June 2009

Wishing and hoping.


Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
Published in 2008 by Bloomsbury, 335 pages

Years ago I received Lahiri’s first collection of short stories, “Interpreter of Maladies”, as a present and have read it more than a dozen times until today. I like her writings a lot, and could not resist to buy her new book in English when I was abroad last year. In contrast to the first one her new one focuses more on the children of Indian immigrants and their struggle to find their place while trying to connect India and America. I loved all the stories, except for one which just did not catch me. Lahiri writes in a very beautiful way about sad events enfolding, struggles with identity and finding one’s place during adolescence, the relationship between aging parents and children growing up.

I read it actually a couple of months ago, and in order for this short post decided to read it again which was so worth it.

The first three sentences:

“After her mother’s death, Ruma’s father retired from the pharmaceutical company where he had worked for many decades and began traveling in Europe, a continent he’d never seen. In the past year he had visited France, Holland, and most recently Italy. They were package tours, traveling in the company of strangers, riding by bus through the countryside, each meal and museum and hotel prearranged.”

Time goes by so quickly. Horrifying.
So how have I been, how is my thesis?
Well, the thesis. I actually did work on it, and I have a stack of books that I need to read. That I should have read years ago. Anyway. I am not doing as much progress as I would love to, but tiny little steps. The books are all in my apartment and I will return to My City tomorrow and being able to work with them concentrated.
On the weekend The Husband and I worked on the workshop that we are giving in about two weeks, and although it is about what I teach usually I still need some time to organize well-rounded presentations. The audience is different from my average students, and I want to tailor it according to them (which is difficult if you do not know them).
Besides that I am working on the page proofs of that little chapterlet that I finished last fall (/irony on yes, the editor is very happy about the speed of that publishing house /irony off) and of one of the compendium article that I finished last year as well. For the second one they told me to delete all footnotes. Great. I liked my footnotes. For that little chapter I am waiting for feedback on shifting around a section.

Teaching is going well. Last week before class I asked one student to be aware of the thin line between being a critical mind or a destructive one (and he smiled and nodded and said that he knew what I was referring to and promised improvement), and coincidentally during that session the class always disagreed with what he said. Good class ­čÖé

My biggest accomplishment, however, is the fact that I told my boss that I will not join her on our annual conference. I simply lack the energy, but that is not a valid excuse for her. But that is the truth – I simply lack the energy.

Otherwise I have a new cell phone (with a digital camera! And an MP3-player!) because my old one broke, my apartment in My City has new water and waste pipes (my bathroom still needs the tile-job getting done), and we had elections for the European parliament. I am still hesitant how much to reveal about myself, and writing about national politics would reveal a bit. On the other hand I guess it is pretty obvious by now where I am from. But I will save the election for another post. Now I will turn to my beloved thesis.

“A Suitable Vengeance” by Elizabeth George

Special edition published in 2006 by Goldmann: “Gott sch├╝tze dieses Haus” and “Mein ist die Rache”, 478 pages, translated by Mechtild Sandberg-Ciletti

After finishing “A Great Deliverance” I continued with the second one, “A Suitable Vengeance”, which I finished in two days as well. Some of her novels I remember very well, but this one was not stored in my memory at all. I did not know who the murderer was until it was revealed (which I enjoy, of course).
I really want to read all her novels in English as well, and the next time I am abroad I will buy the first ones of this series.

The first three sentences:

“N├Ąchte in Soho
Tina Cogin verstand es, aus dem wenigen, das sie hatte, das Beste zu machen. Dieses Talent war ihr angeboren.
Mehrere Stockwerke ├╝ber dem dumpfen Dr├Âhnen des n├Ąchtlichen Verkehrs bewegte sich ihre nackte Silhouette faunisch ├╝ber die W├Ąnde des halbdunklen Zimmers, und sie beobachtete l├Ąchelnd, wie jede ihrer Bewegungen den Schattenri├č ver├Ąnderte, so da├č immer neue Formen von Schwarz und Wei├č entstanden, wie bei einem Rorschach-Test.”

“A Great Delieverance” by Elizabeth George

Special edition published in 2006 by Goldmann: “Gott sch├╝tze dieses Haus” and “Mein ist die Rache”, 478 pages, translated by Mechtild Sandberg-Ciletti

At the end of March The Husband and I went to visit my parents to celebrate my mother’s birthday. After “Careless in Red” I was in the mood to read the first novels by Elizabeth George again, and so I took the first two ones with me to My City.

I do not know how to express it in a better way, but they are just fantastic. Whenever I start reading one of her books, I cannot really put it down because I am absorbed by the story. What better compliment can I make?

I guess it took me about two days to finish the first book this time, and it was really nice to read the beginning of the series again. I read my first Elizabeth George on a plane – either on my first or my second journey to visit my relatives downunder. She has become my measurement for good crime novels.

The first three sentences:

“Es war ein Fauxpas schlimmster Art. Er nieste der Frau mitten ins Gesicht, laut, nass, absolut unverzeihlich. Eine Dreiviertelstunde hatte er das Niesen zur├╝ckgehalten, dagegen gek├Ąmpft, als handele es sich um Henry Tudors Streitmacht bei der Schlacht von Bosworth.”

Patricia Cornwell: The Front.
Published in 2008 by sphere, 228 pages

I bought this book at the train station back in March when I babysat for a friend. I had picked it very quickly, and my decision was based on the facts that it was in English and that I like the Scarpetta novels. I was not aware of the fact that Cornwell has a new series starring state investigator Win Garano. Therefor I experienced a similar feeling while reading “What came before he shot her” by Elizabeth George – I was waiting for Scarpetta (in George’s book for Lynley and Havers) to show up.

I more or less inhaled the book in one evening while the baby was soundly asleep (finally!). I cannot really recall the story in details, just that somehow I was disappointed when I was done (maybe it was just a bit too much going on in the storyline) – I prefer the Scarpetta novels, but I guess I have to get used to Garano.

The first three sentences:

“Win Garano set two lattes on a picnic table in front of the John F. Kennedy School of Government. It’s a sunny afternoon, mid-May, and Harvard Square is crowded. He straddles a bench, overdressed and sweaty in a black Armani suit and black patent-leather Prada shoes, pretty sure the original owner of them is dead.”