Thursday, November 29, 2007

Big Plans

I am taking tomorrow off. The main reason is so that I can participate in a girls' day with Alana and Jessi for Alana's birthday. It's going to be a fabulous start to a great birthday weekend. Since I didn't know when the day would officially start, I just took off all of Friday, and now it turns out that I'm going to have some spare time in the morning. So guess what I'm going to do. Okay, you'll never guess. I'll tell you. I'm going to the Social Security Administration Office and changing my name. I know. It's so exciting, right?!

Well, I'm a little excited. I attempted to do this last year, but never got my new card. I also realized I was going to have some problems with the new identity when I started bristling every time someone would call Cody and me 'the Bennetts' like I was supposed to get excited and it turned out I wasn't. I'm not a Bennett! I'm just married to a bunch of them! When did I lose identity?! When was I supposed to stop being myself?! And on and on it would go. Having to go by a different name really bothered me. Then, since I didn't have a new SS card, I had to file taxes and sign all of my employment and insurance information with my maiden name and I loved it. I would just stick with my middle name for the rest of my life if I didn't hate it and if I could get away with using just that. Unfortunately, I do strongly dislike my maiden name. Also, people tend to think you're not happy with your marriage or something if you insist on remaining (I don't know how else to put this) yourself. These people are wrong (at least in my case) and stupid, but they are out there, sharing their opinions with me, etc. etc. etc.
So. Here is the plan: I'm getting rid of my old middle name. I've never used it, even though my dad would always tell me use it when signing official documents. Since about half the American females my age are also named Jennifer, I've given up trying to make my name stand out. Do you know what happens when you google my full (maiden) name? You get expired Amber alerts from 2002. I don't want that poor, dead girl's name, even if it was mine first. Also, my parents gave me that name so I could have the same initials as my dad, which was a neat concept right up to the point where I got married and took a new name and now we don't have the same initials anymore. People rarely use my middle name unless they're yelling at me, anyway. And whether or not they're my family, do you know what name they're using? My old one. The last time I remember hearing my middle name was when Cody proposed. That was a while back. The maiden name will be the new middle name. I get to keep my name (which is the name I associate with myself anyway), plus Cody's name added to the end. I think it'll be nice. Then I'll have one, official name that I can use for work, insurance, doctor's offices, signatures.

Other plans for the weekend include seeing Alana's ring for the first time, doing a little Christmas and birthday shopping, eating with friends, having a sleepover with friends, and playing games with friends. These are all awesome things and I'm really looking forward to them. But first order of business is my name. I've actually been wanting to do this for a while, and this is the first free day I could get. I should have my new card in time to renew my driver's license, and I plan to have my name stuff straightened out by the end of this year. This makes me much happier than I thought it would.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Quick Update

Cody's first day of work went well. He has a cubicle and a computer, and soon he'll have an ID badge. We're hoping he gets that really soon because he can't get into the building without it. He said it took him about 15 minutes to get home last night, which isn't too bad considering that holiday shopping traffic is starting to pick up. He thinks it will go well. We're hopeful. And because he's just a file clerk, his boss told him he could wear jeans and polos--so no shopping for new clothes! That's a nice expense to dodge for a while. Plus, things are pretty slow right now, so he'll have time to learn what to do and get into the flow of things.

In other news:
  • The heaters are on full-blast at work. This dries out my contacts. I'm blinking. A lot. I look angry, but really I'm just squinting.
  • I'm gaining weight. Not a lot (I don't really know how much because I keep forgetting to weigh myself at other people's houses, and we don't own a scale.) but enough for me to finally realize that there's nothing wrong with the zipper on my favorite pair of pants except for the fact that my expanding belly is pushing it outwards. I blame Cody for this. I probably caught the weight gain from him. Drat that big man.
  • Since your mind is probably starting to wander in that direction, no, I'm not pregnant. Although I am in a bit of a quandary: do I start wearing bigger dress-style tops so you can't see how tight my jeans are getting, or do I wear shirts that fit so that you can tell I'm not some pregnant woman who got a little carried away and started wearing tents at the first sign of growth? Or, should I just cut back on sweets, exercise a little more, and start standing up straight? Hmmm....
  • Houston Nutt has resigned as head coach for the Razorbacks. The only way this affects me is that I'll get to see a whole lot more of Reggie Herring since he'll be coaching the Hogs at whatever bowl game they play (!). As much as I agree that Houston moving on was best for everyone, watching the press conference was a little sad. That said, I thought it was a really nice press conference, as far as those things go. Everyone was very nice, polite, and positive. And Coach Nutt seemed way more sincere in his resignation than the head coach of LSU. I saw some clips of that one this weekend and just laughed. I mean, if you want to get overcome with emotion and cry, go ahead. But for the love, man, don't try to force it and instead get a look on your face like you're some kind of killing machine. Pitiful.
  • I think I'm going to start wrapping Christmas presents tonight.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Many things

Last week was pretty much Family Fest. It was fun and now I'm really looking forward to Christmas.
Sunday: Levi flies home. We're there at the airport. You probably already knew this. Then we had dinner with the Bennetts because Casey and Katie were visiting.
Monday: dinner with Bennetts again! Good times, good times. We saw pictures of Katie's new niece, looked at Casey's new car, tried out new food....crazy fun.
Tuesday: Kayla comes over and we watch TV. We're not actually related. Close enough.
Wednesday: I didn't actually see anyone in my family except Cody. Surely he counts. I did however, get to call home to let my family know that Cody got a call earlier that afternoon to let him know that he'd passed his drug test and would begin work as a file clerk for Wilson & Associates law firm on Monday. That's right, folks: Cody = employed guy.
Thursday: we had Thanksgiving with the Kierres. It was interesting. Five minutes after we showed up at Cody's grandma's house, her macaroni and cheese mysteriously burst into flames. Actually, it really wasn't that mysterious--she had the oven set to 'broil' instead of 'bake.' Mrs. Dicy helped her put the flames out. I helped out by standing far out of the way, quietly freaking out. Fortunately, no one was hurt, there was no smoke damage to walls or ceilings, and once they scraped the top part off, it tasted fine. The rest of the lunch was a little more uneventful. Lots of food, some guests, some talk. It was fun. It was....different. Usually, I'm in the car 3ish hours Thursday morning, and then we stay at my great-grandmother's for 3 or 4 hours just to stretch out our legs. Then it's 3 or 4 more hours in the car to go back home. This Thanksgiving, it took us around 20 minutes to get there. A little eerie. Then we went back home. We were sleepy, but bored. So we rented a movie. The Fountain. It was weird. Not really in a good way. It's okay, I was busy setting up the Christmas tree and decorating it. I don't think I jumped the gun here. I had eaten my Thanksgiving dinner. Now it was time. So there. It's pretty well covered, which is good. I got our tree for $20 at Walgreen's last year. You can tell it's a $20 tree. Putting on lots of colored lights always helps, though. It looks pretty great (I think). Cody doesn't care. Silly man.
Friday: go to Romance. We showed up in time to wave bye to Laine and Robert as they went to Searcy to have lunch with Sara. Two minutes after that, Levi and Dad went to run some errands. So we visited with Mom and brought down the boxes of ornaments. I was insufferably bossy, or so Cody's expressions kept telling me. He kept carrying on about how it would be just as easy for me to ask him politely to do something for me as it would for me to bark out commands. He's wrong. So wrong. That kind of restraint just wears me out. Eventually, the others came home and we watched the best Razorback game of the season. Holy smokes, it was amazing. Robert was a little nonplussed, but he's from Tennessee. Forget you, Robert. So yes, the Hogs won and we were all incredibly excited, except for Mom, who gets incredibly stressed about overtimes. So it took her a little while to get as excited as the rest of us. Sara was late getting home because she stayed at work to see the end of the game after they'd closed. But when she made it, along with Marc, we all decorated the tree. It was crowded. But now it looks really nice. There was a minor incident with some "lost" lights, but I took care of everything. That is such a lie. Anyway, Cody and I stayed so late that we wound up sleeping over. I think I went to bed at 2:30.
Saturday: obviously, we were still in Romance. I drank the last of the milk. This created a minor crisis for the espresso maker, but Cody went out and got some. Earlier that day, Cody, Robert, Levi, and I had all crowded into his Saturn to go to Rose Bud for gas station pizza. None of us had taken showers. We fit right in with the rest of the citizens. I also got a chicken leg. I love gas station chicken. We watched a lot of TV and gossiped and made some tentative plans for Christmas and looked at pictures. I don't think I put a single one of my dishes in the dishwasher. I sat on my rear the entire weekend, which is strange. Normally, I'll do some light cleaning of other people's homes whether they want me to or not. Especially when I'm back home. I mean, I ran the dustmop over some the downstairs, but that was it. Very, very odd. (Earlier in the week, I was talking about how Cody likes to cook something that makes a lot of grease spatters after I clean the stove, and I said, "You know what happens after I clean something?" and his mom gave me a look and said, "You clean some more?" I've cleaned parts of her house without her consent, like, twice and now she seems to think I'm a crazy person. Whatever.) Dallas came over later that afternoon and put some of 'his' ornaments on the tree. Then we went to Beebe to see some puppies. Mom's getting a puppy. We don't know which one, so we played with the whole litter. They were cute, but I'm still firm in my resolve to never have one. Although Cody did look cute holding one.......whatever, I feel the same way when I see him hold a baby. Anyway, they were cute. Sadly, we never got around to our big, sibling fight about the future puppy's name. Mom: I suggest Magnus. It starts with 'm,' sounds kind of regal, and it just seems like a good 'big dog name.' After the puppies, we ate some dinner and went home to Little Rock. I showered immediately.
Sunday: church. Kroger. Lunch (frozen pizza! I really dislike Thanksgiving food.). Newspaper. I watched Almost Famous (how could we have ever made a big deal about Cameron Crowe or Kate Hudson? Seriously.), talked to Jessi on the phone, realized that I'd left some of my stuff at the house, cleaned the kitchen, refused to eat what Cody made for dinner (I tried, I really did. But I hate eggplant. We were basically having eggplant soup with onions [I hate onions] and orange peppers [I am growing to hate orange peppers]. I ate some leftover pizza), and finished a book.

Now, here I am. Work's not that hectic, but it's not painfully slow around here, either. Aside from the part where I keep spilling things on myself, everything seems to be going well. Cody's at his first day of work right now. My left leg and foot are asleep. I have a slight headache. I think I need to get my eyes checked soon. I'm ready for lunch. That is all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rainy Weather

I am inexplicably sad. My pants are wet from the rain, I'm sleepy, and I feel like I'm being excluded from our group of friends and I have no idea why (or evidence of this actually happening). Yesterday, I got so frustrated with trying and failing to look up something I almost cried. I hate going to Wilmot, but I'm sad that I'm not going this year.

Being tired apparently turns me into an eight year old.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Incoming Weekend

Here was our weekend. Saturday: buy food, do laundry, clean house, rent movies.

Sunday: much more eventful. We skipped church because Cody didn't feel well. So we watched one of the movies we rented, Monsoon Wedding. It was awesome. I could start throwing out words like "lush" and "complex" and all those other meaningless adjectives that don't describe anything, but let me just say that it was beautiful and fun. Cody thought it was joyous. I enjoy his use of adjectives. You should rent it (unless you have a problem with obscenities, because that could really mar the experience for you). And if you do rent it, you should make sure to select English subtitles. Some of it's in English, but that doesn't mean you're going to understand everything. After lunch and (finally!) finishing up the ironing, we drove out to the Little Rock airport to wait for the arrival of Levi with Mom, Dad, and Sara. He was about 10 minutes late. We amused ourselves during this delay by complaining about the wait, looking at pictures on Sara's camera and visiting about the weather and puppies and Razorback football drama. Then Levi came home and we were incredibly excited that he'll be here for the next week. We walked out to Sara's new car (which I'd never seen before--it's pretty great), and visited for a little bit. There was some picture-taking. Not a lot, but there's more time for that later. Then we headed over to Cody's mom's house because Casey and Katie were in from Missouri. Yes, it was a day of traveling and family and, apparently, heavy lifting. After dinner, we watched Cody and Casey haul a trunk through 5 doorways and up a flight of stairs. If you weren't Cody or Casey, it was amusing. They did a fairly admirable job. Discussion topics for that evening included: eating together some more, War Memorial Stadium, Razorback football drama, Missouri football, Katie's new niece, cars, ways to make fun of Casey, Spencer's driving abilities, eye doctors, the lack of attractive people on 60 Minutes, and some other things that have slipped my mind. For some reason, I forgot to take any pictures. What in the world. Some other time, then.

We went home around 7 to begin the next important phase of Cody's candied orange peels project. This included stopping at Kroger to buy 8 pounds of honey. We used it all. Don't worry, I remembered to take pictures of this. After slicing up some peels that have been sitting in water in our kitchen for the last week (Cody's been changing the water every day--you would not believe how much they can stink), he boiled them in honey, and laid them out to dry. I went to bed around 11, while Cody was still laying up strips to dry. He says he went to bed around midnight. I remember waking up at some point in the night, and realizing that 1) he was in bed and 2) he smelled like boiled honey, which was not as nice of a fragrance as I would've thought. Now, I am more than half-way through a very short work-week.

Also: I remembered one very momentous thing about Saturday. While in Kroger, I got a call from Alana telling me that she'd gotten engaged the night before! This is exciting! Alana's having a wedding! Oh, and Travis, too. She's going to make Princess Grace look like an amateurish bumpkin, bless her heart. She's going to be the most beautiful bride, and we're all incredibly pumped.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fascinating Facts about Short Siblings

I have 2 sisters and a brother. We're all pretty different from each other. I heard some question that asked "What do you have in common with your sibling?" and the only thing I could think of at first was "Our parents." There are other similarities. Most of them are pretty trivial. I'm going to list them. Some of them surprised me a little bit.

1. We have the same parents. This is a big one.
2. We were homeschooled for most or all of our education.
3. None of us have gone to college at our parents' alma mater.
4. None of us seem particularly capable of attending an institution of higher learning with a football team. (Yes, I know Sara went to UCA, but she's not there now, is she?) I may be reaching with this one.
5. Due to our father's conditioning, we will unconsciously slowly pump our fists in time with the Razorback fight song any time it's played.
6. We're pretty much dog people.
7. We are deathly terrified of passionate worship services. It doesn't matter what denomination you belong to, if you're on fire for Christ, we're probably slowly backing out of the room.
8. As babies, we all had the same nose.
9. As babies, we were born with above-average birth weights. In fact, we were all somewhere in the 90 percentile range until our first birthdays. Then we plummeted into physical mediocrity.
10. We consider Dallas Pallone to be partly "ours." I wouldn't go so far as to call him an honorary sibling (mostly because I think there are very few people beside Dallas who would consider it an honor), but I would definitely say he's up there with the brothers in law. Maybe we could say he's like a part-time sibling.
11. We have all raised sheep.
12. We have all had bottle calves.
13. We have all shown chickens.
14. None of us will ever own goats.
15. We were all born in even-numbered months and years, and started kindergarten in even-numbered years. (12-82, 6-84, 8-86, 12-88; and 88, 90, 92, 94) No, our parents did not plan it that way, and yes, they also find that a little creepy. Fortunately, our graduations and weddings have mixed things up a little bit.
16. We are omnivores.
17. We love some of the same shows (Walker, Texas Ranger; The Office; Pinky and the Brain)
18. We get loud when we're all together.
19. We will eat cereal for any meal.
20. Pie is also considered a completely acceptable breakfast.
21. We can tell you anything you'd ever want to know about asthma, breast cancer, bicuspid aortic valves, ADD, judging chickens, fitting sheep, Altosid, Apistan, drying herbs, dealing with strange children, and John Wayne movies. We could probably tell you more than you'd ever want to know, actually.
22. We love pictures.
23. We love Rick and Gail, also affectionately known as Dad and Mom.
24. We love Cody and Robert, also referred to as the interlopers. I'm just kidding. We call them "Jen's husband" and "Happy Bob" (or sometimes "Bernard").
25. We like Creedance Clearwater Revival, Weezer, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Reba, George Strait, and Elvis. We would have more in common to like if I enjoyed rap. But I don't, so there's that seed of contention.
26. Some phrases that are kind of like inside jokes. A sampling: buffalo heifer, terroristic threatening, the terrorist mobile, deo for your B.O., Limbo the chameleon, 'What's that on your hay-ed?', we are we going? (answer: BIBLE class), write a letter, spending some time with Mrs. Gail to get straightened out, and going to the circus.

I am obviously running out of things. Maybe I'll add more as time goes on. These are some of the tiny, trivial things I have in common with my sibling. Our differences are usually what's more enjoyable, which really makes me look forward to the holidays.

Here's Dallas and Rick, trying on the tuxedo for Jen's wedding. Dallas' actual mom is the one with the orange cap, trying to figure out how to work the camera on her phone.One big happy family.Just the siblings.

Monday, November 5, 2007


My weekend started off pretty beautifully when Cody called me Friday afternoon to tell the Central Arkansas Library was having its basement sale. I posted a blog about how the news made me go from feeling close to death to fabulous and got a call from my mom roughly 30 seconds later. She was making sure I had a fast-acting inhaler on my person. Always, Mom. So Cody and I had a nice night of planning and watching TV and eating. On Saturday, we went to the book sale. There were a lot of weird people there. And some mean ones. Think about shopping the day after Christmas. Or the day before. There were (very) grown women deliberately blocking whole parts of bookshelves with their big bottoms in a territorial manner while they pretended to browse. Since this was not my first basement sale, Cody and I had thought to bring bags. My short and insufficient arms keep me from being able to carry a very big stack of books. However, the very heavy bag full of books outweighed the very big stack of books I had on my other side (think of someone holding a diaper bag and a baby.), but I kept from falling down. I did however, cut some circulation to my left arm, but it's fine now. We got out of there for $28 even. I didn't find everything I was looking for, but I still got a ton of stuff.
A few things:
"The Unicorn Treasury" I don't know who I'm giving this to for Christmas, yet.
Coffee table books for Laine and Robert. PS: if you're wondering what you should get them for Christmas, I hear they're in need of a coffee table.
"The Decameron." For a dollar, baby!
"The Golden Notebook" Pretentious feminist points for me!
Some Erma Bombeck, some Lewis Grizzard--both of which I loved as a child.
Some smart-looking old books for Levi.
A book of food preservation for Cody. He tried to get an old copy of the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, but as he stepped towards it, a middle-aged woman jumped out of nowhere and snatched it. True story.
2 paperbacks that Cody told me he already owned. After we'd checked out.

We eventually staggered above ground with 3 sacks of very heavy books. And then Cody rented 1900 House, a British PBS series about a family that lives--just guess--like a middle-class family would in 1900. He watched it all this weekend. I'm proud to say that I managed to avoid every single episode through various methods (mostly by being asleep). Anyway, we hauled our load to the car and then got something to eat in the river market. We ran into Eden and her husband. They'd wisely decided to eat something and then go to the book sale. Smart. Wish I'd thought of that. I would have had more strength and could have stuck out the sale for a little longer. Okay, maybe it's better that I didn't. That afternoon, we rested and I spread all the books out on the floor, making little piles, and list of everything we'd bought. I talked to Levi. Then we went and got Spencer to take him to a show at the Sound Stage in Conway. On the drive down, we reflected on how awesome it was to no longer commute from Conway to Little Rock and back again all the time. Beautiful.

Now. I enjoy hanging out with my brother in-law for the same reasons I enjoy hanging out with my brother. We have very little in common except for some relatives and a mild interest in Rob Zombie. Both guys will listen politely while I talk about things they have a general idea about, but don't care about; and then I do the same for them. We all three also enjoy making fun of people. So there's that bonding experience. How's the metal scene in Conway? I know you're dying to find out, so let me tell you. It's about what you'd imagine it would be. Yes, it was that bad. The first band was um, loud and foul and frankly, I've already forgotten about them entirely. They were terrible and made me kind of sleepy. In between them and the second band, Cody and I went outside and looked at antiques and bridal gowns through store windows. Oh, and I forgot to mention this, but Cody forgot to bring earplugs. Mine were already in the car. There were little teenage dirtbags everywhere. The majority of them were swearing for no apparent reason and smoking. The second act was some older, fatter guys. The lead singer looked like a slightly less morbidly obese Dimebag Darrell without a goatee. I couldn't hear very much of what he said or sang, but he seemed incredibly offensive and slightly misogynist. Cody and Spencer confirmed this the next time we went outside for some fresh air and instead breathed in lots and lots of secondhand smoke. So, finally the band we came to see played. Oh, wait, no they didn't. They were apparently the very last band to play. This time, we went on a Sonic run and listened to a little bit of the Razorback game. On the way down to Conway, we'd listened to bluegrass, some kind of teen pop that Cody likes, and Rosie Thomas. With the exception of a couple of Maylene and the Sons of Disaster songs, metal was conspicuously absent from the playlist. Actually, that's how it always is riding in a car with Cody. But anyway, with full tummies and lifted spirits (the Hogs were ahead by 15 or so points at the time), we went back to the Sound Stage to find out that the third band was still playing and they were......wait for metal. In case you don't know what that means (and you probably do), it's where people rap, but also scream, and there's lots of loud and fast guitars and drums, but you're still hung up on the fact that they're rapping. It was terrible. Worse yet, Cody and Spencer enjoyed them.

THEN finally, the fourth band came on. A few words about these kiddos. They're actually kiddos. I forgot their name, but supposedly they're already signed, even though they're too young to drive themselves down to the show so their moms brought them. That's right, folks: I wasn't the only person in the crowd not wearing slut jeans. It was a nice change of events from the last show we took him to, where I think I was the only girl in the crowd (I use that term loosely) not sleeping with one of the musicians (another term I use loosely). Odd. Anyway, the band was made up of 5 or 6 hyperactive little teenagers who were just cute as buttons, but a little foul-mouthed and kind of jerks. I did, however, really enjoy the one kid with shaggy hair who smiled too much and ran in place for no apparent reason while he played guitar because he reminded me of Brandon Ragsdale. Such a happy guy. Anyway, they played 4 or 5 songs and the children who'd stayed out on the sidewalk all night came in and thrashed around a lot. One kid accidentally kicked a mom in the leg and apologized profusely. Another girl tried to skank dance, but really she just looked like Ellen Degeneres. And the normal drummer wasn't there, so they had a guy learn their songs in 3 days and the lead singer was mean to him when he'd mess up. Not cool. But anyway, they played very enthusiastically and it was fun. I really did enjoy them. And because of the time change, we were still able to get up in time for church. Nonetheless, we were both still tired enough to sleep through most of the afternoon and that gave us problems with going to sleep last night. I decided to read in bed, while Cody went in the living room and read and ate and watched TV. Big mistake. When I woke up alone, I realized what happened. According to Cody, if I go to sleep by myself, I roll toward the middle of the bed. As a result, when he tries to get in bed, there's no room for him. Is it really so difficult for him to roll me out of the way? Yes, apparently it is. Wimp. So Cody slept on the couch. When I got up this morning, I woke him up and sent him to bed.

Fun news from this morning: I am moved into my office. I have an office space! Granted, if they hire another attorney, I'll be back in my corner. But for now, I have a door and a window and privacy and space and all kinds of awesomeness. Actually the majority of the awesomeness was in what I just listed, but still. I'm pretty excited. I'm going to bring some more pictures for my walls tomorrow, and I'm going to try to remember to bring my camera so I can take pictures.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Library Basement Sale!

I feel sick. My head is stuffy, I'm tired, and it hurts to breath. I thought I felt good enough to take the stairs instead of the elevator this afternoon. I was mistaken. As I was almost to the 4th floor, my phone rang. It was Cody: "Hey, I don't know how your day was going [not that hot] but I think I know something that might brighten it up. Wait, are you okay? [I am not so much breathing as I am heaving by this point. I told him I was fine, just a little winded.] Well, you remember when the library had a book sale? Are you sure you okay? What's wrong with you? [I tell him I'm fine. It's just that I'm not breathing. It's no big deal. Really.] Okay, well they're having another basement sale this weekend." Oh. My. Goodness.

This is how the basement sale works. It's 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the main library in Little Rock. And then it's 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Paperbacks are 50¢ and hardbacks are $1. It is the most awesome and exciting thing EVER!!!

When we went this winter we shopped until we couldn't carry anything more. We got a big box of books for $14. I'm telling you, this is one of the highlights of my year!

You should check it out. It will make you incredibly happy. And as a bonus sign that God loves us: the used bookstore that shares a parking lot with the library is having a sale in which all of their "gently read" books are 10% off.

Books, books, books. I feel amazing. What a spectacular day.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Book List October 2007

Here's a list of the books I finished this month. This time I've decided to include detailed and ultimately not-helpful summaries/my personal reactions to each work.

Byatt, A. S. Babel Tower. New York: Random House, 1996. This turned out to be the third book of a trilogy. Oops. I don't know if I'll read the other two. I probably will at some point because I've loved A. S. Byatt since I had to read Possession for British Novel however long ago (SP03, I think). She's brilliant. Sometimes I get a little bored with her obsessive use of the character examining their sense of self and issues of identity and blah blah blah. You're not Virginia Woolf, so stop trying. But you're close enough, Ms. Byatt. She writes about words--what her narrator said was so difficult to do in Possession is exactly what she accomplishes here: she writes about the writing process. And it's interesting. I realize I haven't said a thing about what this book is about. I'm not going to bother. It's over 600 pages and the plot is multi-layered and brilliant and I don't know anyone who reads Byatt.

Clapp, Patricia. Jane-Emily. 1969. New York: Harper, 2007. I thought I would do a little spooky reading for October and this is supposedly a classic of the genre. Unfortunately, the genre is juvenile fiction, which I've hated from a young age. So, let's see......stilted dialogue? Check? People falling in love for no apparent reason? Check. Older woman with an icy exterior who is actually a kind and loving soul? Check. Implausible and anti-climatic resolution of deranged (and not in a fun way) supernatural crisis? Check. I actually had to read that scene twice because I was so surprised that nearly nothing was happening. Bleh. What a stupid waste of my time.

Drew, Robert. Ned Kelly. [Orig. Our Sunshine.] 1991. New York: Penguin, 2003. This is work of fiction that was based more on the folklore about the Australian criminal than on historical sources (mostly because there are apparently more inconsistencies in the historical accounts than there in the myths that people have created around the figure), which is strangely appropriate. The man had somehow become mythologized while he was still alive. Most of the story is told through flashbacks. The title was changed to build up name recognition for the movie of the same title. I can't say that it worked out too well. Has anyone seen that? Do you recommend it?

Evan, Justin. A Good and Happy Child. New York: Harper, 2007. So our main character/narrator can't bring himself to touch his newborn son. At all. He goes into therapy. When he mentions that he's been in therapy before, his therapist has him write about that experience. So we find out that as a lonely, socially awkward eleven year-old who misses his dead father, he made an imaginary friend who is apparently a demon. I'm always confused and weirded out by kids that old who see the appeal of an imaginary friend who turns out to be a minion of Hell. Granted, poor dumb Regan McNeil was supposed to be twelve when she befriend Captain Howdy. Anyway, trouble ensues. His mom thinks he's crazy and he gets therapy and drugs. His father's friends think that demons really exist and he gets an exorcism or two (I finished it just this past weekend. You'd think I'd be able to remember.). There are plot twists. The ending made me think of Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth. You know how you read the last line and you turn the page and nothing's there? It was like that. I think I liked this well enough. I read it in a day because I was riveted and then the ending left me feeling a little flat, but also horrified. Weird. Anyone who's interested can borrow my copy. And you can keep for a really long time if you like.

Shanghvi, Siddharth Dhanvant. The Last Song of Dusk. New York: Random House, 2006. Sometimes the prose is really beautiful and sometimes it's just Yes, adjectives are our friends and helpers, but only if we use them properly. I think I like this book. I have a little bit of a hard time with magical realism. Give me time. This book was incredibly sad. The narrator keeps alluding to sadness and you know it's coming and you can see how it's going to happen and then it comes and you're not ready. Gah. There were also some graphically sad stories. It felt disjointed in some places. Maybe it was supposed to be that way. Again, magical realism messes me up.

Thomas, Scarlett. PopCo. Orlando: HarperCollins, 2004. I read another book of Thomas's earlier this year. I'm starting to see a theme: unconventional and brilliant young woman with a troubled family background finds out some kind of secret. Some form of science, philosophy, literature, math, homeopathy, and flashbacks are utilized to help her sort out her moral dilemmas and solve the mystery at hand. She encounters a talk, dark, and handsomely troubled man who falls in love with her even though she's supposed to be too quirky to have good relationships. So in this story we have a young woman who dresses badly and believes in homeopathy and makes her living coming up with ideas for spy kits for a toy company. She goes to a retreat, finds out some things about the code for a hidden treasure that her grandfather already knew about (which, by the way has absolutely nothing to do with the plot except reveal to us how smart and creative our author is in spending so much time on codebreaking things), hooks up with a vegan who waits on her hand and foot when she gets a bad cold because he's somehow in love with her after (if I remember right) just three sexual encounters. Maybe this is magical realism, too. Anyway, corporations are evil, you should think about where your food comes from, whether or not your child actually needs that toy, and you actually need that medicine and yes, yes, you can change the system from the inside if you get to join some kind of supersecret Project Mayhem-esque organization, like our off-beat heroine. I hope I didn't spoil the ending for anyone with that last part. These are basically just fun books to read when the weather's bad or you're sick and needing a good story, although the parts about guerrilla advertising were both interesting and disturbing. Um, yea? I don't know that I'll read any more of her books. Yes, I do. I will.