Wednesday, August 23, 2006

...the concept of death itself has been made more complex.

My friend L defended her dissertation last night. She (of course!) passed with flying colors. When your defense starts off with your advisor making a comment about how spectacular your dissertation is? You can probably relax a wee little bit. Her presentation was comprehensive, clear, and beautifully expressed - and L's ability to think clearly and coherently on her feet, considering and defending her position to the advisors' rather difficult and complex questions was simply amazing. My only real concern was that L was not going to understand what one of the committee's questions were - I certainly didn't see what Prof M was getting at, but then I was focusing on the fact that the man looks like he should be riding the bus to his job bagging groceries at the local supermarket.

Oh, I thought I was going to burst with pride; I can't even imagine how her parents felt.

And not only is she brilliant - she looked fabulous. She was so put-together, the consummate professional. If I didn't adore her so much, I'd have to hate her.

The only thing keeping the whole affair from perfection was that her dear little dog had to stay at home, but we were all fairly sure Ingrid would never make it the two hours without having to wee. (I am kidding - about the dog, not the weeing.)

So then we all went out to celebrate, and we drank a lot, and our friend J brought a lovely bottle of delicious champagne, and I am just thriled for L. Except now, I bet, she's going to MOVE - because all my friends graduate, or finish their residencies, or their husbands finish their residencies, and they LEAVE. Is it me?


Thank you, Bentley and everyone else who recommended The Glass Castle. What a compelling book. (In a tiny voice): Do we think it's real? Yes, James Frey has tainted us all. It has a feeling of veracity to it. You just can never be sure - anymore.

I will start Joanne Harris' Gentlemen and Players today and wrap it up ASAP so Gina will have someone with whom to discuss it. Because sometimes, I am a good friend.

I walked down to the downtown branch of the Carnegie on my lunch hour yestersday - those little black Skechers are cute but gave me blisters on the backs of my heels - and picked up the next two Hilary McKay books, and the new Anna Quindlen. I had requested The Children's Blizzard - because if anyone is all about death and disaster, it's me. Primo and I have a lot in common that way. Also Edward St Aubyn's first book, Some Hope, as his newest has been longlisted for the Booker and I had never heard of him. Plus, I borrowed Water for Elephants and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan from work as well. I thought I was going to relax a bit and get back into the Penny Vicenzi I was enjoying so much, but you can't look a gift library book in the mouth? That's not right, but you know what I mean. Honestly, I thought it was going to be months before I got Water for Elephants from the public library - but since the acquisitions person at work solicits suggestions from the staff - I pretty much submit my personal wish list and more often than not, I am obliged. It's a horrible and shameful abuse of my position, I know.


And now, the book meme. Because everyone's doing it.

1. A book that changed your life.
Satanic Verses - it opened up to me a whole new world of possibiity in reading material. Books that I thought I wasn't smart enough to read. I LOVED SV, and went on to read all sorts of "hard" books that I mostly thoroughly enjoyed - other Rushdie, Middlemarch, Portrait of a Lady, the tiresome Thomas Hardy, and I discovered that I was indeed smart enough to pretty much read whatever I wanted, and I would more than likely enjoy it, too.

2. A book you've read more than once.
Understood Betsy. Mandy. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. The Anne books, the Emily books. Little Men, Little Women, Eight Cousins - especially Eight Cousins. Elizabeth Enright's books. The first several Harry Potters. Everything Laurie Colwin has ever written. All Josephine Tey. Possession. Stones from the River. All of Robertson Davies. All of Rosamunde Pilcher's "big" books. Roller Skates. Below the Salt. Michael Lee West's Consuming Passions, and all of John Thorne's food books, also MFK Fisher's food books. Madeleine L'Engle, especially A Severed Wasp and The Small Rain. You might start asking if I ever read anything NEW? Hmmm.

3. A book you'd want on a desert island.
The OED. Or a complete set of Shakespeare's works - that is an excellent idea, Suse.

4. A book that made you giddy.
Saffy's Angel, by Hilary McKay

5. A book that you wish had been written.
The book from Gina's and my blog. Yeah, right. I have actually had dreams about books and then woken up and realized they weren't real and been so disappointed. Ooooh - Emily's Book of Dreams, that she burns when Dean tells her it's no good. I'd have loved to have read it.

6. A book that wracked you with sobs.
The Amber Spyglass. Bridge to Terabithia. Virgins - Caryl Rivers, which also is the FUNNIEST book I have ever read.

7. A book you wish had never been written.
In Watermelon Sugar - Richard Brautigan

8. A book you are currently reading.
The Glass Castle / Gentlemen and Players

9. A book you've been meaning to read.
Sweet Jesus. I have an entire bookshelf (five feet tall, three feet wide, double stacked) of to-be-read books. Um, let's say, The Road to Serfdom, which H got for a birthday gift from my little brother. Yes, Joke dear, I know, it changed your life. I will get to it, I promise.


I do have a flea market post to put up - little plates, Suse! - and next week Primo starts kindergarten and Seg starts preschool and this week is packed with meetings and teacher conferences and PTA and all manner of school prep. I swear I will get to all this fun stuff. Plus - I don't normally write about work, safer that way, but yesterday we found out that Princeton Review's student assessments put us at the second worst library in the COUNTRY. I have much to say about this - surprised? Hmm, I thought not. But for now, I have to go see why the boys are being so darn quiet. The houseguests brought with them large plastic Rescue Heroes toys which have been keeping the boys occupied whenever they are awake....but I worry. It's a lovely day, I should wrangle them all outside, but I am enjoying my tea and toasted bagel out on the back porch, and it's so peaceful...ahhhhh. Slurp.


Gina said...

What's the deal with In Watermelon Sugar? Why d you wish it hadn't been written? I've never read any Brautigan.

kilowatthour said...

somehow, BB, you have inspired in me a whole new rash of book-buying. i now have even more unread books lying about than usual.

i'll do this book meme, too. it sounds like equal parts fun and challenging.

enjoy your day!

Katya said...

Girl, you really have to do something about your self-esteem (this comes from the woman who never even considered going for a doctorate simply because of the doctoral defense thing -- congrats to your friend, btw.) It NEVER would have occured to me that you weren't smart enough to read anything you wanted and I only know you from your blog and a few emails! Thanks for the new book suggestions. I may try The Satanic Verses again. I wasn't able to get past the first page the first time I tried to read it.

Surfing Free said...

All of these books I have never read! I would love to know why and how people choose the books they are going to read.

I prefer books written by women and I seem to like stories taken place in exotic locations.

Also, I am ashamed to say, I like a nice big book ... before I hand over money I want it to have plenty of substance. Of course the content is important as well ;)

Rogue Librarian said...

I knew you’d dig The Glass Castle. I am going to say something possibly controversial here. I don’t particularly care if it’s real. I think it may be, but I have always had this suspicion about first person narratives. How much can you really right about yourself without fictionalizing a bit. Just for the sake of the narrative. I’ve had some really crazy things happen in my life, but when I tell the story they sometimes get a wee bit crazier. Point is I enjoyed the book whether it was true or not.

As to the comment posted above about how people choose books… that’s interesting. For me it’s about 75% recommendations from people I trust, 15% browsing in bookstores and reading the first chapter, and 10% book description in some way falls into my lap and I find it interesting.

Lazy cow said...

I've got my Word document of Books to Read open and I'm cutting and pasting all the books I haven't read into it. (Of course, I've already checked the library catalogue and they don't have most of the books you've mentioned, including the Saffy one. I'll have to do some requesting. Sigh).
And, you are one of the smartest people I have (n)ever met!

Joke said...

The stuff I read finds me mostly by my own perusal, ma-a-a-a-aybe 10% is someone's suggestion. (Possibly because I distrust the tastes of 90% of people out there.)

If I say "That sounds interesting, X, I'll do as you suggest and read ____." take it as ridiculously high praise.

Knighthood pales in comparison.