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Wednesday reading — traumas and fix-its

What I've been reading

I read Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully. I'd previously read a novel by the author, The Grand Complication, which is notable to me for being perhaps the only book that involves a competitive cataloguing scene, although I have forgotten the actual main plot. When he was young he spent a year at a Swiss boarding school, where he crossed paths with the aforementioned bully. After years of obsessing about this guy and what happened to him, he lucks out, as he turns out to have been convicted for his involvement in a particularly glitzy ring of fraudulent bankers, who make for fairly entertaining reading.

I read Lock and Key because I was going back to see which of Sarah Dessen's books I hadn't read.

I reread Jane of Lantern Hill, because it was mentioned in the introduction to The Annotated Anne of Green Gables and I realized that I didn't really remember it (and on rereading, what I thought I remembered was a different book or just wrong). The way that L. M. Montgomery usually revised her own life was allowing her young girl protagonists to win over the strict older women in their lives, making them more satisfactory than her own grandmother. This time she rewrote what happened when she went to live with her newly-remarried father, who kept her out of school to care for his new children and thus drove her back into the arms of the aforementioned unsatisfactory grandmother. Jane wants nothing more than to stay and keep house for her father. Of course, there are no children or stepmothers in the picture, her father is an enthusiastic informal teacher and Jane's housekeeping sounds pretty delightful, like playing house on a slightly grander scale. Her horrible grandmother stays horrible.

I read The Price of Salt because of the buzz about the movie version with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, which looks like it is going to be, at minimum, absolutely gorgeous, although I think The Price of Salt is a more evocative title than Carol. I was pleased by the longish detour in Sioux Falls, my birthplace, of all places. There is no intersection of Fifth and Nebraska in Sioux Falls; there is barely even a Fifth St and there is no Nebraska St at all, although there is a Fifth and Nebraska in Sioux City, which may have caused the confusion. Dell Rapids is indeed not far outside Sioux Falls, though. I, like Therese, have gone out to Dell Rapids and back.

I read A Garland for Girls, a collection of Louisa May Alcott's short stories for children, which are generally much preachier than her novels for children. I'd always wanted to read this particular collection though because my library had a copy of it but it was noncirculating and I never read it.

I read How to Write a Thesis, which is roughly the MLA Handbook as written by Umberto Eco, available for the first time in an English translation. Even though it contains a lot of material that is quite specific to its original time (it was written in 1977) and place (until quite recently all Italian undergraduates had to write theses that were closer to what is elsewhere masters-level work to get degrees), I still would have found it more useful in high school and college than the MLA Handbook. It's very engaging, empathetic and funny.

I read Seveneves, Neal Stephenson's latest book, which my brother and I have been taking turns getting each other excited about for a while now. I really enjoyed it, although I expect the people who get annoyed about Stephenson being unable to end a book will have more or less the same complaint. (I tend to feel like they are all basically acceptable endings, so what do I know?) It's divided in two parts: the first two-thirds is the realistic, near-future set-up, and the last third picks up five thousand years later with various payoffs from that scenario. The latter part reminds me of Snow Crash/The Diamond Age-era Stephenson, only with a lot more effort expended on setting up how we get there from here. Sonar Taxlaw is one of my favorite minor characters of all time.

What I'm reading now

I'm still reading The Annotated Anne of Green Gables.

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