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post #445
bio: jen

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Time and Books

First, I have a request for the Gourmands on Happy Robot. Members of the Sunshine Jen family are traveling to the East Coast (Toronto, New York, and Raleigh), and we’re looking for restaurant recommendations.

It can be any type of restaurant in any price range. Where do you like to eat? Where do you take friends? What is your special occasion place? Thanks so much.

It is August in Sunshine Jen Land which means the June gloom is finally over and the Dodgers don’t have a chance in heck of making the playoffs. Closers close games. Oh never mind.

Meanwhile, I’m looking toward the final third of 2010 and wondering what the heck happened to the year.

Yep, time keeps going. It’s relentless that way. I try to stop time with routines and mundane errands, but time smacks its knee, opens up its mouth full of rotten teeth, laughs a demonic laugh, and runs faster. Then, I run faster---faster and faster---on a treadmill, but I can’t catch time although I do burn calories. Ah-hah! Metaphysical angst is good for something.

Speaking of time, I’ve been fulfilling my resolution to spend more time reading by reading more books. Wait, does that sentence make sense? I’ve been reading more novels and watching less TV even though the Dodgers manage to suck me into their melodrama of mediocrity and bad pitching.

After reading a brit lit sandwich of Martin Amis and Ian McEwan, I totally enjoyed the acrobatics of Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin. I’ve wanted to read this novel for awhile. I’d see it on the trade paperback table at the local mega bookstore. It might be sitting their innocently between The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and a memoir with an over-stylized cover.

Delighting in the McCann novel, I felt like I was a 1974 New Yorker watching Philippe Petit walk on a wire. McCann’s ability to incorporate detail and bring out different voices dazzled me. He makes writing look easy as he weaves a world into a universe. He reminds me that the most interesting moments are usually the smallest ones. Big moments might happen in the background, but it is the small things which keep our treadmills going.

I recently finished David Mitchell’s new book, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. I am a fan of Cloud Atlas and its brutal ambition. In this new book, Mitchell goes to Japan in 1800.

For the first fifty pages, I was a dizzy foreigner stumbling around the unknown terrain of his prose, but eventually the characters and the place came into focus. As the novel shifted into adventure, then more adventure, I wasn’t quite prepared for an ending so simple and human. Wow, he certainly knows how to land.

I saw David Mitchell read at Skylight Books over in Los Feliz a few weeks ago. He was at the end of his US book tour, and half of his mind was already on plane. He did not read his prose smoothly. He stopped and started again. He would explain a word or phrase. He would talk about his Dutch translators. He would read a word, not like it, and want to change it.

He drank cold tea and leaned back on his heels. He created unintentional theatre as camera phones took his picture. The shifts and turns of his novels were happening right in front of us. Was he becoming his novels or were his novels becoming him? His unintentional solo play had struck me to the bone. He doesn’t have to do it. He doesn’t have to write this stuff. He could live quite comfortably without having to go back again and again to his obsessions. But he keeps going back. Again and again.

Still, seeing and hearing him struggle through it, was a very good way to spend an hour. I wonder how many books he signed that night. I didn’t stay. I was hungry and wanted some food.

Is that last sentence totally pretentious? I don't know.  

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