Category Archives: books

Perspective

Zachary, as I have mentioned, is precociously anxious.  So, I bought him the book Is a Worry Worrying You?, a lovely little book designed for the aspiring neurotic.

When we finished reading it, I asked him if he knows anyone who worries a lot, and he pointed to himself.  “But,” he amended, “you worry more than I do.”

As if that were humanly possible.  “Really?  What do I worry about?”

“When you were a child.  Children worry a lot.”

“Benjamin doesn’t worry.” I pointed out his surly but wholly relaxed brother.

“Well,” Zach replied, “that’s because he’s not normal.”

Me and my big, fat Ph.D.

            I went to graduate school when I was twenty-six.  I wanted to become an English professor, perhaps for all the glory and prestige attached to the job.  I loved the reading and the digging and the thinking.  What I did not like was living in a different state from my significant other.

            We lived apart through our whole engagement and the first year of our marriage.  I finished my coursework a year early due to a sanity-breaking schedule of extra-classes, teaching, masters’ thesis-writing, exams, wedding-planning, and back-roads-of-Virginia-driving, and so I decided to move up to Philadelphia to be with my husband.  I arranged with the department to take my next set of exams from afar, with a great deal of support from the (female, young, mother) chair of the graduate program and my (female, young, mother) dissertation director.  I would write my dissertation from afar, and I would adjunct at Villanova, in my new neighborhood, due to help from a (male, older, father) member of my committee.

            Out one evening with a small group of graduate students and one male professor, I discussed my plans for finishing the program from a distance.  The professor, who heretofore had been very supportive of me, even though I had chosen someone else to be my dissertation director (at his suggestion), dismissed me. 

           “You’ll never finish the program,” he told me.  Damn.  Them’s fightin’ words…   To read the rest, click here. 

Pacify Me

            When I was pregnant with Zachary, I got my husband a book called The Expectant Father.  It was, as far as I could tell, the least offensive of the fathering books out there, a genre that seems to mostly consist of men saying, “Me manly man.  Me take care of baby!”  Because, really, we just didn’t need a book called My Boys Can Swim.

            My husband read a few pages of the book, but he mostly relied upon The Idiot’s Guide to Babies (or something like that).  He just isn’t a chest-thumping, football watching, beer drinking kind of guy, despite being absurdly strong (those of you who know him, please tell them I’m right.)  Hell, he was in a theater group in college where all the women’s parts were played by men.  Granted, he was on the set crew and his role largely consisted of carrying heavy objects around and ending up in the emergency room, but you get my point.  He wasn’t going to read a book for new dads that tried to claim all men like to bond over beer and spitting contests.  Although, he is always up for a good burping contest…

            So, when Chris Mancini’s Pacify Me: A Handbook for the Freaked-Out New Dad arrived in the mail, I took one look at the cover and thought, “Shit.  Beer bottles.  It’s another one of those books.”

            But, it’s not.  Chris is kind of a geek with a robot obsession.  And he makes Star Trek references.  He’s writing a book for the guys who didn’t major in Drink Yourself Silly at Frat Parties for all seven years of college.  Take for example his description of the preregistration paperwork you fill out before the baby is born, “which I swear came straight from the movie Brazil.  Which, FYI, I think they toss because when you get to the hospital, you will be filling it all out again anyway” (32).

            Yes, he does indeed reference Brazil.

            I kind of got the feeling reading this book that I would love to hang out with Chris, which is convenient because he lives here in L.A., but also confusing because he lives in here L.A., and I haven’t found all that many down-to-earth people in this city.  Then he made a Tastycakes reference and I thought, “Oh, he’s from Philly.  That explains it.”

            The book is funny.  Very, very funny but in a self-deprecating kind of way, like in his discussion of vomit.  For a time, the baby only threw up in his wife’s car, Mancini tells us.  “I was sure it was her driving.  She, however, disagreed rather loudly.  I don’t know why I even suggested it.  You know that voice in your head that says, ‘You really shouldn’t say that’ right before you say something?  Mine is broken” (104).  Don’t worry, my husband’s is, too.

            Now, don’t get me wrong.  This is not the book for clear advice on how to clip those itsy-bitsy fingernails.  It is mostly an honest and funny look at how normal men feel about the early stages of having and raising a baby.  And some of the advice he does give I disagree with.  When he talks about colic, for example, he does not mention that it could be reflux and the doctor can test for that.  And while I am not myself an attachment parent, I think those who are should probably skip his opinions on that particular practice.  But the book is funny, honest, and not over-the-top macho. 

            So, if you know a dude who has just become or is about to become a father, I have saved you the trouble of shopping for a Fathers’ Day gift.  And I’m not just saying that in hopes that Mancini will drop a shipment of Tastycakes by my house.

I am cross posting this between Wheels on the Bus and Edge of the Page since it is a book review but also relevant to parenting.  Which means that those of you who subscribe to both blogs just cleared two posts out of your RSS feed reader.  For the record, I am not selling out and hocking products here.  I do, however, want to support a new writer who wrote a genuinely funny book.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago in my post about Brian, I am not willing to put my reputation on the line to sell someone else’s stuff, but occasionally I am happy to tell you about someone who is doing something I like.

Name that blog

Yesterday, I reached in my back pocket and pulled out a British coin.  That’s because I hadn’t worn those trousers since we lived in London.  Which is my way of saying I am fitting into clothes that I last wore before I got pregnant with Lilah.  Either the breastfeeding is starting to pay off or the flu I had two weeks ago had some side benefits.

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I am going to start a book review blog.  It’s going to be super cool because I will be writing about books in much the same way I write about everything else.  So, it might be just a little irreverent or edgy and certainly won’t be anything you’d find in the NY Times (sad to say, because I’d love to be found in the NY Times).  But, I need a name for this blog.  So, please, tell me what to call my book review blog.  Think of a kickin’ title, because I suck at titles (except for the article I wrote about Dreiser’s anxiety about the theater, which I titled “Performance Anxiety” — that was a good title.)

Since Mother’s Day is coming

To my husband,

I know that you have pretty much given up buying me gifts.  Truly, I don’t blame you.  I am a pain in the ass to shop for, mostly because there is so little I appreciate.  I have tried to cut sugar out of my life, so you can’t buy me chocolates unless they are very dark chocolate.  But, the chocolate has to be fair trade because any other chocolate makes me feel like I am eating little child-slaves.  I don’t like getting cut flowers because all I can think about is the resources that went into growing and delivering them.  I seem to be missing the jewels gene, which is just as well, because if you spent money on gems in this economy I’d be seriously pissed off.

Once upon a time, I convinced you to buy me books.  “I’m reading biographies,” I told you.  “Just get me an interesting biography.”  By “interesting,” I did not mean 973 pages on Hans Christian Andersen, who had about the most boring life of any writer.

If you were on Goodreads, you could check out my “to read” list and decide what to get me for Mother’s Day.  I did suggest that to you, but since it took you until last month to join Facebook, I am not holding out hope you’ll be joining any other social networking sites anytime soon.

So, let me be direct.  I would like to read something by Margaret Diehl.  Her books are out of print.  Go to Alibris.  (The rest of you can click on her name and get to her blog.)  I also want to read Mama, Ph.D. and The Bitch in the House, both very good choices for mother’s day.  Finally, if you’d like to stoke my homesickness for Philly, get me LOVE Park, by Jim Zervanos.  You’ll remember that I taught with him my very first year of teaching, and I’d love to read his first book which, given the title, is most likely set in Philadelphia.

But, um, if you buy me a new book, could you try to go through an independent bookstore?

Love,

Your Wife

Lust; or, Sticking it to The Man

             The Kindle is sleek and stylish.  It is Annette Benning in an elegant black dress.  It is charming and seductive, like Pierce Brosnan as a superspy or an art thief.  The Kindle woos me from an island in the middle of the ocean, tempting me to stay forever instead of returning home to Penelope as she awaits me in Ithaca, assuming of course that Penelope were a lesbian and I some sort of cross-dressing Greek warrior.

            The point is that I have a terrible case of Kindle-Lust, a fire stoked a few months ago when I met Jen, who allowed me to fondle hers.  (We won’t tell our partners.)  Oh, that beautiful device that would allow me to buy a book in a matter of mere seconds, sparing the forests I will undoubtedly fell in my lifetime of book acquisition.  The bookshelves we will save; the room we will have for other things, like tables and chairs.  The money we will eventually save as I buy books for under ten bucks.

           I want a fucking Kindle.

          Except.

          Kindle only buys books from Amazon.  It consolidates the Great Amazonian Book Monopoly by making sure that its owners not only shell out several hundred bucks for the device, but also cease and desist all noxious purchasing of books at Other Stores.  While this process clearly will not be halted if I deny myself a Kindle, somehow holding off feels a little like sticking it to The Man.

           There are magnificent things about e-books, don’t get me wrong.  I love that people can so easily self-publish, allowing a much wider range of voices space to be heard.  This is clearly the future of publishing.  Soon, college textbooks will all be electronic, as all those pre-meds rise up out of their dorm rooms and refuse to schlep about both Organic Chemistry and Biology 101.  Once the textbook industry has been overtaken, there will be more and more books published only electronically, just like we all know that paper newspapers are soon to go the way of all good things.  Much as we all bitch and moan about loving the feel of a real book, electronic books are greener, cheaper, and more chiropractically sound. 

           Think about how much easier high school would have been if you hadn’t needed to go to your locker between classes to get your math book.

            I understand that the Kindle is the best book-reading device out there.  But the thought of giving all that power to Amazon makes me shudder.  Just look at what happens when we hand over the organization of our reading habits to one giant retailer.  A little change in some classification, and suddenly LGBT books are classified as “adult.”  Heather Has Two Mommies should be classified as boring, but it is definitely not adult. 

            I am just not comfortable handing that level of power over to Amazon this week.

Because sometimes writing comes on paper with a binding

Kate asked if we are library members, and indeed we are.  I hadn’t been for awhile, and I surely never get a chance to browse for my own books.  So the other day when Hurricane Benjamin was at a play date under the care of our nanny, I took the calmer children to the library. Zachary got time in the children’s section and then graciously allowed me three minutes to look for some books of my own.  As we walked through the stacks and I grabbed a few things that looked appealing.  “Mommy, you want the hat book,” Zach suggested, pointing to a book that I had missed because it was down where only a four-year-old would see it.  Indeed, there was a picture of a hat on the spine.

So, if I am not around your blogs or posting here for a few days, you’ll know where to find me.  I am reading the hat book.