Self’s Reading Life (Mostly in Nonfiction): December 2011

Self just read to the last page of French Women Don’t Get Fat.  It got boring towards the end, this book about all the ways in which French women are unlike American women but simply don’t get fat.  They love champagne, they love chocolate, they don’t “do” gyms, but they don’t get fat.  Why?  Because they are so individual, they treat wine as nutrition, and bread as a staple of life, and believe in the quality of chocolate.  No Snickers bars for your average self-respecting French woman!  Only artisanal chocolate will do!

Still, self is very, very surprised when she realizes —  it’s taken her a full two weeks to finish this book.  A book she’d normally skim in a few days.  What is happening to self?

Last week, she had her regular lunch with Connie at Stanford.  Connie has been the Program Administrator at East Asian Studies, ever since self was a student in the program.  Connie happened to ask, what did self do all day, how did she fill in her time?  Self is so busy, she almost doesn’t have time for these lunches with Connie, but when Connie asked her the question, it was almost embarrassing, self honestly couldn’t answer.  It’s not like she has a regular job, or writes five hours a day.  No!  She is simply trying to keep her balance.  By keeping in touch with people in the four corners of the earth!  And gardening!  And caring for her 16-year-old beagle!  And calming all her husband’s many fears about her upcoming trip to India!  And calming her own fears!  And reading!  And doing laundry!  And putting up Christmas decorations!  And dropping off food at the post office and the doctor’s!  And, and —  self doesn’t know what she does all day.  Connie is right.  She has absolutely no right to even think she is busy.  After all, all she does (75% of the time) is observe, and think, and witness.  Honestly, that is all she does.

Anyhoo, back to self’s reading:  the next book on self’s reading list is by Bryan Sykes (“author of the bestselling The Seven Daughters of Eve,” it says right under his name on the book cover), a book called Saxons, Vikings, and Celts:  The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland.  In the preface, Sykes describes how he was once asked to do an analysis of a woman named Wilma’s DNA and “the test showed that, on her mother’s side, Wilma was descended not from the ladies of the English county of Hampshire, as she had always believed, but from a native American, probably either Sioux or Cherokee.” (!!!)

Self has been on a nonfiction streak for a while.  In July, August, and September, she was on a novel-reading streak (Of which the three best were Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader, and Harry Mulisch’s The Assault), and before that she was on a three-month travel-book reading binge (Of which her favorite was unquestionably Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts).

Last week, just before she got sick, she also ordered from Arkipelago Books (1010 Mission St., San Francisco) a copy of Benito Vergara, Jr.’s Daly City:  Pinoy Capital.  She has been so interested in this book, for ages and ages.  She called the bookstore, and Marie Romero (the owner) answered and took self’s order, and two days later the book came in the mail.  Thanks, Marie!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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