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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cosmic Balance

Because I have not the creativity to write something fresh and original, an excerpt from tonight's email to Kaylin:

Currently, it is 9 degrees outside, 8:39pm, and all the kids are asleep. Bruce is sipping Jack Daniels and watching "Oceans 13". I am also sipping Jack Daniels, eating Costco salted peanuts, and reading a book (when not writing to you, or scoping an eye-full of the "eye-candy" starring in "Ocean's 13").
[Incidentally, the book in question is "The Air We Breathe" by Andrea Barrett - a library-b00k. But lest you think I've conquered by book-buying habit: yesterday I spent $43 on books: approximately 18 used books and one new.]

We ate dinner at a new-to-us restaurant tonight - O'Brady's - just a three minute drive from home, and enjoyed the experience. It was christened with a not-quite-ER-injury on Evan's forehead: a walnut-sized lump in the dead-center of his forehead, with a nasty blood-blackened crease running vertically through the lump's center. One more layer of skin and it would have been record-breaking numbers of stitches.

As it was, we enjoyed our pitcher of Pike Kilt Lifter (perhaps more than we might otherwise have enjoyed it), burgers and fries, and an entire bottle of Heinz ketchup. The cause of Evan's injury? My silly son fell off his restaurant chair face-first into the chair next to him. You'd think this kind of injury would have happened during the sledding we did before lunch today, on less-than one inch of snow (desperate times, as they say). But no, no head injuries during sledding; only while sipping orange soda.

Ah well. If it makes you feel any better about all the health issues so many of our friends and family have so lately been afflicted with: I had an eye-doc appt today and there is absolute NO EVIDENCE whatsoever of tumors in my eyes or optic nerves. (Not that I thought there might be, but with how things have been going lately, how rare is it to have the most benign doc visit reap a non-lethal, nee NORMAL, prognosis?)
[The yang to the above's yin: as of Jan. 1, 2008, our vision insurance will no longer be accepted at this particular eye-doctor. In an attempt to change our vision coverage during the Federal Government's (e.g. "The Man's") insurance open-season, which occurs every fall, I quick cell-phoned Bruce between glaucoma-puffs and dilation. He informed me that our ability to change vision plans for all of 2008 closed 5-days- ago.]

Rejoice, I say!

So much joy had we over my diagnosis, that we went to out to dinner to celebrate - at O'Brady's restaurant - during which time, Evan severely bonked his wee head.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Year's Reading in Review

I'm a bit backlogged with reading these days. I'm trying to curb my book spending going by to the library for newer stuff (note: I'm merely talking about dollars spent, not number of books acquired). This causes problems, because, you see, libraries have this thing call a due date which I find terribly problematic. There is pressure to read a certain book in a specified allotment of time whether I want to or not. If the first book in my library-queue happens to be one I'm not "in the mood" for, then I get not only bogged down and frustrated, but, as I've experienced this past week, woefully depressed.

In any case, something I've seldom done, but a state I currently find myself in, is that I have four books going at once. *Gasp!* I am a literary monogamist, intent on losing myself in one world at a time. To flip back and forth, as I'm doing now, between spending time with a Jewish family in Poland during World War II , to the slums of Delhi with Mother Theresa, to a turberculosis sanitorium in the Adirondacks in 1916, to somewhere in New England at some cranky lady's dinner table (hey, I'm only two pages into that last one) - gets a bit schizophrenic.

So, by way of avoidance, I will list the books I've read so far this year, going backward through time, as I have them in my book journal.

December (So Far....)
"Look Me in the Eye" by John Elder Robison (highly recommended)
"The Edge of Evolution" by Michael J. Behe (avoid it)
"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens
"Then We Came to the End" by Joshua Ferris (if you've ever worked in a corporate office, READ IT; the only book I've ever read that is told from the first person plural "we")

"Fledgling" by Octavia E. Butler (read if you like vampire books; it's a serious book)
"The Covenant" by Naomi Ragen (read if you are very pro-Israel and hate terrorists)
"One for the Money" by Janet Evanovich (suitable for all adults)
"The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell (one of the best books I've ever read; religious and space-travel themes)
"The Abstinence Teacher" by Tom Perrotta (some good stuff in there; the ending didn't rock my world)
"Eragon" by Christopher Paolini (incredible it was written by a young adult! Very good.)
"The Melancholy Fate of Capt. Lewis" by Michael Pritchett (an probing examination of depression and anxiety in both the modern protagonist and the historical figure of Meriwether Lewis)
"Dead Until Dark" by Charlaine Harris (a funny vampire/mystery novel)

"Mary Reilly" by Valerie Martin (the Jekyll/Hyde story as told from the housekeeper's perspective; very good, but read it after reading Stevenson's original)
"The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson (always fun to read a "classic")
"Run" by Ann Patchett
"American Gods" by Neil Gaiman (a road-trip novel with lots of pagan gods!)
"A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini (a must read!!!!)
"You Don't Love Me Yet" by Jonathan Lethem (some hot sex-scenes, but an otherwise dull, purposeless story)
"I Am America (And So Can You)" by Stephen Colbert (need I say more?)
"The Greenlanders" by Jane Smiley (only read this if you're so miserable that you need to be cheered up by someone else's problems; very long; but historically very interesting; I think Jane Smiley is a master)

"Kristin Lavransdatter" by Sigrid Undset (won the Nobel Prize in 1928; the new translation by Tiina Nunally is very readable; a whopping 1200+ pages long, this book is considered by many to be the quintessential medieval book)
"First Among Sequels" by Jasper Fforde (I love every book he's every written, but his Thursday Next series can probably only be most appreciated by bibliophiles)
"Absalom, Absalom" by William Faulkner (I actually finished it, understood it, AND liked it)

"Talk Talk" by T. C. Boyle (okay; got me interested in readying more of Boyle's work)
"Angelica" by Arthur Phillips (one of my worst-reads of the year)
"The Emperor's Children" by Claire Messud (didn't like it at all; irritating, unsympathetic characters; I am completely perplexed why such a big deal is being made of this book)
"The Book of Merlyn" by T. H. White (must be read following "The Once and Future King")

"The Once and Future King" by T. H. White (one of those books that simply must be read during one's lifetime)
"Harry Potter & the Deathly Hollows" by J. K. Rowling (oh, Harry, Harry, Harry, I love you so!!!!)
"Labyrinth" by Kate Mosse (another thumbs down)
"Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card (fantastic!!!! Reading this book has gotten me much more interested in sci fi; I was completely surprised by the ending, and that doesn't happen often anymore)
"Literacy & Longing in L.A." by Kaufman and Mack (a forgettable chick-lit book I picked up at Costco one afternoon; seems to me one of the characters had an affinity for reading, or something - I couldn't resist)

"Practical Demonkeeping" by Christopher Moore
"Saints & Villains" by Denise Giardina (a fictional account of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer; very interesting)
"The Fantastic Mr. Fox" by Roald Dahl (read aloud to the kids while camping)
"Hank & Chloe" by Jo-Ann Mapson
"Saving Fish from Drowning" by Amy Tan (I liked this probably more than I should have, perhaps because I was reading it during the Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference, whereat Amy Tan was the keynote speaker, so I got to meet her; interesting characters, interesting circumstances they find themselves in)
"Mysteries of the Middle-Ages" by Thomas Cahill (the book itself has gorgeous illustrations, spot color, and photos, but this wasn't enough to mask the fact that it's not his best)

"Crashing Through" by Robert Kurson (very good; be sure not to miss Kurson's excellent book "Shadow Divers"; met this guy too)
"The Yiddish Policeman's Union" by Michael Chabon (I got to meet Chabon at a reading here in Anchorage for this book; what a thrill!)
"Einstein" by Walter Isaacson (loved this book! Love Einstein!! Never met him.)
"Alas, Babylon" by Pat Frank (once of the best books I'd never heard of; written in the 50's I think, it's still in print)
"Streams of Living Water" by Richard Foster (excellent!)

"Original Sin" by P. D. James (for a genre-detective novel, this was pretty good [I'm not a big detective/mystery fan]; I'll read more of her stuff)
"Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading" by Maureen Corrigan (avoid this one; instead read Sara Nelson's "So Many Books, So Little Time" and Anne Fadiman's "Ex Libris")

"Two in the Far North" by Margaret E. Murie
"Beyond the Mirror" by Henri Nouwen
"Arthur & George" by Julian Barnes (disappointing, though some interesting tidbits about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

"The Terror" by Dan Simmons (great fun! the arctic, maritime stuff, and bit of horror)
"My Brilliant Career" by Miles Franklin
"Good Omens" by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman (a fun apocalyptic novel for any adult!)
"The Spiderwick Chronicles" (read it with Sabrina)
"On Beauty" by Zadie Smith (not the greatest storyline, but she's is an amazing writer)

"You Suck" by Christopher Moore (I love this guy)
"Bloodsucking Fiends" by Christopher Moore
"A Long Obedience in the Same Direction" by Eugene Petersen
"The Alchemist" by Paulo Coehlo (maybe I'm just not as deep as Julia Roberts, who says this book is her absolute favorite of all-time, but it really didn't transform my life; but, probably worth reading; a nice allegory)
"Teacher Man" by Frank McCourt (I liked this book a lot)
"Exodus" by Leon Uris (the founding of the nation of Israel; very, very good)

Well, that's it for now.

How many is that? I added them up on Excel (I lose count, otherwise), and it looks like, to date, it's 59. I don't think I'll catch up to last year, which ended at 66, or 2005: a whopping 77. Books like "Kristin Lavransdatter", which is actually a trilogy, skew things a bit. Maybe if I quit blogging this, I could get some reading done.

I'll get to that, but first, time to put some kids to bed. Ta Ta.

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