Sunday, 23 November 2008

Finally feeling myself again

It took some time, but the penicillin eventually kicked in, and by Thursday, I was beginning to feel like myself again. How can I tell? Other than being able to eat lots of lovely food again, I decided that I wanted to read again. I had carried The Bean Trees for almost the entire week I was sick, and all through last weekend, and even through to Tuesday of this week, and I didn't read a page. It didn't matter how I was feeling, I eventually realized that I was not in the mood to read this book! I don't know if it was the unlikeliness of how the main character gets her Native Indian child - a woman hands it to her outside a cafe in the middle of nowhere! - or if it was just me being so sick, but I couldn't concentrate on reading. So I watched The Lord of the Rings all over again through three nights, and by Tuesday night, I gave up on The Bean Trees. It's totally unbelievable, but I'm also resistant to extremely negative portrayals of Native Americans because my brother is aboriginal, and my family adopted him because of the Canadian government's policy in the decades before the 1980's, of taking babies and young children away from young single aboriginal parents and giving them to white families to adopt and raise - part of the government's policy of assimilation begun last century. I know, it sounds very political, and it is. It also doesn't change that when he came into our family, he became - is - our brother, son, uncle, our family. He lives in two worlds, with two cultures, and having seen him struggle to find who he is and what he can be with this heritage, I've tried to learn some of his culture so I can better understand what he comes from. Every time I think about how the unknown woman hands the baby over, I cringe, and then I can't suspend my disbelief enough to keep reading. So as much as I love Barbara Kingsolver's other books, this is one I just can't read. See how reluctant I am to stop reading a book?!

Once I decided that, I then spent an evening going from book to book. Picking it up, reading a page or two, putting it down. Finally, I kept looking at Middlemarch, and took the plunge. This is a book I have long wanted to read, and yet it is a chunkster and written in mid-19th century style, both of which I have to be in a mood to read, so I've dreaded reading it also. I'm making slow headway, mostly because my lunchtimes have been taken up at work this week with other things, but I am discovering I am really enjoying Dorothea and her sister Celia. The story is about Dorothea's desire to do good, some good, in her life, which leads her to make a dreadful marriage to a dry, pendantic, horrible man - Mr Causabon. Now I have a confession to make, I saw a few years ago a BBC production of Middlemarch so I know the story. And yet, as always, I find that the book itself is far richer than the tv or movie production was. It didn't come through in the tv production that Celia is actually smart in her way also - she is able to see through people and we see her horror at Dorothea's acceptance of Mr Causabon, and I for one am reading the impending marriage with a sense of a train wreck coming. George Eliot also has the men discussing upcoming political changes, that will affect Dorothea's world, although she is not paying attention to it as she should. Where does passion fit in the life of wanting to do good? Where does love fit? Thankfully it was about 10 years ago that I saw Middlemarch, so most of the book is new to me; all I can really remember is that I hated Causabon in the tv production and I already hate him in the book - that everlasting life's work on the categorizing of world's mythologies, that should be interesting (and Frazier was doing in real life in The Golden Bough!), he never intends to complete, and we know this because Causabon is in his late 40's and still hasn't finished gathering his notes! He has published nothing so far! Not even a prelude! This is a book about real people and their desires, their ambitions, and their failures, especially their failures to make good matches. I am very curious how this will play out in the book, and at the heart is the struggle of the very opinionated, willful, passionate, pious Dorothea to do something good in the world for others.

I know that Virginia Woolf loved this novel, and as some of you may remember, I can barely tolerate Virginia, so we'll see as I make my way through this 688 page novel how I fare. I expect this will be the only book I read in the run-up to our trip to England, which is 22 days away now. Which leads me to my announcement that -

I will not be finishing any more challenges for this year. I have mixed feelings about this, since my aim was to try to read 10 more books before Dec 31. However, being so ill and not being able to read during it, has given me some time for reflection. I love the challenges I joined, and I'm so happy I did complete some, especially Carl's. This was my first year in blogging, and so I joined everything! I know that some people have decided to not join many challenges next year. I have signed up for three a while ago, the ongoing Canadian 2 Eh challenge, and for 2009, the science fiction '42' being hosted by Becky, and the Women in 19th cent literature, also hosted by Becky. Darn but she makes interesting challenges! And I know I will be joining anything Carl does!! I want to say that I want a year of whimsy, and gosh but that has a lovely ring to it! then I think of the 999 challenge, which I could possibly try.....since I loved the 888 challenge (even if uncompleted).... and my whole aim is to read more books. So I can't even say I won't join more challenges! I know I will. And work on finishing the ones ongoing - there's also the 1% challenge, and the Awards Challenge, which continue through into the new year, that I am keeping. I know myself, I love a challenge! I have to remind myself that my whole goal is keep encouraging myself to read more often each day. That is my greatest success this year, that joining all these challenges gave me: I found time to read more books. I also found ways to challenge myself to read in genres I don't always read books in, as well as to keep reading my beloved mystery and fantasy books.

I suppose this is my year-end review early, because we won't be back until early January, and I don't know how often I can get online while in England, as my in-laws computer is possibly on its last legs now. Our trip is from Dec 15 until Jan 5, so while all of you will be posting happily your year-end reviews, I will be seeing as much of London as we can fit in with the kids. This little break in blogging and reading has let me sift through reading and what I accomplished this year, do not be afraid, gentle reader, that I am going away! I don't know yet how often I will be able to blog while in England over the holidays, as my in-laws' computer is about to crash (we can hardly talk on msn at the moment), but at the very least I will find my way to internet cafes and send updates and hopefully plenty of gorgeous photos.

Things to do
: I still haven't created my challenge for reading all the books on the Mythopoeic or World Fantasy lists. This will be an ongoing challenge for myself. Missing are buttons (if any readers can create buttons for challenges, and I think Becky sent me some, but when my blog crashed in August I lost them, so please send any ideas!) - my other goal is to work on becoming more technologically advanced in creating my blog, so I can figure out how to do extra pages. The fantasy challenges would be linked to these. Nymeth (thank you, dear Nymeth) kindly sent me the link to the blog page template, but I still can't get the set-ups to work on my blog, so that is one of my new year's goals already set.

In the meantime, is the countdown to our trip - 22 days to go! and an upcoming birthday party for our daughter who is turning 6 at Christmas while we are in England, and seeing friends and family before we go. So if I actually finish Middlemarch, not only will this be a long-sought-after achievement (which will be surpassed only by my finally reading War and Peace, whenever that will be!), it will be an accomplishment to complete in the run-up to Christmas and our big holiday!!

Well, that was a good catch-up post! I hope you read plenty of good books while I was away! Here is a rare treat, an actual picture of myself with our cat, Bandit, taken a few weeks ago:


She has been known to plop herself down on my book when she wants a cuddle.

Happy reading, everyone!

6 comments:

Nymeth said...

Ahhh so much I want to respond to!

First of all, I'm really glad you're feeling better, Susan. I was beginning to worry about you! Secondly, I think you did the right thing about those challenges. No point in stressing yourself out. I have two to finish until the end of the year still, and if I do, great, but I won't lose any sleep over it if I don't.

Your trip is coming up so soon already! I bet you'll have a wonderful time. Don't forget to take an empty bag so you can bring back all the books you buy in it :P

Middlemarch is a book I'm very curious about, so I look forward to your thoughts on it. But of course, the length plus the old fashioned language really intimidate me. I bet it'd take me a whole month to read it at the very least :P

And finally, I'm so glad you're still doing the Mythopoeic and World Fantasy projects! I'm really excited about them. If you still need help with the buttons let me know and I'll see what I come up with.

Bybee said...

I'm so glad you're better! I love the picture with you and your cat..love the expression on her face. Hooray, you're reading Middlemarch! I'll be following suit sometime in 2009.

Jeane said...

Have a nice trip! We'll look forward to hearing from you occasionally. What a lovely cat.

GeraniumCat said...

I'm sorry you've been poorly - glad you are better now. People here have been dropping like flies, too.

You sound so excited about your holiday - I predict that you'll be much too busy to miss blogging while you are in England (think of all those bookshops awaiting you) but you'll have plenty to write about when you get back.

I was interested in what you had to say about The Bean Trees. I think I would find it very hard to read, I've spent so much time listening to people talking about the assimilation policy, and I find negative portrayals very hard to take: I think if I'd been the author I would rather not write a character at all than contribute to the ways in which non-Native people stereotype them. I often relish being politically incorrect, but not over this issue.

Susan said...

everyone: thank you so much for your wishes and thoughts! I hate being sick, and this one knocked me out.

Nymeth: As soon as i decided to not finish, I felt happier, although I wanted to finish them!
Middlemarch is enjoyable so far, and I like how Eliot has drawn the characters and writes about them. It might take you a whole month to read! lol, I can guarantee it would be a reading experience.
If you can come up with some ideas for the projects, that would be lovely! thank you! I really am going to spend January working on my blog and attempting to add the extra pages and/or links that would be the Mythopoeic and World Fantasy challenges.
First though, my trip, and I have a lovely bag (or two...or three) put aside for books! lol how well you know me now!

bybee: thank you! I missed being on my blog and visiting everyone. My cat is adorable, although not many people who visit the house know she's here - she doesn't like strangers - so the picture was proof that she exists!!! I like the expression too. She is very disdainful and loud about it. I'm happy you're reading Middlemarch too! I'm not the only one reading classics! Must be a Susan thing...tell me, do you have to read War and Peace still, also? :-)

jeane: thank you! You wouldn't think she was so lovely at 6 am on weekends when she thinks it's time for food and we are all, including the youngest children, happily sleeping! she knows we are going away and is jumping in my arms for cuddles every chance she gets.

GeraniumCat: Oh, I'm not sure how often I will be able to blog, that's why I didnt' want anyone to worry that ! was suddenly quitting! Just vising wonderful England...so I will try to post pictures and the occasional book thought when I can. I am eagerly waiting for Charing Cross Road!
In The Bean Trees, the characters are all written very sympathetically; the main character is part-Indian herself, though she doesn't know much about her culture. It was more the casual way the baby was handed over, which could happen, but shows a complete breakdown in Native culture because women and children are central to their beliefs, that bothers me so much. There aren't many stereotypes, just terrible poverty so far, but it's also well-written, and the characters are interesting. I have a personal reaction to the story that I can't get by yet. I should be able to! Is there any chance we can still meet in London or York while we're over there?

Eva said...

Yay for a real picture! :) And for feeling better! And for upcoming trips!