In the High Peaks

Monday, June 25, 2012

Clea Koff's Freezing

I've been waiting to read this procedural for a few months. Freezing is the first book in a new series featuring two women who are forensic anthropologists. I think I may have discovered this book on Petrona, but I'm not sure. In addition to review excerpts, Clea Koff's website includes a chapter from Freezing as well as an entertaining description of her favorite mysteries. I'm fascinated by the science of forensics, so I hope to learn more about it, particularly because Clea Koff is a forensic anthropologist.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What's Happened to Me? Preparing to Teach Women's Studies

Yes, I'll be teaching "Introduction to Women's Studies" next semester, in addition to my classes in Children's Literature. The Women's Studies course will be the first class I've taught online, which, I understand from my colleagues, is a great deal of work, especially the first time around.

As I prepare to teach this course, I've been reading a great deal in the area of U.S. women's history, and about the status of modern women from the point of view of economics, American culture, politics, and sociology. I can tell you that my studies have deeply affected me.

I realize and have long been aware that as a woman who has experienced a great deal in four decades of adulthood and who has seen much, much more, that to maintain my sanity, I have had to do what the vast majority of women do, which is to ignore, look the other way, sweep under the rug, and turn the other cheek when it comes to dealing with all the ways this society so boldly discriminates against women and girls, is so blindly prejudiced against women, in the ways it refuses to protect women and girls from violence, and in all the ways it so determinedly stacks the deck against women and girls, most especially against women and girls who live in poverty. Have I used enough cliches this evening? The run-on sentences are marvelous as well. Guess I'll have to work on that later, gator.

Whew! Here are Some Books: In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution by Susan Brownmiller, Flat Broke with Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform by Sharon Hays, Nickel and Dimed:On Not Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich (a spellbinding, must-read, first-person study about women in poverty--the author went undercover, hardscrabble-style, and lived as a woman with zero money--don't miss this--it will change your life!), The Vagina Monologues (fun and enlightening) by Eve Ensler, Appetites: Why Women Want by Carol Knapp. 

Just today I was half listening to the tv news Ken was watching, which was discussing the appalling statistics of women who have been and are being raped, sexually assaulted, and sexually harrassed in the US military. Military brass have been completely ineffectual in controlling this problem.

And have you happened to catch an episode or two of the 26-year-old Lena Dunham's extraordinary HBO series Girls? (Also available on iTunes.) Thank you, Lena, for saying it exactly like it is for millions of young women. And thank you, HBO, for being bold enough to broadcast a program, written and produced by a very young woman, that runs counter to the way Hollywood and mainstream US Television Culture mistakenly portray American women. I salute you!  Bravo and Brava!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wicked Heat and Mary Gordon

The sudden, scorching heat surprised me by how fiercely it took my body by storm. I have been a dishrag. I tromped downstairs in the mornings at 8am to find the thermometer at 82 degrees on Wednesday and Thursday. Since we've lived here, it's never been so hot so early in the morning.

I'm at the tail end of Rosamund Lupton's Afterwards, and it has been a pure pleasure all the way through. I know I'm going to be looking for her first novel, Sisters, very soon.

To help me through the withdrawal symptoms and panic I experience when I near the conclusion of books I've loved, I've started reading The Love of My Youth: A Novel, published in 2011 by Mary Gordon, now available in paperback. Where was I last year when this novel first appeared? I had no clue, or I would have read it sooner. Miranda and Alex, both in their late fifties, meet again in Rome, where in their early twenties they were passionately in love. Gordon's writing is exquisite, and if you've ever wondered what it would be like to reconnect with a man or a woman that you were so in love with in young adulthood, then I urge you to read this novel.

Mary Gordon is an accomplished American writer and the winner of numerous awards. Her works published by Random House are the titles most widely available, but she has other, equally fine, books published at other houses. If a book about late-middle-aged people seems too old for you, please do try her novel Spending, one of my favorite novels. It's a delicious, literary romp! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Struggle to Read & Rosamund Lupton

An "Out of Sync" Life is how it is with me these days. I so want to read more than a bit, but sitting on the couch or anywhere else reminds me too much of the 3 months I was off my feet. So I immediately seek to "do" something, anything at all, aside from an activity that has me sitting in one place. I will say that, as a result, the house is starting to look better than it has in months and months, though much more must be done, before I can rise above my region-wide reputation that I clean house only once every five years.

This summer feels completely different from my 2011 "Summer of the Book," when it was hard to get me to do much else other than read and hike a bit. I stretched my reading horizons far beyond what I had ever experienced. (I'm incredibly nostalgic about last summer.)

Susan, our town librarian, knows all about my reading plight, so she saved a book for me that she declared was one I wouldn't be able to put down. It's Rosamund Lupton's Afterwards, published in the US in the first week of June. Susan read it in nothing flat, and then gave it to me--thank you, Susan! You may recall that Lupton is the UK author of last summer's Sister, which got rave reviews. Did you read it or hear about it, by any chance?

I must admit I find Afterwards an intensely compelling and highly original read. It's a book that's difficult to categorize, but it definitely lands in the psychological thriller department, though I don't know when I've identified with a female protagonist in a thriller more powerfully. I may never have been a mother, but no book has made me feel more like one than Afterwards has.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

On to Asa Larsson & Pad Thai

My next read is Asa Larsson's Until Thy Wrath Be Past, a Nook title I purchased last October when Maxine of Petrona (oh, how I enjoy her blog!) gave it an excellent review; in fact, it was one of her favorite titles of 2011. And for some reason, I'm only just getting to it now. But after loving Expats, I'm primed for digging my teeth into more crime thrillers set in Europe.
French Open time: A happy 26th birthday to Rafa, who did not have to play today. (We share the special day, but I cringe to think I'm more than twice his age.) Still! I'm determined to learn how to play tennis this summer. I played a bit in high school, but that was ancient history. I'm sorry to say I can't hope to draw on skills acquired when I was 16. So, is there a book in this? You bet. I'm vowing to read Arthur Ashe's biography Days of Grace this summer. Of all 20th-century American tennis champions, he is the most revered and respected here, because of the way he gently and forcefully brought media attention to the victims of the AIDS epidemic and worked toward breaking down barriers of fear and prejudice about the disease, which, sadly, he acquired via a blood transfusion.

Pad Thai? I'm dying to make this dish and I'm terrified. I understand from most people that the first attempt is rarely a winner. I have all the ingredients, however, and it's a cool evening (58 degrees). So why not give it a whirl? What's the worst thing that could happen? A kitchen catastrophe, I suppose.

Postscript: Thanks to my new cookbook, Quick and Easy Thai (Chronicle Books) by Nancie McDermott, I managed to concoct a Pad Thai that was deliciously edible, though I'm looking forward to doing a lot of tweaking of the recipe in future weeks. Do check out this cookbook--I really like it!