Category Archives: books

Another heat record?

Boston is headed toward another summer of record-breaking heat.

Four of the five hottest summers [in the US] have now occurred since 2011. The summers of 2021 and 1936 hold the first- and second-place rankings, followed by 2012, 2011 and 2020, respectively. Fox29Philadelphia

One of the most on-point novels about the climate crisis that I’ve read is The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. Okay, I haven’t read all that many novels on the topic, but here’s why this one is so good. It plausibly and with a lot of detail imagines how rising temperatures will impact us and it plausibly and with a lot of detail posits the solutions.

Of course the solutions are only plausible if climate deniers are removed from power and an extraordinary and unprecedented cooperation occurs across the globe. Maybe far-fetched then?

It’s long and not every reader will want to invest the time. Luckily there are two articles in The New Yorker that might appeal to you instead. The shorter article offers a 19 minute audio and the longer article is accompanied by a 55-minute audio.

The shorter article begins by describing the book’s opening scene: a lethal heat wave descends on India, with vast, horrifying consequences.

A recent news story echoes this premise.

From YaleClimateConnections.com

I laughed when my brother’s partner suggested we plan an upcoming visit to Los Angeles in September instead of July because it’s so hot there then. It’s pretty hot here too, I told her.

When we moved into this house in 1993, for the first many summers there were only a couple of weeks, maybe ten days, that were unbearably hot. You could get by with a window unit easily.

When the boys were little and we had one window AC, we’d all sleep in one bedroom like refugees during those dog days. Afternoons, when we weren’t swimming at Crystal Lake, we’d go to the movies or the mall just for the chilled air. The heat spells were relatively brief and manageable.

And then it changed. The heat started earlier in the season and lasted longer. Much longer. I had to campaign for central air because it’s expensive. We have a supply of window fans to cool us on the borderline days, but it’d be really hard to get through a Boston summer without central air anymore.

I’m planning to write upstairs with AWA friends this morning (via zoom of course) then spend as much time outside as I can stand later. I have a beautiful fresh bundle of dill so maybe a cold cucumber soup is in order!

From prognostications of doom to menu planning? Yeah, that’s me all the way.

Have a great weekend all.

Focus and restriction

Focus and restriction can yield relief. After a few days on the BRAT diet, I am feeling better. Blood and stool lab work all came back negative. Phew. So a re-set. I can do that.

Focusing on the history of our young nation through the lens of John James Audubon also makes me feel better. I’m reading a second biography and taking notes. I’ve read two biographies about his wife, Lucy.

Okay, okay — so much for keeping secrets. But you probably would like to learn that at one point the Audubons owned close to a dozen slaves, yes? And that for some reason, historic mentions quantify nine as “a few.” Let me reality check. Would YOU refer to nine of anything as “a few”?

You cannot read about Audubon without getting fantastic descriptions of huge sycamore and chestnut trees, of paddling down the Ohio, of camping with the Osage, and of course birds. Birds, birds, and more birds.

Audubon loved them all which makes him even more appealing somehow — from the humble warblers and wrens to the spectacular eagles and rose-breasted grosbeak.*

Here’s what I’ve learned about JJA as a husband. He was hyper-focused on his drawings and investigations of nature, which meant he roamed the woods for weeks and even months at a time. He was an abject failure at business and also given to confabulation (DID he study with Jacques-Louis David, for instance?). In short, he was unreliable.

He presents the weird mix of fate and innate capacities that produces works of genius. But you also get poverty and extended periods of isolation for Lucy. For substantial stretches of their marriage, Lucy supported them by teaching.

It’s chilly this morning but supposed to reach 100 this weekend. Huh?

Had dinner with friends last night. Seven of us. We didn’t hug even though it’s been a while but if someone was sick, we’ve all been exposed, hugs or no.

K is on a conference call with China. They tend to be endless, which is part of why I’m outside. He goes into the office three days a week now, I think I’ve said. It seems a little pointless — the commute and diminished sleep the cost of collegiality?

All the annuals are in pots now.

* Under a Wild Sky, John James Audubon and the Making of The Birds of America, by William Souder, pages 90 – 93.

All 3 collages from Paris Collage Collective’s weekly prompt

Essays 2021 : sharing homework

The Best American Essays, edited by Kathryn Schulz

First up: The Trayvon Generation, by Elizabeth Alexander, from The New Yorker. In a long, elegiac essay about violence against Blacks, particularly Black males, Alexander also looks at Black grace and creative expression.

Black creativity emerges from long lines of innovative responses to the death and violence that plague our communities. ‘Not a house in the country ain’t packed to its rafters with some dead Negro’s grief,’ wrote Toni Morrison in Beloved, and I am interested in creative emergences from that fact.

Below are two of the videos that Alexander explores.

I am reminded of something Wesley Morris wrote about music.

What you’re hearing [in Black music] that’s so appealing to so many people across all races across time is possibility, struggle, it is strife, it is humor, it is sex, it is confidence.

And

That joy you’re experiencing? is not only contagious, it’s necessary and urgent and irresistible.

Both quotes from the NYTimes podcast, The 1619 Project, Episode 3.

I’m just gonna post these notes on reading here perhaps more for my benefit than yours . . .

In the thirties

A good hearty soup for cold weather includes red beans, rice, and chorizo. I used homemade turkey stock.

Reading Bewilderment by Richard Powers. As you may know, he wrote The Overstory. This new novel features a young boy with issues, pretty severe issues. His widowed father struggles both to manage him and to avoid the pitfalls of diagnosis and medication. Naturally, the best scene so far took place while the two of them were camping (back to trees, in other words).

So far, it’s very, very good.

Too bad I can’t say the same about the week’s news. The SCOTUS decision about the Texas abortion law today released “the stench” that Sonia Sotomayor said it would. Yuck. What a bunch of partisan hacks! California declares itself a sanctuary state for women’s health.

We could write for days about all that is going wrong in this country, but I think I’ll go watch an episode of Top Chef (an old season I haven’t seen). Already watched this week’s installment of Project Runway.

This next Powers’ quote speaks to the moment.

To end on two positive notes: my brother walked 200 feet one day in PT this week; my younger son got an A minus in the writing class he finished today.

Well also: the 1/6 Commission seems to be gaining momentum. Good!

100 yesterday, 97 today

Even mid morning, it was too hot to walk for long. I could’ve kept going, but Finn seemed not into it, which is saying something.

AC cranking, I’ve got the finish line in sight for the reread of Section One of my manuscript. As usual, this puts other reading on hold. I finished Series One of Deb’s Prophets Tango and can’t wait to get to the middle volume. Because I’d read it all before, this read really allowed me to focus on just how good the writing is. The writing is really so good.

https://videos.files.wordpress.com/mV6NJMLm/img_8546.mp4