November ’12 was…

I don’t know what makes me feel this way, but November arrived and left before I knew it.  It felt like it was one of those elusive party-goers who pops in for a quick hello and is gone before anyone else knows. Something I would do. We had a fit of snow to add insult to New Jersey/New York injury. My neighborhood survived just fine but mother nature had it in for my old stomping grounds in the worst way.

My routine of reading during my lunch break hasn’t changed. I’ve come to look forward to camping out in the stacks, listening to students pass my study carrel. It gives me perspective. This month I seemed to read nothing but really short, easy to read books.

  • Good Thief’s Guide to Paris by Chris Ewan ~ a continuation of the series I started last month. I think I read this over a weekend.
  • Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Vol 2 by Giorgio Vasari ~ a continuation of the series I started last month.
  • Breakfast with Scot by Michael Downing ~ in honor of national adoption month. This was cute. I was able to read it in one day.
  • Camus, a Romance by Elizabeth Hawes ~ in honor of Camus being born in the month of November. I took my time with this but still managed to finish it in two weeks.
  • Scar Tissue by Michael Ignatieff ~ in honor of national Alzheimer’s month. Read over a weekend, I was glued to the words because almost a year ago I lost my uncle to dementia. This really hit home.
  • Before the Knife: Memories of an African Childhood by Carolyn Slaughter ~ in honor of November being a good time to visit Africa. Or so they say. Another quick, weekend read.
  • Edward Lear in Albania: Journals of a landscape Painter in the Balkansby Edward Lear ~ in honor of November being the best time to get to Albania (which I never thought of doing). This took me three weeks to get through.
  • The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth Duncan ~ in honor of Dylan Thomas living in Wales. Don’t ask. It’s a long story. Read in four days.
  • The Viceroy of Ouidah by Bruce Chatwin ~ in honor of November being a good time to visit Africa (yeah, yeah I read two books for the same reason). This was really short. I was  able to read it over four lunch breaks.
  • Corregidora by Gayl Jones ~ in honor of Jones’s birth month. Another short (but difficult) read. Read this in one day.
  • The Akhenaten Adventure by P.B. Kerr ~ in honor of November being Fantasy convention month. Read this over two lunch breaks. Really cute.

For audio books I listened to:

  • Churchill, a Life by Martin Gilbert ~ in honor of Churchill being born in the month of November. A few trips to the eastern part of the state allowed me to finish this sooner than I thought.
  • The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers ~ for the fun of it. This was hard to listen to simply because of the heavy dialogue.
  • Complications: a Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande ~ in honor of National Health Month. This was only six cds long so it was a great way to finish out the month.

What else was November about? I got to see a pretty exciting Patriots game thanks to my husband. I also got to stay home alone and read for an entire Sunday thanks to another Patriots game. Staying local for Thanksgiving definitely allowed for more reading time, too.


Scar Tissue

Ignatieff, Michael. Scar Tissue. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994.

From the very first page of Scar Tissue you are sucked in. The opening paragraphs are tragic and utterly real. You can easily put yourself in the story.
I am a big fan of clever one-liners and Scar Tissue is full of them, like “we are programmed to betray” (p 4). Truth be known I would have said “We are programmed to deceive” paying homage to one of my favorite songs of my youth, “Hotel California” by the Eagles. But, Ignatieff is right, betrayal is more in keeping with human nature than deception.

I grieved throughout this entire book. Told from the perspective of a middle aged married man with a family of his own, it is story of watching parents grow old and relationships change. The aging process is especially cruel when it is accelerated by Alzheimer’s disease. The mother the narrator loves dies in the mind right before his very eyes and he is powerless to stop it.  It is difficult to read about the mother’s slow decent into another reality; a reality where childhood happened only yesterday but the spouse she wakes up next to is a complete stranger. The struggle to understand takes its toll on everyone around the narrator. He becomes fixated on “being there” for his mother, especially after the sudden death of his father. His marriage and teaching position suffer until  there is barely anything left.
Probably the most poignant scene in the whole book is the narrator’s visit to an ALS patient and the distinctions made between dying with a sound mind as with the ALS patient and his mother, dying with a damaged mind but a healthy body.

I love it when books I am reading simultaneously overlap. Scar Tissue mentions Italian artist Andrea Mantegna whose biography is in Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (Vol 2) by Giorgio Vasari.

Reason read: November is national Alzheimers awareness month.

Author fact: Google Ignatieff’s name and you will see he is all over the internet, but not for his writing. He has had a pretty substantial political career as well.

Book trivia: Scar Tissue was short-listed for the Booker Prize.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Mothers and Sons” (p 161).