Monday, August 31, 2020

A Month In The Life: August 2020

Tomorrow is September! Which feels impossible, because it feels like 2020 just started, in a weird sort of way. So many things that had been in the cards for this year just...never happened. At this point, it feels like getting through to the end of the year and looking forward to a better 2021 is about as good as it's going to get. But before we turn full bore into fall, let's look back at August!

In Books...
  • A Luminous Republic: I am usually a reader drawn to books with rich characters, but this short novel, which is heavy on theme and story rather than character, grabbed my attention and wouldn't let it go. It's about a small city in Argentina, on the edge of the jungle, from whence a group of feral children arrive and chaos ensues. It was really thought-provoking!
  • The Thirteenth Tale: I absolutely loved Diane Setterfield's more recent novel, Once Upon A River, so I had very high expectations for this. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by this story of a young woman who receives an invitation to be the biographer of a very famous writer, whose life narrative is a riff on gothic classics. It isn't bad, per se, but felt both overlong and under-developed.
  • On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous: This was my book club read for the month! It's absolutely beautifully written, Ocean Vuong's background as a poet shines through in a great way as he tells the tale of the son of a Vietnamese immigrant growing up and dealing with his family legacy of conflict and reflecting on his first relationship with another man. It's a lovely book and I would recommend it, but I wish it had felt more focused and had developed more of a cohesive narrative.
  • Ivanhoe: I generally tend to really enjoy classics, but the language in this one felt like it was fighting me and I couldn't really relax into the rhythm of it. Nearly 600 pages of that fight made this feel like a slog, which is in part a pity: there is wit and humor here, and if a couple hundred pages were cut out there could be a charming adventure novel made out of this. I nominate the pages with the blatant anti-Semitism as the first to go!
  • The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B: Napoleon's first wife, Josephine, basically had a whole entire life before she even met him. And she wasn't even called Josephine...born Marie Josephe Rose, she usually went by the last of those names. She was married, had two children by her faithless husband, and survived the French Revolution, and this historical fiction account of her early years, structured as a diary, tells the story of the life she lived before she became Napoleon's wife in highly entertaining and readable fashion. It's not trying to be Serious Literature, but I quite enjoyed reading it and am interested in the sequels!
  • The Moonstone: What a delight! This mystery classic is both well-plotted and very funny in a dry sort of way. A young woman inherits a massive diamond from her uncle on her birthday, which disappears only hours after she acquires it. A private detective is called in to help solve the riddle, complications ensue. It's told from multiple perspectives, including a sanctimonious spinster aunt that had me cackling.

In Life...
  • Another special session: Technically this one started on the last day of July, but it dominated the first several days of August as well. There were some quite long days that lasted into the early hours of the morning, but hopefully we're done with this until February!
  • Wildfire season: After a fairly mild summer on the fire front, we got ALL of the wildfires in mid/late August. By "we", I mean not the Reno area itself, but California...the smoke comes in over the Sierras and then settles down in the river valley. Our air quality has been terrible for the past like, two weeks, so here's hoping we get some rain

One Thing:

I loved reading the deep dives Tom & Lorenzo took into the costuming of Mad Men, which really helped me understand more about how film and TV costumes really work. They've been running a series recently called One Iconic Look, which is exactly what it sounds like: an examination of the most memorable clothes women have worn in the movies. I've really enjoyed reading these and highly recommend checking them out!

Gratuitous Pug Picture:

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