Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Worst Part

I am the newsletter editor for our little shul. It's a volunteer job, and like all volunteer jobs, it has its baggage, as well as its delights.

I've always thought that one of the worst parts of the job is compiling the monthly Yahrzeit list--it's an anniversary list of sorts, but of deaths. It lets people know on which night they should light a candle, when to say kaddish. It's a necessary, useful task. But the list I get--though not the one I publish--includes the names of the congregants who need to get the reminder notice from the synagogue. It also includes the relationships of the deceased to those people. And so--as I strip that personal, private information from the list--I am reminded each month of another set of losses. I'll remember how hard S took it when her father passed; I'll notice that H lost two sons on the same day in some distant time, and that they were both in the military. I end up spending too much time thinking about deaths gone by. It's sobering.

But today, I realized that I'm wrong. That's not the worst. Not by a long shot. Because today, I'm compiling the birthday list.

This is my third year editing the newsletter; I've developed some shortcuts. One of those is to pull up the birthday list from that same month the year before, and just add any new members' names, or move a new 18-year-old from the Kids' Birthdays list to the Adults' Birthdays list.

Today? Well, today I had to highlight and delete an entry from the latter list. The name of a man I had great fondness for; a man whose wife I truly adore. A man whose funeral I attended less than two months ago. A man who won't be having a birthday this September. A man whose name will appear on the Yahrzeit list next June or July, where it will make me sigh, but where, maybe, it won't make me cry, because it will be an addition, not a deletion.

I do not like deletions.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Book Talk

[Warning: There are sorta kinda maybe spoilers in here. Not big ones, but...if you're reading any of the books I'm discussing, and are the kind of reader for whom even a vague mention of a plot point might give stuff away, you might want to tread cautiously.]

So now that the bat mitzvah is over and done with, I've been reading. And listening, which I call reading, even if it's done with my ears. And I have some things to say.

First: Who here read Her Fearful Symmetry? Because I have questions. Oh, so many questions. Mostly: What. The. Fuck? Did she run out of ink, and so decide after an entire book of detail and emotion to basically write the last 30 pages in code? More specifically: What was Robert's plan/decision, exactly, there at the end? What did it have to do with Jessica? What did Valentina do or say to Julia that changed her completely? Oh, don't give me that love of a good man bullshit.

Seriously, I hate spending that much time getting invested in a book only to have it make NO SENSE at the end. If you have thoughts--even if that thought is that I clearly am illiterate, and the book made total and absolute logical sense throughout--feel free to drop me a note at ihavethings at gmail dot com. (I think there's an email link over there in the sidebar, actually. But just in case not...) I need to talk about this one with someone.

Second: I should have admitted above that I almost always hate book endings. It's so hard not to disappoint me by wrapping up a story that I'm invested in. I'm trying to think of books whose endings really worked for me, but I'm coming up blank. Anyone? Any suggestions?

Third: I also recently finished Joshua Ferris's The Unnamed. That ending, while not one I'd call out as superlative, didn't disappoint. I actually thought it was a kickass book, to be honest. Well, a kickass book with some pretty big holes in its plot. I mean, the relationship with the daughter? Could that have possibly been less well developed? (Except for the Buffy scenes. Those made me smile.) And, um, what was that whole murder subplot about? But the relationship between Tim and Jane felt so real, in the midst of such an unreal situation, that it didn't really bother me.

Plus, I have a special weakness for Crazy Walking People. And Tim? Pretty much defines that.

Fourth: Have I mentioned that I've started reading these obscure little books about a young wizard? A series about a boy named Harry Potter, and his exploits at school? (Yep, that's me on the cutting edge of literature. Next, I think I'm going to check out this hot young writer I've heard about...Charles, oh, Dickens, I think his name is...) I've been listening to the audiobooks, actually; each time I finish one, we have a family movie night to watch that movie. My goal is to try to get through the last two before Part One of the seventh book comes out in the theaters; I'm a stickler about that sort of thing. Now that I'm done with Her Fearful Symmetry, Half-Blood Prince is up next. Problem is, I more-or-less know what happens in the books; or, at least, I know the major plot points. In other words, I know who dies. And if I thought Order of the Phoenix was difficult to get through as a result of my Sirius love...This one's gonna hurt.

It amazes me--truly amazes me--that I'm enjoying these this much. It amazes me even more that I'm willing to admit it out loud. (My book snobbiness is as much a part of me as my penchant for thrift-store clothes shopping. If you don't know that about me, you don't know me. I'm not proud of it; it just is.)

Fifth: What should I read next? I have a book list that is literally hundreds of books long; I'll never get through them all. Which is why I need suggestions of MORE books from you guys. (If you're a reader, you understand.)

And no, no matter what you say, I'm not reading Twilight.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I'm Trying Not to Read Too Deeply Into These

N's been practicing his cursive this summer by writing little stories, completely unprompted. Here are two he handed me just the other day.

I like to call this first one "Em's vocation"

My family is the best family in the whole earth. I love them so much. My uncles and my mommy and daddy does writing, my sister does playing with her friends, and I play golf. The end.

And Baroy likes to call this one "Oedipus Lives"

Mommy you are the best mommy ever. I love you sososososososo much. You are the best mommy ever. I love you. I hate when you and daddy do kissing and sex. The end.

(Just so you don't labor under the impression that we have constant public orgies in my house, N first asked me, "Mommy, do you and daddy do s-e-x?" before writing this. Glad to know he understands the importance of research in writing nonfiction.)