Still Summer, Still Reading

from p. 118 of Landfill: Gull Watching and Trash Picking in the Anthropocene, “Needs”:

I’d read my Henry Mayhew on London’s waste workers and had been out at night on the Thames with the body-salvagers of Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend. I stayed away from Milton. My telescope wouldn’t have been welcomed by anyone and I don’t think I could have used it. The hunt for the body resumed in the late autumn of 2017 in a part of the landfill adjacent to the area already examined. After seven fruitless weeks the search was called off.

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Redwood City, July 2019

Love Dee’s book. So much.

Stay tuned.

 

LANDFILL, by Tim Dee: Henry Mayhew and the Anthropology of Dust

Landfill: Gull Watching and Trash Picking in the Anthropocene is a great book. Lord how self parses every paragraph.

Late last night, self got to Essay # 7: “The Birds,” about the iconic Daphne du Maurier short story and Hitchcock’s film adaptation of it. This morning she began the next piece: “London Labour and London Poor,” the title of a “work of epic taxonomical ethnography” by Henry Mayhew.

p. 82:

Dust is everywhere in Mayhew’s city . . . He knows there is no such thing as dirt. It exists — just as Mary Douglas spelled out a hundred years later — only in the eye of a beholder. “No single item,” she said, “is dirty apart from a particular system of classification in which it does not fit.” But, for Mayhew, dirt is the one thing he most wants to define.

Yet he can never fix it. How do you count dust? How do you hold it? What is it? The powdered world? The fundamental raw material? Sediment or suspension? A cast of everything that has lived? That which we tread on — or breathe? That which we are? Hamlet’s quintessence?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Again, a Shift

Did not finish The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. With only one or two exceptions, the case studies were elderly people. Everyone knows growing old SUCKS. Oliver Sacks is masterful in telling all the different ways. Next!

Diving into Tim Dee’s Landfill: Notes on Gull Watching and Trash Picking in the Anthropocene, a book self began reading a while back, which got pushed back because when traveling, she finds novels easier to digest.

Tim Dee did not always have a fascination for gulls, just as gulls are no longer necessarily seagulls.

pp. 17 – 18:

Calling them seagulls is wrong — that was one of the first things I learned as a novice bird-boy. They are as much inland among us as they are far out over the waves. Yet, in fact, this state of life for them is new. Over the past hundred years, human modernity has brought gulls ashore. They have lived in our slipstream, following trawlers, ploughs, dust-carts . . . They live as we do, walking the built-up world and grabbing a bite where they can.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Patient # 4, LET ME NOT BE MAD

For the past two days self has been reading A. K. Benjamin’s Let Me Not Be Mad. She must be in a zone: it’s her third memoir written by a doctor since the start of the summer.

At first, self found Benjamin’s style a little too fraught, but Story # 2 was a shocker. Laid her flat.

Story # 4 is about Michael, 58, who’s recovering from a traumatic brain injury.

He invites his doctor to attend a football match: Arsenal vs. Halifax.

The doc agrees (Self thinks there must be a different level of permissible interaction between doctors and patients in England? In the States, no doctor would accept such an invitation.)

This deadpan sentence has self clutching her sides:

  • He will of course be hyper-litigious in the event of an incident.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Walking Around in a Heat Wave

Bookstores are fine places.

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Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park: That woman is very wisely dressed.

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Staff Picks, Kepler’s Books

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More Staff Picks! Leanne Shapton’s mother is Pinay.

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The order line at Café Borrone, around 10 a.m.

 

 

Still Reading Stephen Westaby

Summer continues. The days are long. Self’s favorite time of day is after dinner, when the heat is dissipating. Around 8 p.m. It’s still light.

Self’s reading has slowed with the warm weather. Today she’s on Chapter Nine of Open Heart: A Cardiac Surgeon’s Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table: Westaby is doing a heart transplant on a 10-year-old boy named Stefan. The doctors begin surgery when they get word that “the donor heart had left Harefield” and “would arrive in Oxford in thirty minutes.”

It arrives. The assisting doctor, Marc, “started to trim the donor heart,” which was “from a live person with a normal brain.”

(In parts, this book reads like a horror story — Westaby seems to have a taste for the gruesome detail)

It was time to cut out Stefan’s own sad heart and make ready for the new one. Out it came. The empty pericardium was a curious sight. No heart. It must have been scary when Barnard did it for the first time. Like a car without an engine under the hood.

Then, the implantation:

Any donor heart is slippery and wet. Not easy to hold in position.

My treacherous imagination takes over.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Lily: ONCE UPON A RIVER, p. 153

Lily is rather simple, and self is moving slow as slow through this deliciously rich narrative (which means, she is enjoying this novel immensely):

When she had done the laundry (and ironed the sheets and scrubbed the tiles and filled the log baskets and got the soot off the hearth and polished the furniture and shaken the curtains and knocked air into the cushions and gone round all the picture and mirror frames with a feather duster and put a shine on all the taps with vinegar and cooked the parson’s dinner and set it ready on the table under a cloth, and washed up and cleaned the stove and left everything in the kitchen neat and tidy), Lily went and knocked again at the study door.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: 1st Tuesday of June 2019

Once Upon a River, p. 133

The photographer is waking up!

His thoughts on ascertaining there is a woman in the room:

There was an assurance in her footsteps and movements that told him she was neither very young nor very old. Was she fair or dark? Pretty or plain? She must be plain, he thought. Otherwise, she would be married, and if she were married she would not be here nursing a strange man alone in a bedroom.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Certain Favorites: ONCE UPON A RIVER

Trying hard to keep this post spoiler-free. Don’t worry, she’s only a third of the way through this novel. She’s not giving away any big secrets or anything.

We are at a Vaughan chapter. Self has to admit, this character is one of her favorites. (How lucky is she that she just finished Northanger Abbey and then stumbled into another great novel. This doesn’t happen often. That is why she appreciated discovering Phillip Pullman and reading His Dark Materials all in one go.)

Setterfield is really good at describing sows, pet pigs, etc First there was Maud the Sow, who was kidnapped (Who kidnaps a sow? a character asks. Yeah, WHO?). Martha, a pig, Maud’s daughter, becomes a replacement confidant for one of the characters (There are so many pigs on farms in the Philippines and no one’s ever written about them. Or turned them into characters. Why not give it a try, self?)

Vaughan had a disorienting encounter several chapters ago with Mrs. Constantine. He lost his daughter — “taken” — when she was four. He’s just been going through the motions ever since. Then someone rescues a man and a four-year-old girl from the river. A servant tells his wife the news before Vaughan gets a chance to tell her himself, and then his wife takes off, just like that, to the inn where the drowned/rescued girl has been taken.

These actions, while thrilling, are so perfectly in character. Self finds herself nodding over the pages, saying “Yes, yes. Go on.”

As for Vaughan, he couldn’t go on. He went on.

As for the man who was rescued with the little girl, he has remained unconscious for all these pages. He made a big, dramatic entrance in Chapter 1, lost consciousness, and has been lying flat on his back on a table at an inn since forever. All self knows about him is that a nurse practitioner (or whatever you called healers in that time, in England) came and examined his entire naked body very thoroughly, and deduced that his injuries were survivable, and also that he was a photographer.

She only heard of Diane Setterfield at the Fowey Festival of the Arts. She went to Bookends of Fowey and asked if they could recommend a book by Setterfield “to start with.” Once Upon a River was out of the question because it was hardcover and very thick, and self had still weeks of travel to go. She bought it, though, just before leaving London.

In another piece of luck, self has been back from London for two whole days, and her weirdo neighbor has not made a peep (until this afternoon, when she heard muffled stirrings from the other side of the fence. UGH. She’s confident he’ll never discover this blog, because he doesn’t seem to do anything all day, and has no friends. He has stuffed animals lined up in his living room window, and seems to think self has a crush on him. She’ll be really distressed if he shows himself, frankly. It will ruin her plans for the summer, which are: to remain entirely, unreservedly, stress-free. One day when she was running out of conversational topics with Dearest Mum, resident of Manila, she told Dearest Mum about this neighbor. True to form, Dearest Mum giggled and said she was so happy to know that self had an admirer!!!)

Something is going to happen. Stay tuned.

Jonathan: ONCE UPON A RIVER, p. 110

Jonathan’s birth:

I couldn’t take my eyes off him, little fairy creature that he was. He gave a blink and the way his eyelid — you know what it is like, not straight like yours and mine, but set at an angle — it closed over the eye not quite like a normal baby, but nearly. I thought, What does he make of this strange world he’s come to? What does he make of me, his foster mother? He moved his arms, not altogether like my baby girls used to, but more floppy — like he was swimming. A baby frown came into his face and I thought, He will cry in a minute. He’s cold. Beattie hadn’t wrapped him up or anything. Fairy children can’t be so very different from the ones I know, I thought, because I can tell he’s getting cold. I put my fingers against his little cheek and he was all wonder, quite astonished! When I took my finger away his little mouth opened and he mewed like a kitten to have it back. I felt my milk rise at his cry.

For the first time in forever, dear blog readers, self has no inclination to read spoilers on goodreads or Twitter. She’s caught firmly in the fictive net of this novel.

Stay tuned.

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