Friday, May 6, 2011

Flowers & Books

These are all over the place along the boundary of our apartment complex, these beautiful wild white things. Honeysuckle is everywhere, in the air all the time. That reminds me of last year's spring in Illinois, where we lived near the countryside and honeysuckle was all I could smell for weeks.

The geese living in our pond have goslings. One set of goose-y parents have four little babies, one set has three. They are the fuzziest-feathered cutest things I have ever seen. The wood ducks who live there year-round just seem confused.

I have spent a lot of time in the last couple of days trying to think of what I really want to do for the next six months or so. Just... what do I want to spend my time on? I'm reading a lot, lately. I just finished Malled by Caitlin Kelly, about a fifty-something woman's sudden shift from her longtime journalism career to part-time retail work in a store for The North Face in a wealthy part of New York.

The book was occasionally infuriating, mostly due to Kelly's naivete and her strange way of writing about her coworkers with nothing short of surprise at every tattoo, less-than-stellar attitude and, a couple of times, the way her female coworkers, when pregnant, just kept working until the last second. I had to remind myself sometimes that some people haven't really worked retail or sales in their lives, haven't dealt with having to grit their teeth against a customer who has decided to take out all their personal pain on you, how issues with coworkers can taint your whole day. Occasionally she let herself fall into a kind of low-level not-quite-acknowledged judgment of their lifestyles and who they were; while Kelly herself had previously been living an upper class lifestyle, most of her coworkers are like me; they have worked these retail jobs for years, and are looking at continuing retail for the foreseeable future. Kelly seems... unable to grasp that, and to view their lives outside of work with some kind of strange "Look at the adorable lower-class people" mentality. It put my teeth on edge, but at the same time I have worked with women like Caitlin Kelly, more than once.

Then again, the book was really engaging. Caitlin Kelly is actually really likable and I actually, after giving it some thought, enjoyed how much of herself she did not edit out of the book. Her occasionally forays into statistics and reports were really interesting, although mostly they just proved to me what I had already known. Her manager, a well-meaning man who burns out trying to juggle everything corporate throws at him, reminded me of every good manager I've ever had.

In the end, I definitely give Malled a 3.5 out of 5 (didn't know I actually had a rating system, did you? Well that's because I didn't, I just made it up). I definitely don't regret spending money on it, and I want to start passing it around people I know to get their take on it, but it does have a lot of problems as well.

Next up?

I'm about a third of the way through College Girls: Bluestockings, Sex Kittens, and Co-eds, Then and Now by Lynn Peril. It's actually a fun nonfiction look at the history of women in college in the U.S., from the first "girl's seminaries" in the 19th century to the start of women's-only and co-ed universities... right now I've hit the 1950's part of the timeline. It's often hilarious, full of tidbits about girls curling up in their "study slacks" because that was the only time wearing pants was considered appropriate or the interesting point that dating used to be about being seen with as many boys as possible, not dating a single boy and having a serious long-term relationship with him.

So both of those are really interesting. I should be done with College Girls soon, after that I'm moving on to Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. Yeah, apparently I'm on a nonfiction kick right now.

So my week, really, has been defined by what books I'm reading and thinking whether or not I really should be reading books, not writing them. Or looking into freelance writing. Or painting. Or... something financially viable.

I dream about seeing books with my name on them on a shelf in Barnes & Noble. Of course, I also dream about being the maid of honor for the wedding of a hunchbacked, but really nice queen in a palace the size of New York City.

So... I'm not sure my dreams are anything I should go by.


  1. "Cheap" looks really interesting! I googled it and read an article on nytimes about it. For someone like myself who enjoys "bargains" I'm definitely interested in what you think of it!

  2. What a wonderful place to stay...


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