In three ways

At work
New work space.

“Nobody was taking any notice of me yet there was a lovely comforting sensation that beneficent things were being done for me somewhere. I think, as human experiences go, that is one of my favourite ones.” — Claire-Louise Bennett, Pond

Lies I tell at parties

“I’m not much of a hypochondriac.”

“We don’t really watch that much TV.”

“Isn’t that cake delicious? It’s so good, wow.”

How a conversation can collapse (a humorous exhibit)

Man 1: My son married his sister [pointing to other man off stage]. Isn’t that funny? We’ve become like a clan. You [looking at me] should probably get in on this and marry one of them too.

Me: Oh, it’s too late for me.

Man 2: Don’t say that. I had a friend once who got married at 60…

Woman 1: I don’t think that’s what she means. I think she means she’s already married.

Me: Yes. I am married.

Man 2: Oh, I’m sorry. I…

Man 1: Let’s continue our tour.

Women who say they’re not feminists

“Because we need to reclaim the word ‘feminism.’ We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29 percent of American women would describe themselves as feminist—and only 42 percent of British women—I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it the freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue,’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?”

How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran

Top 10 books I read in 2012: Madame Bovary (#5)

Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT
Viking Adult, 2010; 311 pages. Translated by Lydia Davis.

Madame Bovary, c’est moi! — Gustave Flaubert’s frequent answer, when people asked him who inspired the character of Emma Bovary.

I first read Madame Bovary many years ago, when I was probably 15 or 16. Needless to say, I didn’t fully appreciate it then. Re-reading this novel, in Lydia Davis’ brilliant, funny, and incredibly accessible 2010 translation, was an utter delight. In particular, I was startled by how truly funny this novel is. I guess “darkly comic” is probably the most appropriate term, since it is a novel about a miserable, thoroughly unlikable housewife who has a bunch of affairs and then kills herself… but. There are lots of LOL moments here, folks.

That aside, there is a wide array of gorgeous scenes in this book. Flaubert is also on the money when he really gets into the weeds of describing the sad, mundane, limited bourgeois existence. I also believe that my appreciation of Flabuert’s genuine skill was heightened by my concurrent reading of Steegmuller’s Flaubert and Madame Bovary, which ranked in my top 10 nonfiction books from the past year.

Emma Bovary is equal parts detestable and pitiable. For whatever Margaret Mitchell was trying to do with Scarlett O’Hara, Gustave Flaubert did it first and did it better with Emma Bovary. Here we have a woman who is as luridly scintillating as any tabloid hussy and yet as riveting as a queen. The primary question that is raised–and that Flaubert perhaps does not answer–is: What does she WANT? It’s not Charles, her bland, lovable-like-a-dairy-cow-is-lovable husband. It’s not her daughter. It’s not even her lovers, who only amuse her for a short time. What drives this wretched woman and what will make her happy? I don’t really know, even now, but I was delighted to have the opportunity to revisit that aching question.

Madame Bovary rests soundly in the Western canon and it shines with extra brilliance, thanks to the ever-gifted Lydia Davis. I was thrilled to revisit this novel and sit a while with Flaubert and his fictional alter ego. They are an endlessly compelling pair.

Top 10 books I read in 2012: May We Be Forgiven (#8)

May We Be Forgiven: A Novel

May We Be Forgiven

A.M. HOMES
Viking Adult, 2012; 496 pages.

A.M. Homes’ newest novel presents the story of a modern-day Job, except without the righteousness. Harold Silver is about to have the worst year of his life, but it is thankfully held in the careful hands of Homes, who is funny, extremely skilled, and just perfect for this kind of contemporary tragicomic novel.

Harold is a broken man who is a magnet for other broken people. After his psychopathic brother, George, destroys the family, Harold is left to pick up the pieces, including raising George’s two children, Nate and Ashley. Harold doesn’t know the first thing about children, particularly teenaged ones, and he stumbles through this new fog of his life, in which every person he’s supposed to rely on turns out to be stupider than the next. (In many ways, Harold reminds me of Michael Bluth: The character who is supposed to be the voice of reason among a throng of idiots but makes plenty of his own huge mistakes.)

Despite being unbearably sad at points, Homes keeps the level of comedy high throughout this book. Guion and I ended up reading large portions of it aloud to each other, mainly because it was more entertaining than watching a sitcom or anything else of comparable comedic value.

This is a story about families, both biological and constructed, and the damage that the people closest to us can inflict. This is a story infused with wit and joy, even in the darkest and strangest of situations. This is a story that deserves to be read, for its pleasures are myriad.

Family love: Mike

I am writing a series of posts about why I love my immediate family. This is the fourth installment. All wedding photos courtesy of the brilliant Meredith Perdue.

Mike

One of my favorite qualities about my father-in-law is how easy it is to fall into a serious conversation with him. It’s not that he’s overly solemn; rather, it’s because he’s always ready to engage with you on a level that transcends small talk. He also knows a lot about a lot of things.
325/365Mike has taught me a lot about how to love people. And even more than taught: Mike has shown me how to love people. Since we met, he’s always shown me deep wells of compassion, even when I had done nothing to merit such merciful treatment.

Mike’s theology matches the way he lives. He knows more about Anglicanism than anyone else I’ve met, but he also lives a daily practice of grace and love toward everyone. Mike and Windy were YoungLife leaders back in the day, but Guion likes to say that they never stopped being YoungLife leaders. I think that’s probably true. Their welcoming home in Southern Pines has never stopped being “the hang-out place” for kids during the holidays. Mike is able to keep up with people with astonishing energy and accuracy. I like to think that he and Windy were gifted with an endless supply of social energy. It’s very admirable and it frequently amazes me.

He can switch from joking to serious life discussion in a minute’s time, whatever the group or mood or tone requires. His careful mix of humor and politeness has always astonished me, because, well, I grew up with Juju, whose humor is never tactful.

M. PrattAside from Angela, I think Mike has been mine and Guion’s biggest fan. His unconditional support to us while we were dating, engaged, and now married has been invaluable to us both. He often reminds me that he and Windy have been praying for me since I was born. I smile, thank him, and feel overwhelmingly grateful.

Tuesday Snax, again

Whoops. Totally forgot about Monday Snax. Yesterday was a super-busy day around here. My apologies! I was still recovering from our crazy and fun weekend at Topsail Beach for Rose and Kemp’s wedding. (A few photos on Flickr, to your right or here.) Really, really thrilled for both of them.

Continuing my total binge on BBC miniseries based on classic novels (thanks, Hylton sisters!), I’ve been watching “Our Mutual Friend,” Dickens’ final novel. Observations: Bella is very unusual for a Dickens heroine, in the fact that she seems to possess a brain! Also, all of the men are totally crazy stalkers, and it does not seem to be a big deal to anyone. And, finally, Dickens just can’t get over unbelievable coincidence, spontaneous resurrection, and rich people with insane wills.

Most of this week’s links are not very serious. I seem to have gravitated toward the absurd and hilarious this week, for whatever reason. Enjoy!

Basil, the Australian Shepherd. DIES A LITTLE INSIDE. MUST. HAVE. (Yeah, I subscribe to The Daily Puppy. So?) (The Daily Puppy)

The 10 Most Overpaid Jobs. Some of these were surprising. Some of them were not, i.e., there’s a reason why there’s a glut of law school students. (Len Penzo)

The 11 Worst Memoir Covers. Of course, Hasselhoff made it on here twice. Even more surprising: The guy’s written two memoirs?? And people have published them? (The Huffington Post)

A Week of Hair. I’m proud of Grace for carrying on our tradition of weekly/monthly challenges. This past week, she chronicled her hairstyles every day. Fun! I miss her. (Como Say What?)

John Muir, the Brontes, and Frida Kahlo. Depiction of Teddy Roosevelt probably totally accurate. (Hark, a Vagrant!)

What Other Everyday Relationship Issues Should Be Romantic Comedies? Haha. Making fun of the film “Going the Distance,” which I have not seen and have no real desire to. I love their movie pitches, with actor choices and everything. The sad thing is that Hollywood may indeed find these ideas feasible one day… (NY Mag)

They’re All Going to Laugh at Me. I feel like this happened a lot in our own family. Sorry, Sam. We do still love you! (Awkward Family Photos)

Man to Divorce Bride for Not Actually Dying. Seriously! How long did she think she was going to be able to pull this off? (Daily Intel)

The Devolution from Hipster to Hippie in Six Steps. I think I’ve seen this happen to people. (Flavorwire)