Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Facing Up To Facts Or I Unload Upon The Internet

I'm finally coming to grips with the fact that there are some parts of my past and my personality that I really need to come to grips with.

One of them being my bizarre social anxiety--which strikes at the weirdest times. Like my book group last night. A nice group of women: all well educated, well off and kind. (Never mind that each meeting feels more and more like a Woody Allen film circa Hannah & Her Sisters or some such. In a good way, really.) But I find myself struck silent at the most inopportune moments. When discussing books for god's sake!? I was the little kid with her nose in a book 24/7: under the covers; in the bathtub; at recess. I'm more comfortable talking about books than I am about anything on this planet. Well, maybe my love for yoga that developed in my early 30s. But you get the gist.

Other things I need to come to grips with? My relationship with my mother, that's for sure. But then that's the memoir I'll write in my 50s. She sometimes stumbles across this blog and I wouldn't want to create too much of a drama for myself. I've made a studious effort the past three years to sidestep any of those old Sicilian melodramas.

Also: my unending insecurity. That I'm not smart enough; cool enough; pretty enough; rich enough; neat enough; quirky enough; enough enough enough. Its fucking exhausting.

People who know me and Rod in real time get the impression that he's the super talkative one and I'm the quiet subdued one. In some senses this is true. Opposites attract and all that. But what people don't understand--because really, how could they?--is that my inside voice out-talks Rod any day of the week. How calming it was to meet someone whose outer self mirrored so closely my inner one. Somebody else's mind who did the same somersaults over and over.

I do what I can to get the inner chatterbox to chill out: sometimes yoga does it; most of the time reading does it; but there are times when she just babbles to herself about the most inane and hurtful things. Again: its exhausting.

The best solution I've come up with to deal with all of these issues is:

1) force myself into social situations that make me uncomfortable in the hopes that eventually I'll just get desensitized and get over it;

2) work hard and constantly learn new things to assuage those feelings of unworthiness;

and 3) work hard and constantly learn new things so that inner self has other things to talk about than her own self and shortcomings.

Well, that and I'm going back to al-anon. (Again: another story to be told in my golden years.)

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And yet more books

Two more titles for you:

Three Cups of Tea by David Oliver Relin. This is about Greg Mortensen's crusade to build schools for girls in rural Pakistan. I wasn't sure I was going to like this one but was immediately drawn in by Relin's writing style. Relin himself wasn't that familiar with Mortensen--hell, nobody was until well after 9/11--so the book reads as if he's discovering what the guy's been doing over there with little money and virtually no help at the same time that we're learning about him. I also really didn't know much about daily life in Pakistan. (News reports and CNN video clips aside.)

The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer. This novel follows the trajectory of Julie Sommers, a publicist in South Africa, as she falls in love with a young Arab immigrant and then marries him and follows him to his home country when he gets deported. The prose is written in this strange staccato cadence that mimics the way transliterated language sounds. Some people in my book group found it jarring and hated the book, but I actually enjoyed it.

That brings me to the end of June and the end of the list. (I only recently started keeping track of the books I've been reading.)

I just started Francine Prose's book Sicilian Odyssey so I'll keep you posted on that as I progress.

Labels: ,

Monday, July 28, 2008

Obsessively Reading

I've always been an obsessive reader--of classics, of trash, of magazines, of the back of cereal boxes, of mailing circulars--but lately that obsessiveness has ratcheted up a degree. I don't know know why really except that I view reading the way a lot of people view TV: a way to relax after work, to unwind before bed. And I was pretty distraught there for a while, so naturally I turned to reading only to discover that hey--I fucking love books. The stress disappeared but the late nights engrossed in a book did not.

Sometime around the middle of last month I noticed that I've been averaging about a book a week for some time now. Some of them I forget as soon as I finish but others stick in my brain for a bit longer.

I figured I'd start listing the books I've been reading here because, well, I got out the habit of blogging and was startled to realize this morning that I really miss it. (I haven't abandoned reading blogs, mind you: there are still a half dozen or so I visit daily.) But I miss the feeling that my days are being chronicled somehow and the everything isn't just passing by in one vague blur.

So hopefully this will jump start things around here:

I just finished Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I tore through this one in just three days. I enjoyed reading about circus life in the 30s and thought her writing style was clear, hypnotic and definitely easy. She tells a good tale and has some juicy classics: abusive husband/villain; charming educated young male protagonist who adores animals; lovable freak (ie Wordsworth-reading dwarf, etc); quirky elephant; lovely woman caught in a loveless marriage aching for our protagonist to save her. I didn't care so much for the stories frame, though. We meet Jacob when he's either 90 or 93 (he can't remember which) and the story is told through the form of memories and dreams. I also didn't care for the much too-neat ending nor its happily ever after flavor. Still, a good quick read. Not quite junk food, but only a step or two above.

Last week was all about Stones from the river by Ursula Hegi. I was actually completely surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. (It was an Oprah's Book Club selection, so I have to admit I was already prepared for it to skew on the trashy side.) But it was insightful. Well told. And had moments of truly beautiful prose. The novel traces the life of a German female dwarf named Trudi from her birth right after World War I to the mid 1950s. In doing so Hegi offers a well-drawn history of the German mindset during the between-the-war years. The portrait of the Nazi rise to power in this small town outside Dusseldorf was one of the best I've read in the genre: how an integrated community could turn against itself, turning in their Jewish neighbors or, as in the case of Trudi, hiding them at great personal risk. The novel also embraces the idea of otherness and prejudice: dwarf versus able-bodied; effeminate versus heterosexual; Jewish versus German etc. etc. I'm going to take a look at some of her other books now, I think.

Before that I read Caravaggio by Francine Prose. This was a short bio--maybe 150pages tops--in a series penned by well-know authors. I was entranced by the tales of this irreverent and apparently not too ethical 15th century painter. He was famous for using prostitutes and beggars as models for his paintings of famous biblical scenes: the martyrdom of Peter; the calling of the Apostle Mathew; the death of Saint Lucy. To my modern eyes the paintings int he insert didn't seem all that racy but after Prose put them in the proper context I was pretty impressed with the man's audacity. the Francine Prose is a fantastic writer and when she turns her eye to these small nonfiction projects her brilliance shines through. I've since picked up her travel book on Sicily; that's next on the list.

Albert Camus' The Fall. I didn't actually finish this one because the translation was so crappy. (One of my mother's circa 1960s college texts I fished out of my bookcase.) It was interesting, though: unreliable French narrator tells a fellow Frenchman his life story over the course of a couple of nights at a bar in Amsterdam. I'm going to go back to it as soon as I'm done with the book on Sicily.

There's three more on the list (since I've been keeping track via a handy Excel doc) but I'll save those for tomorrow.

On a side note, I'm a big fan of the spreadsheet. A well-designed spreadsheet is a thing of beauty I tell you. More data is always a good thing.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mural in The Castro, SF

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Hoboken Cats Have It Rough

I saw this fashionably-clad feline in the window of a Hoboken real estate office. Now, I love my cats and spend a lot of time coiffing their luxurious fur, but even I draw the line at dressing my cat in the heat of summer.

Labels: , ,