Book People

August 26, 2012

I am incredibly jittery right now. Classes officially start tomorrow, but I won’t officially have my first grad school class until Wednesday evening. Even so, it’s right around the corner. I’m excited and ridiculously nervous. What if I’ve forgotten how to be a student? What will my professors be like? Will I make friends in my classes? What should I wear?

While I’m thinking about all this, it’s interesting to go back and look at something I wrote soon after I was accepted into the program. I call it Book People:

Dream program? Check. Dream city? Check. Now I just need to figure out how to make them a reality. I’m confident that I can make it work though. I’ve decided that I’m willing to put myself into a certain amount of debt to pursue my passion for books. I’m already in debt for college, what’s a bit more to get me to a place where I can do something that I love?

So there we go. Yours Truly is moving to the Big Apple. And yes, I am aware that Step 1 is to never again call it the Big Apple. I am really excited about the prospect of living and working in New York, which is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, but I also can’t wait to be around fellow book lovers.

As one of my friends said when I told her about all this, “you’ll finally be with your people!” I told my mom about this exclamation and she laughed and agreed, but then said that wasn’t I already with “my people” working at a publishing company? Sadly, no. A friend and I discussed this over drinks — in our chosen fields where so many English and literature majors flock, “our people” — the book dorks and grammarians — are a rarity.

In a group of ESL teachers she mentioned reading Pride and Prejudice and was met with surprise and near-disdain. The counter in my office kitchen which for most is a place to drop off old books that were cluttering up the closet or to pick up a book that looks interesting was a magical fairy book counter for me, producing a number of books on my ever-growing to-be-read list.

I went to the library the other day and returned 2 books. I checked out 5. I have at least 4 boxes of books I brought home from college sitting in a closet because we don’t have any more shelf space in my house (yes, the fact that they’re in the closet and not out in the open haunts me). It’s a sickness, but one I wouldn’t try to treat.

I can’t wait to move to New York, but I’m kind of dreading it at the same time. If I had to guess, I’d say at least 80% of my possessions are books. And books are heavy.

I suppose there could still be people who are not “my people” in the program. That’s fine, you don’t have to be a prolific reader to be my friend. But it would be nice if you’d help me carry my books.

Book ADD

August 26, 2012

Sometimes I go through bouts where I can’t seem to concentrate on a single book and end up reading multiple books at the same time. This isn’t a one book at home and another one in my purse kind of thing; no, at this point I’m in the middle of reading 5 separate books. Sometimes it’s worse. This is what I refer to as “Book ADD.”

Before anyone starts yelling at me, I understand and acknowledge that people with ADD face a number of difficulties and challenges. This is simply the best parallel I can draw and I do not mean it in an offensive or derogatory way.

I’m used to this. It happens fairly often and probably has something to do with my lack of restraint in choosing books at the library. I’m like a child herding them home and then smiling bashfully, professing that they followed me home. I have a wealth of exciting books and then I can’t choose, so I just start reading them all.

This habit doesn’t usually cause me too much of a problem when I’m reading. I can usually pick up the thread of the story in whichever book I’m reading pretty quickly. It is problematic when it comes to reviews though. For whatever reason I can finish the book and have whatever thoughts about it, but can’t pick them out or articulate them very well. It also takes me longer to read each book, which is really very counterproductive.

I just finished a book, but as it was during one of these bouts I don’t know how much of a review there will be. I will, however, be posting older reviews from my old blog, so you’ll get to see my recycled opinions.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

August 20, 2012

As you may have noticed, my blog has gone through a round of changes, but never fear! they are all on the surface. I decided to roll over the name/address from my old blog — Witless Witticisms — and keep Poindextrix as my username, so there you have it. The Poindextrix you know and tolerate love continues with a new look and a not-so-new name.

Think of it as recycling. I’m green and eco-conscious and whatnot.

Anyway, please note the change in the url if you decide to link to me.

On an almost related note, I’ve been tagged in blog tag and I was nominated for a blog award forever ago that I haven’t passed along. I really will get to both of those in the near future.

Meanwhile, I feel like I’m the butt of some cosmic joke. Really though, we don’t need to get into that.

On Bees

August 12, 2012

“They work; but don’t you think they overdo it? They work so much more than they need — they make so much more than they can eat — they are so incessantly boring and buzzing at their one idea till Death comes upon them — that don’t you think they overdo it? And are human labourers to have no holidays, because of the bees? And am I never to have change of air, because the bees don’t? Mr. Boffin, I think honey excellent at breakfast; but regarded in the light of my conventional schoolmaster and moralist, I protest against the tyrannical humbug of your friend the bee. With the highest respect for you.”

~Our Mutual Friend p.91

I love going through old quotes I’ve saved from books and coming across gems like this.

I’m entering Book Riot’s START HERE Write-In Giveaway in which bloggers introduce an author’s work via a suggested sequence. I’ve chosen an author whose work continues to awe me in unfathomable ways.

I happened upon Geraldine Brooks entirely by accident. I’d heard the name, but hadn’t gotten around to actually investigating any of her writing because I had more pressing books on my list.

You know how people say not to judge a book by its cover? As book people, we know that’s a load of BS. How many times have you roamed through shelves and picked up something simply because you were drawn to the cover? Well, People of the Book has a gorgeous cover, and I was intrigued by the title, so I figured I’d give it a try. Thus began my love initiation.

People of the Book

People of the Book was the first of Brooks’s works that I read, but it has remained my favorite. I find that whenever a friend, family member, or unsuspecting stranger asks me for a book recommendation, People of the Book is invariably one of the first to spring to mind. Simply put: I love the story, the characters, and Brooks’s amazing ability to weave everything together. I love this book and if you don’t, we can’t be friends.

OK, we can probably still be friends, but I will judge your book choices. A lot.

At the book’s center is the Sarajevo Haggadah, a rare, illuminated Jewish text rescued from certain destruction during the Bosnian war. In the present day, Hanna Heath is a rare book expert tasked with analyzing and conserving the Haggadah. Brooks, through her masterful storytelling, takes the reader through different periods of the book’s “life,” revealing the origins of each clue (an insect wing, a salt crystal, a wine stain, a hair) that Hanna uncovers in her delicate inventory of the book and introducing readers to other people that have been instrumental in the creation and protection of the book.

March

Remember Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women? Remember how their father was absent, off ministering to the soldiers during the war? Ever wonder what life was like for him? Well,Brooks gives us a little peek inside.

Having just recently read this, I can say that the characterization of Mr. March is intriguing, especially in later chapters and I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the forced cheerfulness of March’s letters home with much of the rest of his observations. I also thought the later chapters when Marmee’s point of view is added, often directly contradicting March’s stated perceptions in earlier chapters, was interesting.

You don’t have to have read Little Women to enjoy March. Some familiarity is helpful, but, again, not necessary. It has been ages since I’ve read it (as in, I think someone had to read it to me the last time), but I still managed to follow along.

Year of Wonders

An infected bolt of cloth carries the plague from London to an isolated English village. Thus begins the Year of Wonders for Anna Frith, previously a housemaid, now also a healer and somewhat of a heroine as the small village deals with deaths in every household and prayers seem to go unanswered while the community collapses around her.

This book is inspired by the true story of Eyam, a village in the hill country of England. Though the characters and individual events obviously come from her imagination, the foundation upon which this story is based just adds to its ability to hook you in as a reader.

Caleb’s Crossing

There is a very particular reason I have put this at the bottom of my list. It is not because I didn’t enjoy it or think it has less merit or anything like that. Far from it. It’s at the bottom of the list because I think readers will gain more and enjoy it the most having first read more of Geraldine Brooks’s work.

Brooks has a knack for finding some very interesting concept (i.e. the Sarajevo Haggadah, Mr. March, the town of Eyam) with limited information, doing exhaustive research, and then building an entire, rich story around it (making it all seem effortless on the page, I might add).

Caleb’s Crossing is no different in that regard, but Brooks has taken it a step further. The story is told, not through the eyes of Caleb, but through those of Bethia, an English girl he meets during their childhood and who, in many unseen ways, facilitates his “crossing.” Readers not used to Brooks’s style might be wary of a book in which the title character does not speak for himself and could therefore miss the finer points of her literary prowess. And so it is last, but certainly not least.

Is it just me or is social media kind of a black hole? I think my “geezer” is showing…

Allow me to explain:

I truly enjoy books. Everything about books. And furthermore, I enjoy writing about books. So there’s this blog. The next step, it seems, would be to take it to the next level and maybe try to convince someone to pay me to write about books. (I really want someone to pay me to read books, but since everyone assures me that that will never happen, I’ll just have to write as well). There are professional bloggers out there who make their blogs pay, but I am not tech-savvy enough for that (and that may really be the gist of this whole post — it’s hard to tell). So I turned to Book Riot because they’re, well, awesome, to see if I could beg them to let me work there and soak in the genius. The office only needs tech people (damn), BUT they are always looking for contributors.

I was extremely excited to learn this and immediately began drafting the most dreaded of documents (the cover letter) and considering what pieces of writing I would send to them. Then I noticed it: the seemingly innocuous request to send, along with a writing sample, “your Twitter username or Tumblr URL.”

I froze.

I don’t have a Twitter or a Tumblr account.

Well, that was somewhat easily remedied, and now, dear readers, you can follow me on Twitter @Poindextrix (just click the lovely little button on the sidebar).

I figured that I should have some tweets to my name before I submit anything though, and, frankly, I have no idea what writing samples to send. I’m tempted to simply send the blog link and let them have at it, but that seems 1) incredibly lazy and 2) perilous as some posts are definitely better-written than others.

But back to social media as a black hole. My meaning was two-fold.

In one sense, since joining Twitter, I have spent a truly baffling amount of time on it. I blame Neil Gaiman. The man is too interesting for his (or my) own good. Thus, I have been sucked into this new world of information and will pretty much never be able to free myself.

The other: in looking for other writing-related jobs online I am at a complete loss when it comes to some of the job requirements. I have been well-educated and if I’m being honest and throwing aside my self-deprecating and self-worth issues, I do think I am a reasonably intelligent human being. Based on the verbal scores of every standardized test I have ever taken, as well as my liberal arts and humanities-heavy education, I think it is fair to say I am at least a decent writer. And yet despite all this I appear to be entirely unqualified for all of these writing jobs due solely to social media. I am not naive. I realize jobs such as these are dynamic and require a broader skill set. But there is a reason I avoided the comp. sci. classes. I was a literature major. My “familiarity with HTML” extends no further than copying and pasting said code into my blog to get buttons to show up. That, coupled with my apparent lack of understanding of the internet and social media seems to make me unemployable.

I need to find a mom and pop book store and hunker down for the long haul…

I just finished Running for Mortals by John “The Penguin” Bingham and Coach Jenny Hadfield (yes, I know I’m supposed to be reading Infinite Jest and Mansfield Park — more on my book ADD at a later date).

It’s a really great book. Obviously I can’t recommend it to everybody ever because not everybody is looking to start running, but if you’re toying with the idea, I would definitely suggest picking this one up. These two make running seem approachable and, well, possible for the rest of humanity with more than 1% body fat and the usual scarring childhood gym memories.

My only real problem with the book is entirely personal and has to do with figuring out the program right for me. John and Jenny provide a bunch of tools throughout the book to help readers figure out just that, but I, being me, had to complicate things.

Had I read this book back when I bought it — some time in November 2011, I think — I would be completely new to running and able to accurately identify where I fit on the spectrum they lay out. But, being the overenthusiastic person I can sometimes be, I threw myself full-force into running and kind of forgot about the book and the training programs it offered. Fast forward however many months, one 5K and a few months of sitting on my butt. Now I don’t know where I fit in. I’m not entirely new to running, but I have been inactive for a while. I do want to run to lose weight, but I want to get other things out of it as well. I have a history of injuries, but they’re as under control as they can be. I have a chronic illness, but it’s under control. The book gives answers, but I’m a weird exception. I want to just call them up and lay it all out for so they can tell me what to do:

Hey, so basically my body decided to enact a coup against me. My doctors used drugs to brutally crush said coup. Now I’m working on picking up the pieces and trying to make friends with my body. Cue “can’t we all just get along” theme music.

And now you know more about me than you ever needed or wanted to. Ah, the magic of the internet!

Anyway, back to Running for Mortals. I think I’m the exception, not the rule. Most people will probably have very little difficulty figuring out which program to follow, and as far as I can tell, they’re all well laid out. They also provide strength training and flexibility exercises to incorporate into training and explain why all of it is important.

Running for Mortals is really just your comprehensive How-to running guide.

I’ve finally realized why I’m so glued to the Olympics: I generally missed the summer games as a child since I was usually at camp. Now I’m making up for lost time or something. In any case, I’m basically glued to my television during prime-time broadcasts and am trying to start running again, but I will be getting back to my regularly scheduled reading soon.

Is anyone else turning into an Olympics-zombie (despite the terrible coverage in the States), or is it just me? Also, a moment for the amazing-ness that is Jessica Ennis. I pretty much want her to come to New York and be my best friend/fitness fairy. Just saying. Is that weird? Probably.