Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday update

I've been making myself crazy the last couple days with self-castigation about my missed race: it was painful but straightforward to decide to pull out at the beginning of the week, as I was still feeling so ill that I couldn't even imagine getting myself and luggage on a plane to Idaho on Thursday let alone actually exerting myself on the racecourse today, but as the antibiotics worked their magic and I started to feel more myself again, it was inevitable that I would second-guess myself.

In short, I know that I made the proper decision, but half of me still very much wishes that I were living in an endurance sport vacuum where I could just do things as irresponsibly and self-absorbedly as I wish and have the ill consequences affect nobody but myself!


I am holed up at my mother's house in Philadelphia, keeping my little cat company and getting some work done on my novel. Have been wrestling with certain plot-related obstacles: I am really overlaying the draft with an entirely new more thriller-type plot - Barbara Vine/Joyce Carol Oates thriller, not Lee Child thriller - but having a hard time getting the right balance of melodrama and emotional plausibility; I am working with a fixed quantity, a death at the end of the book, but I need to have it not just come out of nowhere. We will see what can be done.

The days loom rather long here, especially without exercise (I am going to venture out for a short run later and see how it feels - lungs finally almost entirely better), so I have read an implausibly large number of books...

(I did spend a very pleasant afternoon yesterday with my adorable little niece and her parents, and will have oysters tomorrow evening with my dad, so I am not altogether hermited up, much as I feel like skulking and lying low!)

A couple books that I was finishing the night before I left New York, out of desire not to bring excess physical books with me on complicated travels: Michael Gelb's Body Learning: An Introduction to the Alexander Technique (an odd book, worthwhile but strange; I think that this other one which I did actually pack in my luggage is probably in a more modern vein!); Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds, a nice present from Brent.

A couple more actual physical books I brought with me and will now ditch: Charles de Lint, Promises to Keep (minor but pleasant - I think Colleen might have sent me this years ago, though really it is hard to say, books crop up from who knows where...); Margaret Mahy, The Magician of Hoad (I loved this one - but now see I could have had it for Kindle after all! Plucked it from the shelf at the Bank Street Bookstore a few weeks ago on a day when I felt short of anything good to read).

In the couple days before I left New York, I put the call out for light reading recommendations (will welcome more here, too, in the comments, if you didn't see my Facebook one). I need to stock up with a lot of books for the next couple weeks/months! I got a ton of stuff but am unfortunately already burning through it at a slightly worrying rate...

Kate Christensen, The Astral: A Novel. This one was a bit of a disappointment to me. I really loved her last novel Trouble, but somehow I just couldn't suspend my disbelief in the protagonist of this one: I initially thought that Christensen was ventriloquizing this unattractive late-middleaged male character to some more postmodern end that would soon be revealed, and that it would be a novel of multiple voices, and I was mildly dismayed as I realized I was going to have to keep company with him for the entire book. The writing is very good, but there is something deeply unbelievable about the premise and character (or perhaps it is just that I disliked him more than the novel seemed to want me to), so that I don't know I'd recommend it more generally unless it is, as they say, the sort of book you particularly like...

Cherie Priest's Bloodshot was extremely enjoyable: it is a less abbitious book than many of the others she's written, but that makes it fit more perfectly into the light reading mold! I will look forward to subsequent installments of this series.

A couple very good recommendations from Brent, who heard my call and kept the links coming: Suzy McKee Charnas's Dorothea Dreams, which is to a ridiculously exact degree exactly the kind of book I most love (it is a very good book in its own right, but the fit with my personal tastes is slightly uncanny!); and, also very good but less exactly my kind of book (definitely recommended, though - it's great!), Max Brooks's World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Hmmm, I had better start brushing up my survivalist in preparation for the pending zombie apocalypse...

Next up: a fat little omnibus I got for $6.99 used at Amazon after reading Jo Walton's description of the trilogy as having "a high 'I want to read it' quotient," which is really another way of what I mean when I beg for light reading - it might have serial killers, it might have swashbuckling swordsmen, but it has to have a high want-to-read quotient! Interesting: when I purchased that shortly after reading Walton's post, there were tons of cheap copies, but clearly there was a run on it, now all the copies available via Amazon are significantly more expensive!

1 comment:

  1. Hi! I've been buried in dissertation-related science, but have read a few things recently. Perhaps one or two will be new and maybe interesting to take with you? List is heavy on the sciencey non-fiction, but what do you expect from me? :)

    1. Jefferson Bass books (Carved in Bone, The Bone Thief, The Bone Yard, etc.) - Bill Bass is a real forensic anthropologist who teamed up with someone to write forensic detective novels, and I like them a little better than Kathy Reich's Temperance Brennan books and a lot better than Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series. Plus, I've met Dr. Bass, so that's neat.

    2. Did you ever read Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson? Great YA novel I re-read a few weeks ago.

    3. Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic by Molly Caldwell Crosby. Amazing story about the sleeping sickness epidemic that hit at the same time as the 'flu during WWI but was mostly forgotten about. She has another book about Yellow Fever that's on my Kindle waiting for me.

    4. Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist's Journey Into Seeing in Three Dimensions by Susan Barry. A little heavy on the neuroscience of optics, but a great story.

    5. Have we talked about Robert Sapolsky and how awesome his books are? Probably. Worth reiterating! :)

    6. The Science of Kissing is a quick read, a fun new book I grabbed by a blogger I read (Sheril Kirshenbaum).

    7. I know you love animals - have you read Modoc: True Story of the Greatest Elephant that Ever Lived by Ralph Helfer? So nice.

    8. The best book I've read in years is The Bread of Angels by Stephanie Saldana. Like Eat Pray Love except ~100,000 times (± one order of magnitude) better.

    Okay, I'm done for now. Hope you feel better soon!