5. Times they are a-changin'
Old haunts, the end of the world, "vintage"
What I’m up to
This week has been (pardon the cliche) a rollercoaster. After last week’s positive covid test, we tested again, and this time the results were negative. The Pennsylvania Department of Health informed the lab our positive results can be considered false positives, but no one is willing to put this in writing, which leaves us back to where we started at the end of last week — returning a full 16 days after our original plan.
I wrote last week about a podcast episode on stress and how it reminded me that so much of our stress is based on conjecture. We worry most about things that haven’t actually happened. Keeping this in mind has helped tremendously this week. Once I put aside the (very real) worries of missing prep days for work, potentially testing positive again, two weeks in quarantine etc. etc., I am able to enjoy the (beautiful) day before me.
Yesterday, 10 days after our positive test results and fully vaccinated, we ventured out around State College, where we used to live. I was reminded of both how much I like the town and also how much Target, while amazing, is not actually life-changing. I walked away with a shapeless linen dress (intentionally unflattering is a thing now, right??) and… that’s about it.
What I’m reading
The Magic of Found Objects by Maddie Dawson
I picked this from the lineup of this month’s Amazon Prime early releases because it seemed light (it’s about a woman who agrees to marry her best friend for companionship instead of love). It’s not quite a simple rom-com, though — it’s also about generational pain and the stories we tell ourselves to explain things we experience but don’t fully understand.*
Weather by Jenny Offill
I read Offill’s previous bestseller, Department of Speculation, and appreciated (more than enjoyed) its stream-of-consciousness story of a marriage. This one is also a stream-of-consciousness account, but instead of marriage, its focus is on (to put it simply) a mother’s fears for her child’s future in the face of climate change.
A Separation by Katie Kitamura
I read this knowing nothing about it, simply because another of Kitamura’s books is on Obama’s summer reading list (but that book wasn’t available at the library). I don’t know that I would’ve picked it up had I read the back copy: it’s a study of a woman who discovers her husband’s secrets after their separation. The husband does not appear in the book outside the narrator’s account, which adds to the novel’s intrigue. (I can handle stream-of-consciousness writing, but this book’s style — while skillful and clearly intentional — drove me crazy; the entire book was like one massive rat king of a comma splice.)
Finally, I also finished Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (another Obama pick). This is the book that is most likely to stay with me, but I’m not quite sure I’m happy about that. It’s, to put it simply, about what the end of the world might look like to a certain type of privileged, middle-class American family. The oblique references to what causes the end of the world are chilling; it’s a horror story about our willful ignorance about the state of the earth the way Parasite is a horror story about class.
What I’m thinking about
*Per usual, what I’m thinking about is directly connected to what I’ve read: as mentioned above, a significant subplot of The Magic of Found Objects (and, actually, Sorrow and Bliss, which I read last week and highly recommend) centers on the idea of how we create a narrative around an experience or a person, but often, we find out years and years later that our narrative was wrong all along: the villain from my past was just an insecure kid, my mom meant nothing by that email, that one thing X said about me is actually minor compared to all her other kindnesses, and so on.
What I’m learning
How old I am. Olivia Rodrigo wore a “vintage” Chanel suit to the White House — the suit is from 1995 (before she was born lol). Anna borrows my flannel shirts and wears them ironically. Lucy watched a stand-up comedy special from my college years and said, “Is that guy dead now? Because that video looks really old.”
What I’m making
What I’ve saved
This poem makes me happy (via Anna).
Finally, here’s something Ida from Tiny Driver (a newsletter I love) wrote that really resonated:
It is thus both from the desire to cast my cautious personality aside and from Dr. Keene’s work that I have conceived of and framed this newsletter. Writing here over the past year, I hoped to liberate myself from the idea that those who write publicly must have everything figured out. I hoped to liberate myself from the conviction that what I think and the way I think can’t change. I hoped to liberate myself from the understanding that I shouldn’t show the messy bits until they are polished translucently clean.
Until next time,