Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

In Which Dr. Moo Cow Plays Catch-Up

The thing nobody thinks to tell you about breastfeeding before the fact is that it's incredibly boring. The baby gets such an endorphin rush from feeding, he drowses off mid-meal, and then keeps right on eating in his sleep. It's sort of like having an opiate addict nod off on your shoulder for half an hour at a time, a dozen times a day. For all that you might love, enjoy, and admire the opiate addict in question when he's awake--imagine that it's, say, Samuel Taylor Coleridge--you'd still spend those half-hour periods wishing for something more engaging to do. You can't talk on the phone, because the occasional flailing of infant limbs requires both hands and knocks cords for earpieces all over the place. Likewise, you can't type, or knit. No wonder people who like television watch so much of it when they have babies.

I gather that soon, when Gareth's neck muscles mature and I don't have to support his head all the time, it'll be possible to arrange him in a sling and type while he eats, but meanwhile, I can only spare half a hand to hold open the lightest of paperbacks. I tried heavier books, but I soon caught on that that would be the short road to carpal tunnel syndrome. ("How do you avoid carpal tunnel syndrome from holding the baby while nursing?" I asked the local La Leche League leader. "Beats me," she said, "I got it with each of my three kids." Great. Just great. Time to dig up my old wrist braces.)

So I've been reading a lot of very short books, and a lot of cheap teaching editions of classics that are printed on lightweight paper. It's been fun to backtrack and read things I'd been meaning to get around to for years, or in some cases decades. Why didn't anyone tell me The Bridge of San Luis Rey was funny? When people talk about it, they describe it as a sort of thought experiment--can the monk determine whether it's random chance or the will of the Creator that brings those six people to the bridge the day it collapses?--which would be incredibly boring. Heck, when I want to read about theology, I can go to theologians for it. But that's not the point at all. God didn't write the book, Thornton Wilder did, so of course it's the will of the story's creator that those six characters died. The question the book pretends to be about is the one question that's already closed before it begins. My poor tutoring students get assigned The Bridge of San Luis Rey by their high school teachers, and they write earnest little papers in which they try to take the monk's question seriously, when on every page it's clear that Wilder being playful, showing off, jazzing around. It's metafiction that doesn't suck as fiction. I wish I'd read it sooner.

Ibsen, however, sucks. I remember thinking Hedda Gabler and A Doll's House were okay when I read them in grad school, but An Enemy of the People, The Wild Duck, and Rosmersholm, which are supposed to be impressive and deep, turn out to be plain awful. I think I can go the rest of my days without ever reading another Scandinavian playwright now, if Ibsen really is the best of the bunch. Good to have that out of the way. Victorian theater must have been really bad, for all those modernist writers to prefer Ibsen over it.

I'll take Naomi Novik over Ibsen any day of the week. I've just finished His Majesty's Dragon--probably I'm the only person in all of livejournaldom who hadn't already read it--and now it's my turn to swoon over the book, just like most of you were swooning when it came out a couple of years ago.

I might as well do that 52 book challenge thing this year, even if I am hoping to set up a bookstand to spare my wrists so I can read both new translations of War and Peace once I finish Novik's Temeraire series. The baby plans to spend lots of drowsy hours eating.
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