Category Archives: reads
Hey, David Foster Wallace. I quit you. I have quit you before, several times. I fell in like with your essays back when I was young and impressionable. And while I do not discredit the impressions of youth, I have since found you to be pretentious, wordy (an understatement) and, frankly, overrated. But this is it, this time it is for real. Move on, you and I WILL NEVER BE.
Recently, I gave you a second chance at the recommendation of friends who thought the world of you. I thought, surely, I must have seen something in you all those years ago. And I did, you are funny, witty even, you still prove to be far too wordy for my taste, but ultimately, even this I find sort of endearing. I dove hesitantly into your Infinite Jest, I tried to let you swallow me, envelope me in some mesmerizing prosaic world of genius and wonder. I was skeptical.
I struggled. I laughed sometimes, despite my cynicism. I was, like so many who have come before me, wooed by the vocabulary, the sentence structures, the paragraphs that became heady, verbose pages. I was, despite myself, swept away on occasion.
And yet, I struggled.
My friends told me, just wait. Just hang in there, get over the hump, the magic will happen.
So I waited. I read. I plodded. I worked at it like it was my job.
And then I found my eyes straying to the end table, stacked with books waiting for me to crack their spines. I drove by the library, doing my best to avert my eyes. While taking long baths, I read…others.
Here’s the thing, DFW. I respect what you tried to do, really I do. Your talent is unmistakeable, you have something, for someone out there. But that someone, truly, is not me. And I am tired of pretending to be into you, when really, I am fondling the cover of Nicholson Baker or, heaven forbid, John Irving, longingly.
And so, it is time, it’s time after months of pussyfooting around the issue.
You’re a nice guy. You wrote some essays that I love, and will quote until the end of my days. And I am sure that someone else will make you a lot happier than me.
No, really. This is it. I quit. You will grace many bookshelves, you will be dragged around many a college campus in tattered backpacks of self-important liberal arts majors. And you will love it.
And I’ll settle in to the rest of my winter reading, and I will live knowing I did not finish the 990 pages that is your Infinite Jest. Life is too short to fake it.
Okay, this is getting ridiculous. I know, I know. I haven’t been listening. But I got the message, loud and clear this time.
This morning I work up with a summer cold. What the hell is that about? That’s somebody’s idea of a really cruel joke. It’s a bajillion degrees outside, and yet you wake up feeling like you’ve smoked a pack of Lucky Strikes, slightly sweaty and feverish, with a headache that won’t quit. Sounds like a bad hangover, right? Except it doesn’t get better after you drink coffee and eat something greasy. You feel like you’re melting from the inside out AND the outside in. Awesome.
So, I’ve been fighting aforementioned cold for a few days, figuring it’s allergies (I guess it still could be, but another cruel joke, world). I am lying in bed, listening to my heart drum in my ears like it does when my head is all stuffed up. And yet, I can still hear Emmett doing that thing that he does when he’s been awake for a while and waiting–he sighs. A lot. So I get out of bed, get dressed, strap the leash on the mutt and begrudgingly (and with a sneer toward my still sleeping husband) leave the house.
We may have walked twenty minutes. Maybe. We were nearing an intersection on our regular route, and he did what he always does; he sat down. Right in front of me. I don’t know where the hell I was, but evidently my mind was far, far away, because I just kept going, right over the top of him.
I was pissed at myself before I even hit the ground. I groaned in mid-air, knowing what was coming. I hit just on the top of my kneecap, sending shudders from my hip to my ankle. It felt like someone had taken a sledgehammer and hit my knee, trying to drive the kneecap to my shin. And there was blood all over my running shoe. Reason number 47 why I could never be a nurse: I cry when I see blood. Anyones, but my own in particular.
Emmett whined and fluttered around, nosing my neck and arms, his ears back. For a minute–well, probably five minutes–I really, really wanted to be angry at him. I wanted to yell at him and glare and make him feel bad for tripping me. But we’ve been working so hard on heel, both walking and running, and he’s been soooo good lately. And he was doing exactly what he was supposed to do, sitting at the intersection and waiting for my signal. Little did he know that my signal was going to come in the form of a belly flop on asphalt.
I left my house this morning feeling crappy, unhappy to be awake and really unhappy to be starting what seems like the never-ending workday. I was thinking about what I forgot to do yesterday, what I needed to do today, mentally checking my calendar…I was paying absolutely no attention to where I was, much less where my dog was.
I’ve been reading this book called Zen and the Art of Running by Larry Shapiro. Shapiro talks about the “right effort” or the concept of taking the negative, stripping it of it’s emotional connotations, and making it positive. He also talks about the Zen concept of mindfulness, or being aware of the distinct feelings, one by one, that we feel and what emotions are thereby attached. By addressing these things, we unclutter our minds.
That’s what I need. I need to unclutter my mind. To learn to be present in each moment, instead of that which happened yesterday or what might happen later today or next week.
I’ve always figured running was cheaper than therapy–I started running at a time in my life when I probably could have strongly benefited from some head shrinking, but thank goodness I ran instead. Walking my dog for an hour every single morning has begun to be a similar form of therapy. It is the time that I calmly, purposefully get my day in order. I bond with my dog, I listen to the cool silence at 6:30 in the morning. I feel tranquil and…ordered…when I start the day.
This morning I started with a grudge. I was desperate to walk and be done, to get my day started so that maybe, maybe, the end would come sooner and I could recline on my couch quietly for an hour or so before I started again.
When I start my walks–or runs–with that attitude, bad things happen. Emmett picks up on this weirdo energy and starts doing weirdo stuff. I fall. I step in dog crap. Or, worse, Emmett craps and my poop bag has a hole in it.
All these things could happen on a day when I’m calm and confident, too.
But they don’t.
So yeah. I get your message. Unclutter. Slow. DOWN. Take some time to not only not DO work, but not THINK about all the work that you’re not doing.
Be where you are right now.
Here’s the stack of books I’m planning to read this summer:
I tell you this because if you’re planning on following this blog, you’re probably about to start hearing about this monstrosity of a stack. As in, today. As in, I’m going to tell you what I added, subtracted, disliked, fawned over…probably mostly fawned over, because I’m an cautious optimist at heart.
And, the optimist in me wants to share with you:
Again, the classic case of the cautious optimist. As you can tell by my bookmarker (aside from the fact that I am a student, and therefore have the abhorrent habit of needing a pen while I’m reading, even for pleasure), I am not finished with this one. I’m not even halfway through. And yet, she’s a woman by my own heart: she loves food and loves to write, writes through pleasure and pain and she’s damn funny. So far, I highly recommend. Also, I’ve been reading her blog and it’s as charming as the book, so I’m pretty sure I’ll keep liking her.
Part cookbook, part memoir, Molly writes about her love affair with food, her hilariously likable family, and especially, her father. The recipes are quite good, according to my mother, who recommended this book to me, but made me buy my own copy because she couldn’t part with hers. She has been whipping up a new one every weekend, and while she is equally possessive about her concoctions, she regales me with tales of the recipes on our weekly walks. You’ll have to take Gwenie’s word for it on the tastiness, but trust me, Molly has a wry sense of humor laced delicately with sarcasm.
I always love to read memoir-y type books by people who I genuinely want to be friends with–enjoy!