Sunday, May 17, 2009
Even in a year when I'm keeping my distance from reading challenges, I'll be a happy participant in Maggie's Southern Reading Challenge.
Three Southern novels between May 15 and August 15. Weekly contests and drawings; I'll be the one most interested in noting the state of any mules that meander through the pages from the possibilities below:
The Hamlet. William Faulkner
Losing Battles. Eudora Welty
City of Refuge. Tom Piazza
Serena. Ron Rash
The Scarlet Thread. Doris Betts
Off For the Sweet Hereafter. T. R. Pearson
The Wettest County in the World. Matt Bondurant
The New Valley. Josh Weil
Saturday, May 16, 2009
--T.H. White, The Once and Future King
Friday, May 15, 2009
But how can one acquire such an upbeat attitude? In the same way we acquire all our habits--through practice. Psychologist William James discovered that if one pretended to be happy, this "going through the motions" would by itself lead to an improved mood. In other words: Act as you would like to be. It pays to picture the sort of character you present to the world. Do you want to be regarded as a whiner, a self-pitying hypochondriac, a man without backbone, a woman without pride? We all admire those who can control themselves, who--to use cliches--look on the bright side or possess a sunny disposition. The world, it's said, may be a tragedy for those who feel, but it can be a comedy, or at least of comedy of errors, for those who think.
--Michael Dirda, Book by Book: Notes of Reading and Life
Thursday, May 14, 2009
A few of the highlights from What Makes Us Happy?:
At the bottom of the pile are the unhealthiest, or “psychotic,” adaptations—like paranoia, hallucination, or megalomania—which, while they can serve to make reality tolerable for the person employing them, seem crazy to anyone else. One level up are the “immature” adaptations, which include acting out, passive aggression, hypochondria, projection, and fantasy. These aren’t as isolating as psychotic adaptations, but they impede intimacy. “Neurotic” defenses are common in “normal” people. These include intellectualization (mutating the primal stuff of life into objects of formal thought); dissociation (intense, often brief, removal from one’s feelings); and repression, which, Vaillant says, can involve “seemingly inexplicable naïveté, memory lapse, or failure to acknowledge input from a selected sense organ.” The healthiest, or “mature,” adaptations include altruism, humor, anticipation (looking ahead and planning for future discomfort), suppression (a conscious decision to postpone attention to an impulse or conflict, to be addressed in good time), and sublimation (finding outlets for feelings, like putting aggression into sport, or lust into courtship).
“Much of what is labeled mental illness,” Vaillant writes, “simply reflects our ‘unwise’ deployment of defense mechanisms. If we use defenses well, we are deemed mentally healthy, conscientious, funny, creative, and altruistic. If we use them badly, the psychiatrist diagnoses us ill, our neighbors label us unpleasant, and society brands us immoral.”
He also found that personality traits assigned by the psychiatrists in the initial interviews largely predicted who would become Democrats (descriptions included “sensitive,” “cultural,” and “introspective”) and Republicans (“pragmatic” and “organized”).
In fact, Vaillant went on, positive emotions make us more vulnerable than negative ones. One reason is that they’re future-oriented. Fear and sadness have immediate payoffs—protecting us from attack or attracting resources at times of distress. Gratitude and joy, over time, will yield better health and deeper connections—but in the short term actually put us at risk. That’s because, while negative emotions tend to be insulating, positive emotions expose us to the common elements of rejection and heartbreak.
Mariel suggested this week’s question:
Book Gluttony! Are your eyes bigger than your book belly? Do you have a habit of buying up books far quicker than you could possibly read them? Have you had to curb your book buying habits until you can catch up with yourself? Or are you a controlled buyer, only purchasing books when you have run out of things to read?
See previous post Stockpiled! if you want pictorial proof of my book gluttony. I have been buying books at a careening clip ever since we paid off the house, but with my husband's contract expiring at the end of May--after receiving a one-month extension at the end of April--I am being confronted with the impossibility of continuing on as I have been. I'll need to read what I already own or can obtain from the library in the days to come.
Booking Through Thursday
Sunday, May 10, 2009
If only I were reading as quickly as I'm accumulating. . .
Julia Strachey's Cheerful Weather for the Wedding
Elif Shafak's The Flea Palace
Snorri Sturluson's The Prose Edda
Ivy Compton-Burnett's Manservant and Maidservant (one of Iliana's suggestions for Slaves; we selected Patrick Hamilton's The Slaves of Solitude for discussion at the end of May)
Caroline Blackwood's Great Granny Webster
Winifred Peck's House-Bound
Jocelyn Playfair's A House in the Country
A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book
Reif Larsen's The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (review copy)
Hilary Mantel's Learning to Talk
John Wyndham's The Chrysalids
Hilda Bernstein's The World That Was Ours
Elizabeth Taylor's At Mrs. Lippincote's
Dorothy Whipple's The Priory
Dorothy Whipple's They Were Sisters
Bernard Beckett's Genesis (review copy)
Ian McDonald's Cyberabad Days
Christina Sunley's The Tricking of Freya (review copy)
Marcelle Pick's The Core Balance Diet
And purchased for the Kindle:
Christian Moerk's Darling Jim
Michael Dirda's Book by Book
E.M. Delafield's Diary of a Provincial Lady (because of MFS and Danielle)
Janet Malcolm's Reading Chekhov (because of Dorothy)
W. Somerset Maugham's The Magician
Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship (because of its incorporation into Andrew Crumey's Sputnik Caledonia)
Friday, May 08, 2009
It's been twentysomething years since Hope and Michael and Nancy and Elliot and Melissa and Gary first graced my tv screen, but thirtysomething is finally being released to the video market. LA Times reports all four seasons will be released at a rate of one every six months or so beginning in August, and the music for the series is all intact.
Now is the powers-that-be would just release Season Two and Three to Alias Smith and Jones already. . .
Thursday, May 07, 2009
--Michael Dirda, Book by Book: Notes of Reading and Life
Sunday, May 03, 2009
Showing a bit of solidarity with Kirstyjane this afternoon with a Kristofferson favorite.
We swang into the saddle slick as breathing
And slapped 'em once for pleasure with the reins
The horses snorted frosty in the moonlight
Somethin' dark was singing in my veins
Older than the voices in my brain.
Friday, May 01, 2009
1. Take five (random!) books off your bookshelf.
2. Book #1 -- first sentence
3. Book #2 -- last sentence on page fifty
4. Book #3 -- second sentence on page one hundred
5. Book #4 -- next to the last sentence on page one hundred fifty
6. Book #5 -- final sentence of the book
7. Make the five sentences into a paragraph:
When my nose finally stops bleeding and I've disposed of the bloody paper towel, Teddy Barnes insists on driving me home in his ancient Honda Civic, a car that refuses to die and that Teddy, cheap as he is, refuses to trade in. And the sun was warming the top of Justine's head right through her hat, and the dexterous twist of the baseball glove as it rose to meet the ball and the slap of leather on leather lulled her into a trance. Sally wasn't home when I got back, but there was a letter in my mailbox from Emma Horton, and one from my editor. We would bury him tomorrow and so bury our sorrow, then resume our lives and forget him. "Because I never found My audience," said God and annihilated, as Mother Mary and Christ and Lesefario and Flanoy and Quiz in their Y.M.C.A. seafront room in Piraeus and all Hell's troubled sighed, everything.
1. Straight Man. Richard Russo
2. Searching for Caleb. Anne Tyler
3. All My Friends Are Going to be Strangers. Larry McMurtry
4. A Book of Reasons. John Vernon
5. The Living End. Stanley Elkin
My parents seemed to believe in letting everyone do whatever they wanted until they became very good at it or died. "I'm having a beer," Mona declared. How awful other people's families are, yawned Eliza. Nurses are almost always like that. We all sat in the sun, warming ourselves, eating cookies, watching the giraffes and the clouds.
1. Nola. Robin Hemley
2. Living to Tell. Antonya Nelson
3. Human Croquet. Kate Atkinson
4. April Witch. Majgull Axelsson
5. A Primate's Memoir. Robert M. Sapolsky
The weekend that Helly brought her new boyfriend down to meet Clare, Clare's younger brother, Toby, was also staying with them, following them round with his video camera, making a documentary about the family for his college course. I met Sils halfway, in the dining room, already coming in, and I grabbed her jacket cuff, turned, and led her back into my room. "But we always have a fire in the evening, if we can bear it; and you especially require one in this cold house and dreary room." It's the failings people want to hear. But now I must sleep.
1. Accidents in the Home. Tessa Hadley
2. Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? Lorrie Moore
3. Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Anne Bronte
4. Crooked Hearts. Robert Boswell
5. Atonement. Ian McEwan