Coming around again…

[returns from checking Statcounter re: latest entry, looking slightly dazed]

So I guess I really am pretty much alone in this Bob & Ray obsession, huh? People insist on having exciting and interesting lives instead of hanging off my every post, eh?

Well, OK then. I will deal with this in a manner not unreminiscent of the greats of literature; all will become grist for my creative mill…Hey, it’s either this or the youngest Shoesis’ ongoing love life, a serial in umpty-squillion parts, tickets on sale now at a vaudeville stage near you. The rest of the family keeps urging me to write it up, claiming that it’s my ticket to becoming the next Danielle Steel; unfortunately, I’m not yet convinced that even Steel fans would buy into it.

I could also put together a nice little comic setpiece about how Shoemom and I gave up cable this past spring because we were effectively only paying for a few channels…only for the growing realisation to dawn that those channels had a deep-rooted, integral part in our lives. For instance, it’s pretty tough to be home sick and not have TreehouseTV for company. (Seriously…I’m not alone in this, right? When you’re feeling exhausted and miserable, the soft cheery hum of preschool cartoonage is perfectly pitched to distract and amuse. Right? C’mon, guys? Bueller?)

There was also the thing where Shoemom got all misty-eyed reminiscing about ‘sitting down to a cup of coffee and the Weather Network in the morning’ but, anyway, long story short. We’ve decided to allow ourselves to be lured back by deep discounts, also the sheer ridiculous good nature of the twentysomethings who man the services desk at our local Rogers Communications.
These are the same people who charmed us into switching Net providers in their favour not long ago, and they remain just as smart and – the clincher – realistic about their products. This is such a sure ticket to my heart, the demonstration of concern for my needs as opposed to their bottom line, that I am really, really glad more customer service types haven’t twigged to the concept. Shoe Central doesn’t have that much space available.

…So the point of all this – no, really, go back and check – actually has its roots in the last post but one, in which I mentioned one of my favourite books...come to think of it, I’d been pondering the concept some while before that, back when I was ranting about fandom as a symptom of overexposure.

I started to think about a post sharing all the stuff that gives me warm fuzzies of private fun; then I realised that there are even fewer people out there who want to hear about my mini Rubik’s Cube than do my Bob & Ray rants. Hence part II, wherein I narrowed it down to books. And here we are at part III…

The aforementioned Guinness Dictionary of Regrettable Quotations. Over on this side of the Atlantic, the ‘Guinness’ brand name is known mostly for beer and books of records, so imagine my pleasant surprise, back at the bookstore, to discover it also did a nice line in gently snarky quotebooks (although the updated version of this one seems to have hopped publishers in the interim).
Note also the amusing illustration of inherent sociological differences between this and another book in my library. American version: Unusually Stupid Americans. The same concept presented to UK readers: ‘Regrettable’. I just love that. I reread this one not only to have a good levelling snicker at the self-appointed ‘sperts (“Forget it, Irving; no Civil War picture ever made a nickel”) but as a reminder that understatement is just as, if not more, valuable a component of humour. Which naturally leads me around to…

Don’t Go Europe! : Paris when it giggles. A wickedly funny send-up of pretentious travel guides, written with been-there-done-that shrewdness. Harris finds the Ugly American standing in the middle of Ye Olde Quainte Towne Square, wondering where the McDonald’s is, and briskly guides him through a typical European tourist experience with a minimum of sentiment and a maximum of really, really bad puns.
Includes helpful tips on not sleeping on the Euro-trains (“WHAP!…Ticket check”) not upsetting the natives (when in London, never compare Prince Charles to the Cat in the Hat), and not missing the major cultural attraction in Sweden (cold snow). Highly recommended as a gag gift for the traveller – or just a good laugh at home.

The Lady (UK alternate title: The Carradyne Touch), one of the two or three novels Anne McCaffrey ever wrote that didn’t involve dragons, unicorns or telepaths. Instead, it’s about one of Ireland’s leading horse breeding families circa roughly 1970. The drama inherent therein focusses itself around the thirteen-year-old daughter of the house, Catriona, and her driving ambition to become a professional horsewoman despite her mother’s insistence that she conform to ‘a woman’s lot’.
Being McCaffrey, the dramatic complexity is pitched just at a satisfying post-Saddle Club level; combined with the Irish backdrop the whole has a slight air of unintentional magical realism, as though this were the sort of hard-hitting message novel popular on Pern. Y’know, there are those times (and if you’re anything like me, they’re not infrequent) when picking up the latest Oprah recommendation just seems too overwhelming.

It’s probably just my own private neurosis…but all the while I was reading James Gleick’s Faster I had this compulsion to finish it rightawayNOW, before I flunked some unspecified speed test. One of the many, many such tests that, as Gleick proves, have woven themselves into daily life without our even realizing it. Not, mind you, that I wasn’t being hugely entertained in the meantime. As just mentioned in the Mythbusters article, I love guides to the inner workings of the world at large.

Gleick has an appealingly gentle, self-deprecating awareness that his subject is dry and esoteric; this in turn sparks off a knack for weaving bits and pieces of the pop-culture experience into his short and breezy essays (very few physics books take in quotes from Richard Feynman AND Mystery Science Theater 3000). All told, he’s the most satisfying ‘science populariser’ I’ve yet come across. Well, him and Steve Irwin.

–Finally – for now, anyway – Understood Betsy. I’m not sure how Dorothy Canfield Fisher – and just as an aside, boy, did they know how to name kidlit authors back then, or what? – contrived to create a turn-of-the-century children’s classic that doesn’t patronize, preach, or indulge in sentiment, but she did.
This is a book about people, real people, and how they really learn and change and grow; not along artificial lines of gender or class, but in simple relation to the world around them. Each small – and often gently funny – episode in Betsy’s journey to self-reliance rings wise and true, until at last she’s fairly earned the best reward of all – love, respect, and her own small place in the universe.

…And that’s all she wrote this e’en, folks. Honestly, I started out pretty much kidding, but this is kind of…a decent reminder of why I got into this writing gig to start with….which wasn’t page-hit counts. Exactly, anyway.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kalquessa
    Sep 30, 2008 @ 12:34:26

    Faster and Understood Betsy sound like I should pick them up if I run across them. And I’m amused by the idea of you rocketing to stardom by serializing your little sister’s love life. *snerk*

  2. shoebox2
    Oct 02, 2008 @ 18:46:16

    [grins back] The chapter in which she goes to Brazil alone would probably net me an Oprah appearance. I should maybe start paying more attention to the picture albums.

    Anyway, thanks much. And yes, please do pick up both those books. Meanwhile, you’ve given me an idea…

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