Field Notes, vol 4
I cannot believe January is almost over! I had another incredibly full week, from getting my niece all to myself for a day and night (and I told her that the tv and internet were broken, so we spent all the time doing non-screen things) to a few errands to my sister’s wedding dress shopping. My health is not being as cooperative, so I’m definitely feeling more exhausted. My sleeping is getting off track (sleeping in later and later) and there are only a few hours each day during which I’m fully functioning. But at least I have those hours! Just explaining why my reading and blogging have tapered off a bit.
After I read An Atlas of Impossible Longing, I decided to try out another new-to-me author: Ami McKay and her debut novel The Birth House. I chose it when I did mainly because it was due at the library in the next couple of days! But it was another contemporary female-authored debut, another historical fiction novel too (set during roughly the same time period!), just from Canada instead of India. The parallels and contrast made it interesting. Then I needed one more book to return to the library, so I grabbed the slimmest novel (novella? about eighty pages) I had checked out: The Discovery of America by the Turks by Jorge Amado. I was quite pleased to read it, since I’ve read and enjoyed two other Amados, and I’ve been in a mood for Latin American lit this year. I was quite happy with Amado’s tone and style, but sadly the novella had a “Taming of the Shrew” plot that detracted considerably from my enjoyment. I was so frustrated I went straight for a comfort read and picked up another Patricia McKillip, Ombria in Shadow (so I could also talk about it with Aarti). It was glorious and smoothed my ruffled readerly feathers. I think I read it in one sitting, I was so engrossed! At that point, I was craving a slightly older book, but I wanted to stick with a woman author, so with a bit of trepidation I tried another new-to-me author, Jessie Fauset, with her novel The Chinaberry Tree. I was pretty sure I’d like it, since I’ve had excellent experiences with Harlem Renaissance writers, but my track record for new authors this year has been mixed! Luckily, it was wonderful, a quietly domestic novel that I could see Persephone republishing. I will definitely be reading more Fauset in the future and am excited to have a new name to add to my list of favourite older writers. Finally, last night I was feeling a bit down (not for any external cause, just my illness depressing my serotonin levels), so I decided to treat myself to The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore (I love ghost stories and adored the other Dunmore novel I read). It was perfect, and I spent two happy hours sitting in my chair, sipping hot chocolate, and getting lost in the story. Exactly what I love about reading!
My nonfiction has been a bit more uniformly enjoyable, with quite a few intellectual selections this week: I (finally) finished Marcus Borg’s The Evolution of the Word, which is the New Testament presented in a different order than usual (the books are set chronologically by when they were written) and with prefaces by Borg to each book. Very thought-provoking to be sure. The New Golden Rule by Amitai Etzioni turned out to be lots of sociological theory, which as a nerd I quite enjoyed. I found many of Etzioni’s theories intriguing, and it was great fun to mentally tussle with the author. After it was done, I was still in the mood for something stimulating, so I reached for Off With Their Heads! by Maria Tatar, which is slightly less philosophical but still quite academic. It’s a look at fairy tales, both their actual texts and how they’ve been interpreted by adults (scholars and authors) in modern society, and Tatar’s sharp intelligence and feminist awareness made it a real treat. I especially loved her skewering of certain Freudian, anti-women interpretations. The odd one out this week is Epicurean Simplicity by Stephanie Mills, which is more personal nonfiction than the others, and is a meditation on living more simply or opting out of super-consumerist culture. I had mixed feelings about it, but I’m still mulling it over. Mills is a talented writer, regardless of how I feel about some of her beliefs, and so it was certainly satisfying on that level. Oh! I almost forgot! I’m also in the middle of Isabel Wilkerson’s award-winning The Warmth of Other Suns. That’s part of why I picked up The Chinaberry Tree, since I thought it’d be neat to get a perspective on the same time period/people from an author who lived through it.
Sorry, I’m feeling quite uninspired today, so I think I’ll just close! I enjoy taking a moment each week to look at the bigger trends of my reading, but I’m still not sure I’ve found the perfect approach to it. If y’all write reading journal and bigger-picture type posts, do you have any tips for me? Also, I know I’m behind on replying to comments and e-mails. Sorry! Only have a few functional hours a day, I’ve had to let some things slide. But for those wondering about last week’s bread, it’s a no knead recipe. I used 1 cup whole wheat, 2 cups white flour.