Friday, December 26, 2008

notes on vacation reading

The boys are outside tossing the football, which give me a moment, while on vacation, to sneak away for some writing. My mother-in-law’s house is large but full, and the sound of loud (albeit joyful) children carries in unexpected ways. I’m really not very good at filtering the chaos so reading has been difficult, though I’m managing where I can. For example, on Tuesday, Mr. Bibliotonic and I took the boys into New York City to visit the Natural History Museum. Part of my duty as copilot was to read aloud to the driver and passengers so I started Tunnels, a fantasy for middle readers by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams.

In the first few chapters, we’ve been introduced to Will, our fourteen-year-old protagonist, and his father, a museum curator. They’ve been digging a tunnel in their London suburb and have discovered what seems to be a long-abandoned underground railway line. In a parallel storyline, a construction worker, in knocking out a brick wall for his employer, has stumbled upon a secret passage, as well as a window through which he can see people clad in Victorian garb, executing some task. Even though the story and characters have piqued my interest, the authors are slow to reveal, teasing the plot out painfully—already, I feel like they need to pick up the pace a bit.

I’m also getting caught up on New Yorker back issues, starting with the November 24 food issue. I loved Jane Kramer’s article about Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, self-taught anthropologists and authors of such award-winning cookbooks as Hot Sour Salty Sweet, about the Mekong Delta’s culture, people, and food. Kramer provides an unvarnished look at how the couple met (he was a part-time smuggler and light heroin user, she was a lawyer on vacation); the life they created, for themselves and their two sons, as world travelers/observers/connoisseurs; and their process for research and writing their marvelous cookbooks. The winter fiction double issue also awaits me. I purchased it mainly for the Roberto Bolano story, which I’m hoping will tide me over until I can crack 2666 and Savage Detectives.

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