As the days get longer, I find myself waking up earlier and with more energy. This morning I was up and in the kitchen by 7:30 AM, prepping batter for a banana bread. I hadn't listened to Ornette Coleman in a while, so I put on The Shape of Jazz to Come and the improvisational musical approach had an influence on my baking. I added date syrup in place of honey after finding that ours had crystallized, and yogurt to augment the mashed bananas after realizing I didn't quite have the required two cups. Far from it, actually... I only had one. The good news is that it turned out great. I'm writing with hot coffee and a slice of banana bread that's fresh from the oven.
Yesterday was also pretty heavenly; I took the entire day off. Before leaving the office on Friday afternoon I powered down my laptop and promised myself that I would not turn it on again until this morning. So I spent most of my Saturday reading, but also went to a spin class and took a nice long walk over to a local bookstore to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day. As much as I loved doing the writing retreat last Saturday, a day spent reading is more restorative. I've begun to think about energy in week-long time spans rather than daily ones. I can have several long workdays in a row as long as I'm getting enough sleep, but eventually that exertion catches up to me and no number of evenings spent watching mindless television is enough to replenish my energy. So I'm trying to be intentional about taking off at least one full day per week and two half days.
The result, at least this week, is that I have a lot of great books to report on!
Here's what captured my attention this week...
I'm reading: a new essay on women and lying from Adrienne Rich's On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose, and I read her analysis of Emily Dickinson's poetry this week as well. I also picked Karen Tei Yamashita's I Hotel back up and finished the first section, and now I feel sucked into the book's momentum. I doubt I can finish all 600-something pages before next week but I will have more to say about it in the coming weeks. Because that book is so heavy--I mean literally, my wrists start to hurt after reading it for a while, though the content is not light either--I am also reading Stewart O'Nan's svelte 200 page novel City of Secrets. I bought it yesterday at White Whale after the first few pages piqued my curiosity. The main character is a Holocaust survivor and refugee who smuggled himself into Mandate Palestine in 1945 and joined up with the Haganah. I'm positive this one is not going to have a happy ending, so I'm mentally preparing.
On Thursday night I finished Thomas Mullen's Lightning Men, which was excellent. It focuses on a crime perpetrated by the KKK against another KKK member, and builds on the themes of police corruption, racism, and brutality that were central to the mystery in the first book (Darktown). Focusing on an internecine squabble within the Atlanta Klavern is such a smart move on Mullen's part, because as Officers Boggs, Smith, and Rakestraw investigate the crime their probes highlight ideological divides amongst whites about how to best deal with the changing Jim Crow racial order, and the ways in which both black and white Atlantans turned to violence (by choice or force) to protect their real estate interests. And as a historian I can confidently tell you this book is well researched. You passively absorb a lot of Civil Rights history through this detective mystery. I cannot wait for the next entry into this series.
The other book I read this week was Charles Soule's The Oracle Year, which was my Book of the Month pick for April. The premise is that Will Dando (a nobody musician) wakes up one morning from a dream with 108 predictions about events that will occur over the next twelve months. As the first few begin to come true, he has to decide what to do with this knowledge--and to figure out if his actions can change the future, or if he has no free will and has become a pawn of ... God? The U.S. Government? The Universe? I think this book can best be described as a comic book novelization, and the author is indeed a comic book writer. Will is like Spiderman, a normal guy who one day finds himself with great power and great responsibility. The pacing of the plot is fast, and I got so sucked in that I read all 400 pages of this book in under 24 hours. The ending did not disappoint, and although The Oracle Year asks fairly weighty philosophical questions, it never became pedantic or pretentious. Highly recommended!
I'm listening to: Janelle Monáe's new album, Dirty Computer. Though I have always enjoyed Monáe as an artist, activist, and actor, I have never gotten into her past albums. So far, however, I'm liking Dirty Computer and its raunchy double entendres.
I'm watching: old episodes of Lip Sync Battle. The show is so dumb, but who doesn't love Chrissy Teigan? The episodes are also only 20 minutes long, so it's hard to get sucked in. I like turning it on while taking a quick snack break. Also, last week's season premiere of Westworld was excellent, and the new season of Silicon Valley is getting better and better. So I've got the high-low covered.
Enjoy posts like this one? Check out Brisket to read more about what's on my mind--just bring some bread to go with the meal! Next issue drops this Tuesday, May 1st.