What I’ve Just Finished Reading
Shirley Jackson’s Hangsaman
, about which I babbled AT LENGTH in a comment to a previous post
, which I won’t copy here because otherwise it will take over my entire Wednesday Reading Meme. But it’s there if you’re interested.
Katherine Applegate’s Crenshaw
, which is good as all of Katherine Applegate’s books are. (I think I probably missed out by not reading Animorphs. Not enough to actually read Animorphs now, though.) This one is about an economically insecure family that may be on the verge of homeless - not something that you see very often in children’s books - but in a way that is light enough to be readable without glossing over the difficulties of homelessness.
Crenshaw is the hero’s imaginary friend, a giant cat who likes to stand on his head, a la the giant bunny in Harvey
. In fact, Applegate references the movie in the book’s epigraph. What I’m Reading Now
Keeping on with The Odyssey! Odysseus has arrived back in Ithaca and will at any moment rain down unholy vengeance on the suitors. (I remember this part from the Wishbone version. I’m looking forward to the bit where Odysseus shoots his arrow through twelve axes.) Although right now he’s chatting with his son Telemachus while pretending to be just some random beggar dude, which I’m sure is killing him inside.
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812
. One of the things I find particularly interesting about this book is that Ulrich not only has Martha Ballard’s diary, but also the remarks of commentators from later in the nineteenth century, and it’s so interesting to see what these readers considered worthy of note. They’re surprised, for instance, that Ballard spent so much time gadding about to visit her neighbors.
I wonder if it’s actually that nineteenth-century women actually spent less time gadding - or if it was actually pretty comparable, but the ideal was that women should be the heart of the home and rarely stir from the hearthside, and so people just kind of failed to see how much time women (even respectable married women) spent outside of the home. But the written record of Martha Ballard’s movements made it plain and impossible to ignore.
I’ve also begun Dorothy Sayers’ Unnatural Death
. I find the way she talks about spinsters kind of annoying, especially considering that she married late herself - but maybe that just makes increases the temptation toward condescending magnanimity.
Oh! And I’m working on Enid Blyton’s The Secret Island
(having run out of Mallory Towers for the moment), which has a very Boxcar Children-type appeal: four kids on their own figuring out how to provide themselves with shelter and food and so forth.
AND FINALLY (deep breath) (I’m reading a lot of books this week) (too many maybe?) I’m reading Sarah Smarsh’s Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth
, about Smarsh’s childhood among poor white farmers in Kansas, which I can only read in small doses because it’s so infuriating reading about how thoroughly the government has undermined the middle and working classes.
Not least by pretending that the working classes don’t exist. Everyone is middle class in America! What do you mean you’re working 60 hours a week not to get by? Everyone is middle class in America. If we say it enough times that will make it true even as we enact policies that dismantle worker protections and favor large companies and factory farms.
It occurred to me - this is not a point Smarsh makes, just something that came to mind - that maybe part of the reason the “fake news” narrative has gained traction is that the media has in fact systematically ignored or misrepresented working class experiences for decades, so there are a lot of people in this country who don’t trust the media because… why would they? What has the media done to deserve it? What I Plan to Read Next
The library for some reason has loads of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books in Spanish. I’ve been thinking I should polish up my Spanish, and the Famous Five is probably about the difficulty level I can take after letting my Spanish go to seed for so long, so maybe I’ll give them a go.