A Hodgepodge Pastiche of Miscellany

William Boyd's "Any Human Heart"
William Boyd's "Any Human Heart"

Last night I finally finished reading William Boyd’s Any Human Heart, which I’d been working at for a while (it was one of those tragic cases where I was halfway through the book when my library renewals ran out and I had to return it, and was too sheepish to turn around and special-request it again immediately; but then I was lucky enough to come into a used copy of it, a cause for celebration). It’s a novel about the fictional life of an English writer spanning nearly the whole twentieth century. He meets everyone who’s anyone: Picasso, Hemingway, James Joyce, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, gets involved with the Bader-Meinhoff Gang, etc. It’s nicely written and the story pulls you in. After a while you feel as if this character has become a friend, and you care about his ups and downs.

The thing that really drew me to the book, though, was that it was presented in journal format. Since the second half of my own most recent novel was also in journal format, I was keen to see an example of this technique being used well, and this book was helpful for that.

Now I’m beginning another chapter-by-chapter read-off between Wolf Hall, A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and a nonfiction compendium of fairy lore originally published in 1880 (lent to me by a writer friend who, incidentally, just had a lovely short story published involving alligators). This is going to be a pretty fierce competition, I think.

I’m tempted, though, to drop them all and read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. My last moms’ night out with Ms. Connect-the-Dots and friends, we went to see the movie version. It was a bit violent for me, and I definitely do not (!!) recommend it to any of my Mormon friends.* But apart from the violence, it was well-done, exciting, and suspenseful and made me want to read all the books.

Productive literary activity (e.g. revising my novel, drafting anything new) has sadly been at a standstill this month due to the stresses of job hunting, etc. But next week my daughter (the one who swears like a sailor) will be starting daycare three mornings a week, so that she can gradually get used to it before I actually start a new job and also so that I’ll have a reliable place for her to stay if I get called in for any interviews (fingers crossed). So I’m hoping I can go off and work in my usual neighborhood coffee shop and get something done that way. Even without job hunting, making time to write has gotten a lot harder since my daughter stopped taking regular naps. I’ve only had evenings for relatively-less-interrupted work, and at the end of a day of chasing Amandine around, I am often so kaputt that I just don’t have energy for anything but collapsing in a heap. So this daycare thing is sort of an exciting development if it works out. We’ll see how it goes.

In gastronomic news, I had a girls’ night out with some non-mom friends and we went (sans Amandine) to a restaurant called Dino in Cleveland Park. It was great, just my sort of place, fresh and sophisticated Italian, pretty presentations but not too fussy, and—my favorite part—a focus on seasonal, local, sustainably-grown ingredients. The owner and his wife both popped by to say hello. I highly recommend this place. Also in gastronomic news: A friend of mine from college, a sweet, bright, and wonderful guy, turns out to be in the restaurant business these days and has started a fun blog called LDSFoodCritic.

And I already told all my Facebook friends, but one more piece of news is that I’ve had another essay accepted for publication. The title is “The Economy of Souls,” and it will appear in the Summer 2010 issue of Jabberwock Review. I am happy to have found such a good home for this piece, for one thing because the essay is long at 10K words, and I was worried that the length would be prohibitive for getting it published. But more importantly, because it’s the most ambitious writing project I’ve taken on so far. It actually took longer to write than either of my novels, so it will be quite a thing for me to see it in print.

That’s all for today, Amandine and I are off to a brunch/playdate at the house of a Finnish friend to celebrate a Finnish holiday called Vappu. (It’s the Finns’ version of Walpurgis Night. Who knew?)

(Stolen from here.)

*And for everyone else, if you do go see the movie, I recommend closing your eyes, sticking your fingers in your ears, and singing “La la la la” during the awful parts.

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