The entire world has changed seemingly overnight. No, that’s not true. COVID-19 had been brewing and building for months and months. Festering and threatening overseas. We knew it would come our American way, and yet. Yet! Here we are. I have been laid off from my job; have been quarantined for 40 plus days; have not seen the inside of a store of any kind; have not driven a car or talked face to face with another human being besides my Kisa. For over a month, I have been separated by screens and paranoia. I couldn’t even say goodbye to one of my closest friends for fear of contamination before he stole across borders towards a new home. Words like FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Hangout, and Live Stream rule my daily existence. My insanity has been kept in check by these words, walking 8-9 miles a day, writing letters, and finishing chores I always said I would get to but never did (sewing ripped clothes, making curtains, hanging art, you name it). The one activity I haven’t done much of is…read.
Nothing bothers me more than someone saying, “think of all the time you have to read!” They mean well but they just don’t know. When I was a kid I spent a lot of time reading. When I could get away with it, my nose was constantly in a book. In the dead of winter, when the summer tides of friends had gone out, I was left with my sister and a handful of kids close in age. Close, but not quite. Dead low tide was a boy one year older. A girl three years younger. A boy two years older. A boy four years younger. No one exactly shared my birth year. I found myself turning to friends within the pages of books. Lots and lots of books. Lots and lots of friends. My dad was not a fan of these relationships. He viewed fiction as leisure or worse, laziness. “Get outside! Get some fresh air!” was his constant bark from early October through May. His bark was so biting I grew up fearing fiction was a form of loafing; something to never to be caught doing in broad daylight. I remember smuggling Nancy Drew under my shirt when I went to the school bathroom; ducking under covers with a flashlight to join Bilbo on his great adventure; climbing trees with Stephen King clenched in my teeth. Hiding to hang out with a paperback became normal.
In 2006 when I started the BookLust Challenge, I thought I had slayed the old insecurities. I thought I could spend time with a book without guilt. For fourteen years I held onto this belief as a private gospel…until I got laid off and I couldn’t sit on the couch with a book. All the old feelings of leisure, loafing, laziness came flooding back. Guilt. I realized I only read when I was killing time, waiting for something else. Constructive book devouring? I don’t know. For years, I could juggle reading 5-6 books at a time and finish 10 in a month. But! That was when I was on hold with a vendor, bored in the boardroom, waiting in line at the grocery store, fighting nerves in the doctor’s office, sitting as a passenger on long car/train/plane/boat rides. Reading kept me from waiting for anything. Take all the time you need while I finish this chapter…
I have been out of work for one month, collecting unemployment equal to my take-home pay and yet I’ve only managed to finish two books. I guess I could try to tell myself I am waiting to go back to work, but that’s too abstract for my too literal mind. Mayday! Mayday, I can’t read.
I always said I will die before I officially finish the reading Challenge. Now I know it to be true.
Bantock, Nick. The Morning Star: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine is Illuminated. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2003.
Reason read: Friday, I’m in love. – the Cure.
Back to Griffin & Sabine. It always comes back to Griffin Moss & Sabine Strohem. Except not. This time, it is Matthew and Isabella. Matthew Sedon and Isabella de Reims are madly, hopelessly, truly in love. Except, like Griffin and Sabine before them, they cannot reach each other. He, in Alexandria, Egypt. She, in Paris, France. The archaeologist and the student worlds apart. Unable to connect, their romance depends on the guidance of the only other couple to experience such a divide. Through similar letters and postcards, Matthew & Isabella explore worlds beyond their imagination. Will they ever meet?
Book trivia: this was supposed to be the final book in the Griffin and Sabine saga. It is not.
So, by the end of November I was a blathering mess, wasn’t I? I know I was. Mea culpa. Three xrays, five vials of blood taken, one CT scan, and two therapy sessions later, here are the updates. The protruding ribs are being blamed on chiropractic appointments even though I felt the rib cage move before I started see Dr. Jim. The nerve pain is being controlled by medication. The spot on the lung and possibly tumor…no results as of today. White blood cell count still elevated. Possibility of cancer…still a possibility.
But. But! But, enough of all that. Here are the books: I have a week off at the end of the month so I am anticipating it will be a good reading month. Here are the books planned:
- Any Old Iron by Anthony Burgess (EB) – in memory of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th.
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin – in memory of Le Guin passing in 2018.
- Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund – to honor Alabama becoming a state in December.
- The Female Eunuch by Germain Greer – to honor women’s suffrage law.
- Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens (EB) – to honor the wedding anniversary of Mark and Delia.
- Lost Moon by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger – in honor of the moon landing.
- Stet: an Editor’s Life by Diana Athill (EB) – in honor of Athill being born in December.
- The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (AB) – to continue the series His Dark Materials, started in November in honor of National Writing Month.
- The Unicorn Hunt by Dorothy Dunnett (EB) – to continue the series Niccolo House, started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Squelched by Terry Beard.
If there is time:
- Black Tents of Arabia by Carl Raswan – in honor of Lawrence of Arabia.
- This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun – in honor of Jelloun’s birth month.
What do you do when the most inappropriate sentiment unexpectedly comes out of someone’s mouth? A confession that should never have left the lips of the confessor? Instead of thinking of the actions I should take I chose to take none. I do nothing. Distance makes it easy to ignore and deny. When I can’t avoid I read. Here are the books started for November:
- Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone – Malone was born in the month of November; reading in his honor.
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – in honor of November being Native American Heritage month.
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – November is National Writing month. Choosing fantasy for this round.
- Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller – Routsong’s birth month was in November. Reading in her honor.
- Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser – reading in honor of Millhauser’s birth place, New York City.
- Expecting Adam: a True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck – in honor of my mother’s birth month.
- The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah – in honor of Morocco’s independence was gained in November.
- Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month in August.
Fun: nothing decided yet.
Early Review: I have been chosen to receive an early review but I will refrain from naming it in case it doesn’t arrive.
As you may or may not know and as you may or may not care, I miscounted the books left to go in my Book Lust Challenge. I had previously decided I was going to embrace the new number and move on. Obviously, I didn’t embrace and I haven’t moved on. I am still trying to figure out how I miscounted. But. But! But, in that figuring out, I think I’m beginning to get answers. Go figure.
The root of the problem lies in what was indexed. Across all three Book Lusts the editors were not consistent with what information should be included. In Book Lust any book mentioned in the introduction was not included in the index. Full titles were not listed. A lot of the poetry and short stories were missed. In all, there were over 140 mistakes in the index of Book Lust. Now, let’s look at More Book Lust. 18 titles didn’t make it into the index and most of those were either poetry or short stories. Full titles were included (unlike Book Lust). In Book Lust To Go instead of missing information there was an overabundance of information. For starters, take the titles Le Marriage and Le Divorce. These two titles are indexed twice – once under L for Le and once under M and D for Marriage and Divorce, respectively. Two titles, four entries in the index. Duh. Another issue – only in Book Lust To Go is the series title indexed along with the individual books within the series. Example: Kristen Lavransdatter is the name of the series and it is composed of The Cross, The Wife, and The Wreath. Three books, four entries in the index. Interestingly enough, Kristen Lavransdatter is also indexed in More Book Lust but only by the series title. There is no mention of The Cross, The Wife or The Wreath. Surprise! Bottom line, I don’t really know how many individual titles I have to read. Meh.
So, as you can see (clear as mud) I am trying to sort out the titles. This is going to take some time. I’ll try not to go crazy.
The numbers are in! Thanks to a severe omission of several chapters from Book Lust To Go I had to add 89 additional titles to the Challenge list, bringing my total number of books left to read to 4,809. While I am irritated by this new number, 4809 is a much better number than what I had been originally anticipating. I guessed 4,840. In order to remain positive, I will try not to fixate on the fact I thought I had 4,726 to go. I will put THAT number out of my head. I will. So. Moving forward, what this means is I will be even stricter about the “fun” stuff I read on the side. I will become pickier about the “outside” books. If you weren’t recommended by Pearl, forget about it. Wait. I’m a liar. I will still review Early Reviews for LibraryThing. I am loyal to the Thing. But being stricter with the rules also means I will give up on Challenge books more easily. Does it pain me to say that? No, strangely enough, in a way I’m relieved. It pained me more to struggle through a book I had no real interest in reading in the first place. Like that history of the atomic bomb…I found myself really reading only the even pages and skipping the odd. I would do that with any book I was particularly bored with. Hey – it worked. I got the gist of the plot and didn’t feel like I missed all that much. But, from here on out, if I don’t like a book within 25 pages I’m moving on. I don’t want Kisa reading to me on my death bed just so I can finish this challenge. So, on the plus side of these new “rules”, by not wasting a ton of time with the boring books, this means I will get to the books I am really looking forward to reading that much faster.
As penance for screwing up my numbers I am going to start a countdown on my blog. “I have read X number of books to date.”
Another confession – I honestly don’t believe Pearl read every book she recommended, either.
I’m not sure how to say this so I’m just going to come right out and say it. I fukced up. Somehow, in some way, I screwed up my Challenge list. I don’t even know how I figured out something had gone horribly awry. All I know is this- dozens of books from Book Lust To Go didn’t make it onto my lists, and believe me, there are a few. I am the queen of lists. I have a
double no, triple no, quadruple no, quintuple-check system for keeping my books in order. Behold:
- First there is the excel spreadsheet called “Twist List.” It has every single title from all three Lust books. This spreadsheet is alphabetically tabbed and each title is color coded for which Book Lust it came from (white for Book Lust, light green for More Book Lust, light turquoise for Book Lust To Go, dark green for both Book Lust and another Lust book, brown for More Book Lust and another Lust book, dark turquoise for Book Lust To Go and another Lust book, and purple for when I finish the title).
- Then, there is a spreadsheet called “Lust To Go List.” It’s the same alphabetically tabbed list as Twist only it’s not color coded and when I finish a book it simply gets deleted from the list. It’s literally a list what I have left to read.
- The third spreadsheet is called “Schedule Calendar” and it is all the titles from all three Lust books organized by the month I plan to read them in. Each month gets its own tab: Jan, Feb, Mar and so on.
- The fourth and penultimate check system is the “Chapter List.” Each Lust book has its own spreadsheet broken out by chapter. Think of it this way: it’s the index of Book Lust et al in excel spreadsheets. Example: Once I finish a book in the chapter “Montana: the Big Sky Country” (Book Lust p 156), for example, I color code the title. At a glance I cen see I read three titles and there are ten more left to read.
- The fifth and final check is not a spreadsheet. It’s actually my LibraryThing account. Every book I have to read is in my “catalog” and tagged “accomplished” when I have read it.
I know, I know. It’s complicated. But, it works. So. Back to my dilemma. Somehow I realized that whole chapters of Book Lust To Go didn’t make it onto the first two lists. I’m not sure how that happened. It kills me to say my comprehensive reading list is not so comprehensive. How to fix this mess? Right now I am systematically (read=painfully) going through Book Lust To Go‘s index and checking the titles against Twist and Lust To Go. I’m up to ‘M’ and I’m adding titles where necessary (and that’s the part that REALLY kills me). Sometimes I only need to add a title to Twist and not To Go. Not sure what happened there, but whatever. Occasionally, I have been checking LibraryThing to see if I included the missing title in my catalog. Nine times out of ten the title is there, so I’m not going to worry too much about that. The lists I haven’t checked (yet) are the Schedule Calendar and the Chapter list. I’ll cross those bridges later. For now, I have enough titles mapped out that I won’t miss the missing…if that makes sense. Watch – I’ll probably end up reading nothing but books on Hong Kong at the bitter end because that’s one of the chapters I completely missed. Oh well.