My reading slacked off somewhat this past week, and I spent more time idly looking at this or that or doing not much of anything. I think it was time well spent, this lollygagging, so I have no particular complaints.
I did spend some time just listenting to music. A friend brought by a recording of the Brandenberg Concertos because she knew I had missed the two-night performance of the complete cycle as I was already confined to my bed, and I was grateful to lie back and just listen in comfort. I also discovered radio David Byrne and spent some very happy time listening to a playlist of new, at least to me, music. I seems I had been so busy and so focused on other things that I had forgotten about the pleasures of just listening to music, and not just classical music, but popular music, music where listening to the words is an important part of the beauty of the songs, such as in the songs of Mark Kozolek (Sun Kil Moon). I was also particularly taken by the beauty of the songs of Anna Calvi, both artists previously unknown to me, and whom I will now seek out.
My reading material was basically of a light nature. I started out with two non-fiction books, neither one difficult but then realized that my focus was waning and settled into a slow, contented reading of light fiction.
The non-fiction books were Malcom Kendrick's The Great Cholesterol Con, which is filled with lots of information but is also written in a very fun, entertaining and accessible way. I don't know that there was a lot of material in the book that I hadn't read elsewhere, I started doing a lot of research on diet, cholesterol, fat and so forth after reading Good Calories Bad Calories a while ago, and have become a pretty regular reader of certain medical and scientific journals related to those subjects ever since. But Kendrick pulled the information together in a way that I felt was particularly accessible and I felt he made his points clearly without going overboard on either polemics or numbing the general reader with too much data. I would say it is a very good introduction to an important subject and should be read by more people.
Then I read Anthony Colpo's Whole Grains Empty Promises, which I believe only exists as a kindle edition, because it was being offered free of charge when I downloaded it, although I believe the price has goine up to $2.99. The book was worthwhile for the extensive notes and references to the research, which make up a significant part of the short book. But aside from that it was easy to read and Colpo did an excellent job of explaining why whole grains are not necessarily the be all and end all of great nutrition. His information is based on solid research. Given his research I can understand the antagonism toward the establishment view that pushes whole grains, but even so I found his writing to be overly sarcastic and inflammatory. I wish his tone had been more measured.
About this point I was finding it harder to take notes or underline passages in books, and was also feeling less inclined to read anything I had to think about it much detail, so I decided to move on to light fiction.
Next I reread The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Now I first read this book my freshman year in college. It was already a couple of years old by then, but this was long before the movie came out and I can say this, much as I love the movie, and even though the movie is really quite true to the fairy tale part of the story in the Princess Bride, the movie has just a shadow of the depth of the book. I love this book, it always makes me happy, but it is so much more than a swashbuckling, fairy-tale romance. I lvoe the way Goldman frames the story within another story and the way that framing story uses the fairy-tale to tell a far more profound story of why books matter, and what we learn from them, how they shape and expand our views of the world, and how that world shapes us as he interlayers stories of publishers, aspiring jewish writers and the ways and ridiculous spoofs of fairy tales and so many of the common dreams we all hold dear. If you think about what the story actually says, it can really make you question all those basic assumptions about love and happiness, good and evil, and yet at the same time, the story can be extremely satiric and questioning while still leave me feeling profoundly happy. Kudos to Mr. Goldman. I've read this book probably 5 or 6 times in the last 38 years, every time I read it I find it both more absurd and more profound, and it always leaves me ridiculously happy.
Next up was Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard. This had been on my list for a long time and I don't know why I never got around to reading it because it was really a lovely and charming story. I like the way the story interleaves the discovery and interweaving of a new love, with the story of moving to a new cutlure and finding one's adult path in life. The author skillfully blends the sense of isolation of finding one's path in a froeign culture and alone in a new environment with the completeness of the romantic relationship, and she also skillfully navigates the ways in which one comes to terms with knowing oneself and sorting out one's fantasies of life in order to get at the kernel of what is true. I suppose there is more I could say, but put simply, it was a delight.
I read The Replacement Wife by Eileen Gouge primarily because a friend recommended the author. I thought it was pretty good but annoying too and in the end I found it sad. I started out thinking I would like the protagonist, Camille Hart, but quickly thought she was far too self-satisfied and a good bit on the over-controlling side as well. There was a lot of miscommunication between the characers and damage that could have been avoided had they just been willing to talk to each other. The basic point of the story is that when Camille learns that her cancer has returned and has metastasized, she decides she is going to die, and she also decides that she needs to find someone to take her place for her husband and her children before she dies. But she gets to control who she chooses, and she wants him to accept her choice, but not get too involved at the same time. In short she is working from her head, and from her own unresolved issues surrounding her mothers death when she was 14 and unresolved issues with her father arising from that same event. In the end everyone gets hurt. Yes the husband behaves childishly also, but I am more inclined to forgive him because I don't see from the story that Camille every understands the way her actions felt like a complete betrayal of trust to him. In the end, she lives, they get divorced, and the husband remarries. It seems from the story he learns something about himself and about openness to relationships, and Camille seems to grow up a little but she still seems somehow to have missed something critical. Maybe I jut took the whole thing too seriously.