowing that there is more of it where that came from is inversely proportional to the pain of being cut off at the end. I am always convinced, when I finish a series of books I enjoy, that I am never going to find anything I like to read ever again....

Ben Aaronovitch's Foxglove Summer: these novels are pretty much perfect in my book, though it took me some chapters to become fully immersed in this one - that may have been circumstantial, though, as I have had a lot of minor subway travel and waiting around for things.

Meghan Daum's new essay collection, The Unspeakable, which I enjoyed very much. (Here's an interview with Daum in Bookforum.)

Finally, Ben Macintyre's A Spy Among Friends. Several friends have recommended Macintyre's books to me, and I certainly enjoyed this one (I wanted to follow up the factual story of Kim Philby, so far as it is known, after reading Tim Powers and other alternate-history versions).

I am really beginning to be grumpy about not having written anything recently. I need to think about this semester and whether I can build in a couple sessions a week of writing time. I think it is conceivable, but it will only happen if I make a concrete and realistic plan....


  1. You're in our thoughts, Jenny; hope all goes well.