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Introduction

Resolved: no more brown amazon boxes until I read through (and weed) my own library.

I’ve gotten a little more apprehensive each time an amazon package arrives with a new book. It’s far too frequent, unfortunately, for me to keep up with the influx. Beginning July 19, 2017, I resolve to not order another book until I read through and digest all the books I already own. That is, approximately, 685 books, those on my library shelves that for some reason have been deemed worthy to sit in my permanent collection, and 20-40 other stragglers–new, as yet unopened books and a few oldies that have migrated to my husband’s shelves. Continue reading “Introduction”

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

David Sedaris is one of those writers that has me laughing out loud while I’m reading, even in public places. In fact, I recommend not taking a drink of anything while reading Sedaris lest you could end up spitting, choking or having liquid come out your nose. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing while I tuned into a comfy chair at the BMW dealership, waiting for my car to have its oil changed.

Not every essay in When You Are Engulfed in Flames made me laugh out loud and some didn’t even make me chuckle silently. Sedaris can be perverse, gross and even mean, and sometimes his subject matter doesn’t appeal to me. However, since I’ve read that he is an avid roadside litter collector, however, something I do when I am walking or if I have a bag and gloves in my car and time to stop, I give him the benefit of the doubt.

The following are the essays that I particularly loved:

Buddy Can You Spare a Tie is about clothing and the section called The Feminine Mistake, is especially hilarious. It is about how his almost equally famous and funny sister Amy subtly steers him to the women’s section of a department store and the wardrobe mistakes he’s made while shopping with her.

Adult Figures Charging Toward a Concrete Toadstool is about art, specifically about when Sedaris’ parents started buying art. As a home organizer, I’ve encountered many people like Sedaris’ parents who think their lithographs and Fisherman’s Wharf gallery paintings will increase in value when in fact they hardly retain their purchase value. (For some reason, the art world seems increasingly ridiculous post-Covid, like fashion. I used to be passionate about both but now I wonder if I will ever wear anything other than a black t-shirt and jeans or bother to walk into a museum.)

April in Paris is about anthropomorphising animals and insects and Sedaris’ pet spiders.

The very long last essay is titled The Smoking Section and is about Sedaris’ history with smoking and finally giving it up. He uses a move to Japan, where he and his husband lived for a while, as the divide between his smoking life and his non-smoking life and it worked. The essay is filled with funny observations about how increasingly difficult it became to smoke until finally the negative health aspects and the annoyances of trying to have a cigarette in a public place drove him to quit.

This is the first humor book I’ve blogged about and I’m finding it really difficult to write about humor without writing out the specific jokes. Really the best I can do is say, “It made me laugh,” and after Trump, a divorce, a few horrific wildfires and a pandemic, it feels really good to laugh.

Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow

A reader of this blog might know that my profession is organizing homes and offices. When I first began organizing I worked with a few hoarders–people who had accumulated so much stuff that their lives are unmanageable and several rooms in the house are unable to be used for their intended purpose. I stopped working with hoarders when I realized that much of the disorder and compulsive shopping or saving of stuff is due to a mental illness and, even with therapy, is very difficult to “cure.” Organizing a true hoarder is a Sisyphean task and far more intimate (dirty undies) and gross (garbage smells, pet feces) than I signed up for. Still, it is fascinating and often the first thing people ask me about when they find out what I do. E.L. Doctorow’s novel based on hoarders Homer & Langley Collyer crosses the organizing, novel and biography categories in my library.

Continue reading “Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow”

Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli and Me by Patricia Volk

I ended up loving everything about this book, yet when I first drew it from my library and looked it over, I thought it might go into the give away bag without a retread and blog entry. The gorgeous, heavy and sort of shagreen-pebbled dust jacket, in shocking pink of course, convinced me to at least give it a try. It had been a long time since I read it and didn’t remember it at all. It hooked me immediately.

Continue reading “Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli and Me by Patricia Volk”

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

For some reason I was hesitant to pick up this book again. I’d read it at least twice before and remembered loving it but didn’t recall too many specifics; it had been a long time. Nothing about the Library of Congress list of themes particularly appealed to me: hermaphroditism, teenagers, Greek Americans, Detroit. One did lightly strike a chord–gender identity–because I’ve recently completed an experimental class on body image and sexualization of females. So I pulled Middlesex off the shelf.

Continue reading “Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides”

If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland

It’s been a while since I’ve chosen a book from my library for this blog. Virus and fire have put the fear of angry Mother Nature into me and my thoughts have been mostly short term and skittish. I haven’t experienced such an undercurrent of dread since I listened to the Beatles Revolution #9, forwards. (I was too scared to listen to it backwards and besides, didn’t want to screw up my turntable.) I’ve been longhand journaling, but on sadly mundane topics like home projects, workouts, finances and what I’ve been putting into my mouth. Food, mostly.

Continue reading “If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland”

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Back in late March 2020 I was on a kick to think of books that would be good to read during the pandemic, specifically under the shelter-in-place conditions. A Gentleman in Moscow immediately came to mind, reviewed earlier, as did Bocaccio’s The Decameron, which I don’t own, so won’t review. Then I remembered Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, a favorite novel of mine that has only dimmed a bit in favorite-ness because I have liked so few of Patchett’s other novels Continue reading “Bel Canto by Ann Patchett”

Polishing the Mirror by Ram Dass

Over the last seven or eight months, the man I’m seeing and I made a pact to incorporate some spiritual growth activities into our couples life. We started meditating in the mornings, which we have been very diligent about, and have tried to read spiritual literature aloud to each other in the evenings, which we have been less diligent about. Somehow in the evenings, especially after many months of Covid-19 situational stress, we end up zoning out with an episode of Sons of Anarchy instead. Continue reading “Polishing the Mirror by Ram Dass”

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

The first time I read A Gentleman in Moscow was for a real book club. I absolutely adored it on my first read, and I had been very attentive, knowing that I would be discussing it with some very smart women in a few short weeks. I had really enjoyed Amor Towles first novel, Rules of Civility, although it had a somewhat chilly tone, and found A Gentleman in Moscow to be a much warmer and even more satisfying a read. Continue reading “A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles”

Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna

I grew up in a windy town on California’s Central Coast that often smelled of broccoli. Later the town became famous for strawberries, and even later for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wine grapes, all fragrant and lovely. But when I was young the dark, slightly sulpherous stench of raw broccoli hitched  on the Pacific breeze from the west like a hobo soul escaped from a corner of hell reserved for flatulent failed farmers. Continue reading “Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna”

Picasso by Norman Mailer

Yo–el Rey. I, the king. Pablo Ruiz y Picasso wrote that three times on a self portrait painted when he was just 19 and about to leave his native Spain for Paris, where he became something more than a king. The funny thing about a grotesquely outsized ego is that very occasionally it is actually representing an equally legendary and outsized talent, intellect, beauty or charismatic personality; the deep flaws of entitlement, narcissism and infidelity such an ego sanctions can be overlooked, even forgiven. Continue reading “Picasso by Norman Mailer”