I liked the way these covers looked together on my Goodreads page
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Isolation is a word that can encompass living with or seeing with a few -- or a few dozen -- others, such as on a wildfire-fighting team, or if you launch into space (or just role-play the latter). I do okay leading a solitary life, and some days seeing 5 or 6 coworkers (plus some patrons, but always for just minutes at a time) is more than enough people time for me. Yet for two nights in a row, explosions on TV made me jump way out of proportion to their loudness, and I recalled Kate Greene writing that isolation, boredom, and/or the same environment for a length of time dulls your senses; your days "smooth over, lose their texture." (p. 115)
In the last two days I finished up a book about a practice Mars mission, listened to an episode of This American Life episode ("Boulder vs. Hill," aired 12/18/2020), and got lost in Susanna Clarke's new book, Piranesi. Plus, you know, I spent most of 2020 not seeing people, even for holidays. I've been deep into thoughts on isolation.
If you'd like copy my deep-dive into feeling isolated -- and to come out feeling generally okay about it -- check out:
The This American Life episode called "Boulder vs. Hill." It has just two acts, each featuring huge 2020 civic undertakings. As I listened to the act about fighting wildfires, I made connections to to Kate Greene's book about an earth-bound Mars mission practice. The firefighters work in bigger teams; the faux astronauts had a greater variety of tasks. Both groups felt that those back home didn't understand the importance of their work.
Journalist Kate Greene spent 4 months living in a geodesic dome in Hawaii to help gather data about both food variety for astronauts and insights into close-quarters life. Each chapter is a reflection on a different topic or experience, though of course themes of isolation and getting along continue throughout. A good general read on space sciences.
Piranesi by Susanna Clark
There are just 15 of them, and only two living: the Other and the narrator, whom the Other calls Piranesi. Piranesi tracks the tides, talks to the birds, catalogs the statues. The Other has been working on immortality and other projects. One day Piranesi suggest that's not a good use of time, and the Other reminds Piranesi they've had this conversation before, that he gets confused. Furthermore, he should be alert to someone new appearing, someone dangerous. These conversations lead to Piranesi digging back in his old journals, which leads to him question his understanding of reality.
Dreamy and page-turner-y and compelling; set in a liminal space like Lewis's Wood Between the World or maybe Lev Grossman's Library. Given that the Other sees Piranesi only twice a week, a pandemic-worthy meditation on being alone.
Thursday, October 01, 2020
Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Tough issues illuminated in prose that I’d call “conversational,” but she uses footnotes, so maybe I can’t.
"Because I was such a big deal to an actual big deal, the black man seated to my left made a great effort at small talk. I wish he had not bothered. I hate small talk. It is small. Small is for tea cups and occasionally for tiny houses. Too much small talk is how a country is given to sociopaths who thrive on shallow chatter to distract their emotional sleight of hand. Talk should be meaningful or kept to a minimum."
View all my reviews
Saturday, May 02, 2020
Saturday, April 11, 2020
Jill Lepore in The New Yorker describes two essential structures for "plague novels": stories set during a time of sickness and quarantine, and those "set among a ragged band of survivors." She cites many, beginning with The Last Man (1826) by Mary Shelley, that end with a portrayal of society having regressed.
And that, in the modern plague novel, is the final terror of every world-ending plague, the loss of knowledge, for which reading itself is the only cure.
Maybe today is the day, then, to recommend Station Eleven by Emily Mandel. In this plague novel we do experience the lock-down quarantine and also the time after. In the after times, a man curates a archive of artifacts in the airport in which he and others live, and a band of musician and actors roam the land putting on Shakespeare's plays, because "survival is insufficient." Mandel gives us a hopeful ending.
If there are again towns with streetlights, if there are symphonies and newspapers, then what else might this awakening world contain? Perhaps vessels are setting out even now, traveling toward or away from him, steered by sailors armed with maps and knowledge of the stars, driven by need or perhaps simply by curiosity: whatever became of the countries on the other side?
Wednesday, April 08, 2020
The other day, a colleague asked me to remind her about the 23 Things initiative we did when we worked together. It sounded like she was looking for structure to guide people in their self-teaching activities while working from home. I used my 23 Things tag to direct her back to some of the original posts. At the same time, I glanced at those "web 2.0" posts and the things we were excited about then: mashups and widgets; Flickr and BookThing.
I'm also taking a look at the sidebar on this site and culling dead links. In the early 2000s, I liked sites that were internet directories and portals. Before search engines gained strength, these directories reliably pointed users to credible sources. I used them on the ref desk all the time. Now it seems that one of them, the Internet Public Library has become a very bad essay farm? Only it acts like it belongs to Barnes & Nobel??
Library Spot appears to be active and useful still. Here's a page of links to directories: one or two patrons do call my current branch to have us look up phone numbers. Sometimes it's straightforward, but with personal numbers or address you can get bogged down in ads and paid sites.
Hmm: YALSA book lists is dead and can go; most of those other blogs are long gone. Weird how my early online connections were mostly with strangers. No, wait, that's not right. I follow famous people on Twitter and witty strangers on Tumblr. It's really only Facebook where everyone is someone I actually know.
Saturday, April 04, 2020
The New York Times makes COVID19 related articles freely available, here.
Quality coverage for Virginia includes
Central Virginia COVID dashboard.
Thursday, April 02, 2020
|Red Headed Girl in Evening Dress by Modigliani|
Also recommending the storytimes my library system is presenting online (those videos won't stay live for very long). Loving the new-to-me song that Jodi sings, "Knife Fork Spoon Spatula."