Monday, March 31

Slow Snow Slog; and Book Rec: "Feed"

Here are the places I went as 3.5" of wet sloppy snow accumulated today, my only available errand day this week: Got a haircut. Target run. Took Evan to Verizon in Roseville to replace his broken phone. Dropped him off and went to the bank. Went back because I forgot to pick up Potamus, who stayed with Dennis and Jarrett while Evan and I went to Loyola in Chicago. Post office. Home for two hours; a time of inadvertent napping.

Got Jarrett and brought him to the dentist. (Dad picked him up.) Went too far north on Hamline and was funneled into Snelling going north. Got gas. Noticed windshield wiper was broken so went back down south to pick up a new wiper. Needed tools to install it so decided to skip it until I could get to the garage. Back up north to Mike's Discount Foods. And home.

WHAT I'M READING NOW: M. T. Anderson's teen/young adult book "Feed," set in a dystopian future.

In M. T. Anderson's "Feed," everyone is bathed in and entertained by a constant feed directly into their heads; it's 24/7 ads, music, video and gaming feeds, fads, fashion and hairstyle news, and telepathic communication with friends. People are happily distracted from concerns about the outside world, and can barely read, write, or think for themselves. During spring break, Titus and his friends go to the moon ("We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck") where he meets Violet, and where the group of friends is "hacked," ending up in the hospital without feeds for several days. After the feeds are reconnected, Titus and Violet continue to experience disturbing hacks on their feeds.

That's as far as I've gotten, though the blurb indicates that Titus and Violet will decide to "fight the feed." "Feed" reads like an unsettling and hilarious mix of George Orwell and empty "Valley Girl" dialog (which for this adult, is getting a little annoying.) It's a cautionary tale, and I'm eager to see if Anderson's ending is as bleak as Orwell's in "1984."

Any librarian who has watched dozens of people sitting elbow-to-elbow at long tables, riveted to their computer screens, will recognize the power of the Feed. Like the Internet, the Feed started as educational tool but quickly morphed into a business and pleasure emporium that delights, distracts, and captivates. Envision a constant silent cell phone link added, and it's easy to project into our own future a scenario in which virtual contact continues to eclipse the physical presence of all but our closest friends.

Good lines:

"Everything at home was boring. Link Arwaker was like, "I'm so null," and Marty was all "I'm null, too, unit," but I mean we were all pretty null . . ."

The grownups speak the same way. When Titus's dad visits the hospital, he explains that Mom is, "'She's like, whoa, she's like so stressed out. This is . . . Dude.' He said, 'Dude, this is some way bad shit.'"

The doctor who gets their feeds back online says, "Could we like get a thingie, a reading on his limbic activity?"

Sunday, March 23

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday, and for much of the morning it snowed. The clouds are low and dark, more like November than Easter. I don't even remember Easters in Duluth being this grim.

However, I've made some nice food, I can smell the pot roast cooking, and I've spent a pleasant few minutes looking at the "White Flower Farm" summer catalog. The colors! Whee! and listening to "The Messiah." I'm re-enacting the Easters and countless Sundays of my childhood, with Mom cooking, everyone else reading (OK, so in my instance I'm reading and the kids are playing video games and watching "Red vs. Blue) while classical music plays. And since it's Easter, that means "The Messiah."

No extended family today, but I'm finding community in the imagined company of all the women doing "deep cooking" today; in those listening to "The Messiah," and gardeners eager for spring.

This reverie must now end; I have to finish my taxes so we can get Evan's financial aid application finalized, and then fill out a job application.

What I'm Reading Now:

Patrick Leigh Fermor's "A Time for Silence,"
"describing his several sojourns at some of Europe's oldest and most venerable monasteries." First printed in 1957, it seemed a natural for this Easter Sunday.

Just finished "Origin" by Diana Abu-Jaber, a mystery/novel most atmospheric, with a self-isolating fingerprint technologist, Lena Dawson, working on a mystery that seems connected to her own mysterious childhood. The plot could easily degenerate to hackneyed crap, but Abu-Jaber doesn't let us down.

The atmosphere reminds me of "The Thirteenth Tale" or "Ghost Writer."

What I'm Reading

I've come to a turning point in my reading. For many years I have read to escape, reading mostly mysteries and thrillers, and avoiding the heavy literary works that bring on depression.

I had a breakthrough with "The Hours," Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel featuring Virginia Woolf, a 1940's housewife reading "Mrs. Dallowy" for emotional survival, and a modern "Clarissa Dalloway." It sounded like a landscape filled with too many depressives, but when I finally watched the movie I saw that it was above all about loving life.

I ventured to read the book, and went on to read Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway." While I was on a roll, I read two more books I'd avoided: "The Kite Runner" and Toni Morrison's "Beloved." Loved 'em, loved 'em, loved 'em.

I feel liberated, free to read more deeply, no longer so afraid of triggering or exacerbating a depression.