In Which Our Heroine Recommends One Book and Disdains Another

17 September 2004

Work on the book was good. Lunch with C.J. was good -- they had my orange chocolate chip scones again, after twice in a row of not having them, so yay for that. Grocery shopping again was fine. Time with my dad was good: I cooked so that we could just sit around the house and talk and not have to worry about getting seated at a restaurant and all that. And then I looked around and decided it was time to read for awhile.

I finished Mad Ship and felt the ending really picked up; I'm looking forward to the sequel.

I spent half the evening reading Esmé Raji Codell's Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher's First Year, and giggling and giggling. It's such a good book. If you asked me what kind of book I read, teacher's diaries would be way down the list. Might not even be on the list. I don't remember where it was recommended, either -- I think somewhere on Sharyn's page, but I'm not sure. Anyway, I totally want Esmé for my fifth grade teacher. My actual fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Eppley, was an almost total waste of component proteins, so if I could just sub in someone else in that spot in my life, that would be keen.

The other day I read Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy and the Great World, and last night I started Betsy's Wedding. These are the last two books in the series, and they're the only two in the main sequence that I didn't read as a kid. I tried Great World a couple of times and couldn't get into it, and I didn't even try Wedding, because what did I want with an entire book of one wedding? And now that I'm reading them, I think I was right as a kid. Not that they're bad, mind you, but they're not good, either, and some things in them would have made me furious as a kid. Betsy's housekeeping focus, for example: now I can look at it as an historical reality, that a young woman would have to turn down an interesting job to keep house, that her husband would have expected her to learn to cook, etc. But when I was 9 it would have made me holler. I still don't like it, but now I can shrug and consider the period better. Still, it was not only a "marry everybody off to somebody" book, but a book that seemed intent on being a happy ending for the whole series.

The problem is, it ended in 1917. I can't help but contrast it with Rilla of Ingleside: another last book in a long-running "girl book" series, another book that ends the series with the First World War. It may be the difference between an American experience of WWI and a Canadian experience of it; certainly if Betsy had been returning to Toronto in 1914 instead of to Boston and then on to Minneapolis, the entire plot would have gone differently. But it felt dishonest to me. It felt unreal. The ending felt like it lacked depth and the bittersweetness that a war wedding should have had. My big complaint about Betsy in the high school books is that she was such an airhead sometimes, and the end of this last book makes it much worse.

If I'd read this book instead of Rilla of Ingleside, my brain would never have been broken the way it was. But it needed to be broken that way. It was good to have it broken that way.

Now I'm reading Pat Muprhy's Adventures in Time and Space With Max Merriwell. I'm not sure why now was the time for it. I have a stack of books from Stella and a stack from the library, and I probably should be getting at those first. And I need to read a bit more nonfiction soon -- I'm starting to crave it more again. And I just read Wild Angel, but it's not a direct sequel, so there isn't that, and I wasn't all that excited about Wild Angel, so there isn't that, either; and it's one of my very few paperbacks on a hardbound-heavy stack, so I really should save it for another occasion. And yet here I am. Sometimes the book-picking algorithm is an imperfect representation of reality, is the thing.

Stella's e-mails are showing up somewhere between five seconds and five hours after she sends them, and Rachel's may not be showing up at all. I have no idea why. Rachel often cc's Mark, since her e-mails are often about lunch plans, so at least I have an inkling of what I'm not getting. I have no idea why or whether this is more widespread than just these two. I am getting other e-mails roughly on time, so it's not a worse but more explicable general malfunction. But use my hotmail (mris22) if you expect a response you're not getting.

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