Sunday, September 1, 2019

First Lines: August 2019 edition

Younger Daughter, preteen, reading a book
 while seated in a pile of leaves
November 2011

Here are the first lines of the four books I finished reading in August.  Here is where I must admit that all I want to do is retreat to a cave and read my books.

Book 1
It’s our bad luck to have teachers in this world, but since we’re stuck with them, the best we can do is hope to get a brand-new one instead of a mean old fart.

Book 2
I do not know where I will be when you read this book.
            As I write this, a set of creased and folded papers sits on my desk, ten pages in all, issued to me by the Department of Homeland Security.  “Warrant for Arrest of Alien,” reads the top right corner of the first page.

Book 3
On a sunny Saturday afternoon in Silicon Valley, two proud fathers stood on the sidelines of a soccer field. They were watching their young daughters play together, and it was only a matter of time before they struck up a conversation about work.

Book 4
It was not complicated, and, as my mother pointed out, not even personal: They had a hotel; they didn’t want Jews; we were Jews.

The titles and authors revealed:

Book 1
Because of Mr. Terupt, by Rob Buyea.  © 2011.  Young Adult fiction. 
A very cool teacher.  Rather a saint, in fact.

Book 2
Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, by Jose Antonio Vargas.  © 2018.
An eye-opening book.  I highly recommend it, and it’s a quick read.  Ask yourself what you have done to earn your citizenship.  How do you define ‘citizenship’?

A few quotes:
The first peoples who populated this land, Native Americans, were not considered United States citizens until 1924, when the Indian Citizenship Act was passed.
- page 74

How the push-and-pull factors of our migration are way more complicated than the need to take a picture at the foot of the Statue of Liberty.  How the largest groups of people who migrate to the U.S.A. – voluntarily, forcibly, unknowingly, like them – do so because of what the U.S. government has done to their countries. 
                                                            - page 205

[About immigration legislation which changed markedly in 1996]
Taken together, these bills not only expanded the criteria for who can get detained and deported, they also expanded the population of immigrants who couldn’t adjust their status, leading them to fear detention and deportation at any point.  It’s a government-created, taxpayer-funded catch-22, and we’re all tied up in it like a Gordian knot.  If I chose to leave and go back to the Philippines, then I’d face a ten-year ban on reentry into the U.S., since I’ve been living illegally in the U.S. for twenty-five years.  And even if I returned to my country of birth, there’s no guarantee I’d ever be allowed back to the country I call my home.  Put simply, for the government, keeping people “illegal” is much easier than allowing them to get “legal.”  Perhaps it’s no accident that the ITIN, which allows undocumented workers to pay federal taxes, was created in 1996.
                                                            - page 210

Librarians thought of this!
Librarians are some of my
favorite people.

Book 3
Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam M. Grant Ph.D.   © 2013. 
I found this book unsettling.  I think it ignored some of the non-personality things that stand in the way of a career, such as sexism and racism, or just plain bad luck.   And the notion of writing a book that says that the way to get ahead in business is by giving of yourself, but it only works if you are not doing it for the purpose of getting ahead in business – oy.  It also seemed to me that in order to have space to be a giver you have to already be in a place of privilege, with some savings stored up while you are waiting for giving to pay off (but it only works if you are not doing it in order to get a payoff).  What would Jesus do?

Book 4
The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman  © 1998. 
My second reading.  Read for book club.  I love the witty, snarky writing of Elinor Lipman.  The book club was going to pick Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, but then we decided couldn’t handle reading about a Soviet labor camp right now.  We needed something lighter.  This fit the bill and brought on some joyful reminiscences.

A staff unfavorite, and a rebuttal

A staff unfavorite

Dear reader, what books are lined up in your reading cave, for your next great read?

An update from my last post  -
For Andrea:  the cake in that post came from a bakery.  Alas, I do not have the recipe.
For everyone:  the Common Household Husband is doing just fine. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Jubilate with Cake

Going Gray by Elise Neill
On display at our township's
first ever Recyclable Art Show

In the third week of the eighth month, there shall be a celebration. And though it is not a celebration you particularly want, as you need no reminders that you are getting older, thus shall the Lord command:

Thou shalt eat of cake, provided by the Common Household Husband, and there shall be some cake saved for him, even as he is only meant to eat of jello in his current state. Thou shalt not bring him any bagels.

Thou shalt enjoy presents, possibly including sticky notes, and thou shalt wonder whether your daughter actually finished cleaning up her room yet, as you did really want that her to find that shirt that she bought from bell choir, where they make a joyous and very loud noise.

Thou shalt be thankful that you have the option of getting one year older, lo, as opposed to disintegrating into dust as your children often remind you you shall. Thou shalt remind thyself that the birthday celebration is as much for others as for thyself, as demonstrated by the male progeny returning to the house of his parents, for this birthday is just as much about allowing others to eat of cake as it is for thyself to eat of cake.

And lastly, thou shalt not regret not having time to make a pie. For having a husband in the hospital is hard enough, without having to think about baking anything for a while.

                                                                      -       The Book of Jubilations 9:1-14 

This ancient passage was revealed this week by Younger Daughter.  For my birthday she presented me with a twenty-page tome entitled The Common Household Bible.  This venerable volume consisted of my scripturish blog posts, interspersed with holy writings (newly revealed to Younger Daughter as she sat in her cave-room) pertaining to the Common Household, the passage above being just one example.

This is a work of love and I love it.  It provided much levity during a week which was difficult, not only for national news (which is always difficult these days), but also because of the Common Household Husband’s quite brief stay in the hospital.  (Please do not tell my mother he was in the hospital.)  He is out of the hospital and doing fine.

The cake was chocolate with chocolate frosting and raspberry filling.  And then there was another chocolate cake with chocolate frosting at book club. Jubilation!

Friday, August 9, 2019

First Lines: July 2019 edition

NOT a quiche of death

Here are the first lines of the 6 books I finished reading in July.  Fire, either actual or metaphorical, is a prominent feature in several of them.

Book 1
Mrs. Agatha Raisin sat behind her newly cleared desk in her office in South Molton Street in London’s Mayfair.  From the outer office came the hum of voices and the clink of glasses as the staff prepared to say farewell to her.

Book 2
The night Effia Otcher was born into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through the woods just outside her father’s compound.

Book 3
“Saturday evening,” remarked Isabel Dalhousie.  “A time for the burning of the ears.”
Guy Peploe, seated opposite her in the back neuk at Glass & Thompson’s café, looked at her blankly.  Isabel was given to making puzzling pronouncements – he knew that, and did not mind – but this one, he thought, was unusually Delphic.

Book 4
Chapter 1: A Good Café on the Place St. Michel
Then there was the bad weather. It would come in one day when the fall was over. You would have to shut the windows in the night against the rain and the cold wind would strip the leaves from the trees in the Place Contrescarpe. The leaves lay sodden in the rain and the wind drove the rain against the big green autobus at the terminal and the Café des Amateurs was crowded and the windows misted over from the heat and the smoke inside.

Book 5
Marsh is not swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky.

Book 6
Isabel Dalhousie saw Brother Fox that morning at eleven minutes past four.

The titles and authors revealed:

Book 1
Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, by M.C. Beaton.  © 1992.  
This print book needs editing – sometimes (at least in the first chapter), the main character seems to have a different name. It’s as if the author first intended to name her character Angela, and then switched to Agatha, but there was no “find-replace all” option in 1992.  Otherwise, an enjoyable “cozy mystery” – a diversion from today’s news.

Book 2
Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi.  © 2016. 
Homegoing is a historical novel, following two parallel stories of a family through history – one branch in “Gold Coast” (Ghana), Africa, the other branch in America.  Each chapter is a vignette from a generation. I chose it because Ta-Nehisi Coates said “Homegoing is an inspiration.”  Please note that it includes many accounts of rape and other violence.

For its summer reading bingo, the library put this book in the category of “Historical fiction with a female protagonist”, but this is not at all a story with one protagonist.   Like the author of Pachinko, Gyasi shows us how the experiences of previous generations affect the following generation.  But this type of story is, I think, more work for the reader, and gives less depth to each character.    In Homegoing, the stories of each generation are well-told and adequately connected to the previous generations. I still think about certain characters from this book and their place in history, so maybe there is plenty of depth to the characters after all, which just highlights the talent of the author.

Book 3
The Charming Quirks of Others, by Alexander McCall Smith  © 2010. 
The 7th Isabel Dalhousie novel.  More diversion.

Book 4
A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway.  © 1964.
I read for the second book club.  I suggested it, having enjoyed it for the first book club, but it was not as enjoyable for this second reading.  The account of the car trip with F. Scott Fitzgerald is now quite painful to read.  The two white male American writers drive through France in a car without a top, drinking wine every time they pull over to the side of the road to avoid the rain.  And they get away with it – no repercussions. Hemingway is a truly great writer, but also kind of a jerk. 

I was intrigued by Hemingway’s use of the pronoun “you” when he clearly was referring to himself – this technique is evident even in the opening lines I quoted above.  I thought it might be a way of distancing himself from his own decisions, but it also draws the reader in and places us right there in Paris in the 1920s.  Yes, a great writer.

Book 5
Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens © 2018.
Good nature writing.  Totally implausible plot.  Where are the mosquitoes?

Book 6
The Perils of Morning Coffee by Alexander McCall Smith.   © 2011.
This is one of those teeny books you can get only in e-format.  A very short book.  Just what I needed.