Rambling and/on Reading

Seattle's Space NeedleThis weekend, three of our family took an overnight trip to Seattle (leaving son in charge of the pets–everyone lived and nothing burned down! guess we did OK at parenting). Our daughter had long been hatching a plant to meet up with Twitter friends, and my husband and I decided if we both went it would be fun for the parents too. We spent a day walking around downtown playing tourist while the teens did teen things.

 

 

The best part of the trip was taking the train home: it runs right along the coast a lot of Sunset over the Georgia Strait, seen from a train window.the way, and the sunset was gorgeous. My one regret was not having time for my own Twitter meet up. Maybe next time!

My bus/train reading was Troublemaker, the third book in Joseph Hansen’s Dave Brandstetter mysteries, a ground-breaking series from the ’70s with a gay hero. I think the mystery plots are good, but I like this series most for the portrait of gay life and the complex relationships created by people forced outside the mainstream. Dave’s relationship with his father, whose insurance company he works for, is especially interesting: he can’t inherit the business, because the board will fire him for his sexuality. His father would like him to just “give up” being gay, but he also clearly loves Dave. I think part of what I enjoyed about reading this just now is the reminder that some things have gotten better. But it’s also a window into an alternative world that has been partly lost, to AIDS, certainly, but also, perhaps, to increasing acceptance into mainstream society.

Other recent reading?

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At Least I’ve Been Reading!

I’ll just skip the throat-clearing excuses for not blogging and get to it. I read quite a lot in June, and really liked most of it, too; I seem to be over my slump–and of course in summer, when I’m reading less for work, I read more for fun (though I do have a stack of work library books I need to browse to refresh my Academic Writing readings).

Romance (I’ve been wanting to read more again lately–hope that continues and it becomes a more regular part of my reading)

Kathleen Gilles Seidel, Mirrors and Mistakes A category romance from the mid-80s, this book had a lot I liked: a smart, competent heroine, a hero who respects her, a reserved and mature pair of lovers. It also had a number of plot twists that really pissed me off (but which I won’t spoil), and which relied to some extent on very gender-essentialist ideas about what people really want. But Seidel is a smart and psychologically perceptive writer, so the book kept me engaged even when I didn’t like the choices she made. Pretty sure I have more of hers on my e-reader. Continue reading

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Old(er) Ladies

I’ll turn 50 at the end of this year, and maybe that’s why I’ve been drawn to novels with older protagonists. Or maybe it’s pure chance that I read one featuring a 68-year-old woman and (most of) one featuring an 85-year-old back to back. I can’t say that the WASPy, gun-toting PI of Peter Heller’s Celine is exactly someone I aspire to be, both she and the former ad-woman in Kathleen Rooney’s Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk refuse to fade quietly into the background as they age–they’re right there in the titles!–and that’s something to emulate. Come to think of it, maybe just at this moment I needed to read about older women refusing to fit in the boxes society built for them and if not triumphing, surviving and insisting on being themselves. Continue reading

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Recent Reading: Memoir and Poetry

I’m not going to do any of these books justice, but if I’m going to blog regularly I’m going to have to plow ahead without worrying too much about that. (And, I’m sorry to say, without editing my posts).

Memoir

Nell Stevens, Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World:  I love Dickens’ Bleak House, which featured largely in my PhD dissertation, so how could I not read a book with this title? As part of her MFA program, Stevens had an international fellowship allowing her to spend 3 months anywhere in the world. To the horror of her family and friends, she chose Bleaker Island in the Falklands, which lives up to its name in her descriptions. For a few weeks, she’s the only human resident. Stevens packs up her laptop, a copy of Bleak House, and all the food she’ll need for her stay (strictly limited by weight), and sets off to see if she can write a novel. She doesn’t, or at least not a good one. Instead, out of the wreckage, she later produced Bleaker House, woven together from her Falklands notebooks, bits of the failed novel, and a few short stories.  Continue reading

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I Actually Read Some Romance!

The word that describes my reading lately is “scattered.” I didn’t read a lot while I was grading final papers (but I did read a couple of romances that I’ll write about here). When I finished grading, almost two weeks ago, I had a backlog of library books and couldn’t quite figure out how to start. So I’ve got way too many books on the go. My goal for next week is to organize my “summer”–I have a harder time setting work goals and structuring my time when I’m not teaching–and that includes settling down to more focused reading and making time for blogging regularly.

The pair of Harlequin romances I blasted through at the end of long days of grading reminded me of what I love about category romance: short, escapist (the quick read providing a needed sense of “accomplishment”) but with real emotional issues at their heart. I wasn’t the most attentive reader on those evenings, and some details are vague to me now, but here’s what stuck:  Continue reading

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