So Many Things To Do, Like Perusing the 9 October 2011 NYTBR

It is a gorgeous Monday.  There are so many things self needs to do before she can settle down for the serious business of the day:

First, she has to return her old HTC Droid to Verizon, for she complained so much about it that they mailed her a brand new one, last week.  And because self was having a hard time transferring over all her settings, she procrastinated and procrastinated —  that is, until yesterday, when she was the recipient of a thoughtful txt message from Verizon Powers-That-Be, that informed her that unless she returned her defective phone today, they would charge her $500 for the new phone they had sent her.  YIIIKES!  People, don’t you know that self only gets paid at the most $50 per story?  Where is your compassion?

She has to clean up after The Ancient One, who is incontinent.  Self thinks it was brilliant of hubby to find a job just when Bella the Beagle decided to lose control of her bowel functions.  Every morning, he rouses self to say:  “There’s a mess of crap in the kitchen.  I’m late for work.  Gotta go!”  Sometimes self wants to pretend that the crap is really a pile of sweet-smelling lavender, so she can hum like Mary Poppins as she goes about the cleaning …

And then there’s the small of matter of polishing off the bag of Dandy shrimp-flavored chips which self opened a half-hour ago.

Having gotten all of that out of the way, self can then begin to post in earnest about the NYTBR of 9 October 2011, which she has just fished out from the very very back of the “pile of stuff” that she calls her pile of un-opened/un-answered mail.  Everything’s late, even the bills.  However, as there is no money in her account, and hubby is not inclined to add any more, as he says she is a “spendthrift” ($30 a week for groceries is being a spendthrift?), it actually works out better for self to procrastinate.

Once again, self digresses.  Deepest apologies, dear blog readers!

This issue of the NY Times Book Review is a very interesting one.  For starters, there’s a Letter to the Editor that maligns Roger Ebert’s looks, before he suffered his regrettable disfiguring jaw cancer.  The letter is by John Simon, who writes for The New York Times, and who maintains that Ebert’s looks, “even at their height,” were —  and then he finishes up, rather coyly, with “it would be ungentlemanly to comment.”

There is also a review (by Alan Riding), of the latest book on the Jonestown Massacre, Julia Scheeres’ A Thousand Lives:  the Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown.  Scheeres, Riding points out, “is well placed to write” about Jonestown because, “as rebellious teenagers, she and her adopted African-American brother were sent to a self-described therapeutic Christian boarding school for troubled youth in the Caribbean.”

There is also a book about an ugly episode in American history, the de-segregation of Little Rock Central High School.  In the photograph that accompanies the review (by Amy Finnerty), a demure African American girl in a white dress and shades tries to maintain her dignity while a white girl, face twisted in anger, taunts her.  What’s weird about this picture is, there’s a blonde woman who is partially out of the frame, who is looking at the African American girl and smiling.  Self cannot tell whether that is a smile of derision, or a smile of “You go, girl!” or a smile of I’m-just-smiling-because-there-are-photographers-present-and-I’m-told-I-look-prettier-when-I-smile. The book is an interview with the two women at the center of this drama:  African American Elizabeth Eckford, and the woman taunting her, Hazel Bryan.  It’s called Elizabeth and Hazel:  Two Women of Little Rock.

There is a book about a serial killer who preyed on Jews in the dying days of World War II (What, you mean to say, aside from being almost exterminated by the Holocaust, there were still Jews who were off-ed by a serial killer?  Apparently so).  The man operated by offering his Jewish clients a means to escape France.  And indeed his means of escape was to stick them in a vat of lime, and secrete their worldly goods in various safe houses around Paris.  All this was possible because, in 1944, the Jews of Paris were desperate, and no one was paying attention.  The book, Death in the City of Light:  The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris, was written by David King.

There is also a very interesting novel, by David Bergen, which is about what happens to a newspaper columnist who uses his own family as fodder for a regular column (For one thing, he describes his daughter’s boyfriend as “rabbit-like, soft and pale with a curious nose that twitched”).  Then, his own son is killed in Afghanistan.  Brilliant!  The review was written by Polly Morrice.  The novel is The Matter With Morris.

Finally, there is a new book by Jerome Groopman, whose writing self admires, but since she hasn’t gotten around yet to finishing his 2007 bestseller, How Doctors Think, she will content herself with finishing that earlier book.

Stay tuned.

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