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.