Monday, April 30, 2018

A Month In The Life: April 2018

Another slow month, another bumper crop of books. This spring has been so hot-and-cold (literally!) with the weather, with a 70 degree day followed by snow and a high in the lower 40s, that it's seemed safer to just plan to stay in and get cozy. I've come to a place where I feel content mostly staying in and lazing around if there's nothing particularly compelling going on and if this is what being in your 30s means I am HERE for it.

In Books...
  • Freedom: Jonathan Franzen as a person is not my cup of tea, but damn the man can write. I will say, though, for all his skill in telling this story of a Midwestern family under strain, I thought the undercurrent of misanthropy generally, and misogyny in particular, detracted from the merits of the book. 
  • Sophia of Silicon Valley: This book is really bad, you guys. Billed as a The Devil Wears Prada for the tech scene, it's more than anything a fawning paean to Steve Jobs...or, as she unimaginatively dubs his stand-in, "Scott Kraft". It has no wit or charm, the titular heroine is grating (as is virtually everyone else in the book), and there's no dramatic tension in the plot. I hated it so much.
  • Outline: The prose is top-notch, but I was left unmoved by this book. It's structurally nontraditional (the recounting of ten conversations by the narrator, a recently divorced mother-of-two who goes to Athens to teach writing for a week) in a way that I could intellectually appreciate but didn't actually work for me.
  • Silent Spring: This book made such an impact when it was published that it led to the creation of the EPA, and after reading it, it's easy to understand why. Carson conveys alarming scientific information in a straightforward, engaged way that gets under your skin. It gets a bit repetitive after a while, but it's a powerful message.
  • The Color of Water: James McBride tells the story of his childhood, and the extraordinary woman who raised him...born in Poland as Ruchel Zylska, the daughter of an Orthodox rabbi became Ruth McBride Jordan, who married a black man and founded a church with him, had eight children, and then after his death married again and had another four, all of whom graduated from college despite the family's poverty. McBride parallels his own childhood with what he later came to know of his mother's with skill and affection. 
  • Sex at Dawn: An interesting re-examination of the conventional wisdom of evolutionary psychology as it relates to mating behavior...what if what we think we know about men being "designed" to want one faithful woman to ensure that they're raising only their own offspring, and women being "designed" to want a man who won't become emotionally involved with another woman who will pose a threat to the resources she needs to raise her children was wrong? It probably is, according to this thorough analysis, which raises powerful questions.
  • Chosen Country: Public lands are a huge issue in the West in a way I never realized until I moved out here. So I was interested in this book about the takeover of that wildlife refuge in Oregon a few years back by a reporter who was there, but honestly his best work on this has already been published and got expanded to book length by the addition of more information about him and his personal life than I was interested in. It's not bad, but it's not organized especially well or very comprehensive. 
  • The Kingmaker's Daughter: After four non-fiction reads in a row, this fourth entry in Philippa Gregory's The Cousin's War series hit the spot. Her brand of historical fiction tends to be heavier on the fiction than the history, but she's good at finding a compelling hook into the lives of royal women (this time, Anne Neville, daughter of the Earl of Warwick, who reigned as Richard III's queen) and I enjoy her work. 
  • Rosemary's Baby: I've seen the movie, and honestly now that I have I think maybe I prefer it to the book? The book isn't bad, it's a short, relatively light horror novel that plays on the fears related to pregnancy and powerfully demonstrates the insidious way women can be manipulated through isolation. But the movie is SO good that the book doesn't quite measure up.

In Life...
  • Not a lot! Did our taxes, went out to dinner with friends to see two of them off as they move to Seattle, did some planning for girls trip late this year, thought about some long weekends we'd like to take this year...this was a low-key kind of month.

One Thing:

I quite liked both of her first two albums, but Kacey Musgraves' latest release, Golden Hour, is truly wonderful. Her vocals and songwriting recall classic, traditional country a la Patsy Cline, but her production pushes the boundaries of the genre in a way that makes for absolutely magical listening. Even if you don't think you like "country music", I'd recommend turning it on and letting it play a little. It might surprise you.

Gratuitous Pug Photo: