Saturday, December 27, 2008

An attempt to plan my reading year

Since I became an audiobook fan over two years ago, I often have two books "in progress" at any given time, one in print and one in audio. But for the past couple of months, I've had three or four books going most of the time. My current audio is Villette by Charlotte Bronte, and it's a good 22 hours long. Since I often listen while cleaning the house, those weekends where I have things scheduled (like wall-to-wall basketball), or when I'm achy and under the weather, I get little or no cleaning done, and so I make no progress with Villette. I've also had a library book, recently renewed for the second time but I really need to just give up on it, a collection of essays on literature and life called A Mirror in the Roadway: Literature and the Real World by Morris Dickstein. I like what I've read - thus keep renewing it - but haven't read enough and know I won't be able to finish it in the next few weeks - so I'll return it soon, and perhaps it will cross my path again someday. I've also had two books I sort of alternated depending on my mood: my book group's selection for December, How Fiction Works by James Wood, and my LibraryThing Early Reviewer book, Soldier's Heart by Elizabeth Samet. I finally finished the latter last evening.

So where am I now? I've only got about four hours left of Villette, so I'm hopeful I'll be done before the year ends. (I think that will put me at 47 books finished in 2008, which is really excellent when you consider how busy our lives are!) My book group has chosen short stories by Chekhov for January, and Crime and Punishment for February, and luckily I own a collection by Chekhov PLUS the Dostoevsky novel, so will attempt to read both of those before we meet to discuss them. (I read Crime and Punishment a LONG time ago; it should be good to revisit it.) There's also going to be a discussion at TSCPL in late January about the novel Atonement, and I checked out the CD in hopes of making that my next audiobook after Villette.

Beyond those three, I don't have definite plans, but there are books that have been "calling" to me from my shelves in recent months, that I hope to get to in 2009. I think the one I've had the longest is Vanity Fair, so despite its length, it's on my short list of "likely leisure reading" for the coming year. Other novels that are in my sights: Brookland by Emily Barton, The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The Keep by Jennifer Egan, Poison by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, and The Lightning Keeper by Starling Lawrence. I'm also looking forward to reading a second collection of stories by Lydia Davis, called Varieties of Disturbance. I just got that one for Christmas, so it's the "newest" (to me) book on my potential list for 2009. I've picked up several books of poetry in the past two months as well, including four on Black Friday. They all look good, and unlike the novels I listed, they're all quite short and should be quick reads. ;-)

I continue to struggle with emotional eating and my love of fattening coffeehouse drinks. One book I had on my wish list for a long time was The Hungry Self: Women, Eating, and Identity by Kim Chernin. I found and bought it not long ago, and would like to fit that in between novels, and sooner than later. I've also had a bizarre kind of thought, that what I need to do is replace my addiction to food and sugary beverages with a "safer" addiction. If it were possible for me to get hooked on exercise, that would be the best thing, hands down, no question -- but seriously, ME, addicted to exercise??? That seems VERY unlikely to happen. But what if I could feed my love of reading, what if I could "binge" on books? And I don't mean just BUYING more books, though I certainly LOVE buying them and having them, but READING and "sampling" them, FEEDING myself with words, DEVOURING and INGESTING them - the books I already own. I saw a book some weeks ago that seemed to reflect this train of thought, and yes, it was an impulse purchase: Crack Wars: Literature, Addiction, Mania by Avital Ronell. This and the Chernin book are on my short list of non-fiction for the first months of the new year.

I have been writing this post off and on for about three hours. Jeff has said a couple times, "You're still writing that?" (And standing behind me a moment ago, he said, "Oh, this is the part where you talk about what's going on right now..." That Jeff, he can be funny, and then other times he thinks he's being funny but he's not.) But I'm glad I got a bit of an outline started - what I'm reading, what I plan to read soon, and the next batch of books on my radar. Just one small step toward getting my head in order.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A video tribute to Papa

Jeff and I posted our first YouTube video last night. I did most of the prep work, loading and editing digital photos and scanning older pictures. Jeff selected the photos and arranged them, basically in chronological order, and chose the song that's playing in the background, "I Find Your Love" by Beth Nielsen Chapman. I called the video "If He was Your PaPa," not knowing that Jeff had used "If He was Your Dad" in the video's title screen. Ah well, no big deal. After we posted it, we watched it with Sue, Kyle, and Ryan, and we all cried - even Jeff, a little bit. We've been able to take some extra time, the past few days, to remember Papa, to grieve his absence, to appreciate the love he gave to all of us.

At church last night, the minister talked about waiting, and his message was that we're all essentially waiting for heaven. There's some truth in that for us, that we're waiting to see Papa again, and I'm waiting to see my own father. Waiting is longing, and sadness, but also expectation, hope, and faith.

Someday soon, we all will be together, if the Fates allow.
Until then, we'll have to muddle through, somehow.

We wish you happy memories, both old and new, this Christmas. May peace be with you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas comedy: "The 12 Pains of Christmas"

Now I'm at the extreme opposite end of the holiday music spectrum. I searched YouTube for the video for "The 12 Pains of Christmas" by Bob Rivers Comedy Corp., which has been one of my favorites since the very first time I heard it - I was about 15. I think I found the "official" music video from the mid-80s, but there are a bunch more made by "12 Pains" devotees that are also worth a look. I found this one yesterday, with all the parts played by one guy, and in most of them he's lip-syncing the words too, not just doing the actions. I thought to myself, "Now THIS is a true '12 Pains of Christmas' lover." Of the several versions I watched, this one made me laugh the hardest. Happy Holidays to all, and don't take a sip of your beverage until this song is over because it might end up all over your keyboard.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A midnight clear

I really like this movie, a little-known film called A Midnight Clear, which I first saw a good 15 years ago. It's based on a book by William Wharton, and the cast includes Ethan Hawke, Gary Sinise, and Kevin Dillon. But even more than the film, the song they play over the closing credits is astounding, easily one of the most haunting Christmas songs I've ever heard. It's "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" sung by a woman called Sam Phillips. (I just learned that she was previously known as Leslie Phillips and sang contemporary Christian music.) I've never seen it available anywhere. Watch the video, listen to the music - and the song starts in earnest after Gary Sinise's yelling ;-) - and you WON'T be disappointed.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I can't find the time to tell you

When I was young, maybe six or seven, I remember one time I was sitting on my dad's lap, listening to records with him. A song came on that I didn't recognize, and I asked him what it was. He said, "I Can't Find the Time to Tell You."

I was quiet for a few seconds, but then I asked, "Why can't you tell me?"

He said, "No, that is the title, 'I Can't Find the Time to Tell You.'"

"Ohhhh." I got it.

Lately I've been thinking about time, and how I never seem to have enough of it. More specifically, I've noticed that I rarely read on my breaks at work (though I currently have two print books going, and one more to read for book group next week - and one audiobook), and don't write enough blogs/journal entries/poems as I'd like to. I think one of the big reasons for this is a lack of focus. I'm not too skilled at multi-tasking, but instead, I do most things slowly, methodically, carefully, thoroughly. When I wash the dishes by hand, you know those suckers are clean and well-rinsed. That's just the way I am.

I've said before that, throughout college and grad school, I always felt like I never had enough time to do all the things I wanted to do, or that I should have done, but it wasn't until after Kyle was born that I truly wished there were more hours in the day. When I want to spend a solid hour doing something just for me - primarily reading or writing - without interruption --- well, usually it isn't possible, there will be interruptions maybe 97% of the time.

I know, I know, family is important - and yes, I love my husband and children - and probably I sound selfish writing in this Greta Garbo mode, like I'm whining that I want more time and space for my own stuff - me me me! But when I can give myself over to a big juicy novel, or work out some confusing thoughts or rough emotions on paper or through the keyboard, it makes me feel so much better. It usually makes my head more peaceful and my heart happier - and don't these results make me a better wife and mother, and perhaps a better person? Maybe so --- but still, there's that TIME requirement.

Why I don't often read, and don't even blog too often, when I'm at work: my breaks and lunchtime aren't that long, so it can be really hard to get that focus that I mentioned above. Fifteen or twenty minutes is probably long enough to become immersed in a novel, but I don't want to sink into it and then have to put it down and go back to work. And crafting a blog entry (or anything else) isn't a quick thing, either: I started this one around 740am (Jeff got me here a few minutes earlier than usual, and I start work at eight) - and now I'm at the end of my afternoon break, almost 325pm. I'm inwardly debating: do I post it as is, or wait until tomorrow to add a bit more and do some polishing - in short, to make this jumble more coherent?

Decisions, decisions, and I don't have time for them, I need to get back to work!