Below are the first lines of the three books I finished reading in May. It’s a small list, but the list of offenses against women and against humanity in general were large last month. And we had an election. I won my seat on the Democratic Committee (unopposed). The entire state’s Republican party elected an anti-democracy anti-woman insurrectionist White Christian nationalist as their candidate for governor. It’s no wonder I can’t concentrate on reading.
I have a pact with myself not to think about money in the morning. I’m like a teenager trying not to think about sex. But I’m also trying not to think about sex. Or Luke. Or death. Which means not thinking about my mother, who died on vacation last winter.
There was a dead girl in my aunt’s bakery.
A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door, kept repeating over and over:
“Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! That’s all right!”
The titles and authors revealed:
Writers and Lovers by Lily King. published 2020. 282 pages.
Maybe this is a good book, but I was not in the mood for it. Given the month’s news about our impending loss of reproductive rights, I did not want to read about contraceptionless sex that apparently had no consequences. That’s so last century. I read it for book club but was unable to attend the discussion. Sometimes the discussion can totally change my mind about a book, but I didn’t have that boost this time.
A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher. published 2020. 306 pages.
The tagline on the book says, “Siege. Sorcery. Sourdough.” This was an enjoyable read, given all that is going on in the real world. It was a page turner at times. This author also writes under the pen name Ursula Vernon. The book seemed to me to have moments of clarifying relation to our actual world. As the author notes in the Acknowledgements section: “Ironically I am publishing this in the midst of COVID-19, when we all started making sourdough at home and then started protesting police brutality. Suddenly a twelve year old book was actually relevant. Go figure.” I read this book in paperback format, which was a welcome change from reading on the kindle.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin. First published 1899. 162 pages.
The original title was A Solitary Soul. The writing style reminds me of another writer, but I can’t place the memory. The narration is deeply internal to the main character’s thoughts and realizations, all of which seem counter to the prevailing societal norms. Perhaps the opening lines said by the parrot give a hint of this. “Allez-vous en!” means “go away” – just what a solitary soul would say. Google Translate says “Sapristi!” means “Holy Shit!”
This short novella was originally condemned for portraying adultery without any moral judgment. There was evidence that the book was banned from a library in 1902. It was not published again until the 1970s, with the advent of the feminist movement. All the strictures of being a wife and mother in her time hem in the main character. I have to admit it is a bit crushing to me that she seems willing to abandon her children.
Not Finished Yet
The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translated by Larissa Volokhonsky, Richard Pevear. First published 1879. This translation first published 1990. 796 pages. Up to about page 300 (37%) by end of May.
Did not finish
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. published 2021. 645 pages.
For TOS book club. The book didn’t grab me, but this might be more me than the book.
The Invention of Yesterday: A 50,000-Year History of Human Culture, Conflict, and Connection by Tamim Ansary. Published 2019. 449 pages.
I heard this author on some podcast I listened during the Insomnia Hours of the Night, and the premise sounded interesting. In the book, the author made broad claims about humanity without adequate evidence, in my opinion. He drew conclusions from ancient Eur-Asian history. No attempt to see if the claims held up for the ancient history of people in the Americas. I gave up on this book.