May 19, 2015

May 19, 2015

On the Road

One of McSweeney’s recurring features is called Interviews with People Who Have Unusual or Interesting Jobs. I usually skim them, but today’s—with a bookmobile driver—was worth the longread.

(When my parents and I moved to their current house in 1992, one of the first things I noticed about the neighborhood was the Bookmobile stop outside the school. I waited sixteen years for the Bookmobile. It never came. But still, there was hope. Because that's the dream, isn't it? A library that comes TO YOU.)

One of the very few causes that penetrates the lard and charcoal encasing my heart is literacy. The road to better runs through books, no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. When I recently found myself in conversation with two kids (yeah, I don’t know what happened) who wanted to know how I got so smart (NOW we’re talking), I told them I just read. A lot. A LOT. Books written in different time periods, of different genres*, by different kinds of people. THIS kind of diversity, I can get behind.

Comedian Sue Perkins traveled up (down?) the Mekong River for a BBC series last year, and while a trip through Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and China is a lot to shoot into your brainpan, the one moment that brought water to my eyeholes was her encounter with a library boat. Said boat travels part of the river, bringing books to kids who otherwise wouldn’t encounter them. (I mean, it’s the Mekong River. These people don’t even have doors.)

Water to My Eyeholes, You Guys

I shan’t rehash the importance of libraries in my own life, or try to guilt you into donating to literacy-based causes or attending the National Book Festival (which you SHOULD, obviously, more anon), but really the least you could do is read the McSweeney’s interview.

Do yourself some good. Close the Candy Crush and turn on the Kindle.

[Side note on this year’s Book Festival: Walter Isaacson, David McCullough, Cokie Roberts, Marilynne Robinson, and Jane Smiley are on my list so far. And since volunteering last year meant missing Doris Kearns Goodwin, I think I’m going to limit myself to just attending this year. Definitely a lady-or-the-tiger situation, tnough.]

* I may have inadvertently introduced those two kids to the word “genre” in that conversation. I kinda hope I did.

May 13, 2015

May 13, 2015

Blurred Times

Peggy Olson DGAF.
As we’re in the middle of spring quizzing season (sprizzing season?) (no, ew), I’m filling my mind with facts from the most excellent book Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things. Living in the few-chah as we do, it’s easy to forget that just about every item in our lives was once exciting and new. The comb. Cough drops. Christmas. Plus stuff beginning with the other 25 letters of the alphabet.

However, reading about the development of things like bobby pins and vacuum cleaners keeps reminding me that the romantic past was also smelly, dirty, and full of shit.* For my fellow astigmatic nearsighted, it was also blurry. This has to give you pause when considering how awesome it would be if you’d lived in Viking times, or ancient Rome, or fill-in-the-historical-era-of-your-choice. It would be maybe 1% awesome and 99% wondering why everyone’s covered in lice.

I don’t mind that most works of fiction set in olden days gloss over this stuff, because no one wants to watch the Game of Thrones people chat about their bowel movements.**

Speaking of TV worthy of obsession, the final MAD MEN ever is on Sunday and I’m not ready. I thought I was ready—because goodness knows I went through this with Friends and Dawson’s Creek and The O.C. and The Office and 30 Rock—but then I saw the excellent "Lost Horizon" episode.

Joan and Don in the elevator. The Miller pitch. Don in Wisconsin. (Wisconsin!) Every scene involving Roger. Every scene involving Peggy. Every millisecond involving Roger AND Peggy. Honestly, the only harsh on my mellow was poor Joan’s plotline, because it made me think the phrase “poor Joan” and Homey don’t play that. I realize her situation is absolutely realistic for the times, though, which makes me really glad I was born into a different era.

But anyway. It’ll soon be all over but the crying, and I guess this too shall pass.

* Literally. Literally full of shit. Think about it.
** Or maybe they do. I honestly don’t know. Here are all the things I *do* know about GoT:
            Winter is coming.
            Stark and Lannister
            Something about a wall

May 11, 2015

May 11, 2015

Things I've Read: Crossing in Time

(I have been busy with Things, but rest assured I have been keeping a mental list of things to complain about. In the meantime, here is a previously-scheduled book review. Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this novel from the author to read and review. Because reading? Good. Free? Good. Free reading? GOOD.)

Crossing in Time is a genre mix: it’s got plenty of romance and sci-fi, with dashes of humor and erotica thrown in. Keep that in mind when jumping in to this book. And I mean *jumping* in, because we start pretty much in medias res, with someone named Isabel buying a gun in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic situation. The story is set in a world on the brink of ending, whose only hope is sending a woman back through time to reconnect with the love of her youth…keeping in mind that humanity depends on her not screwing it up like she did the first time around. High stakes? Indeed.

The author keeps readers on their toes throughout the book by changing the POV with each chapter. The majority of the book is told through the eyes of Isobel and Diego, both whip-smart scientists whose romance is hinted to be the one thing that can save civilization. Literally. Since this is the first book of a planned trilogy, I assume we’ll eventually find out whether it works. Another narrator, Matt, has a lesser role—but he too may become a bigger player as the series progresses.

In addition, I was hoping the book would focus more on the WHY and the HOW of the time travel, especially since two people are sent back and we get hints that all sorts of parallel universes and time travelers are out there. Again, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and hope to see more in books 2 and 3. I could do with less overt erotica, but your mileage may vary. ‘Tis a love story, after all.

To summarize, I’d say that Crossing in Time is a romance with science, and not sci-fi with romance. Read it if you’re looking for love, not labs.