‘You don’t have to read the People’s Daily, because that won’t tell you what’s really going on, but you have to read these,’ said Ho Pin, an exiled Chinese journalist who runs Mirror Books, a company based in New York that publishes muckraking books and magazines in Chinese. Chinese officials visiting Hong Kong often buy them as gifts for fellow officials, he said. ‘In the past, you’d give a mayor a bottle of liquor. But that’s nothing these days, and so is a carton of cigarettes,’ Mr. Ho said. ‘But if you give him one of our books or magazines, he’ll be very happy.’
Is this the communist dream that Karl Marx envisioned? I asked the class if they thought China was still a communist nation. Someone let out a definitive ‘Nope,’ to which another student replied, ‘But don’t tell the government that.’ The class burst into laughter, but composed themselves quickly. After all, a camera was mounted at either end of the room.
Well, I’m not a doctor, so take me with a grain of salt. All I know is that when I started my new job, I went months without exercising at all (embarrassing but true), and my commute was worse on my feet (I walk slightly less than my old commute, and in work-appropriate, unsupportive flats rather than sneakers). And yet, somehow my legs and feet got stronger, which is very good for avoiding PF. (As you know if you’ve had it, the only real cure is rest, so it’s best not to get it in the first place.)
I hadn’t run long-distance for almost a year when I started training again, because the PF had gotten so bad by the time I gave up that it took that long to go away. I had a number of elaborate stretching routines that helped a bit, but mornings were still pretty bad. And when I started my new commute, I was still getting those heel pains, but I was too vain to be the lady in work clothing and running sneakers on the train, so I just sucked it up. But about a month after I switched to a standing desk, all those problems disappeared. And then my training went great. This morning I thought for sure I’d feel that stabby-heel-pain, but they’re fine. Thus I credit the standing desk!
Do you think your employer would let you convert part of your existing desk into a standing desk? I’ve seen many articles online about how to do that easily and cheaply. I am lucky that my employer went along with my nutty idea, but if they hadn’t, that was my plan B.
I finished my second half-marathon yesterday. Please believe me when I tell you how improbable this is. I am not a natural at running. In fact I am ridiculous-looking and slow. But it is cheaper than therapy and has roughly the same effect on my mental health as anti-depressants (except that the side effects are easily counteracted with Advil), so I keep at it.
Nerds keep saying to me, “I’ve always wanted to do that, but it’s not for me.” Yes it is! You can do it! As some guidance, here are the two main things that made this half-marathon possible for me, things that nerds like:
1. NPR. I stopped listening to running mixes because they made me run weird and now I just stream WNYC when I run. I don’t necessarily listen to all of it, because part of the point of running is not thinking, for me. But I find it’s easier to tune out talking than music. NPR: the training runner’s soundtrack.
2. A standing desk. Look, I know this is one of the things the Internet won’t shut up about, and I apologize. But the fact of the matter is, I developed not a single foot or joint problem while training for this half-marathon, and I spent most of last year crippled by plantar fasciitis. I was at the standing desk for about six months before I started training for this, and it made all the difference. Sorry to be on the bandwagon. But get on it.
And for the required book recommendation: if you haven’t read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, you must. (Even if you never want to run, it’s a great adventure story.) Quite aside from the barefoot running stuff, it’s inspiring because it removes running from the realm of special watches and Lululemon, and places it squarely at the reader’s feet, where it belongs. Leaving just you and the road and your nerdy little brain.
Finally read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and really liked it. It was much more complex than I had expected and refreshingly original, a hard trick to pull off in a WWII book. Great crossover potential. I’d love to attend a book group discussion about it.
Does this count as New Adult? There’s some pretty intense violence in the book and a good deal of moral ambiguity, but nobody really talks about blow jobs, so I am guessing the answer is no.
This week Erin and I led a open book discussion about Stitches by David Small, the first time a graphic novel was chosen for one of these public discussions, and we weren’t sure who to expect. To our surprise, it was primarily attended by some of our regular seniors, who LOVED the book. We had a fantastic discussion and I was really struck by their passion for the book, and how they talked about it, and also how they talked about how they were recommending it to other people.
And now converting seniors into graphic novel readers is one of my professional goals, so I have started working on a list of recommendations specifically for their interests, based on my extrapolations from our book group discussion. The standard best graphic novels for new readers list is not going to work here. Some of my takeaways from that discussion:
They loved that it was a memoir and had no idea that comics like this existed. (See, we all mock the “comix aren’t for kidz anymore” trend pieces, but they exist for a reason.) So I’m looking for GNs that are non-fiction, memoir, or more serious fiction. Mature content is something to be aware of, but seniors are generally tougher readers than people give them credit for. (They’ve seen it all.)
There were multiple comments about how the book wouldn’t have worked as a text-only work. This feeling was pretty important to them. It’s hard to define this in a GN, but you know when you see it. For practical purposes, I’ve started by looking at works with the same writer and artist, because those tend to have a more holistic feel.
They loved the sequences without words. It was fascinating to hear that reading experience described by someone new to graphic novels.
The size of the lettering is important. When I recommended readalikes and suggested Persepolis, one woman commented that she had tried it, but the lettering was too hard for her to read. She had glasses on and used a magnifier, but magnifiers aren’t designed for comics, so it just ended up being annoying.
Using those thoughts, here’s a preliminary list of recommendations:
The Name of the Game by Will Eisner. Really, anything by Eisner would work, but I think the family sagas in this one make it particularly apt.
Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli. A great favorite of mine and as interesting for its art as its story, which adds to the appeal for new readers. Also, I’ve been thinking of it as a readalike to The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes, which is a hit with seniors.
Maus by Art Spiegelman. Well, it wouldn’t be a list of graphic novels if I didn’t include Maus, right? But I include here because one of the attendees recommended it to the group, and when she described it, everyone seemed intrigued. So I add it despite the tiny lettering.
Radioactive by Lauren Redniss. In addition to being a great biography, this book has an unusual layout that could be a good intro for readers still getting used to the form. Small lettering, but because it is in blocks similar to a text-only book page, it would be much easier to enlarge.
Gemma Bovary by Posy Simmonds. The plot of this book is very similar to many British novels that are popular with seniors, but Simmonds uses visual details to flesh it out in a way that couldn’t be done in a text-only book. Plus it has the literary cred of Madame Bovary backing it up.
So that is what I have for now. I want to keep building it. What would you add?
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I love Law & Order. Especially SVU, but I’ll watch any of it. It’s why I can’t have cable. But Law & Order is not perfect. And the main reason is because Christopher Meloni is not on it any longer. No, only kidding. The main reason is that it is about as subtle as a Mack truck.
This is why I so treasure books like The Good Nurse, by Charles Graeber, and the way they are invested in finding answers to human depravity without melodrama. This is true crime so gruesome I don’t think Law & Order has even attempted an inspired-by episode about Charles Cullen, known as “The Angel of Death.” It would need to be a multi-part episode. Cullen was a nurse who skipped from hospital to hospital in the tri-state area for years, killing vulnerable patients with drug cocktails so haphazardly that he doesn’t even remember all of them, for reasons he can’t really define. On Law & Order, this could go one of two ways: a twisted mercy killer, or a sadistic sociopath.
The truth is much more complicated. And Graeber, with the help of many previously unknown resources, including interviews with the informant who was the linchpin of Cullen’s trial, does an amazing job of unraveling the truth of the matter, as well as anybody can in this circumstance. Cullen is clearly a bad man, but Graeber is not interested in the morality play of scolding him. He is interested in understanding him. He gets pretty close to doing so. And that’s why this book is scary as hell.