Thursday, August 04, 2022

July, 2022: Reading. Seriously.

 Another Val story before we begin. This was one of her favorites. Every time it popped up in her Facebook memories, she'd repost it.

Val was moving yet again during her time in Korea. I was not particularly pleased because she would be moving out of my apartment building and over to a university way the hell out in the country and about 30 minutes away by train. Although I was dreading the day, I got caught up in the hustle and bustle of her packing.

About 9:30 pm, she decided that she would load some boxes into the boot of her little red Matiz automobile. Of course the boxes were terribly heavy, so she decided that we must get a trolley.

A what? I said.

A trolley.

I decided that she meant a dolly, but didn't say so. 

We looked around in the dark stairwell on the first floor for a trolley/dolly, but didn't see anything. Finally, we ran into a security guard. He didn't want to speak to us because of the language barrier, but Val neatly cornered him at the door of his guardhouse. She pulled out her phone and started typing into the translator.

She showed the guard the word on her phone and then said in Korean, "Please give me."

He looked at her like she was crazy. She nodded. I nodded, too. Finally, he sighed and got his flashlight and looked around in the hallways of our building. We followed. Then after a decent interval, he shook his head and started back to the guardhouse.

"Wait!" Val showed him her phone again. "I KNOW they have trolleys in Korea. I've seen them."

Dolly was trembling on the tip of my tongue, but I confess: Even though English is my native language, I've always had an inferiority complex about speaking American English around English English speakers. I usually throw in the linguistic towel and give Brits the win right away.

The guard sighed, mumbled something and repeated the walk, shining his flashlight up and down the corridors. Then he headed back to the guardhouse and settled in with his K-Drama. He offered up a final word in English: "Impossible."

We retreated to Val's apartment. "Maybe there's another word," she said, looking at her phone. "Oh, hold on. Uh-oh. Look." She showed me the phone. Turned out that her finger had landed on the wrong word, and we'd had the guard looking around in the gloomy stairwells for a troll.

I was really really glad then that I'd restrained myself from saying dolly.

"I'll try again tomorrow," Val decided. "If he'll even speak to me. The poor man."


1. What Are Castles and Knights? - Sarah Fabiny. Nonfiction.

2. The Witches - Stacy Schiff. Nonfiction. Schiff takes the reader into the world of Salem Village, 1692 to make us understand the time and place that created a toxic atmosphere where nearly everyone lost their damn minds and sent 19 innocent people to their deaths for witchcraft based on the word of a few shrieking teenagers. By the end, I felt claustrophobic and a little crazy, but mightily enjoyed counting up the many references to The Wizard of Oz that Schiff cleverly inserted.

3. The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver. Novel. I shied away from this book for decades, and now I'm a little mad at myself, but not too much because I think maybe I just wasn't ready for this story of religion, culture clashes, and revolution (of all kinds) in the Congo (now Zaire) in 1959. It's a searing and illuminating book and Kingsolver's masterpiece. I am adding it to my favorite reads of 2022.

4. Who Was E.B. White? - Gail Herman. Nonfiction.

5. What Is the AIDS Crisis? - Nico Medina. Nonfiction. A careful, comprehensive look at the AIDS crisis from its very beginnings. The government's indifference was chilling, and Nico Medina pulls no punches. No bullshit. Well-executed.

6. Long Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela. Nonfiction. I audiobooked this one. Danny Glover's narration was interspersed with African national songs, crowd reactions in real time to events unfolding in apartheid South Africa, and speeches read in Mandela's own voice, which made for a moving listening experience. Since this was significantly abridged, I don't feel as if I got all the nuances or even the whole story, but the crux is there and it left me in a thoughtful mood, eager to learn more about Mandela and the ANC and the struggle for a more democratic South Africa.

7. Who Was Ponce de Leon? - Pam Pollack and Meg Belviso. Nonfiction. MAD RESPECT for how this book was written! It starts out like a conventional biography of Ponce de Leon, conquistador in the making, then it makes a wicked left turn that nearly had me scrambling for the Dramamine, and it essentially says: You know what?! This guy, none of these guys were heroes. None of them were admirable. They ruthlessly rode roughshod over native lands and territories and ruined millions of lives. They disrupted cultures. They enslaved and murdered people with weapons and disease! Then the authors take a tiny step back and allow that maybe Ponce de Leon couldn't help it; he was conditioned at an early age to believe that as an agent of Catholic Spain, he was on the side of right. Then they gather themselves again and they're like, nah, he's still awful. And that cute Fountain of Youth story? What a bunch of hooey cooked up to make him look deluded at worst and whimsical at best. 

dI read 7 books in July. When I wasn't Who-Was-ing, I felt as if my reading had unexpected depth. Am I being and becoming? Is it just a stage I'm going through? Actually, two of the Who Was...? books I read went way beyond my expectations (What is the AIDS Crisis and Who Was Ponce de Leon) and handled the material in a manner that would create new levels of understanding in mature readers while introducing it to newer, younger reader1. What Are Castles and Knights? - Sarah Fabiny. Nonf


Jeane said...

You got me laughing out loud! Oh, why didn't your friend pull up a photograph of the item you needed? I call it a dolly too, but my husband (from the Netherlands) refers to it as a handtruck.

And Poisonwood Bible is always among my favorites. It's the first Kingsolver I ever read, the only one I've read twice (or three times) and will always keep for a possible future read. Each re-read I get more out of it.

Bybee said...

I like handtruck! Much better than dolly.