Quote of the Day: CALIBAN’S WAR, p. 319

Though Book # 2 of The Expanse nine-volume series (NINE!) started off slow, somewhere in the middle (yes, yes, who has the patience to wait 300 pages before the authors begin firing on all cylinders, but she loved the first book, and besides she already ordered the next two, she couldn’t just let it go) it began to be . . . exciting.

Something has happened to Jim Holden’s leg. Amos, the Big Man, the ‘enforcer’ of this rag-tag crew, has been hurt by an explosion.

“Gotta get up, big man,” Holden said, pushing himself to his feet. In the partial gravity of their spin, his leg felt heavy, hot, and stiff as a board. Without the drugs pouring through him, standing on it would have probably made him scream. Instead, he pulled Amos up, putting even more pressure on it.

I will pay for this later, he thought. But the amphetamines made later seem very far away.

“Naomi,” Holden said. “Can you control Amos’s suit from there?”

“Yes.”

“Shoot him full of speed.”

This is kind of — uh, sorry — addicting, actually. There’s even a huge Marine (of Samoan ancestry, therefore huge?) who reminds self a lot of Murderbot, the main character in Martha Wells’s excellent series, The Murderbot Diaries.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Teaching Kindergarten: The Stress!

“I watch them like a hawk, I really do. Well, I try, but I’ve got twenty-eight kids, two with ADHD, one with learning difficulties, two gifted kids, at least four whose parents think they’re gifted, and one who is so allergic I feel like I should have one hand on the EpiPen at all times and — “

Big Little Lies, p. 270

So far, it’s all about Mothers Club. But self is still here! After 270 pages. Liane Moriarty is quite a storyteller. Self just didn’t expect the novel to be so thoroughly satirical.

There are no boring parts. Even though it’s mostly about THE PARENT TRAP, how parents guilt themselves into trying to provide the ‘perfect’ environment for their kids. (A lot of parents must be reading this book and identifying with the characters here)

Also, for some reason, suburban life in Australia is exactly like suburban life in northern California. Who knew?

There are really only two ‘good’ men. Thankfully, one of them is married to a main character. So we get to read a lot about him.

Stay tuned.

Big Little Lies, p. 163: So Many Balls in the Air!

Self began reading this book right after she read the collected short stories of Ernest Hemingway, how she does not get whiplash, she doesn’t know. Things get even more whiplash-y when she begins the next book on her reading list: Outlander.

P. 163: How is Liane Moriarty going to pull all these threads together? She has the ENTIRE Kindergarten Mommies routine down pat.

But there has to be something about this book MORE than just a satire on Kindergarten Mommies, because it did become a huge US bestseller (Self keeps forgetting it’s NOT set in America: the characters don’t speak Aussie patois. They don’t even curse! Not even the bad ones)

“Where’s Jackie today, Jonathan?” asked Gabrielle. The mothers were all mildly obsessed with Jonathan’s wife, ever since she’d been interviewed on the business segment of the evening news a few nights back, sounding terrifyingly precise and clever about a corporate takeover and putting the journalist in his place. Also, Jonathan was very good-looking in a George Clooney-esque way, so constant references to his wife were necessary to show that they hadn’t noticed this and weren’t flirting with him.”

Too. Funny.

Stay tuned.

Status Report: Books Read (So Far) 2018

By now it should be clear how much self loves constructing lists. And book lists best of all.

Self set herself a goodreads Reading Challenge of 32 books, which is pretty ambitious considering last year she didn’t make her challenge goal of 26 books.

Nevertheless.

Books Read This Year (in the order of their Goodreads Average Rating)

  1. The Odyssey (the translation by Emily Wilson)
  2. La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman
  3. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
  4. The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman
  5. The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson
  6. The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman
  7. Travels with Charley: In Search of America, by John Steinbeck
  8. The Romanovs: 1613 – 1918, by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore
  9. Conclave, by Robert Harris
  10. Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
  11. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
  12. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  13. Empress of the East: How a European Slave Girl Became Queen of the Ottoman Empire, by Leslie Peirce
  14. In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O’Brien
  15. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  16. Mikhail and Margarita, by Julie Lekstrom Himes
  17. The Mandibles, A Family: 2029 – 2047, by Lionel Shriver
  18. Moshi Moshi, by Banana Yoshimoto
  19. Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
  20. As Lie Is to Grin, by Simeon Marsalis

Today, self went poring over her recommended reading list and discarded a list called “Recommended Summer Reading” (downloaded from a literary website). Summer is practically half over and by the time she gets to the books on that list, it will be winter.

On her To-Read list 2018 are a biography of Daphne du Maurier and three du Maurier novels. She hopes she can get to them soon. She wishes Steinbeck weren’t so engaging because he is really slowing down her reading rate. Before she began Travels with Charley she read an average of a book a week.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.

Movie # 7: FIFTY SHADES FREED

Self has liked the other movies in this franchise. But this one — well, let her list the ways:

  • The lack of chemistry between the two leads is never more apparent.
  • Dakota Johnson’s flat, affectless voice, while perfect for the role, is really annoying once she gets everything her heart desires. And, oh wow, someone is stalking her but she’s sooo ready for flirting. And sex. And romance!
  • There is no ending.
  • What is with Christian Grey’s brother’s affair? It’s a red herring.

Pluses:

  • Marcia Gay Harden has a small scene.
  • clothes, Anastasia’s
  • lipstick, Anastasia’s
  • Self didn’t hate it enough to walk out.

Stay tuned.

 

Sentence of the Day: Rinker Buck

“I cannot enjoy my life unless I am overactive, or find a challenge that makes me ebullient.”

— Rinker Buck, The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

Self bought five books on this trip: five big, fat books. What was she thinking?

When she arrived in Cork, two days ago, she found that the platform exit was down a long cement ramp.

Of course, it was easy to roll two suitcases down a ramp.

What self completely failed to appreciate was that, if there is a downhill, there must be an uphill.

She decided to tackle this uphill ramp by finding the right attitude. That is, by sucking it up. About a quarter of the way, she stopped dead and had a most inconvenient thought: I will need a crane.

Then, an older woman in a black pantsuit turned and said, “Come on, give me the bags.” Self was all like, No! These are my bags! These are my punishment!

But the woman decided to pretend self was not protesting, and reached for the bigger of her suitcases.

All the way up the ramp self apologized. At the top, she reached for her big suitcase, absolutely dying with shame. The woman said, matter-of-factly, “I knew you’d never make it up that ramp.”

Meanwhile, it occurs to self that she cannot handle both these bags by herself when she needs to be off and on trains. Constantly.

But, since self has no choice, she decides that an attitude of cheerful denial is the best policy. After all, it’s always worked for her before.

The reason she knows it’s worked for her before is: she has never let go of the notion that suitcases, no matter how heavy, are no big deal. There is terrible disconnect here, but the importance of this notion, this notion of self-punishment followed by absolute self-reliance, is obviously something vital to self’s personality. Why, she has no idea. As vital notions go, this one’s pretty bruising.

Last year, she remembers being helped onto a London bus by the driver himself (No San Francisco MUNI driver would ever relinquish the steering wheel of a bus to help a batty woman. Self’s just saying) He reached down and grabbed her suitcase. After, he said: “I tell you, it must be really nice to leave home knowing you’ve brought all your books with you.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Battle in Robert Harris: p. 248 of Conspirata (Or, If You’re in the UK, Lustrum)

Cicero’s great enemy is Catilina. Catilina is dispatched, as self knew he would be (She’s read about Catilina’s dispatching in both SPQR and Tom Holland’s Rubicon). But, as Harris writes a few pages earlier, No victories in politics are permanent (This is a paraphrase; self has little time to be hunting up the exact page, as the day is almost done and she hasn’t met her day’s writing quota).

Still, Harris manages to make Catilina’s defeat exciting:

  • It was a terrible carnage and Catilina was in the thick of it all day. Not one of his lieutenants surrendered. They fought with the ferocious abandon of men with nothing to lose. Only when Petreius sent in a crack praetorian cohort did the rebel army finally collapse. Every one of Catilina’s followers, including Manlius, died where he stood; afterwards their wounds were found to be entirely in the front and none in the back.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Greek Philosophy in Robert Harris

The Stoics vs. Aristotle & Plato

pp. 199 – 200 of Conspirata (Lustrum in the UK; self has to make that distinction every time, it’s a bear)

Cicero delivers a speech to the Roman Senate, making fun of his colleague Cato:

For there was a man of genius called Zeno, and the disciples of his teaching are called stoics. Here are some of his precepts: the wise man is never moved by favour and never forgives anyone’s mistakes; only a fool feels pity; all misdeeds are equal, the casual killing of a cock no less a crime than strangling one’s father; the wise man never assumes anything, never regrets anything, is never wrong, never changes his mind.

Now I must admit when I was younger I also took some interest in philosophy. My masters, though, were Plato and Aristotle. They don’t hold violent or extreme views. They say that favour can sometimes influence the wise man; that a good man can feel pity; that there are different degrees of wrongdoing and different punishments; that the wise man often makes assumptions when he doesn’t know the facts, and is sometimes angry, and sometimes forgives, and sometimes changes his mind; that all virtue is saved from excess by a so-called mean. If you had studied these masters, Cato, you might not be a better man or braver — that would be impossible — but you might be a little more kind.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

CATO in Robert Harris (Conspirata, p. 92)

#amreading all Imperial Rome narratives

Until next week, when self begins Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

Robert Harris’s Conspirata (In the United Kingdom it’s got a different title: Lustrum) covers exactly the same ground as the books self just finished reading: SPQR by Mary Beard, and Rubicon by Tom Holland. So she knows how everything is going to end. But Harris is such a good writer (She read Fatherland, years ago: highly recommend) that self is giving Conspirata a go.

Here’s a speech by Cato which self thinks is fascinating for what it reveals of the character (Also, it is interesting that millions of youths around the world see the name Cato and think immediately of that blonde bully in The Hunger Games):

Never be moved by favour. Never appease. Never forgive a wrong. Never differentiate between things that are wrong — what is wrong is wrong, whatever the size of the misdemeanour, and that is the end of the matter. And finally, never compromise on any of these principles. “The man who has the strength to follow them — is always handsome however misshapen, always rich however needy, always a king however much a slave.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Self’s Life in Books

In 2013, she read a total of 30 books.

In 2014, to her great disappointment, she managed to read only 7.

Thus far, in 2016, she’s read 18 books. Oh happy happy joy joy.

2013 was a great year for her reading life.

She read:

  • Bicycle Diaries, by David Byrne
  • Anna Karenina
  • Don Quijote
  • Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses
  • Mildred Armstrong Kalish’s Litte Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression
  • Sister Carrie
  • The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa
  • The Quiet American, by Graham Greene
  • Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
  • The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
  • City of Thieves, by David Benioff
  • The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michae Connelly
  • Henry M. Stanley’s How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa

In 2015, self’s great reads were:

  • Silas Marner
  • Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin
  • The Act of Love, by Howard Jacobson
  • Middlemarch, by George Eliot
  • Bad Behavior, by Mary Gaitskill

This year, self’s favorite books have been:

  • The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins (which she just realized she’d already read five years ago: She didn’t remember a thing!)
  • Anjelica Huston’s second memoir, Watch Me
  • The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho
  • Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton

She’s struggling through Northanger Abbey. Really struggling. But she is determined to finish it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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