Movable Type 3.2
July 20, 2010
It's called "right of way" for a reason.
Pet peeve of the day: drivers who get all mad that I will not go when they CLEARLY have the right of way. I guess they think they're being nice? Or something? But if I have a stop sign and you do not, JUST GO. You're not being courteous. You're trying to force me to break traffic laws, for no apparent reason. Why? Why do people do this? (I wrote that as a rhetorical question, but actually, if you do this, I'd love to know why.)
January 31, 2010
At some point between when I drank it regularly in college eight or ten years ago and when I picked one up at a rest stop tonight, they seem to have slightly changed the formula of Diet Peach Snapple. I do not approve. When I am choosing beverages based on nostalgia value, I want them to taste the same as they ever did, darn it.
January 11, 2010
Review: Food Rules
Food Rules by Michael Pollan
You've probably heard Michael Pollan's basic rules: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." This little book expands these three rules into 64 rules, most of which are guidelines to figuring out what counts as "real food." I've heard some criticism that this is mostly a rehash of his other books, and if you've read the others, then sure, this might not be very helpful or interesting. But if you want a quick introduction to Pollan's way of thinking - or if, like me, you've been meaning to read his longer books for years and haven't gotten around to it - this is an accessible, quick read that I found both inspirational and useful on a practical level.
January 04, 2010
Review: The Fourth Part of the World
The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name by Toby Lester
This books is supposedly about the 1507 German map that used the word "America" for the first time, but it's actually about a lot more than that, and almost all of it is fascinating. It tries to tell the story of pretty much everything that led up to the creation of this map, which means the entire history of European (and some Asian) exploration, cartography, geography, and a fair amount of theology and philosophy from ancient times through the 1500s. Aside from the obvious elements such as Ptolemy, Marco Polo, Columbus, and Geghis Khan, there are digressions into such topics as the Papal Schism and Gutenberg - and all of them do play a role (albeit sometimes a minor one) in the story.
The sheer scope of the book means that it moves very quickly, which makes it engrossing but also at times confusing. It jumps back and forth in time a bit, so I kept having to check whether certain things were happening before or after other things. And there were some comma usage issues that really bothered me. Other than that, though, I enjoyed this one and read it pretty quickly, and it definitely sparked interest in some of the topics it covered. (I kind of want to write a novel about the Council of Constance now.) I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in exploration, cartography, or the Renaissance in general.
January 03, 2010
Review: It Will Come to Me
It Will Come to Me by Emily Fox Gordon
It Will Come to Me tells of Ben, a sixty-ish philosophy professor, and his wife Ruth, a novelist turned bored faculty wife who hasn't written anything in years. One of the reasons for this drought, the reader eventually finds out, is that their son Isaac, now 24, is mentally ill and homeless, and Ruth's grief and worry has blocked her creativity. It has also, I have to say, made her very unpleasant. (I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt and assuming that she was less unpleasant before the troubles with Isaac.) Therefore, Ruth is a sympathetic character but not a likable one. And I'm not saying I have to like the characters in order to like a novel, but in this case, it certainly doesn't help. Ben is more likable, and my favorite character was certainly his secretary, Dolores.
Gordon's strength here is in the quality of the writing and in her just-slightly-overblown descriptions of academia. The university is thrown into an uproar by a new president, a visit from an accreditation committee, and an enigmatic visiting writer and her odd husband. Ruth hopes that they will give her a way back into the world of publishing, while Ben has to deal with the various changes caused by all three new elements as well as his hateful dean. And, of course, they are also trying to figure out what's going on with Isaac and his mysterious therapist, who is their only (supposed) link to their son. All of these issues could have been brought to some sort of interesting and natural resolution, but instead, the end of the book contains several out-of-the-blue happenings that can only be described as deus ex machina, and that left me dissatisfied with the whole novel.
January 02, 2010
Review: Bed of Roses
Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts
The first book in this series, Vision in White, was the only romance to make it onto my "best books I read in 2009" list, so I was very excited to get this sequel. (It had a very long queue at the library, of course.) I loved it, although it wasn't quite as absorbing as the first - mainly, I think, because the romantic hero in the first was an English teacher, so it got extra points for that. But anyway, the couple in this one were Emma, a florist, and Jack, an architect. This series revolves around four childhood friends who now have a wedding business together, which sets it up quite nicely for both romance and a variety of bridezilla-type hijinks. They all live and work on a huge estate in Greenwich, CT, with their amazing housekeeper/cook (and now Carter, the hero of the first in the series, who is living with his fiancee there). It's an idyllic set-up, and the friendship between the women is pretty amazing, which goes a long way toward making this practically the perfect romance series. And since this is Nora Roberts, they all end up with friends' brothers, brothers' friends, etc. As in most of her series, the characters have a strong network of family and friends that makes the reader pretty much want to just go live in the world of the book.
And in all that, I haven't actually said much about the plot. Okay. Jack is Emma's best friend's brother's best friend (see?), so they've known each other forever, but always suppressed their mutual attraction. They kiss, sort of on a whim, and then decide to get into a relationship, much to the consternation of their mutual friends. But Emma is looking for a husband and family and permanence, and Jack has always shied away from that. So - well, I don't want to give any spoilers, exactly, but this is a romance novel so we all know where it's headed. Let's just say that the way it gets there is satisfying and avoids most of the standard contrivances romance novels employ to keep the characters apart. The writing is solid, and even though the plot isn't exactly labyrinthine, it's engrossing. All in all, it's a thoroughly delightful paragon of the romance genre, and I'm looking forward to book three in May.
January 01, 2010
Review: Meet Rebecca
Look! Fulfilling my promise! I just finished this book and I am blogging it immediately! Also, I added a new widget over on the right that will show all the books I have read in 2010. As long as I, you know, keep up with it.
Meet Rebecca by Jacqueline Dembar Greene
Okay, I'll admit it - I've been reading American Girl books for 21 years and I still adore them. This is the first book about Rebecca, the child of Russian Jewish immigrants living in NYC in 1914. It's like they MADE this one for me - World War I! Immigrants! Jewish traditions! New York! As with all of the American Girl historical novels, Rebecca's story manages to be educational, in a completely non-subtle way, and simultaneously completely engaging. It's a gentle read while also not shying away from serious issues - Rebecca's family is trying to save money to bring relatives over from Russia before they get drafted into the tsar's army and/or starve to death. And nine-year-old Rebecca is scared and worried about this, as you'd expect, but there's no suggestion that children can't deal with such things. This main crisis is set against a backdrop of sibling rivalry, intergenerational tension between old world and new world customs, and a little girl trying to grow up too quickly. Really, my one main issue with it is that I was too embarrassed to ask for the Rebecca doll for Christmas.
This has prompted me to figure out which American Girl books I've missed and, um, request about twenty of them from the library. So! Just a warning that you will be seeing a lot of these sorts of reviews in the next few weeks.
November 22, 2009
Gift Guides 2009: Time Magazine
Ever since I started reading Beck's holiday gift guide reviews, I've been wanting to jump in with some of my own. But I've been a little intimidated, because Beck is just so darn funny. But. I finished my NaNoWriMo novel today so I'm feeling pretty invincible and am just going to jump right in here. Without further ado, the Time Holiday Gift Guide 2009, reviewed!
First, a note: they call this a list of "books, music, DVDs, games and gifts that give back." I guess by that they mean there are some of those "buy this and we'll give some money to charity" items or the "this was made by starving children in a third world country" items, which are all well and good, but seem out of place on such a media/entertainment-centric list. Anyway. Onward to the list!
"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by Darlene Love
Soap with Hope
The Indie Rock Coloring book
The Man's Book: The Essential Guide for the Modern Man
Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season 1
And So to Bead
A Shadow Falls by Nick Brandt
thirtysomething: The Complete First Season
Gone with the Wind 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition
The Paris Review Interviews Box Set
The John Barrymore Collection
Sinatra: New York
BoGo Light SL2 Solar-Powered Flashlight
Modern Warfare 2
Paul Newman: The Tribute Collection
Rome: The Complete Series
The Iconic House and Frank Gehry: Houses
Absolute Death by Neil Gaiman
More than $100
The Shield: The Complete Series Collection
Grapes for Apes Collector's Pack of Wine
Futurama: The Complete Collection
AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa
And one more thing: I am completely baffled that the new Beatles Remastered Box Set is not on this list. It seems as though it was made for lists like this. (And it is in fact at the top of my own Christmas list.) So! Something else to consider.
Well! That was fun! I have several more lists coming up through the next few weeks, so stay tuned!
November 20, 2009
Review: Bookmarked for Death
This is the second in a series of mysteries set in a town of bookstores - like Hay-on-Wye but in New Hampshire, and the actual location is based on a town where I used to live. So you can see why I have to read them. But . . . they're not that great, honestly. They're not bad. They're certainly readable, and enjoyable enough, but . . . enh. Nothing special. As perhaps a symptom of this, I can barely remember the plot of this one. I would try one of these (the first is Murder is Binding) if you're particularly interested in bookstores or small-town New Hampshire, but otherwise, there are probably better options.
November 18, 2009
Now, as we've discussed recently, I am not really a baseball fan, although I do at least understand the basics of the game play, which was more than I could say about football until, oh, about last week. (Okay, okay, maybe it was a few weeks ago.) But this was about old baseball (about 1870 to the early 1900s), and social history, and it mentioned Stephen Crane in the little blurb in the library catalog, so I had to give it a try. And I have to hand it to Morris - this was a thoroughly interesting story, even for a non-baseball fan. He did a good job of blending history, individuals' stories, quotes from literature of the time, and other cultural artifacts (especially ads for various baseball-related products) to show how the public perception of the catcher changed over time and how this echoed other societal and cultural changes. The narrative could be tightened up and was a bit hard to follow at times, and there was some repetition, but overall this was a readable and engaging history. Definitely give it a try if you have any interest in baseball or turn-of-the-century social history.
July 10, 2009
Review: Love and Peaches
Love and Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson
This is the third (and last?) in the Peaches series (so named for the peach orchard at the center of the series), and it wasn't as good as the second, which wasn't as good as the first. But it was a quick read and I like finishing series, so whatever. These are follow the model of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants et al. - a group of teen girls who seem very different on the surface end up helping each other deal with various Big Issues and Important Lessons as they grow up. I had a harder time warming to the girls in this series - they just didn't seem real enough. And there's a slight mystical element that seemed kind of unnecessary. But I shouldn't be so negative - they're a decent read, just nothing wildly special. If you (or a girl you know) love the Traveling Pants and want more in that vein, give this series a try. The first is Peaches.
July 09, 2009
Review: A People's History of Christianity
A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story: A History of the Grassroots Movements in Christianity that Preserved Jesus's Message of Social Justice for 2,000 Years and Their Impact on the Church Today by Diana Butler Bass
The basic premise of this book as that the current "progressive" or "generative" Christianity movement is not as new as people think it is, and that churches and believers today lose something by not having a better sense of their history. Bass sets out to rescue some of this lesser-known history and relate it to today. She discusses many figures and movements who were interesting or important but have been obscured or just neglected by the "official" narrative of church history. As with virtually all books of history that strive to provide a specific message for today, this book suffers a bit from having its information molded into place for its message. Bass also tends to jump around a lot - the sections are roughly chronological but the chapters alternate between religious practice and social justice, and each chapter starts with an anecdote from Bass's own life before jumping back to its historical topic. I'm sure the latter format was designed to make it easier for readers to relate to the book, but I just found it distracting. All that said, though, there was some really good information here, and Bass is a pretty clear writer, so if you're interested in church history, I'd give this one a read.
June 29, 2009
Review: Smooth Talking Stranger
Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
(Note: This is actually the third book in a series. I'm usually a stickler about reading series in order, but I didn't realize this was a series until I was too into the book to make myself stop and go back. So you might want to read Sugar Daddy first.)
Ella is an advice columnist whose orderly, boring life is disrupted when her irresponsible sister leaves a baby with her irresponsible mother. Ella is called in to fix the situation. The sister won't name the father, but some of her friends suggest Jack, a millionaire businessman. Now, Jack isn't the father, but he and Ella of course fall in love, and have to straighten out various issues involving their families, their very different lifestyles, and, of course, the baby before they can live happily ever after.
This book was almost a perfect example of the light romance genre. The main characters were likeable but not ridiculously perfect. There was a big fun extended family, a la Nora Roberts. There was a baby, and the baby storyline was actually done well. (It seems that element can be very hit or miss.) The characters had real problems to work through, but there weren't excessive obstacles put in the way of their happiness just for the sake of it. There was a definite sense of place (Texas). I apparently have no recollection of how the sex scenes were, so I'm going to assume that they weren't ridiculous enough to ruin the rest of the book for me (as has happened with other romance novels). The writing was decent, and compelling enough that I read most of it in one sitting. It definitely made me want to read the rest of the series, and Kleypas's other books (historicals).
(SPOILERS AHEAD) I just had one main problem: Ella's relationship with her boyfriend Dane. At first, he's just sort of boring, but then turns out to be extremely self-absorbed, which - fine. But then, when Ella finds out that he's sleeping with someone else while she's away trying to figure out what to do with the baby, he tells her that they've had an open relationship for the past four years, and he just hasn't mentioned it. What?? And even after that, Ella keeps apologizing for getting involved with Jack before she and Dane have officially broken up. So that whole subplot was rather frustrating. (END SPOILERS)
But! With that caveat, this was definitely a great light summer read - perfect for the beach or vacation or one of those days when it's too hot and sticky to move and you just want to sit on the couch with a book.
October 21, 2008
Oops. I just realized that this post has been sitting here half-written since October 1. So I guess I should just finish it, huh?
Tippy-Toe Murder by Leslie Meier
See my review here.
Getting Things Done by David Allen
It's a bit early to say that this book was life-changing, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if it ends up being so. Allen has developed a system of dealing with work - and pretty much everything you do falls into his definition of "work" - that really makes sense, at least to the way my brain works. I haven't had time to completely implement his system yet (because there's some initial set-up that takes a while but doesn't need to be redone), but I've been slowly adopting his various tips and that has already helped a lot. I just wish he had provided some more cohesive, long examples - maybe a few days or a week in the life of a few people using his system - to better show how it all works together.
God's Harvard by Hanna Rosin
I have to say that I'm a) a big fan of Rosin in general and b) extremely interested in the sociology of religion, so it was pretty likely that I'd like this book. But really, it was great. Rosin spent a few years researching a prestigious evangelical Christian college, complete with tons of interviews with students, parents, professors, and staff. And the results are fascinating. Rosin presents a relatively balanced and fair (I thought) portrait of the college and the people involved with it. This college focuses on politics and many of its graduates end up working in the field in various capacities, so if you have any interest in what the future of American politics will look like, God's Harvard is definitely worth a read.
July 30, 2008
Review: The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani
The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani
Priya, who grew up in India, agrees to an arranged marriage with an Indian-American named Sanjay. Soon she's living in LA with Sanjay and his parents - and her new mother-in-law makes her get a job, in addition to doing all the housework and cooking. As Priya advances in her career at an entertainment magazine (and tries to hide the true nature of her job from her family), she finds it harder to keep up with her two separate lives and eventually makes some changes. While I thought that several aspects of the plot were a bit too far-fetched, and while the ending seemed to wrap up too quickly and neatly, this was a good read and hard to put down - I read it in a day. It also provided an interesting look at Indian and Indian-American life.
July 22, 2008
Review: Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs
Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs
As I mentioned in my recent review of Bones to Ashes, I decided to go back to the beginning and read this series in order. Since I had read the first one last year, I started with this, the second. It was a great read. As usual, Temperance Brennan investigates several murder cases, and some of them are connected but some aren't - a feature I enjoy, because everything can't be connected all the time. This one was mostly set in North Carolina, but there were some nice Canadian winter scenes. The main mystery revolves around murders connected to a new religious movement, and there's some interesting stuff about cults, etc. There's also some nice supporting material about Brennan's daughter and Brennan's long, drawn-out semi-relationship with Detective Andrew Ryan, and I'm looking forward to seeing how that develops over the course of the series. My one main problem with the book was that it seems unlikely that there are so many cases that have ties to both of Brennan's homes (Montreal and North Carolina), so I'm hoping that later books in the series focus on one or the other.
July 02, 2008
Review: The Sewing Machine Guide by John Giordano
The Sewing Machine Guide by John Giordano
I am thinking about buying a sewing machine (advice welcome!), so this book's subtitle of "Tips on Choosing, Buying, and Refurbishing" made me very hopeful that it would be a good resource to help me through the process. It wasn't. Somewhat inexplicably, I thought, the book was written only for people who already had at least one sewing machine and were considering buying a new one. I guess that's a pretty big market, but it seemed weird that first-time buyers were not even mentioned. Giordano assumes that his readers know a lot about sewing machines and nothing about computers, so much of the book is devoted to explaining this newfangled computerized stuff that machines have these days. But my problem is the opposite - I know a fair amount about computers, but next to nothing about sewing machines. So I guess what I'm saying is that this book isn't necessarily bad, but I was not its proper audience, and I didn't think the target audience was properly telegraphed by the title/cover/etc. There were also a few general life philosophy-type statements that the author assumed all his readers agreed with that bothered me, but of course at the moment I can't remember any examples. Something about his attitude toward the use of leisure time and/or money. Yeah, I know, that's very specific and helpful of me. Oh, and he also pretty much said that if you don't have $1000 to spend on a machine, just don't bother, so that was disheartening (and, I'm hoping, not quite true?), since I can't spend that much right now.
Review: Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs
Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs
Kathy Reichs is the inspiration for (and one of the producers of) the show Bones, about a forensic anthropologist who works with the FBI solving crimes. Since I love the show, I picked up the first in the book series last year. It was fine, but I wasn't thrilled with it - possibly just because it was so different from the show. But a few days ago, I was at an airport shop looking for something to read, and the most recent Kathy Reichs seemed like the best among the (very limited) options. And I'm so glad I picked it up, because I loved this one! I liked the main character, Temperance Brennan, much better in this installment, although that is probably partially because I had had some time to get over the fact that the character in the book is completely different from the character on the show. Brennan is working with the police department in Montreal when an officer brings her bones that just might belong to her childhood friend who went missing forty or so years before. At the same time, her sometime lover Ryan (also a detective) enlists her help with a string of murders of teenage girls. A few other cases are involved as well, and there are various subplots involving Brennan's friends and family. The book also provide an interesting glimpse into traditional Acadian culture. The plot is quite complex, and it's definitely a page-turner. I thought the major flaw in the book was that one of the big twists at the end seemed pretty obvious way before the characters realized it, and I got frustrated that they were being so dense. Other than that, though, I loved it, and I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.
Review: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
As you can see from my rating, I love love loved this book. I am a Sarah Dessen fan in general, but I think this was one of her best. It's the story of Annabel, who finds her life falling apart after a traumatic incident that she finds she can't talk about. She tries to hold herself and her family together by denying her feelings and acting as though everything is fine. But then she meets Owen, a well-known "bad boy" who always tells the truth, and finds that she can't keep all her secrets any longer. As with most of Dessen's novels, Annabel's story combines personal growth, family issues, and a great love story. Owen is passionate about music, and his attempts to widen Annabel's musical horizons provide an interesting element to the story. Dessen writes great complex male leads, and Owen is no exception. The secondary characters are unusually well-drawn in this one, too, and Dessen has several characters and locations from her previous novel make cameos in this one. My only issue with the book was that I thought Annabel's big secret was a little too obvious from the beginning. But all in all, it was a great read.
June 20, 2008
Review: The Joys of Love by Madeleine L'Engle
The Joys of Love by Madeleine L'Engle
This is actually one of L'Engle's first novels, set in the 1940s and written in the 1950s or so, but it was just published this year. It's a bit rough - perhaps because it was edited for publication after her death - and certainly not one of her best novels, but it was still very good, and it provides an interesting look at her early development as a writer. It's the story of Elizabeth Jerrold, a young woman who is trying to pursue acting while not completely disobeying her aunt/guardian, who disapproves of the theater for various reasons. She is an apprentice at a summer theater company, and learns a lot about acting and about herself while also falling in love for the first time. She falls for a flashy young director, but by the end of the novel has pretty much figured out that another apprentice is actually the right match for her. It's interesting to look at these men as prototypes for some of L'Engle's later male leads, such as Zachary Grey and Adam Eddington. And as always, L'Engle manages to create a romantic interest who is complex and realistic while simultaneously seeming pretty much perfect for her heroine. Joys of Love is somewhat dated at this point, but it's a must-read for any L'Engle fan.
April 25, 2008
How Not to Keep a Customer
A few years ago, a new yarn store opened near where I was living at the time. I was a regular customer for a while, but I'm not anymore, partially because I live farther away (and closer to other stores) now, and partially because I'm not thrilled with some of the store's business practices. But I still go there occasionally, because I happen to be walking by or because I urgently need something when I'm in that town or whatever. Every time, the owner puts on a big show of being thrilled to see me, but it always includes a lot of "I haven't seen you in so long! Why haven't you been here?" Every time, I politely tell her that I've moved, so I'm not in the area as much. Every time, she makes a huge issue of it anyway. I end up feeling even less inclined to shop there, because it means I'll be interrogated about why I apparently don't spend enough money there as she wants me to.
Today, I met a friend who works in that town for lunch. We went to a cafe a few blocks from the yarn store - and there she was. The yarn store owner. And what does she say? "I haven't seen you in so long! Why haven't you been in to the store?" Sigh. Can't we just leave it at "Hi, nice to see you"?
April 24, 2008
Shaving Cream That Will Change Your Life.
Last weekend, my cousin and I were wandering around Cambridge Naturals and she pointed out Kiss My Face Moisture Shave and told me that it would change my life:
March 11, 2008
I seem to be having trouble with the calendar recently:
1. Daylight Savings Time. I'm hearing this from practically everyone - it's been really really hard to get up or go to bed at a reasonable time this week. Bah. I am enjoying having more light after work, but I think I'd really rather it be light when I'm trying to wake up.
2. Easter is too freaking early. Not only does this mean that it doesn't feel like spring yet - and it's supposed to be springlike on Easter, at least in my head - but it means it coincides with my big sports weekend of the year. Yeah. The only sports I really follow on TV are figure skating and auto racing. (NOT Nascar, just for the record. I'm snobby about my auto racing.) This usually works well becuse skating is a winter sport and racing is a summer sport. But there's always a weekend when the figure skating world championships coincide with one of the first races of the season, and this year that weekend is Easter weekend. So I have to clear tons of space on the TiVo before I leave for Easter, and then I'll have lots of quality knitting/blog-reading time while catching up on everything when I get back. Sigh. (I know, I know, of all problems to have, this is totally a non-issue, but it's still vaguely frustrating.)
February 29, 2008
That other thing you're not supposed to talk about...
For quite a while, I tried to avoid talking much about religion or politics here. I figured it was polite, because I have readers of all different faiths, ideologies, politics, etc. But obviously I've been mentioning politics, quite a bit, and I've lost a few readers but not too many. In the past week or so I've been trying to find a better balance of talking about a variety of things.
This Lent, I've been doing a lot of reading and studyng and praying and trying to recommit myself to my faith. And I have come to feel that part of what I need to do is to stop avoiding talking about it - here and other places. Don't worry; I'm not going to start preaching or talking about religion incessantly or anything. But it's part of my life and I'm going to start talking about it if it's on my mind or I want to share something I've been studying or something.
I didn't mean to make this sound like a big serious announcement or anything. Just wanted to explain in case anyone was confused if I suddenly posted something about Lectio Divina or something.
January 31, 2008
Books for January
Apparently I only finished two this month. Ah well; it's been a crazy busy month, and I'm currently in the middle of about four books, so February's list should be longer!
December 31, 2007
Books for November
Books for October
Apparently I was on an alphabet kick in October. (And apparently I was doing something other than reading much, though I can't remember what. Actually, I think I started some books in October that I didn't finish until November. Or didn't finish at all. Or something.)
Books for September
Yes, trying to catch up a bit before the end of the year. I know I still won't have posted about all the books I read, but I at least wanted to mention some of them from the last part of the year. I'll try to do better next year! :)
November 05, 2007
My review of ABC by David Plante is here. No, I don't know why it says Amy Diaz at the top - if you scroll down, you'll see that my name appears correctly at the end.
October 14, 2006
Nick Hornby, will you marry me?
(This one-book-at-a-time thing? Totally going well. I started this book last Saturday, was totally into it, and finished yesterday. Not bad, considering the amount of homework/D&D work/TV/etc. I have going on. Also, I'm hoping that the one-at-a-time thing will make me more likely to actually review all the books I read here.)
If you didn't guess it from the subject line, let me just tell you that it's official: Nick Hornby is my new celebrity crush. If only he didn't smoke. And wasn't already, you know, married. But hey, no one's perfect.
I came to this book in an odd manner. It was on the "New Paperbacks" table at the bookstore where I work, and I was neurotically straightening the stacks of books, as is my wont. What attracted me first, actually, was the title: Housekeeping vs. the DIrt, which is really one of life's ongoing crises, plus also rather funny. And then I noticed that it was a book about reading. And then I noticed that it was by Nick Hornby. Now, either of those latter two elements would have been enough to make me pick up the book, but it was the title that originally grabbed me. Huh.
(I feel compelled to mention that I've never actually read one of Hornby's novels. I adored his book about music, Songbook, and I have enjoyed a few moives based on his books. But yeah, I realize I should actually read his books at some point. Seeing as how I'm apparently proposing marriage and all.)
Housekeeping vs. the Dirt is a collection of Hornby's "Stuff I've Been Reading" columns from Believer magazine. Each represents a month; Hornby lists the books he bought and the ones he actually read, and then talks about why he read what he read and what he thought about it. The concept is simple, but the execution is compelling and touching and hilarious.
There are many reasons to love this book. First and foremost is Hornby's down-to-earth and self-deprecating sense of humor. Then, of course, are all the books he talked about that I now want to read. And there's the window into his daily life that the column provides. And his reflections on the differences between Britain and the US. (Hornby is British; the Believer's audience is predominantly American.) But this line, in the introduction, was what really got me:
"And please, please stop patronizing those who are reading a book - The Da Vinci Code, maybe - because they are enjoying it." (17)
I've been trying to say that, to lots of people, for years. And a bit later:
"Read anything, as long as you can't wait to pick it up again." (18)
He gets it.
July 31, 2006
I know you won't believe me...
But Oreo Dunkers taste absolutely nothing like real Oreos. Seriously.
July 23, 2006
Holy freaking cable, Batman!
1. Gray's Anatomy. I love me some cables, and gray, actually, but I'm not so sure about these. Nos. 1, 3, and 4 might have some potential, if I could actually see the whole sweater. 5: Not big on the uneven sides thing. 6: Can't really tell what it is, but it's looking like it's cutting off her circulation.
And #2, of course, is the source of this post's title. qw21? Actually, the cabling the cables together thing looks like it might be fun. But please, PLEASE do not let me knit this or, God forbid, wear it. It could not possible look good on, I don't know, anyone, actually.
2. Modern English. #1: Cute! Love it! Wow, I'm shocked! #2 and 3: Okay, I guess. Not my style.
3. Hobo Chic. Enh. I actually feel like all three might have some vague potential, but I can't really see enough of them in the artistic photography/odd poses to tell.
4. Socks! We love socks! Nos. 1 and 3: Eeesh! Interesting, but I'm not sure. I tend to be skeptical of how designs like those will work on those of use who don't have calves like twigs. #5: Adorable, but same concern as above. #2: Maybe! It looks a lot like Potamotawhatever. I hear a rumor it's the same designer, but have not been able to confirm this. #4: Once you get past the colors, cute! I might want to try these in white, actually. They remind me of lace socks I used to have as a child. #6: Fun! Definitely want to try these.
Overall: Not as exciting as the Interweave preview, but then, I wouldn't expect it to be. Enough interesting stuff that I'll probably buy it.
And heck, a few random paper thoughts while we're at it:
July 12, 2006
Random Wednesday (19 to go)
Might as well have a countdown in the post titles, right? Actually, I hate coming up with titles for the Positive Mondays and Random Wednesdays because I try not to repeat them. Hmm.
1. You all are great. Thank you for the outpouring of support and offers of hugs, chocolate, beer, etc. I may well take you up on it.
2. Yummy leftover Chinese food for lunch. And ooh, I'm going to go get some free chai from the break room... back in a minute. Okay, back. (You all really needed to know that.) Alas, the free-beverage-dispensing machine was blinking "ADD WATER" and there is no obvious way to do this. Hmph. So I'm drinking my TaB, and I'll check back for the chai later.
3. Do we have any Mary Wollstonecraft experts/aficionados in the house? Drop me a line.
4. I had a very relaxing evening last night, and then was up way too late but got a lot of homework done, so I'm feeling a bit more in control than I was yesterday. Not a lot, but a little.
5. Except that I have to give a presentation in class tonight. Ack ack ack. Oh well; in a few hours it'll be over, right? And I have promised myself yarn tomorrow as a reward for finishing.
6. I have both a really really good book and a really addictive sock in my purse. How am I supposed to decide what to do on the T?
7. You know what I want to knit? I want to knit something really, really complicated. With lots and lots of cables. Total escapist can't-think-about-anything-else-while-I'm-knitting-it complicated. Suggestions?
8. Conversely, I'm feeling the need to knit kids' stuff - quicker gratification, maybe? A sense of whimsy? Less darn serious? Something. I have tons of cute baby patterns, but anyone have leads on good patterns for little boys, say sizes 4-8-ish?
9. I think the milk is bad again. Maybe it's a Wednesday thing.
July 10, 2006
IK Fall Preview!
Breaking news! (Well, at least it was news to me.) The Interweave Knits Fall Preview is up!
My quick takes:
Dear Red-Headed Model,
Dear Kate Gilbert, Evelyn Clark, Kristin Nicholas, Veronik Avery, and Norah Gaughan,
Dear Ann E. Smith, Mari Lynn Patrick, Sharon Shoji, Jennifer Appleby, Michele Rose Orne, and Jodi Green,
Dear Annie Modesitt,
(Quick price-checking detour:
Dear Kathy Zimmerman,
Dear Shirley Paden,
EDITED to add: Overall, I am very, very, very thrilled with how this issue is looking. Except for all the time and money required to knit everything, of course.
May 16, 2006
12. Bad Kitty by Michelle Jaffe
13. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
14. A Grave Talent by Laurie R. King
15. Suspense and Sensibilityby Carrie Bebris
16. My Cup Runneth Over by Cherry Whytock
17. Hardscrabble Road by Jane Haddam
March 24, 2006
Review: One Skein
CUPCAKES. What more do you people need to know? There are cupcakes. Go buy the book.
Oh, still here? You want a better review? Okay. This is a cute little book that seems to be along the same lines as Interweave's other recent products, such as Scarf Style and Wrap Style. The patterns are somewhere in between classic and trendy - not so conventional as to be "yeah, whatever, I've seen that a million times" and not so hip as to be "nifty, but I'd never knit it." In fact, I don't think there were any patterns in this book that I'd say I'd never knit, although of course some were more exciting than others. I'm am particularly excited about the silk sleeves, cabled socks, asymmetrical cable hat, unisex gloves, and leg warmers. Oh, and did I mention the cupcakes? There are cupcakes. They are adorable. I cannot even begin to express how adorable they are. Well. Let's just say that they are almost as cute as a kitten or a Tink.
I haven't actually knit anything from the book yet - I just bought it last night - but I've read through many of the patterns and they seem to be clear and decently written. Approximate weights of yarn (worsted, bulky, etc.) are given along with suggested yarn for each project. And I have to admit that I love that the models are read (well, holding) books like Kierkegaard and Madame Bovary. (Also, I seem to have spelled "Kierkegaard" correctly on the first try, so no need to revoke my "Overeducated and Proud" card yet, thanks.)
I do have a few minor qualms, although none of them are enough to make the book not worth buying. For one thing, the whole last chapter contains projects designed to use up odds and ends of leftovers. From multiple projects, apparently. Which is nifty, but... not one skein. At all. And that bugged me. Also, their definition of a skein seemed to be a tad loose - a few projects used yarn that comes in abnormally large skeins, so you might need to get more than one if you want to substitute. And at least two used two strands of yarn held together, so you'd have to wind you skein into two balls or something. Not a huge problem, but not exactly what I want to be doing with a one-pound cone of cotton, you know?
There were also some things missing, it seemed. Barely any lace, for one thing, and it seems like that would be an obvious one to include: you can get a shawl from a skein of laceweight, or a scarf (a la Branching Out or Dayflower) from a skein of fingering or sport. There was one project using laceweight, but it was... a tank top. Huh? (Okay, it was actually sort of cute. I might have to try it.) I think they could have easily cut out one of the four cabled scarves and include a lace one instead. Also, what happened to socks? There's one pair, which I LOVE: worsted weight cabled short little house socks. But no regular socks out of sock yarn, and there are plenty of sock yarns that will make a whole pair.
Another issue, related but not directly about the book: How do we feel about these knitalongs that Interweave has started making for their books? I mean, sure, knitalongs are fun. I like knitalongs. And I'm not necessarily opposed to designers or publishers getting involved in running knitalongs for their work. But the way Interweave is going about it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It just seems sneaky or something. I mean, they're using Blogspot instead of their own domain. And a generic Blogger template. It's making it look like it's not related to the publisher. Yay viral marketing. Hmm. Thoughts?
(Of course, it occurs to me now that it's vaguely possible that it is NOT related, and that they just link it from the book site. But I'm pretty sure that I read somewhere that Interweave is starting these knitalongs. Right? Someone let me know if I'm being all righteously misguided here.)
March 15, 2006
Random, with Pictures!
Wow, it's already Wednesday again! And I'm still in a good mood. Yay.
1. I knew the recent springlike weather was just a tease. We had some bizarre fits of snow this afternoon. At least we know who to blame.
2. I'm liking the scarf better as it gets longer, so that's good, I guess:
As you can see, it's not exactly reversible, but rather two-sided. I'm hoping to knit a ball of yarn every two days, so I finish on Sunday and can start Rogue. The picture has about half a ball knit up, mostly from lunch yesterday, subway and class last night, and lunch today.
3. On Sunday night, I realized that, improbably enough, I didn't seem to have any plain decaffeinated black tea in the house. I picked up some Red Rose at the store today, and they have new figurines! I've been sort of collecting them since I was very young, so it's always exciting to get a new one. I got the cute little bunny.
4. I saw Match Point over the weekend. Whoa. I think I've decided that it was very good, and you should see, but I probably do not ever want to see it again. But ahhh, Jonathan. Even in this rather, shall we say, questionable role, he was gorgeous. Oh! And according to IMDB he's going to be Henry VIII! That's one of the most exciting things I've seen in a while.
5. I'm doing some reorganizing of my Bloglines feeds. I've realized that I have a hard time getting into new-to-me blogs without reading all the archives, so now I have a separate category for blogs I think I'll want to read regularly but that I have to catch up with first. It's making it all much easier to navigate.
6. Last night for dinner I tried an Odwalla Strawberry C Monster smoothie and Super Protein bar. It was filling and surprisingly satisfying. Hmm. This may have to become my default quick dinner for nights when I have class or work. If I can find them, of course. I found the smoothies at the grocery store tonight, but I couldn't find the bars, even though the cashier told me they sold them. I got a few Luna bars, since they seemed to be the closest, but they don't have as much protein. Ah well.
7. And another for Project Spectrum: (blurry) strawberries!
January 22, 2006
Huh, I kinda like this finishing idea.
First, the promised picture:
Yup, I finished three things this weekend. Three! Now, granted, two of those scarves had just needed their ends woven in for quite some time, but still. I am proud of myself, and have three fewer things to feel guilty about.
I did almost as well with the other finishing projects. I only finished one book, but I realized that the closest to the end I was in any of them was 150 pages, so that's not bad. I'll make some more reading progress before bed. And I didn't write a whole draft of my story, but that might have been an overzealous goal for a day in which I also wanted to accomplish other things. I wrote an outline and about 1000 words of story, so I'm satisfied. My goal is to have a draft before my trip/the Olympics, and then revise it afterwards.
I did watch two Netflix DVDs. Apparently it was a weekend for historical epics, although now that I think about it, most weekends would fall into that category for me, especially if the epics in question involve pretty clothes and questionable historicity. Anyway. Last night I watched the first two episodes of Into the West. It started slowly, but ended up being captivating in that Oh-God-I-cannot-believe-another-horrible-thing-is-going-to-happen-to-these-people way. And every time blankets appeared, I had to restrain myself from yelling "No! Smallpox! Don't take them!" at the screen.
Tonight I watched part one of Henry VIII. I spent the first half hour or so trying to decide whether I'd seen it before; I eventually decided that I had, but figured at that point I might as well just keep watching. I'm planning a post about it after I watch part two (which I am quite sure I have not seen before), so I'll just say a few things for now. First of all, it prompted the declaration in my household that the beheading of Helena Bonham Carter is the hallmark of a good movie. (Don't tell me you haven't seen Lady Jane.) Also, the people who made both this movie and Into the West seem to be rather confused about the whole birth idea. Um, people, there's this thing called the umbilical cord. I really don't think you can pull a baby out of a mother and immediately walk across the room with it. Right? Someone with more experience (Ais? Erica? Kristen?) want to back me up on this?
December 20, 2005
To whom it may concern:
Dear stupid coworkers in the neighboring department,
Dear Chris Botti,
Dear out-of-it teacher lady,
Dear reading public,
Dear Mr. Ledger,
December 06, 2005
Sorry this is a few days late. Things have been crazy, and I've been either happy but too busy to write or sad and therefore not feeling like it. Anyway. The mini-reviews might be even more mini this time, but it's something, at least. Again, five books for the month, which is not that bad, I guess, considering that I also worked two jobs, went to class, wrote a novel, and knit Christmas presents.
How Town by Michael Nava
When the Bough Breaks by Jonathan Kellerman
Hidden Law by Michael Nava
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
My reading goal for December is to finish some of the books that have been languishing partially read. Starting the month, I had a list of ten (and that was after taking off five that had gone back to the library or otherwise been abandoned). I'd really like to start the new year with a clean slate. Wish me luck. So far, I've finished one of the ten, am a few pages from finishing another... and am about to start something new. Ah well. As Cate keeps saying, two steps forward, one step back.
December 01, 2005
If I hadn't already pretty much decided that I can no longer in good conscience consider myself a member of the Catholic Church, this would be the final straw. I'll give you a few highlights, in case you don't have time to read it.
First of all, the main point: "Even if they have never had a gay sexual experience and are fully committed to celibacy, homosexual men are not suitable candidates for the priesthood."
And in case anyone was unclear, here are some "warning signs" of potential homosexuality:
students who had trouble relating to their fathers; are uncomfortable with their own identity; tend to isolate themselves; have difficulty in discussing sexual questions; view pornography on the Internet; demonstrate a deep sense of guilt; or often see themselves as victims.
Here are some of the reasons given for why even celibate gay men make bad priests:
He said they tend to have few friends, to close themselves off from others in "a clan of persons of the same type," to resent the claims on their time made by parishioners, to encourage other gay men to enter the priesthood and to deal with authority predominantly as a matter of "seduction and rejection."
Umm, pardon? Who has he been talking to?
The article goes on to explain that candidates for priesthood must be mature in their masculine sexual identity and theoretically capable of being good spouses and fathers. It seems to be accepted without question that any man with "homosexual tendencies" could not possibly fill any of those criteria.
Really, who are the ones making statements with no social or moral value now?
EDITED to add: I just found the actual text of the Vatican document here, in case you were wondering about the thing itself.
November 27, 2005
Worth every penny
Up here in Red Sox land, I tend to get some weird looks and questions when I buy the New York Times on Sundays. Why am I not buying the local paper1 or, if I have to be snobbish about it, the Boston Globe2? I am clearly some sort of traitor. I get these questions from people behind me in line and even from the cashiers who are selling me the paper. (Hey, cashiers? Nota bene: saying "What could this paper have to make it worth $4.50?!?" is not necessarily the best way to, you know, sell more papers. Just saying.) I generally mumble something about the Book Review and the crossword puzzle and how yes, I know the other papers have crossword puzzles too, but if Will Shortz isn't involved, they really don't count, don't you see? But no, they invariably don't see, and they give up, and I give up, and they let me buy my paper. But it's sort of exhausting. And my actual reasons for buying it are a bit more varied:
1. The aforementioned Book Review and crossword are, actually, quite important to me. Something just feels wrong if I don't have them.
But now I have a much simpler way to explain it. As I was reading last week's Book Review this morning (um, yeah, I'm a bit behind), I came across the phrase, in reference to Greg Critser, "arguably the least bubbly reformer since Oliver Cromwell." That alone says it all. That's why it's worth my $4.50.
Also? Every single week the Book Review includes more books that sound interesting than I could possibly read in a month, never mind a week. But I keep writing down the titles, keep thinking I'll try...
November 21, 2005
Things I Have Learned in the Past Few Days
1. Six Feet Under + Birch = up until almost two am. Yeah. Bad combination. By which I mean "extremely fun and wonderful." At least I didn't have to be up early the next morning.
2. When my apartment is 49 degrees, it is pretty difficult to get out of bed.
3. Knit.1 seems to have a gift for writing simple patterns in the Most Confusing Way Possible.
4. On Friday afternoon, my roommate had to go to a meeting that might have coincided with our free snacks here at work, so I was to grab a snack for him. I realized that I'd be more confident in ordering for him at a decent restaurant than I was picking out a candy bar for him. Does this make us snobs, or just adults? I'm not sure.
5. It is, in fact, possible to talk on the phone while rolling very hot cookies in powdered sugar. Just in case you were wondering.
6. Sometimes those "Oh yeah, this IS my real life" moments actually help. Yesterday I was trying to simultaneously bake cookies and write my novel, and feeling vaguely annoyed at the situation. And then I realized that, if all goes according to plan, I will be writing novels while baking cookies for the rest of my life. (Well, eventually it would be nice if I didn't also have two jobs and school to keep up with while writing novels and baking cookies, and then maybe I could have enough time to give the writing a break and concentrate on baking for a few hours. But really, no guarantees.) And, somehow, once I realized that this was it, the writing got much easier.
7. A radio station that replaces its DJs with recorded messages about how they no longer have DJs to talk too much is, in fact, more annoying than the stations that actually do have DJs that talk too much.
8. I want to be Meg Cabot when I grow up.
Posted by Kat at 01:41 PM
November 17, 2005
Just a few small requests:
1. The new coworker in the cube next to mine really does not need to talk to himself, randomly laugh vaguely maniacly, or sigh and/or moan at random times. Really.
2. It is getting toward the end of November. Will you get over this wishy-washy "Oh, maybe I'll rain or just fog up everything" thing and just snow already? Hint: This might be easier if you would also stop with the yo-yo temperatures.
3. I like working with the public. Really. I'm just not sure how many more times I can explain something as complex as, oh, alphabetical order or the fact that the bookstore has two floors or how, if you want a price changed, you do in fact have a "price issue" without attaching "you idiot" to the end of all of my sentences. Could we make everyone just a tad smarter?
4. You don't really want Christmas to be in fewer than 40 days. Really. How about an extra week or two? How do you expect me to get all this knitting done?
5. I'd also vaguely like to know how I ended up with two iPods in my desk, but hey, I'm not complaining.
6. Oh, yeah: Thanksgiving. Haven't I agonized over this enough already? Shouldn't it be over by now?
November 16, 2005
No ordinary princess...
I know this isn't exactly news or anything, but, well, it was news to me. Dar Williams is amazing. I somehow managed to be basically unaware of her until just a few weeks ago. Now I'm listening to the two albums of hers I have on my iPod just a wee bit obsessively.
The Honesty Room was her first, I believe, and it's my favorite so far. The songs that stuck out to me at first were "When I Was a Boy," "The Great Unknown," and "The Babysitter's Here," but my list of "favorites" is getting longer and longer - it at least has to include "You're Aging Well" and "When Sal's Burned Down" now, and "Flinty Kind of Woman," and, well, that's probably at least half the album, so I might as well just say I love it all!!! I want to quote lyrics at you but I'll try to restrain myself, well, except for one:
"Your behavior is so male it's like you can't explain yourself to me.
Hah. I laugh every time I hear it.
The other one I have on Aurelia iPod is The Beauty of the Rain. I didn't feel as immediate a connection with this one, but it's definitely growing on me, and I think "Your Fire, Your Soul" might have to be my theme song this holiday season. And "The One Who Knows" is gorgeous and haunting, as is the whole CD, really.
She has several other albums, it seems. I know what's going on my Christmas list...
November 03, 2005
Can we call it "opting otherwise" instead?
So everyone has been up in arms about Maureen Dowd this week, and who am I to let a perfectly good bandwagon roll on by? A lot has already been said, better than I could say it, so I'll give you some links on Dowd's elitism and the truth behind Dowd's examples of "backlash" and how Dowd's "data" is questionable at best. And, before I get into my main point here, I'd like to say that my first reaction upon reading the article was that dear Maureen needs to get over herself. Maybe she'd have more romantic success if she, you know, tried being nice to people, or didn't make it quite so abundantly clear that she feels she is superior to everyone around her. I was also a bit unclear as to how Dowd would actually like women (or, for that matter, anyone) to behave, as she seems to disapprove of, well, everything.
But anyway. The part that most bothered me was her take on the whole concept of "opting out." To her credit, Dowd does admit that "to the extent that young women are rejecting the old idea of copying men and reshaping the world around their desires, it's exhilarating progress. But..." And, of course, there's a "but." It's exhilarating progess, but she doesn't like it. She sees it as spoiled, pampered women turning their backs on long-sought education and opportunities in favor of dependence on rich husbands. This strikes me as a narrow view, to say the least.
A little background, although you probably all know all this: I am currently single and self-supporting1. I work for a reasonably large corporation as well as a very large retail chain. I'm in grad school, ostensibly to become qualified to be a professional in a particular field. And, given the chance, I would (I think) "opt out" in a second. But I don't think but reasons are horrible and unfeminist.
1. First of all, corporate life really isn't that great. Theoretically, some people like it, but I haven't met many of those people, either male or female. Other than for reasons of job security, I really couldn't care less whether the company I work for makes money. This isn't the greatest motivation for trying to climb the corporate ladder. I'd rather be doing something I thought actually mattered, somehow.
So there are some of my reasons. Please note that "I want to be pampered and spoiled" was not among them.4 More importantly, though, I refuse to believe that corporate/business/career "success" is any more intrinsically valuable than raising children or knitting a sweater or baking fabulous cupcakes or, for that matter, fixing a car or playing a musical instrument. It's all a question of what you want to do and what makes you, not some ideal, happy and fulfilled. Dowd pays lip service to the idea that feminism is about having choices, but she clearly doesn't actually believe that any choice other than "the old idea of copying men" is a choice worth making.
November 01, 2005
Well, last month I hoped for a longer list of completed books this month. It is longer: I've gone from three to five. I'm still not really satisfied, though1. I want to be finishing a book every few days. I like myself better when I'm reading a lot. But that just isn't working out recently, for whatever reason. (Busyness, lack of focus, general sadness and ennui... take your pick.) And, again, I have lots of books I've read some of this month but not finished. I suppose I will, once again, pin my hopes on next month. Because, you know, with two jobs and school and NaNoWriMo and holiday knitting, I clearly have tons of time on my hands.
Well. Without further ado, here are the books I finished in October:
Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches by Tony Kushner
Rag and Bone by Michael Nava
The Little Death by Michael Nava
Goldenboy by Michael Nava
Posted by Kat at 02:49 PM
October 21, 2005
And where was the graffiti, anyway?
Just to keep us updated:
So, to help me Just Stop Thinking, we watched American Graffiti. Great soundtrack. Interesting seeing the actors (especially Dreyfuss and Ford) so young. Loved Harrison Ford singing "Some Enchanted Evening." But. WTF?
Problem A: The plot. Let's just say that I was not surprised when George Lucas said in the "making of" documentary that the original version was almost twice as long. I definitely felt as though a few of those deleted scenes would have been helpful for figuring out, you know, what the heck was going on.
Problem B: The message. Let's review what we learned:
It also really bugged me that, at the end, there were little notes of what happened to the four primary male characters, but nothing about the women. Presumably they all got married and lived happily ever after. Or, you know, went insane from dealing with these men.
I also did not notice any graffiti in the movie. Huh?
Posted by Kat at 11:17 PM
October 19, 2005
Review: Until the Real Thing Comes Along
Elizabeth Berg's Until the Real Thing Comes Along was a quick read, decently written, that dealt with interesting topics. I hated it. The problem? The main character. I couldn't stand her. Patty has two main aspects of her worldview: she wants a husband and children. And she is in love with her best friend Ethan, who is gay, and refuses to see this (her love, not his sexuality*) as anything she has any control over or could possibly change. And - here's the kicker - she refuses to acknowledge that these two basic tenets of her life do not exactly work together well. Therefore, her solution is to have a child with Ethan (who also does want a child, but not, obviously, a wife). She browbeats him into sleeping with her and gets pregnant on the first try (and, of course, is disappointed; she wanted an excuse to sleep with him regularly). Patty then is amazed that the rest of her domestic fantasies don't exactly spring into life. (I don't want to give too much of the story away, so I'll stop the plot summary there.)
Ethan's motivations are a bit suspect too, of course: he knows Patty is in love with him and yet agrees to a "partnership of convenience" anyway. I got over my annoyance with him, though, because he actually provides a decent explanation for his thoughts and actions. Patty, on the other hand, constantly explains everything, but just does not get it. She claims to be Ethan's closest friend, to know everything about him, and yet she remains basically in denial of his homosexuality. She seems to see it as basically random and totally unconnected to the rest of him (or, as she might think, the real him). She thinks there's a sexuality switch that could be toggled on or off without affecting the person as a whole at all.
This probably bugs me more than it might other readers because it's another example of an issue that has been bothering me anyway. Let's back up a bit. My roommate is also a coworker and good friend. We have a lot in common, are rather frighteningly similar in some ways, and get along very well. I mean, really: we live together and work together and therefore spend probably about 75% of our lives within twelve feet of each other, and haven't tried to kill each other yet. So it's pretty much accepted fact that we get along oddly well, and this periodically comes up in conversation with other friends or family. The great majority of the time, the seemingly automatic response is "Oh, too bad he's gay. You'd be perfect for each other."
Umm, no. There is something very flawed about that reasoning. Actually, I have several issues with it. For example, I don't think it's a given that we'd be perfect for each other in the first place - sexual orientation aside, what I'm looking for in a roommate or friend is not the same as what I'd be looking for in a boyfriend**, although there would certainly be some overlap in criteria. I also don't like the implication that romantic relationships are somehow intrinsically preferable to friendships, but that's another issue. Anyway. The issue I have with it in relation to the book is the idea that sexuality is totally distinct from basic identity. I have trouble with the premise that if my friend or Ethan in the book (see, I told you I'd get back to the book) had happened to have been born heterosexual, they would in all other aspects be the same person.
Actually, "I have trouble with it" is too mild; I think it's preposterous. It seems the difference in experience, if nothing else, would be far too great. For just one example, think of a long-running crush you had in middle or high school. Think of the ways that person affected your tastes, activities, etc. Think of how all those little decisions built up to make you into the person you are. Then extrapolate to all your other crushes, relationships, actors you found attractive, etc. I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. But apparently Patty can't. And that's just talking about particular experiences, and not even really getting into the larger issue of identity, which is one I don't feel prepared to tackle.
So. What I am trying to say is that, while Patty claims to know Ethan completely, her belief that he would - could - be the exact same person she loves and be "not really gay" or suddenly magically become heterosexual shows that she doesn't really know him that well at all. Patty wants a fantasy, not "the real thing" after all.
**Not that I'm looking.