Nay, Neigh

About a month ago, I finished Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. I’ve never seen the movie; the only McCarthy movie adaptation I’ve seen is No Country for Old Men, which I thought did a terrific job. I do know that Pretty Horses stars Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz, and I wonder if I could let myself believe that Damon’s character is 16/17 years old. I’d probably be okay with it, only because I adore Matt Damon. But I don’t know if I could accept Billy Bob Thornton making a movie from a Cormac McCarthy novel, only because I just don’t know about that guy. He creeps me out.

The movie also stars Henry Thomas, who takes me back to E.T. and especially Cloak & Dagger. I guess I can understand casting men in their late 20s (or so) in a movie meant to portray young men in their late teens aged and roughed up by the Wild West. But since I didn’t see All the Pretty Horses, instead of imagining Matt Damon and Henry Thomas, I actually used my imagination.

Of course, McCarthy’s language gets to me every single time. His integration of Spanish in this novel feels perfectly natural, and the lexicon referring to ranching in Mexico helped keep me engaged.  On my Kindle, I can put my finger on a word, and its definition pops up. That tool is pretty nifty. With some of the words in this novel, however, a few of them made it into the English dictionary, but most of them did not. I was okay with that.

One of my favorite excerpts:

The world’s pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.

Right? How about that contrast and almost palpable effect? Here’s another:

They stood and watched him pass and watched him vanish upon that landscape solely because he was passing. Solely because he would vanish.

For me, this captures the entire tone of the novel. Vanishing points provide lengthen a field, deepen perspective, and create a little pocket of time-space to help us grasp the present before it becomes the past.

And, finally:

Sweeter for the larceny of time and flesh, sweeter for the betrayal.

When I first came across this phrase (which comes earlier than the previous excerpts), I looked around on the train and wondered if any of the other passengers felt the sheer power of the combination of these words. Larceny of time! Larceny of flesh! Could a word be so perfect, just so utterly perfect?

What should I read next?

Some Old Time Religion

A young man referred to this song during his talk today in church. It’s one of my favorite old gospel tunes.

The young man’s talk was about gratitude, and throughout his remarks he expressed sincere thanks and appreciation for many blessings in his life. He demonstrated a positive attitude, and he inspired me to be more grateful more often.

The Eva Cassidy recording of this song is one of my favorites because she brings out a lot of the inherent emotion in the song. Like she truly can’t help singing about the Lord in her life. That’s an admirable condition to have, involuntary proclamations of gratitude.

Thankfulness seems such a conscious state of mind or being, but I imagine many of us develop an awareness of behaviors that become second nature. Can someone be grateful and not know it?

I haven’t blogged in a month. It’s time to catch up on a few things.

  • Vacation
  • Hikes
  • Hanging out with friends
  • Paula Deen
  • DOMA, possibly
  • Games
  • Weather
  • Art of conversation
  • Movie/Song/Book reviews

This week I have to prepare a Relief Society lesson to give next Sunday. Just thinking about it gives me butterflies. I have been thinking about the lesson the whole month, so it’s a matter of organizing my thoughts and hopefully teaching a few things my fellow sisters need to hear.

Another Library Sale or, I Love Sharing Books!

The last one we attended was in October 2011. We weren’t married then. Weird.

We tried giving ourselves a $10 limit–$20 total, but the library had so much good stuff this time. (I must say that I only chose enough books to spend $7.50. SOMEBODY’s restraint needs to be checked. But also take note that I didn’t object too strongly to Reilly’s choices. See below.)

We took inventory of this year’s loot. We picked up a few duplicates of books we already have, but we’re replacing the ugly copies with cooler ones. Also, I’ m sorry about the capitalization. Reilly read the titles to me for me to type quickly, and I didn’t want to have to think about which letters in an author’s name got the capital treatment in addition to spelling the authors correctly. Yes, in other words, I got lazy. But at least I italicized the titles. Know that all titles have conventional capitalization.

Reilly’s shelving the books right now. I’m off to look over a friend’s master’s thesis. This is our relationship.

  1. angelou    maya    i know why the caged bird sings
  2. austen    jane    persuasion
  3. banks    russell    cloudsplitter
  4. bellow    saul    collected stories
  5. benoit    pierre    l’ile verte*
  6. boccaccio    giovanni    the decameron
  7. byatt    a.s.    possession*
  8. chabon    michael    summerland
  9. de maupassant    guy    short stories*
  10. de troyes    chretien    arthurian romances
  11. dillard    annie    an american childhood*
  12. eco    umberto    the name of the rose
  13. enger    leif    peace like a river*
  14. erdrich    louise    beet queen
  15. faulkner    william    collected stories
  16. frazier    charles    cold mountain
  17. gilmour    david    the film club
  18. hardy    thomas    the collective novels, volume 2
  19. hernandez    amado v    rice grains*
  20. irving    john    trying to save piggy sneed
  21. jackson    shirley    come along with me
  22. kingsolver    barbara    pigs in heaven
  23. kingsolver    barbara    the lacuna
  24. kingsolver    barbara    the bean trees
  25. lahira    jhumpa    the namesake
  26. lamott    anne    crooked little heart
  27. lecasble    guillaume    lobster
  28. lehane    dennis    coronado
  29. lessing    doris    the memoirs of a survivor
  30. mann    thomas    the magic mountain
  31. nemirovsky    irene    sweet francaise
  32. oates    joyce carol    we were the mulvaneys
  33. oates    joyce carol    black water
  34. ondaatje    michael    divisadero
  35. ondaatje    michael    the cat’s table
  36. pasternak    boris    doctor zhivago
  37. rousseau    jean-jacques    le contrat social*
  38. saarikoski    pentti    poems*
  39. saramago    jose    seeing
  40. saramago    jose    the double
  41. saramago    jose    the gospel according to jesus christ
  42. smith    zadie     on beauty*
  43. smith    zadie     white teeth*
  44. smith    betty    a tree grows in brooklyn
  45. sontag    susan    volcano lover
  46. thayer hamann    hilary    anthropology of an american girl
  47. twain    mark    a connecticut yankee in king arthur’s court

*Titles I chose.

Books in January

This past week I read a book by Paul Harding, Tinkers. January has started me off with some really good literature, and while I love mindless, stress-free reading, I love the way some books sharpen my mind. Whereas some books make me forget about the world, other books bring me back to reality. The reality of fiction. Tinkers is real.

The novel is a quiet, humble little book, only 191 pages. A few quotes:

— What is it like to be full of lightning? What is it like to be split open from the inside by lightning?

— And Howard, by accident of birth, tasted the raw stuff of the cosmos.

— Of course, Sabbatis is ancient only to me. My father is ancient, too, because both were men who passed from my life when I was young. My memories of them are atmospheres.

I’ve had an account on Goodreads since 2007 but just started using it within the past 8 months. It helps me keep track of the books I read and want to read. I enjoy reading friends’ reviews and looking at ratings and marveling at people’s range of preferences. Sometimes a book moves me enough to write more than 5 words about it. Here’s what I wrote for Tinkers:

“Reading Tinkers is like a dream where I eavesdrop on a conversation between W.S. Merwin, Marilynne Robinson, and Annie Dillard. And then sometimes they’re talking directly to me in whispers and screams. By mention of those authors in association with Paul Harding’s debut, you should then know that you must read Tinkers slowly, and with great care. Inhale deeply the language and float away on nuance. Straddle both the ethereal and the conscious, so that you can let the tears roll and then acknowledge them.”

Other books I read in January:

Chronic City, Jonathan Lethem: Eccentric characters and marijuana in New York City. It may sound typical, but this Lethem’s is a fun approach.

The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe: The history of the United States space program! Fast read. The press, machismo, wives’ perspectives.

Naked Pictures of Famous People, Jon Stewart: My thoughts on Goodreads: “Where were the naked pictures? THAT’s why I’m giving this book a score closer to a 3 instead of a 3.5. Young Jon Stewart’s satire. A lot of it is funny and relevant, historical and hysterical. Some of it is more cringeworthy, though. Which can make it more fun.”

The Black Dahlia, James Ellroy: This felt a lot like Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. “Very noir: fast-paced, gruesome, and quite tragic. With a slight tease of hope at the end.”

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain: Reaffirming, validating. Emphasized the value of my inherent qualities as well the qualities I’ve worked hard to develop.

Blindness, José Saramago: One of the best books I have ever read. Not even kidding.

What are you reading? I want to know.

The Degree of Like

Facebook is such a great way to keep up with friends. I like being able see what my friends’ opinions are on all sorts of subjects. I can tell political stances, movie/music/book preferences, games people play. I love when people post interest pictures or clever little memes. It’s actually pretty fun getting to know people this way without actually taking off my hermit hat and making an effort to interact with them. Especially if they live far away or if you can tell by their preferences that you wouldn’t get along with certain people in person. I can appreciate a healthy and occasionally overwarm discussion, but if I had to argue with certain people every day in real life, my head would probably explode. And then I wouldn’t be able to decide if I “like” things. Which would make me sad.

I enjoy being able to use Like on just about anything my friends post. I can “like” as many comments, photos, and status updates as I want. But I also understand the power of Like. And its nonpower. I have tried to be consistent in the ways I have liked or not liked certain things on facebook, but the more I use the process, the more I can see the nuances of its influence. Maybe the following doesn’t list nuances as much as my mere whimsy.

likefb

 

 

 

  • I have read the comment/article/whatever, and I understand it.
  • I have read the comment/article/whatever, and I agree with it.
  • I have read the comment/article/whatever, and I appreciate the point of view.
  • I am acknowledging this post on my newsfeed, but I haven’t read it.
  • I don’t want to be too imposing on the conversation that involves the post, especially if the post doesn’t directly include me.
  • I do not want to participate in a conversation, but I have read the comments.
  • I’m about to unlike the post.
  • I don’t really like the post, but I don’t want you to think I’m ignoring you.
  • The post is clever, and I will most likely comment and/or share.
  • The post is beautiful.
  • The post is cerebral or literary or strikes a chord with one of my interests.
  • The post acknowledges me in some way.
  • The post made me laugh.

likeyetfb

 

 

  • I do not like the post.
  • I do not understand the post.
  • I’m feeling particularly snobby.
  • I have read too many posts, and my clicking finger is tired.
  • I missed the post.
  • I am ignoring the post and may like it later.
  • I do not want to like the post because I don’t want to have to unfollow or unlike the post later.
  • I do not want to participate in a conversation, but I have read the comments.
  • I disagree with the post.
  • I do not like the person who made the post.
  • I don’t feel close enough to the person who made the post to like the post.
  • The post is not relevant to me.
  • The post is not clever.
  • The post has something to do with genuinely liking Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight.
  • The post is gross/crass/most likely rednecky.

The Like link has gone expanded from facebook to blogs, news sites, music sites, to just about everything on the internet. It’s a fascinating power to have and exercise, and it’s interesting to observe how people respond to what they like or don’t like. Just know if I Like or choose not to Like a post, it can have any meaning or a number of meanings at the same time. Or no meaning at all.

How do you like that?

New Year’s Reduction

86,400 seconds starts over at midnight. That’s the way it worked 366 times last year, and on the 367th time, another year began.

We’ve had a recurring — or maybe chronic — problem that’s carried over from last year. Yesterday came and went uneventfully enough, but it’s taken all the energy I have to not tell today to suck it. Truth is, though, it could be worse. It could always be worse.

It’s symbolic for a lot of people: A new year, a new leaf, a new resolve. I’m not guiltless; I start thinking about resolutions months ahead, probably around the 25 billionth second of each year.

I don’t start a lot of new things, though. I carry over a lot of things from the previous year, much like the way the seconds tick forward.

1. There’s this concept called Clearing to Neutral that I find very useful, because it helps me enjoy waking up, cooking, going to work, and keeping my friends. It helps me avoid the stress of procrastination. I’ve applied this concept to most of my life, but I consciously want to implement it in other areas, such as laundry, vacation planning, and my non-introvert social skills. Let’s hope I can use it to ease some of my social anxiety.

2. I wake up every morning with the intention to read my scriptures, and I go through phases where I’m really diligent, but other times I just go to friends’ websites where they contemplate the scriptures. They do the thinking for me. It’s time to stop piggybacking. The youth Sunday School curriculum is new this year. It aligns more with the way I prefer to study the scriptures. I think I’ll use it, because this change seems a cute little tender mercy.

3. So, maybe 37 books last year is the most I’ve read in a year since 3rd grade, when I read 40 50-page books in a month to get a free personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut. I’d like to continue the trend (not the 3rd grade one). I don’t know how many books I’ll read this year, but a goal of at least 30 pages a day seems reasonable. Some days I’ll read more, but 30 is the hard minimum, even if it takes up to 3600 seconds.

4. They say more reading makes better writing, so I’m going to push writing as well. This does not include writing that is related to work. No, thank you (except that I really enjoy writing for work (see #1 above)). Well, do I write at least 30 minutes or 300 words a day? Sometimes I write as slowly as I read (or vice versa), so I’ll just give myself the flexibility of going between those parameters.

5. Sometimes if I’ve been sitting for a long time, my lower back gets stiff and it hurts to stand up. That makes me feel old. I do not like that feeling. I like feeling limber and spry, so I’ll be stretching my body 5-10 minutes every day. Not only will that help loosen my joints, it will help me feel younger in other ways, other married-activity, hubba-hubba ways.

Other things, like being kinder, smiling at old people, removing clutter, being an awesome wife, only cussing 3 times a day — those go without saying more than the five things I’ve mentioned. But they also help me to keep from telling days like today to suck it, as much as days like today deserve it. The seconds — 86,400 of them — will tick into tomorrow, and we all get to start again. Who needs new years? We have brand new days.

A Little Christmas Prep

For the upcoming Hobbit movie, Reilly decided to read the book, but he didn’t stop there, no. He’s gone on to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy:

Sometimes when we’re sitting on the couch together, I’ll take a break from the book I’m reading and look over Reilly’s shoulder at his book. I’ll point to random words on a page and ask him what the words are, and he’ll tell me. Then I’ll act really impressed that he can read random words! However, when Reilly tries to peek over at my book to see what I’m reading, I’ll lean away from him and bring the book closer to my face, because I only pretend to read, mostly because I don’t know how, and having a literate/-ary family is mere pretense to me; I only want to look cool and not be cool.

Reilly printed out a map of Middle Earth and the surrounding lands so that he doesn’t have to turn to the back of the book every time the books mention a different location. I was going to take a picture of this printout, but I can’t find it, which either means that Reilly is embarrassed by his slight nerdiness and hid or threw away the map, or that he has memorized the map, which could be even more embarrassing. (I secretly think it’s awesome.)

Right now I am “reading” Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel, Flight Behavior. It’s about climate change and perfect for the Christmas season!

The Christmas tree is up and decorated and even guarding a few presents beside it. We also have stockings, but we don’t have a fireplace or mantel. We do have a bar, which is a sufficient substitute because I don’t feel like putting more holes in the wall or using ugly tape on the wall:

I’m not super crafty, but I do like making snowflakes. Also, Reilly has the tall stocking, and I chose something a little more traditional. Also, we don’t have fishing line, and I couldn’t find our thread, so I used dental floss to hang the flakes. (That pretty much cancels out the idea of not using ugly things for decorating. Oh well.)

It’s STILL not December, but look how excited I am for our first Christmas as a married couple!