Friday, October 17, 2008

Kidneys, Confidence and Some Reading Recommendations (Friday Roundup)

A Final Word About My Kidneys ... I promise. Today is another new day. An even better day than yesterday. Because I enjoyed the most un-fitful night of sleep I've had in one week, despite a dream that involved Teddy Roosevelt and an after-hours gym. (And I was drug-free.) I am feeling SO much better, in fact, that I woke up at 4:45 a.m. to meet a friend for exercise at 5:15. Teddy Roosevelt was not there.
If flowers were in bloom, I would be smelling them and carrying a bluebird on my shoulder. I would be Snow White. In fact, I may just whistle while I work this morning.

Oh, To Be So Confident ... This is a playground story for the ages. A certain freckle-faced 8-year-old who lives here told me that she and one of her freckle-faced best friends got sweaty during recess one day last week and retreated to a bench. As they sat there watching the other kids, her friend lowered her head, sighed and said, "I am SO HOT." And then she cut her eyes, lowered her voice and said, "In TWO ways." And then they giggled and slapped their knees like they were the funniest kids in the world. Gosh, I hope they never lose that confidence or that sense of humor. But I know adolescence will be here soon enough, kicking them in the head and making them doubt everything they do, say or wear. Adolescence can be such a pain in the rear.

Amy's Book Club ... Occasionally, I share with you a list of Books You Should Read, but in a less-threatening, less-Oprahesque way. Because in all honesty, what you read is ultimately up to you. But I would like to pass along a couple of titles that might make for good weekend reading.

My husband picked up a copy of Winner of the National Book Award, put it in my hands and said, "Here. I found this. It looks funny." Because we are people who firmly believe in judging a book by its cover.

As I read it, I would flip to the front cover many times and ask, "Who wrote this? David Lynch?" It's that bizarre, but that good. It is one of the few books that offers absolutely no characters I can relate to, predict or envy. It is, at once, tragic, hilarious, offensive, thoughtful. Friday Roundup is made up of brief snippets, so I'll not offer a full-fledged review or endorsement. But I do provide this excerpt:

(The narrator, Dorcas, in describing her birth as the second-born of a set of twin girls)

My sister emerged with a list of complicated, interdependent demands. They pried her loose, with infinite patience . . . When they got her out she held her breath, deliberately I have no doubt, so that they held her upside down and spanked her and generally made such a fuss that when I, the afterthought, emerged (on my hands and knees, I picture it, like an old ragbag crawling across a cartoon desert), I was given only cursory attention . . . "A beautiful little girl" -- holding Tubbo aloft like the Wimbledon Cup -- "and a boy" -- smiling in a kindly, commisserating sort of way, giving me a glimpse of my homely little face, swaddling me like a hideous burn victim.

If you've never heard of, or visited, the Eastern Bloc country of Molvania, let Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry be your armchair guide to the culture and mystique of a land shrouded in mediocre architecture, a collapsed economy and a contrast of old customs and modern ingenuity (like the world's oldest nuclear reactor).

"But Amy, you shouldn't make fun of those poor countries victimized by the Warsaw Pact and oppressed by Soviet domination. They can't HELP it," you might be saying. And I am putting my hands on my hips, letting my jaw drop and pointing my finger to the book and saying, "I wasn't the one who WROTE this guidebook. It was THEM. I just happened to read it ... and laugh my rear end off."

Again, I pride myself on judging a book by its cover, and I hit GOLD with this one. I found it in the Literature section, tucked way back in Non-Fiction, and because it was wedged in a set of shelves that included Bill Bryson and similar authors, how could I go wrong?

The capital of Molvania is situated between the country's Eastern Steppes and a Western Plateau. A mountain range of heavily forested Molvanian Alps stands to the South.
Among Molvania's claims to fame:
* It's biggest pop sensation, Olja, combines hot Latin sounds with Cold War rhetoric.
* Going "green" takes on a different meaning in Molvania, as the country prides itself as being an environmentally conscious nation, and all its waste is either sorted and recycled, or dumped over the border in Slovakia.
* One of the most popular drinks in Molvania is turpz, a white wine flavored with oak resin. This fruity drop is an acquired taste, but once tasted, it's hard to give up, due in part to the fact that it contains nicotine.

Why would someone go to the trouble of writing and publishing a travel book about such a place? I'm not giving away the ending by telling you this, Molvania doesn't really exist.

It's the weekend. Drink lots of water, laugh at yourself, read a clever book, and (if you're like me) enjoy a kinder, gentler house because your 4-3 team has a bye weekend.