Tag Archives: reading

A heartbreaking work

4 Jan

I don’t know much about suicide. I’ve read a few books, seen a few movies, in which one or more of the characters decides to end things. Thankfully, thankfully, thankfully, suicide has never touched me personally.

In the first act of this week’s “This American Life,” the friend of a man who had unsuccessfully tried to take his own life sat down and interviewed him about why. The friend edited the tape down and sent it to the unhappy man, thinking that if he could hear his own words, he would snap out of it.

The guy talked about how he was convinced everyone else was just grinding along, how children gave you an artificial reason to live. He seemed so unshakable in this notion, that people, if they were being honest with themselves, would admit how unhappy they are. At least on the edited tape, the friend didn’t contradict him.

I, on the other hand, exclaimed aloud as I climbed the empty staircase to my apartment. It’s not true! There are plenty of people who are sincerely happy and fulfilled in their life. I, unemployed, disconnected, and aimless, am sincerely happy with my life and working on the fulfilled part. I don’t think it’s because I’m young and naïve, but it could be. I understand it must get harder to be satisfied when you have real responsibilities like a mortgage, sick parents, expensive children, an angry boss. But even with those concerns, I believe it’s possible.

If you’re not listening to Chicago Public Radio’s “This American Life,” I highly recommend checking it out. You can subscribe to it for free on iTunes and it updates every week. Almost always the shows they do are a lot more light-hearted than this one, but sometimes we need to examine these unhappy truths.

The title of the post  is from the book I’m reading right now, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I like it well enough so far, though I would call it neither heartbreaking or staggering, at least not just yet.

I must be missing something

15 Nov

I don’t like giving up on things. Well, certain things. I don’t like giving up on teams or school groups, on causes or bake-offs or anything I think I can win at. I don’t like giving up on books. I’ve done that twice now—once when I was in seventh grade and one of the major characters in a novel I was reading killed herself. I decided that was too much for me. The other time was a few weeks ago: I gave up on Catch-22.

Colin would ask me why I wasn’t laughing. He’d read over my shoulder or ask if I’d met Major Major yet. I could see that the story was ridiculous and absurd, but it didn’t make me laugh—it stressed me out. I found all sorts of other diversions besides Catch-22. Finally, I gave it up.

I followed Colin to his school’s library instead. Most of the works are nonfiction and on SAIS-related topics like economic systems, political systems, conflict, resolution, etc., etc. But there’s a small fiction section, and I picked up a collection of Mark Twain’s works in addition to a couple nonfiction titles that caught my interest, The Ethics of Food and Sex & Gender in Historical Perspective.

I get a good deal more time to read now, not just since we’ve arrived in Italy, but since I’ve started working in the mornings. I stay with just Ludo while Mati goes to school and both parents are at work, and since I know I have a book waiting for me, I look for any signs that she needs a nap. There’s always some reason.

So now I’m reading The Ethics of Food, but already I’m making a list of authors whose works I’ll try to pick up while I’m home: David Sedaris, Jhumpa Lahiri, Angela Carter, etc., etc. I’d like to get Earth, the Book by my favorite funnyman Jon Stewart, the sequels to Wicked by David Maguire, and the sequels to Dune, which I was unable to find after starting the series in Taiwan.

Anyone reading anything good? I’m definitely open to suggestions.

Cheese, please!

21 Sep

It’s been too long since the last update, I know. You can blame my current read, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, borrowed from a guy in Colin’s program. It’s a really good read, compelling enough that I keep reading long after I should go to bed, rich enough that I want to stop and put it down for a few hours so I can digest. It’s an omniscient narrator, probably God, and Russell gives enough hints to make sure readers get it. Some readers might find that annoying—I have with other works—but she found a good balance for me.

Plot? The first mission to meet intelligent creatures living on another planet. The astronauts are missionaries sent by the Catholic Church, as well as a few (more) brains to ensure they survive the trip. The chapters alternate between the trip and the months after the return of only one survivor.

I’ve been busy with other stuff too. Our soccer match ended in a draw on Thursday night, ensuring peace in the house until the championship tournament comes around in a few weeks.

And a group of us went to Parma on Saturday to attend the Festival del Prosciutto. I abstained, opting for a pizza, some legit Parmigianino cheese, and a glass of sparkling red wine. In our group was a girl who’d grown up in Parma, and she made a wonderful guide.

The crazy sun dials that we couldn't even try to figure out--cloud cover.

The star of the show.

No room under the tent, so we lunched on the stairs of a nearby church.

Rachel and I did a balsamic vinegar tasting after lunch.

And then we found a renaissance fair!

The ren fair came with a marching band.

Big days in Bologna

9 Sep

It’s been a pretty slow-moving week. The family I’m hopefully going to work for wanted to try out an Italian nanny (just for kicks? I’m not worried) so I haven’t worked since Sunday. I could go out and exercise, but I require a lot of motivation to leave the house for that, and I haven’t quite hit that critical mass (I can feel it coming though). So that leaves reading my book, H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon, and tending to the apartment for my daily activities (and of course you, Internet…).

The weather’s better today than it was yesterday (rain, thunder, lightening, fire, brimstone), so maybe I’ll go to the park to read. Especially since my potential employer just called to let me know her mother is in town and that the girls will want to spend the afternoon with Grandma. (Still not worried.)

Things I could start doing: dance classes, Italian classes, pool time, shop for shoes, look for work, art projects to replace the Renaissance-style Madonnas around the apartment

Things I’ll probably do:

Well, the future is unwritten, right?