Reading Seattle #6 — Ballard Library

Date of visit: October 26, 2017

We went here after having Weinberg Family Dinner at Volterra — it was a beautiful fall afternoon. I had a cocktail and a half portion of pasta, which was really quite enough.

Books:

Allegheny Front, Matthew Neill Null — A collection of short stories illustrating the high cost orimpossibility of change in Allegheny West Virginia. Ironic mode for sure.

I somewhat avoid short story collections for this project because it’s so easy to read one story in the collection and call it a day, but I kept reading because I wanted to get to one where the protagonist triumphs. Never found one.

The Good Neighbor, Amy Sue Nathan — A divorced woman, about to turn 40, moves back to her family home near Philadelphia, and starts blogging about her dating escapades with a man named Mac! Visitor count goes way up, and her friend hires her to write for her media company. Plot twist: Mac is made up, but now she has to continue. How will it end??

I almost felt bad reading this because it was so simple and far fetched, but whatever, I had insomnia.

A Kind of Intimacy, Jenn Ashworth — Told from the perspective of an delusional, murderous fat girl, who is relatable and pitiable nevertheless. She moves in to a new neighborhood and starts obsessing over the male neighbor and harassing his partner; slowly her past begins to unwind.

Ok — and — I am going to “break” a bunch of my own “rules” here: I never finished a fourth work of fiction from this library. Instead, I read parts of several non-fiction books: My Own Words, a collection of speeches about / by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Toilet: Public Restrooms and the Politics of Sharing, edited by Harvey Molotch and Laura Norén.

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Reading Seattle #5 — Greenwood Library

Date of visit: September 2, 2017 (ebooks were checked out sporadically)

I came here after a long soak and (anhedonically-received) scrub at the spa, so I was a little out of it. I probably should have gotten a beer at Naked City instead of thinking it was a good time to get books, as the four books I selected ALL turned out to be bad choices: they were all too dense, the type of book I think I read rather than the type of book I read, etc.

A week or so later, I realized that I was going to be on some airplanes soon, and would need a few books. I looked at SPL’s listing of available Kindle books, applied some arbitrary filters, and got a few. They were actually all winners!

For the sake of accounting, I will consider Greenwood visited, and try not to have to substitute with e-books too often — e-books are supplements in this project, where local visits and physical copies are key, but maybe e-books were fitting, as I was not at all local during this time.

Easy Way Out (Stephen McCauley) — A nice tidy story of the love lives of three brothers, told from the perspective of the gay middle brother, set in Cambridge in the 1990s. There are happy and sad anachronisms: the protagonist thought he would never be able to marry; on the other hand, the protagonist is a travel agent who fakes boarding passes and funeral excuses for his clients to make up for his procrastination.

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War (Mary Roach) — Mary Roach is one of my favorite science-confectioners: this one was about interesting scientific challenges the armed forces encounter. In her chapter on food poisoning in the army, I was glad to learn that many soldiers develop Irritable Bowel Syndrome after an initial acute bout of food poisoning! This is what happened to me when I ate the bad mango, c. 2014.

Rory the Dinosaur Wants a Pet (Liz Climo) — Liz Climo is the best, dinosaurs are the best, and Rory is an excellent name for a dinosaur! Liz Climo used to work on the Simpsons (she’s only quit recently), and is a successor to Sandra Boynton, but more cute in the use of animals, and less (bad-)cute in usage of basic puns.

Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile (Nate Jackson) — I skimmed through most of the football and just wanted to read the gory medical details; wish he’d talked about the rehab more. Concussions are discussed only in the last chapter — I guess Nate Jackson’s problems tended to involve muscles ripping from his pelvis.

Books returned: 9/26/2017 (I know, I incurred a fine)

Reading Seattle #4 — Central Library

Visit: August 13th, 2017

I had a book on hold — about housework (Never Done, Susan Strasser), and I was desperate to leave the house, so I took a bus down and fetched it as a convenient excuse. It turned out that Never Done was a dense reference volume: I would never be done with it. So I gave it back to the librarian for reshelving and got four new books.

Damnficionados (J.J. Wilson) – I was in a hurry and this seemed like a plausible choice at the time, but then I realized I hate post-apocalyptic science fiction: I don’t have the patience for worldbuilding.

Small Beauty (Jia-Qing Wilson Yang) – I appreciated this book because it is about a 3rd generation Chinese woman living in Canada, and they leave plenty of conversation untranslated in the pinyin, mixed in with her thoughts, which are in English. The character is transgender, so this book did the PSAs of telling about the horrendous transphobia she faces. Selfishly, I recommend this book because of the pinyin.

The Slap (Christos Tsiolkas) – This book was lightweight and the binding seemed well read, so I took it. Now that I’ve read it, I am filing it under “things I didn’t like that clarify what things I like”.

I don’t like it because it doesn’t have a statement: the titular slap isn’t enough to tie together the events, except temporally, and we don’t actually see any characters “wake up” due to the slap. We get a slice of life of suburban Australia: the focus shifts from generation to generation, from the parents’ drama to the grandparents’ sadness, ending on a triumph of the children.

But try as I might, I can’t find the relationship between the stories of the generations. The best I can do is that dads and pappoúdes (there are lots of greek families in Australia; who knew) alike all want to fuck the young ladies in their acquaintance, and that there is a lucky young gay boy with a loving mother.

Exit West (Mohsin Hamid) – Turns out I had borrowed but not read a book by this same author a few library visits ago: Phil read it (How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia) instead, and thought it was beautiful but very sad. This time I read the book; it was also sad, but also a hopeful utopian sketch with likeable characters.

Books returned: August 31, except for Exit West, which had a shorter 2 week due date as part of the Peak Picks program.