Archive for ◊ June, 2008 ◊

30 Jun 2008 Whistling in the Dark-Lesley Kagen
 |  Category: Books  | Leave a Comment

This was a book group selection for the
book group I (attempt) to lead for my Mom’s group. While it was a
quick read I’m not totally sure what I think about it.

The story is about two (well really
three, but sister three is totally one-dimensional so she’s pretty
hard to care about) sisters, Sally and Troo, and their summer in
Milwaukee in 1959. Of course it’s not quite that straight forwards.
Their mother, Helen, is in the hospital (she had her gall bladder
removed, then suffered from a staph infection) and their Step-Father,
Hall, is an asshole of the first degree. Their older sister, a
teenager, charged with caring for them, has gone head over heels boy
crazy and worse still, there is a child murderer/molester on the
loose in their neighborhood.

I don’t recall the ages of the girls,
if they were mentioned or not. They’re older than 3rd
grade, but not to puberty yet which puts them between 9 and 12 or so.
Troo, the youngest, seems to be everyone favorite. She’s kind of
selfish and definitely is suppressing some bottled rage over the car
accident that killed her father.  Sally, while sweet, is rather spineless in her support of her sister, who is foul mouthed and short tempered.

But overall, I felt like the book was…..almost a stereotype of the fifties.  White bread American meets the occasional illicit thing (gay Priest, sex, pregnancy before marriage, etc).  I think what was so difficult for me was that it was a slice of life story that didn’t seem a lot like a slice of life.  Some things were wholly predictible (Nell getting pregnant, Rausmassen being Sally’s Dad, Sally’s mom being in love with Ruasmassed, Mr. Gary being Gay) and some things felt kind of WTF.  The fact that Rausmassen managed to get rid of the neighborhood trouble makers only after Sally had trouble with them.  I mean, why?  Hadn’t he noticed that they were bad eggs all along and if he could have arranged that, why didn’t he?  Why did he leave them running around the neighborhood, wrecking havoc?

I don’t know.  Wanted to like it, but just couldn’t get there.  Didn’t HATE it, so that’s a step in the right direction.

This is book nine.

17 Jun 2008 What is this thing called Wanderlust?
 |  Category: me, in a nutshell  | Leave a Comment

In 1999, before we got married, Eric spent months trying to find a job that would allow us to live in Michigan.  It was my dearest wish and to his credit, he tried very hard to keep us there.  He went on multiple interviews, but the cost of living was different and he was unwilling to move to MI to make less money.  I supported that idea, but was reluctant when it came time for us to move.

One cool, June morning, we loaded my entire life into a U-Haul truck and drove to Chicago, towing my jelly bean behind us, ready to begin our new life in IL.  I sobbed the whole way and was generally nasty and miserable about the idea of leaving home and Eric, who has the patience of Job, put up with me until I turned the corner.

We lived in an apartment in Arlington Heights for two years before deciding to buy our house.  Leaving the apartment wasn’t too hard, but in 2004, after years of struggling here after United Airlines crapped out after 9/11 we got the news we’d be moving.  Eric found a job!  Five years after we first tried we were moving to Michigan, with the salary and position that Eric needed to make it all work out.

But then, came the horrible thing.  We had to leave here. Our home.  I felt phyiscal pain when we left here.  I put down my roots and they had wound around the foundation of our little white house, tightly.  I felt severed when we left, the stumps of my roots aching.  Not long after our move to MI we went to OH to visit family.  Eric and I croweded into a twin bed in my Grandpa’s attic and I sobbed for all the things I missed. 

The worst thing about our two years in MI was my inability to put my roots back down.  I was happy to leave our first rental, but even though our second rental was much more appealing to Eric and I, it wasn’t home and my roots grew mangled and pot bound as I had no place to put them down.

In a stroke of luck, I guess, we found ourself back in our house in 2006.  Eric found a job and our tenant defaulted and suddenly we were home again.  We missed my family, but my roots did a jig, I swear.  Dancing with delight as they sunk themselves into the soil and wrapped tightly around the foundation  again.

But over the last few months I notice that my roots don’t feel bound as tightly anymore.  I feel kind of detatched and indifferent.  I feel like it might be time to find someplace else to be, and I don’t just mean a new house in the same area.

A couple of months ago Eric b egan the interview process with a company that would take us out of state.  He was unsure, of course, if it was even worth our time.  If we’re not willing to move, he argued, why waste me, and their, time?  Talk to them, I said, let’s see what they have to say.  It would take a pretty specific package for us to move.  What could it hurt us?

And I felt the tendrils of the roots slowly unwinding themselves from the crushing grip they had on the foundation of our house.  I admit that I wouldn’t hate an out of state move.  I think I could even like it.

But why this change?  Why now?  This isn’t like me.    I’ve spent some time pondering why I feel rather apathetic about moving or not when in the past I’ve been opposed, strongly, to moving.  Why are my roots relinquishing their hold here?  Is it because I know that as our family grows that staying in this house becomes less and less possible?  is it because I know Eric’s desire to live somewhere warm and I want him to be happy?  Or is this about me?  Am I tried of the same old, same old?  I really don’t know.

Eric had his third interview yesterday.  He flew to North Carolina.  Now we wait and see.  Will there be an offer?  What sort?  And if no offer comes, do we decide to pursue a job in that area any way?  So many questions.  We’re waiting for answers.

15 Jun 2008 “A Brief History of the Dead” by Kevin Brockmeier
 |  Category: Books  | Leave a Comment

2008 appears to be the summer of buying
the book. Normally, I buy a few books here and there and rely on the
library to keep me book satiated. This summer, however, between
good finds at yard sales, the scholastic warehouse sale and a going
out of business sale we stumbled upon while we were out of town, the
to read pile around this house is growing by leaps and bounds.

I didn’t blog about two books I’ve read
rather recently, one a biography of Mary Boykin Chestnut the other
“Phillip Hall Likes me, I Reckon,
Maybe.”, a 1975 Newberry honor book. Neither of them seemed like
something I would write about here. The biography on Mary Boykin
Chestnut was very good (and I highly recommend it if you’re
interested in Southern life during the Civil War from a woman’s
perspective), but there really isn’t much to tell or summarize that
isn’t fairly common knowledge.

Philip
Hall was also a good book, but definitely written for the younger
crowd with not much content to really talk about. Amazon.com notes
that it’s a good read for the 9-12 crowd, but honestly, I think that
if your child is a reasonable reader, it could read at a much younger
age and I’ve passed it onto Emily who will make quick work out of it.

So,
that leaves me with “A Brief History of the Dead” by Kevin
Brockheimer, purchased during my book buying glut of 2008 (which may
or may not continue, stay tuned). Really, the book seems akin to
Stephen King’s “The Stand” but not as brutal or frightening,
though not wholly without the depressing overtones of King’s famous
tome.

The
book begins in the city of the undead. The city has no name and
people come to live in it between the time of their own death and
death of the last person whose memory they inhabit. The city is
huge, impossible to actually map, which makes perfect sense if you
consider that every person living must pass through there for an
indeterminate amount of time.

At
some point in time, there is a mass exodus both into and out of the
city. Hordes of people arrive and leave in the blink of an eye. It
is determined that a pandemic has been unleashed on the earth. As
days and weeks go by the numbers in the city dwindle until only one,
Luka Sims, seems left to tell the tale. In desperation Luka sets
out into the city to see if anyone has survived the plague that
befell the earth and he soon finds more survivors. They soon find
that all the people there are linked by one person, Laura Byrd, who
is stranded in Antarctica as the part of a polar expedition to
determine whether or not Coca Cola would be better if made with
melting polar ice.

It
really isn’t the end of the world portion that drew me to this story
at all (and whether or not Laura survives or finds any other living
inhabitants of earth will have to remain secret until you read the
book itself) but more the view of someone else’s thoughts on the
possibility of what an afterlife COULD be. It’s the reason why I
loved “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” so much. Not because
it was a particularly GOOD, but I loved the flight of fancy of
someone else considering what Heaven or the after life COULD be.
This book filled a very similar roll for me.
  What could be happening?  what could be out there?  What do other people think?

For those keeping track, this is my 8th read of the year.