Monday, May 07, 2012

sadly, my car is not a cyborg (plus what i read in april)

Is that a magnet in your shirt or are you just happy to see me?
My car is such a tease. It’s doing this thing where sometimes it doesn’t start, but it won’t replicate the problem for my mechanic. This morning I tried to explain what Jeff had said to me to my car-expert dad: “It could be that the starter is making the distributor break, or the distributor is making the starter break. But until we figure out which, I can’t replace either.”

My dad proceeded to tell me that what I’d described was physically impossible. Things get lost in the Car-to-Jeff’s Chinese-to-English-to-Cheryl-to-Dad translation. But the problem hasn’t cost me any money yet, and walking the mile and a half to and from the shop was strangely uplifting in the lovely Saturday weather. I prefer to save my getting-upset cards for existential matters. And then, oh, do I play them.

I made Michelada beer cocktails for book club and they were SO GOOD. I got uppity with anyone who disagreed with my love for Man in the Woods (review next month), which was almost everyone.

On Sunday night, AK, Jennifer, Joel and Joel’s friend and I saw The Avengers, which was $220 million worth of meh. Joss Whedon did his best to squeeze some character development between explosions, and I always like Iron Man—is it weird that I think it’s kind of hot that he has, like, a bolt of electricity for a heart? Cyborgs are sexy! Scarlett Johansson was good as Black Widow too, and I liked how Mark Ruffalo played Hulk as full of depressive rage. But Captain America and Thor? No and no. And reams of pointless mythology that just add up to explosions? No.

Here’s what I thought of the books I read in April:

Five Skies by Ron Carlson: This is a book about men and construction and work setting you free. None of those things screams "Cheryl" (though I do like me some work), but I loved the quiet texture of this novel and the gentle, wounded characters. I think Ron Carlson is known as a short story writer, and that shows in the careful tailoring of each un-flashy yet unexpected sentence. I sometimes got lost trying to figure out what exactly the three men at the center of this novel (each running from a troubled past) were building. Seriously, there's a lot of construction lingo. But I enjoyed watching them rebuild their lives piece by piece, and no, the metaphor isn't as ham-fisted as it sounds. Carlson captures the slow, incremental, excruciating, magical process of healing perfectly; how the land and sky shift in an instant or almost imperceptibly.

Lolita by Vladamir Nabokov: There are so many ways to read this book. There's the psychological: pedophile and possible psychopath falls in love, the reality of Lolita finally trumping the fantasy. There's the literary, which seems to be all about memory, fantasy and doubling (I read the ending as Humbert Humbert sort of killing himself. Right?). There's the sociopolitical, which the back of the audio box hinted at--something about postwar America vs. Old Europe, which didn't really resonate with me, even though I love that kind of thing.

What struck me most was how the real Lolita, in all her bratty, neglected, semi-savvy glory, kept edging in on Humbert's impossible dream of freezing his dream girl at age 12. In that way she triumphs, even if she's a victim in other ways. I kept thinking, Wow, dating a 12-year-old would be a nightmare. (Hopefully it goes without saying that dating your creepy stepdad would also be a nightmare.) In the end, seeing Humbert's ironic reserve finally fall away was beautiful and tragic. Jeremy Irons read the audio, so it was like listening to Scar/Stewie Griffin repeatedly declare his love for a tween. It kind of worked.

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