Sunday, September 30, 2007

"Deserted us, reviled us, trampled us."

I was first introduced to Marge Piercy by a grad school roommate and i tore through all the books i could find written by Piercy up to that point. I just discovered Sex Wars: A Novel of the Gilded Age New York covering the lives of early suffragettes Susan B. Anthony and (the seemingly more likable, tho less famous) Elizabeth Cady Stanton; sensationalistic (first female presidential candidate) Victoria Woodhull and her rather colorful family; the fictional Jewish immigrant Freydeh Levin; as well as crusader on the side of the lord, Anthony Comstock fighting against obscenity as well as anything outside of "normal" sex roles, in the "turbulent post-civil war years".

This is yet another novel of shifting narrative perspective and some voices seem to be rendered more truly than others (it also did a bit of jumping back in forth in time that had me constantly referring to other pages, but that could just be my chronologically challenged mind.) The character of Fredeh seemed to me one of the most poignant (perhaps because Piercy was not limited so much by historical accuracy in her~and was condom-production really the only good money making option outside of prostitution for the non-seamstress-single-woman, because it didn't seem to draw in a whole hell of a lot?) and even Comstock seemed somewhat more fully drawn (perhaps fruit of a struggle to make him at least a touch sympathetic?) the rest of the characters sometimes fell into stiltedness or caricatures, but not horrendously so, and it was an easy, quick, yet still edifying read (especially on the tail end of an illness when my brain wasn't ready for much.)
As an interesting aside, here's a description of the presidential election of 1876:
"By midnight, when they finally got into bed it was clear that Tilden had won the popular vote by a considerable margin. As the Herald trumpeted the next morning, Samuel Tilden was now president.

However, the Times said the election was too close to call. Henry and Elizabeth talked more during the next weeks than they had in a decade. The election was being stolen, through the three Southern states still under Reconstruction regimes. Boards were set up in Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida that disqualified thousands of ballots for Tilden and certified ballots for Hayes even when the number of ballots exceeded the number of voters in a district. Weeks turned into months and still the election was in doubt. The election finally came down to Florida and the disputed votes there. The states had no president. The democrats were protesting fraud. Finally the election was thrown into the Supreme Court, where Republicans outnumbered Democrats. The crooked election was certified along strictly partisan lines. Rutherford Hayes became the next president while Tilden retired from public life."

Sound slightly familiar?

At least there was no mention of hanging chads.

All in all, this is not Piercy's Best work (Gone to Soldiers is heart wrenching & beautiful, Braided Lives one of my favorites, and He, She and It is great science fiction) but it is still very much worth reading. There are only a few historical novels i take much interest in (or maybe more than a few, now that i think about it~but there are many that i take no interest in) this is one that i enjoyed reading. And, as i said, this oh-so-very-knowledgeable librarian learned a great deal from it, so how can you beat that?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

late, lost, ailing, & pissed off

I know i've mentioned that i'm ill (very, very ill, thank you so much for asking~like wishing-i-were-not-alive ill) this week, but have i mentioned that i'm on vacation? Not that i had much planned other than trying to catch up on much needed housework (which, perhaps needless to say i haven't been able to do...) but still...
Anyway, it was so very convenient of me to schedule my vacation just in time for me to be sick (and more than one person has mentioned to me that i could actually take sick time instead of vacation time, which i could, but i with my little rampaging migrainey head, unlike most, have much more vacation time than sick time so it is all for nought...)
And, vacation or no, i was scheduled for a Readers' Advisory training this early morning, teaching one of my Chronic Conditions classes later this morning, and for the government employee sexual harassment/ethical training in the afternoon; there was just no other time to do it. So, this non-morning person drags herself out of her sick/death bed early in the morning to get into her borrowed truck (oh, i didn't mention that my car is in the shop getting its air conditioning, of all things, fixed, now did i? Well it is. The air broke sometime back in July or so and when i heard it was going to cost about $1000 (because the coils had crashed and melted or some such thing) of which i didn't have i decided not to fix it but then last week it started making this horrible whining noise and apparently the car no go without air conditioning so just in time for the cooler weather i get to get it fixed...) As i have mentioned before, i am no fan of driving, and this morning i was turning east right into the sunrise, at a height and an angle where i was unable to see a damn thing. I was rolling down the window in an attempt to see the oncoming traffic when the person behind me honks.
Honking horns are one of my biggest pet peeves in life. I once had a friend who was ticketed because he honked his horn at someone because they did not move quickly enough at a red light. The police officer told him that horns were only to be used in cases of extreme emergency. This is how i feel about horns, and if you honk at me often my biggest priority in life becomes preventing you from getting where you need to be, so think before you honk at that redhead in front of you. But this morning i was frustrated and couldn't see. For some reason i put some faith in the person behinds me and decided that if they were honking at me the way must be clear and i went barreling out into traffic. The way was not clear and i hear screeching tires and more honking horns as i bring traffic to a halt in both directions. I somehow avoided collision (though i realized that if there had been an accident that car behind me would be late to where ever they were going because they would need to fill out witness forms and the like so there would be some good done there.)
Anyhow, as i continue to drive east into the blinding sun, my migraine continues to build and i end up taking the wrong exit to library headquarters which i have, of course, been to many a time. I get lost and wandering some circuitous course through rambling neighboring streets getting ever later to my training. I finally pull into what i hope is an entrance to a parking lot (still being unable to see) go crashing over a few islands, am now twenty minutes late and with a raging headache and finally decide that it is time to call it a wash, turn around and go back home.
I make it to my class without incident.
But then when i try to go to my ethics training there is some kind of Health Fair going on at the government center (i would comment on the irony, but i am in no mood). I drive around and around and around the parking lot looking for parking but to no avail. When i finally find i spot and run to class i have been locked out. Of course when i walk back out to my car there is parking everywhere.
It is back to bed for me...

Monday, September 24, 2007

dream a little dream of me

I have a cold (i get many, many colds, in case you haven't noticed~compromised-immune-systems-are-us.) So i haven't been doing much reading, i've been watching movies, mostly. I discovered a wonderful new television series (well i shouldn't call it new since it was canceled before a full season, but thank god for the whole DVD trend...), so if you get a chance you really should check out WonderFalls. Of course i'm keeping up with Weeds (though it's gotten a bit dark and frightening this season it is still such a wonderful show...) I've also watched Ossessione (i'm trying to work my way through 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die ~though i wasn’t entirely impressed by this one~a 1943 Italian flick which was alright, i.e., not a waste of my viewing time, it felt a touch predictable and derivative~but i suppose i’m looking at it through 20th/21st century eyes…), Henry & June (not as great as the build-up i had given it), Accepted (yeah, a silly, stupid little comedy but it WAS entertaining right up to the obligatory motivational speech at the end~and we can all use a little entertainment now and then, right?), Guinevere (a movie i just stumbled upon and really liked), The Opposite of Sex (loved it!), and Pan’s Labyrinth (brilliant, beautiful, y muy triste~i can't recommend it highly enough.)

I’ve also been doing a great deal of sleeping (guess it goes along with the whole cold thing) so i thought i might share a few tidbits of my non-waking life. Yesterday afternoon i dreamt i was in my childhood home again with my mother and sister and my sister was much younger than she is now (as she often is in my dreams). She started out about nine or ten or so and was in our backyard with a few of her little friends. More and more of her friends started joining the group as my sister slowly morphed into a teenager (isn’t it interesting how these types of changes can happen in dreams and they seem completely normal?). As my mom and i were viewing the civilities through the window i was eventually instructed to go break up the party and send everyone home (something i did not feel inclined to do.) So my mother reluctantly goes marching out there but as i continue to observe through the window things develop into a full-fledged bacchanalia which is completely out of control. I go out to try and restore order only to find my mother chopping wood for a bonfire… I’m shouting for everyone to go home and threatening to call the police which is having absolutely no effect. I finally give up and decide to go back into my house (which has actually morphed into My current house in that endearing dreamlike way) and as i’m rounding the corner i see a paddy wagon pull up with some big dude bursting out the back (the personification of the bulldog in those old Looney Tunes cartoons) looking for the party (because apparently in this particular universe paddy wagons drop people off at the nearest party immediately upon their release from prison, which reminds me of the time I was at some theatre AfterShow party in college and a paddy wagon pulled up and one of the party goers {an extremely well-dressed young man with a champagne glass in his hand and an extremely well-coiffed companion on his arm~don’t know where they had come from} asked, ever so politely, of the approaching officer, “Oh, is this the shuttle to the next party?” It is an image i will always hold dear, right next to the one of the high school dance exodus i was at when everyone descended upon the Seven-Eleven and one guy shouted to his pal {as said pal was being led away in handcuffs}, “So I guess this means you won’t be giving us a ride home…” No, indeed.)

Sorry for the digression, back to the dream: the large, threatening ex-con who seems to communicate in grunts and roars sees me round the house and walk up onto the porch and starts to follow, looking for the bash of the century. I dash in the door, triple lock it, call weakly for the cats but leave them to fend for themselves as i feebly search for the little poor-man’s panic cubby hole which is newly-installed (as of this dreaming in fact) in my bedroom closet. And then i wake up. Meaning in this? I have no idea. But to truly appreciate the absurdity of this dream you would have to really know my family~just suffice it to say that i am the black sheep of the family and my sister and mother have fleece as white as snow (to coin a phrase).

So my second dream involved me moving back on to my grad school campus (i never did live exactly on campus~and why i would move back is unclear) with my college (now-married) friend, and on the first day there i was making as many enemies as possible without being able to stop myself. Whilst demonstrating to some of my new-found enemies what i call my patented bouncing-off-the-walls dance technique which actually involves climbing and bouncing off the walls in true dream-like fashion, knocking about as much newly arranged furniture in said enemies rooms as possible, bounced down the hall collecting more and more enemies as i went until i was finally bouncing for my very life.

I finally escaped into some noxious-chemical-dispensing room where i sprayed noxious-chemicals at my approaching enemies and it was at this point where one of my ex-boyfriends (or actually not an ex-boyfriend, shall we call him an ex-unrequited-crush who i haven't thought of in years), who in some dream-within-a-dream or shall we call it awake-within-awake was somehow standing by (standing by with other actual ex-boyfriends, i might add) to change the dream if things started to go awry (?) by some prearranged signal (??) so by whatever this prearranged signal is he signals me that he has a surprise waiting for me in the next room... So i venture into the next room where some kind of dinner party is taking place with all sorts of famous people in attendance (being no name-dropper all i won't mention any names~just no they are big names...) Unfortunately the noxious fumes people were hot on my tail so i had to run on through the dinner party and quickly awaken.

If that's not convoluted enough for you, can you please tell me what it means?

Friday, September 21, 2007

striking a blow for feminists everywhere

too bad i can't remember it.
Neither can i remember why i was reminded of it to retell it this particular morning but it does go to show you why you should not mess with this rampaging librarian (or perhaps not get her to rampaging in the first place...)
Back upon my early college years. I'm attending an opening night party for one of the acting showcase shows. I'm extremely drunk. I feel compelled to approach the lead actor and tell him just how excellent i believed his performance to be that particular evening. So i go up to him, shake his hand, and as i remember it, we were chatting quite pleasantly. I vaguely remember the conversation somehow evolving into something having to do with women in pornography films but i don't remember taking any particular offence to any such conversation.
The next thing i do remember is Mr. LeadActor swaying in front of me, splattering blood all over my shirt, then passing out, while multiple people are pulling me back and telling me to calm down. I have never remembered delivering the knockout punch it was reported that i did. I remember wanting to go talk to Mr. LeadActor, who was lying down in the next room, and everyone telling me it wasn't a good idea. I remember everyone telling me how great i was for standing up for women's rights. I remember having no clue what was going on. And i remember the one guy who seemed to have any sensitivity for the loss and confusion i was going through who took me in the bathroom to help me wash the blood out of my shirt.
I realize now he probably just wanted me to take my shirt off.
Flash forward a couple of years, when drunk again, i again knock out a guy with one punch. Again i don't remember the punch. At least this time i remember the offense. Not taking no for an answer.
Interestingly enough, Mr. LeadActor always saw me as someone he wanted to date after i punched him out. I guess i was his kind of woman. Colour me Shy.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"If your family had raised me and mine had raised you, would I be you and would you be me?"

Nurture versus nature has always been a huge topic in psychology as well as a number of other sciences. It has also been the subject of a number of experiments some of rather questionable ethics. I remember first encountering it in a high school psychology class and a case study of how an adopted child had all sorts of problems while a biological child from the same family adjusted perfectly fine. Now we all know that children in the same family are not always treated perfectly equally and i have always been of the opinion that if adopted children are going to go searching for answers as to who they are or why they are the way they are or why things haven't worked out exactly as they wanted them to (the same way everyone else seems to) it is almost a ready-made and too-easily so answer to go looking in that adoption. I had a high-school friend who was sure his life would not be as screwed-up as it was (though it was my ever-so-humble-outside opinion that it wasn't too screwed-up) if he had been left with his natural mother (but there is usually some reason for an adoption in the first place, isn't there? Though not always what we are led to believe...) I have actually had my own doubts about the nature/nurture thing because my sister who is my mother's natural child and was raised in circumstances very similar to mine grew up much more alike to her, but i believe it is a combination and genetics always play a role.

The pendulum has always swung back and forth between what scientists have considered to have more of an influence and at the moment it seems to fall pretty squarely in the nature camp. When i first discovered the idea of studying identical twins raised apart (again in that high-school psychology class, as well as a few neurology texts i thought "Wow, how amazing that they would first separate identical twins and then be able to locate them in order to study them~how uncommon must that be?" The truth it seems, at least in some cases is somewhat more nefarious. The nonfiction book Identical Strangers: a Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein tells the story of what began as Elyse's search for her birth mother, and then developed into her search for and reunion with her twin sister as well as questions as to why twins would be separated.

Though both sets of parents would have been willing to take on twins had they been asked they were never asked, and the agency that adopted out the twins felt that it was an undue burden on parents to raise twins (as well as being in the process of conducting undisclosed studies of identical twins and, in one case, triplets, raised apart but in similar circumstance). Elyse and Paula also discovered a possible connection to mental illness in the birth families and scientific studies to see if that had a genetic connection. All of this smacks at least slightly of Josef Mengele's Nazi twin experiments.

Identical Strangers is told in a diary entry style alternating between Elyse's view and that of Paula's and i found it a very interesting well-told read. It was also one in which i felt i was reading many of my own feelings relating to being an adoptee, which is rather unusual in reading someone (or at least one half of the narrative) who has searched account.

Since their adoption took place at a time contemporaneous with my own i couldn't help but wonder if such a thing could happen to me. I've never felt as if i'm missing (any) part of myself. I would also hate to think there was any other form of me out there. I am so defined by my individuality and non-conformity... i guess you never really can tell. And they say we all have a doppelganger...

here's a few baby pics of me, if anyone out there has any that look exactly the same (besides my sister that is~whose pictures my mother has a difficult time telling apart from mine even though there is no blood relation, but then again my mum's a bit off...) maybe you should seek me out, or maybe you shouldn't ,you know how i am about that...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ready, Set, Cringe... (or, is this any way to drown one's sorrows?)

Late last night (or early this morning~depending on your point of view), while i was Not Sleeping, i decided to lie in bed and listen to some old This American Life episodes (this is something i often do to try to lull myself to sleep.) I happened upon this gem about those stories that make us cringe~and what exactly is it about those type of stories that are universally cringeworthy? The podcast was incredibly funny, so relateable (though they did make the observation that women often have cringe-related stories concerning love, that they absolutely revel in retelling again and again while men do not), and not all that sleep inducing (fortunately the drugs finally kicked in about 4:30 a.m.~although i didn't feel terribly fortunate when i was stumbling around the library this morning like a drunken fool~without the added benefit of incoherence).

On a completely unrelated, although now that i think about it this would probably create a few cringes in many of you (and many of the cringe-worthy stories are stories i am actually unable to repeat). As i was walking through my house i found that one of my cats had developed yet another case of feline ill that i am unable to diagnose nor trace to a specific cat to take to the veterinarian (and i cannot afford to take them all) and i was considering covering my entire house with sand so as to much more easily clean up these frequent accidents. I have long been considering what to do with the small area in my small entry hall area which, due to the long presence of cats before mine, had acquired a certain smell which caused Dixie to begin to eliminate there and caused me to unwilling place a litter box in my front hall closed helping but not entirely doing away with the problem.

I had decided on replacing the carpet with granite, supposed the most non-porous stone there is which i can also dye to match (or buy to match) the new dark blue carpet i plan to replace my current living room carpet with (the living room, by the by, is the only room in the house which is carpeted but i really want to keep the carpeting because i always sit on the floor.) When i had, most frustratingly decided to resort to the "beach theme" of sand i then came up with the more brilliant idea of putting an indoor pond in the front hall (the entire front hall) which would {hopefully~cats not being huge lovers of all things aquatic} serve the triple purpose of keeping them out of the front closet, the entry hall, AND keep keep Katushka and Demetra from racing out the front door whenever it opens which often has me standing outside the front door in a foot ball huddle waiting to catch a flying cat as well as kicking the door and shouting repeatedly, "Step away the door" which i'm sure has my neighbors wondering what sort of police action occurs at my house nearly every night.

Now, this whole idea of putting a water feature in my hall , or more accurately, my house, has appealed to me ever since i saw one featured in the mansion in the absolutely wonderful movie The Party with Peter Sellers (if you've never seen it, rush out and do so now!) Anyway, in a semi-serious quest i checked out Designing Water Gardens: A Unique Approach by Anthony Archer-Willis and Indoor Water Garden Design: 20 Eye-Catching Designs to Bring the Outdoors into your Home by Yvonne Rees. Designing Water Gardens didn't give me so many ideas although it does have pics of the whole stepping stone idea i've always wanted (a la The Party) ~tho that might defeat the whole preventing kitties idea as kitties can go tripping across the stepping stones almost as easily as i can~might have to construct some kind of drawbridge... not so very pretty that... Designing Water Gardens also introduced me to the very unique swimming pool at the Adelphi Hotel in Melbourne, Australia, part of which juts out over Flinders Lane~i'm not sure how i'd feel about swimming above metropolitan traffic, or having them look up at me~interesting nonetheless.

Indoor Water Garden Design did offer one design which was ALMOST doable, though the whole idea is far from practical~a girl can dream can't she. There are also a few ideas i found online~one with a cat pictured although i would have to figure out a way to sink the whole thing into the floor (again not a big practical idea) and one on a much larger scale than i had in mind~i guess it's all a great big OH WELL...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

"At home, they wander out into the yard alone and stand there at a terrible loss."

Lu, Mauve, Tuck, and Clyde are children who live in a world all their own~a world of free love and free play and free questions and free answers created by their hippy-dippy-bohemian parents who want to hold nothing back from them. Flower Children by Maxine Swann is a novel told in separate short stories, something akin to Moral Disorder & Other Stories by Margaret Atwood or one of my all-time-favorites: Rhoda: a life in stories by Ellen Gilchrist but Flower Children is entirely unique to itself, unencumbered by debt to those much accomplished novels (oh, if only i could be so unencumbered...)

The foursome is raised in an unconventional household (their home dug into a hillside, with a swing in the living room...) in a rural Pennsylvania farming county, where the parents plan to be completely up front concerning all subjects~no matter what; and after their split the father seems to need more parenting than they do. They are left their freedom even when they seem to long for some constraints (and visiting their more conventional maternal grandmother offers them a taste of something foreign and almost exotic; though visiting their paternal grandparents offers a taste of where their father might have gained his unconventional outlook.

If you are waiting to hear what happened to those children that were raised by the free-wheeling bohemian rule-eschewing parents of a more innocent time (as many amazon reviewers seemed to be~and as at least one publisher review led one to believe...) this may not be the novel for you; but it is a lyrical tale told by the oft-confused children of those parents told during their difficult, early coming of age period... I enjoyed it greatly, but i have often been told, with my own bohemian ways, i was born a generation too late... (though i have my own disagreements...)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"You are not allowed to blog. When you blog, you give yourself away, your most private details, for cheap, for free."

This is according to Yvonne, descended from Gypsies, and one of a coven of three white witches in Kelly Easton’s new young adult novel White Magic: spells to hold you, a book i picked up on a whim.

Some of Yvonne’s other rules:

  • You are not allowed to use drugs. Drugs are like running a race on broken legs and not knowing it.

  • You are not allowed to smoke, because (Yvonne) can’t stand the smell of cigarettes. (She) made her dad quit too. It was very hard on him.

  • Alcohol is okay, but only one glass of wine or beer. Being drunk takes away your power~i always included alcohol and cigarettes in the whole drug category but i guess that’s just me

  • Go easy on technology. Turn off your cell phone before meetings. Try to talk on the phone to each other instead of e-mailing; it’s too impersonal.

  • Limit all forms of media and technology, because it removes you from nature.

  • Have faith. If you have the right intention, the universe will take care of you.

  • Our coven is secret. You can tell people you are a witch, but not about the coven. Secret is sacred.

The other members of the coven include Chrissie, newly transplanted from Vermont, missing the snow, her dead father, and her best friend Jason; and Karen, boy crazy, misguided, and misunderstood. A character named Jimmy (Karen's current crush) who is going through some home turmoil of his own also gets some narrative space (is this the trend of the moment~this constant switch-up of point of view~or just the books i seem to be reading?)

Anyway, all in all, i wasn't entirely thrilled with White Magic~i suppose it was alright~i certainly whizzed through it (but is speed of reading any kind of criteria on which to judge a book?) Perhaps my adolescent girlhood is lacking. It wasn't terrible, but that's about the best i can say. I was also left unimpressed by Easton's research (or seeming lack thereof) into the whole metaphysical, wicca, witcherly (or whatever~i guess it sounded good) realm.

So there you go. My own opinions. For cheap. For free...

Friday, September 14, 2007

"... whatever else might have been going on, books were being read."

When i grow up i want to write like Alison Bechdel. She has such an understated, honest way with words (i delude myself into thinking i write that way but she does it so much better~the way i want to). She is both witty and wry. I remember we used to carry her comic Dykes to Watch Out For in my bookstore and now she's come out with an autobiographical graphic novel: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic a tale of her childhood and early young adulthood.The Fun Home of the title is a shortened form of the "Funeral Home" that makes up the family business as well as a reference to her father's obsession with restoring their Gothic revival style house in rural Pennsylvania to its former splendor. Her father and mother are both English teachers and both distant in their own way. Although Bechdel has two brothers this is really a father and daughter story with the rest of the family revolving around that story. As Bechdel comes of age and tries to come to terms with who she is and who she is becoming, she searches her father's closeted homosexual (actually more than homosexual~as it involved teenage boys for the most part and there is an important distinction to be made there) life and, later, death by apparent suicide (which came about a mere four months after her own coming-out). This novel is not, however, a "gay" novel, it is truly about family relationships and it is often framed by literary works (from classical myth, to Proust, to Joyce, to Camus)~as Bechdel's was a literary family.
Few authors could write with such depth and yet such a deft touch on a subject that is so emotionally close to their own heart. It is that deft touch which makes this book such a work of art.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

"We can stand at the edge of the river and watch the sun tumbling down."

This is Just to Say
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
I remember when i first encountered this poem~ninth grade Honors English (my all time favorite teacher~most inspirational~props again Mr. Mathis...) I seem to remember one of those painful sessions of analyzation~searching for meaning, symbolism, wondering if there were any right or wrong answers (which brings back nightmares of yet another teacher~this time college and sixteenth century poetry~everything i said and wrote~was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG and somehow i could do better~it was the first time that i really understood what it felt like to be the "picked-upon-'dumb'-student"~absolutely hated it [this same teacher was also my English minor advisor and in advising sessions he was perfectly pleasant~nice even...) Anyway, couldn't this famous poem (and i do love the poem~perhaps just for its lovely simplicity) just be a note left on the kitchen table or the refrigerator door?
Alice Kuipers' first novel, life on the refrigerator door is just that~notes between a mother and daughter left on the refrigerator door (a somewhat refreshing form of communication in this day of cell phones, email, and im-ing). This is a wonderful book; its 220 pages can be easily read in less than a few hours, but the emotions will linger long after the last page is finished.
It is as touching (if not more so) for what is left unsaid as what is said. I have an advanced reader's edition which i picked up because it was there and it looked undaunting. Today while i was cataloging (ever the librarian, i) newly acquired books (unfortunately a few still accumulate though i have tried to curb certain impulses...) i picked it up, started reading and couldn't stop.
I never felt like Kuipers was constrained by her form and what went untold could be sensed through what was told. You know from the blurbs that all will not go well with these characters but it is still a most compelling read: short, sweet, and entirely moving...
I will leave you with one of Claire's notes to her mother:
When I look at you
I see the woman I want to be
Strong and brave
Beautiful and free

P.S. I love you

Friday, September 07, 2007

"What an illusion, the idea of an ordered, ordinary life"

Multiple points of view (the omniscient third person, mainly) seem to be the current wave of narration~not that i'm complaining, mind you (or maybe it just so happens that i have read a string of them entirely co-incidentally...but i was reading in a writers' mag that it was a great way to get your story across. Such is the story told in Dalia Sofer's debut novel The Septembers of Shiraz which covers a year in the life of Isaac Amin's family (from September 1981 to September 1982~how appropriate then that i just happened to finish it in September, aye?)
Isaac is a rare gem dealer who is taken prisoner by the revolutionary guard in the days closely following the Iranian revolution. He is found suspicious by the new, devoutly Muslim, government by virtue of his Jewishness, his extensive travels (with frequent trips to Israel), his loose ties to the former Shah, but, perhaps mostly for his wealth and success. While he undergoes interrogations, torture, and solitary confinement in prison his wife, daughter, and son face their own fears and doubts about a possible future without him.
The theme of isolation is a constant in this novel, and everyone of its characters feels it, whether they be truly confined or merely unable to express their feelings to those around them. Isaac's son Parviz is in college in New York feeling no direction and disconnected, floating in the culture of Hasidic Jews he is unfamiliar with but that offers his only familial ties in a strange city. Isaac's nine year old daughter feels lost. She is first told her father is on extended business trip but she knows that something is wrong and begins to feel uncomfortable with her former circle of friends, resorting to her own (childhood logical) methods of bringing safety to her world. Both Isaac and his wife Farnaz struggle to navigate the new territory while remembering the more magical, happier times at the beginning of their courtship and marriage. When things begin to fall apart you realize that what you have is worth more than you knew. Perhaps not an original thought, and perhaps this story has been told before in a different setting and yet at the same time it is a beautiful, well-written novel.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome with Added Value Alertness

I know, i know have been quite remiss with this whole blog thingie, but believe me that is not the only thing i have been remiss with (but perhaps we will get into that later…)
So i had an appointment with a neurological sleep specialist upon referral from my neurological headache specialist (as my insomnia seems somewhat unresponsive to many forms of medication and my sleep patterns continue to be erratic to say the very least). He decided (and his diagnosis made perfect sense to me) that i have something called Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, which basically means that my circadian rhythm is a bit off (or in other words i’m a night owl~something i’ve been aware of since i’ve been aware of the term (and my mother has been aware of for much, much longer). He also doesn’t think i have any kind of symptoms of breathing problems (so for all those friends and relatives who have been telling me i have sleep apnea and that accounts for oh-so-much-wrong-with-me-and-my-life~nanny, nanny, nanny ;)~.
Apparently exposure to sunlight causes the release of certain proteins that help regulate wake cycles (we’re talking in addition to melatonin here) and recent research has shown (recent research i have been unable to find~by the by) that some of us release a great deal more of these proteins than others causing us to be unable to sleep at the “normal” hours. Many of us our misdiagnosed with insomnia, when actually, if we were just allowed to sleep when our bodies wanted to, say 3:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. we would be fine (see, i’m not really lazy, everyone else is just on the wrong schedule, well maybe that’s a stretch~the my-not-being-lazy part, that is…) In the past, they have mostly adjusted behaviour for these problems (usually making sleep times progressively later until it is where you want it to be) which hasn’t really solved the problem. The new treatment involves light therapy (similar to treatment for S.A.D.) which helps with the behavioural adjustment (also 80% of people who suffer from depression also have some kind of sleep disorder~similar to the coincidence of depression and migraines…hmmm...)
Also important is sleep hygiene: common sense things like keeping to a standard wake-up time on week days and weekends; eliminating caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol; avoiding napping; regular exercise (though not before bedtime); avoiding food or drink before bedtime; turn the alarm clock away from you; and the toughie for me~only using your bedroom for sleeping (which i’m not all that into as my bedroom is my retreat and i like to use it as such during the day). You also shouldn't watch the nightly news because that is meant to capture your attention. If you watch t.v. it shouldn't be anything with a beginning and end point (like a movie~because it is building to a conclusion). Same thing with reading~no novels (beginning and end), nothing you might have a personal interest in. So what is left? He mentioned encyclopedias. (i stayed mute about my interest in Those...) The dictionary (too much etymological interest there). Oh the curses of being a reference librarian (or the interests that drive you to be one...) Evolutionarily the whole night owl thing makes sense, i mean someone had to stay awake to guard the cave at night, right? So i’m a guardian. Kind of like a night warrior. Rampage on.
I haven’t yet gotten to the whole lightbox thing, i’m thinking, if i’m trying to simulate sunlight exposure, what about just sunlight exposure in and of itself? My other issue, apparently, is that i am inordinately alert to things going on in my environment so, even when i’m sleeping, i have a certain level of awareness (makes sense~being a Night Warrior/Guardian and all). After we get the light and schedule thing together, then perhaps we can move on to the sleeping drugs (though i already take lyrica {which is also supposed to help with my nerve pain~another migraine side effect} every night adding in a seroquel, or two, or three [i suppose i stop taking them when i pass out~the headache doc was a little unclear~she said until i could sleep...] if a migraine is not allowing sleep). The sleep doc says sleeping pills have not done anything in the past because of my wonderfully odd chemistry (and i suppose adding them in does something to kill my extra-special alertness (???)).
The other night, i came home exhausted from work and went to sleep about 11:30 p.m. (occasionally i can do this if i am extremely tired, although other times i can be too tired to do anything and not sleep~though i also took my lyrica~sometimes i forget and then it is too late) I then woke up about 2:00 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep until 8:30 a.m. (didn't have to work until noon that day). So now i'm not so convinced about the whole DSPS and maybe i'm not following any circadian rhythm at all, but my body just functions more like free form jazz (and that would make sense for MY body~although i did have some symptoms that defied categorization~quite normal for me~i have the quite usual experience of sitting in the examination room and having the doctor [or p.a. or n.p. or intern or whatever...] come back in shaking his head saying "I've never seen this before" and i'm thinking, "well i have"...)