Archive for June, 2007

library love

Yesterday I had to do a bit of research for a professor of mine, and as I wandered through the stacks on the fifth floor of my university’s hideously ugly library, I realized: I feel at home. I love that feeling. Like a well-used neural pathway, my trips to the library invariably take me to the literature section and I find myself just wandering up and down the stacks, not really looking for anything, just taking in the feeling of comfort exuding from the spines of books I will most likely never have time to read. It’s always a good thing when I start to feel territorial about “my section” in the library. My only question: why are so many libraries on college campuses so ugly? Why can’t they all look more like this:

This was the reading room at my last university. It was a veritable cathedral of learning. I loved this room. And to get there you climbed this:

You could almost feel yourself getting smarter. Such a beautiful building.

Ahhh, libraries.

Speaking of which, I’ve mentioned how much I love my little, friendly local public library branch, and today was no exception. The librarian was actually disappointed that I had no books on hold today! I broke even today as I returned four and picked up four (not bad). So here’s this week’s haul:

That should tide me over for a bit!

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can it be? a…book update? (gasp)

I’ve been in a funk lately, and seriously considering going on a blogging break, but now that the horrible humidity of the past few days is dissipating, things are looking a little better. I don’t mind heat (that much, if it’s dry heat), but humidity and I don’t get along. We never have. I’ve lived in a humid-summer climate for 24 of my 30 (almost 31) years, and I still don’t like it. It wouldn’t have been so bad yesterday if I would have been allowed to lounge in my boxers and t-shirt (not a picture I will inflict on the world), but as (un)luck would have it: the person who was going to rent our apartment fell through, news that my landlord told me a mere 20 minutes before he was showing the place to someone else. 20 minutes to throw on jeans and clean up (again). Sigh. I just want my privacy back. I don’t like that I have to be constantly waiting for someone to show up to see the place. Perhaps if our landlord would finish the apartment he wouldn’t have as much trouble renting the damn place out again. I mean, we have bare bulbs hanging in the bathroom (that’s really kind of a hallway, it’s strange), no water in the second bathroom, open electrical outlets, you name it. We’re not quite sure what the hell he’s been doing all year since we moved in (and the first 2 months we lived in one room because the kitchen and bedrooms weren’t “finished”). He comes over and starts sawing something (loudly) at 11 at night, but we see no evidence that work is actually being done anywhere in the house. Only one month to go, and luckily, my parents and my mother-in-law are visiting over the next two weeks, so that takes my mind of my annoying landlord.

Ok, rant over. Because it was too hot to think too much or do too much, I actually finished reading two of my library books this week! Both were mysteries (summer reading = mysteries for me), and both were sort of “academic” mysteries, for lack of a better word. The first was the fourth book of Sarah Stewart Taylor’s series featuring Sweeney St. George, a professor of art history who specializes in funerary art forms. I quite like this series, and although I had figured out the “whodunit” aspect midway through, I still enjoyed the book. In this volume, Sweeney is in charge of a museum exhibit of funerary art, including Egyptian burial jewelry, Victorian death daguerreotypes, etc. When she attempts to track down a piece of jewelry that she wants to add to the exhibit, it’s discovered to be missing, and the last person to examine it was a talented undergraduate studying Egyptian art…20 years ago. Moreover, the student had been present during a museum robbery, and apparently killed herself a few weeks later. Sweeney is intrigued by the young girl’s death, and when a murder happens during the opening night of the exhibit, she can’t help but think that the two are connected. Sleuthing, relationship trouble, etc. ensues. Overall, I find Sweeney to be an interesting character, hence my interest in finishing the book even though the mystery was not one that I felt was overly difficult to solve. And although the book can take on a “lecturing” tone occasionally, it wasn’t enough to bother me. My one gripe? At one point, Sweeney discovers some poetry written by the dead student 20 years ago, and in my opinion, does a piss poor job with close reading. I didn’t think the underlying meaning of the poem was that difficult to grasp, but Sweeney, who is an art historian (and, I would expect, capable of reading between the lines when it comes to pieces of art) completely overlooked the blatant message. That aside, it’s good summer reading, and a nice counterpoint to the literary criticism I’ve been reading as well.

I’ll save my review on Mark Mills’ The Savage Garden for another post (gotta space them out here). For now, it’s back to “work.”

Weekly book binge

Because Apparent Dip is out of town for another week, I was forced to endure the humiliation of returning an ungodly amount of books to the library all on my own. Usually I take the cowardly approach and have him return them for me. Luckily, the librarian who is usually staffing the desk wasn’t there, so there was a bit of anonymity involved. So I felt a bit less guilty as I proceeded to check out 7 more books. Victory is mine however, as I returned 11! So here are this week’s acquisitions:

  • Still as Death by Sarah Stewart Taylor (an academic mystery series I like)
  • The Savage Garden by Mark Mills (another academic mystery I’ve been intrigued by)
  • Generations of Winter by Vassily Aksyonov (described by a distrustful blurb as the 20th century equivalent of War and Peace.  As it is significantly smaller than a door stop, I’ll have to see about that.)
  • Ragtime in Simla by Barbara Cleverly (another mystery set during the British Raj–I remember being ambivalent about the first one, but we’ll see)
  • Khrushchev’s Cold War by Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali (this is the second time I’m checking it out, so I hope I can actually get to it this time)
  • The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman (Danielle mentioned Goodman here and I thought I would give her a shot)
  • The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman (see above)
  • Dante’s Inferno translated by Robert and Jean Hollander (for the Summer Poetry Challenge)
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (I’ve read everything by Austen except Northanger Abbey but I have a monstrous one-volume collection and I prefer individual volumes so I thought I would pick this one up)
  • At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays by Anne Fadiman (I’m a fan of Fadiman and couldn’t resist her new essay collection)
I’ve already finished Still as Death, although reading a murder mystery is perhaps not the wisest tactic for someone who tends to jump at shadows when alone.  Will I ever learn?  Evidently not as I’m on a mystery/thriller kick, evidence that my summer slump has set in.  I had plans, plans, and even more plans for what I would be reading this summer and, well…let’s just say I’m not.  Reading that is.  Unless it’s a mystery. However, I’m allowing myself to take this little mental vacation until my most recent order of books arrives sometime this week.  I’ve ordered the novels I’ll be reading in one of my fall courses, so I’m going to make a concerted effort to get started on them a bit early.  Particularly as the rest of my summer seems to be increasingly busy and I would like to accomplish something.
Besides, I’ve found that I often need the break that reading a fun book or two a day can give me.  It gets me back into the swing of things and my mind is more inclined to settle down to a loose baggy Victorian monster.
So bring on the insomnia-inducing mysteries!

Summer Poetry Challenge

I know I said I wouldn’t join anymore reading challenges, and I’ve backed out of most of the challenges I’ve joined, but I actually felt that this challenge was one that I couldn’t turn my back on.  It’s a poetry reading challenge, sponsored by Ted at BookeyWookey.  For an expanded version of the rules, click here.

Basically, I need to choose four poems to read and then post the poems and/or my thoughts about them for one week, starting August 1st. Here are the criteria:
  1. One poem pre-1900
  2. One poem 1900-2000
  3. One poem 2000-2007
  4. One poem from any period that I am intimidated by, find mysterious, or simply don’t understand.
I find this challenge truly compelling because I don’t read much poetry (despite the fact that I have a decent amount of it on my shelves).  So here are my early thoughts of poems:
  1. Pre-1900: Dante’s The Inferno
  2. 1900-2000: Something by Osip Mandelstam (Perhaps: “To the German Language,” 1932).
  3. 2000-2007: “Early Hour,” by Wislawa Szymborska, in Monologue of a Dog: New Poems, 2006.
  4. Any Period: “For My Enemies” by Boris Pasternak because I’ve only read Pasternak’s prose, so his poetry is something of a “mystery” for me.
I’ve noticed that all of the poems I’ve chosen had to be translated, something I find interesting given the fact that June is the month for Reading the World.  Translating poetry is a far different beast than prose, so I might take this as an opportunity to talk about the different translations I’m using as well and what I feel might have been lost/gained in the process.
This challenge has already forced me to look through books that have long been languishing on my shelves, and I found myself reading poems left and right.  Hopefully this will help me read poetry more often and with a greater appreciation….

horrified

Why am I horrified? Well, it’s not because Apparent Dip is in France and Spain for two weeks, leaving me alone in an apartment that feels way too big without him. Truth be told, (and my independent sense of self is disappointed at this) I have always been plagued by nightmares and I don’t sleep well when he’s not here. This is due, in part, to the fact that there seems to be (what I call) a scary-show marathon on TV whenever he’s not here to soothe my overactive imagination. And by scary shows I mean anything relating to murder, stalking, and the deeds of bad people in general. Needless to say, besides Murder She Wrote, I try to avoid all crime shows and the news, relying on my trusty Netflix queue to give me tons of cheesy chick-flicks. And even though we do have three crazy cats and a bunny to fill up space, they seem to prefer the space directly under my feet (or, while I’m doing yoga, they prefer the mat right underneath me). Moreover, my cats like to play a little game called “let’s freak Loose Baggy Monster out.” They will suddenly look intently at absolutely nothing (usually a darkened room or hallway), making me think that something/one is there, lurking.

To get back to the point, however, I’m actually horrified because we’re moving in a little over a month, and our current landlord is showing our apartment today. He called me this morning to tell me, which in turn forced me to face the fact that we live in a pit. Our genetic codes may have predisposed us to clutter, but we have taken it to a new level.

Part of the problem is that we never really moved in. When we first arrived out here after four looooooong days of driving cross-country, we arrived at our first apartment at three in the morning. I was so excited to see our new place, because it felt like this was our first real move together. We’ve been together since freshmen year of college, but whenever we moved before we did so independently or to cities one of us was already familiar with. I had moved out to Apparent Dip’s apartment on the west coast because he was in grad school, and then, after my master’s degree I moved 800 miles away for my first attempt at a ph.d. The move we made last August was our first move together to a new place that neither of us had lived in before. It was our place, our city. So it was with much relief and excitement that I opened the door to our new home, a three-bedroom apartment with a full dining room, which we had rented based on (artfully taken) pictures provided on the internet. And … I promptly burst into tears.

It. Was. Disgusting.

Needless to say, four college boys had lived there before us, and NO ONE and I mean, no one, had cleaned the place. I don’t do well with mold, and there was evidence of mice, we could tell where the garbage can had been in the kitchen (because there was still food on the floor), beer cans littered the porch and attic, and oy….we decided we had to break our lease and find someplace else. Before we could do that, however, our car was broken into and we got into a nasty battle with our landlord. It was not pretty (neither was I for that matter, as I have a wee bit of a temper). It all worked out, however, and we ended up in the place we’re in now. It was unfinished when we moved in, but we were desperate, and now? Now it’s still unfinished and we never fully moved in, which means: we just left odd boxes around, never found places for everything and now that we’re moving, I found myself faced with an insurmountable cleaning task. Thus my response: Horrified panic.

So now I’m an hour late for work, the house is only marginally better, and I’m really glad I had time to do my yoga this morning, or things would have been worse.

Oh, and I know I’ve been a bad blogger lately. I’ve actually written three posts that never made it beyond the draft stage because I don’t have much to say right now. But hopefully this evening I’ll get things together and report on some of the reading that I’ve done lately (which isn’t much). And I’ll have a report on the books I acquired last week (my library had a book sale). Back soon.

weekly acquisitions

Some people have a favorite bar, others a café or restaurant where they are regulars. They can walk in and sit at their usual table, order their usual drink/meal and they are easily recognized by the bar tender(s), baristas, and wait staff. Me? I have a library. A library where they know me so well that they don’t even need my library card anymore. That’s right, I walked in today and they knew where to look on the shelves of holds and had everything ready to go by the time I made my way to the counter. Oy….

So here’s this week’s acquistions:

  1. The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
  2. Under Western Eyes by Joseph Conrad
  3. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  4. The Visible World by Mark Slouka
  5. The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay
  6. The Complete Sherlock Holmes (volume I) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  7. One Skein by Leigh Radford

I loved Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness, so I’ve decided to explore more of his works. And Barnes & Noble was having a buy 2 get one free deal on the classics, so I made sure to pick a few up. Now it’s only a matter of deciding what to read first…

summer of organization 2007

I have been (not so) patiently waiting to announce a little project I like to call: The Summer of Organization 2007. And today I can! Why the wait you might ask? Well, yesterday Apparent Dip and I finally signed the lease on a new apartment and in a month (or so) we’ll be moving! We’re not all that excited about the actual process of packing and carrying something like 50 boxes of books down a flight of narrow stairs, (in fact, I’m still convinced that the boxes will somehow pack and move themselves). But we are thrilled with the fact that we won’t have to drive in to work anymore, we’ll be close to a natural food store, and we’ll actually be living in a neighborhood where we can take nice evening walks. And…drum roll please….we’ll have a washer and dryer! I know, I know, it doesn’t take much to make me happy, but at least there will be no more trips to the laundromat. Although that does mean saying goodbye to any future sightings of the man who smells each piece of his laundry before putting it in the dryer (and then repeats the ritual when taking them out). Good times…

Anyhoo, moving means packing, and packing means organization of the highest order. Every time we move (and we’ve moved pretty much every year for the last 8 years–sometimes twice in a year) we swear that this time it will be different. This time (or so we tell ourselves), boxes will be labeled with their appropriate destination and they will contain only those items meant for that destination (no more blenders ending up in a box with bathroom supplies). Everything will be packed in advance and there will be no last minute boxes filled with crap we never meant to keep but have no time to throw/give away (and which will remain stowed in a box until we are old and gray). Possible? Not on your life. But a girl can dream, can’t she?

Hence, the Summer of Organization 2007. To ensure that I don’t misplace or lose the 10 inches of articles stacked on my desk at the moment or the DVDs we’ve been collecting over the years, or, most importantly, my books, it is time to delve into the world of organization. It is especially important for this move because Apparent Dip is leaving for 3 weeks to go gallivanting around in the mountains of Europe, for “work.” I don’t care if he is a geologist, it sounds like too much fun to me. That leaves me with the task of trying to get things reasonably organized by the time he gets back and at least boxing up my office and the books I know I won’t be reading or referring to this summer.

So, bring on the boxes and garbage bags! The Summer of Organization has officially begun!