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Ugh, I think I’m finally through laughing/crying/screaming at the Doctor Who Christmas Special and the Sherlock mini-episode prequel, which is fortunate, because afterward I had to sigh over the Downton Abbey Christmas Special and prepare myself for the Call the Midwife Christmas Special.  Hallelujah for British television or I really wouldn’t know what to do with myself over the holidays.

Which isn’t, strictly speaking, true: I spent the rest of the break downing tea and writing like a madwoman, and I had a lovely day with the family in which we tromped around Reservoir Park with my parents’ scruffy little dog Freddie.  I also had quite the adventure in Durham last Saturday.  I didn’t know how much downtown Durham and I didn’t get along–turns out it’s quite a bit.  I parked an age away from where we were supposed to meet due to a combination of one-way streets and my own ignorance.  The parking garage attendant was lovely, though.  He said to park cost three dollars, cash only, so I looked downcast and asked how best to get out of the garage, since I didn’t have cash.  He laughed and said he would let me in since I had an honest face.  I’ll take that as a compliment.  Our group did finally reach Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub, which serves (among many other things) delicious curry chicken and chips.  Afterwards we had more adventures in parking trying to locate the theater, but did ultimate see and thoroughly enjoy The Man Who Was Thursday, complete with the elephant chase.




Books:  For inexplicable reasons, I wanted to re-read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien.  Sadly, this is another book that does not survive adult re-reading as well as I’d hoped.  It was still enjoyable, but I’d forgotten just how bland Mrs. Frisby was and just how open-ended they left everything.  Did Justin survive??  Who was the other rat who died??  I must know!!

I’ve been plodding my way through The Golden Apples by Eudora Welty for what seems an eternity.  I think I’ve been indulging in a little too much Welty lately, or maybe this just isn’t as good as her other works, but for some reason I’m bored stiff.  The chapters are like very long, very uneventful short stories that more or less all tie together into one timeline, and I know I read “Moon Lake” in another collection.  I was unimpressed that time too.  Nothing happens, and it takes such a long time doing it–a good bit of the action that does take place is seemingly random or at least without consequences.

Goodness, I’m such a Gloomy Gus of a reader this week!  I should find something nice to read to brighten my outlook and round out the year.  One book more and I’ll meet my Goodreads goal!

WHOOP, five-day weekend!  I guess it would make more sense to call that a two-day work week.  Either way, I’m extremely excited to not be in the office again until Thursday, and I plan on having marvelous times in the interim.  Speaking of marvelous times, the party last weekend was as lovely as expected.  This Saturday, I’m going to see The Man Who Was Thursday with a pack of friends, also expected to be lovely (both the play and the friends).  Other plans include writing my brains out in an attempt to finish this dang-blasted story before the deadline.  Currently at about 12,000 words and 45 pages, but now I have to clean up the word-mess I’ve vomited all over those pages.

On Monday I went to see The Hobbit all by myself like a big girl (pathetic girl?  Going to the movies by yourself is fun maybe once a year, and I think I’ve already hit that quota).  It was quite enjoyable, as long as I pretended I wasn’t watching The Hobbit.  If you’re expecting a faithful expectation, you’ll be disappointed (and why were you expecting that anyway?), and the action scenes are still over-the-top ridiculous, but honestly, give me some New Zealand scenery, some nice music by Howard Shore, some fantastic costumes, some folks in pointy ears, some other folks in big feet, and I’m going to be happy.  A lot of the plot additions made sense, given that they had to fill these three movies up with something, and while a few of them really, REALLY didn’t (gold statue, is all I’m going to say here), I still walked out feeling glad to have seen it.



Everything else:

Books: As I’ve mentioned before, I am fascinated by Flannery O’Connor, and I’ve been meaning to read her novel Wise Blood for years.  I finally did…but now I have mixed feelings about having done so.  It’s disturbing, but then again, that’s Flannery: she intends to shake you up and smack you around until you’re thinking clearly again.  I confess, I prefer her short stories for this, though: there’s less build-up to the punch, and I feel like her point with this book could have been accomplished in a lot fewer pages.  It was still effective, I admit.  I think I would have hated it less if I could have talked about it with some of my classmates in college.  There’s a lot of symbolism that needs some thrashing out, and I guess that’s one of the marks of a thought-provoking book: hating it and still wanting to make everyone you know read it.

I’d never read The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton, so when we all decided to go see the play, I had to uphold my read-the-book-first rule, so I breezed through it in a couple of days.  I do like G.K., but for some reason I kept having to convince myself of it with this book.  I really did like it, I promise, but somehow I ended up feeling just a little bit dissatisfied and disappointed, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me.  The farther I get from it, the more I appreciate it, so I’ll probably love it in a few more days.  My problems with the book are all spoilery, so look below only if you dare…

My issues were mainly with the ending…allegory?…for lack of a better term.  It all wrapped up so quickly, I thought I had a whole chapter left to go (I was reading it on Project Gutenberg and there was still a good bit to scroll on the page) and was surprised to find I had reached the end.  I liked the twisty reveals at the end, but I thought they needed more justification or explanation as to how it fit into the universe, metaphorically speaking.  I was looking for deeper meanings in some of Sunday’s seemingly random actions, and I’m not sure they were there.

I was also irked by the way the author renumbered the days of the week.   G.K. says the days are “reckoned from the Christian Sunday,” even as Symes reads from Genesis.  I understand that Chesterton wanted to end up with God=Sunday at the end, but this just rankled, taking the entire Old Testament tradition (and, let’s be honest, the New Testament tradition too) of the Sabbath day being the seventh day, Saturday, and chucking it because it didn’t fit with his Catholic doctrine.  The idea of a Sunday Sabbath wasn’t widespread until the second century, long after the canonical Bible was written.  The terms don’t even make sense: the English word “Sabbath” is derived from Latin “sabbatum” from Greek “sabbaton,” both used literally in their respective cultures to mean the seventh day of the week.  This word was in turn derived from Hebrew “shabbat,” meaning “cease from work.”  So if you say “Sunday Sabbath,” you’re literally saying “Sunday Saturday.”  You can still see this clearly in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, in which Sabado/Sabato is the word for Saturday (as well as in the roughly 20 other languages that also derive their words for Saturday from shabbat).  *tucks away that particular soapbox*  Anyway, not a major plot point, but I suspect it factored into my initial disappointment.

I am pleasantly surprised but completely baffled by the phenomenal increase in traffic around these parts.  What the heck are you all doing here?  I’m normally fortunately to get ten visitors on any given day.  My best day ever was 44, and that’s because Anne Elisabeth was kind enough to link to me.  Until Tuesday, that is, when I inexplicably had 66 visitors, all (apparently) searching for the same quote from The Fall of Arthur by Tolkien.  You all just HAD to know how the line “Arthur eastward in arms purposed” ended on a Tuesday afternoon?  I feel badly now for not posting more on the work, because if you came here looking for Tolkien scholarship, you were probably sadly disappointed.  (Though there is plenty of Tolkien fangirling, I can assure you.)

It’s been a pretty good week!  Aside from the lovely blog interest, there were all sorts of lunches and whatnot at work (all it really takes to make me happy is food, apparently).  My company may work us like dogs 11 months out of the year, but December is nothing but free food and parties.  We had an association dinner at The State Club, a company lunch at Biaggi’s, and lunch at a big trade show.  On Monday we’re attending yet another lunch at Jimmy V’s.  Pretending to live the posh life for a week or two here, then it’s back to packing sandwiches to work.  This weekend will be even better, though, since I’ll be going to the annual viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life at the Langdon farm.





Books: I read God’s Men by Pearl Buck this week, but I’m not quite sure what I think of it yet.  As always, Buck is extremely talented, and she takes what would be an off-putting topic for any other author and makes it very compelling.  And yet…there’s an “and yet.”  I ended up dragging myself through the book and was glad when the story ended, even though individual lines moved me.  The difficulty may lie in the fact that most of the characters are unlikable or unrelatable.  Characters don’t have to be either, but it does help in terms of keeping the reader engaged.  The story explores the lives of two men, both the sons of (very different) missionaries, both pursuing two very different paths in life, but ultimately both consumed with a driving hunger to affect the world in some way.  Buck’s works are often set in a religious context but are not themselves religious, which is in a way similar to Buck’s life: she was the daughter of missionaries in China, but had a somewhat troubled relationship with religion.  There are no pat answers (or possibly any answers) in the book, which is true to life, if a tad unsatisfying.  I’ll have to think about the work more.

Quiet week, for the most part.  I did get to check out Coco Cinnamon in Durham with Sam last Sunday, which may be my new favorite hot chocolate joint.  The Kublai Khan sipping chocolate had poppy seeds sprinkled on top–very apropos.

Spare time this week was spent working on my story for Rooglewood Press’ Five Glass Slippers contest.  The deadline is the 31st, and I hadn’t planned on entering, but then I had an idea, so…I’m currently writing like a fiend to see if I can finish in time.

Since I’m fresh out of RadioLab episodes, I’ve been listening to the radio play of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere while driving in the car.  James McAvoy, who performs the voice of the main character, keeps his Scottish accent, so I would happily listen to him read the phone book.  Benedict Cumberbath plays the angel Islington and is, unsurprisingly, flawless at it.

Know this:





Books: I blew through The Rider of Lost Creek by Louis L’Amour because it was in the pile of booksale books I hadn’t read, but I must confess I’m getting a little tired of L’Amour.  This one, the first in the Kilkenny series, was still enjoyable enough, but only if you haven’t read a slew of L’Amour in the last year like yours truly.

By the end of the library booksale, I was just trying to fill up my box, so I grabbed any book I saw that had ever been recommended to me.  The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold was one of those might-as-well acquisitions, and if I ever remember who recommended it to me, he or she is getting a kick in the shins.  There’s no way to describe the plot without making it sound irredeemably hokey, because it is irredeemably hokey: the main character is murdered, and the novel is told from her perspective as she watches her family and her killer from heaven.  (This isn’t a spoiler: they give it away in the first page or two.)  I will admit, however, that the story execution (no pun intended) is well done; even as I was rolling my eyes, I kept reading and finished the book in no time.

Warning: spoilers from here on.  By the end of the book, though, I was thoroughly skeeved out by the main (dead) character and felt pretty dirty.  I’ve never really thought about what the belief that your loved ones are watching you from heaven really meant; it’s not a belief I share (though I am a Christian), so the ramifications never really hit me.  The main character watches her family and friends for years, and I mean WATCHES them.  She knows what they’re thinking, and she feels what they’re feeling.  She’s there when her sister makes love with her boyfriend and while her mother cheats on her father.  She sees them at their most despicable moments, and she’s essentially a ghostly voyeur through every aspect of their lives.  Major spoiler: in the end, she actually manages to temporarily possess her friend’s body in order to have sex with the boy she had a crush on while she was alive, and this is portrayed as a beautiful, meaningful conclusion that enables her to let go of her family and move on to…whatever’s next in heaven.    Theological idiocy and full-on creepiness aside, characters’ actions were illogical (the protagonist, who has been obsessed with avenging her death for years, completely ignores her murderer when she has the chance to do something about him, and the guy finally dies as an afterthought in the last page or two), and no amount of stylistic talent can make up for the bizarre, inconsistent, and uncomfortable plot.

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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