Browsing articles from "January, 2013"
Jan 17, 2013

Staircase Review, Vol. 1

books and books and booksOnce upon a time, when I started this blog, I wanted it to be a book review blog. But I didn’t really know what I was doing or how much work that would be, and then all of a sudden it wasn’t a book review blog anymore. It was a sometimes-I-talk-about-what’s-going-on-in-my-life kinda blog and that’s about where’s it’s at now.

However, books are included in “what’s-going-on-in-my-life” and so what I am going to try to do is a sort of monthly recap of what I’m reading and what I think about it.

My current reading system is to keep my unread books on a shelf in my bedroom where they can stare me down with their uncracked spines, and then move completed books down to my spare staircase, where they can get dusty and look out the window. (Current books stay in my purse where they can have coffee spilled on them.) And so, I’m going to call this semi-regular feature “Staircase Review.” Because I’m reviewing books which I have recently moved to my staircase! And my blog’s name is “Staircase Wit”! It’s all making sense now! Right?

This won’t be a complete list of everything I’ve read, but it’ll cover the highlights. I’ll also talk about some of the articles I’ve read, because, well, I tend to read a lot of those.



Quiet by Susan Cain (audiobook)
In my last post I mentioned that I spent most of my Christmas trip home talking about introversion and extroversion. This book is why. Cain spent much of the book making it okay to be in introvert. She explained an introvert’s value and how modern society has pushed that value aside. It was encouraging, but after a while I wanted more practical ideas on how to function as an introvert in this extroverted world. (I imagine that someone who grew up in a less supportive household than I did might appreciate the encouragement more.)

There were three points that Cain made that I thought were particularly interesting (which means that I thought they were true of me): 1) Introverts will “go extrovert” for things which they are passionate about, 2) the American Church values extroverts, often overlooks introverts for leadership positions, and has pretty much thrown out quiet and reflection, and 3) that introverts like collaborating online and often have an easier time expressing themselves internetly, to which I said, “well hello, all of my Internet friends.”

Overall, I thought this was a great book and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s ever been told that they’re a little too quiet.

I really like the fox in this.The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
I wanted this book to be perfect. It’s a fairy tale about snow, and that should be my favorite thing. It’s a retelling of a Russian fairy tale about an old childless couple who build a baby for themselves out of snow.  Ivey set the book in 1920s Alaska and made the old man and woman a quiet and sad mismatched couple from the east coast. It seemed that Ivey was trying to keep a balance between a dreamy fairyland and a hyperreal claim town. Instead, it felt like she teeter-tottered: Magical snow storm! Thump. Let’s gut a moose! Thump. Sullen man-dialog. Thump. Let’s make this chapter italic! Th-thump!

I thought Ivey’s use of geography was confusing. For example: the main characters moved wayyyy out into the middle of the wilderness to be alone and sad together, but they’re close enough to their neighbor’s house for dinner. Everyone is terribly far away, but just close enough to come set a spell. The snow child would run far, far away, but then it would only take a few minutes to get her home. Maybe this was supposed to add to the mystical feeling of the Alaskan wilderness, but instead I just had a difficult time getting a picture of the place in my head.

It’s possible that I wanted this book to be something that it wasn’t supposed to be, so it might not be fair of me to be so harsh. It was a pretty story and I learned a lot about how to clean game that wasn’t covered in Little House on the Prairie. While I couldn’t get a decent map in my head, I did love the cold, open atmosphere of the book and the sad, quiet feeling with which it left me. It isn’t a perfect book, but it is perfect for the snowless winter we’re having in Chicago.

Thanks, Grandma. Fireside Magazine, Winter 2012
This is the third issue of Fireside Magazine, and it is most certainly the best yet. Fireside Magazine was started by my friend Brian White when he decided there should be a place for fiction writers to publish good stories…and also get paid well for them. Each issue has four short stories and a comic. The first story, and my favorite, “Form and Void,” takes place in futuristic world where humans, at least the wealthy ones, have the ability to splice their genes in order to shape their bodies and download their memories into precious stones. I love the image of the spoiled girl adorning herself with all her memories of past slights. It’s worth the price of the magazine. The rest of the stories are terrifying, thought-provoking, maybe a little absurd, and good.




Around the Internet…

Downton Abbey, Season 3
Seth Stevenson has been one of my favorite columnists for years, and just because he loves me back, he’s writing recaps of Downton Abbey every Monday.

Why The Atlantic’s Scientology Advertorial was Bad
The Church of Scientology bought space to run an article praising the Church of Scientology in The Atlantic. Then The Atlantic deleted any comments on the article that were critical of Scientology. This was bad. This article by Erin Kissane explains why.

RIP, Aaron Swartz 
The very sad end of a very smart man. This isn’t about me, but there is something unsettling about the tragic death of someone who is my age, who grew up in my city, and whose work wasn’t finished.

Moths Drink the Tears of Sleeping Birds
I thought you’d want to know, is all.

Jan 4, 2013

Capital-R Resolutions

This is what my to do lists look like. Except this one doesn't have anything on it because the year is just starting. It's probably symbolic.

I’ve said it before: I am not big on Resolutions.

I don’t like capital-R-Resolutions because I spend so much of my time making up everyday resolutions (the small ones like eat better, exercise, get enough sleep) that I can’t keep that the idea of making and breaking a Big, Important Resolution is frightening.

I am in a constant state of attempted self-improvement. Somewhere in a description of my particular Myers-Briggs* profile, it says that INFJs “constantly define and re-define the priorities in their lives” and “put a lot of energy into finding the best system for getting things done.” Imagine, if you will, trying to find the best system for accomplishing a constantly changing set of priorities. It’s not just trying to hit a moving target, it’s trying to design a prettier target while wearing roller-skates.

Because I know that I have this weakness for trying to be better, I usually avoid making big goals. The small ones take up enough brainspace, thank you very much. For the last two years, my Big Goals and Capital-R Resolutions have been very general: Have More Adventures, Be Less Afraid, Read More Books. These are very good resolutions; I’ve had two very good years. I’ve traveled on my own and with others. I’ve met and loved lots of new people and I’ve learned that sometimes friendships need to end. I’ve learned how to read again, and I’ve had so many good conversations.

Like I said: these are good. Maybe I needed two years of these inward, almost selfish goals so that could I learn how to belong to myself. Now those goals hardened into character traits and I need to move forward.

So, I’d like to announce that 2013 is The Year of Getting Stuff Done. (I don’t mean that this is a year dedicated to the David Allen book. Although, I imagine that might help.)

What does this mean, exactly? This means I’m going to do what I say I will do. I will answer emails and finish blog posts. I will get enough sleep to be able to function as a real human. I will eat like a grown up. I will stop confusing myself with changing goals and shifting priorities and I will focus on what I really need and want. I will do the things I must do, even if they are in the morning and even if that morning is on a weekend.

I know. This is some serious shoot.

OH. I almost forgot. I’m also gonna get a cat. It’s time. That means either have to talk my landlords into letting me have one or move out of my cute little apartment. I know. That means I want a cat more than I want to stay in the apartment I’ve spent the last two years cutifying. I told you this was serious.

In sum, this year I will get:

1) stuff done.

2) a cat.

This is going to be a busy year.

*I’ve spent a lot of time this year thinking about Myers-Briggs profiles. It’s done quite a bit in helping me understand myself and other people. If you don’t know your type, I highly recommend figuring that out. Here’s a link to a test, but I haven’t taken this particular one and can’t vouch for the results.