Thursday, September 30, 2010

the elephant in the room

It's here with me right now. It's always with me, really. I haven't been able to escape it for more than a month now, much as I long to do so. And I can't write about it here, which I am surprised to find makes it much harder to cope with. It is both the blessing and the curse of the internet that everyone has access to, well, everything, and this is not something I am ready to share with the whole world.

So, it's not that I don't want to blog anymore, it's that I can't. And if I can't talk about this huge change in our lives, nothing else really seems worth talking about. Sorry.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

the miracle of modern telecommunication

I just got off the phone with my friend, Joany. So what, you say? You can chat with your chums on your iPhone® any time you want, you say? That's true, but Joany is on a train on her way to Rome right now. And that's a first for me, for sure. It amazes me, you know? My voice in an Italian train car, speeding towards Rome. (Insert joke here about the trains always running on time, or about where all roads lead.)

My grandparents owned the first telephone in their neighborhood, probably because my grandfather was a landscape gardener and needed to have a phone so that his customers could contact him. My mother told me that she remembered neighbors coming over to use the phone for emergency calls. My mother and several of her sisters had jobs as operators at the local telephone company, which makes me wonder, when was the last time I talked to an operator? When was the last time I dialed (pressed) 0 for operator? I don't even remember.

The first phone I remember using is the heavy black desktop phone that the the local telephone company loaned us. It always sat on the bay window behind the couch. For a long time, we only had that one phone, so there were no private conversations in our house. When my dad started traveling more, we got an extension upstairs in my parents' bedroom for security. That was a great place to take private phone calls. I can remember snuggling into my parents' bed on cold winter evenings while I gossiped with Judy, or took the rare call from a boy I was dating. And I could always tell if someone picked up the extension.

I still don't have my Star Trek communicator, but if I flip my cell phone vigorously, I can make it spring open like James T. Kirk used to do. And I can talk to Joany as she speeds towards the Eternal City. Some days, it feels alot like the 21st century.

Friday, September 3, 2010

fool me once...

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I hesitated for a long moment when I realized who the author of this book was, but I brought it home anyway. My bad. I hated the author's huge best-seller, The Time Traveler's Wife, and only finished it because much of the story took place in the Chicago neighborhood where Tom and Kristy were living at the time. Well - no surprise - I hated this one, too.

Once again, the author clumsily tackles the supernatural, but instead of a time traveler, this time she deals with two sets of twins and a g-g-g-ghost. (Pretty scary, huh?) I figured out almost immediately that one set of twins had pulled the old switcheroo. (Don't they always?) It took the entire book, however, for the author to reveal that fact.

It's hard to imagine a premise more ridiculous than someone becoming "unstuck in time" but the author manages it here with her ghost who comes back to life and has a baby with her bereaved lover. Hope you weren't planning on reading this book because I guess that would be a pretty big spoiler if you were. On the other hand, now you won't have to waste your time on it like I did.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

on why I insist on reading books in the order in which they are written

After making what I hope was my final "deposit" at the library yesterday (I take the books there that Jason doesn't want) I decided to go in and look for books for a change. I was excited to find what I thought was the next book in a series I have been reading for some years.

In 1994, author Laurie R. King wrote The Beekeeper's Apprentice, the story of a young woman who meets, and most improbably, falls in love with a retired Sherlock Holmes. They marry, and she becomes his Watson, traveling the globe with him and helping the master of deductive reasoning solve matters of international intrigue. There have been more hits than misses in the series, and the last book I read was by far my favorite, so I was thrilled to find The God of the Hive on the New Books shelf.

After reading a few pages, I realized that I had clearly missed a book, and that basically the entire plot was based on what happened in that earlier book. I stopped reading. I was torn. Should I start the other book I brought home with me? Should I go back to the library and search the shelves for the missing book? Perhaps I made the wrong decision, but I decided to press on. And that may be why I found this book so confusing for so long, and why, ultimately, I didn't enjoy it as much as I might have.

Part of the problem was the fact that the author starts the story from the points of view of four different characters. Now, that is just too many. Had I not known her style of writing from the previous books, I would have been utterly lost. As it was, I struggled to to keep things straight, and I don't enjoy that. I did settle into the book about halfway through, but I don't know if that was through my efforts or the author's.

Through the many references to the previous book, I believe I already know the "surprise" ending, so I probably won't be adding it to my reading list. Like all mystery readers, I prefer to solve the mystery on my own. What's the fun of it if I already know?