by Alexa on April 9, 2013

I read the first Tana French, In The Woods, on the recommendation of you fine people, and you did not steer me wrong. I more or less lost two days of my life, however, because I was not capable of putting the damn thing down. I tried! I swear I tried. Actually, several times I picked up my phone and opened Twitter to make a comment about how absorbed I was by the book, and then instead I went back to reading. Too absorbed even to tweet! (It is a hard life I live.)

I found the book at first delicious (the writing is excellent, she creates a very complete world and clear voice to lose oneself in) and then later horribly sad. Part of me would have liked to prolong the first part indefinitely. I am feeling a little melancholy about it all still. Not about the crime itself, but—oh, if you have read it you know what I mean, and if you haven’t I don’t want to spoil things (though really, if you haven’t read it you might want to skip this whole section because I am bound to give something away without meaning to do so).

The Thing That Was Supposed To Be a Surprise seemed obvious from the start, but this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book much. Occasionally I found it a little annoying or got impatient, and the obviousness did affect my feelings about the main character some, and I did find myself a bit incredulous at the idea that we were supposed to find it surprising, but at least in this case I didn’t know how it was all going to work out. Actually, despite The Thing being obvious, most of the rest remained mysterious until later, which was unusual and kind of great. It seems unlikely that the other central mystery will be solved in a future book, and I respect that this is very true-to-life and kind of marvelous, in its way, but it is maddening because I want to know.

I do not tend to judge mysteries on whether I am surprised by the mystery part, because I never—or almost never—am, I suppose because I read so many of them and have had such a thorough Law & Order education. Usually I don’t mind the mystery not really being a mystery, as long as the rest of the book is compelling enough. A lack of subtlety seems inevitable, especially in a mystery author’s early books: it must be very tricky to trust your reader to pick up on clues—it is always tricky to trust your reader to pick up what you are putting down, so to speak, and I know in my own writing I am always having to go back and take out superfluous/heavy-handed bits that result from that.

Anyhow, I am not going to start the next one yet, because I have deadlines looming and I suspect I won’t be able to get any work done if I do. Also, I think I need something cheery as a palate cleanser first. (Have started it. I have no willpower at all. None.)

I ought to update you all on the books I’ve read this year so far and what I’ve thought of them, but that will have to be another day. (Though I will say The Fault in Our Stars was as good as everyone said it would be, though I kept wishing 17-year-old Alexa was reading it instead, for various reasons) (It was a wee bit precious, and I know that at 17 I would have read it less cynically and likely been besotted with it.) (Shades of Franny and Zooey, I suppose.)

Not all of my current anxious melancholy can be blamed upon my recent reading material. It is very grey here, and the mood-parts of my brain have always been dramatically solar-powered. It doesn’t take a very long stretch of cloud cover to start me brooding and feeling jittery and fragile and as if everything is DOOOOOMED. I guess it is a good thing I don’t live on one of those dreary English moors I was so fond of reading about as a child. (OR DO I?) It is supposed to rain and then SNOW this week, as much as five inches, so I’m predicting at least one weeping episode and two wild tantrums about the state of the apartment, with scattered panicking over my financial future. Happily, when the sunshine does finally break through—which it must do, eventually—it triggers something like euphoria, and I beam at tree buds and sigh at the sound of birds singing and am as frolicsome and insufferable as the star of a tampon/birth control/yogurt commercial. I look forward to skipping down sidewalks and chucking bewildered robins under the chin any time now.

I rarely have social engagements other than the very occasional dinner with my mother, even more rarely social engagements extending past 8pm, and yet last week I went out in the evening on TWO SEPARATE OCCASIONS, for Culture. I accompanied my mother to The Dakota (jazz club) on Tuesday to see Madeleine Peyroux, and a mere two days later I was out again, this time to the Walker (museum) with Scott to see Noah Baumbach’s new movie, Frances Ha. Both times I was away from my apartment until past ten o’clock. Next week on my trip I have plans for two evening outings with virtual acquaintances, and the Friday after I return Scott and I may attend a reading. Step back, Dionysus!

I am looking for some additional freelance work–editing, not writing–and so if you have any lying about, please feel free to send it my way. Most of my editing experience is in the legal and scientific fields, but I’ve done all sorts.
Relatedly, if any of you are writing things (fiction or non) and were thinking of having someone take a look at them with a professional eye—or even two—I am available for everything from line-edits to general “here’s where I think you ought to go with this” type consultations. I’m actually quite a bit better working with other people’s writing than my own, and while I often do this sort of thing for fun (just ask all of my roommates, ever–though I am still bitter about Lizzie’s refusal to let me title her linguistics thesis “Hmong Among Us”), I have decided that this is something I would like to do more of professionally. It makes me feel a tad soulless asking people for money to help them with their personal wordsmithery when that kind of editing is so fun for me anyway (*I* don’t have to do the writing, you see, so it is all reading and guiding and bossing) but there is no law that says you can’t enjoy your work, and I am very good at it, and Spicy Thai Kettle Chips don’t pay for themselves. I’ve written such a variety of things myself now–a memoir, magazine features, essays, etc., that I think I could be useful to almost anyone. (Anyone writing prose. You poets are on your own.)

As long as I am already blushing and feeling squeamish about self-promotion, our beloved NICU (Children’s) is hosting a 3k/fundraiser on June 1st, and Simone, Scott, Twyla and I have formed a team, “Team Simone!” (the exclamation point is part of the name, yes). If you are local and want to walk with us, you can sign up for our team here. There is a party afterward with a bouncy house and face painting and god knows what else, and I am sure it will be an excellent, and finally SNOW-FREE time. Simone has begun to show curiosity about her early/tiny birth, and we’ve been talking about it more and looking at pictures, and she has a Playmobil isolette and baby, of all things, and I thought Team Simone! would be a good idea, for her. (I have more to say about talking to Simone about all of this, enough for a whole fleet of posts, but that will have to wait.)

Frog and Toad are Friends is my favorite children’s book, and to my delight, Simone is enchanted with Frog and Toad as well. We read at least one of the Frog and Toad books every day lately, and the more time I spend with them, the more I think Toad really ought to have his thyroid checked.

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