Updates: 8/12/2012

Most of my reading time this week has gone into my mystery book group selection, which is Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski novel Hard Time. We are doing something different for this meeting, which will be next weekend: we are gathering for the weekend in Vermont, where one couple in the group has a second home up in the mountains. I’m very excited about this, as I love their Vermont place, and it will be a lot of fun to extend our usual evening together into an entire weekend. I’m imagining there will be no end to the book talk that goes on.

As for the book itself, I enjoyed it, with some reservations. I’ve listened to two or three Paretsky books on audio, and once again I’m finding it to be the case that I generally like books more when I listen to them than when I read them on paper. I’m probably a less critical reader when I’m listening, and more inclined to get caught up in the story. I did enjoy the experience of reading the novel: I like the Warshawski character and found the story was absorbing and the novel was well-paced. I also like how overtly political a writer Paretsky is. Each of her books takes on some aspect of political or social trends going on at the time of writing, often ones that are directly related to her Chicago setting, and it’s satisfying to feel Warshawski’s frustration and anger at some of the things that outrage me too. But large chunks of the plot felt implausible to me. I won’t go into details, but I wondered how realistic her depiction of journalism and the criminal justice system was. I was pulled out of the story now and then as I shook my head, wondering if this could ever really happen. Some of the characters were too close to caricatures, which also bothered me. They were sometimes so extreme as to be unbelievable, and some could have been better developed. They are victims of Paretsky’s political mindset, I suppose; as much as I like the political element, it surely tempts a writer to turn characters into arguments.

Once I finished Hard Time, I was fortunate to get an email from my library telling me that a copy of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was available, which I’ve been waiting for for the last month or two. I started it today, and 70 pages in, I’m enjoying it very much.

The other book I spend a significant amount of time with last week was Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative, which I’m teaching in an online class this fall. I needed to write up a couple lectures on it and prepare discussion questions. It’s a book I know well from grad school days, but it had been a number of years since I last read it. It’s a fascinating book bringing together a number of genres: it’s a slave autobiography, a travel adventure story (similar in this part to Robinson Crusoe, which we are also reading in this class), a spiritual autobiography, a political argument, an economic tract, and probably other things as well. There should be a lot there to discuss.

I’m making slow but steady progress in my Virginia Woolf books as well, the Lee biography and the second volume of her diaries. The Lee biography continues to impress me; about four chapters in, I’m admiring how she combines ideas and arguments with factual information. As someone with a bad memory for facts, I hesitate to pick up long, fact-filled nonfiction, but Lee has started every chapter with analysis and interpretation, something I have a better memory for, getting in the facts along the way. I like this focus very much. As for the diaries, Woolf is in 1920, getting starting on Jacob’s Room and writing about her response to reviews of Night and Day, which was published in 1919. It is clear she knows she is doing something new with Jacob’s Room, taking her writing in a new direction.

On a more personal note, Hobgoblin and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary this past week. 14! We celebrated by going hiking with Muttboy on a stretch of the Appalachian Trail that we have hiked many times together, the three of us. Then Hobgoblin and I went out for a fancy-schmancy dinner that ended with the chocolate sampler for dessert. Yum. Who could resist a chocolate sampler?

Finally, here is my first pregnant belly picture, taken at 15 weeks.

As you see, I’m in the awkward stage where I sort of look pregnant, but also look as though I’ve just had a very good summer eating-wise (which I have). People who know I’m pregnant say I’m showing, but I’m not sure anyone else would would venture to ask. I’ve noticed one questioning, uncertain look so far, but that person wasn’t going to risk getting it wrong.


Filed under Books

17 responses to “Updates: 8/12/2012

  1. I expect you can feel the waves of envy coming over the Atlantic at the thought of your book weekend. It’s something I’ve often thought of organising but as none of our group have a convenient second home we would have to rent and that would be mor eonsive than sone people could manage.
    I know what you mean about Paretsky’s work. I’ve just read her latest, Breakdown, and at times I was shouting out loud at some of the characters and their professed views, even at the same time as hoping that they were too exaggerated to be true. But I like that she cares so much and has the courage to write that concern into her books.

    The Bears say to tell you that they love the picture and would not be so rude as to suggest that you have done anything more than to over indulge a little where the honey is concerned.


    • I can see that this kind of weekend would be a challenge to organize. Even with a convenient second home, it’s hard to get so many people to settle on the same weekend when we are all free. Certainly renting something would add a lot to the difficulty. I think we are very lucky! I agree about enjoying Paretsky’s passion for the subjects she writes about. And the Bears are so polite! πŸ™‚


  2. Woo-hoo look at you! There’s a very particular shape to a baby tummy, so anyone who’d ever been pregnant would definitely know! Your book weekend sounds fantastic. I’m a Paretsky fan because I love ideas in novels, so the political stuff pleases me and I don’t mind characters taking up a range of viewpoints. But that’s just personal taste (and the tendency of French novels towards that sort of thing!).I’d also like to read Gone Girl.


    • I wondered about the distinctiveness of a pregnancy belly! This is all new to me, so I wouldn’t know. I love ideas in novels too, and those are the best parts of Paretsky, I think. I’d certainly be up for listening to more of her on audio, since that method worked well for me. Gone Girl is very good so far!


  3. Congratulations on both accounts! What a wonderful picture. πŸ™‚ I find that books I like hearing aloud are often disappointing when I read them because the simplicity that makes for a good listen makes for a less than satisfying read.


    • Thanks, Lilian! I’m glad we agree on the audio book experience. It’s interesting to think of the criteria for the two types of books being different and that it would make sense to select books differently based on how I will be experiencing them.


  4. Sounds like some great reading you’ve been doing. Bookman is currently reading and enjoying Gone Girl. Congrats to you and Hobgoblin on the anniversary. Hiking and chocolate sounds like a perfect celebration for you. You look fantastic too!


  5. You look wonderful. Glad you share your photo. What great expectation. πŸ˜‰ I’m all envious too of your book group location. I just might have a chance to visit Vermont comes this fall. Hope to catch a glimpse of the foliage. Sounds like you’ve a plate full of good reading. I’m planning a read-along of Anna Karenina in the next two months, before the new film adaptation comes out in Nov. Would love to have you join in. Will post later this month about it.


    • Thank you, Arti! Visiting Vermont in the fall sounds great. That’s one time I’ve never been there, or at least early enough to see the foliage. It must be beautiful. Your AK read-along sounds like a lot of fun. I’ve already read the novel twice (!) and may read it again one day, but I’m not sure now is the time. Thanks for mentioning it, though!


  6. Nan

    SO very exciting. Loved the description of people wondering is she pregnant or has she gained some weight. Very funny.
    It would be fun to read VW’s diaries, and the book right as she is talking about it. Mmm, maybe a little project for me??


  7. You look great! It’s sort of fun to see people’s reactions and note how they act–will they pretend they don’t notice anything (for fear of getting it wrong) or blurt something out in their excitement. Congrats on your wedding anniversary–you’ll be a threesome next time around! πŸ™‚ It’s cool that you’re still cycling, too (I see a bike in the background!). And I am looking forward to the Flynn book–am waiting until the line shortens at the library!


    • Thanks, Danielle! It will be fun to notice people’s reactions. So far nothing that interesting has happened, but I’m sure it will. I go back to school next week, so that should be interesting. Yeah, I’m still cycling, although it’s starting to feel a little cramped! I waited a long time, if felt like, to get the Flynn, and it was worth it.


      • I finally went online to request the Flynn, but the line was so outrageous–something like 400 people waiting for it (even with 16 copies it would take forever), so I went to Amazon, saw it was heavily discounted and just ordered it–I’m really looking forward to reading it!


  8. I remember those early-ish weeks of pregnancy where you’re showing but it looks like you could just have a bit of a belly, so no one says anything. I was dying to talk about the pregnancy then, but no one would say anything. Ironically, when I was bored talking about pregnancy (towards the end) that’s all anyone wanted to talk about because I was so obviously pregnant!

    (I sent you an email. After you see my second email, you’ll understand why I thought twice about even pointing it out. haha)


    • Trish — people have started to bring it up, even without knowing for sure; I had my first person ask me about the pregnancy out of the blue. Other people are giving me significant looks, which is always funny πŸ™‚ Thanks for the email.


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