Closing a door but opening a window

Some of you who have been with me for a while may remember that I boldly decreed 2012 to be my Year of the Russian Novel. YotRN had some successes and some less-than-successes (five months to read AnnaK, coming up on six for Bros. K with no end in sight). If I’ve learned one thing (and perhaps it’s something I should have known ahead of time), it’s that those Russians are de-press-ing. Seriously. There were beautiful bits, and I felt a certain amount of cocky pride for delving into serious literature of my own accord, reading those books was a near-constant downer. YotRN

I know there’s still a full month left in the year, but I’m calling it anyway. YotRN is over. I have put The Brothers Karamozov back on my shelf, where it will hibernate, partially finished, until such time as I feel in my stomach the tender unfurling of an urge to pick it back up. I don’t think our breakup is acrimonious. It’s just not the right time for us.

This was not an easy decision, because I generally don’t like to leave things unfinished, and I liked the idea of neatly closing this out. But when I considered the prospect of slogging through a long, depressing book during one of my favorite times of year, I knew in my gut that this was over.

Fear not, for a new scheme is afoot. But first, some context.

Madeleine L’Engle is one of my favorite writers, starting from when I was very young. When I was in elementary school, my mother gave me her old copy of A Wrinkle in Time, and with the very first line (“It was a dark and stormy night…”), I was irrevocably hooked. She was a way with words, and on an emotional level, it feels like being wrapped in the hug of someone who loves you very much.

Over the years, I’ve amassed a fair collection of her works, and have even given some out as presents. But the thing is, Madeleine was incredibly prolific. Even more so than I realized. (I’ll take the liberty of calling her by her first name, because as you will soon see, she and I will are going to become very intimately acquainted)

On Monday night I pulled from my bookshelf a book that has long resided there, unread: The Small Rain, by Madeleine L’Engle. Small Rain

As I read the forward, I learned that it was, in fact, the first novel she ever wrote. And that’s when I had my idea.

Starting this week, I’m going to read everything Madeleine ever wrote (with the caveat that anything out of print will necessarily be excluded). Learning from my past experience with YotRN, I’m not going to put a timeframe on it. It will take however long it takes.

So, with that, I’m excited to announce The Madeleine L’Engle Project!

What about you guys? Are any of you fans of Madeleine’s work? What’s your favorite of her books?

p.s. This past Thursday, November 29th, was Madeleine’s 94th birthday, so this is even more auspicious timing. Happy Birthday, Madeleine! We miss you!!

Midweek Musings

Happier is not too far away from its first birthday, and so, naturally, I’ve been reflecting on the first  months of its life. Blogging, as I have discovered, is a learn-as-you-go kind of thing. I was been pretty sporadic about posting for most of the year, and there were a few pitifully sparse months in there. Lately, though, I’ve strived to be more regular about it. And I want to keep that momentum going. As such, I’m going to try something out, an experiment of sorts. My habit seems to be weekend posting, so I thought, why don’t I take a walk on the wild side and start trying to post regularly during the week, too? This is my very first attempt at an ongoing series…Midweek Musings, in which I will talk about complete nonsense. Care to give it a whirl with me?

Let me start by acknowledging that none of the items on my list are new…just new to me. This is typical where I am concerned…I generally need time to talk myself around to trying whatever people are buzzing about. Rarely is the buzz enough on its own. (I’m very stubborn this way.) Why do I like these things enough to spend more time than I imagined making them into a graphic? Well…

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Today I am Thirty

Happy Birthday to me!

I’d like to send out a big fat thanks to MamaPen for not giving up 30 years ago when I wasn’t sure I wanted to come out. And another big fat thanks to MamaPen and PapaPen for teaching me what it means to live with integrity and for being supportive even when they don’t get it.

I started today with a run in my favorite place on earth.

I don’t ordinarily do much to to celebrate my birthday, but for some reason, it seemed very important to me to be running at the exact moment that marked 30 years since I was born. This year, in general, my impending birthday unearthed an unusually nostalgic part of me.

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YotRN: Anna Karenina

Good morning! How are you lovely folks doing on this Friday morning? I started my day off with a bout of productivity, followed by enough yoga to relax me (which was the point) and to make me feel moderately virtuous (which is a nice little bonus). Now I’m sipping at a mug of soy-milky coffee (with a dollop of hot cocoa mix, just for fun), and getting ready to throw down a long-overdue update on my Year of the Russian Novel (previously discussed here, now to be referred to as YotRN, because I like acronyms and because I will get sick of typing out the whole thing very quickly; in fact, I already have).

You see, I’ve been holding out on you. I know, I know, shame on me! But I come in a spirit of contrition and will try to make it up to you now…

To recap, after the triumph of reading Doctor Zhivago in its entirety in less than 2 weeks, I found myself wanting to dive right into another massive Russian novel. But here’s where things got complicated.

My Voice of Reason waited in the back of my mind until all the brain cells fired up from the adrenaline rush of Doc Z quieted down, and here’s what it said: You said year, which makes this a marathon, not a sprint. If you start up another big fat book right away, you’ll burn out, never finish it, and give up the entire project. Give yourself a bit of rest, and then continue on your merry way. [Note: Perhaps merry is not the best way to think of Russian novels. As far as I can tell, they tend to be on the depressing side. Hrm.]

Now, as tempting as it was to ignore my Voice of Reason, I knew it was right. And the fact that I sometimes pretend it sounds like James Earl Jones just means its messages are better received. (Like Becky, I believe my internal dialogue can sound like whatever I damn well please.)

Almost two weeks ago now I quietly started my second entry in YotRN. Anna Karenina.

Unlike Doc Z, my desire to read it was not borne out of affection for movie adaptations (although apparently there’s a new adaptation coming out later this year with Keira Knightly…news to me). Therefore, I’m coming at this pretty clear of expectations.

In the interest of full disclosure, I already know how it ends (you probably do, too; in fact, I think its modern title is “that book where the woman [redacted] at the end”). But at more than 900 pages, I think the story will have plenty of twists and turns along its journey, and so far (at about 1/6 of the way through), I’m enjoying the story, the style, the whole thing. Turns out that it’s a Classic for very good reasons!

So there you go, now you know the truth. I’m sorry I kept that from you, but it does feel good to clear the air!

Here’s a question for you: what are you reading these days?

I did it!

I have absolutely no idea what got into me, but early this morning I finished reading Doctor Zhivago. After years of futile, halfhearted attempts, I zoomed through it in less than two weeks! This demonstrates one of two things: (a) that my mind, like my body, is stubborn as all get out and refuses to do something until it’s damn well ready to do it, or (b) I can do anything I put my mind to. Until proven otherwise, let’s give me the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s the latter!

Now the question is, what next? As I mentioned before, I have a copy of Anna Karenina chilling on my bookshelf. Should I go with that or try a little Dostoevsky? Any thoughts or suggestions? Let my Year of the Russian Novel continue!

Year of the Russian Novel

I have officially declared 2012 to be my year of the Russian novel. Never again will I have to admit with great shame that no, even though Doctor Zhivago is one of my favorite movies, I’ve never read the book.

Mind you, I’ve started it a few times. The writing is so beautiful, but it gets pretty dark. Judging from the bookmark’s placement when I resurrected it from my bookshelf the other day, I made it about halfway through on my last attempt. Not too shabby, but I’ve resolved that this year I will persevere!

Perhaps I will also finally get around to reading the copy of Anna Karenina that’s been in my possession for more than a decade.

Stay tuned…