missroserose: (Book Love)
[personal profile] missroserose
What I just finished reading

The Yiddish Policemen's Union, by Michael Chabon. As I think I mentioned before, the characters really made this book for me. Regardless of his own personal lack of faith, Landsman doggedly pursues his case and his own personal demons to a remarkably satisfying finish. Berko, Landsman's half-Jewish partner and friend (another favorite quote: "But to look at, he's pure Tlingit. Tartar eyes, dense black hair, broad face built for joy but trained in the craft of sorrow."), finds some peace in his identity. If the book passes the Bechdel test, it's only by a squeak, and I didn't get a sense that any of the female characters got distinct arcs; however, there are at least two well-drawn female characters of determined agency; especially Bina, Landsman's boss/ex-wife/longtime soulmate, who treats him with an eminently believable mixture of love and caring balanced by sick-of-his-shit boot-to-the-ass exasperation.

But really, I think it was the timing that made this book one of my favorites. Sometimes you read a book and realize you would have enjoyed it a lot more in the past; other times you pick up a book you've had on your radar for ages and realize you appreciate it a lot more than you would have if you'd read it when it came out. The atmosphere of melancholy and apprehension that pervades the story nicely mirrors the recent zeitgeist of my social circle. But it was really this bit from the end that launched it into "personal favorite" territory:

For days Landsman has been thinking that he missed his chance with Mendel Shpilman, that in their exile at the Hotel Zamenhof, without even realizing, he blew his one shot at something like redemption.  But there is no Messiah of Sitka.  Landsman has no home, no future, no fate but Bina.  The land that he and she were promised was bounded only by the fringes of their wedding canopy, by the dog-eared corners of their cards of membership in an international fraternity whose members carry their patrimony in a tote bag, their world on the tip of the tongue.

Given how much of my anxiety of late has been tied directly into that sense of rootlessness, the fear that all the work I've put into building my life will be lost - that everything humanity has created, all the knowledge we've gained, will be lost - it's good to be reminded that life is resilient.  If whole cultures have existed for centuries without even the foundation of a country of their own, who's to say I won't survive whatever uprooting forces are coming?  And if I don't, others will; and if we don't, some other species will come along, and discover the remains of our species, and wonder.  I find this an oddly comforting thought.

What I'm currently reading

all about love, by bell hooks.  I read a few chapters this week:  on romantic love, on loving through loss, and on mutuality - the latter being called "the heart of love".  I particularly like how she calls out patriarchal culture for creating a world where women are socialized to be emotionally fluent and available to their partners, but men are not; thus, women generally are good at meeting their partners' needs, but men are not.  Given that having your emotional needs (for acknowledgment, for support, for acceptance) met is an important part of mental health, this then feeds into the narrative that men are inherently superior, more even-keeled, and better able to govern themselves and others.  It's an insidious dynamic, and one that I'm glad is getting some attention through discussions of emotional labor.  

What I plan to read next

So many options!  I just picked up an audiobook on Audible Daily Deal titled What the F:  What Swearing Reveals About Our Langauge, Our Brains, and Ourselves, which I suspect is going to be high on the candidacy list - language and biology and sociology, three of my favorite things!  But we'll see.


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