Thursday, October 13, 2005

A little list on language

Language List #1: secondary tongues

1. The Bad news.
My German is much worse than I'd anticipated. I only studied it for a year and a half and never really had a chance to use it much. Thus most of it is gone.
2. The Good news.
My French is much better than I'd anticipated. I haven't had a reason to use it in 13 years, but after a few bumps it was up and running. The accent was still decent and yes, I was able to eavesdrop (one of the great pleasures of sitting at a cafe is eavesdropping)!

Language List #2: my native tongue
(really just a way to write a little about reading in the same post)

1. What I read:
Dawn on a Distant Shore by Sara Donati
Another thumping good read (sequel to Into the Wilderness) that happily occupied my moments of down-time while in Europe. A little willing-suspension-of-disbelief was necessary (how many times can Nathaniel be shot and recover easily?) but I was happy to do my part in the suspension. I was also pleased that my recent non-fiction reading of John Adams helped me recognize some of the political events mentioned, specifically the French-English-American conflicts at sea.
2. What I wanted to read:
Fallen by David Maine
I started this book the day before the flight home and I am loving it. It was my great misfortune to be seated next to a neurotic yacker on the plane otherwise I'd be much further along. But I didn't want to half-read it and the neurotic yacker kept interrupting me despite ample evidence that I WAS READING. (I don't think anyone in his life reads books so he probably wasn't aware of the social cues I was sending out like holding the book up to my face and mumbling "mmmmhmmm" in a distracted sort of fashion while he yacked on about the joys of free alcohol available in coach class and what would happen when he went through US customs...)

Language List #3: What I missed

1. Good book talk (and the food that accompanied it):
My book group met while I was gone so I didn't get to eat the fabulous looking Mexican meal that accompanied All the Pretty Horses or take part in the discussion.
2. Making a choice:
I also didn't get to hear the selection process for what our group will read next, though I'm perfectly content with the book chosen (I often think that what people anticipate and want out of a book before reading it is just as interesting as what they think of it afterwards) . We'll be reading Pope Joan by Donna Cross. My only knowledge of Pope Joan comes from Caryl Churchill's 1982 play Top Girls in which Pope Joan is one of five historical female characters at a dinner party in a London restaurant. The other 4 are Isabella Bird--a Victorian explorer; Lady Nijo a 13th C. courtesan who becomes a Buddhist nun and travels across Japan; Dull Gret, a character from a Breugel painting who leads a charge through hell; and Patient Griselda, a loyal and obedient wife from the Clerk's Tale in Chaucer's Cantebury Tales. Top Girls is great play (though the form of feminism in the voice of the contemporary woman who invited all the characters to the party reads today as a little heavy handed, very 1982) and I remember the character of Pope Joan the best of all, particularly the point in the play where she talks about being pregnant and having the baby while in a papal procession thus giving away the fact that she is female. Anyway, I am looking forward to reading Cross' novel about the character.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back! I love lists (yours included), too.

Book reports: So glad you liked Dawn; I think the 3rd book in the series was my least favorite and will be curious to know what you think of it.

And I loved Maine's The Preservationist, which I just read based on your recommendation. The Red Tent's polar opposite.

Oh, and the guy on the airplane? Hitting on you.

Kate said...

Oh what a fine way to characterize "The Preservationist"! My grudge against "The Red Tent" seems to increase with time, rather than mellow.

I just picked up the 3rd Wilderness book from the library so I'll report back my impressions.

Denise said...

One word to discourage "neurotic yakkers:" HEADPHONES. Even if you aren't listening to anything. If they think you can't hear them...

My Mom has been recommending Pope Joan to me for years (her book group read it a few years back), and I *never* go with her recommendations (we have VERY different tastes in books). So let me know how that goes.