Monday, October 31, 2016

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report -- October

Better late than never.  Here's how I spent my October credits ...

I've been hearing good buzz regarding The Gilded Years.  It's set in a period of interest to me (1890s) and covers topics with which I am familiar from my good ole days in academia, particularly female friendship and passing.  I'm enjoying the audiobook so far, though the dialogue sounds stilted when narrated.  I'm more than halfway through and feeling anxious as I await the inevitable.  Poised for heartbreak and worse.  Definitely interested in the Vassar setting and the glimpses of 1890s Boston and Cambridge that the novel offers.

I usually spend my credits on new releases, but this month I treated myself to Sarah Morris Remembers by D.E. Stevenson.  Stevenson's books are quiet, lovely, sometimes funny, and sometimes just a wee lil bit edgy.  They're set in England and/or Scotland (thus, great narration!!!!), and these old-fashioned stories are just what I need some weeks.  Sarah Morris Remembers was a bit of a slow starter, but otherwise delightful.  If you haven't read or listened to a D.E. Stevenson novel, I'd start with Miss Buncle's Book.  If you like it, there are several Buncle sequels to keep you occupied.  Source Books has recently come out with some lovely new paperback editions of many D.E. Stevenson novels -- great news because the books had become a little hard to find for U.S. readers.  Fortunately, Audible offers audio versions of many of her works.   

Speaking of D.E. Stevenson novels being hard to come by ... I found Sarah's Cottage (the sequel to Sarah Morris Remembers that I had forgotten I even owned until I saw it on my bookshelf yesterday) in my library book sale room last year.  Has a bit of a mildew smell, but I'll fight through.

Just one more Audible purchase to report.  I think I mentioned last month that I had a few extra Audible credits rolling around.  I spent the last one on The Nix by Nathan Hill after seeing both Judy Blume and Stephen King tweet praise.  Fingers crossed for almost 22 hours of good listening.

I'm not going to buy the Audible extra credits anymore.  I really like making a ritual of spending my two credits each month and then filling in the listening gaps with deals of the day and bargain listens from the various Audible sales.  I'm trying to push myself to expand my listening options with library audiobooks and LibriVox.

Anyone have any audiobook news or credit reports?  Please share in comments.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

String Theory

In fifth grade, we had to do famous people reports.  The kind where you research a person, dress up as that person, and then tell the class all about yourself.  I chose Tracy Austin.  I don't remember why I chose her.  I don't remember what I wore (I can't imagine that it was anything cool or cute like a tennis skirt because I don't think I had yet started playing tennis in 1986 and didn't own a tennis skirt until high school anyway).  I remember making multiple posters with some new markers and those stencils that were popular for posters back in the days before at-home printing and multiple font options were commonplace.  I don't remember what the posters highlighted.  I don't remember a single fact about Austin's life or tennis career except that she was, you know, really good and won a lot.  I do remember being embarrassed when a classmate (a girl who was very quiet and hesitant) gave her presentation on Mother Teresa.  She was talking beautifully about being a little pencil in God's hands and I was talking about ... what?  I don't even remember.  Something to do with Tracy Austin.

This memory (or lack thereof) helped me to appreciate David Foster Wallace's essay:  "How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart."  No spoilers about this perfectly-crafted essay, except to say that this gem made me feel better about all I don't remember from my stint as Tracy Austin.  The Tracy Austin essay, along with four of his other pieces about tennis, have been collected in a beautiful, cloth-bound book entitled String Theory:  David Foster Wallace on Tennis.  My favorite essay of the collection is "Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley" in which Foster Wallace recounts his years as a pretty good junior player on the Midwestern junior scene, especially in Central Illinois.  My other favorite is "Michael Joyce's Professional Artistry."  They're all excellent essays, and I'm inclined to believe The New York Times Book Review that Foster Wallace is "THE GREATEST TENNIS WRITER EVER." 

He's thoughtful, observant, funny without unnecessary snark, and smart.  His knowledge of and affection for the game is obvious throughout.  I've never read Infinite Jest or his other fiction (and likely never will), but these tennis essays reinforce the pervading sense of loss associated with David Foster Wallace.

Here's a description of Michael Chang from the Michael Joyce essay that gave me a chuckle:

"Michael Chang, twenty-three and #5 in the world, sort of looks like two different people stitched crudely together:  a normal upper body perched atop hugely muscular and totally hairless legs.  He has a mushroom-shaped head, ink-black hair, and an expression of deep and intractable unhappiness, as unhappy a face as I've ever seen outside a Graduate Writing Program" (82).

If you love tennis and good writing, I think you'd love String Theory.  If someone you love loves tennis and good writing, I think it would make an unexpected but welcome gift. 

I'm no Tracy Austin, but I do love tennis.  I snapped this shoe selfie this summer during the USTA state tourney for Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.  We came close to advancing but fell short.  I'd like to blame it on the Central Illinois wind, but that wouldn't be fair.*  I started String Theory a week or so later and liked knowing that I had just played tennis in the part of Illinois where Foster Wallace honed his junior game. 

*"Move your damn feet, Megan" (tip from me to me)