Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Once, I was a master at recycling leftovers. Now I cultivate the art of simmering memories." - Jean-Dominique Bauby

Gah. Today’s been one of those days where I never actually woke up, like that internal mechanism that tells you you’re awake, and need to function as so, never clicked. It could be the erratic weather (is it spring? Or winter? Or some weird hybrid conjured up by the parka and flip flop people?), or the fact that I’ve finally started getting to those 5:30 a.m. spin classes I vowed to attend back in January. Whatever it is, I’m hoping it wears off. Can’t keep running into walls much longer.

While we’re all sitting around, waiting for spring to unleash its torrent of bunnies, perennials and vitamin D, here are a few book recommendations. I’ve been on a roll lately as far as finding good reading material goes. Of the four books I’ve read in 2011 (do with that information what you will), I’d only give one – "The White Album" by Joan Didion – less than two thumbs up. But I love Joan Didion, so I’d give it one thumb up and one thumb to thumb through the book to find the essays truly worth reading.

But here, in chronological order, are the books I’d recommend. I’ll spare you the lengthy reviews (and leave that to my more literate half), but just rest assured that I think they’re good. Really, that’s all you need to know.

"Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street" by Michael Davis
If you’re into Muppets and the early days of public television, this is for you. You really have to be interested in children’s television too though, because the first third of the book goes into some serious detail about Howdy Doody and Bob Keeshan and the like. Riddled with fun facts and poignant remembrances.

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death" by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Having watched the film adaptation of Bauby’s memoir (very) soon after my dad died, I kind of locked this away for a while, dreading whatever effect it may have. But my sister thoughtfully gave me the book for my birthday, and I figured it was time to give it a go. It’s super short, and I couldn’t put it down (which is weird for me, since once I know the “story,” as it were, I’m less inclined to read on). Anyway, you will probably laugh, most likely cry – and inevitably be moved by this book. Seriously, if you’re not moved, you are made of stone, and I want nothing to do with you. You soulless freak.

"The Good Wife" by Stewart O’Nan

During my heady, spendthrift days in Chicago, I used to frequent the bargain book section at Unabridged in Lakeview. One of my finds was a little hardcover edition of "Last Night at the Lobster" by Stewart O’Nan. I didn’t know anything about the author, but I liked eating at Red Lobster and figured I could spend $3 on something I may never read. Ended up loving the book. At the same time, a few hundred miles away, Matt bought, read and loved the book too, and proceeded to purchase O’Nan’s other works. "The Good Wife" is only the second one I’ve read, but it’s even better. An endearing, enduring testament to the lengths (in distance and in time) people will go to for love.

[Sidenote: Matt recently wrote a great review, which you can find here.]

So there you go! Get reading while the sky is still gray and you can stay inside. Because those bunnies bring sunshine, and sunshine brings guilt.

On a totally unrelated note, because I don’t blog regularly (we all know it – it’s time someone said it), I didn’t say anything about Japan last week, and instead decided to focus on incredibly trivial things like my hair. So now, very, very belatedly, I’d like to mention that my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan as they pick up the pieces of all they’ve lost. I don’t know why, but I’ve always felt a particularly strong pull toward the elderly, and that’s one of the hardest things for me to fathom about this disaster. Twenty percent of Japan’s population is over the age of 65 – a figure that jumps to more than 35% in rural areas (with many people in their 80s and 90s). Those that were spry enough to survive the earthquake and tsunami are homeless and residing in emergency shelters, less likely than their younger counterparts to ask for things they need, like blankets and food. Anyway, I’m not sure where I’m going with this. If you’re looking for a worthy place to send a donation, ShelterBox is an amazing organization.

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