Home again, home again

So Hobgoblin, Muttboy, and I are back home after a trip to upstate New York to visit my family.  The trip was fine.  I complain about how hard it is to visit my family, but the truth is that they are totally fine and the problem is all with me.  I just read Litlove’s post about how hard it is to be sociable, especially when you are introverted and sensitive to other people’s feelings, and I recognized myself in everything she wrote.  There is just too much going on when I visit my family — too many people, too many emotions, too many memories, too much conversation, too much uncertainty.  And these days there are new people to meet all the time — new boyfriends and girlfriends (I have six siblings, all of whom are younger than I am), and I have to figure out not only what I think of them but what they think of each other and how they change the family dynamic for better or for worse.  This time around only two of my siblings could make it along with their respective boyfriends, but even though the numbers were relatively small (only eight people, including my parents, out of a possible 15 or 16, depending on whether my littlest brother is dating anyone or not), there was plenty to think about.  I’m tired.

I got a nice stack of Christmas books, though, which is the real point of this post.  First of all, a good friend sent me Bernard Malamud’s novel The Assistant. She said it was the best novel she’d read last year, and as she is one of the most discerning readers I know, I’m sure it’s good.  I read Malamud’s The Fixer quite a few years ago and enjoyed it, but this novel looks to be quite different, as it’s set in Brooklyn rather than in Russia.

On Christmas day I had a few books waiting for me under the tree; first of all, Hobgoblin gave me Claire Tomalin’s biography of Jane Austen.  I love Austen so much it’s a little ridiculous I haven’t read a biography of her yet, and after reading Tomalin’s bio of Samuel Pepys, I know she’s the one to read.  Then I got a copy of Gabriel Josipovici’s Everything Passes, which my sister found on my Book Mooch wishlist (I made sure my family knew about that list, just in case they wanted help choosing books — there are something like 170 books on that list, so there is plenty of room for surprise).  After reading Litlove’s review of the book, I’m thrilled to own a copy.  I also got an eighteenth-century novel: Charlotte Smith’s Emmeline, in a beautiful Broadview edition.  Looking at the Broadview website, I see that there are dozens if not hundreds of books I’d like to order right now.  Finally, I got a copy of Bohumil Hrabal’s Too Loud a Solitude, which I’ve seen highly praised on blogs and which promises to be a good read.

But that’s not quite all.  My dad wanted to go to Barnes and Noble on Friday to use his gift cards, so Hobgoblin and I joined him.  I wasn’t planning on buying anything, but I knew if something struck my fancy, I wouldn’t leave the store without it.  So when I came across David Foster Wallace’s book of essays A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, I didn’t resist.  It will make a nice contribution to next year’s nonfiction reading.  It’s clear where I got my book-loving genes from — I was exhausted and ready to leave the store a good half hour before my dad made his choices.  I had to retire to the cafe to rest up while he was still happily browsing.

I’ll be back soon to write a year-end wrapping up post or two …


Filed under Books, Life

8 responses to “Home again, home again

  1. Family get-togethers can be great but a little overwhelming, too. My family is much smaller and highly predictable, so I’ve got it pretty easy as I’m not terribly sociable either. I also went to the bookstore with mom and sister not once but twice (and on both occasions they had to wait for me in the cafe, but they like coffee so it all worked out!). I’ve got the same Tomalin bio and have been wanting to read it now for a while. Your other books sound good, too! I’m looking forward to hearing about them (especially the Hrabal as he’s on my list).


  2. I’m sure you’ll enjoy Claire Tomalin’s Jane Austen biography… I’d say, she has a style of her own (Tomalin, I mean… of course, JA too). Seems like 2009 is going to be another great year for books. Best wishes for a rewarding year!


  3. I must say it makes me feel awfully comforted to think that other people feel the same porousness I do when socialising AND find it equally hard work. I just imagine seas of happy people milling around endless social gatherings and wonder why I can’t manage it myself. So, very glad indeed to find a kindred spirit.

    And those are wonderful Christmas books. I’m very interested to know how you get on with the Hrabel as I’ve never read him. But I’m looking forward to all the reviews!


  4. Glad your time away went well. I know what you mean about the family being totally fine but the issue being with you. I run into the same thing with mine. You got some nice books though. I loved the Hrabel and am looking forward to what you think of it.


  5. Danielle — I’m glad your holiday time wasn’t too stressful and glad to hear I’m not the only unsociable one here! It’s very nice when family can be patient while you’re looking through a bookstore, isn’t it? I was careful not to rush Dad, because getting rushed myself is no fun.

    Arti — thank you, and best wishes to you too! I’m looking forward to the Tomalin bio — I did enjoy her style in the Pepys bio, and I’m sure she’ll do a great job with Austen.

    Litlove — oh, yes, that’s the hard part, isn’t it, that everyone else looks so content! I wonder how many of the ones who look content really aren’t, though. Anyway, it was immensely comforting to read your post — it came at just the right time!

    Stefanie — I’m glad you hear you liked the Hrabel so much! That makes me look forward to it even more. And yes, family time is complicated, but I wouldn’t want to stay away. It’s just a difficulty I’ll have to keep dealing with, and that’s just fine.


  6. Thank you for posting so honestly about socializing, and including the link to Litlove’s post. It’s so comforting to know others feel this way too. Our family is much smaller than yours, and yet sometimes I have been so stressed about what I say and do, don’t say and don’t do, and how people are treating each other, that I come home so exhausted. I’m feeling better these days about blog and real-life friends, but the thought of going to, say, a work holiday party, is too overwhelming for words.


  7. I love seeing my family but I know that by the end of a few days, I’m craving “me” time.

    Glad to hear you guys had a great Christmas and hurrah for new book treasures to enjoy!


  8. Debby — yes, it definitely is comforting to know we’re not alone. It can make me feel a little less crazy. I’m amazed at how many of my blog friends have described similar experiences — I think many introverted people do very well on the internet, where it’s easier to manage social interaction without getting overwhelmed.

    Iliana — exactly — it’s great to see the family, but it does require giving up alone time, which can be very hard!


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