Monday, May 14, 2018

A Brilliance of Books, Mid-May 2018

There were a few years there in my life where I was reading an insane amount--upwards of 125, 150 books per year.

These were also some of the unhappiest years of my life. Coincidence? Nope. Not even a little bit. Books were my escape, of course, but they were also a way for me to mark progress through something. Stagnated as I was in my career, trapped and immobile as I felt in my life, there was (I thought) little room to move forward, to progress in life projects. So, page after page, I moved through stories, moved through piles of books. In hindsight, I wonder if there was something a bit...compulsive about it?

And now, here I am, in 2018.So far this year, I've not even managed 30 books. Sure, we could chalk it up to me juggling all the jobs in Bloomington, and moving households, but also, I think it's got something to do with the fact that I am just...happy. I'm occupied with pursuits and people and projects, and while I still love to read, I feel like maybe it's become a bit more proportional to the other facets of my life.  

What I've Read This Month, So Far:

Ann Rinaldi, Brooklyn Rose
Have any of you ever read anything by Ms. Rinaldi? I know I did, a very long time ago, and of course she came up in my children's literature class back in library school. This prolific author produces a lot of historical fiction, focusing on momentous events told through the mouths of fictional characters--indentured servants of Abigail Adams, or wards of the haberdasher to Queen Victoria, or some such. It's a bit of a cliched literary device, to be sure, but it certainly is one way to get young folks reading about history. Early this month, I stumbled across Rinadli's name somehow, and got it into my head that I should read something of hers. So, I checked out the title that I found the least ridiculous  that sounded the most appealing, and spent an evening reading about Rose, a Southern gal who marries into a wealthy Northern family and must test her mettle against her overbearing mother-in-law. Verdict: Entertaining enough, but by no means earth-shattering.

Mariah Fredericks, A Death of No Importance
Now this--this book was one of those that it was a true pleasure to read, that I hated to put down, and hated, too, when it was finished. A murder mystery, this was, set in 1910 New York City, and told through the voice of Jane Prescott, a ladies maid to the Benchleys, a nouveau riche family learning to navigate high society. Throw in a gruesome murder, some violent anarchists, and suspicious characters with no end of motives, and you gain a good read, and lose a night to its consumption.

Anne Easter Smith, Daughter of York
Originally, this book caught my notice out in California, when one of my colleagues nominated it for a staff pick. It looked vaguely interesting, so I threw it on my GoodReads list...where it proceeded to languish for the next eight years. I took up this doorstopper this month more to get it off my damned list than for any other reason. It tells the story of the War of the Roses in the voice of Margaret of York, Duchess Consort of Burgundy, who was sister to two Kings of England. I plowed through this a little bit at a time during my lunch breaks the last two weeks, and it was one of those that held my attention enough as I was reading it, but didn't stick very long in my memory otherwise.

Kerry Greenwood, Murder and Mendelssohn
The twentieth (and latest) installment in the Miss Fisher mystery series, this books is now four years old, and I've heard nary a peep about further books illustrating the intrepid antics of Australia's most fabulous flapper. So I read this book as slowly as I could, but there are only so many ways that one conductor can possibly be killed (my personal favorite was him choking to death on a choral score), and finally, I turned the last page. I miss Phryne already.

What I'm Reading Now (Not pictured):

Kintsugi Wellness and Harvard Business Review's 10 Must Reads for New Managers

Extrapolate from that what you will.

Now excuse me while I go on to my next book, which is...a historical novel.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Being Green

Today at work, when I was buried ass to eyeballs in files and notes and paperwork (with nary a book in sight), a random realization came to me: fourteen years ago today, I came to Bloomington, Indiana for the first time as an adult.

That's a rather silly sort of anniversary, isn't it? 14 years. Not that it's a decade or 25 years or anything like that; not it's not that I moved to Bloomington just then; not even that it was my first time in Bloomington. But for whatever reason, this happy little anniversary stands out to me.

It was a whirlwind trip, that trip--I flew in early on a Friday morning, giddy from a lack of sleep, and was back in Florida by Sunday night. But oh, I packed so much into those few days--I explored, I secured housing for myself, I wished graduating students well as they posed with their parents for pictures in front of the Sample Gates, I met a fellow that I would soon fall madly in love with; I listened to Irish music at a co-op cafe, I got re-acquainted with my uncle and his girlfriend; I met up with some Internet acquaintances for an early-evening picnic in an enchanting park, and together we tortured a Peep and a Peter Pan doll.

And I saw spring. A real, proper spring, with green everywhere. Sure, I knew green--the dusky, darker green of the palms and pines and scrubby brush of Florida. But this was a green that I had never encountered...a vivid, lush, almost painfully bright green. It was a green that seemed to flaunt itself, like it knew that it was in the rudest of health, and it was boasting of it. Oh, it was green.

But nothing was as green as I was.

Fourteen years later...My uncle's girlfriend is now my aunt. Those students that I wished well are now 14 years older, and while I never learned their names or even the first thing about them, other than they had proud parents, I still think of them and hope their parents are still proud, and that they remember their university years with joy. The fellow that I met and fell madly in love with...well, ours is a goofy sort of story, but we are still characters in each other's tale. The little co-op cafe is no more, and most of the folks I met for the picnic have moved on to different places, different partners. That enchanting park is still there, is a place I drive past all the time, is a place I still love to go.
And me? What of me?

I wanted different things then-- my vision was a bit more limited, I think. I wanted to do well in grad school, make good grades; marriage and family and career and everything Beyond Grad School were just abstracts. Research papers and projects and stultifying reading assignments loomed large, and I don't think I saw much past that. If the me of fourteen years ago met the me of now, I think we would--at best--cordially dislike each other. The battles that mattered to me at 24, I quite often can't be bothered to give a damn about at 37. Weirdly, I want more from life and expect more from myself now than I did fourteen years ago, but I'm a happier person, all the same.

Who's to say that happiness will last? Green springs swell with life and hope...and give way to fruit and death and fallow times, and god knows I've seen plenty of those in the fourteen years that have lapsed. There will be more fruitless and fallow times ahead in my life--hell, I just exited one--and perhaps in another fourteen years, I will look back on this green-and-gold spring evening and shake my head over who I am now.

"Get out of your own head," Older Indy Grrl might say, "Get off your ass and sit outside in this gentle twilight you're writing about and see the spring beauty while you can."

And yet here I am, still typing.

Maybe I'm not so different than I was, after all.

But I'm kind of curious about what happened to that Peter Pan doll.