04 June 2008

Random acts of life

In the last few weeks, I finished several books, watched almost no television, didn't knit anything, played a lot of Packrat, put together a porch swing, and contemplated revenge on a fellow RA. I've been busy.

I finished The Story of Mankind (1921) edition. I've got about 70 pages to read in the 1972 update and I peeked through the 1995 edition. None of the language has been updated nor have citations been added in any of the later editions, so there goes my hopes (I was really hoping for citations, at the very least, in the 1995 edition). I think if I had a child reading this there would be some supplemental reading and research going on especially if interest was sparked in a particular topic. It was just too much of a storybook and not so much a history book, in my opinion. Next up on the Newbery list is The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle, the 1923 winner. I've got an Illustrated Junior Library edition checked out from the Coralville Public Library so I'm ready to go. Here's a list of the vocabulary from the last half of The Story of Mankind:
serf (which is not defined nearly as well as it should be in the text)
mulcted (which I had to look up because NONE of us had heard of it, ever)
Sinn Fein(er)

I polished off The Host (finally) and was surprised that it took me nearly a month. Each of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books only took a couple of hours. I didn't read them, I inhaled them. However, with The Host I started seeing too many similarities with Twilight and that had me a little disturbed and worried that somehow Stephenie Meyer was a bit of a one-note. The Host does have an interesting premise - a sort of body-snatchers setting with a love triangle/quadrangle (depending on how you count souls and bodies) - but I stalled about 200 pages from the end due to a soccer game (there's a baseball game in Twilight). A slightly predictable ending (never intimate that the narrator is going to die in a first person narrative with nearly 20 pages left in the book) but I really appreciated how SM wrote the necessary exposition into the storyline of the book (i.e. Wanda's "stories") rather than devote pages and pages to it separately.

I also finished Songs for the Missing, an advance copy of the next Stewart O'Nan novel. Never having read O'Nan (Kat staff rec'd Last Night at the Lobster) I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Lurid? Simple? Absurd? Strangely enough, the situation seemed almost mundane, aside from an eighteen-year-old gone missing. It wasn't mundane as in "I'm so bored I can't finish this" but mundane like "this is LIFE, this is what happens when a child goes missing." Other readers compared Songs for the Missing to Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, which is a phenomenal novel simply for the power of the author's descriptions. There are some parallels, but what was striking to me was that after Kim went missing in the first chapter that was it. No following her until she's grabbed, no struggle, or what the perpetrator did with the car; instead, we stay with the family and friends as they try to find her. The Lovely Bones, being a first-person narrative followed Susie's thoughts as she watched her family and that provided a completely different sense of the action. One thing I really noticed and appreciated throughout Songs for the Missing was the choice of third-person narrative; the narration wasn't truly omniscient and tended to follow one specific character for each chapter (Fran, Ed, Lindsay, JP, Nina). A very thoughtful novel about how time continues to push us forward even when something terrible happens. Eventually you have to go back to work, to school.

In other random life events, I bought a porch swing - yay, evenings on the porch, reading, napping, etc (must get more citronella to ward off the mosquitoes). It was a pain to assemble because apparently it was "requires two adults for assembly" - phoo on them. I did eventually get the assembly done all by my little self.

And we had an RA bugger off last week and not do what the boss told him to do before he left. So I had a panic and a cold sweat on Monday. Turns out he threw his project at a different (new) RA and left her to do the surveillance cultures instead of me, like the boss said he should. I was supposed to take everything over and then train the new RA. Luckily, the new RA is a lab person so figured out pretty quickly what the project was and got Monday and Tuesday finished before I found out that she was on the project. Whew, but the little bastard didn't mention several key things like how to order more product, how to use the spreadsheet on the shared drive so all of us can stay current on the surveillance, or that other units do surveillance, too, and so you should check the patient's records so we don't duplicate testing. FYI, this is the same little bastard I complained about several months ago (he was just up here talking to one of the secretaries - I guess he needs employment for the summer? I vote "no" and think we should just hire someone else who is responsible and doesn't act like the sun shines out his posterior). I've been thinking of very painful things and I hope he comes back in his next lifetime as a roach or something.

And the weather has been really, really crappy lately.

Current book-in-progress: Persuasion, The Gunseller, Lord of the Flies, The Spirit of the Place, ideas (only 270 pages left), The Shakespeare Wars (only 150 pages left) and The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle
Current knitted item: I've been a very lazy knitter....
Current movie obsession: Little Miss Sunshine (I haven't watched any TV/movies lately except for the news and weather (strange) so LMS is just sitting in my DVD player, ready to go)
Current iTunes loop: John Mayer "Any Given Tuesday" (concert album with a kick-ass riff in the middle of "Gravity")

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