Spotted at the Post Office
Poetry Friday: "Heaven for Stanley"

What We're Up To, Reading-Wise

Yesterday we came home from the library with a backpack full of books from the J (children's) science section; subjects include lasers, leprosy, nuclear energy, and the planet Venus. These will be added to the pile in Junior's room of titles on battleships, amoebas, snake care, and chemistry. Sure, we still read books together like Cornelia Funke's Ghosthunters series, but clearly, now that he's "almost ten," the kiddo has more and more of his own interests to pursue. 

While I'm very glad that our library offers books on amoebas and leprosy, I don't plan on reviewing them here. "The book features many enlarged photographs of the one-celled organisms." Nah. That's his thing, not mine. (Not that I mind amoebas, of course.) 

As Junior has been exploring the world of nonfiction, I've been reading some classic novels (for grown-ups). I was a history, not literature, major in college, and have lots of catch-up to do in this area. Among the ones I've read so far are Henry James' Washington Square, Daisy Miller, and The Portrait of a Lady. On my to-read list I've put Tolstoy's War and Peace and George Eliot's Middlemarch. Heaven knows when I'll get to these two blockbusters; I bought the copy of Portrait of a Lady for ten years before I read it. Right now I'm happily chugging along with something shorter, Nabokov's Real Life of Sebastian Knight.

N.T., my husband and a big fan of contemporary fiction, introduced me to one of my favorite books of this year: The Housekeeper and the Professor. The write-up at the blog Feminist Review captures Yoko Ogawa's "careful meditation on memory and communication" well. Lisa Bower writes, 

The premise of the novel is seemingly simple: the plot revolves around the relationship between a housekeeper and a once-famous mathematician, the latter of whom was in a car accident that left him brain damaged. This man's short term memory is shot; it lasts for only eighty minutes. Armed with only decades-old memories and his formulas and theories, the novel shows that despite such loss, affection and love are still possible. Math becomes the language that penetrates this man's mind and allows him to make sense of a world that has changed without him knowing it. 

Translated from the Japanese, it's a really lovely book that also features the housekeeper's ten-year-old son, a baseball lover, who also finds a way to meet the professor where he is. I look forward to reading more of Ogawa's work, like The Diving Pool. N.T. also highly recommends The Secret Scripture, by Sebastian Barry.


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Portrait of a Lady is one of those books I really loved that really irritated me. I just wanted to shake them all and shout, "This. Is. So. Unnecessary." Which was, after all, the point.

Washington Square affected me that way!

In Portrait, what do you think Isabel did at the end? I think she went back to that wretched husband.

Interesting selection process - it is always good to see people still enjoying books and what they are up to, reading wise.

Susan, I just saw your blog listed on this site of the Top 100 Poetry Blogs. You are in the Children's section with me.

Woo Hoo!

Very kind of them to put C.S. on the list!

Congrats to you, too, Cloudscome.

And, thanks to your husband, The Housekeeper and the Professor was selected to be the 2010 townwide read for Westport, CT!

Such a good book! The townwide read ought to be awesome!

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