April Book Log

April 30, 2010

This was a stressful month for reading. School has been crazy as we’ve been in the midst of standardized testing and students become frazzled anytime something out of the ordinary happens. Also, the kid has been high maintenance, and, in general, it’s just been busy. May should be laid back as school winds to a close. I’d like to read a bunch in the upcoming month. We’ll see.

1. Origins by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Donald Goldsmith (4.5/5) – Somehow, I recently developed a Tyson fixation. He’s an excellent writer, especially for a scientist, and very good at making complex concepts accessible. My only real beef with this book is that I already knew a lot of what they talked about because of my research for Lonely Human Atoms. That’s not a failing on the part of the authors, but it did leave me slightly bored during parts. I think, though, that this is just about the best book you can read for an intro into what we currently know about how we got here. A very nice book.

2. Death by Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson (5.0/5) – I told you about the Tyson fixation. This book was really excellent, though. It is a collection of (slightly revised) columns he wrote for Nature arranged by subject matter into more-or-less coherent sections. I especially recommend the one on intelligent design vs. stupid design. I cannot recall reading a better or more amusing take down of creationism.

3. Home by Marilynne Robinson (5.0/5) – Wonderful book. So little happens, but it happens in such an interesting way. It’s impossible not to feel that we are getting to know the characters exactly as they get to know each other. It does a reasonably good job of illustrating how I felt growing up in a small town, something rare in my reading experience. Additionally, this is a book utterly free of irony when irony has become a too common substitute for genuine insight in current fiction. A really beautiful book.

4. Expensive People by Joyce Carol Oates (2.0/5) – I did NOT like this book even a little bit. I finished it only because it was so short. If I have not yet made clear my disdain for the type of post-modern literature that utterly disregards the reader, let me do so now. This is a book filled with inhuman characters and told my a narrator constantly explaining why this book is not very good or interesting (I feel compelled to digress because I am not ready for the story to end yet!). The moment where Oates completely lost me was when the narrator imagines the reviews the book he is currently writing will get. This book gets a 2 only because I have no doubt that Oates did exactly what she wanted to do. If this is your thing, read it. If not, stay far, far away.

5. Rabbit Redux by John Updike (4.0/5) – This book is a wonderful masterpiece, but the world is so dark and I was so glad to escape from it, that I can’t give it a 5. I feel contempt (not hatred) for all the characters in this book. They seem mostly to believe they have either no control or complete control. The central character somehow manages to believe both at once. That is, he takes no action, but believes everything is his fault. Still, Updike is a master and this is an accurate reflection of the worst parts of being human. Stuff that most of us try to ignore. It is this that makes it all feel so uncomfortable.

Winter/Spring Book Queue Update:

America America by Ethan Canin
The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic
Rabbit, Redux by John Updike
Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku
Great Plains by Ian Frazier
So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell
The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin
Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
Dune by Frank Herbert
One of Ours by Willa Cather

Opening Day

April 4, 2010

I don’t follow basketball or football anymore. I never took more than a passing interest in sports like golf or tennis. I never took any interest in hockey or soccer. But, I love baseball.

The ball skips across the infield and pick up the fine, dry dirt which comes out in a small puff when it hits your glove. That coats your hand and keeps the ball from slipping as you throw it on to first. And the perfume that exists only when the dirt and leather mix together.

Baseball is the smell of grass. Baseball is sweat and a breeze at twilight.

Baseball is my grandfather teaching me as far back as I can remember.

Somewhere in there, it’s confusing your friend or child or wife or husband by trying to explain the infield fly rule. And it’s tripping over yourself and striking out and botching a throw, but laughing at yourself – unless its late and the game in close – because you will get another chance soon and you will make good on that one.

Baseball is sitting in the stands and waiting and not caring how long the game goes because it is summer and the days are so long and there will not be school tomorrow, so who really cares. And the game could go on for hours and hours. Forever if it needed to. Longer if it rains.

Baseball is relativity. It takes as long as it takes and how long it takes depends on where you are and who’s watching.

Baseball is optimism and it will be as long as your team plays well enough and things fall right.

You might not agree, and that’s fine. Move along, but get me a hot dog while you’re up.

I have grown more sentimental since the birth of my child, but I have always been sentimental about tomorrow. Summer starts tomorrow and the days will stretch out forever and there is no need to hurry because there is nowhere else to go. And maybe, if you’re lucky, and things go right, your whole summer can be just like a single game and stretch time so that, even as Halloween approaches, it is still summer because your team is still playing and it only stops being summer when they close up the field and turn out the lights and you go home to hide indoors through the long winter and wait for the first Monday in April when summer will start again.