Category Archives: Cycling

Thoughts for Friday

  • Have you had the kind of day where you start in the morning thinking that you’re going to write a long book review that evening, but as the day goes on, you begin to feel tired and less ambitious and decide to write a shorter note about a really great essay you read yesterday, but then you do more things and get more tired and realize that probably the best you’ll be able to do is disconnected bullet points? That’s me right now.
  • The reason I’m tired is a good one, though. I rode my bike yesterday for two hours up every hill I could find in the neighborhood, and then I went to pilates class in the evening where even though I told the teacher that I went on a hard bike ride and she promised not to do intense quad muscle exercises, she did anyway. And then I rode my bike for three hours today, with Hobgoblin and one other cycling friend, and we rode hard. My muscles were feeling yesterday’s ride every time I went up a hill. And then I went to yoga class this evening. The class was fairly gentle, but still. I’m tired.
  • I’ve been doing some good reading, though (and also spending time writing up class syllabi, but I don’t want to think about that now. I have another week until classes start). I’m in the middle of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely, my first Chandler novel, which I’m reading for my mystery book group. It is so fun! I have the Modern Library edition which also has The Big Sleep, and I’m tempted to read that one immediately after (except that I have other books I need to get to, including Stevie Smith’s Novel on Yellow Paper for the Slaves of Golconda discussion at the end of the month). Hard-boiled detective fiction isn’t a form I have a whole lot of experience with, so it’s nice to be reading a classic of the genre.
  • I’m also reading The Best American Essays 2008, and I just read a fabulous essay on plagiarism by Jonathan Lethem last night. I would like to write a post on it at some point, assuming I get some energy back. I haven’t loved all the essays in this collection (there’s one on cameras that didn’t do much for me and another on 50s pulp fiction that I didn’t like), but there are some really wonderful ones too, so I’d recommend the collection if you would like to read some more essays.
  • Hobgoblin and I finally joined Netflix, after talking about it for years, and I’ve had fun catching up on some movies. I saw Room With a View with Helena Bonham Carter, which I liked a whole lot, and 84, Charing Cross Road, which was fun and moving and did a great job with the book, and now I’m in the middle of the Brideshead Revisited mini-series from 1981. I love how slowly it moves and how it portrays pretty much everything in the novel. The actors seem perfect for their characters too.
  • In fact, I think I’ll go watch another episode now. Enjoy your weekend everybody! I’m going to enjoy mine by not riding for a day or two.


Filed under Books, Cycling

Happy weekend!

I was hoping to write a post about Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist, but it’s 9:00 on a Friday evening, and I’d like to get some reading in before I go to bed, so the Baker post will have to wait. You probably know how that goes (well, maybe all of you are out partying on a Friday night; I shouldn’t assume anybody else stays in). I will say, though, that once again today I found myself trying to talk a friend into reading Baker. That happens a lot with me. I mean, what is everybody waiting for?

Instead of writing about Baker, I’ll tell you how things went this week. First of all, I got some more Christmas presents — all in the form of books. People tend to apologize about giving gifts late, but I like it when they come late, because it spreads the fun out a bit more. First of all, I got a copy of Kelly Link’s book Magic for Beginners, which will work perfectly for Kate’s Short Story challenge. And then I got a copy of Frances Wilson’s biography The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth. I’m acquiring a fairly decent collection of biographies of the romantics, which is fun. Eric Newby’s A Traveler’s Life also arrived, and the title is pretty self-explanatory. It sounds exciting.

Also, two books arrived from Book Mooch: Sybille Bedford’s A Favorite of the Gods and Valerie Trueblood’s Seven Loves. Both of these authors come highly recommended from fellow bloggers.

But I’m not just collecting books; I’m working my way through a few, including Miklos Vamos’s The Book of Fathers. I’m about 3/4 of the way through. The book has been intense and full of characters, events, and history. I’ve been enjoying it. I’m also reading the Best American Essays 2008 collection; I almost always enjoy reading books in that series, and this particular volume is not failing me. Adam Gopnik was the editor that year, and he wrote a great introduction to the essay form. How’s this for an opening line:

The essayist, like his friend the hangman, is expected to apologize for his profession even as he practices it.

An excellent beginning to a so-far excellent book. The first essay was wonderful in a gut-wrenching, shocking kind of way, as were the two after it, now that I think about it, and I’m looking forward to reading further.

But there is cycling news too. Because of the snow and freezing temperatures, Hobgoblin and I have turned to our mountain bikes for exercise. For the most part, we are mountain biking on pavement and not on mountains, but when the roads have ice and slush on them, knobby tires work much better than skinny ones, and many days this week, it’s been the mountain bikes that have allowed us to get out at all. I hadn’t ridden on my mountain bike for several years, so when Hobgoblin pulled mine out, I was initially skeptical and uncertain, but I’ve become so grateful he did because without it I would despair at my ability to train for the races that are only eight weeks away. Now, instead of worrying about snow in the forecast, I just look forward to using my other bike. I’ve ridden six days in a row now, four days on the mountain bike, and it’s been so much fun. Today we did some riding on dirt roads and carriage roads in a local park and it was fun in a terrifying, wheels-sliding-all-over-the-place kind of way.

And tomorrow, Hobgoblin and I have a super-exciting literary excursion to look forward to. I’ll be back soon with a full report.


Filed under Books, Cycling, Life

Happy New Year!

I started off the new year in what I think is an appropriate way: a little bit of laziness (sleeping until 9:00 or so and reading in bed until 10:00ish), a little more reading (an hour or so in the late morning), and a nice long bike ride (three hours with Hobgoblin down to the beach and back). After I write this post, it’s time for more reading. If only things could continue in that leisurely fashion! Or, rather, it would be leisure mixed with the kind of exertion I like: thinking hard about books and then pedaling hard on my bike.

As for what I’m reading, it’s Nicholson Baker’s novel The Anthologist for the second time, because one time with that book wasn’t enough. I read through it fairly fast on the first reading, and now I’m taking my time to savor the ideas and the language. More on that book soon. I’m also reading a friend’s mystery novel draft, which has been enjoyable. It’s set locally, which is always fun, and it has a good plot and interesting characters. I like having such talented friends.

As for cycling, today’s ride was perfect. Well, it was perfect if you set aside the cold (temps in the 30s) and the damp (puddles and slush, but no ice!) and the fact that I got covered in mud. But I felt strong and managed to stay warm, and halfway through the ride, Hobgoblin and I stopped at a cupcake shop for some dessert and coffee. Yum. My final mileage for 2009 is 5,097 miles total and 5,042 miles outdoors (I rode 55 miles on the trainer last winter).

And now for some thoughts on the coming year. I’m keeping things very simple in both my reading and my riding. I was planning on ignoring all reading challenges, and I ignored a lot of them, but I found two I couldn’t resist. One of them is Emily’s TBR challenge, the books for which are listed in my sidebar. And then I saw Kate’s short story challenge and decided it would be perfect for me as I’d like to read more stories this year. I’m going to try to read five collections, although I haven’t chosen the authors yet. I’m thinking one will be Lorrie Moore, and the others I will choose as inspiration strikes.

Otherwise, I plan to read book group books, books for school, and then whatever else I feel like.

As for cycling, my main goal for this year is to not be so numbers-obsessed. I’m glad I reached my 5,000-mile goal in 2009, but I don’t want any more mileage goals, and instead I’d prefer to focus on the kind of riding that will make me stronger for racing and that will keep me in shape for riding with my cycling friends. The number of miles I ride has little to do with these things, and in fact, I could benefit from riding fewer miles and concentrating instead on mixing low- and high-intensity workouts in a better proportion.

There is a limit to my ability to forget about the numbers though. When I told my friend Megan that I wanted to stop worrying about how many miles I was riding, she sensibly asked me why I don’t just stop keeping track. The idea was so shocking I hardly knew what to say. I can’t imagine not knowing. So I will keep logging my rides, but I’m planning on riding fewer than 5,000 miles, so there’s no point in worrying too much about how fast the total mileage is increasing.

I suppose I should have some racing goals too, but I don’t. Or perhaps I should make my goal something abstract like getting as much enjoyment out of racing as I can while not worrying about the results. As I’ve written here many times before, I feel ambivalently about racing, but I’m not quite ready to give it up, as it has nice benefits like making me strong so that my cycling friends don’t leave me behind, and also making me part of the racing community and allowing me to support women’s racing, which needs it. So I’ll race and get stronger and see what happens.

I think that’s it. I guess I’m not one for complicated and detailed resolutions.

I hope your year has started off well!


Filed under Books, Cycling, Reading

Currently reading

I’m slowly emerging from my middle-of-the-semester fog. Many teachers find the last couple weeks of the semester to be the worst, but I have the hardest time during the middle. It’s in the middle that I spend lots of hours writing comments on papers and helping students improve their work. At the end of the semester I get the chance to say, well, you learned it or you didn’t, end of story. That’s much easier and less time-consuming. So I still have grading to do, but I find it goes by quickly and I have more and more reading time.

I also have more time because I’m spending fewer hours on the bike because … I reached my goal of 5,000 miles! I finished up on Tuesday. I plan to ride some over the next couple weeks, but only now and then, and nothing difficult or terribly long. In January I’ll start thinking about next year’s racing, and in the meantime, I’m spending more time on the couch.

So, about my “currently reading” list. I just finished The Yellow Room by Mary Roberts Rinehart, which is the latest selection for my mystery book group. We will meet in a week and a half to discuss it, and I’ll write a post soon. For now I’ll just say that … it wasn’t my favorite that we’ve read for the group. Not by a long shot, in fact. It should be interesting to discuss!

With that book finished, I’m returning to Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley. I’m not quite halfway through the book, and I’m very grateful that it finally, finally picked up the pace a bit. The first 150 pages or so were pretty dull. Brontë introduces some potentially interesting situations and characters, but she doesn’t do much with them. The focus keeps shifting in such a way as to diffuse any tension she has built up, and there is just no spark or energy. But finally Shirley herself arrives, and at that point, things begin to improve. Now there are some interesting dynamics among the characters, including a love triangle, and I’m more content at the thought of the 350 pages or so I have left.

I also picked up a volume of poetry once again. I haven’t read much poetry this past year; I finished up the Wallace Stevens volume I began the previous year, and I read my friend’s chapbook, and that’s it. I decided it was time to return to the genre, and so I picked up the Faber collection of Ted Hughes’s poetry I have on my shelves, part of their Poetry Classics series. The books are beautiful, but I wish they had more information about each poem. There is an introduction by the editor, but nothing to tell you when each of the poems was published and in what collection. The upside to this is that you are left with just the poem itself; there is something satisfying about confronting the words alone. But I’m someone who likes to know a little more contextual information, especially about which poems were published originally in which books. There might be connections among poems that become clearer if the reader knows they were published together.

But still, the books are beautiful, and I’m looking forward to reading further.


Filed under Books, Cycling, Life, Teaching

Eating, Talking, Reading, Riding

My trip to Vermont for Thanksgiving turned out to be a wonderful and much-needed break from schoolwork and grading, and Hobgoblin and I had a great time hanging out with friends. There were five of us total, and we spent our time eating (a lot), talking, reading, and walking the dogs. I love it that this is what we do when we visit these friends — they live surrounded by the Green Mountains, and although there are places to visit in the area, the best thing to do is a whole lot of lounging around, with occasional forays into the woods. It was very restful.

We did make one trip out into society, though. There is an excellent bookstore in the area, and since we are all very bookish people, we simply had to visit. I had a wonderful time browsing, and came away with a book called The Great Age of the English Essay, a collection of essays from eighteenth-century Britain. As far as I’m concerned, I can never have too many essay collections. I came across Zadie Smith’s new essay collection, Changing My Mind, which looks really good, but I decided to wait until it comes out in paperback to get it.

I spent most of the week reading Obama’s Dreams from My Father and just finished it a few minutes ago. I’ll say for now that I am hugely impressed by it, but will write up my thoughts in detail later.

Hobgoblin and I returned yesterday (Saturday), and today I had a chance to ride my bike, something I’ve neglected a bit in the past week because of my travels. My cycling club had a group ride today, and the plan was to ride for about four hours at a steady pace. That sounded fine, if on the long side, but it turns out that my definition of steady pace isn’t necessarily the same as everyone else’s. I got a little nervous when I showed up for the ride and found a dozen men and no women at all. But I couldn’t back out once I was there, so I decided that all I could do was give it a try. The first half of the ride went pretty well; I worked hard but did a decent job of keeping with the group pace. We rode over a few miles of dirt road, which was a little frightening, especially as the group seemed to fly over the rocks and ruts, but it was also fun and the landscape was beautiful.

It was on the way home that things started to go bad. I’m used to riding two or three hours, but not as many as four, and not four hours of really hard work, so during the third hour I found myself getting slower and slower and falling behind again and again. The group was very nice and waited for me now and then, but after a while I got to the point where I wanted to ride all on my own, so I could go at my own pace without holding anybody else up. So I headed off in a different, less hilly direction, and rode the last 1 1/2 hours on my own, getting slower and slower, but feeling a whole lot better now that I was by myself.

The ride was 72 miles total and was fun in spite of the tiredness. As long as I’m by myself, I can generally keep up my spirits, even if my legs refuse to work hard and my speed gets slower and slower. I know I will get there eventually. So now I’m about 135 miles away from my 5,000-mile goal, and I can probably finish in the next two weeks without any trouble. I think after that I may take a good long break. I will need it as training for the spring racing series will start in January.


Filed under Books, Cycling, Essays, Life

A couple notes

I have two unrelated things to write about today. I’m sure I’ve said this before, and it’s a banal thought anyway, but still, we just never know what’s going to happen to us, do we? Hobgoblin and I set out on a ride on Saturday with two other friends, and 30 miles into a 50-mile loop, about a half mile from the cupcake shop where we were going to rest and eat, Hobgoblin and another rider collided into each other and ended up on the road. One person thought the route was one way and the other thought it was the other way, and they didn’t have time to sort it out before their bikes hit. Hobgoblin is doing just fine, but we did spend the afternoon in the emergency room and he has a fractured rib and some serious road rash. It was a frustrating crash, because both riders involved are really good, really experienced cyclists, and neither one was riding recklessly or taking risks, and the crash happened anyway. It’s a lesson in how little control we have over anything, I suppose.

So poor Hobgoblin will be hobbling around for a little while until that rib heals.

There’s one more thing I wanted to write about here, before any more time passes. My book group that read Laurie King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice met last Friday to discuss the book, and we all agreed that while the book was fairly entertaining in moments, it wasn’t all that great. I felt that the first half was way too rushed and choppy, and it seemed clear that King was having a little trouble getting the series underway, trying to tell too much in too short a space. After Litlove’s post about episodic fiction, I realized that the book has an episodic structure, which is interesting and odd, because as Litlove points out mysteries and crime fiction are quintessential examples of plot-driven novels and are not typically episodic. What this means is that the real tension in the novel, the real plot, is the relationship between Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, and the detecting and mystery solving are there solely to further this relationship. All this leads to an odd hybrid of a novel that I don’t think ever comes together.

I did think the interaction between Russell and Holmes was interesting, and I’ve taken to heart all the comments telling me that the series gets better, so I may possibly continue with it just to see how the characters develop.

This book also leads me to wonder why it is that so often the first book in a mystery series isn’t very good. I haven’t read enough to have a reliable sample, so tell me if you think I’m wrong, but it does often seem to happen that a mystery author takes a couple books to really get things going. Why is it hard to get a mystery series going when authors of stand-alone books have to get their own books going without the luxury (in most cases) of having more books in a series to get things right?


Filed under Cycling

A cycling post

I haven’t written about cycling in quite a long time, and that’s partly because there’s not much going on, but even more so because I’ve felt so strangely about it over the last month or two. Or perhaps to be more accurate I should say I’ve felt strangely about racing. Which is, actually, the way I usually feel about it.

Anyway, I did go on a lovely ride today. Seven of us left from the bike shop this morning and headed south to the beach, and on our way back home we stopped at a cupcake shop. Stopping at the cupcake shop is so much fun that we ride there regularly and now call the ride our cupcake ride. It was a gorgeous day that was perfect for riding, sixties and sunny. The company was good, and we rode hard-but-not-too-hard, which is just the right speed. I got home with SO much more energy than I had when I left.

The racing, though. I rode in my last race on July 22nd, and it was the last in a series of races where somebody around me crashed. I’ve managed to stay upright so far this season, but it was beginning to feel like everybody around me was destined to crash. And then cycling friend Sprinter della Casa got in a pretty awful crash from which he is still recovering, and it was all just too much. I had chances to race after that last race, but I wasn’t interested anymore, and I’m still not interested.

But I also recognize that I go through a yearly cycle: I start racing in March and am into it, and I stay into it until June or so at which point I start getting burnt out. I’m really burnt out by August and am ready to quit the entire racing enterprise entirely, for good. I enjoy riding all through fall, at my own pace and in my own way, and I start telling everyone that I’m not going to race next year. And then December and January roll around and the people around me start to train for races, and I’ve forgotten a little bit how much I don’t want to race and I remember how much I like having a goal to train for, and the next thing I know, it’s March and I’m racing again.

So now I’m in September feeling burnt out, and I’m tempted to say I’m not going to race next March, but what I need to do is to acknowledge this cycle of mine, recognize the cycle might continue or it might not, realize I have no idea what I’ll do next March, and leave it at that. So that’s what I’ll do.

As for regular old riding, I may have mentioned here before that my goal for this year is to ride 5,000 miles, which would mean beating my current record of 4,300 miles set last year. I’ve now ridden 3,580 miles this year, so unless something goes wrong, I should reach my goal. I’ll need to do a little less than 400 miles a month. There was talk on the ride today of doing some longer group rides this fall, and I’m excited about that. I hardly rode at all in August and I lost some fitness, but I’m starting to get it back now, and it feels good.


Filed under Cycling

A quick note

Happy Fourth of July to all of you who care! To those who don’t, I hope you are having a nice Saturday. I spent much of the day helping out at a big library event and working on my suntan. When I say I was working on my suntan, I mean I was making some of my funny fan lines worse and some of them better. Because I spend most of my outdoor time on my bike, I have suntanned arms and white hands, with a pretty distinct line on my wrist and some lines on my fingers you can see if you look closely. Today my hands finally got some sun and now they don’t look quite so ridiculous, although I did develop a new watch line. The line at the bottom of my neck and on my upper arms is now worse, though. I’m afraid I won’t look normal in the summer as long as I continue to ride my bike. Oh, well.

The library event — a big party for the library’s 100th birthday — went well, although it was windy and one of our tents flipped over on us. Mostly I sold coffee and bagels to hungry people, and I also helped kids make cat puppets. They had fun.

The other thing I’ve been doing is finishing Mary Brunton’s novel Discipline, and I also recently finished Benjamin Black’s Christine Falls, which means I get to choose a new novel and maybe a new nonfiction as well. Yay! I’m not sure what I’ll read, but I’ve considered picking up Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories and also Michael Frayn’s The Trick of It. And I’ll probably consider others before deciding on something.

One other thing I did today: I spent some time checking out these two posts from Fernham about books she might teach in her Transatlantic Women Modernists grad class this fall. There are a bunch of authors I’d never heard of in those lists, including Betty Miller, Gertrude Bell, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and Jessie Fauset, as well as other authors I’ve heard of but know next to nothing about. The class looks fascinating, and my wishlist just got longer.

Enjoy your weekend everybody!


Filed under Books, Cycling, Life, Reading


I’m going to start Infinite Jest very, very soon. I’m just not entirely sure when. I’d really like to follow along with the Infinite Summer schedule, and I’m generally very good at sticking to reading schedules, but I haven’t quite gotten around to going up to my study and hauling that book off the TBR shelves. I have been poking around on the Infinite Summer forums by way of preparation, and the various hints I’ve gotten about the book are intriguing. Maybe I’ll start it tomorrow.

I’m almost finished with Vladimir Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature and am about halfway through Mary Brunton’s Discipline. I’m not sure what to think about the Brunton novel. At times I’m enjoying it, and at other times I get annoyed at the main character, a first-person narrator, who does some inexplicable things. The book has enough narrative tension to keep me moving along, though, so I’ll stick with it to see how it all turns out.

And now on to cycling. My race yesterday didn’t go well. It’s a race I hate, though, so the real question is why I keep doing it, not why I didn’t do well. I woke up yesterday morning feeling very draggy, and I never really got over that feeling, even after I’d been out racing for a while. I’m not sure how much of this is physical and how much is psychological; it’s quite possible that I’ve decided this race is so horrible that I psych myself out of doing well.

The race started off okay; we have a neutral start up a long, steep hill, which means that we ride slowly and don’t race until we reach the top. Last year the neutral start wasn’t really neutral — it was too fast to be called that — but this year they kept the start very slow. After that, though, things got worse. We headed down hill, which is an immediate problem, as the roads were wet and the pack kept speeding up and slowing down, forcing me to slam on my brakes as I was flying down the hill. I’m not a particularly fast downhill rider, and the yo-yo-ing the pack was doing made me nervous, so I was slower than usual. That meant that I fell a little behind and had to chase on the flat sections.

And then we hit the hills. I hung on for a while, but soon enough the pack was taking off, and I didn’t have the necessary will, leg muscle, cardiovascular fitness, or all of the above, and I fell behind again. And it was only 8 or so miles into a 50-mile race.

I found some other dropped riders and we rode together for a while, but then I saw Hobgoblin sitting on the side of the rode looking ill. I stopped to see what was wrong, and he didn’t look well at all. He said he’d come down with a migraine right in the middle of the race. He was in a lot of pain and was looking really weak, so we got him a ride in one of the race vans, and I rode back to the start/finish line planning to meet him there.

And that was that. I’m not at all happy Hobgoblin suffered, but I didn’t mind having a good excuse to drop out of what was promising to be a miserable ride. So once again he’s confirmation that hilly road races are not for me. I don’t mind riding up hills, but chasing other, faster riders up hills is truly nightmarish. To make myself feel better about riding in general, I went out on a 40-mile ride this morning, and it was lovely, so all is relatively well. And Hobgoblin seems to be feeling better today.


Filed under Books, Cycling, Fiction

Returning to books soon …

I raced again tonight, as I almost always do on Wednesday nights. It was a good race, and I finished with the pack, which I’m pleased about, as I went into the race tired. I’ve been going a little crazy with the riding lately, and it’s been so much fun. My poor friends have to listen to me talking about cycling all the time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they got tired of it. But really, it’s so much fun to be out on the bike, I can’t even tell you.

So I raced last Saturday, which I posted about here, and then I rode 60 miles on Sunday, and then I rode a very hard 60 miles yesterday, going up and down every hill in the area and working very hard. I went into this evening’s race feeling tired and draggy, and I didn’t warm-up as much as I usually do. But the race started off slowly and only picked up speed in the second half, and by that time I’d forgotten how tired I was, and I ended up finishing right in the pack with some extra energy to spare.

And now I will rest up for my horrible, hilly 54-mile race on Sunday.

I come back from the races on Wednesday nights completely unable to concentrate or to sleep, which is why I’m writing a rambling post about the current state of my cycling right now. It’s either that or surf the web aimlessly. Eventually I’ll settle down with a book, but I just can’t at the moment.

So instead, I’ll tell you what I’ve been reading. I finished Salley Vickers’s novel The Other Side of You about a week ago, and I’ve been meaning to post on it for a while. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to say about it, though. I had a very ambivalent reaction, and I haven’t fully analyzed that reaction yet. We’ll see. I also just finished Henry Green’s short novel Loving. I enjoyed that one quite a lot. He has a distinctive style that relies very heavily on dialogue and has only short passages from the narrator, who is as distant as a narrator can get.

And I’m still working my way through Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature, which I’m enjoying in a bemused kind of way, as Nabokov has a very distinctive style and strong opinions, many of which I disagree with. But those disagreements don’t keep me from enjoying the book. And of course I’m still reading Montaigne.

And now I need to decide what novel to pick up next. I need to read Christine Falls for my mystery group by early July, but I don’t think I’m ready to begin that one next. I’m considering reading Mary Brunton’s Discipline, but I need to keep in mind my plan to participate in Infinite Summer, the group reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Reading is scheduled to begin this Sunday. Infinite Jest won’t be my only fiction read all summer, though, so I feel justified in picking up another novel right now. That means I need to spend some time figuring out if Discipline is what I most want to read, or if something else sounds better.

Do you ever feel that it’s very hard to figure out just what it is you want to read at any one moment? I can read pretty much anything I want, but what it is I most want to read? I’m not sure. Answering that question is complicated when I can’t read through a book really quickly, which means I’m dedicated to spending quite a lot of time with it. I need to choose wisely.

Okay, enough of the rambling. I’ll come back here and write a proper review of something really soon.


Filed under Books, Cycling

A little about books, a little about bikes

I had a couple races this past weekend and went on a long bike ride with a new cycling friend and got to visit some other cycling and bookish friends, and overall I had an excellent time.

The races were … well, odd. I came home with three bronze medals, so I should be happy about them, but the truth is that I didn’t race particularly well. I rode in two races; the first one was a race for women 30 and over. The race was short and intense and I worked hard the whole time. As usual, I wasn’t good at positioning myself for the sprint finish, and I ended up somewhere towards the back of the pack. I got 8th place, but there were only 11 of us.

The thing is, though, this was the Connecticut state championships, so the top three Connecticut riders get medals, I happened to be the third one from my state across the line. They were also giving another medal to the top Connecticut masters riders (meaning over a certain age), and so I got two medals for this showing.

The same thing happened in my second race, which was a category 4 race. I finished 11th out of 20 in my field, but was the third Connecticut rider across the line and so got another bronze medal, my third of the day.

This race was hard, though, because there was a nasty crash that happened right next to me about two laps from the finish. I don’t know what happened, but all the sudden the two riders to my left were going down, I was swerving slightly to get out of their way, and then spent the rest of the race shaken by the whole experience. Poor Hobgoblin thought I was one of the ones who crashed, so I was happy to come around with the pack again and show him I was fine.

I’m not entirely sure how to feel about this. I would be a lot more excited about it if I had actually ridden well, and if I weren’t haunted by the sight of bikes and bodies sliding across the road. Again, I wonder why it is I race, and I also don’t feel quite ready to give it up. If nothing else, it’s an excellent motivation to stay strong, not to mention a great way to get strong, and that’s something significant.

But anyway, being the cycling fiend I am, I was up and out riding a 60-mile ride with a new friend who’s just getting into bike racing. We rode the course of the horrible, awful, nasty, miserably hilly race I’m doing this coming Sunday. I was seriously ready not to do the race this year when I found out that we are riding 54 miles instead of the usual 27 miles we’ve ridden in past years. Quite a difference, isn’t it? But … I’ll do it because it’s good training and because I’ve done it the past three years and would feel a little silly skipping it now. It’s very much a sense of pride and maybe a little masochism that’s getting me out on that course next week. We’ll see.

After the tour of the horrible, awful, nasty, miserably hilly race course, Hobgoblin and I headed out to visit two bookish, blogging, cycling friends (here and here). It was a great time, with good food and two great bookstores, R.J. Julia’s and later the Book Barn, a used book shop. For some reason I wasn’t in a mood to acquire a whole lot of new books, perhaps because I’m aware of how many great ones I have waiting for me at home, but I had a wonderful time browsing anyway, and I did come home with two. One is Laurie King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which is the selection of one of my book groups (confusingly not my mystery book group, even though this is a mystery. That group is reading Benjamin Black’s Christine Falls next). The other is Mary Brunton’s 1814 novel Discipline. She’s been someone I’ve wanted to read for a while, largely because Jane Austen admired her. Also, I’m very pleased with Hobgoblin for buying Elaine Showalter’s book A Jury of Her Peers, which is a history of women writers. I’m going to have to borrow that one from him.

All in all it was a very good weekend, bike crashes aside. I can’t ask for much more than that.


Filed under Books, Cycling

Maisie Dobbs and other things

Now that summer is here I thought I’d have all the time in the world to blog, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way. This is partly because I’m teaching online, which doesn’t keep me too busy to blog, but it means that often I’ve maxed out on computer time before I sit down to write a post. There’s only a certain amount of time that I can stare at a computer comfortably before my eyes start to hurt and I get restless.

I’ve also kept busy riding my bike: last week I rode nearly 13 hours and almost 220 miles. I’m not sure if that’s a personal record or not, but it’s a lot of miles for me.

And then there are bike races to go to, and … well, unexpected visits to the hospital. Hobgoblin is just fine, but he did crash last night and suffered a concussion. Initially he seemed okay, if shaken up, but then he got dizzy and detached and slow to respond, so I got the car and we zipped off to the hospital. They did a CAT scan and everything looked fine, so they sent him home with some percocet. He’s recovering but still has a headache. As you can imagine, this kind of thing changes our plans pretty drastically. No one ever knows what’s going to happen to them ever, but sometimes this seems particularly true when a person spends hours and hours every week on a bicycle and rides in dangerous bike races …

But on to books. I’m considering participating in Infinite Summer, a website and a group of people dedicated to reading David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest over the course of the summer, from June 21st to September 22nd. There will be some regular posters at the Infinite Summer blog, and then there will be forums for discussion. They say we need to read only 75 pages a week to finish the book over the summer, and that seems entirely doable. Since I’m a new but ardent Wallace fan, and since Hobgoblin got me a copy of the novel for my birthday, the time seems right to read it.

And now on to Maisie. I finished Among the Mad, the latest Maisie novel recently, and enjoyed it, although with some mixed feelings. I think I’ll continue to read this series and continue to have mixed feelings.

This time around, Maisie seemed just a little bit too perfect. It struck me that she’s always right. The intuitions she has never lead her in the wrong direction and whenever anybody disagrees with her, you know they are going to be wrong. Maisie has a particularly strong and reliable intuitive power, one that borders on the supernatural at times, and that can get … boring.

I suppose this is a potential problem in all detective novels, since the detective does end up solving the case, and we read them partly to get to see our hero outsmarting everyone else. There’s always a danger the outsmarting will get dull. So a detective novelist has to find a way to keep this from getting too predictable, and really interesting heroes need to make mistakes, or at least have some believable flaws that keep them realistic.

And I’m not sure Maisie really has any flaws. She suffers, definitely, but her suffering comes from her experiences in World War I and not through any fault of her own. If anything, her flaws are that she works too hard and won’t allow herself to have a personal life, and this does become one of the recurring storylines, but for me, it’s not enough.

That aside, though, the story was interesting, not so much because of the mystery, but because of the historical context. All the Maisie Dobbs novels deal with the legacy of WWI in one way or another, and the author continues to keep this fresh and intriguing. This novel takes place in the winter of 1931 and tells about people who fought or worked in the medical field during the war and were damaged by it and who now feel that society has abandoned them. It deals with the history of chemical weapons development and animal experimentation, and one of the characters is a potential domestic terrorist, which gives the book a contemporary feel. The novel also makes it clear that World War II is on the way with references to fascists and political unrest.

I like the way the novels allow me to get a sense of the time period, and that’s really why I keep returning to them, besides the simpler motivation of wanting to know what happens to the characters. They aren’t perfect books, but they are really great light reading for when I’m in the mood.


Filed under Blogging, Books, Cycling, Fiction, Life, Reading, Teaching

Birthdays, books, and bikes

Yesterday was Hobgoblin’s birthday, and we spent the day doing some of our favorite things — riding, reading, and buying books. We started off the day going on what we came to call the cupcake ride: four cycling friends and the two of us set off on a 50-mile ride that included a stop at a bakery that sells fabulous cupcakes of all kinds. I had what they call — with wonderful redundancy — a “chocolate cupcake with chocolate” and Hobgoblin had one with a pecan pie theme. The cupcakes were great, but the ride itself was even better. We had so much fun zipping around Fairfield county, sprinting at the town line signs, making silly jokes, laughing, and generally being kind of dumb. We rode fast but it didn’t feel difficult — at least it didn’t for me, since I drafted most of the time and there were four guys over six feet tall who provided awesome drafts.

Once we got home we hopped on the train for Manhattan and had a chance to read for a bit; I had the latest Maisie Dobbs with me, which provided excellent train reading. In the city, we headed straight for the bookstores, took a break to go see Star Trek (which I liked quite a lot, and I think that means something, as I generally find action movies dull), headed back to bookstores, got some dinner, and ended the evening at the bookstores again.

It’s a nice way to spend a birthday, don’t you think?

Here’s what I brought home, all from the Strand, although we spent time looking around the Union Square Barnes and Noble too.

  • Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Darker Reflections. It’s the second volume of his Coleridge biography; I already had the first volume on my shelves. After Anne Fadiman’s essay on Holmes and Coleridge, I’m excited to start this one.
  • Richard Holmes, Shelley: The Pursuit. Another very long biography that I’ve heard raves about. I couldn’t decide for a while whether to read this one or the Coleridge bio first, but I think I’ll go with the Coleridge. I think.
  • Stanley Plumly, Posthumous Keats. It was definitely a day for Romantic biographies. After reading a glowing review here, I couldn’t resist picking this one up.
  • Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room. This is the next book to read in my Woolf project, and I’d like to get to it this summer, if possible.

I’ve acquired a number of other books recently I think I’ll take this opportunity to tell you about:

  • Vladimir Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature. I found a slightly beaten up but still impressive looking hardcover copy of this at a library sale, and have begun to read it already. I’ll report on how it’s going soon.
  • Franco Moretti’s Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History, in which he argues that literary scholars should “stop reading books and start counting, graphing, and mapping them instead” (quotation from here).
  • Neil Douglas-Klotz, Prayers of the Cosmos. At the retreat I went to last week, I had a long, fascinating conversation with a very open-minded, super-liberal Christian man who used to be a Unitarian and would probably still be one if his wife weren’t an Episcopal priest. We talked about church and theology and God, and I came away with a long list of books to read. I joked at the retreat that I’ve tried out many different versions of Protestantism and am now trying out agnosticism, which is pretty much true, but I’m still very much interested in reading about theology and church history. Here’s a product description from Amazon: “Reinterpreting the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes from the vantage of Middle Eastern mysticism, Douglas–Klotz offers a radical new translation of the words of Jesus Christ that reveals a mystical, feminist, cosmic Christ.”
  • Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. Another recommendation from that conversation, this time about the historical Jesus.

Um, I think it’s time to stop buying books for a while.


Filed under Books, Cycling, Life

Thinking about summer

Here it is, Memorial Day, the beginning of summer, and I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with it. I usually have something planned, but this time, I really don’t. There have been some summers when I had to take exams for grad school or when my job extended through the summer or when I had my dissertation to write. Two summers ago I had a couple articles to work on, and last summer I taught online for the first time, which was a lot of work.

This summer I’m teaching online again, and that will take some time, but I’ll be honest and say that it won’t be too terribly hard. I also have some reports to write and some changes to make to my classes for the fall, but those things aren’t that difficult either.

I feel as though I should have some grand plans for the summer — a writing project or redecorating my house, or at the very least, some ambitious reading project. But I’m just not interested in any of that. Maybe some ambition will come to me as I muddle along, but for now, it’s hard to think past the next day or two.

I will be riding my bike a lot, although even there, I’m feeling unambitious. My race yesterday didn’t go well at all — I got freaked out by a crash that happened in front of me, and when I finally got around the crashed riders and discovered just how far behind the main pack I was, I said forget it, I’m through with this, and stopped riding. I’m still loving my training rides and the Wednesday night race series, but I’ve lost interest in any race I’m supposed to take seriously, and my most serious ambition is to ride 5,000 miles this year, which will be the most I’ve ever done. That’s a serious ambition, I suppose, but it only requires that I do just a bit more riding than usual.

I’ll also be attending my sister’s wedding in August, and afterward Hobgoblin and I will spend a week in Maine. We might take some short camping or backpacking trips, but then again, we might not.

So, I guess I’ll just keep muddling along, doing whatever occurs to me and reading whatever books I feel like. That’s something to look forward to, right?


Filed under Books, Cycling, Life, Reading

Wednesday night worlds

So the summer race series has begun in my part of Connecticut, and I’ll be racing every Wednesday night I possibly can from now until September. These races are my absolute favorite. They are only training races and so don’t count when it comes to rankings and upgrade points, but that doesn’t make much difference to me, since I’m pretty unambitious on the bike. All I want is to have a good ride.

Tonight’s race was entirely uneventful, which is just the way I like it. We rode 18 laps, which works out to about 14 miles — a short race since we were running out of sun. The races will get longer as the evenings get longer. There were maybe 35-40 guys in the pack and one other woman. It was a points race, meaning that riders earn points in a series of sprints and the winner is the one with the most points, rather than everything hanging on the very last sprint. So that meant the last five laps were especially fast, as those were the laps that counted. The pack started to get strung out at that point — a sure sign that the pace is fast — but I hung on to the end.

The one potential problem was that my calf muscles started cramping up on the short hill that ends every lap; in the second to last lap I was afraid my calves were going to seize up on me, and I would have to drop out, but I managed somehow to keep them under control, and once I got up the hill, I tried to stretch them out a bit and give them a rest so I could make it up the hill the next time around.

I love seeing my cycling friends at these races, and I love the low-stakes nature of the whole thing. There’s no way I’m going to win these races, so I don’t have to get too nervous about them. I just sit in and get a really good workout.

I’ve had a hard April as far as riding is concerned, as I’ve written about before — I’ve struggled with sickness and have been too busy to train much and have felt unmotivated. But these races will help me get my usual enthusiasm back, and for that I’m very grateful.


Filed under Cycling

Saturday thoughts

  • I am resolutely ignoring the fact that I will be racing tomorrow, and, even worse, riding in two races. I find that denial is the best way to manage nerves. So — tomorrow will be a quiet day where I sleep in, spend lots of time reading, see some friends, and that’s it. Yes, it is.
  • I am the kind of dork who does homework on Saturday nights. I just spent a good bit of time reading through material for the online class I’m taking on how to teach online classes. It was interesting, although now my head is spinning with educational and technical jargon, including ugly words like “chunking,” which refers to the practice of breaking up text into manageable bits.  Apparently in an online class you are not supposed to simply upload your lecture notes for students to read, but instead are supposed to break the material up into separate shorter pages that are easier to process and then to intersperse activities and assignments and such to help students understand and remember everything. Makes sense to me.
  • I finished the book for my next mystery group meeting, Chester Himes’s The Real Cool Killers. I’ll post more on it later, but in the meantime, I’ll say that I liked it, although it’s very different from the sort of thing I usually like. It’s fast-paced and focused on the action, without a whole lot of character development or analysis. But the style fits the subject it covers — the dark, crime-ridden side of Harlem in the 1950s. What interests me about the book is the fact that Hobgoblin read a chapter or two and declared he couldn’t stand it and thought the writing was horrible. I picked it up thinking I’d probably agree and found I didn’t at all. So now I’m really looking forward to the discussion next week.
  • I couldn’t resist wandering over to the town library the other day and there I found a few nonfiction books I’ve been meaning to read, including Geoff Nicholson’s The Lost Art of Walking and Steven Nadler’s The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil. What I brought home, though, is Julian Barnes’s book Nothing to Be Frightened Of, which is sort of a memoir, sort of an extended essay on death. So far (I’ve read maybe 30 pages), it’s rambled around and touched on his family history, his relationship with his brother, his religious history, and his fear of dying. So far, so good — this is exactly the kind of book I like, and Barnes is such a great writer.
  • I’m looking forward to picking up Stefan Zweig’s The Post-Office Girl very soon for the Slaves of Golconda discussion beginning at the end of the month. As usual the group has chosen a book that sounds great and is one I’m happy to read although I probably wouldn’t have gotten to it soon on my own. That’s precisely why I’m so happy to be a part of that group — it gets me reading things I might not otherwise.
  • I’m going to try to finish the William Cowper biography I’ve been working on before I begin the Zweig, though — I don’t want to have too many books underway at once or I might start to feel overwhelmed.
  • And no, I’m not racing tomorrow … no, really …


Filed under Books, Cycling, Fiction, Nonfiction, Reading, Teaching

Race report: two races, 53 miles, lots of fun

I did something today I’ve never done before — I rode in two races. I see other people doing this all the time, but usually I feel so beat-up after just one race that I can’t contemplate doing another. But my racing buddy said last week that doing two races would be a good challenge, and I thought, well, if she’s up for it, then why can’t I be too? Unfortunately she couldn’t race today, but I thought I’d give it a try on my own.

The first race is the women’s race, and it went well, although not quite as well as last week — I stayed with the pack the entire time, but didn’t get a top-20 finish. They only list the top 20 finishers, so I don’t know how I placed. Most of the pack stayed together the entire time, so the finish was a pack sprint, and I’m not terribly good at those, not having much of a sprint, and not liking to fight my way to the front of the pack. I’m just not aggressive enough to be a really good criterium racer. But still, it was a good race, and I worked hard, but not so hard I was in serious pain.

The second race was right after the first, with maybe a 20-minute break. It was a master’s race, which means in this case it’s for men 40 and older, but women are allowed to ride in these races and they can race ten years older than their real age, so my 35 years qualified me to ride. You might think that a race for older people would be easier, but that’s not true at all. In bike racing, years of race experience make you a much stronger rider — many people gain more from years of experience than they lose from getting older. Plus, people from any category can ride in the master’s races, so you’ll find category 1 riders (near pro) as well as category 4. Master’s riders are fast, and they know what they’re doing.

My initial plan was to ride 20-30 minutes, just to get a little extra workout and a few more miles. I rode 20 minutes and thought okay, I’m doing all right, no reason I can’t ride 30; once I reached 30 minutes I realized that the race was only going to last maybe 15 minutes more, so I thought, why not finish? It sounds so much better to say I finished than I rode for 2/3 of the race. So I hung on until the end.

I spent much of that race in a fog — I was watching what was happening, to stay safe and make sure I didn’t do anything stupid, but I got in this zone where I wasn’t really thinking about anything, where I was just hanging on, not even feeling any pain or much fatigue, just hanging on and watching the laps fly by. It’s an odd feeling. I expected to struggle, and instead I just settled in and rode.

Interestingly, while the master’s race was significantly faster than the women’s — 25 mph vs. 22 mph — it didn’t feel harder. What happens is that the bigger pack in the master’s race makes going faster a lot easier — there are more people to draft on, and I have more protection from the wind and more momentum going up the hill.

The 53 miles comes from the two races plus all the miles I rode warming up and cooling down. 37 of those miles were from the races. There’s a good reason I’m feeling so exhausted right now! But it’s a good kind of exhaustion.

Update: Here’s Hobgoblin’s account — we rode the master’s race together.


Filed under Cycling

First race of the season

My first race of the season was today and it didn’t suck! Yay!

Actually, I did the best I’ve ever done for the first race of the season, which is to say that I finished with the pack. My usual experience is that I’ll fall behind the pack around half way through the first race (which means my race is over, since there’s no way to catch up when I’m out there by myself and can’t draft on anyone), and then steadily improve with each race so that I can finish a race eventually. Last year, my best year so far, I managed to finish the second race of the season. So I’m happy to have improved.

I got 17th place out of maybe 35 women or so, which puts me right in the middle of the pack. What happened, though, is that the pack basically split in two somewhere in the middle of the race, and I managed to stay with the front group, which eventually lapped the group that fell behind (the course is about .8 of a mile, so a faster group can lap a slower one sooner or later). When it came to the final sprint, I was at the back of the fast group, but placed in the middle overall because of all the lapped riders.

And, just to clarify, I’m particularly pleased about this result because I’m riding in a women’s open field, which means that there are championship racers out there and people who have a whole long history of winning races, as well as women who are new to the sport.  Women’s open fields are hard because you never know who you’re going to race against. In men’s races, you generally race against people of roughly your ability, but there aren’t enough women to justify multiple racing categories, so we all get lumped together.

I’m also pleased because just a month or so ago I thought I wouldn’t race at all because I wouldn’t be ready.  Silly me. What I’ve learned, besides the fact that experience helps, is that I don’t need tons and tons of miles before I’m ready to race. I didn’t do a whole lot of riding in December and January, which I thought would hurt me. But I did fine by starting training right at the end of January, riding solidly through February, and adding in a few sprint workouts in the few weeks before the first race. That’s good to know, especially when I’m faced with tough winters that don’t allow me to do a lot of outside riding.


Filed under Cycling


I’m taking an online course! I’m weirdly excited about this. It’s an online course in how to teach courses online — and yes, I’m doing this backwards because I’ve already taught courses online. Two, in fact. And it’s only now that I’m taking the course to learn how to do it. But that’s the way things generally work when it comes to college teaching — you get thrown into it with only the tiniest bit of training or maybe none at all and you figure things out on your own. You learn things from colleagues and maybe pick up some training here and there and you do the best you can. The course I’m in will run for nine weeks and I’ll get a certificate at the end of it if I complete at least 80% of the work.

I guess I’m just a nerd who likes learning new things. The fact that I’m looking forward to the class tells me that while teaching is fun, being a student is much more so (especially since I won’t be getting A, B, C-type grades).  Maybe I should take classes more often.


I really loved the recent New Yorker article on David Foster Wallace. It gives an overview of his life and, most interestingly, talks about his unfinished novel and what it was he was trying to do with his fiction. It sounds like the unfinished novel — which will be published some time next year — is fascinating and majorly ambitious, so much so that Wallace had a lot of trouble making progress. Part of the trouble is that its subject isn’t well suited for fiction — it’s about boredom and tells the story of IRS workers dealing with the dullness of their jobs, so the issue is how to make boredom interesting. He took on a difficult subject, but he also was trying to write in a new style:

Wallace was trying to write differently, but the path was not evident to him. “I think he didn’t want to do the old tricks people expected of him,” Karen Green, his wife, says. “But he had no idea what the new tricks would be.” The problem went beyond technique. The central issue for Wallace remained … how to give “CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness.” He added, “Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it.”

This is such an interesting combination to me — acknowledging the darkness of life but not succumbing to despair and managing to write about “the possibilities for being alive and human” without being trite or cheaply sentimental. I’m also intrigued by the way he is influenced by postmodernism — its irony and self-consciousness and playfulness with language — but also cared about writing fiction with a moral interest and with real emotional weight to it, things that the postmodernists sometimes ignored.

Apparently his last novel was only about one third finished, but it still sounds well worth reading.


My cycling is coming along pretty well, with the exception of a few days last week when I couldn’t ride because of a snow storm. I was supposed to ride in my first race last Sunday, but it was canceled because of snow, so now my first race of the season will be this coming Sunday.  It may rain that day, but it’s supposed to be in the upper 50s, so I doubt we will be in danger of snow.

This week was bitterly cold, but it’s finally warming up a bit, and I am more than ready for the change. I really should have gotten on the trainer on those cold days, but I just couldn’t. I don’t like the trainer ever, but it’s particularly bad when it’s March and spring is on the way. Riding on the trainer in January is tolerable, barely, but riding on it in March is just impossible. I’d prefer to sit around and do nothing, even if my I lose some fitness and my mood plummets. That’s silly, probably, but oh, well.


And now I want to go read some more of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a book I’m greatly enjoying.


Filed under Books, Cycling, Life, Reading, Teaching


First of all, a cycling update: it appears that I’m going to be racing more this year than I thought.  Since I posted on the subject just a few days ago, I’ve had a conversation with a friend who is an awesome Ironman triathlete but who has never ridden in a bike race before, and she basically said she will race if I will.  Now I don’t want to feel pushed into bike racing because of guilt, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on.  The conversation made me feel more enthusiasm for the whole enterprise than I felt before, and I do like the idea of helping other women get into bike racing (and will probably go on to watch them do better than I do, but that’s okay).  If they need some moral support, I’m happy to help out.

It’s funny that female solidarity will tempt me to race much more so than the desire to win, but that’s just the way I am.  The first race of the season is only two weeks from today, and I’m looking forward to much pain and suffering.  Makes you want to race, doesn’t it?

Then I thought I’d tell you about some new books I’ve acquired.  First, a copy of Rebecca West’s novel This Real Night recently arrived via Bookmooch.  This is the second book in a trilogy that began with The Fountain Overflows, one of her most famous books (if not the most famous).  I have a copy of the third in the trilogy, Cousin Rosamund, so, when I get around to it, I can read the entire thing.  I suspect that the first novel is the best (although I have no real reason to say this except that the trilogy as a whole isn’t famous — only the first book is), but I’d like to read the whole thing anyway.

And then there is David Foster Wallace’s magnum opus Infinite Jest, which Hobgoblin gave me for my birthday a few weeks ago.  This is not a book I’ll read very soon, as I need more time and energy than I have right now — and I’m in the middle of William Gaddis’s The Recognitions, and I need only one large, ambitious, experimental, monumental book going on at a time.  Perhaps I’ll get to it this summer.  At any rate, I love what Wallace I’ve read so far, so I’m eager to see if I like his fiction.

I also have a copy of Karen Armstrong’s spiritual memoir The Spiral Staircase, which a friend sent to me, also for my birthday.  I’ve read this one before, but it was a while ago, and I remember really loving it and I’d like to read it again.  Does anybody happen to know of any books similar to Armstrong’s they can recommend?  I do enjoy a thoughtful, smart, idea-driven memoir now and then and would like to find more of them.

And then a few books I’d like to have (along with some unlimited time to read them, please):

  • Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  This book seems to be very popular right now and it has a quirky title, both of which make me hesitate, but after reading Diana’s review of it, I’m curious.  It seems like it might be exactly the kind of thing I like.
  • Lydia Davis’s Varieties of Disturbance: Stories. I’m very curious about what this book is like; all I know is that the stories are very (very) short and that they experiment with language.  And I know that Davis has translated Proust.
  • Maria DiBattista’s Imagining Virginia Woolf: An Experiment in Critical Biography.  Everything about this title sounds fabulous to me, from the Woolf reference to the words “experiment” and “biography.” Surely this is a book I will like??
  • Hermione Lee’s Virginia Woolf.  I’m reading a biography of Austen right now, and it’s high time I read one of Woolf.  I’m slow to pick up biographies sometimes, but I really do need to read biographies of the authors that are most important to me, as those two surely are.
  • Steven Nadler’s The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil. I don’t often read this kind of book, but I’m definitely attracted to it — the intellectual history kind about a particular moment in philosophy, science, or religion, the kind of book that’s interesting both for the ideas and for the historical background it offers.
  • Marilynne Robinson’s Home. I loved Gilead, and this one is tangentially related to it, and besides, I think Robinson is wonderful.

Time to start reading!


Filed under Books, Cycling, Reading