Saturday, June 17, 2017

Pulling out of the environmental discussions and other books

As regular readers know, I agreed to host a discussion of Rachel Carson's pivotal work, Silent Spring, here on the blog.
I'm pulling out.*

I did not read Silent Spring this spring.

The reasons have far more to do with me than with Silent Spring.  I finally realized that I wasn't reading anything because Silent Spring was sitting there and I couldn't bring myself to learn how long we have known about the connections between environmental pollutants and human health, particularly cancer, as multiple friends in their 40s are battling cancer and people elected to represent me suggest that I am an enemy of theirs, or the country, or progress, or the economy, because I think that environmental protections should be cherished. Silent Spring hits a raw place.  That this is raw 55 years after publication makes it more so.  I couldn't.

Fortunately I began to read again after I stopped trying to get through Silent Spring and started picking up children's novels.  Also fortunate, my streak of picking a depressing book did not extend to everything I read recently (but extended to enough that, during the most recent book, the Mister asked, "So, do these ghosts have cancer, too?).

Some things I have read:

Nick Hornby A Long Way Down  This is a one of those great books that I have no idea to whom I would recommend it.  The premise is that four people meet as they are attempting to commit suicide.  It is funny and very well written.  Nothing gets resolved and it is unsentimental and reading it for pleasure (and it was pleasurable) makes one question one's taste.

Anne Lamott Hard Laughter  In one of her wonderful non-fiction books (probably Bird by Bird), Anne Lamott describes her father's cancer diagnosis and searching in vain for a funny book about cancer.  Being unable to find it, she decided to write it and it became her first successful novel.  I came across Hard Laughter recently and was expecting a funny book about cancer.  If that was the intent, Anne didn't fully succeed.  Most of the time I was wondering, "Just how old is this?" (it was written in 1979) and "I am so glad that Anne Lamott is sober now," because, while this isn't supposed to be autobiography, it clearly is, and the main character uses a lot.  Another book that made me wonder, "Now just why is reading this pleasurable?"

Ronlyn Domingue Mercy of Thin Air  I asked a literature-teaching friend from Louisiana for a fun, Lousiana-based book for my trip to New Orleans.  She suggested Mercy of Thin Air, about which I was dubious, because the first person narrator is a ghost.  I didn't manage to get it read before New Orleans, but found myself describing it to The Mister recently on the road.  "There was a plot twist that I didn't see coming.  But of course I should have seen it coming, because it made everything make sense.  But the ghost didn't see it either."  After trying to follow this, The Mister concluded, "So basically the plot twist worked the way a plot twist is supposed to?"  Overall very well-done.  Full of old people love and young people love, and plenty of death, but not too sticky sweet.  Recommended for my mothers and many of their friends.

Deb Caletti  The Secret Life of Prince Charming  As we were leaving town on Thursday, we stopped by the library to turn in Summer Reading logs (because the program ends before we return from our trip!) and as I returned Mercy of Thin Air, I realized I had no book for me to read on the road.  So I grabbed the best looking (of the three) paper backs on the sale table.  The Secret Life of Prince Charming was it.  And as far as relationship books about divorced parents and a high school girl coming to terms with the idea that her father is a womanizing loser, this was well done. I'm not sure any of my readers are exactly in the target demographic, but if you need reminding that, "porches with one leaning pole will collapse, even if the other is strong," you could do worse.

Ealier in the year, even the children's books I picked up were making me cry.  I read Maniac McGee (by Jerry Spinelli) to Dianthus and had forgotten how explicit the discussion of racism is. The book is still excellent, but I want it to be outdated.  It is not.  Aster brought home Bravemole (by Lynne Jonell) from the library.  I'm all about picture books about rodents.  Except that it is a book about the September 11th attacks and I was not ready for that, so wept unceremoniously as I read about the brave worker moles who had thought that the dragons were gone for good.

Kashmira Seth's Keeping Corner is about a pre-teen widow in India.  In itself it is not a tear-jerker, although the idea that someone can be a shaved outcast from the age of 12 is horrifying, and I would recommend it for the mothers, GK, LT and such.  When combined with the recent National Geographic project on widowhood, and profiles of Indian women dumped by their families as widows sixty-some years ago, it is sobering and saddening. [To be clear, these are currently alive women who have been shaved, begging, dead to most of the world widows for over 60 years, since they were 10 or 11].

More brief bits about books:

Gail Carson Levine Ella Enchanted  (a re-told fairy tale).  Among my favorite Cinderella re-tellings, but I have a bunch.

Jessica Day George Tuesdays at the Castle  (a book about my last name) It is packaged as a book that looks purely whimsical (the castle changes shape every Tuesday!), so when the parents die in the second chapter, I groaned to The Mister about how cursed I am with orphan books.  It turns out the book is mostly whimsical, but not nearly as much as suggested,

Shelia Turnage Three Times Lucky (a luck book!)  Also less whimsical than the cover suggests.  Another orphan.  More alcoholism and domestic violence.  Still pretty fun.

Speaking of the times not changing, orphans and unexpected domestic violence, The Mister and I watched the Netflix series Anne with an E.  I was of very mixed opinion (This is super-well done, fantastically casted and the writers respect the characters, even if they are forging their own plot lines. The tongue-in-cheek feminism thing is actually very fun, if depressing.) until the last episode, which includes character assassination and is just plain wrong.  If there is another season I won't be watching it.  Probably.  Except that I watched that horrible Martin Sheen PBS thing on Thanksgiving, and I went to Prince Edward Island for Anne tourism, so I probably will.  I am re-reading Anne of Green Gables right now, and have learned that a few of you haven't read it, and you should.

The book about obsessive birding I was reading last summer, Dan Koeppel's To See Every Bird on Earth started out with concentration camps (and if I left it at your house, let me know.  I think I made it halfway), and this year's book about obsessive birding,  Big Year by Mark Obmascik, hits failed marriages pretty hard in the early chapters.  Both left me wondering exactly what I got myself into.  Big Year is quite an acheivement-- both the concept of Big Year birding (a competition with very specific rules without known competitors or prizes), and the book that manages to make it fascinating for a book-length read (Thanks E for the book!).

I haven't seen the Big Year movie yet (I still don't get how it could be done with a celebrity cast), but I did watch a childhood favorite bird movie, Condorman, while in Kansas at the end of April.  It is slightly less cheesy and less dated than I would have expected, but I think I had really low expectations.

Oh, I also read LaVyrle Spencer's Hummingbird for bird year, but can't shut off the "rape culture should be called out" part of my brain long enough to enjoy such silly historical bodice rippers anymore.

What have you been reading?

And if it is Silent Spring, how can I facilitate conversation without having read it?

(*Once again I hope me of the future doesn't get any of the allusions to current events)

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