Science Fiction: The Years of Rice and Salt, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Gift from Dad for christmas in 2007, finally found its way to the top of the list. Heh.

First book finished in 2015 and it’s a doozy–I started it back in November and while admittedly I don’t have designated reading time these days (I’m not on public transit for school), it took me longer than it could have. It’s got numerous, very disparate sections as the characters keep (unbeknownst to themselves) reincarnating and regrouping in different places and times. There were some sections I just looooved (Nsara) and others I had a hard(er) time maintaining focus/interest in.

But throughout he’s not just telling you a story or having characters interact–this is a novel (and novelist) of big, huge, ginormous ideas and just as the characters in this book struggle with them through all different times and places, they are the questions that really inform our entire existence. So exhausting to think about at times! The ideas of how we move through our own histories, and how we arrange our belief systems, and how we choose to negotiate with others… truly fascinating, sometimes disturbing, never boring.

Having JUST finished an entire year of Project Life (scrapbooking, basically), I couldn’t stop grinning at this quote: “What’s hardest to catch is daily life. This is what I think rarely gets written down, or even remembered by those who did it–what you did on the days when you did ordinary things, how it felt doing it, the small variations time and again, until years passed.”

And questions like this one are what keep me up at night, usually worrying for my students’ futures in this messed up world of ours: What causes well-fed and secure people to work for the subjugation and immiseraton of starving insecure people? How many people can the Earth support? Why is there evil? How can we make a decent existence? How can we give to our children and the generations following a world restored to health?”

Because when it comes right down to what’s really important: how can we be decent humans in THIS life…and possibly our next?

I’ve only been reading this book for five minutes and already I’m in love.

As a mystery quietly begins.

Winter never altogether vanishes, even in the warmest summer. You can always find it lingering, if you look.

And a little bit later.

But when you find your soul, you have to go. When you find your true shape, when the wind lifts you up, when you remember who you are, you have to go.

Both from Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull.

Deep thoughts, with books and blogs.

I have an ongoing fascination with the way things intersect in our lives — how you do a new thing you’ve never done but Oh! completely unexpectedly it overlaps or intersects or has some deep resonance with something else you just did. I am particularly obsessed with this when it comes to reading (see “Good Things Come in Pairs” on this page) — it always feels like you somehow came to exactly the right thing at the right moment when those resonances happen.

Right now I am reading The Faraway Nearby, by Rebecca Solnit and yesterday I read this quote that just dug deep down into the heart of me:

The things that make our lives are so tenuous, so unlikely, that we barely come into being, barely meet the people we’re meant to love, barely find our way in the woods, barely survive catastrophe everyday.

Today I was reading Lizzy House‘s blog and saw this:

Also, I just want to say, that maybe I would have met these people another way, that somehow we all would have come together in whatever way, because we were supposed to. Or that my hard work and merit would have positioned me for all of this good, but I do not believe that that’s how the world works, otherwise we’d all live on islands that were having parades in our own honor everyday.

Dang, world.

I do feel like this is something people have a hard time understanding.

I feel alone.
I don’t mean i feel lonely; I mean i feel alone, the same way i feel the blanket resting on my body, or the feathers of my pillow under my head, or the tight string of my sleep pants twisted up around my waist. I feel alone as if it were an actual thing, seeping throughout this whole level like mist blanketing a field, reaching into all the hidden corners of my room and finding nothing living but me. It’s a cold sort of feeling, this.

― Beth Revis, A Million Suns

I already loved George Saunders.

And then I read this quote about his writing process

“If somebody gave you a furnished apartment that they had furnished, your first impression would be, ‘Well, thanks, but this doesn’t feel like me.’ But then if you were allowed to replace one item every day for seven years with an item that you liked better, after seven years that place would have you all over it in ways that you couldn’t anticipate at the beginning. So, likewise in a story, if you’re doing hundreds of drafts, and each time you’re micro-exerting your taste, that thing is going to look like more and more of you. In fact, I feel like my stories are much more indicative of me than this guy here talking to you or even me on one of my best days. The story’s a chance to sort of super-compress whoever you are and present it in this slightly elevated way.”

and now I love him even more.

I highly recommend his stories. Wicked funny.

Open up the world to me. That is what I believe.

After 50 years, Juster is still flummoxed as to why his book turned out to be such a success. Children surprise you, he says. When they read a book, they may experience it or appreciate it in a way that’s totally different than what the author intended. But that’s OK, he says. Sometimes writers feel like their job is to communicate a specific idea or a finite point of view. “I think the idea rather is to open up a piece of the world to a more creative encounter,” Juster says.

[emphasis mine]

I just read Phantom Tollbooth in May–loved the wordplay. Really a LOT of fun to read as an adult. (If I read it as a child (?) I had forgotten it.)

We hide it well.

“You begin to realize that everyone has a tragedy, and that if he doesn’t, he will. You recognize how much is hidden behind the small courtesies and civilities of everyday existence. Deep sorrow and traces of great loss run through everyone’s lives, and yet they let others step into the elevator first, wave them ahead in a line of traffic, smile and greet their children and inquire about their lives, and never let on for a second that they, too, have lain awake at night in longing and regret, that they, too, have cried until it seemed impossible that one person could hold so many tears, that they, too, keep a picture of someone locked in their heart and bring it out in quiet, solitary moments to caress and remember.

Loss is the great unifier, the terrible club to which we all eventually belong.”

-Rosanne Cash, from her memoir Composed, a birthday gift from Cinnamon.

Those are indeed the things we think about.

She wonders whether the sentences go out looking for people to utter them, or whether it’s just the opposite and the sentences simply wait for someone to come along and make use of them, and at the same time she wonders if she really doesn’t have anything better to do than wonder about such things, what silliness, she thinks, and then she remembered that she doesn’t have anything better to do….

Probably, she thinks, the sentences all get overtaken sooner or later and are spoken by someone or other, somewhere or other….

-from Visitation, by Jenny Erpenbeck (translated by Susan Bernofsky)