Also: always look in the hole.
I should probably answer my own questions! I am like, alternating between hard pandemic wall and "basically fine?" Several things in my work life are changing for the better this month and we got some very good financial news this week, so all in all, I'm hanging in there.
Novels! I finally read some Le Carré, and "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold" blew my mind, it was so good. "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" was not as good but I still liked it. I read a few more and didn't love them. C. Pam Zhang's "How Much of These Hills Is Gold" was amazing. And what got me through most of the pandemic were Andrzej Sapkowski's "Witcher" novels. They're not... GOOD, but there is something good about them. I don't know how to put it other than that. They're written very strangely and there's a lot of truly terrible dialogue and excess drama, but at heart there's something deeply human about the characters that makes them work.
I am absolutely falling apart. Thank you for asking. Books?! In this economy
I am scared to comment because tabs is like a cool kids club but I love tabs and am so glad you’re back.
Anyway I am fine (thanks for asking!) I guess but better because I bought a car and a) yes I’m fortunate enough to be able to buy a car and b) oh holy shit the freedom. Pandemic has been hard in these four walls and it’s like those walls just disappeared.
I “read” (audiobooks count, right?) The Only Good Indians and it was so visceral and beautiful and terrible and tragic and weirdly hopeful all at once. The audiobook narrator was kind of wonderful too, and I do not have a high tolerance when they are not good.
A lot of the time, I think, "woah, I'm really fucked up, exhausted, and unhappy. The last two years may have utterly and permanently broken me, but thinking that way is probably a cop-out, an excuse to get out of Doing The Work, the prospect of which seems totally overwhelming." And then I drink some water, eat some Parm Crisps, and I feel all right for a bit.
I watched a Zoom call with Paul Beatty that prompted me to reread The Sellout for the third time. If it's not a Great American Novel, I don't need one.
1. I'm good. The high school kids I teach have been keeping their cameras turned off and they only say "here" when I call their names for attendance. I miss their constant shit talking. A lot. It's the best part of teaching high school. Mr. K-, do you miss your hair? Mr. K-, you really gonna wear that shirt AGAIN? I miss hearing them talk to each other about stuff they know nothing about. Last year, before this started, I had a kid who had the worst hot takes about sports I've ever heard. He was one of those kids who no one has ever bothered to tell to sometimes just be still, be quiet, no one really cares. I miss his terrible takes.
2. I just finished "Milk Fed"; it was great.
I mean i'm fine, really. Kept my job through the pandemic, was able to work from home. But also, I wasn't a very socially active person BEFORE the pandemic, and after a year of isolation I don't really know who I am any more.
As for novels, I couldn't get my brain to cooperate last year and read "serious" "literature", so I just read the entire Culture series by Iain M. Banks and it was wonderful escapist sci fi. Recently (as in the past week) my brain finally did come around and I got to THE NICKEL BOYS by Colson Whitehead and it was devastating.
1. I'm ok-ish. I've hit a wall at work a little bit (which is teaching high school kids on a laptop in my bedroom--they've hit a wall, too, it feels like) but my mother-in-law and parents got vaccinated which feels so nice to type.
2. I recently read "Train Dreams" by Denis Johnson which instantly became my favorite Denis Johnson, and "Sing, Unburied, Sing" by Jesmyn Ward which I somehow missed when it made its initial splash and which hit me like a train. On a lighter note, I read and enjoyed "Piranesi" by Susanna Clarke. My friend who recommended it described it both as "candy pretending to be vegetables," and "secular C.S. Lewis" and that seemed about right. I hope she someday feels healthy enough to write another massive wing-dinger like "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell," though.
Hi! I am doing pretty well. I gave notice at my job after 6 years (which is like 100 in tech years) and was kind of agonizing over telling my team so it's just a huge relief that it's done and everyone reacted well and I can start handing stuff off. So that's exciting.
Re: novels I've been reading Gibson's Blue Ant series, which is fine. Pattern Recognition is obviously the best of the three. I checked out the entire stack of Martha Wells's Cloud Roads series from the library so I'm looking forward to diving into those because her Murderbot Diaries series was one of the most entertaining things I read in the past, oh, decade or so.
The way I seem to be getting through is by being completely in the present, and despite what all those "I live in the moment" people want to tell you, it actually is a little odd. I just don't think about very much more than a week in the future, and I don't think about the things I used to do that I don't now. I try to find small pleasures (like my cat sleeping on his little mat behind my chair, next to the radiator, and snoring) and just keep going.
A friend and I started a book club for two where we've mostly read romance novels and pop bios. We started with the Harry and Meghan book and I'd say the best of the books we've zoomed through was Red White and Royal Blue. Mariah's bio hit me very deeply at the start, being a fellow black biracial and of the same age, but ymmv. I also did a big Dorothy L Sayers reread at the start of the pandemic and Gaudy Night still has a lot to say, especially the long middle digression into the minutiae of the literary world.
No points for originality here but I read The Plague. Camus didn't live through a plague himself but he sure wrote about in a way that made you conclude everything that is happening has happened before. It's all a bit of a slog tbh but chapters 17-18 are really weirdly reassuring. You don't want read about what we're living through? Fine, then read it as a response to rising fascism.
Nothing's getting better but nothing is getting worse either, so this week wasn't terrible. Spring is here so that tips the balance in favor of "positive."
Last week everyone was like auughhh and ohhhh and everything is awfulllll and I suddenly realized I’ve become totally numb at this point. Not seeing anyone and living off canned soup no longer feels depressing to me and actually it doesn’t feel like anything at all. Then I drank and over exerted myself over the weekend and have felt like a truck ran over me ever since. So I’m fan fucking tastic thanks for asking.
The last 2 novels I read were Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh, which was lusciously written right up until the point that you realized this suspense story actually had nothing resembling a payoff and that a couple of the characters motivations made no sense, and The Only Story by Julian Barnes, which was similar in terms of the lack of narrative payoff but was at least British (yay escapism) and an actual attempt at literature (i.e. wrapped up its loose ends and had themes, imagery, etc.). This feels like a book report and I’m fine with that.
y’all are reading books? in this economy?
I just met with my psychiatrist earlier the week to check in about everything/update meds and now, lol, have spent two days riddled with generalized anxiety that’s just there and isn’t enough to have a full blown attack but holding my chest and heart hostage.
I’m tired but I rearranged my entire apartment so that I can sit by the window more which was nice. I...do not remember the last novel I read because I have only really been reading nonfiction for a while for whatever reason.
1. Like many, I’m up-and-down depending on the day/week... I seem to hit a pandemic wall and then learn to cope and then hit it again several weeks later, lather rinse repeat. All in all I’m very fortunate (made it through a three-month furlough in the spring and am now happily back at work[-from-home] - with a small raise, even?! - friends and family are all safe and well, and my mom is getting her second vaccine dose next week) but the mental effort of persevering even when I’m mostly ok is... a lot.
2. Probably related to the above, I have mostly not had the mental space to read novels since last year... most recently I enjoyed Elizabeth Hand‘s “The Book of Lamps and Banners.” Early in the pandemic I was absolutely swept away by NK Jemisin’s “Fifth Season” but I had to abandon “Obelisk Gate” because it was too much dystopia for me to handle. It’s the first book I will pick up when we make it through... all of this.
1. I was better before reading the story about the outhouse bear.
2. I really liked “The Glass House”, although I’m not even sure if I can explain why or what it was ultimately about.