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I just finished The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. I find myself drawn, in general, to books dealing with college and prep school. But The Art of Fielding is different from most of the ones I’ve read because most of the main characters (actually most of the characters, period) are male, when typically I chose books centered around female characters. But seeing this book involves baseball, it piqued my curiosity. The name of the novel is derived from a fictional book-within-a-book, also called The Art of Fielding, which has basically served as a manual for both baseball and life for Henry, the main character. Henry, develops a “become one with the ball” type of philosophy which makes him a very talented shortstop, but due to his size, he is overlooked when it comes to college recruiting. His life changes when he meets Mike Schwartz at a summer baseball tournament. Mike is impressed with Henry’s fielding abilities, and arranges to have him attend his own school, Westish College, where Henry joins the baseball team, and Mike becomes Henry’s mentor. The story covers Henry’s freshman year at Westish, and then basically skips ahead to baseball season of his junior year, where the majority of the action takes place, and the 3 other main characters become central to the story.

In addition to (the fictional) Art of Fielding, another book that is significant to this novel is Moby Dick. The college president had attended Westish as a student, where one day he discovered some forgotten old papers indicating that the author Herman Melville had visited the campus. The school latched onto Melville-mania, even renaming their sports teams the Harpooners, and erecting a statue of Melville on the Quad. Needless to say, the Moby Dick and Melville allusions are countless. I haven’t even read Moby Dick, but I know they’re there. Even the names of some of the characters sound like they’re meant to recall old-time classic literature- Henry Skrimshander, Guert Affenlight, his daughter Pella Affenlight. I am sure if I’d actually read Moby Dick, there’s a lot more I would have picked up on.

The book is fairly long, but once you’re in, it keeps your interest pretty well. It changes point of view from one chapter to the next (rotating among 4 major characters), which keeps things moving. So if you’re not really “feeling” one particular chapter, just hang on for a few pages and you’ll be somewhere else. Overall, I could recommend this for anyone who enjoys sagas about interconnected relationships of lovers, friends, and family. It would probably help to like baseball, but if you don’t you aren’t necessarily going to hate the book, but many of the key story actions take place in or during baseball games.


2013 Book List

Books Read in 2013

Best American Short Stories: 2012, Tom Perrotta, editor (fiction/short stories)
The Wonder Spot, Melissa Bank (fiction)
The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach (fiction)
Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity, Kerry Cohen (non-fiction/memoir)
Carry the One, Carol Anshaw (fiction)
Perv- A Love Story, Jerry Stahl (fiction)
Snow Angels, Stewart O'Nan (fiction)
The Crazy School, Cornelia Read (fiction)
20 Over 40, David Galef & Beth Weinhouse, editors (fiction/short stories)
The Cat’s Table, Michael Ondaatje (fiction)
She Matters, Susanna Sonneberg (non-fiction/memoir)
Amy & Isabelle, Elizabeth Strout (fiction)
The World Made Straight, Ron Rash (fiction)
My One Square Inch of Alaska, Sharon Short (fiction)
The Next Best Thing, Jennifer Weiner (fiction)
Wench, Dolen Perkins-Valdez (fiction)
The Falls , Joyce Carol Oates (fiction)
Golden Boy, Abigail Tarttelin (fiction)
Lookaway, Lookaway , Wilton Barnhardt (fiction)
Objects of My Affection , Jill Smolinski (fiction)

Started but Not Finished
Girls, Frederick Busch (fiction) I'm usually a sucker for a story that takes place in Upstate NY, but I just couldn't stay with this one until the end.


Travel Plans

I am caught up with my on-line writing class. There are new lessons posted on Wednesdays and Fridays, and when I enrolled, there were already 2 lessons posted, so I was starting a little late, but now I have finished everything that's up there. Not that it matters a whole lot. It's really a self-paced, keep yourself motivated kind of thing. I don't think the assignments are even required. When I finish this course, there are several others offered that I am interested in, like Travel Writing.

So, speaking of travel...Frank and I booked a cruise over the weekend. It's a big one. Alaska! I've wanted to go there for a long time, and I'm always joking that I need to hurry up and see the glaciers before they melt. Last summer I turned 40, and even though for years I intended to do something really special for my 40th birthday, I ended up unable to commit to anything, so I had a party which turned out okay, not awesome. This year I'll try doing what I should have done last year. I started looking into Alaska cruises, and it gets a little overwhelming comparing all the cruiselines, the ports, the itineraries, etc. Cruise Critic was a big help, and I found out there that Glacier Bay National Park is a can't miss, but not all cruises go there. Finally I decided on Holland America, which sort of has a stereotype of being the "floating nursing home," but I have heard such good things about the food, the service, and they have a wonderful reputation for Alaska cruises. It's definitely going to be different- a more elegant and upscale atmosphere than what we're used to, but I am looking forward to trying it. The downside is that we have non-balcony room on the lowest deck, whereas if we'd gone with Carnival, we could have gotten a balcony for pretty much the same price. But no Glacier Bay. I guess most people book Alaska cruises with more time to plan, but it just sort of got in my head and couldn't shake it. Besides, I like the fact that the cruise is in 5 months, and not a year and five months. Of course still so much to plan- flights, hotels, ground transportation. The cruise is a roundtrip from Vancouver, BC, but I think we're going to fly into Seattle and add on day there at the end to see the Space Needle and Pike Place Market and all that touristy stuff.

Bill Maher did a show here on Sunday night. We'd seen him before about three years ago at the Raleigh show that was filmed as a Live HBO Special. We'd been wanting to see him again, and actually thought about going to Vegas later this year for a show, but then we heard he was coming here so we went ahead and tickets. It was at the Belk Theater, which is really a great venue. It makes you feel like you're in New York City or something. Our seats were in a balcony box, so we were off to the side in our own private area, which was pretty cool. The show was good. I love Bill Maher, but I will say I expected the material to be a little fresher. A few of the bits we remembered from the show 3 years ago, which was disappointing. He also seemed to spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about Sarah Palin, which seemed a little strange. For someone who does a weekly live show about current events, I know he has much more in his arsenal! But overall, still a fun show and we laughed a lot. I just probably wouldn't go back and see him again for awhile.

Last Effort Here!

I recently signed up for an on-line writing class. The continuing education department where I work has recently partnered with a company that offers low-cost basic on-line courses (in subject areas that we don’t cover in our programs). I was really curious about how they work, so I became the unofficial guinea pig and signed up for one, just to try it out. It’s minimally structured, there are no grades or academic credit, but it’s just enough to get me motivated to think about writing again. There are specific prompts and exercises, but it also encourages participants to write outside of the specific tasks that it asks for. Since I already have this LiveJournal, and, strangely enough, I still have a paid account, I thought I’d try coming back here before reinventing the wheel and finding someplace else to write. But if anyone has been using other blogging sites, I’m definitely open to suggestions. My paid account expires May 31st, so I have three months to decide what to do. LiveJournal’s not exactly what it was back in the day. Most of the communities I’ve joined have become basically dormant, and the rest are people posting the same type of stuff people have been posting for years, so not exactly a huge draw there. And of course, most of my friends aren’t active much anymore either.

I most likely won’t be putting my class assignments here. We have a place to post them, and so far, they would be uninteresting to anyone else. For example, one topic was to light a candle in our writing space and describe it. Maybe they’ll become more interesting as time goes on (it’s a six week course), but for now I will probably just keep that separate.

2012 Book List

Books Read in 2012

Making Maggie "Little Miss Tri-County", Maggie Messina (non-fiction/memoir)
Best American Short Stories: 2011, Geraldine Brooks, editor (fiction)
Dewey, the Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, Vicki Myron (non-fiction)
What Was She Thinking (Notes on a Scandal), Zoe Heller (fiction)
Piece of Cake, Cupcake Brown (non-fiction/memoir)
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides (fiction)
Pledged: The Secret Lives of Sororities, Alexandra Robbins (non-fiction)
The Guy Not Taken, Jennifer Weiner (fiction/short stories)
Fifty Shades of Grey, EL James (fiction)
Emily's Reasons Why Not, Carrie Gerlach (fiction)
If I Am Missing or Dead, Janine Latus (non-fiction)
Chronicles of the Jungle Mom, Michele Kohan (non-fiction/memoir)
Game of Thrones, George RR Martin (fiction)
The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (non-fiction/memoir)
A Wolf at the Table, Augusten Burroughs (non-fiction/memoir)
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, Heidi W. Durrow (fiction)
Going South, Bonnie Glover (fiction)
The McCloud Home for Wayward Girls, Wendy Delsol (fiction)
Fifty Shades Darker, EL James (fiction)
Wish You Were Here, Stewart O’Nan (fiction)
The Switch, (fiction)
Fifty Shades Freed, EL James (fiction)


2011 Book List

Books Read in 2011

Commencement, J. Courtney Sullivan (fiction)
Best American Short Stories: 2010, Richard Russo, editor (fiction)
Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping, Judith Levine (non-fiction)
Our Story Begins,Tobias Wolff (fiction)
American Voyeur: Dispatches From the Far Reaches of Modern Life ,Benoit Denizet-Lewis (non-fiction)
Ten Little Indians, Sherman Alexie (fiction)
War Dances, Sherman Alexie (fiction)
Peony in Love, Lisa See (fiction)
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See (fiction)
Flight, Sherman Alexie (fiction)
Stolen Innocence, Elissa Wall (non-fiction)
Songs for the Missing, Stewart O'Nan (fiction)
Best American Non-Required Reading:2005, Dave Eggers, editor (fiction)
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, David Sedaris (essays)
Twenty Grand, Rebecca Curtis (fiction)
One Thousand White Women: The Journal of May Dodd, Jim Fergus (fiction)
Off Keck Road, Mona Simpson (fiction)
Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Belle Du Jour (memoir)
The Guinea Pig Diaries, A.J. Jacobs (non-fiction)
Push, Sapphire (fiction)
Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules, David Sedaris, editor (fiction)
I Love You, Beth Cooper, Larry Doyle(fiction)
Schooled, Anisha Lakhani (fiction)

Books I didn't finish
It's kind of rare that I start a book and don't finish. For one thing, I am fairly good at choosing books I think I'm going to like. And also, I do like to press through. Even if I don't love a book, I hope there will be some sort of pay-off at the end.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering, Dave Eggers. This was the type of book that I should have enjoyed- quirky and different, and I'd been meaning to read it for ages, but I just couldn't get through it
All Things at Once, Mika Brzezinski. I like Mika, but her book was kind of boring.


Ice Day, Part 2

I got up this morning to get ready for work, and the Delayed Opening had been changed to Closed. At least the ice is starting to melt today, though. We may try to venture out and get something for lunch.

The kitties are getting a ice long reprieve before they lose their stay-at-home parent!

Snowed In/Iced In

I haven't been at work all week. We were snowed in Monday, and iced in today. I'll be getting back to the real world tomorrow, with a delay until 10:30. Of course Monday was supposed to be Frank's first day. So, now we're wondering if Monday will still be his start day, and he'll get paid for 2 days of staying home, or they will just change the start day to tomorrow. I wish the storm had come a day later so he could at least get one official day in before the snow days.

It's been nice staying home. Sunday night before the snow started I asked Frank if he would go out for "milk and bread", which is sort of the cliche around here...whenever there is even the rumor of the tiniest bit of snow, people panic and run to the store for milk and bread. But by Sunday night, it seemed pretty inevitable that we were getting a storm, and we really did need milk and bread, and a few other things, so I'm glad he went out, or we would have been scrounging the last couple of days. Or we could have gone out today on the icy roads. It would have been doable, but not fun, so I was glad we didn't need to. Yesterday we took a walk through the neighborhood over to the convenience store and got sodas. Just because it was there, and it was open. I wore my real snow boots for the first time in a long time, and forgot how damned uncomfortable they are. I now have sores on the back of my feet and the boots are in the Goodwill box.

On Saturday we went to see Black Swan. It was a good movie. I will admit that after Mila Kunis's first major chunk of dialog, I couldn't resist leaning over to Frank and whispering "Shut up, Meg."

Job Applications

I applied for some jobs today, just for the hell of it. I will consider these the practice job applications, and continue applying for additional jobs as I see them. I'm not going to hold my breath on any of these jobs, for a variety of different reasons. It's been a long time since I'd applied for jobs, and I need to get back into the swing of it if I want to have a change of scenery anytime soon (which I do).

-A bunch of my cover letters were "off" in some way. The first two had the date listed as "January 5, 2010." I sent another one saying that I was "especially interested in pursuing a career in the non-profit sector" that was, yes, for a corporate job. D'oh! I realized the address on my resume had the zip code from my last address. Not that anyone would spot that unless they are intimately familiar with the geography of Charlotte and know exactly where my street is.

-I really hate on-line job application forms, where you upload your resume and then type all the same information into their database.

-Why do almost no job listings give an indication of what the pay is? I know I sometimes joke about job listings here at the university that have these really broad pay ranges in the description, like, $33,000 to $45,000, but at least that gives you a clue. Since I'm already working, and looking to...."trade up" so to speak, I'm pretty much only interested in jobs that pay more (or at least about the same, if it was something I really wanted to do). Of the 5 jobs I applied for, none of them said how much they pay. If it turns out the pay is a lot less than what I make now, I don't want to waste their time or mine applying. I did list a desired salary range in the cover letter, so, presumably, if the job pays less than what I'm looking for, I'll simply be put in the "no" pile, but still...I would rather just not apply in the first place.

-Career Builder gives me a headache. I am usually pretty decent with websites, searches, that sort of thing. The jobs just seem to be scattered around in various categories. I pulled up Customer Service, which contains everything from hotel housekeepers to database designers. I combed through and did find a couple of interesting jobs. Is CareerBuilder the main place where people go to look for jobs? Do people still use Monster.com anymore? Are there any other sites that I should check out? I'm just looking for general mid-level jobs, in the areas of education/admin/marketing/etc, not any specialized field or industry.

All these things remind me why I've avoided it altogether and stayed put for the last 6+ years. I've applied for a handful of jobs here and there, mostly in other departments at the university and the random job I applied for at St. Pete Pride, and then blew off the interview, but not a full-scale "job search" per se.

For the past year or so, ever since the economy has been so horrible, I've felt like it's pointless to even bother looking. For each job I apply for, they're going to get tons of applications...what's the point? Complicating this is that if I were to get one of these jobs, I would feel bad that I'm taking a job an unemployed person could have gotten instead of me just wanting a "change of scenery". I know that's silly, and there's no reason I should feel that way...maybe just because I have lived with a (soon to no longer be) unemployed person for almost 2 years.


Happy 2011

I hope everyone's year is off to a good start. I am back at work after a very relaxing, restful break. I intended to clean and get caught up on all of the housework, but of course I ended up doing none of that! We pretty much just stayed home all the time, with a few shopping trips and that sort of thing.

Frank found out right before the university closed for break that he got the job he interviewed for, so that definitely got our holidays off to a good start. Next Monday will be his first day.