I am feeling so out of it right now. I rode my bike for two hours this morning, and then volunteered at the town library book sale for 2.5 hours this afternoon and was on my feet the whole time, and while that’s probably not a whole lot, it’s all this pregnant lady can handle. I came home and before I knew it I was sleeping deeply. Thank God for naps.
Of course, volunteering is not the only thing I did at the book sale this week; yesterday, Hobgoblin and I checked it out to see what books we wanted for ourselves, and I came home with three: Tinkers, by Paul Harding, The Man of My Dreams, by Curtis Sittenfeld, and The Master Bedroom, by Tessa Hadley. The Harding I can’t tell you anything about except I’ve heard good things about it. The Sittenfeld is one whose title would normally keep me from buying it, but I’ve found I like Sittenfeld very much, so I’ll read anything of hers. And the Hadley I know nothing about, but she’s someone I’ve been meaning to read for a while. We’ll see how they go.
As for reading this week, I finished two books. One was The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, which I liked a whole lot. It’s more plotty than The Summer Book, for those of you who have read it, although still not very plot-driven. But there is a definite story that keeps you wanting to read further, a story that involves the relationship between a 25-year-old woman, Katri, and an older woman, Anna, both of whom are eccentric, isolated, and set in their ways. Katri, however, wants to make a change — she wants to worm her way into Anna’s life for the financial benefit of her younger brother. How she does this and what the consequences are make up the rest of the story. What makes it so great, though, is the quality of the writing, which is simple and straightforward, while at the same time managing to communicate a lot of depth. As I said last week, I very much like the neutral, non-judgmental narrator who tells us the story while leaving us to draw our own conclusions. Sometimes, it’s necessary to work a little bit to draw those conclusions, with the effect that you’re caught up in the relationship between Katri and Anna, wondering who’s going to do what next. And you’re also left wondering what it means to be a “true deceiver” — what the truth is, exactly, and who is being true to whom.
The other book I finished is a short story collection by George Saunders, The Tenth of December. The book isn’t due out until January 2013, but I won a copy on LibraryThing. I read Saunders’s first story collection CivilWarLand in Bad Decline a long time ago and liked it very much, and I was surprised to see that the first few stories are in a different vein than those in the first book: they are straightforwardly realistic, whereas his stories are typically absurd, wacky, often futuristic in a Brave New World kind of way. About halfway through the collection, though, the stories switched into his typical non-realistic mode, and I felt I was back in familiar territory. I liked the stories, whether realistic or not. They sometimes got a little too close to false sentimentality, but most of the time, Saunders gives you characters in trouble, pathetic, difficult people, and he makes you care about them. The stories are often about difficult family relationships: parents who mess up their kids, messed up kids dealing with dealing with their messed up parents. Husband/wife relationships gone bad. Sometimes they are about exploitive work situations that force people to make impossible choices. They are all about people in deep trouble, trying to figure out who they are and clinging to some vestige of their humanity.
Oh, if you like essay collections, I highly, highly recommend George Saunders’s The Braindead Megaphone. It’s excellent.
Just last night I started reading Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes in the Museum and am only a few pages in. I didn’t love her book Case Histories, but I’ve heard enough good things about her non-Jackson Brodie books that I wanted to give her another try.
Finally, here’s the latest pregnant belly photo, at 17 weeks (there are always books and a bike in the background of these things, aren’t there!):
This week is the beginning of the semester — not of classes, but of the meetings that lead up to classes. So my life will soon get much busier. Sigh.
Have a great week everyone!