|Reading December 2003|
|12/19/03? I started re-reading the Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb. I read them some time ago, and really enjoyed them. I took the second and third ones on the trip to Arizona after Christmas to visit Robin's parents.|
|12/?/03 Heck if I know exactly when I read it, but it was before Christmas. It's an amusing if not terribly deep tale of a womanizing reporter whose hand is eaten by a circus lion and his relationship with the widow of the man whose hand is donated to him. The widow is a strong and interesting character, and the reporter grows in association with her. Short, and not really a good example of Irving's work.|
|12/17/03? Finished reading Why God Won't Go Away by Aquili, Rouse, and Newberg. This is a book about neurobiology and religion, based largely on Aquili and Newberg's work on the brain activity of meditating nuns and Buddhist monks. It's interesting work, and this is a good non-technical introduction, but the scholarship is pretty poor. Especially when talking about religion, the authors cite all sorts of people, and when you look at the footnotes, they're all secondary citations "cited in " some other work. Even quotes from Martin Buber are quoted from another author's work, which makes no sense at all.|
|12/14/03? Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, by Dai Sijie, is another book that was lurking around on the shelves, and I was looking for something a bit more substantive after Terry Pratchett. The author was "re-educated" during the cultural revolution in China, and the story is about two teenage boys sent to work in a peasant village. They meet a pretty young seamstress, and develop a relationship with her based on some forbidden translations of foreign books. A simply written, moving little book.|
|12/12/03? Found this (Lords and Ladies, by Terry Pratchett) on the shelf somewhere, and it looked ok. At first I thought it was annoying -- the puns and obvious references to modern life embedded in a fantasy book are a little bit much -- but I got interested in it, and found it to be a pretty good light read.|
|12/9/03 -- I picked up the other book Cabell sent for my birthday, A Trial By Jury. The author, Graham Burnett, is an intellectual historian, and this is his true experience as foreman of a jury on a Manhattan murder case. It's a surprisingly easy read, and Burnett's insights and careful self-examination are worthwhile. I enjoyed it a lot, even while wondering if Cabell was sneakily getting me to read ethnomethodology.|
|12/7/03 -- I don't include books that I only look things up in, or read parts of, in this list. So I didn't really expect Gear for Your Kitchen to become eligible, but damned if I haven't read the whole thing. I only recently got cable, so I didn't know about Alton Brown from his show on the Food Channel, but I used his tips on cooking turkey from Bon Appetit this Thanksgiving. I liked the style of the article, so I bought this book from the Good Cook, a cookbook-of-the-month club I'm in. It's great. Funny, readable, full of good ideas and tips about cooking. I love the way he makes Baba Ganoush -- roast the eggplant on a grill, wrap in plastic wrap, cut the stem end off with scissors, plastic and all, and squeeze out the eggplant paste like toothpaste. He also sold me on the idea of the probe thermometer. It has a probe (duh) that you stick in the meat, and a wire that comes out of the oven to the digital readout that can be stuck with a magnet onto the top of the stove. When the meat reaches the temp you programmed in, it beeps. I got one and I've been using it all over the place.|
12/4/03 -- Started
Gardens in the Dunes by Leslie Marmon Silko. This is the story
of Indigo, a girl from a tiny Native American tribe somewhere around the
Arizona/California border, along the Colorado river, around 1900.
Her people are captured
by the US Army; she escapes from an acculturation school and is taken in
by a peculiar couple -- the wife dropped out of graduate school in Harvard
when her thesis topic on Gnosticism was turned down; the husband is a
collector of rare plants. They take Indigo on their travels to
England and Corsica, and she serves as a foil for the exploration of
European and Native American cultures.
Finished reading it on 12/9. The more I think about this book, the more I like it. I need to read it again -- it would be a good book for book group. At first brush, I kept thinking that the book was episodic and disjointed - characters wander in and out, events occur and go nowhere -- but on reflection, thematic elements weave everything together. I started to think about how the different gardens in the story reveal differences and similarities in Native and European culture, then how the same could be said for religious rituals, and how, in Indigo's importation of gladiolus bulbs to Arizona and in the Ghost Dance movement's co-opting of Jesus, European culture both transforms and is transformed by Native American culture. The whole structure of the book is symbolized in Delena's "gypsy cards," scattered by storm winds and then read as a fortune as she finds them stuck in rocks and bushes. The fragmented events and characters tell a story to the reader seemingly by chance.
12/3/03 -- Finished The Myth of Pope
Joan. Fascinating story, and his approach to history is interesting
-- I suppose you could call this an intellectual history, the story of an
idea and its relationship to various historical developments. The
story of Pope Joan was used as a cautionary tale (with various morals) by
Catholic authors, then taken up by Protestants during the Reformation and
used against Catholicism.
In addition to being an interesting, if difficult, read, it contained more new words than anything I can remember reading in ages. Florilegium (a compendium -- originally of plant descriptions, but by extension of anything), hebdomadary (weekly), euhemerism (the view that gods of various cultures are enlarged, mythicized ancient human heroes), lapidation (stoning), agnatic (inherited, especially through the male line), aporia (unknown or unknowable things), anodyne (something relieving pain -- I felt as if I should have known this, as I've seen it before, but I couldn't come up with the meaning from memory), aleatory (dependent on random occurrences), and deontological (relating to ethics or moral theory -- not the opposite of ontological, which it looked like).
|Reading Fall 2003|