Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

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100 Books While 40: Diary of a Whimpy Kid

Title: Diary of a Whimpy Kid
Author: Jeff Kinney
Published: 2007

Breathe a sigh of relief. This batch of kids’ books will keep the all the big problems of the world away for a few posts. Until I turn the last page on Lolita and then God help us all.

Two hundred pages of comic sans seems a mild form of torture. Jeff Kinney’s illustrations made up for it as did the very premise of the book as a journal of a middle schooler late to puberty. Reading it while looking over a white Florida beach contributed to my warm regard, no question.

When experiencing trauma our brains insulate us from ugly reality. And then after the fact our brains put out of our reach the gory details of that terrible car accident or the specifics of getting mugged. All adults fail to recall years 12 to 15 because of this exact phenomena.

There is some exquisite confusion at that age. No one explicitly says as much, but all the rules change. I blended in swimmingly with all the boys until then. I had a crash course in being feminine in three months the summer I was thirteen.

This was a little tour into a place I forgot. I now feel a little more charitable toward the snotty thirteen year-olds I run into. And I am happy to remember that the worst moments are always temporary.

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100 Books While 40: Silent Spring

Title: Silent Spring
Author: Rachel Carson
Published: 1962

People with lady parts cannot science. That was the defense chemical companies launched against Rachel Carson. She’s a hysterical woman.

Rachel Carson documents the link between pesticides and bee die offs. She documents the link between pesticides and cancer. She documents the link between estrogen mimicking chemicals and lady parts cancer. This was all based on research from the 50’s.

And where are we now? Are we judicious about our use of chemicals on our food and in our water? Have we been considerate of the blunt force trauma we inflict on ecosystems when we introduce foreign chemicals and medications.

Well. There’s organic food, I suppose. There’s also a medical system that is raking in billions and billions of dollars on treating cancer. Cancer prevention doesn’t line pockets nearly as well. There’s Monsanto pumping lobbyists full of cash to buy politicians and government agents. And there’s the 80 percent of our antibiotics that are pumped into our livestock.

What had changed? We were busy making sure chemical companies made money in the 50’s. After years of data collection we still are busy making sure chemical companies make money now. Women’s words were discounted then. And women’s agency is discounted now, as evidenced by the Turner rape sentencing. What has changed?

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100 Books While 40: Starting with a Bang

I was hoping that the wild swings between intense joy and crushing despair would be a memory of 2015. No such luck. My dad has been in the ICU for the last four weeks in Cleveland after having what I will nickname a heart tune-up. This has resulted in a series of flights, airports, and gracious humans letting me surf their couches and crash their guest rooms.

I feel as though Frontier and I have an intimate relationship, and like a good john I have come up with cash to deepen our connection. The travel and schedule inconsistencies have done their worst on my physical and emotional health, but have given me ample time to tear into the new book list. Powered by sleepless nights and lots of hours spent bedside, I sped through four books in a matter of a week and a half.

I put down Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. by Judy Blume (1970), A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ismael Beah (2007), A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning: The Short-Lived Edition by Lemony Snicket (1999), and Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall (2009). In the interests of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good I am going to breeze through my thoughts of these books. Never fear, I am reading 1984. That book will require a novella blog entry and should be coming up in the next week or so.

Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. was among the best tween books I’ve read. As regular readers will know, I rage that most books aimed at little girls put the search for a boyfriend at the center of the plot. While this book has a minor subplot regarding a special boy, the two main plot lines tackle religion and the commencement of lady parts doing as they do to create babies. I can’t say I enjoyed the book in the sense that I am long past twelve. But I appreciate the challenging topics explored.

Lest I forget that I am a whiny rich white person, reading A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier reminded me. This book is devastating. It at once makes me feel disgust at the things that I take for granted, and our incredibly myopic foreign policy. The book is about boys 11, 12, and 13 who are taught to kill and maim their fellow villiagers. But more broadly, the book describes how easily we can cease to see each other as people. Empathy and kindness are at any given moment and in any country just a few unfortunate events away from annihilation.

A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning: The Short-Lived Edition was at a disadvantage coming on the heels of tween boys learning to burn their countrymen alive. The characters are cute. The plot is cute. Read this to your kids or some such. Do not read this as an adult.

Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen had loads of interesting information in it. It almost makes up for the extremely long book vacillating between a jocular Maxim article and science journal in terms of tone. Almost.

The book is about running. The focus is on our misconceptions about the sport from proper footware to evolutionary history suggesting us all natural marathon contenders. Specifically, running shoes create injuries, and we beat out the stronger, perhaps smarter neanderthals thanks to our wheels. Since I trained for The Flying Pig Marathon barefoot, I found most of the book relevant to my own experiences even while wincing at the acrobatics needed to keep a Maxim reader reading beyond one sentence.

Whew. 1984 here I come.