Monday, April 24, 2017

Poor, poor me

I realized today that it's darn near impossible to improve my jogging times in the spring. Why?

Wildflowers!  On the other hand, stopping to take photographs every mile or so is perfectly in line with our ancient ancestor's method of persistence hunting.  Run a while; stop to examine footprints (or take photos); run some more, wha-la!  Of the end they got a tasty meal...of worm-infested bloody meat.  I'll have to be content with my own rewards.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Not teen angst but teens in real pain. Whew.

How To Save a Life
by Sara Zarr

However does a person invent such a sweet but painful maze of personalities?  There's got to be a personal experience behind this!  I'll say what I think first, then do some author research.

I'm not a fan of dual-perspective novels in general, but Sara Zarr's two characters were so delightfully at odds that it worked. Two young women are forced into an almost-but-not-quite family situation when the mother of one decides to adopt the soon to be born baby of the other. The author tells both their stories in alternating chapters of internal dialog. There's some actual dialog, too, but it's not where the action is happening.

Mandy is the pregnant one. She's hoping Jill's mom will give her baby the loving home that she never had, but she's likely to ruin it all with her habitual and incessant lying. You come to understand why she lies so much, but that only adds to the tension--will she ever be able to tell the truth?

Jill is grieving over her dead father and unable to let herself live, or love, or even accept friendship, ever again. Her fear of giving or receiving love is ruining her life but she refuses to admit it. You could say that she lies too--not to others, but herself. Will she ever be able to stop?

And there's even a third character in the mix who gets to be a real person--the mom. She's neither afraid nor deceitful; she's overflowing with love and has nobody to shower it on.  But...why in the world would she expect this 'open adoption' to work, and what will she do if it doesn't?

The male characters get short shrift, but at least they're not stereotypes.  And...oops--I've already told way too much.

Once again I think the audiobook format was preferable to paper. Personal narratives told first person are smashing.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Running with the world

Run the World: My 3,500-Mile Journey Through Running Cultures Around the Globe 


Great book!  This runner takes a break from routine training to travel, visit some of the best known countries in the world of running, and absorb wisdom.  And recipes, but that's beside the point.  You can skip those.

 She travels to Ethiopia, Japan, Finland (or was that Sweden? sorry), and a few other places and in each one she makes amazing friends, runs a lot of miles both fast and slow, and writes about it all in a perfect, easygoing style that makes you feel like you know these people and feel these places. 

I say feel, not see, because I didn't see/hear/taste the world in the way the some rare travel authors can do for me.  But I wasn't the slightest bit disappointed, either.  She wasn't as focused on the sights and scenery as some of the authors I love; instead she writes more about her interaction with the sights and scenery--especially the uneven ground at her feet, the trails and paths and cross-country routes that fill the life of a runner, and most especially, the running people along the way.  It's a whole different perspective from that of a driver tourist (William Least-Heat Moon) or a walker (Colin Fletcher) or even a train/plane/automobile tourist (Alice Steinbach).  It's a runner's perspective and that is fascinating.

The marathon she runs at the end rocks!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The eggplant article was good

Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant
Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

Like any collection of short essays, this had its hits and its misses.  But I don't remember jumping up from any single one to rush to the computer and see what else that writer had written.  I need to leaf back through and check....

The only authors I liked enough to consider checking out were Phoebe Nobles--who isn't an author so I guess she's a foodie--and Holly Hughes, who writes for Frommer's and does food writing anthologies.

So, that's what I thought.  It was amusing enough to keep me reading, but nothing was memorable. Each person used around five pages plus a recipe, but none seemed particularly inspired to produce their very best writing. It was more like--hey, would you dash off a couple pages about cooking alone for my book?  It doesn't have to be all that great, just some personal observations. People will love to read it!

And yeah, if you're a big fan of these people, you might.  I knew a few of them, especially Nora Ephron--but her article on potatoes wasn't even new--it came from Heartburn.  Maybe not verbatim, but I recognized it.

So I think it was a nice idea for a collection but it maybe didn't pan out so great. Still a good collection to pick up and put down without regrets, say, for vacation reading.  it's an okay.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I did (just listen). Very punny.

Just Listen
by Sarah Dessen

Wow!  Ranks right up there with Cynthia Voigt's Homecoming series of YA books about families and growing up. Annabel's family is dysfunctional to the max, although you don't realize it at first. The Dad is a nice guy who refuses to discuss anything even remotely emotional. The Mom is living her own dreams through her children, and she refuses to see that they're real human beings--not her.  They're growing up and experiencing real pain that can't be healed by a bandaid, and they can never, ever tell her about it. Of the three daughters, one can't shut up, one can't speak, and one can't do or say anything that might hurt someone else.

So, other than wanting the whop the parents upside the head a few times, I heartily enjoyed this book. Or, more accurately, hated this book because it hurt so much. Which makes it worth recommending, with a couple of warnings--

She's awfully fond of flashbacks or should I say, backstory. A whole lot of the story was backstory.

Like any well-written teenage coming of age story, there's a lot of angst.  Be prepared to suffer right along with her.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Early April in the garden

I think it's lovely.

and edible.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Long review, short book

 The Way of the Runner
by Adharananad Finn

I found this book as conflicted as the "Japanese character," whatever that is. He quotes from a Japanese coach:
"Your culture respects winners"..."In Japan, not only winning, but being a good team member is important. How you harmonise with the team."

The Toyo coach goes on to explain that even their manga (Japanese graphic novels) cultivates and encourages this attitude. I know this to be true, yet manga itself seems an intensely individual art.  I don't recall seeing manga authored by a team--it always seems to be an individual.  Yet I'm sure there must be a team involved...this is puzzling.

The book is not a dry lecture or even a series of interviews, although it has a little of both.  It's a single man's story and his quest to join an ekiden team, improve his running performance, and understand the Japanese running phenomenon.  I found that truly amazing. Can you believe corporations actually hire people to be on their running teams?  And while they expect them to show up at work occasionally and do busy work, their real job responsibility is to train and to run ekiden.

I'd never heard of ekiden, and although he uses the word on the first page and many times throughout, I don't remember him every explaining it.  That may be my failing, because I've still not mastered the "kilometers to miles" conversion in my head and so any mention of kilometers is usually passed over by my dimwitted brain.  Maybe I should start recording my own running in kilometers, just to get comfortable with it.  My longest day is 6 miles which is about 9-1/2K.  Got it?  Why can't the U.S. sync up with the rest of the world so I don't have to continually make these stupid conversions?

Okay, here it is: ekiden -- a long distance relay race.  Somewhere between four and ten or more runners complete a track varying in distance from 12 to 40K each.  In the National Corporate Men's Ekiden Championships, 7 runners about 8.8 miles each for a 100K total. 

As to the book, if you're really into running and learning about Japanese culture, this is a great book for you...I guess.  l kept losing interest.  In reading about running, my interest is more about the Tao of running and less about the miles, agony and glory of the finish line.  And the more I read about Japanese culture, the less I admire.  I know that's a silly judgement to make, but I can't help it.  The culture highlights hard work, perseverance, and team work, but those leave people open to overuse injury, burnout, bullying and exclusion--if you're not in the team.  There's much to admire, but it's not perfect.  Whose culture is?