Best laid plans . . .
That about says it.
I started this blog in July last year, excited to talk about books, share what I am reading, interested in what you are reading. And then in August: cancer. Of course, all of my priorities shifted, my sense of time shifted, my sense of self shifted. [I spent many years living in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I can tell you what it’s like to sit through an earthquake, small ones and bigger ones, and adjusting to my diagnosis was a little like navigating a path that was moving under my feet, and mostly I stayed upright and mostly nothing fell off the shelves, and (new metaphor), I found my sea legs.]
What I want to say is this: Fatigue is a real thing. I’ve been wanting to write a post, and I started several, and then I had to go lie down and read—and that’s the bright spot: I’ve been reading. My energy is gradually returning. Some days I can hold a thought for longer than 5 minutes. Other days, like yesterday, [damn! I was going to tell you a funny thing that happened yesterday, but I forget. Seriously, I just can’t remember!]
Books. Let’s talk about books.
Last week I went to a small bookstore that opened in the fall of 2020. Brave women, I thought, to open a bookstore in the middle of a pandemic. No, the woman behind the counter said, it was just that we had signed a lease early in the year, and so we had to keep going. I still think “brave” about those women and about all of us who face into each day, which makes “brave” kind of ordinary. I’m good with that.
I’ve been reading poetry this morning, Jane Hirshfield from her book Ledger. It was part of my haul from the bookstore last week:
And every day I look forward to reading, the one thing I am reliably drawn to and consistently do as I learn what it means to feel fatigue.
Here are a few books I’ve read since I last posted:
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich—I felt so happy to be in this world of books and stories and the mystery of the ghost. I didn’t want it to end.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie and Ina Rilke—A short, sweet story about love and friendship.
Arcadia by Iain Pears—I listened to this one, enjoyed the time travel, and managed to mostly keep track of the various story lines. When I finished the book and logged it into my spreadsheet, I saw that I had read this book many years ago, back before I kept track of the year, so pre-1990. My brain sure did flush that story completely!
The Morning Star by Karl Ove Knausgaard—Holy Moly! A big fat book, multiple characters telling us their stories, everyone connected by the appearance of a new star in the morning sky. Usually I am not happy if there is no resolution to a story line; Knausgaard did not resolve the little (or not so little) daily hanging threads. Was the priest pregnant or not? Who were those beings in the forest? Will the man come back for his wife? Ultimately, those threads do not need to be resolved. The book is about how we deal with death and raises questions about what death is. When I finished the book, I continued to live with the questions the book raises. I may read it again one day.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig—A light read with an annoying main character who keeps not getting it, no matter how many lives she lives. I appreciated the message, but it’s delivery was a bit heavy-handed.
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel—Time travel, well-told stories merging and parting and merging again.
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel—Some minor characters in Sea of Tranquility are major characters here. This one came before Tranquility, but they don’t have to be read in order.
I had also started a couple of books that I had to stop reading. I get grumpy when an author does a good job of creating a character and then the character does something that is out of character. No! I say aloud, slamming the book closed. She would not do that!
Now I have to find a book—from my own shelves or at a bookstore—that will carry me into a well-constructed world peopled with strong characters and told by a trustworthy author (which is different from reading a story from the perspective of an unreliable narrator). I don’t think that’s asking too much, do you?
What have you been reading? And why that book?
What’s at the top of your TBR list?