In real life, it is the hare who wins. Every time. Look around you. And in any case it is my contention that Aesop was writing for the tortoise market. Hares have no time to read. They are too busy winning the game. -- Anita Brookner
You will recall the multiple Banner trucks in our driveway last winter. Today we had multiple trucks from an "environmental remediatiion" company in the drive as men worked all day to remove our old furnace. We needed the specialists because a few of the pipes were wrapped in asbestos - the system was put in back in the 50s. Overnight they continued the negative air pressure in the utility room with a large fan. They kept the cats out with this sign.
Next week the new boiler will be installed.
Meanwhile the temperature last night went down to nearly freezing, and it is taking two industrial heaters and one little heater of our own to keep my fingers from freezing to the keys.
I whipped through Robert Goolrick's A Reliable Wife (2009) today, eager to get to the "satisfying close" that the Publisher's Weekly review promised. I was not satisfied. Here's what PW said:
Set in 1907 Wisconsin, Goolrick's fiction debut (after a memoir, The End of the World as We Know It) gets off to a slow, stylized start, but eventually generates some real suspense. When Catherine Land, who's survived a traumatic early life by using her wits and sexuality as weapons, happens on a newspaper ad from a well-to-do businessman in need of A Reliable Wife, she invents a plan to benefit from his riches and his need. Her new husband, Ralph Truitt, discovers she's deceived him the moment she arrives in his remote hometown. Driven by a complex mix of emotions and simple animal attraction, he marries her anyway. After the wedding, Catherine helps Ralph search for his estranged son and, despite growing misgivings, begins to poison him with small doses of arsenic. Ralph sickens but doesn't die, and their story unfolds in ways neither they nor the reader expect. This darkly nuanced psychological tale builds to a strong and satisfying close.
The book was so slow to start I was within one page of tossing it aside. Then, on page 33, POW! Well, I thought, this isn't going to be so bad after all. But soon I was bogged down again. I finished the book by skimming through most of the last 100 pages looking for those plot developments that the characters didn't expect. There were some pretty dramatic ones, but they are overgrown with verbiage. The book verges on pornography, in my opinion, which I found unnecessary and annoying.
I've been having trouble getting into the groove with many of the books I've tried to read lately, but I think this souped-up romance novel with overtones of psychological drama will be too much for many readers.
Back to the library went The Brothers Bulger, The World is Fat, and The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries, all having been read cover to cover despite my intention to skim them only.
Also going back are Vintage Jewelry, which I borrowed just to look at the pictures, which I did. They are lovely, but none as lovely as the pendant (formerly a dress clip) that Wilhelm gave me a few years back. Also returned is the book on physical therapy. It was ok, but what I really need is a book of anatomy, preferably one by DK, which does such good illustrated books.
I looked at the Medved book, The 10 Big Lies about America, but he was foaming at the mouth a bit and besides I don't think all of his 10 "lies" are untrue, so I skipped it. I also sent back Forty Signs of Rain. I'm disappointed that I didn't enjoy that book as much as I expected. I don't recall who recommended it but I do recall that it was someone whose suggestions are usually solid. The fault probably lies in myself and not in the book.
The fault for my difficulties with The Likeness is entirely mine. I'm sending it back and putting the title on my list for future reading. I loved Into the Woods so much that I know I'll like this book once I'm in the appropirate mood.
Also returning unread is The Missing. I looked it over and read a dozen pages. Too much plot. I like books where nothing happens to fascinating people in intriguing settings over long periods of time. This book is much too lively for me.
I'm returning one of the Georges Simenon mysteries. I need only one at a time.
Waiting for me at the library were some crime fiction taking place in Boston, Robert B Parker's Mortal Stakes (1975), Dennis Lehane's A Drink Before the War (1994), and George V Higgins' The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972.) I also got a biography by a native Southie, Easter Rising: An Irish American Coming Up from Under by Michael Patrick MacDonald (2006.)
I requested Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto (2004) because I like analyses of pop culture.
And there were three books of literary fiction, W G Sebald's Austerlitz (2001), which I borrowed because Jan in my Trollope group likes Sebald and his recommendations are to be trusted; A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick (2009) - I've no idea why I requested that one; and Rose Tremain's Music and Silence (1999) - again, no idea why I wanted to read it.
If you have been following my recent blogs you know I have a lot of books out from the library, 28 of them to be precise. Too many for me to be able to read them all before they are due back. But instead of making a list, focusing on the books I most want to read and reading them in the order in which they are due, as usual I'm all over the place.
I finished re-reading Bleak House after re-watching the DVDs of the recent Timothy West version so I decided to read behind the TV episodes of Little Dorrit. Little D is a very long book. I started reading it after watching the first episodes of the TV adaptation, which I had to watch on my laptop because I remembered Masterpiece Theatre at 8:30 AM Monday morning and had missed the whole Sunday night thing. But I grew weary of Dickens and I felt the need to read Mansfield Park. (Why? I don't know why.) So I put down Little Dorrit and picked up Jane Austen, which soon moved into the bedroom onto my bedside table.
I had been tearing through Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson but somewhere about a third into the book I suddenly lost interest. So I put that aside and picked up Tana French's The Likeness. I enjoyed Into the Woods so much I was certain this was going to be THE book of the weekend. It wasn't. I got bogged down before the detective ever went undercover.
So I picked up The World Is Fat, which is a bit dry and bland (not enough sugar, salt, or fat) but interesting. Then I put that down and started browsing in The Brothers Bulger, which I didn't intend to read. About 6 hours later I had finished reading every word of that shocking book (Boston politics, corruption, crime, etc.)
For a change of pace I started looking at the pictures in The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries and ended up reading every word of that as well. It's interesting to read the screenplay after having seen and heard the film. Emma Thompson's diary is amusing. One learns a good deal about the problems of making movies in England.
And somewhere in there I lost a whole day to a hangover. Wilhelm took me to dinner at the new restaurant in our neighborhood, Vintages at 611, to celebrate our anniversary, which was a treat. But I was tempted by their excellent wine list and ordered a glass of claret. I drank only about half the glass but nonetheless I woke at 3 AM with a screaming migraine. Ergotamine, a caffeine pill, and cool silence took away the pain but not the other migraine maladies. I spent the day yesterday in my recliner with my cat in my lap dozing.
I will not drink wine again, no matter the quality.
Today I spent much of the day trying to read and weed out old email messages, and by old I mean last November's mail. It's now 8 PM and the ponderosas are black silhouettes against the setting sun and I am about to get into bed with a book . . . Mansfield Park is perfect.
I finished reading The Help and The Gardner Heist and returned them to the library yesterday. I had borrowed Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997 by Piers Brendon but it's too large to tackle right now. However, I browsed in it and found it well written and of course fascinating. I made a note to borrow it again when I have time to read it.
I also returned Cinderella Man: James J Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History by Jeremy Schaap. My book club watched the movie (with Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger) and the book wasn't adding much to the story so I quit reading half way through.
I picked up some books about art, the Gardner Museum, the Bulger boys, and Ireland, inspired by The Gardner Heist. I don't plan to read them all or all of those I do read, but I want to browse in them.
Sarah Thornton's Seven Days in the Art World (2008) is about . . . the art world. Critics, auctions, exhibits, etc.
The Art of Scandal: The Life and Times of Isabella Stewart Gardner by Douglass Shand-Tucci (1997) is a biographies of Belle Stewart and her world, which included Edith Wharton, Henry James, Henry Adams, and John Singer Sargent, who painted two famous portraits of her, one when she was paralyzed and dying. She is as shockingly beautiful in the last as in the first.
The Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter of a Century by Howie Carr (2006.) Alas, the title is not an exaggeration.
Whitey Bulger disappeared in 1994 but he is almost certainly living in Ireland where he has citizenship. And so the last of the four Gardner Heist-inspired books, McCarthy's Bar: A Journey of Discovery in Ireland by Pete McCarthy (2000.) He has a Rule of Traveling: Never pass a bar that has your name on it. Couldn't pass it up.
I picked up a Michael Medved book, The 10 Big Lies about America (2008) because I can never resist lists like the 1000 books you must read before you die or the six rules of book reviewing or whatever.
The American Physical Therapy Association Book of Body Maintenance and Repair I got because I wanted to know more about the rotator cuff. I think I know now where to put the ice.
Warman's Vintage Jewelry by Leigh Leshner (2008) is just for fun. It's mostly pictures and it's about costume jewelry which is so much more fun than the real thing, don't you think?
And there is that pesky Jonathan Littell book again. The library has four copies which just appeared last week and as of yesterday two of them were out (one to me) and two available. So it looks like there are only two of us in Spokane who are even trying to read the book. I'm going to give it another go.