Sunday, October 15, 2017

What's The Matter Here?

That title has nothing to do with the 10,000 Maniacs song about child abuse. It has everything to do with my neglect of this blog.

What's the matter, Bybee? I asked myself. Don't you want to blog?


Then, BLOG, damnit.

Well, okay, then.


Since I last checked in 6 weeks ago, I've been to Chicago once (almost-almost met Unruly Reader!) and my mom has been in the hospital twice. Now she's back in the nursing home for yet another short convalescence. We are on a crazy carousel ride: Home, hospital, nursing home. She wants to come home soon, but I'm not seeing any real strength built up yet. I say stay a little longer and she tells me tales of my cruelty. Wash, rinse and repeat.

In spite of all this and a mean work schedule, I am still reading. It's the rope ladder I cling to with a bulldog's intensity. Here's what I've completed since we last met and I talked about my reADDing problem:

A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles. I wasn't sure about this novel, but I buckled down and finished, and was rewarded for my efforts with the sudden whiffs of Casablanca-like intrigue. Towles' writing is gorgeous in that way that black-and-white movies are -- silvery and shimmery.

See What I Have Done - Sarah Schmidt. The atmosphere in this book about the Borden family in the days of the infamous murders is so thick you would need a machete to cut it, but take away the atmosphere and all that's left is excellent research and a shell of a story. I wanted to love this novel much more than I did.

I bailed on Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. Just wasn't feeling it.

A Good Marriage - Stephen King. This novella about a wife who finds out who and what her husband really is after almost 30 years is a trifle, a mere whisper of King's real narrative power. I enjoyed it as an audiobook.

Harriet Tubman - Kem Knapp Sawyer. A biography from the D-K series written for young adult readers. Very well done, although some of the material added for breadth and to put Harriet's world in perspective sometimes seems tangential. I am so glad that Harriet Tubman is going to be put on the $20 bill. I want to see her face nearly every day and rejoice in her bravery and badassery.

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me - Sherman Alexie. Alexie's memoir of his mother isn't just about her, but he circles and circles and comes back continually. His wife commented that the book is pieced together like a quilt, which is an apt observation. It has a raw and improvised feel until you start to perceive its patterns. I'm always excited to see triangulation in memoirs. Both funny and heartbreaking. Recommended.

I'll Be Damned - Eric Braeden. I'm a longtime fan of The Young and the Restless and Victor Newman is my favorite character. I'd love to experience this memoir as an audiobook with Braeden doing the honors, of course.

A Little Life - Hanya Yanagihara. There is so much wrong with this book, yet I'm still thinking about it every single day. It's awkward, it's overwritten and under-edited and yet I was compelled to finish. I read it everywhere: the hospital, drive-in, cafeteria at work, in bed at night and in the mornings, in the car. It was intense and remorseless. I wanted to scream. Still sitting here staring down at a huge box of feelings in my lap.

Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis - Ed Sikov. My favorite parts of the book were the ones in which Sikov discussed Bette Davis' films at great length. He has a witty, acerbic style that matches his subject almost perfectly. When I finished the book, I longed to see a marathon of Bette Davis movies. I still do. Pass the popcorn.

A few days ago, I DNF'ed The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. The premise -- that we have too much choice with everything and it doesn't add to our happiness -- was interesting, but I felt bogged down with dull writing as well as all the research and studies that seemed to act as padding for the book.

Annie Oakley - Chuck Wills. Another in the D-K biographies for young readers. This time, when the author added some breadth for context, it didn't feel so much like he had to struggle to bring it back to Annie. Lovely photographs. The soundtrack in my head has played Annie Get Your Gun for days, although the real Annie wasn't much like Ethel Merman.

My current read is Unf*ck Your Habitat by Rachel Hoffman. I'm such a sucker for decluttering books. Hoffman is not as charming as Marie Kondo, but she's effective. I haven't finished UfYH yet, but I suspect that her influence led me here to unf*ck my blog. Will it stay unf*cked? Stay tuned.

P.S. It's my Spawn's birthday. Born in 1984, (no, I didn't plan that) he's a kickass bookworm in his own right. He's reading Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.


Unruly Reader said...

Dear Bybee,

Some things:
1. I'm sending good wishes to you and your mom. This is a hard season, and I hope all soon improves.
2. I'm so wishing we could have really-really met! Some day it'll happen.
3a. It's wonderful to hear your unmistakable voice.
3b. No kicking yourself for the disrupted blogging!
3c. (So great to hear your voice)
4. You've been reading up a storm, and now I'm seriously gonna have to read a Harriet Tubman biography.
5. The latest decluttering book to hit my radar: The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. That title is scaring the living daylights out of me, though the concept: I'm on board.

Bybee said...

That title! I'm in love!

Care said...

Hey there. I know you're busy... I will write you a letter. BEST to you on Nanowrimo!!!!!