Another book review

I'm feeling a lot better now. In fact, I'm feeling so good that I think I could do ANYTHING. But I can't. I still have lots of pox and the doctor said I really shouldn't go out much because I could still be contagious. (This contradicts the pediatrician, who told us that once the pox have crusted over -- is that a disgusting image or what? -- once the pox have crusted over you're not contagious any more.) Grocery store is okay, provided I don't get too close to anyone, but anything closer, like, say the PTO meeting that was this evening, or a school function later this week which I will describe in detail in a minute, or a toddler playgroup . . . nope. Not allowed.

The other thing that's getting on my nerves is that I have tons of pox (WARNING: here comes some more "too much information") clustered under my arms and around my ribs. You know how you're not supposed to apply deodorant to "broken skin"? Yeah, that's right. It's been eight days since I've worn deodorant. I'm not walking around with rings, thank goodness, because I don't sweat that much, but I can definitely smell myself by around midday. But it sure is nice not to be feverish and in pain.

I read A Thread of Grace, by Mary Doria Russell, while I was sick. A few years ago I read one other book by her, The Sparrow, and I had the same reaction to both books: terrific idea, but not very well executed. In case you're not familiar, Sparrow is about Jesuit missionaries in space! What a great idea -- of course Jesuits would want to make first contact with aliens! When I first heard about that plotline I couldn't wait to read it. And Thread has a totally cool plot, too. It's about Catholic Italian peasants helping to hide Jews during the Holocaust. Russell spent five years researching this, and the "fiction" is very much based in fact. But, alas, her prose is, shall I say, undistinguished? She writes like a mediocre romance novelist, full of boring cliches and characters that all sound the same, regardless of whether they're a teenage Jewish girl, an elderly nun, or a fat, middle-aged beaurocrat. Bummer. It could have been so good! And I still think it's worth reading (Thread, I mean). It's a story that deserves to be more widely known.


  • Wow. The Sparrow is one of my all time favorite books. Possibly because I do not read science fiction except in a blue moon. I did not like its sequel, whose name I'm forgetting now, nearly as much. I went to a reading of hers about 5 years ago and she read from her work in progress, about Hitler as a baby, and so I'm guessing that was what has become Thread. I'll give it a try and see if her undistinguished style hits me. Plot always wins over style in my careless reading!

    posted by Blogger doulicia on 9:05 AM  

  • •••What celebrity (alive or dead) would you want to meet, and what would you say to that person?

    OK-first, a disclaimer: I'd love to linger over my answers, but if I do, I'll never actually write them. SO-these are 'from the hip'.

    About the first question--I'm assuming 'celebrity' is different from 'historical figure'. I'm pondering entertainment industry folks--actors, mostly. I'd choose Kevin Bacon or Gary Sinese. They've both done interesting roles, and seem like 'real' people. I think someone we know/knew, knew someone who was a preschool teacher where Kevin Bacon (and --?--)'s kid(s) went. That adds to his being interesting/real. I figure I could find something in common with those guys, and it would be interesting to see them in 'real life' and then, later, to see them in future roles.

    ....Oh, and maybe I could run a few ideas past them? -- you know, for movies: overlooked historical figures, like Catalina de Erauzo (more info re her at:

    I picture Angelina Jolie or the Salma Hayek.

    •••What's your favorite historical time period?

    I don't think I could ever settle on just one--or favor one over all others. I think of movies set in different eras that make events, etc. from that era seem pretty interesting, so I’m drawn to many different times/places. But some eras are lower on the list. I find myself trying to answer this question by thinking, “Which era would I want to visit, or which would I want to live in/be from?” On that basis I like Ancient Greece and the 1800s. Greece because, at the moment, I've been pondering the 'deus ex machina' part of Greek theater, and wondering if it was viewed by Greek theater-goers in anything like the way we now look at CGI and other special effects. I came across an article about eleborate mechanical (sort of) devices used by ancient Athenians to keep their democratic system of government 'fair' ( --these were mechanisms that provided for random selection of jurors, etc. Considering the two things together leads me to wonder to what extent ancient Greeks were technologically savvy and able. Have all those white, marble statues of perfect, but ‘blank’ figures, and the empty ruins (that don’t hint at any kind of moving parts or hardware [i.e metal parts], etc.) and the philosophical, mythological 'legacy of ideas', etc. led us to a skewed perception of ancient Greece.

    ...but I can't say that I have anything more than a quasi-hunch basis for seriously wondering about all of this.

    I'd like to check out the 1800s because of my interest in the history of technology—that era’s steam power (in factories, trains, and boats) offers a kind of conceptually and materially 'accessible'/approachable form of technology: you can look at a steam-powered machine and SEE how the parts work--what they do, and the basis for making steam engines was the know-how and technology that had been around for hundreds--maybe thousands (as far back as ancient Greece?)--of years. The idea of steam power suddenly 'booming' into society's/history’s mainstream when it could have been developed earlier is an interesting 'wrinkle' in history. As with an actual wrinkle, or imperfection in an otherwise smooth surface draws one's hand/finger-tips back to touch and perhaps smooth-out the wrinkle, so I'm drawn back to such questions. Do we all react that way to ‘wrinkles’/ ‘imperfections’, or are some of you drawn to the smooth/perfect expanses between the bumps? (Have I gotten too far into my own weird way of seeing things with this 'wrinkle' analogy? If so, sorry.)

    •••What's the first thing you're going to do when we win the lottery?

    I'm not going to try to pick just one thing--here's the 'to do' list for the morning/week after we get the first check:

    1. call financial planner (so we don't blow it all somehow)--add to kids' college funds, start some form of secure plan for our retirement

    2. buy new car (that v6 Ford Ranger with extended cab that I've always wanted--but get towing package so we can pull some form of RV and/or pull rental construction equip. I'll use to build item 3.

    3. talk to realtor(s) from 'Up North' (that’s Northern Michigan-but the lower peninsula) to find a lot where we can build our summer 'cabin'. (see plan(s) at:

    4. make reservations for you and I at Miki (a local sushi restaurant)--call sitter, etc.--so justy-we-two can scheme over sushi for further 'to do' items.

    5. Call contractors--make appts. with several--to get ideas/bids for additions/repairs to our house (I don't think I'd want to move.)

    6. Spending spree at: clothes store(s), office supply store, and book store. Bring the kids along—that’d be fun to do with them.

    I think that'd be a good day's worth of such activities.

    (A thought: does this mean you favor buying lottery tickets?--I'm kind of in the
    mood after writing this, but there's a part of me that scoffs at the the thought.)

    •••What's your favorite memory from our honeymoon trip to England (keep it clean)?

    Well I can rule out the part when I was sick, sick, sick in Yorkshire--but that leaves a lot of good times, like...

    …the first walk we took after we'd settled into our first hotel: we somehow went from a busy highway setting to somewhat lush countryside, fenced fields with styles (because the right to walk paths through those fields is part of England’s legal system--???).

    …or the trip down to Brighton, and the Royal Pavilion--what a weird place that was!--and the feeling of being out as a new, young couple walking around on our own, seeing the world together, seeing new sights, and so on.

    …or playing jiotto (sp?) on the train (from Penzance to Chepstowe).

    And the Lake District was nice--even when we stayed on the train and ended up spending the night in Stavely, or walked around in the drizzle near L. Windemere (probably how I started getting sick, sick, sick).

    The castle at Conway was pretty cool. And so was the underground command center Winston Churchill used during WW II (I love the idea that the objects, etc. are as they were left right at the end of the war).

    BUT--I choose the moment when we were walking around in Chepstowe, having gotten to that town late in the day and checked in to the B&B, and we turned a corner and saw the HUGE castle ruins there. The surprise and amazement of that moment (we were traveling without having planned our itinerary and so hadn’t researched the history of the places we were seeing) was what sticks with me. I like to think of that moment as a metaphor for our marriage: we do a lot of 'playing it by ear' and dealing with what we come across as a result. That seems to work pretty well for us.

    •••Tell about a happy memory from your childhood.

    I'm mulling over moments of play with my childhood buddies--in the woods/field near our house (for all of you in the reading audience, we live next door to the house I grew up in, so I get see our kids running around my old stomping ground--fun!), and moments of being cozy on my mom's lap (with a blankey & book), and there are moments of family dinners and gatherings with relatives, but I'm drawn to the 'sensory' recollections of being at a lake, with the sun’s warmth on my back while lying on a towel or taking out one of the car-top (i.e. little) sailboats I grew up with. Water (a large body of fresh water), and distant sounds of splashing and beach play, and the knowledge that picnic foods are close at hand, and the aromas/sounds of grilling, are all part of that picture. That all seems pretty ideal, just now.

    If you can't tell from the above, the weather here has just--finally!—changed
    from a long, cold winter to the first warm day(s) of Spring.

    Thanks for the good questions--I know I went on WAY too long in my answers. Sorry about that. I'm eager to nurse along our recollections of our honeymoon and to plan around future lottery winnings.



    posted by Anonymous Anonymous on 4:03 PM  

  • anonymous,
    Wonderful answers. :)

    posted by Blogger mrsd on 11:27 AM