Reading Seattle #10 — Madrona Branch

Date of visit: February 25th, 2018

Back when Phil lived at 24th and Olive, some builders had started laying foundation for new homes near him; now, those homes were having open houses, and we decided to go check it out.

On the way we also stopped by IHOP; I was sorely tempted to order the Fish and Chips that the on-table placard was advertising, or a chicken burger (what I ordered the last time I went to an IHOP, probably in 2009), but Phil advised me to order a waffle special. It was alright. The coffee was pleasant.

We arrived at the library four minutes before opening, so we walked through the main stretch of Madrona. We marveled at the density of artsy ceramicsy gift shops, and made it back to the library for opening.

So — the books. We had eight minutes before a bus home was going to come, so I basically chose the first four that caught my eye. Having read all the books now, I think it’s not a bad method / I got lucky this time.

Chemistry (Weike Wang) – A woman who grew up with a frustrated mother and demanding “the only way I know how to connect with you is by teaching you math” father realizes that she doesn’t really want to get a chemistry PhD, and now has to figure out what she really wants.

She has a lot of rage issues that her super-calm, securely-attached boyfriend tolerates but never understands; she has some turns of phrase that reveal that she is not a native speaker; in the process of self-discovery she ends up drinking a lot of wine. Eerily relatable; not at all autobiographical, I’m sure. After all, the author has a PhD in public health.

How to Survive in a Science Fictional Universe (Charles Yu) – Stand back, Lu is going to try to read science fiction! Luckily, despite all the SF-dressing trying to explain a model of time travel, this was effectively the same book as Chemistry!

Charles (the name of the protagonist!) was never able to connect emotionally with his father — the closest they got was when they were working on their time machine prototype, which failed at a critical time — and that his mother was severely depressed.

I guess this is the batch of Asian-American writers that I’ve been waiting for.

The Assistants (Camille Perri) – This is a utopian fiction set in reality. At an unnamed media company, an assistant to the editor accidentally gets a $20k reimbursement check that she’s not supposed to, and cashes it to pay off her student loans. The assistant in accounting catches her, turns out to also be extremely poor and in debt, and demands the same for herself — paying off her student loans.

Then the head of accounting catches them both and demands they do this for someone she mentors, etc. etc. Because / before it gets completely out of hand, they turn it into a ‘crowdfunding approach to student debt forgiveness’ idea. It works, hooray!

It’s a little implausible in some parts, but most of it is so real. It also makes me understand how much of a favor my parents did me by paying for college — I usually roll my eyes when I hear how so-and-so’s kid bought a house in Seattle, and they “helped them out a little bit”, but this is effectively the same. (Of course those kids probably also had their college paid for, and also got their job by parental connections, but whatever; this is not a fruitful tree to shake)



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