From the Library

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4,040 pages of reading material I got from the library yesterday. Ian took one look and said, “I don’t think you’ll be able to finish all those in 30 days.” A little quick math tells me that I just need to read about 140 pages a day and I’ll have no trouble. Granted, that’s probably two hours of concentrated reading per day, and it’s true I have already filled up my schedule pretty comprehensively with Benji, biking, and work. But hey, what’s life without a little challenge?

One of these books is a hand-numbered limited edition signed by the author. It seems like a terrible shame to have something like that circulating in the library system, where it will eventually get so tattered and battered that they have to throw it away. I’m a very rule-following person (except for speed limits on the freeway and stop signs on empty roads on bike rides), but I confess a nearly overwhelming urge to “lose” this book at my house and pay the library for a replacement. Is that completely morally repellant, tantamount to stealing, or would it be heroically rescuing a book from an ignominious and senseless fate?

In other news, Benji has a tooth and is working on crawling. He also has started sleeping some nights from 6 pm straight to 5:30 or 6 am, which makes us happy.

And I did another bike race, Olympic View Road Race, on Saturday. I finished and left feeling more disgruntled and frustrated with my performance than usual. It bothered me most of the next 24 hours, and that’s silly because this wasn’t even a race I particularly cared about. I just did it to get more experience, which indubitably I achieved. So ultimately no complaints, but not as thrilling as some of the others.

My Favorite Books are All Sad

Day’s Verse:
The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
in readiness for God from day one.

John 1:1-2

Ian is reading The Passage, by Justin Cronin. I read this book last year (ish), and suffice it to say the descriptions of vampires had me turning on all the lights in the house before I walked around after dark. Creepy. Just the fact that Ian’s reading it gives me the shivers when I remember it.

I, on the other hand, just finished Portrait of Dorian Gray and have started in on The Sparrow. I’d never read Dorian Gray before, and I enjoyed the writing, of course, although I found the philosophy espoused revolting. I have nothing thoughtful to say about Dorian Gray, I’m sorry to say.

The Sparrow I read once before, some years ago. It’s the type of book I find myself drawn to, even though I can’t bear to read it more than once every few years. Books of inexorable fate slowly bearing down on the characters, regardless of their choices, behavior, or struggles; books in which the characters’ interpretation of events, reactions, and misunderstandings drive them to their fates, one inexorable step at a time; in short, tragedies. Last January I described that very type of book. Lo and behold, The Sparrow has that sense of inevitability and deep characterization that I find myself drawn to. It’s melancholy, but beautiful. Usually those types of books leave me thoughtfully pondering their themes much longer than otherwise.

I aspire to one day write a story that leaves the reader feeling the way she does at the end of The Sparrow, Time Traveler’s Wife, The Giver, or Wreck of the River of Stars.

Anyway, after this, I may need to read something cheerful and upbeat. Any recommendations?

What I’ve Been Reading

Day’s Verse:
Jesus’ refusal was curt: “Beat it, Satan!” He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”
Matthew 4:10 (context)

I’ve read a bunch of books in the last week and a half, in an attempt to avoid the reality of High Pass Challenge and the join-a-bicycling-team decision. I have read:

Sworm of Swords and Feast for Crows, books 3 and 4 in the Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
House Justice, by Mike Lawson
Disturbed, by Kevin O’Brien

Hmm, was there something else? I can’t remember if there was another paper book, but I also just finished Call of the Wild on our Kindle, which makes it not feel like a real book somehow. In total, I’ve probably read 3,500 pages or so in the last 10 days. That’s not so much, actually. Felt like a bit more. Here’s my take on the books.

Ice and Fire series: It’s starting to feel too much like Wheel of Time* to me. Proliferating numbers of characters, plots of Gordian knot-like complexity, excessive attention to details of clothing and scenery (important, yes, but honestly, sometimes it just drags things out unnecessarily). I like his propensity for killing off characters unexpectedly — keeps the reader interested — but honestly, this series is feeling increasing like a “till death do us part” commitment on the author’s part. Even so, the writing quality and character development remain better than your average fantasy book. Likelihood I’d reread at some point: 90%.

House Justice: A mashup of John Grisham and Michael Crichton. Actually pretty well written, engaging, with characters of some depth and a reasonably entertaining (if somewhat excessively convoluted) plot. The annoying thing about this book was that it involved previously-established characters, so it felt like I was missing quite a bit of the back story, and his attempts at filling in that back-story were fairly heavy-handed. Likelihood I’d reread at some point: <10%. Disturbed: I can’t even remember the title of this book most of the time. It had that uncomfortable feeling of the reader missing some crucial information, like the author assumed you knew something he didn’t tell you. The writing quality was chatty and not overly educated, but not bad. He did a fairly good job with the teen’s perspective, but the plot was fairly obvious. Likelihood I’d reread at some point: 0%.

Call of the Wild: I’m hardly qualified to review a classic author like Jack London, so I’ll just say that I enjoyed it. I don’t think I’ve read Call of the Wild before, but I’m familiar with Jack London’s style in general, so the overall writing and plot styles matched my expectations. What I didn’t expect was for Buck’s human to get killed and for Buck to basically shrug and then happily join up with the wolves. The title tells you that Buck will end up running wild, but he’s pretty cavalier about his beloved person dying.

Anyway, reading is one one of the non-bicycling activities I’ve done lately as the oft-promised OSPI trainings for PE teachers continue receding, mirage-like, into the future. I am going to try to do NaNoWriMo again this year, too, and my goal (in a dramatic departure from my previous NaNo novels) is to write an actual quality book — or the start of one.

* Full disclosure: I have not read all the Wheel of Time books to date. I’ve read up through book 10, Crossroads of Twilight. The problem is that I keep forgetting what happened and have to start all over again, and then by the time I get through all those previous books to the next book I’m so annoyed I don’t even want to read any more Wheel of Time, ever.

Alone Together

Day’s Verse:
So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
1 Corinthians 13:7 (but refer to the whole thing)

Hugging Ghost ShakersOne of the great things about this being my blog is that I can put up whatever I feel like. Today I want to explore some ideas raised by a book I’ve been reading. I don’t fully know what I think about this book — that is, I haven’t developed a strong stance one way or another on what the author talks about. But I’m going to talk through some thoughts and see where this goes.

The book is called Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, by Sherry Turkle. Google the title and you’ll get all sorts of interesting articles and discussions. Here I’m going to present some quotes, in order of appearance, that stood out for me. Perhaps taken all together, they’ll give insight into what I think. Click below the fold for the quotes. There’s a huge gap in page numbering because, after the introduction, the first half of the book explores the interactions between people and social robots, which is thought-provoking, but not my main interest at the moment.

As I think about the collection of ideas I’ve accumulated here, several things stand out: the teenager’s comment that if you answer a phone call, you might have to get in a conversation; the idea of going to the Internet for “another hit of what feels like connection”; and the idea that “we go online because we are busy but end up spending more time with technology and less time with each other.” Another hit of connection. Hmm.

I think this is, by and large, true. Smartphones are great for coordinating meetups or asking your husband to bring milk home. Facebook is good for seeing a shallow skimming of your “friends'” lives. But I keep returning to the idea that people are meant for depth in relationship. The love that God holds for us and wants us to share with each other is based on relationship much deeper than text messages and Facebook statuses; it’s built, brick by brick, over time, as you spend time one-on-one with others. My sense is that we are lonely, longing for connection, and, turning to social networks, receive information instead.

Here’s what I’m doing about it. I’m calling people. I’m setting up times to meet in person, one-on-one, to just spend time together. I’m writing notes to friends, on paper, and mailing them. I’m going to ask people to check their phones at the door when they come to visit so that our time isn’t interrupted with constant distractions. I’m making an effort to reach out to people in everyday life: The mailman, the checkout person at Safeway, the receptionist at my PT office, the stranger who sits in my booth at the bakery (that story another time). I’m cutting back on Facebook time, although not cutting it out entirely, because it is good for some things. I don’t think technology is bad, and I love what it can do at times. I’m just going to try to put it in its place: Below the people in my life. No machine should be more important than a human being.

Continue reading “Alone Together”

Accidental Poetry

Day’s Verse:
Better a bread crust shared in love
than a slab of prime rib served in hate.

Proverbs 15:17

Back story: My co-LCI on the Bike Alliance trainings* said she always brings an extra wheel to classes. I asked if it was necessary for our trainings, since the schedule was so tight and we didn’t have time for fix-a-flat. When I received her reply, I couldn’t help but read it as poetry. She wrote, with this exact formatting,

I will bring one or two along. My usual way of handling
It is to leave it to the end for those who want
To stay and learn. Sometimes a few want it,
sometimes not.

I can’t help but read this the same way I’d read a haiku. And frankly, although I gave you the background, it really stands alone.

And, in other literary news, Ian and I received our copy of A Wise Man’s Fear. To forestall the inevitable fights over who gets to read it first (I hate having to beat Ian up; it’s so bad for our marriage’s morale), we’re reading it aloud. We did this successfully with the final Harry Potter book back in 2007, taking a total of 19 hours over 2 days to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows aloud in its entirety. Unfortunately these days we have other claims on our time, so we haven’t blazed through A Wise Man’s Fear at quite that blistering pace. We’re making respectable headway, though, enough to give Patrick Rothfuss credit for writing a sequel that lives up to the first book. Most sequels don’t.

Speaking of books that don’t live up to my expectations, I just received Revelation Space from the library. I got it on the recommendation of a bookstore employee, and I waited a while for it. Now, frankly, I’m disappointed. It’s hard sci-fi and the blot is complex, to say the least, both of which are OK. Unfortunately the book lacks anything to help the reader bond with the characters, and the author heavy-handedly conceals important plot points from the readers until it’s time for the astonishing reveal. But since the reader generally knows as much as the characters do, those omissions feel kludgy. Actually, it’s like an exceptionally complicated Isaac Asimov book in many respects. I’ll finish it because I want to know what happens, but I probably won’t pick up another book by the author.

Finally, I have You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto waiting in the wings. More on that when I finish Revelation Space.

*The first of which is coming up next week in Lynden. This time I made a list and am much calmer.