A few idiosyncratic notes about things I've read. There's no order to this list.

Erasure by Percival Everett. 2001. Graywolf Press. 265 pages.
I probably started this book at the end of summer 2023, and definitely finished at the beginning of summer 2024 (6/5/2024). There's often a resting phase about half way my reading, but rarely a finishing phase. I'm happy it happened here: the book was interesting, and it feels good to complete something.

Erasure would be great for a book club -- and no one would hate me more for saying so than the narrator, Thelonious Ellison (Monk). I've attended exactly one session of one book club, so I have a limited perspective about what might happen in these gatherings but I like to imagine conversations about race, class, academia, talk shows, the publishing industry, poverty-as-a-construct, literary awards, people who think too much, and people who think too little. Would this not make an excellent off-Broadway play? [It is now on my list of Fantastical Ideas.]

I can't wait to see the "movie version" of this novel. It was nominated for an Oscar! (If you read the book, you'll get this semi-joke.) Looking forward to reading Jim, another well-reviewed novel by Everett. By the way, the reviews of Erasure I saw said it was "hilarious." As Everett might write: PoTAYto, PoTAHto. [Entry date 6/5/2024]

Humanly Possible: Seven Hundred Years of Humanist Freethinking, Inquiry, and Hope by Sarah Bakewell. Penguin. 2023. 464 pages.
Completed Feb 4, 2024. First book I've finished in quite a while. Not easy but worthwhile. Made me want to read her book on Montaigne. [Which I have subsequently purchased.] It's good to be reminded that it was always dangerous to be a humanist.

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2021.
You don't have long on this earth and you're never going to get it all done. We have a nearly inexhaustible number of strategies for avoiding the realization that we are beings with limited capacities, talents, and lifespans. Coming to grips with this is painful but provides unexpected upsides. Stop chasing your tail and cut your losses now. Reduce (or eliminate) your expectations, and pay attention to the life you're living now and who you're living it with. Major wallops of reality. Relax and focus on the things that "matter." Read Dec 2023. SBPL.

Burkeman's Five Questions:

  1. Where in your life or your work are you currently pursuing comfort, when what's called for is a little discomfort?
  2. Are you holding yourself to, or judging yourself by, standards of productivity or performance that are impossible to meet?
  3. In what ways have you yet to accept the fact that you are who you are, not the person you think you ought to be?
  4. In which areas of life are you still holding back until you feel like you know what you're doing?
  5. How would you spend your days differently if you didn't care so much about seeing your actions reach fruition?

Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945-1955 by Harald Jähner, translated from German by Shaun Whiteside. Knopf. 2021. ISBN 9780593319734.
Read up to page 22. Excellent so far. SBPL.

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