Bedside Manner: In Media Res
False starts, slow reads
By Kimberley Jones,
8:10PM, Wed. Apr. 27, 2011
Eyeballing the dozen books I have littered around my bed's perimeter, I'm startled to realize that while I've read at least a few pages of all of them, and a few hundred pages of one, I haven't finished any of them – not by a long shot. It's not that I have a short-attention span, not exactly – more like a perverse aversion to closing the book on a book.
I wonder if that's some kind of documented condition? Maybe I'll find out in Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry. This American Life listeners will recognize Ronson's distinctive voice – hyperarticulate, suspicious, ego-centric, and doomsdayish, all of which sounds like a diss but is really quite delightful. This nonfiction book includes the story of an inmate who faked a mental illness in order to get a cushier sentence, previously profiled in the TAL episode "Pro Se."
The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is a beast of a book: a 592 pages-long, Augie March-like bildungsroman about a talking chimpanzee that's maddening and electrifying in equal measure. I've been reading the damn thing for months now and still have 100 pages to go. Totally recommended – and your vocab will improve for sure – but not for the squeamish (bestiality, no matter how lyrically rendered, is still bestiality, and this one comes with a dash of pedophilia, too).
Our IT guy Fred recommended Of Blood and Honey to me; it's a first in a new historical fantasy series called Fey and the Fallen by Austin author Stina Leicht. I'm not a huge genre fiction reader – and, yes, I might have hit a stumbling block the first time "the Glamour" was name-checked – but Of Blood and Honey's supernatural bent is enlivened by its setting in 1970s early Northern Ireland.
Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef got a lot of ink a couple months ago after the first chapter was excerpted in The New Yorker. The opening's pretty magical – a pastoral of backyard pit roasts, cut with some hooligan humor – but my attention drifted when Hamilton moved the setting to the druggy, competitive kitchen scene in New York.
Even living alone, the amount of crap I manage to produce – food scraps, plastic packaging, etc. – unnerves me, so I've been digging the creative suggestions for a smaller footprint in Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World. Some of the ideas within are a little too radical for me to test-run them (in the chapter on making one's own maxipads, the authors helpfully point out that menstrual blood is great for the garden. Huh.) But my overgrown sage plant was put to good use with their step-by-step guide on how to make your own disinfectant. Bonus: After a thorough wipe down, my kitchen smelled like Thanksgiving.
The stack on the floor is in the inactive category: I loved Hannah Holmes' last biological/sociological inquiry, The Well-Dressed Ape, and I've been saving her followup Quirk: Brain Science Makes Sense of Your Peculiar Personality; every year or so I re-read one of Jane Austen's books, so the new 700-plus page annotated edition of Sense and Sensibility will probably be next on the docket; a sucker for all things Hitch, I'm eager to see how Manuel Muñoz scats on Psycho in What You See in the Dark (plus our book reviewer gave it a big thumbs up in the Chron's print issue); and Before the Big Bang sounded like a good idea in theory, but thinking about the cosmos too long freaks me out (a trip to L.A.'s Griffith Observatory produced the revelation that the Milky Way is more or less the shitty suburbs of the universe, which sent me into a tailspin). I'm prone to apocalypse dreams anyway, so I'm betting Before the Big Bang will be covered in dust bunnies and dog hair before I crack its spine again. Good thing books don't come with an expiration date.