Friday, January 4, 2013

Three more weeks...

Today I paid a visit to the great and glorious REI, the only clubhouse every upstanding Northwesterner ought to be a member of. Everyone else may as well just expatriate to New England, which is basically what I told my Seattle-born, Dartmouth-prof cousin who tagged along before we dropped him at the Eugene airport to fly back east.

I don't like travel shopping, there's an infinite amount of "preparedness" one can buy and the difference between necessary, nice-to-have and utterly superfluous can be difficult to discern. I like this kind of shopping slightly better when mummy dearest pays (here's lookin' at you, oh venerable matriarch). And I especially like it now that it's over and I have all this nifty gear laying on the garage floor. I love the anticipation that comes with packing.

It's high time I actually actually start making a game plan for this trip. Yesterday I sent off for a Russian tourist visa, and really a lot depends on if that comes through or not. I've also made hostel reservations for my first two nights in Bangkok. So I haven't dropped the ball entirely. Mostly, I'm procrastinating because I hate the idea of crossing anything off my list of things I want to see, and, inevitably, I can't see everything.

What I'm Reading

Just finished

In Praise of Messy Lives by Katie Roiphe 

This is a collection of essays by Roiphe, who is a Salon columnist and culture critic. She's best known (and in some circles, reviled) for a book she wrote in the nineties that took a critical look at "date rape." More recently, she's written a lot in defense of single motherhood. Like most interesting opinion leaders, she makes a lot of excellent points that are sometimes subsumed by a larger, less solid broad statement. Still, her most strident detractors thrive on making a straw man out of her arguments. I really enjoyed a lot of what she had to say and the book as a whole.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I read it! December was the month of mid-career, feminist lady writers for me. Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone when she was 26. I really liked the details on the physical aspect of the journey and her introspections were fairly interesting too, though I lost interest in the last 20 pages. That's not necessarily the book's fault. Introspective journeys are interesting when they're fraught, not when they're resolved ("I'm happy and at peace with myself now!" ...zzzzzz). What most surprised me about this book was how little Strayed wrote about loneliness. I doubt I could spend so much time on my own, but props to her.

Currently reading 

The Pushcart Prize XXXVII: Best of the Small Presses

An anthology of the best poetry, fiction and essays from lit mags. It's a monster book so I try to read one or two things per night before I go to sleepy sleep. So far, I've read some good poems. I finished one and thought to myself, "Wow. This is kind of dark. And abstract. I don't really get it, but I like it," figuring it was some cerebral, meta poem that only people with master's degrees can properly understand. Then I looked in the back of the book and saw that it was written by a fourth grader. Fourth graders with Pushcart prizes. Man...

I'm still working my way through the 2008 travel writing anthology and deciding what's the next thing I should plow through. I can probably get through two more books before it's time to leave.

Also: This is an excellent profile of George Saunders. I've only read a tiny bit of his short fiction, but now I think I'll buy his new book, Tenth of December.

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