You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2013.

On Monday I turned 26 and went to hear the NC Symphony’s free chamber music concert with friends and family, which was a lovely experience.  The violinist was particularly talented, but all of the musicians were exceptional.  I had no idea chamber music was so popular; the place was packed, they put folding chairs in the aisles and on the stage itself, and they still had to turn away dozens of people.  There’s another concert on March 11th, but if you attend, plan to arrive early!

Work was tricksy, but the week ended well with the news that I got a small raise!  My bank account is feeling better about itself.  Everyone took off early on Friday because of the ice, so I wended my slippery way homeward without any serious mishap.  I would have preferred snow, but Gentry and I did have a fun time skating around the iced-over tennis court with his girlfriend Greta and her owner late last night.

Tomorrow night I’m off to Tir Na Nog with some of my very favorite people for a belated birthday celebration and to hear the weekly Celtic jam session.  I anticipate the having of marvelous times.

Hilarity:

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Books: I just marathoned the last 150 pages of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, so my brain is still reeling.  I don’t even really know how to describe this book.  It was brilliantly, skillfully executed, but I wasn’t so caught up in the technique that the emotional resonance didn’t still bash me upside the head like a frying pan at every turn.  The book consists of six wildly different stories told in wildly different styles (seriously–you’ll feel like you’re reading six completely different authors), and yet they’re all the same.  I’ll leave you with this quote and stop talking about it before I spoil you beyond hope:

Spent the fortnight gone in the music room, reworking my year’s fragments into a “sextet for overlapping soloists”: piano, clarinet, ‘cello, flute, oboe, and violin, each in its own language of key, scale, and color.  In the first set, each solo is interrupted by its successor: in the second, each interruption is recontinued, in order.  Revolutionary or gimmicky?  Shan’t know until it’s finished, and by then it’ll be too late, but it’s the first thing I think of when I wake and the last thing I think of before I fall asleep…”

Revolutionary or gimmicky?  The book is revolutionary.  I fear for the movie, however, which I have not seen.  I don’t see how a film could pull off a story like this and not lose so much that it would be reduced to gimmickery.

I read a terribly sad but fascinating article about the first press interview ever with Christopher Tolkien.  As an avid reader of Tolkien’s more scholarly works, I can certainly understand his son’s perspective and what a tragic betrayal a good bit of this must seem like.  At the same time, though, I can’t help but think that if the movies, video games, etc. inspire people to read Tolkien’s works, even encountering a watered-down Middle-Earth is better than not encountering it at all.  Definitely need to think more about this.  Thoughts?

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Last weekend was quite lovely. I had a grand time Saturday night at the Irregardless Café with good food, good friends, and good music. Really, really good music. Live jazz was provided by the Atomic Rhythm All-Stars, and while hitherto I hadn’t really considered myself a trombone sort of girl, my eyes have now been opened. On Sunday I visited the Langdons’ church and met a ton of very friendly people.

In other news, Sam is shopping for a new mattress, so we’ve been Goldilocksing it up at various locations. I wonder if mattress shop employees ever jump on the beds when no one is watching; I certainly would.

Gentry the puppy is madly, head-over-heels in love with Greta, a beautiful German Shepherd who lives in our apartment complex. Her owner has obligingly synced up our walks so that the pups have at least one playdate every day, and watching the dogs wrestle around is endless entertaining. They play until they’re exhausted and everyone (humans included) is covered in mud, and they seem to be very happy together. Their devotion does cause the occasional embarrassment, as Gentry now races up to anything that looks even remotely like a German Shepherd, convinced it’s his darling; he had a bad scare last night when he tried to run up to the huge, grouchy Rottweiler who lives downstairs. On Monday Greta clotheslined me from behind, and I ended up somersaulting down a muddy hill in the dark in one of the most spectacular displays of klutzy uncoolness in which I have ever engaged, which is saying something.

Amusing:

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Books: I’m all about Terry Pratchett’s Bromeliad trilogy these days, which is sort of like The Borrowers for grown-ups. It is, of course, tremendously witty and entertaining—it’s Pratchett—but it’s also unexpectedly philosophical. Here’s his introductory note, Concerning Nomes and Time, to get a taste:

Nomes are small. On the whole, small creatures don’t live for a long time. But perhaps they do live fast.
Let me explain.
One of the shortest-lived creatures on the planet Earth is the adult common mayfly. It lasts for one day. The longest-living things are bristlecone pine trees, at 4,700 years and still counting.
This may seem tough on mayflies. But the important thing is not how long your life is, but how long it seems.
To a mayfly, a single hour may last as long as a century. Perhaps old mayflies sit around complaining about how life this minute isn’t a patch on the good old minutes of long ago, when the world was young and the sun seemed so much brighter and larvae showed you a bit of respect. Whereas the trees, which are not famous for their quick reactions, may just have time to notice the way the sky keeps flickering before the dry rot and woodworm set in.
It’s all a sort of relativity. The faster you live, the more time stretches out. To a nome, a year lasts as long as ten years does to a human.

Remember it. Don’t let it concern you. They don’t. They don’t even know.

I finished Master and Commander, and I do see now why I disliked it so intensely before.  I forgot what a rotten jerk Aubrey really is.  Some reader instinct keeps trying to force you to like the character because he’s the protagonist and we’re clearly supposed to like him in spite of his endearing, boys-will-be-boys flaws.  Doesn’t work.  He has no problem with adultery, or with sleeping around in general, and he’s clumsy, not terribly bright, and a bit gross.  Apparently he’s a good captain, though strangely O’Brian really doesn’t give as many illustrations of that as he might.  The friendships between Aubrey and Maturin, Aubrey and Dillon, and Dillon and Maturin are put together so clumsily that I kept asking myself why these dudes bothered to hang out at all.  I realize the Aubrey/Maturin friendship is supposed to be one of the epic duos in literature, but it doesn’t seem to be based on much of anything, especially at the beginning.  They go from animosity to friendship with no real provocation, and while later on they do have a mutual appreciation for the other, there’s initially no basis for that admiration.  The book droned to a rather delayed, rather dull conclusion, with a lot of things left hanging in dissatisfying fashion, no doubt to make room for the next book in the series.  For all of that, though, I must admit that I didn’t hate it.  My earlier judgment of mildly interesting and vaguely irritating was pretty accurate, but I do find myself wondering if O’Brian gets better at this game later on.  So many people swear by him and adore his books so passionately that I do wonder if I might still be missing something.  Maybe I’ll give one of the other books a try, once the taste of this one is out of my mouth.

What adventures have I been up to in the past month?  I’m glad you asked.  I watched It’s a Wonderful Life with friends and kittens at the farm, enjoyed a lot of live music from the talented Langdon boys, saw The Hobbit on opening night with friends, trekked to Winston for yet another wedding for two of my friends, spent time with family over the holiday break, and had an eventful and entertaining New Year’s Eve (also at the farm—something cool always happens there).  That all sounds quite idyllic, I realize, but there were definite rough patches, too: work was horrible for about three weeks straight due to the busy season, and there was a fair bit of other drama as well.  In spite of reaching several points at which I was convinced I never wanted to speak to another human being again, however, overall things have been pretty great.  January has thus far been very quiet, which is a bit dull and anticlimactic after such an eventful December.  I’ll be turning 26 later this month, which boggles the mind a bit, or at least it does mine.  When people ask me my age, I never get it right anymore.

Know this:

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Books: In spite of having half a dozen more important things to stress over at the end of the year, I was most worried about not meeting my Goodreads goal.  The counter glared at me accusingly every time I logged in.  “You are 6 books behind.”  Goodreads is shaking its head at me in grave disappointment.  “How could you, Stephanie?”

I did read an awful lot, though.

Waiting for Godot was, like the first week of this month, dull and anticlimactic.  I just can’t bring myself to appreciate Beckett; every play of his feels the same.  I admit there were some good lines, and maybe in a group discussion I could beat something worthwhile out of the play, but overall I was exceedingly unimpressed.

I went on a Narnia binge, re-reading The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy, The Magician’s Nephew, and The Last Battle.  I hadn’t read most of them since I was 16, and I loved them far more this time around, actually, which is really saying something.  The Narnia books are kind of like old friends who live far away; you don’t get together often, but when you do, you’re reminded anew of how wonderful they are.

I saw a tiny little book called The Croquet Player by H.G. Wells at the library, so I snatched it up because I like Wells and had never heard of this one before.  The Croquet Player is astoundingly badly named (the story has little to do with the titular character and even less to do with croquet), and was a mildly entertaining  tale but certainly nowhere near as good as Wells’ novels or even as his other short stories that I’ve read.  It’s short enough that you won’t feel like you’ve wasted any time, at least.

Ursula K. LeGuin’s short stories, on the other hand, are always excellent.  I snagged A Fisherman of the Inland Sea at the library, and it was a joy to immerse myself in each of LeGuin’s worlds.  I’m pretty sure she creates a new universe every time she sneezes.  Her world-building is unparalleled.

While roaming the library, I browsed the Terry Pratchett shelf and picked up Making Money at random.  Turns out it’s the direct sequel to Going Postal, my favorite Pratchett novel to date, so I snatched that sucker up and ran.  I was pleased to see that most of my favorite characters from Going Postal were present and just as amusing as before, even as Pratchett introduced new characters.  The sequel didn’t have quite the breathless energy of the first novel’s wild ride, but it was still a blast.

To say I enjoy Cormac McCarthy would be inaccurate; anyone who says they enjoyed The Road probably shouldn’t be allowed around other people.  I do appreciate his work, however.  The Road was moving, insightful, brutal, and horrific, and I’d heard that was one of his lighter books.  All the Pretty Horses, which I read a couple weeks ago, however, wasn’t what I expected.  His spare prose was still there (partially devoid of punctuation, which practically makes reading an aerobic exercise: I breathe where there are periods, darn it, and if you don’t sprinkle at least one or two on a page, I’m liable to pass out).  Parts of it were indeed moving or insightful, and parts were still brutal, though it wasn’t horrific.  But it also wasn’t very good as a whole (forgive me, Cormac), at least not on the level I’d come to expect.  I definitely still want to read more of his books to get a better feel for his writing, but I confess All the Pretty Horses disappointed me.

A friend recommended the Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer, and I’d read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book a few weeks ago.  The library had a slew of others, so I’ve been devouring The Curse of the Blue Tattoo, Under the Jolly Roger, and In the Belly of the Bloodhound in quick succession.  Blue Tattoo felt a little erratic, but the third and fourth books were thrilling in the “stay up all night reading to see what happens” way, though admittedly not in the “my, what a fine piece of classic literature” way.  I needed a little high-seas adventure fluff after McCarthy anyway.

Speaking of high-seas adventure, I’m currently rereading Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian.  I read it as a young teen and despised it, though I’m not sure why it inspired quite that degree of loathing.  I just recall being really disgusted and subsequently selling it at a garage sale for 25 cents—and I very rarely get rid of books.  I read it soon after reading the Horatio Hornblower books, hoping for more of the same.  There’s a boat involved in both series, true.  But the characters differ wildly; O’Brian’s are so unlikable, for one thing.  And while I like a detailed description of a ship’s rigging as much as the next girl (well, let’s be honest–far more than the next girl), even my eyes were starting to glaze over at several points.  I haven’t finished it yet, so maybe the wrath-inducing passages of my youth are yet to come, but so far I’m vacillating between modest enjoyment and mild irritation.

Happy 2013!  It was really nice seeing my Facebook news feed full of happy people yesterday.  Fresh starts are so invigorating, and I’m looking forward to this year. : )  I started a draft of this post weeks ago, and never had time to finish it, so you’re getting this puppy in as-is condition.  I promise lengthy book reviews and actual words soonish.

First and most importantly, read this brilliantly sane, reasonable article from The Daily Beast about the recent shooting, if you haven’t already run across it.

Awesome:

Music:

You seem to have stumbled upon a storytelling of ravens. Watch for falling collective nouns; you may find a wing of dragons or a charm of hummingbirds caught in your hair. Hardhats are recommended.

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Stephanie Ricker's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

A Storytelling