Thursday, September 30, 2021

A Month In The Life: September 2021


And just like that, we're within a stone's throw of the end of 2021! Tomorrow will be October, and from there it's practically the holiday season already! We're finally cooling down towards something resembling fall temperatures, though it's still pretty warm, and the skies have cleared of smoke for the most part, which is a huge relief.

In Books...

  • Absolute Monarchs: For a 500-page history of the papacy, this is pretty lively! I definitely learned a lot I hadn't known before, including about the long history of antipopes, the connection of the pope to the Holy Roman Empire, and how long it actually took for Italy to unify. But even though the writing isn't ponderous or dull, it still took me nearly two weeks to finish and occasionally felt like a slog.
  • The Wrath & The Dawn: This was kind of nice to have as a mental break after the active engagement I had to have with the pope book. It's YA fantasy based on the story of Scheherazade, and I'd read good things about it but it's honestly pretty bad. Thin characters, generically girl-boss type heroine, lots of repetition about things like people's eye color.
  • Hamnet: Honestly one of the best things I've read in years! It's historical fiction based on the actual life of William Shakespeare, whose son Hamnet (or Hamlet, names were kind of loosey-goosy at the time) died in childhood. It's actually quite little about Shakespeare himself, who is never directly named in the text, and more about his wife Ann, or Agnes. Just incredible, elegant writing and a deeply compelling character study.
  • My Brilliant Friend: I had been expecting to absolutely love the first book in this series that I feel like I'm the last one in the world to get to! And I did like it more and more as it went on and I got drawn further into the world that Lenu and Lila live in and the bond between them, but after how amazing Hamnet was it was hard to read virtually anything else and this one was a slow starter.
  • The Indifferent Stars Above: As someone who live in Reno, I've been to Donner Lake, driven over Donner Summit, and been to Donner Memorial State Park. But all I really knew about the Donner Party beforehand was that they'd gotten stuck up in the Sierras and had to turn to cannibalism to survive. This book was informative and very well-written, but also the word "harrowing" in the book's subtitle is there for a reason...Brown really immerses you in the world and experiences of the party and parts of it are incredibly hard to read. It's very good, but it's nightmare fuel. 
  • Dog Park: I thought this book, originally published in Finnish and newly translated into English, was going to be straightforward literary fiction about the commodification of the female body in post-Soviet Europe. And it's about that, but there are also strong thriller elements, and the story goes in directions I wasn't expecting. I found it interesting and propulsive!


In Life...

  •  Not a lot, honestly: This was a pretty low-key month. We usually have a weekend up in Tahoe at the beginning of September because of my husband's work convention, but that was canceled this year due to wildfire evacuations. Otherwise, my own work is steady but not madcap like it is during session and I'm just continuing to grow a little person.

One Thing:

Britney Spears's conservatorship has been back in the news with the new Netflix documentary and her recent engagement to her longtime boyfriend. I remember being in my first year of law school, following the gossip as closely as anyone as her life seemed to spin out of control. Celebrity gossip in that era was vicious, and no one was more savage than Perez Hilton. He, and other gossip bloggers of the era who have continued in the space, have apologized...but is it enough? On the one hand, I want to say no. Gleeful participation in, and profit from, the way they treated vulnerable young women is not something that a simple apology can make up for. On the other, though, there's complicity from the people like me who clicked those links. If there hadn't been demand for coverage, not just at the volume but in the tone in which he and others provided it, it would have died out. It was a vicious cycle, and while it seems to have gotten better lately I think there's still a cultural conversation to be had about what the relationship should be between celebrities and the media.

Gratuitous Pug Picture: 

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