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Friday, April 30, 2010

Out with the Old

Our neighbors' old truck, which has been parked, unmoving, alongside their house for many years has suddenly acquired a very dapper appearance.  I think its about to read The New Yorker.

We are running out of space in the bookstore, with about 12,800 books in our database, and thirty or so boxes of books waiting to be described and priced.  Tim, who is Pistil's official shelver, has been pulling books off the shelves that he's noticed have been sitting there forever to make room for the new, and he's also re-arranging as he goes.  Somehow, like magic, he manages to fit more books than should be possible on to the shelves.  When the Seattle weather becomes reliably sunny (ha!), I plan to do a big cull of a few hundred older titles and have an outdoor book sale.

Reading Notes

I just finished reading a novel by  Mischa Berlinski called Fieldwork, which as the title suggests is the story of an anthropologist, but also involves a bit of a murder mystery.  The narrator (who has the same name as the author, though the story is definitely a work of fiction) is a journalist living in Thailand who becomes caught up in investigating the story of a missionary murdered by an anthropologist, both of whom are involved with a Thai hill tribe (one converting and one studying), until the anthropologist becomes the lover of a native man and participates in a mystical corn ritual, leading to the murder and her downfall.  Several stories interweave and overlap:  the story of the narrator and his  teacher girlfriend; the story of the missionary family, the story of the anthropologist, and a look into a different culture.  The journalist/narrator throws in excerpts from anthropological history and  memoirs and the whole thing makes for an absorbing, enjoyable read.

I've also been reading The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, which is an account of what will happen to the physical world after humans are gone.  Once I hiked to a hot springs that was formerly reached by a paved road.  The road had been closed for ten years or so, and it was completely falling apart and disintegrating; barely visible in places, covered with greenery.  Seeing that was pretty cool. I've only read forty or so pages thus far of The World Without Us (and I'm not sure I'll read the whole thing), but reading about how nature (microorganisms, plants, animals, and the effects of weather and time) will basically take back the human made world, no problem, is actually pretty heartening to me.  Here's a couple of sentences from the chapter on what will happen to Manhattan:  "In the first few years with no heat, pipes burst all over town, the freeze-thaw cycle moves indoors, and things start to seriously deteriorate.  Buildings groan as their innards expand and contract; joints between walls and rooflines separate.  Where they do, rain leaks in, bolts rust, and facing pops off, exposing insulation.  If the city hasn't burned yet, it will now."  Yippee.

And I've started Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma.  I've read a lot of similar-themed food books in the past few years (and food movies-- I highly recommend Our Daily Bread, a European film which has no commentary, only a depiction of industrial food production at work), including In Defense of Food (also by Pollan), so it's more of the same important information.  Namely, don't eat processed foods.

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