February 24, 2015


Five has been the high temperature of late (-15 C) and just so happens to be the number of books I am reading simultaneously. I don't know why, but I haven't been able to get lost in a novel lately. I suppose it's telling that the dozen books stacked on the end table next to the couch, along with various jeans mending paraphernalia, are all non-fiction.

I came close to finishing Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, but fell short by 20 pages or so. I just couldn't take Emma's torturous whining anymore. I tried to combat Emma Bovary with Erica Jong's Fear of Flying. That didn't last long. The narrator was rootless, directionless Emma Bovary all over again, only with updated accessories, modern conveyances, and a fondness for cursing. I then turned to the other end of the spectrum, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. A re-read about a utopian land populated solely by women into which stumble three hapless male explorers. Despite the chauvinists (repeatedly & satisfactorily) getting their comeuppance, I abandoned the story about half-way through.
Which brings me to the five titles I am reading now. All non-fiction, all but one a first time read.
  1. The Treehouse: Eccentric Wisdom from My Father on How to Live, Love, and See
    by Naomi Wolf
    It's been three years since I last read this book. The way Wolf's father Leonard views and lives life speaks to my own approach. Re-reading this now feels like consulting a road map to find my way from photographer to whatever is next. It's both comforting and inspiring.
  2. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
    by Anne Lamott
    Even though the advice is geared towards writing fiction, it's an entertaining read with general practices that would well serve any would-be writer. And, surprising to me, Lamott seconds some of the points set forth by Wolf, albeit it in a much more irreverent tone.
  3. Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place
    by Terry Tempest Williams
    Set in and around Salt Lake City and Great Salt Lake in the mid-eighties, Williams intertwines the progression of her mother's cancer with the changing landscape and habitats threatened by the flooding of the lake.
  4. Letters of a Woman Homesteader
    by Elinore Pruitt Stewart
    Early 20th century letters written by a widowed woman with a young daughter, from her homestead in Wyoming, a stone's throw from the Utah border. A lovely portrait of the land, inhabitants, and the capable, adventuresome Stewart.
  5. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls
    by David Sedaris
    This one I am listening to as an audiobook while stitching jeans and the kitchen rug. Read by Sedaris, with a few recordings in front of a live audience, it's a collection of entertaining essays, rants, tangents, and examination of minutiae.

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