NYTBR April 1, 2007

Books I Am Interested in Reading (After Perusing the Apr. 1, 2007 Issue of the New York Times Book Review) :

(1) After reading Sarah Wildman’s review of Giles Tremlett’s Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past :

Giles Tremlett’s Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past

(2) After reading Michael Crichton‘s review of Jerome Groopman’s new book, How Doctors Think :

Jerome Groopman’s How Doctors Think

(3) After reading Nicholas Fox Weber’s review of Carolyn Brown’s Chance and Circumstance: Twenty Years With Cage and Cunningham :

Carolyn Brown’s Chance and Circumstance: Twenty Years With Cage and Cunningham

TV Viewing Last Night

This morning: sick.

Yesterday, stayed in xxxxx community college until 2, meeting with students. Went home, watered front and backyard: 13 buckets. It was chilly and there was a high wind, but hacked stubbornly at the clay-like soil around the azaleas and roses and trees.

Hubby’s been coming home late, 8 or so, since he started his new job this week. It’s a start-up, only 15 people, and it means long long hours. Felt ill and tired, so stayed on couch, flipping through channels. 800 channels, and all I could dredge up was Maury, Guiding Light, and Jewelry Television. Finally, found an old Nicolas Cage movie, City of Angels.

Viewing matter improved considerably after 8, when hubby got home: then we watched Bones, part of a Warriors/Trailblazers game (Warriors won! Which means they’re officially in the playoffs!), and next thing I knew, David Letterman was on and his guest was Edie Falco of The Sopranos fame. I stayed up just long enough to see what Ms. Falco was wearing — since she is probably self’s age, hoped she would show up wearing something absolutely smashing and sexy. However, when Ms. Falco appeared, she was wearing something shapeless and black, and self could only see her face in profile, so couldn’t tell about her make-up.

Groggy. Grab my book of O. Henry Prize Stories. Open to p. 52, which is where I left off last night. Holy cow! I cannot make heads nor tails of what I am reading. But I have an absolute rule that, when reading story collections, I can never backtrack. Which is sort of like buying a car and swearing you will never go in reverse. But if any blog readers could help me get situated, here is my starting point this morning:

Excerpt from “The Broad Estates of Death” by Paula Fox

They all heard Mrs. Coyle nearing the shed as she crooned to the chickens. She entered the room carrying a small tray on which a plate crowded a jelly glass of milk. “Here you are, Ben. Show your boy how you can eat!”

She put the tray on the dresser, walked between Harry and Amelia, and began to plump up the thin pillows behind Ben’s head, arranging his shoulders against them with demonstrative efficiency. Ben’s eyes were half-shut, but his left hand moved convulsively. His right arm was immobile on the cotton coverlet. Once the tray was on his lap, he stared up at Mrs. Coyle. With ferocity, as though the sentiment had been hoarded until this moment, he said, “I don’t want this stuff!”

Mrs. Coyle, her authority questioned, was at a loss. She sighed heavily. “Well — then I’ll attend to my other charges,” she said, crossing to a door on the other side of the room Amelia hadn’t noticed. It led to another room, into which Mrs. Coyle disappeared.

Harry asked Amelia for matches. As she began searching her bag, Mrs. Coyle reappeared, her plump hands each placed on the heads of two children who clung to her skirt.

Framed by folds of cotton were the pale protuberant foreheads and silken-skinned faces of two little girls, thick pleats of skin around their slanted eyes.

What, oh what is happening here, dear blog reader? Can anyone tell me?

Further questions:

    Who, in God’s name, is Mrs. Coyle ??
    Is Ben some kind of invalid ??
    Who is Amelia ??
    What’s with the disappearing into other rooms and Amelia not noticing ??
    What’s with the two little girls with “the thick pleats of skin around their slanted eyes” ??
    Does slanted = Asian ??
    And is Paula Fox in fact fox-y ??

Peek at the back of the book: Paula Fox has published books for young people, as well as novels and stories. The Coldest Winter: A Stringer in Liberated Europe, a memoir, is her most recent book.

Which doesn’t exactly tell us anything. Now long for the fulsomeness of the Best American Short Stories author notes, in which you learn not only where author grew up, but also where author now lives or teaches, as well as other pertinent information such as: which Creative Writing Program author studied in.

Oh, what to do, what to do, dear blog reader? Hubby’s left for work, leaving me alone and unmoored (and sniffling into kleenex) in living room. Nothing for it but to plug gamely on. As Deng Ming-Dao says in the book 365 Tao, which self picked up (for 99 cents) in a Goodwill store in Honolulu:

The accused stands helpless before the judge
Pen is poised to determine right from wrong
In one arbitrary stroke,
Life is suddenly decided.

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