The bad and the good

I almost decided to write a little post about needing a blog break for a week or so, but then I decided that maybe I wouldn’t. My spring break begins in just another few days, so maybe I can make it that far without having to go to such extreme measures. It’s just that last week was a particularly bad one. My mother became seriously ill, and while she’s doing well, I’m worried about her. This weekend I drove up to the Rochester area to visit my parents and help out a bit, and I was glad to help, but this is my first serious brush with my parents’ mortality, and I do not like it one bit. Not at all. But my mother is recovering and will soon be well again, so that’s good.

So instead of taking a blog break, I thought I’d cheer myself up by writing about some things I’m really enthusiastic about these days. Distraction can work wonderfully, can’t it? I spent part of my drive this weekend listening to podcasts, and I have to say I love them. A few months ago, I read this article from The New York Review of Books about all the excellent radio available these days, and I finally got myself over to iTunes to figure out how to download shows. Since then, I’ve heard tons of author interviews on shows like The Leonard Lopate Show and The Brian Lehrer Show both on WNYC, and Radio Open Source where the host talks to his guests for almost an hour. I just heard an amazing interview on this show with Andre Dubus III, whose book Townie I will be reading soon. I’ve also recently heard interviews with Jaimy Gordon, Rana Dasgupta, and Lydia Davis. Also Joseph O’Connor, Joyce Carol Oates, Aminatta Forna, Zadie Smith, Maxine Hong Kingston, Adam Gopnik, and Carlos Fuentes (most of this list comes from The Leonard Lopate Show). It’s so fun to learn a little bit about new books and authors this way.

I also listen to This American Life, where the stories are almost always fascinating, and Fresh Air, which I listen to whenever Terry Gross has interesting guests. Also Studio 360 now and then, and Radiolab. Some of these shows I listened to on the radio in the old fashioned way, but only when the timing was right, which was rare. Now I listen to them whenever I want, most often in the car on my way to work.

The downside to this is that I’ve stopped listening to audiobooks, which is what I used to do during my commute, when I wasn’t listening to music or the news. Commute time is turning out to be precious time, although I don’t want it to be any longer than it is. But there are more things to do with it than I realized. I may go back to audiobooks at some point, but for now, I’m too eager to keep up with my podcasts.

And on to another enthusiasm: have I mentioned how much I love Twitter? For a while I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to use it, but, no surprise, I’ve begun to follow mostly bookish people, whether it’s fellow bloggers, authors, booksellers, or publishers. It’s been so much fun to carry on conversations about books with bloggers, of whom there are too many to list, but you can see who I’m following here. Twitter is also a good source of information on new books from publishers. Their feeds are all about marketing, of course, but it’s marketing news I’d like to hear, and there are often interesting people behind the feeds.

And then there are authors who tweet. My favorite is Colson Whitehead, whose tweets are often hilarious. There’s also Margaret Atwood, Ian Rankin, and Sara Paretsky. Pepys is also on twitter, or at least someone posts bits from his diary now and then. Also, Rosanne Cash’s tweets are awesome; she tweeted about the Super Bowl and the Oscars in the style of Jane Austen, and the results were delightful. And then sometimes super fun things happen like when I tweeted about how much I liked Deb Olin Unferth’s book Revolution, and she tweeted me back saying thank you!

It’s just so much fun. It can be a time suck, but it’s a great way to get news, keep in touch with people and learn about new things. I use Facebook, but Twitter is much cooler.

Okay, that makes me feel better!


Filed under Books, Life

19 responses to “The bad and the good

  1. Rohan Maitzen

    I’m so glad your mother is recovering. I know what you mean about that first brush with parental mortality–my father had two medical problems converge a couple of years ago and at this point he seems to have come through both very well, I didn’t like it one bit either. It doesn’t help that I’ve settled so far away that it’s not a simple matter to go out and visit.

    As if you need another recommendation, but I have been enjoying podcasts from BBC’s World Book Club as well as B&N’s one on one series. I hadn’t heard of the particular shows you mention but I’ll go see if iTunes Canada has them. I am not a great listener–my mind wanders! But interviews seem to work better for me than fiction, and one nice combination is to put something on while I do a little cross-stitch to keep my hands busy.

    I had a lot of doubts about Twitter but I think, as your comments suggest, it really is all about who you follow and get into little conversations with, and what you hope to get out of it. I quite look forward to checking in now and seeing what’s up. It was pretty amazing following tweets from Tahrir Square during the protests, too.


  2. Aw, I’m sorry to hear about your mom. Glad to hear she’s doing well, but that’s still hard.

    My household is fairly obsessed with both Terry Gross and This American Life, and a friend of ours just turned us on to Radiolab (which David loves but I am still warming up to, slowly). I used to listen to more podcasts when I had a bus commute – now I walk to work & there’s so much traffic noise that I can’t really listen to anything. But I did enjoy them when they were a regular part of my routine.


  3. Sorry about your Mom. Had a similar mortality brush with my Dad and skin cancer last year and it stopped me cold in my tracks. So I know how you feel and applaud your great attitude.

    I am also a big Colson Whitehead fan although I landed myself in disfavor with another blogger for a retweet of his. Oh well. He is hilarious. Also like that I can read and write tweets on the go from my phone while I have a few moments to kill. And pick up lots of great book info from publishers. And have even won 4 or 5 new books.


  4. Ugh. Sorry to hear about your mom. I haven’t been through that myself, but I know it’s ahead, and it will be rough.

    I’ve been listening to the This American Podcast for ages, usually while going on walks or working out in the condo gym, and I’ve recently become enamored of Radiolab and The Moth. I actually got to go to a live Radiolab show (and was in the front row!), and it was so amazing to watch. Listening to it, you can hear that each second of sound is impeccably choreographed, but watching them work the controls and converse brings it home.

    I have a love/hate relationship with Twitter a lot of the time. I love getting into chats with other bloggers, like you and everyone else who’s commented here so far. But the time suck issue is a problem for me, and I’ve come to suspect that I follow too many people and end up seeing too much of the drama that goes around. But that’s an issue with my use of Twitter, not with Twitter itself. When I filter out the annoying stuff, I end up enjoying Twitter a great deal.


  5. I hope the bookishness continues to offer a useful distraction from family health concerns; I understand how upsetting that can be. I also understand the pull between audiobooks and podcasts; I’m currently in a podcast phase myself, but will swing back to audiobooks soon. One favourite is CBC’s Writers & Company, which I enjoy as much as The World Book Club mentioned above. Good listening!


  6. Sorry your mom isn’t feeling well, hoping she will be well soon. I love podcasts, too. Big fan of This American Life, Fresh Air and Radiolab. And I’m about to start Townie, as well. And now I’m going to sign in to Twitter to check out the author tweets–thanks for the suggestion!


  7. I’m so sorry to hear about your mother, Dorothty and what a relief to think that she’s on the mend now. Horrible for you, though, and I hope you’re taking as much time out as you can to get back on an even keel after all the worry. Podcasts sound wonderful – I am too technically challenged to manage to listen to many, but I can see how soothing and interesting they would be.


  8. I’m really sorry about your Mom and so glad she’s doing well. It is very hard to have to face anyone’s mortality, I think, but especially those to whom we have always instinctively turned to keep us safe from harm. When the roles reverse it takes a great deal of getting used to – for both parties.

    I love podcasts too and you seem to listen to entirely different ones to me, so I shall go now and see if I can add more to the list of weekly downloads. The trouble is that list is now so long that I have difficulty finding time to listen to them all, but I don’t think adding a daily commute to my already over full schedule is going to be the answer. Have you discovered ‘Books on the Nightstand’ and ‘The Guardian Book Podcast’? I recommend both.


  9. So sorry to hear about your mom,but am happy she is on the mend. Thanks for the informative and (otherwise) entertaining post – I am hoping to begin using twitter and I definitely need to start utilizing options like pod casts that are at my disposal – these seem to be things I keep putting off and I need to make the time for them!


  10. Michelle

    Brushing with parent mortality is really no fun, I’m sorry to hear that your mom was sick. I’m glad you could be your family and do a little helping out.

    I love podcasts – I used to listen on my walks with the dog but that doesn’t really work now that I’m often chasing after a toddler at the same time. So I save them for “quiet” time, when my daughter and I are just relaxing about the house and playing games. It’s nice to have bookish conversations going on in the background. I love the BBC world books one as well, which I think someone else mentioned here. Barnes and Noble has author interviews, which can be cool too.


  11. I’m so sorry to hear about your mom–I’m glad she’s better and hope she continues to improve. I often complain about getting older but it’s almost worse that I know my parents are getting older, too, and more fragile. Take care of yourself–I know how stressful this can be to deal with!

    I used to listen to podcasts but it took so long to load them onto my MP3 player I gave up. Maybe now that I have faster internet I can try again–I like to listen on my walks to and from work, and the same old music gets boring. I’ve also not been listening to audio books–too cold right now and I can’t find anything good I want to listen to. I’m tempted by Twitter (another thing I said I would never do, but…), but I am already finding my computer time is often too much so I hate to add even more distractions, though they can be good distractions.


  12. Hope your mom is feeling better!

    We are great NPR fans. Thanks for the other links!


  13. It’s so scary to have to deal with a parents’ illness. Glad to hear your mom is recovering!

    I’m a big NPR junkie and love all those shows you mentioned. I even have an NPR radio at home πŸ™‚


  14. I’m sorry to hear about your mother, but glad that she’s recovering. Thanks for the radio links–I love radio, esp when I’m too tired to read. I like twitter for the links to interesting stories. I wish I had time to engage in the kind of conversations you describe. Maybe one day.


  15. How scary about your mom. I am so glad she is on the mend and hope she is completely well soon. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago but all is well now. Still, our parents’ mortality is not something we like to think about. They drive us crazy but they should still be invincible.

    You excitement about the podcasts is fun. I usually read on my public transit commute and hadn’t considered putting any podcasts on my iPod. When I get the chance I will definitely be visiting iTunes and checking out your recommendations!


  16. Oh, an one more thing πŸ™‚ Twitter. I love it. I just wish I had more time to give to it. Once I graduate which won’t be too long now!


  17. Best wishes to your Mom. I hope her illness is put behind all of you soon.

    Funny your observations about Twitter. I feel the same way, though am not happy if I get to the end of a block of hours intended for writing and find out that I’ve been tweeting instead. Slippery slope I think they call it… πŸ˜‰


  18. Rohan — it sounds hard not to be able to visit your parents easily when they are sick. It’s a 5-6 hour drive for me, so it’s not terribly difficult, but it does take up the good part of a day. Thanks for the podcast recommendations! I will check them out. I’ve thought that listening to podcasts while knitting would be fun; it’s almost enough to make me learn how to knit πŸ™‚ But I don’t see that I’m going to have the time for it.

    Emily — right now Radio Lab is the least favorite on my list, but I’ve still enjoyed it and could come to enjoy it more the more I listen. Certain shows do take some time to warm up to. I wouldn’t mind if I could give up my commute, but I would miss the podcasts, definitely!

    Frances — oh, I’m sorry about your dad. It’s so scary to see a parent sick. That’s too bad the retweet got you in a little trouble! How annoying. Somebody doesn’t have a sense of humor, perhaps?

    Teresa — I haven’t heard of The Moth, so I’ll look into it. How fun to go to a Radiolab show! That would be cool. As for twitter, I’ve stopped following people I like but who tweet constantly and clutter up my feed, and I try to stop following people whom I’ve lost interest in, to make it less overwhelming.

    Buriedinprint — thank you for the podcast recommendation! I’m finding myself overwhelmed with choices, which is a good problem to have!

    Gentle Reader — if you do join Twitter, let me know, and I’ll follow you! I’m really looking forward to Townie; it promises to be a great book.

    Litlove — thank you for your kind words. It’s been a long week, but now I’m getting a break from school, and that helps a lot. I often delay learning about new things because of the technological barrier, until I get a burst of energy or something, learn all about it, and then it becomes familiar and easy. But I do understand the hesitancy about new things.

    Annie — thanks for the recommendations! I know just what you mean about the long list of podcasts and the time problem. In the summer when I don’t commute to work, I basically don’t listen to them because there isn’t a time they fit well into my day. Perhaps I should take up long walks? Thanks for your thoughts about mom as well — much appreciated.

    Courtney — thank you. It can be overwhelming sometimes to think about the ways I can fill my time and all the opportunities out there. Sometimes I want to shut it all out and go hide, but mostly, it’s exciting and fun.


  19. Michelle — the trick is fitting the podcasts into one’s day. I like absolute quiet if I’m doing anything much, so driving is really the best time, and doing dishes. Thanks for the recommendations!

    Danielle — thank you for your thoughts about my mom! I’m trying hard to give myself time to recover from the stress of it all. I’ll bet with your wireless you’ll have an easier time with the podcasts. I’d LOVE it if you were on Twitter! Really, I would. But I understand your hesitancy. It really can be a time suck and a distraction.

    Jenclair — thank you very much!

    Iliana — thanks! How funny that you have an NPR radio πŸ™‚ I’ve heard lots of pledge drives where they were giving those away.

    Lilian — it’s all matter of finding the time, right? They are there for whenever you are ready.

    Stefanie — definitely true about being driven crazy but also wanting parents to be invincible. That’s exactly right. I think I’d want to read if I had a bus commute, but perhaps podcasts could give you some variety. I’m looking forward to all the free time you’ll have when you graduate and can do more with Twitter πŸ™‚

    Melissa — I often have twitter open while I’m grading, and it slows down the process tremendously. I’ll be in the middle of a paper, and next thing I know, I’m clicking on interesting links and reading stories and who knows what. It can be a problem!


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