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Field Notes, vol 4

January 27, 2013

field notes
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.

Every time I see a dandelion, I suddenly become eleven years old again, lost in a world of hope and magic and unlimited futures.

Every time I see a dandelion, I suddenly become eleven years old again, lost in a world of hope and magic and unlimited futures.

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 niece and I played quite a few games last weekend, including a heated round of Sorry.

My niece and I played quite a few games last weekend, including a heated round of Sorry.

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.

Our kitchen window faces west, so during the Golden Hour everything is suddenly transformed, even turnips become beautiful.

Our kitchen window faces west, so during the Golden Hour everything is suddenly transformed, even turnips become beautiful.

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.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. January 27, 2013 5:30 pm

    I really need to read The Warmth of Other Suns soon. I can’t wait to read your thoughts on it and The Chinaberry Tree, a book I’ve never heard of until now.

  2. January 27, 2013 6:26 pm

    Aaaaaa, Maria Tatar and I are still strangers to each other. She sounds so marvelous, and so far I’ve only read half of The Beast and the Blonde, after which the library needed it back. I also think the Marcus Borg book sounds fascinating.

    • February 20, 2013 1:38 am

      You know that Tatar didn’t write The Beast and the Blonde, right? She’s wonderful & you need to read her! hehe

  3. January 27, 2013 6:45 pm

    I’ve had The Warmth of Other Suns on my wish list for a while so am really excited to hear what you think of it! I’m listening to the book Factory Girls on audio about migrant workers in China – only very little of the way into it, but I think you’d really enjoy that one, too!

    And we can’t discuss McKillip if you don’t respond to my email! :-)

  4. January 27, 2013 6:53 pm

    The Warmth of Other Suns made a deep impression on me. I wrote about it a while ago: I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

  5. January 28, 2013 9:06 am

    Maria Tatar is on my must read list, as is The Warmth of Other Suns. And thanks for the bread recipe!

  6. January 28, 2013 11:45 am

    I adored The Birth House! Although her follow up, The Virgin Cure, wasn’t nearly as good.

  7. January 29, 2013 4:37 pm

    You mention so many Fairy Tale non-fiction books that sound fascinating! I enjoyed Maria Tatar’s commentary in ‘The Grimm Reader’, so I might try to track this down. But still haven’t read Marina Warner either.

  8. January 30, 2013 10:29 am

    yes my January has just flown as well ,some great pics as ever Eva ,all the best stu

  9. February 3, 2013 10:28 am

    Glad you liked Jesse Faucet. I have been meaning to read something of hers. I was very ambivalent about Warmth of Other Suns, too much of an historian to just lean back and enjoy it. She does very well in telling the compelling stories of individuals–which is very good and needed. But she has no real context for them. None of what Mohanty calls the historical material context of the power relationships that allowed some but not others to succeed.
    I have posted my review on Mohanty, but don’t know how to link it to FemCl.

  10. February 13, 2013 12:53 pm

    I’ve only recently come across Persephone Books myself. It’s a wonderful imprint although I can see myself easily spending a lot of money on their books!

  11. February 15, 2013 4:30 am

    Sorry to hear your functioning hours are being cut into at the moment. Hope there is a way forward coming for you. And I’m so glad that you enjoyed the Helen Dunmore. I thought it had just the right mix to make for a satisfying read, even though I didn’t find it that scary.

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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