May 2008


This month for The Inside Cover book club, we read Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. Year of Wonders is a historical novel about a small English town 100 miles outside of London. It’s the year 1666, and the town has been struck by plague, brought to them by a London tailor boarding with our narrator, Anna. The village is so remote that when the plague first appears the villagers don’t recognize it for what it is. Once they learn the horrors of the disease, the villagers are asked to make a decision whether to flee in order to save themselves, or to stay put in order to keep the disease from spreading any further.

In the end, everyone in the village agrees to stay, aside from the only rich family in town – the only family with the means to run far from the reaches of the disease. As we follow the rest of the town through its year of isolation, we watch Anna, who begins as a lowly maid, transformed into a strong woman who the town begins to depend on for herbal remedies to just about every malady, in addition to becoming the only midwife in town (after an unfortunate incident that leaves the former midwife dead).

When I first saw this book I knew it was going to be an easy read, merely because of its length (only 336 pages!). What I didn’t know was how much I’d enjoy reading it. This book packed in a ton of information, along with many vivid scenes. Time and again I found myself being shocked by how much I learned from this book and how many different places/people were described in so few pages. Brooks is an amazing writer for both her economy of words and her ability to tell a story well. Also, she does a wonderful job of using old English without it seeming cumbersome. I have read other historical books and been completely put off by them because it’s so difficult for me to figure out what the characters are saying to each other.

I really enjoyed watching Anna grow as a person. One of my favorite parts of the book was when she went to the mine with Elinor (her partner in seeking herbal remedies to the plague) to save Merry from losing her family’s mine. I was surprised Brooks made these women so independent in a novel about the 17th century, but in the interviews with her in the back of the book she talks about the necessity of women taking a leading role during that time and the fact that women were starting to gain more freedom during that century in England.

There were some cringe-worthy moments in this book – from the witch hangings to a couple of scenes where women are physically abused – but I think it added to the authenticity of the book. We live in such a sterile world today, it was difficult for me to imagine what it would be like to live in such a dirty place while trying to fight a fatal disease.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend it (and already have forced it upon a number of friends). The one thing that really disappointed me was the epilogue, although that was pretty much because it went against what I had imagined and what I was expecting to happen. Normally I’d be glad about this because I hate when books are too predictable (and I probably would have said it was predictable if it had ended the way I had expected it to, so I don’t know why I’m complaining), but after all the death and destruction in this novel, I guess I kind of wanted a couple of people to end up “happily ever after.”

SO what did you think? What was your favorite part of the book? Would you recommend it to others? Were you disappointed in anything?

This book was also reviewed by:
Heather @ A Year of Books
Lisa @ Books on the Brain
Jen @ Devourer of Books

Let me know if you reviewed this book so I can post a link to it. Thanks!

Joshua Henkin is the author of two books, Swimming Across the Hudson, released in 1997, and Matrimony, released earlier this year. In addition to writing, Henkin teaches at Sarah Lawrence College, Brooklyn College, and the 92nd St. Y in New York City.

In case you missed yesterday’s review, here’s a VERY short snippet about the book:

It is 1987, and Julian Wainwright, aspiring writer and Waspy son of New York City old money, meets beautiful, Jewish Mia Mendelsohn in the laundry room at Graymont College. So begins a love affair that, spurred on by family tragedy, will take Julian and Mia across the country and back, through several college towns, spanning twenty years.

First, I’d like to ask about the title of the book. When I first saw this book reviewed I skipped past it because I thought it was a nonfiction book about how to make your marriage work. Once it started showing up everywhere I finally settled down to see what all the fuss is about. So, my questions: Why did you choose the title Matrimony? Also, do you get any criticism about this title?

You’re not alone in seeing the title and thinking it might be nonfiction, and yes, I’ve had some people think it’s the wrong title for the book. I myself am ambivalent about the title, but on balance I stand by it. I tend to think that the best titles are evocative of the novel without telling the reader too much about it. My first novel, SWIMMING ACROSS THE HUDSON, is a good example of that. Swimming across the Hudson is simply an image from the book; it’s not a novel about aquatics, certainly. But you call a novel MATRIMONY and you create certain expectations. People might think it’s a self-help book, and even if they know it’s a novel, they might expect a certain kind of story that may or not be borne out by what happens in my book.

MATRIMONY is about more than marriage. It’s about friendship, class, maturing over the years, among other things. But I certainly couldn’t have called it MARRIAGE, FRIENDSHIP, CLASS, AND MATURING! OVER THE YEARS, though Alice Munro has a story collection with a title not so far from that. But she’s Alice Munro, and as far as I’m concerned she can do whatever she pleases; she’s that good.

In the end, the title MATRIMONY felt true to what the book was about, in that the central relationship is a marriage and the book is really about several other marriages as well—Carter and Pilar’s marriage, Mia’s parents’ marriage, Julian’s parents’ marriage. But I didn’t want to call the book MARRIAGE. I liked the more amorphous feel of MATRIMONY, as well as the implied phrase “holy matrimony,” which of course is belied (or at least rendered more complex) by what happens in my novel.

Are sections of this novel autobiographical? Where did you get your inspiration for writing this type of story?

In very deep ways, MATRIMONY is not autobiographical. I met my wife many years after college, her mother didn’t die of breast cancer, and my wife didn’t sleep with my best friend. Or, if she did, no one has told me yet! And, regrettably, I’m not nearly as wealthy as Julian is. The only character in the book who’s based on a real character is the dog, Cooper. Aside from a sex and breed switch, Cooper is a dead ringer for my wife’s and my beloved golden retriever, Dulcie. But all the other mammals in MATRIMONY are products of my imagination.

It’s interesting that many people assume that the book is autobiographical and, if it is, that I must be Julian. If anything, despite certain superficial similarities (like Julian, I grew up in New York and have moved back there; we’re both writers; our names both begin with “J”), I’m probably more similar to Mia than to Julian. I’m Jewish; she’s Jewish. I’m the son of an academic; she’s the daughter of an academic. Not that there aren’t some key differences between Mia and me that go beyond gender. Still, the home she grew up in, with certain notable exceptions, was much more similar to the home I grew up in than Julian’s home was.

The only qualification I’d add is that in the broadest sense Julian, Mia, and Carter are the kinds of people who are familiar to me, who I might have hung out with at various points in my life. If they showed up at a party I was at, I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve lived in some of the places they’ve lived (I spent eight years in Ann Arbor, and four years in Berkeley/the SF Bay area; I’ve lived almost half my life in college towns), and I share, in the broadest contours, some of their concerns. In this sense, I was doing what Professor Chesterfield said, which is writing what I know about what I don’t know or what I don’t know about what I know.

Beyond that, it’s hard to say where I get my inspiration, other than that everything for a novelist is a source of inspiration. The people you meet, the situations you encounter, and, of course, your imagination pure and simple. A fiction writer obviously needs a certain facility with language, but just as important is an abiding curiosity about people and about the world. Novelists are psychologists in many ways, and so it’s not entirely surprising that Julian and Mia end up together. When I was a toddler, I apparently made my mother pick me up so I could look into every store window we passed. Even now, you take me to a party and hand me a stranger’s high school yearbook and I can entertain myself for an hour. I’m a gossip; in another life I’d have had a talk show. In that sense, I’m like Julian – the Julian who snoops through Mia’s closets, trying to get to know her. For me, this is one of the appeals of visiting book groups. It’s intellectually stimulating, certainly, but beyond that, I like meeting new people. It’s not every day that you get invited into a stranger’s living room!

In the same vein, did you have an inspirational teacher like Mr. Chesterfield in the novel?

I’ve had a number of influential and inspirational teachers. Professor Chesterfield isn’t based on anyone exactly (he’s quite different from any writing teacher I’ve ever had), but he’s loosely inspired by my first writing teacher, Leonard Michaels, a terrific writer whose star fell precipitously after a very promising early career, and whose work has just recently been reissued posthumously (his collected stories were published last year by Farar Straus) and who is finally again getting the attention he deserves. Lenny was a complicated guy and not a particularly good teacher by traditional standards (he often didn’t come prepared to class), but he was smart and passionate and funny, and he encouraged me early on in ways that were very important to me.

Also, are you a teacher like Chesterfield, or have you met teachers like him (teachers who have commandments about how to write)?

I myself don’t resemble Professor Chesterfield–I’d like to think I’m a good deal kinder than he is, and I’m certainly less scary! I don’t write commandments on the blackboard, nor do I speak in terms of commandments. That said, I think most of his commandments have
a big kernel of truth in them (on balance, I agree with most of what he says), and I do have a reputation for being a traditionalist as a teacher and thinking aspiring writers should learn the “rules” and then break them knowingly, and with purpose, instead of doing so out of ignorance.

I’m all for experimental writing if it’s good, but there’s a lot of terrible experimental writing out there being perpetrated by 18- and 19-year-olds. There’s an attitude that a lot of undergraduates, especially, bring to class, which is, essentially, “Hey, dude, it’s creative writing, so I can do whatever I want.” Well, you CAN do whatever you want, as long as it works – which turns out to be a pretty daunting limitation.! At the end of every semester I’ll have several students say to me, “I never realized fiction writing was so hard.” It pleases me to hear this, because I know this means they learned something.

What did you ultimately hope readers would take away from your novel?

The reason I read fiction is get out of my own experience – to have characters I didn’t know before I started the novel come sufficiently to life that I know them as well as or better than the people in my own life. If a novel does that to me, then it has succeeded, and if my book does that to my readers, then I feel that I have succeeded.

For me, plot and language are important, but they’re important as vehicles for exploring character. Beyond that, I’m not looking for the reader to take away anything from MATRIMONY, or from any other piece of fiction I write. It’s a common but mistaken assumption that novels are supposed to make statements or have points. Novelists aren’t in the business of making arguments, statements, or points; they aren’t in the business of teaching lessons. If you want to make an argument or a statement, if you want to teach a lesson, you should become a philosopher, an economist, a theologian, or a lawyer, all of which are perfectly good professions. They’re just not my profession. A novelist is in the business of creating characters and telling stories—nothing more, nothing less.

I’d also like to ask about writing in general. What are your writing habits? And what suggestions do you have for young writers? You write about Julian’s struggles with writing his novel, his worries of never finishing his novel, and, at one point, a problem with writer’s block. Have you had the same types of struggles? What do you suggest writers do to keep imagination going?

Writing fiction is incredibly difficult, and you have to go about it singlemindedly. It took me ten years to write MATRIMONY and I threw out more than three thousand pages. No matter how much you’ve accomplished in the past, there’s always the risk of failure, always the fraud police hanging over you. With novels, especially, unlike stories (I write those, too), it takes a leap of faith. With a story, you can sometimes see the whole in advance, but not so with a novel; you can’t see the forest for the trees. It takes a couple of years before you know not whether it’s a good novel but whether it’s a novel at all. You need to just plow forward and not think about it. The best way to look at it is that you’re not writing a novel; you’re writing a page a day, two pages a day, half a page a day, and then, at the end of a couple of years, you have a whole bunch of pages, most of which are likely to be a mess, but you hope that over time you’ll begin to figure things out.

The suggestions I have for young writers are the same suggestions I have for myself. Treat it like a job, because it is a job. If you wait for inspiration, you’ll never write. I don’t believe in inspiration; I believe in tying yourself to your chair. It’s not that there’s no such thing as inspired work. But I find that inspired work doesn’t correlate to feeling inspired; if anything, the relationship is inversely proportionate. If you’re feeling too inspired, you’re likely to fall in love with the sound of your own voice, and what comes out is self-indulgent and maudlin. Often my very best work comes from when I’m feeling least inspired.

I try to write every day or as close to every day as I can, and I keep a calendar in which I mark down to the minute how long I worked each day, and if I didn’t write at all on a particular day I put a big fat zero next to the date, and that’s my guilt zero. Even if you have very little time, it’s better to write regularly! I tell my students that, given the choice between writing ten minutes a day six days a week or an hour on a Saturday, I’d choose ten minutes a day six days a week. That way, you’re living with your characters, and you come up with ideas even when you’re not writing.

In terms of similarities to Julian, I certainly experience many of the same insecurities he does, but unlike him, I never had writers block. I was always writing. I just was writing a lot of bad pages along the way, and it took me many years to figure the book out.

Lastly, I’m curious about your decision to market your book through book blogs. What was your reasoning behind that? And, did you use book blogs to help market your first book? Has it been a successful endeavor?

The Web was in its infancy when I published SWIMMING ACROSS THE HUDSON (1997), and beyond that, the world of publishing has changed a lot. It’s become a much tougher, bottom-line business, and writers have to do whatever they can to sell copies of their book. It’s hard to isolate the impact of my marketing MATRIMONY through book blogs because I’ve been fortunate with MATRIMONY on many fronts.

The reviews have been terrific, which has helped the book a lot, as, no doubt, has the fact that it was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. And my publisher, Pantheon, sent me on a long book tour and put advertising money into the book, and there’s no substitute for that kind of support. That said, with the publishing world being as difficult as it is and book sales suffering across the industry, authors who take initiative can really make a difference, and what I’ve done on the Web, both in terms of book blogs and in terms of using the Web to reach book groups that end up choosing MATRIMONY, has clearly had an impact and, I hope, will continue to have an impact when MATRIMONY comes out in paperback at the end of August.

Thanks, Rebecca, for these really thoughtful questions. If you or your readers have any follow-up questions, I’d be glad to try to answer them. Also, if anyone would like to see further thoughts I have about MATRIMONY and about the writing process, check out the online book group discussion of MATRIMONY that I participated in at mothertalk.com.

As always, I’d be delighted to participate in book group discussions of MATRIMONY. If you would like me to join your book group discussion, you can contact me through my website, or directly, at Jhenkin at SLC dot edu.

Josh

Me again (Becca): Also, I found this article about Josh Henkin in the New York Times. It’s and old one, but if you’re interested in reading more about him and his book, I recommend checking it out.

Matrimony is a book about Julian, a high society kid, who decides to stray from his family path by going to a small college instead of Yale like his father. Julian also wants to be a writer, rather than a business man. While in college, he meets his best friend in a creative writing course. The two later meet their future lives and we follow them through the next 15 years while they go through the ups and downs associated with any life, and definitely any marriage.

I’m a little ambivalent about how I felt toward Joshua Henkin’s novel. I really enjoyed the book, but only after I got past the first couple of chapters. In the beginning I had a really hard time connecting with any of the characters, for the mere fact that I kept focusing on Julian, the main character, and his super naive niceness. For someone who is supposed to have been raised in a blue blood family in New York City, he’s a bit too clueless. He walks people’s dogs and becomes good friends with the Chinese grocers near his school. I mean, I know he’s supposed to be disgruntled about his upbringing, but I find it hard for someone who was raised in prep schools and high society to be so completely transformed within minutes of moving away from home. I think my difficulty with this aspect of the book may have been made worse by the description on the inside cover, which makes it seem as though Mia, Julian’s future wife, was the one to lead him through this transformation.

I don’t know. Anyway, once I got past my issues with Julian’s character I really did enjoy the book. I loved that it was just snapshots of his life, allowing me to fill in my own ideas of what happened in the in between time. I also was able to really identify with Mia’s character, which made the book even more enjoyable for me (and painful at some points). I like that Henkin takes this group of people form college and gives them all extremely different personalities and then brings them all together. It’s kind of like he has someone for each of us to identify with. It kind of reminds me of the suggestions in girly magazines that every woman needs four friends (the listener, the partier, etc.).

So, even though I had some issues with this book, I’d still recommend it. It was a quick read (only took me two days, even with my new job) and had some great scenes (although I found myself wondering whether PETA was popular in 1987 and I didn’t know breast cancer was such a big deal back then. It was really hard for me to wrap my head around the time difference because it isn’t so far in the past).

Please check back here tomorrow for my interview with Joshua Henkin, the author of Matrimony.

Also, don’t forget that Saturday we will be discussing Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. I’m really looking forward to what you all thought of the book.

This book has also been reviewed by:
LisaMM at Books on the Brain
Julie P. at BookingMama
Everyday I Write the Book

Sometimes I have a difficult time writing about books when I was less than thrilled by them. If I truly hate them, the words come with ease. But when I have little feeling toward the book or its subject it can take me awhile to get around to their reviews, and even when I do it’s painstaking work. So I’ve decided to just do a couple of mini reviews for the books on my list yet to be reviewed. Let me know what you thought of these books too. I’d love to hear from some people who liked these books. Perhaps then I can discover whatever it was I missed.

First up is Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In the beginning I found Marquez’s writing to be absolutely beautiful. I got carried away with the words and loved the vivid descriptions he conveyed through the writing. However, I’m not much of a romantic and I found myself being quite skeptical of Florentino Ariza’s undying love for Fermina Daza. Not only that, but I kept getting the two confused. I realize the names aren’t that similar, but as I plowed through the book hoping it would end quickly I kept seeing the F and thinking it was one character, only to get to a pronoun (he or she) and realize I had been wrong about which character had been speaking.

Also, I really loved Fermina’s husband and the descriptions of him. I didn’t understand why Marquez spent so much time describing him (some 50 pages in the beginning of the book) just to kill him off. Also, really, how long can infatuation last when you’ve never actually talked to the subject of your fascination? I just didn’t get it and I was bored to tears. I hate to admit it but I never made it more than halfway through this book. Someone out there, please convince me there is some reason I should try to pick this book up again.

Next is Vagabonding by Rolf Potts. I became fascinated by this book after listening raptly to Rolf Potts’ reading at Google Talks. Potts talked about how he worked menial jobs and lived humbly in order to save up enough money to spend months on end traveling. After college he traveled around the United States for a year with one of his friends before signing up to teach English in Asia. He spent two years teaching, then spent the following four years traveling using his earnings from that job.

Having already made two attempts to move abroad, I was curious to find out how he actually made it work and learn what steps I could take to finally become a wanderer myself. I didn’t find the book to be that helpful, however. He talked about the reasons we travel and what-not. But when you’ve already picked up his book, it’s obvious you don’t need any extra encouragement. What you need is resources to get you on the road! He does provide resources … in the form of URLs to visit and other books to read … resources you can just as easily find on his Web site. The book was only about 200 pages so it was quick to get through, but I highly recommend just checking out his Web site and his video on Google Talks. You’ll get pretty much the same information by doing so.

Last is Dematerializing by Jane Hammerslough. This is another book that I haven’t actually finished, but at this point I’m not sure I have the courage to try. I had to return four unread books to the library today because I got so mired in this book I was unable to face any other reading in the meantime. I knew once I set it down I may never pick it up again, and so it is. I gave it up on Sunday in order to read our book club selection (Year of Wonders, if you’re interested in joining the discussion, learn more here).

I chose to read Dematerializing because I thought it would have some interesting insight into why we buy things and perhaps some tips on how to get rid of all the extra stuff we somehow accumulate in our homes. The book turned out to be a lot more about the psychology behind buying things and what advertisers do to draw us in. There were also a lot of weird feminist leanings to the book, which I wouldn’t normally mind, but I didn’t get this book to read about how advertising demoralizes women. If that were what I was going for, I would have bought the much better written and researched, although ancient, Can’t Buy My Love by Jean Kilbourne.

To be fair, I think the other reason this book bothered me so much was that it didn’t say anything I didn’t already know, but perhaps that is because I’m reading it several years after it was first published. Maybe her observations about media’s influence on us was a new phenomenon a few years back (although I highly doubt it).

OK then, I’m glad to have those off my conscience. Now I can look forward to my next two book reviews. Also, watch for an interview with Joshua Henkin, author of Matrimony, later this week. Hope you’re all having a great Memorial Day!

Choose a political or social issue that matters to you. Find several books addressing that issue; they don’t have to books you’ve read, just books you might like to read. Using images (of the book covers or whatever you feel illustrates your topic) present these books in your blog.

As part of the assignment, Dewey posted a link to social issues, but mine doesn’t appear on that list. Perhaps it’s not a social issue after all, but I feel like it is, and it’s becoming more and more so. The mounting debt and lack of savings in our country are only two examples of how materialism and overspending have become major issues in our nation. As an issue, this is something I have struggled with for years, having come from a family of horders and learning a lifelong lesson when I had to dig myself out of more than $35,000 in credit card debt I accrued in college (I’m still working on the student loans). I now try to keep my possessions to a minimum, but I still struggle. It’s not an easy thing today to say no to wanting things, especially when there is SO MUCH to want. So here are a few books I’m either reading, or planning on reading, to help me understand spending habits and how to keep them under control.

I’m currently reading Dematerializing: Taming the Power of Possessions by Jane Hammerslough. So far I’m not impressed by the book. It seems like a bunch of psychobabble rather than tips on how to maintain a budget and control impulse buying. I was also hoping there would be tips in there about how to dematerialize, you know, get rid of all the junk. But I’m only about 4 chapters in so maybe it gets better (fingers crossed).

In my TBR list I also have Shop Your Closet by Melanie Charleton Fascitelli. I’m really looking forward to this book, but am waiting to read it until I move into my new place in August. I figure since I’ve got to move all my clothes anyway it will be the perfect time for me to get organized and take a look at everything I have in there with a critical eye (when moving I tend to throw tons of stuff away as a way to lighten my load). Shop Your Closet seems ideal for most women, who, if they’re like me, tend to hold on to clothes for years and years without knowing really what they have. In her book Fascitelli argues that instead of going shopping when you feel like wearing something new, maybe you can just go through the old part of your closet and find something you perhaps forgot about. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but certainly appeals to me.

A non-self help type book dealing with materialism is The High Price of Materialism by Tim Kasser. From Amazon:Kasser, a psychology professor at Knox College, certainly does. Drawing on an impressive range of statistical studies, including ones that use his own ‘Aspiration Index,’ Kasser argues that a materialistic orientation toward the world contributes to low self-esteem, depression, antisocial behavior and even a greater tendency to get ‘headaches, backaches, sore muscles, and sore throats.'” I’d like to read this book just to see the stats.

Lastly, I think The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need sounds like an interesting read. In her book, Juliet B. Schor “notes that, despite rising wealth and incomes, Americans do not feel any better off. In fact, we tell pollsters we do not have enough money to buy everything we need. And we are almost as likely to say so if we make $85,000 a year as we are if we make $35,000. Schor believes that “keeping up with the Joneses” is no longer enough for today’s media-savvy office workers.” Although this book was published in 1999, I think it still applies to our society today.

Oh, wait, one more: For a fun read, I recommend Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic. If you’ve ever been a shopaholic you will laugh hysterically at all the antics Becky Bloomwood uses to try to avoid her mounting debt proble (everything aside from paying her bills). When I read this book I identified so solidly with the main character that it was a bit disconcerting. Although I’m ashamed to admit it now, there are several things she does in the book that I have personally done myself.

Another book that has been recommended to me is Rich Dad, Poor Dad, but somehow I’m just not i
nterested in it. I’ve been told by numerous people that I should pick it up, but I have yet to add it to my TBR list. Has anyone out there read it and done a review on it? Perhaps one of you can change my mind.

Yesterday I had grand plans to do a Sunday Salon post about all my lovely new books, but it turned out to be a blah kind of day and I just couldn’t get myself motivated. So here I am today playing catch up.

Before we get to the books though, I want to mention that I have a guest appearance over at Books on the Brain as part of Lisa’s ongoing series, “In Praise of Book Clubs.” It’s a short little piece about how much I love my book clubs because they get me to read and keep me in touch with my friends. Stop on by and leave a comment there if you’d like.

Now, on with the new books!

First off is Matrimony by Joshua Henkin, which I’m reading as part of an online book club over at Everyday I Write the Book. At first I wasn’t planning on participating this month, but then Josh (can I call him Josh?) graciously sent me a signed copy of the book so I can participate and review it here on my blog. In addition, he’s agreed to do an interview here! So keep your eyes peeled for that.

The book itself is a novel about Julian Wainwright, a high society son, who goes to a smaller college (not Yale like his dad) and studies creative writing. While in college he meets his best friend, Carter, a fellow writer. He also meets his future wife, Mia. The book goes through the next 15 years following Julian through his relationships with these two people, all the while working on that unfinishable novel. As I haven’t finished the book yet, I can’t give much more detail about the plot, but I think this is a pretty good start.

Next up: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. I’ve been putting off reading this book for a long, long time. I’ve read the back and know that the plot will make me incredibly uncomfortable (anything about family relationships going awry makes me anxious), so despite all the praise this book has received, I’ve avoided it at all costs. Until of course it was offered as a giveaway by Kim over at Bold.Blue.Adventure. So now I’m going to read it, but probably a couple of weeks after I get over Matrimony.

And lastly, my copy of In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan finally arrived at the library. I’ve been on the waiting list since February! I’m leaving it at the library though until I’m certain I can read it. The worst thing would be to have to go on the waiting list again because I couldn’t get to it in my allotted three-week checkout period.

When I was living in France I had a couple of teeth that were bothering me. After a couple of weeks of pain every time I ate anything, I finally went to see a dentist. It was pretty much the scariest dentist appointment I’ve ever had in my life. I had x-rays done, during which I was not given the lead apron we’re so accustomed to here in the U.S.

Then the dentist told me I had three cavities and asked if I’d like to have them filled. I said yes, of course. She then proceeded to drill out three whole teeth from my mouth. I saw it in the mirror before she filled them and saw that nearly each entire tooth was completely gone. I don’t know if this is normal but it freaked me out. Then, once she had drilled out my entire teeth, she told me she doesn’t do the conglomerate fillings, again something totally standard here. Instead my options were the old amalgam fillings (80 euros per tooth) or some crazy ceramic thing that I’ve never heard of (300 euros per tooth). You can guess which one I went with.

Needless to say, it ended up being not the best filling job ever. Since that time I’ve had a lot of difficulty flossing between the three teeth that were filled because she didn’t file down the sides like my other dentists have done in the past. I figured though if I continued to floss and brush them the fillings would eventually wear down to where they’d be comfortable. Turns out what actually happens is the floss eventually gets stuck on one of those jagged spots, I yank on it to try to get it out and end up pulling out one of the fillings. Awesome.

So basically I’m headed to the dentist tomorrow to hand over my yet to be first born child in exchange for a re-filling sans assurance (without insurance). Hopefully this dentist will be way less sheisty though. And also, I hope he doesn’t try to make me get all my other tooth problems fixed tomorrow. I know I have to get it done eventually, but this one damn tooth is going to cost me $500. At this point, if there’s not a huge gaping hole in my tooth I’m not getting it fixed.

Now for something positive (I try to balance it out here at the Bex Adler Herald): I ran the Strawberry Jam on Saturday (which, by the way, is the cutest thing ever) and beat my best ever 5K time by a full minute! How awesome is that?! My best ever time before this was 35:30 from a 5K in the OC in January 2007. My new time was 34:18! Woohoo! OK, but the weirdest part about this is that my time in last week’s 5K was 37:18. How did I beat last week’s time by a full 3 minutes? (I think it was the lack of people to go around. There were only about 70 runners competing at the Strawberry Jam, whereas there were about 25,000 at the Race for the Cure last week.)

How was your weekend?

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