Is it political if I tell you that if we burn coal, you’re going to warm the atmosphere? Or is that a statement of fact that you’ve made political? It’s a scientific statement. The fact that there are elements of society that have made it political, that’s a whole other thing.
This week’s Empty Shelf Challenge entry — Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News.
This book snuck up on me. Proulx’s prose is mesmerizing — her unusual use of punctuation and sentence fragments propel the words themselves forward in a way I haven’t really read before — but for the first quarter or so of the book, I didn’t like any of the characters and I wasn’t terribly interested in their stories. But then, somewhere in the middle third, I found myself entirely entranced. Suddenly, even though the book’s plot isn’t what you’d call a page-turner, it became so, so compelling — and I’m not even sure why. Regardless, I’d highly recommend the book.
I firmly believe in small gestures: pay for their coffee, hold the door for strangers, over tip, smile or try to be kind even when you don’t feel like it, pay compliments, chase the kid’s runaway ball down the sidewalk and throw it back to him, try to be larger than you are— particularly when it’s difficult. People do notice, people appreciate. I appreciate it when it’s done to (for) me. Small gestures can be an effort, or actually go against our grain (“I’m not a big one for paying compliments…”), but the irony is that almost every time you make them, you feel better about yourself. For a moment life suddenly feels lighter, a bit more Gene Kelly dancing in the rain.
Today’s Empty Shelf addition is Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic — and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World.
Overall, I found the book fascinating, as it took me on a detailed journey into the familiar story of one of London’s deadliest cholera epidemics and the less familiar story of how a pioneering anesthesiologist and a reverend dragged an unwilling and superstitious public into modern scientific thought. However, Johnson has a tendency to go on frustrating and uninteresting tangents about urbanism and biological terrorism in the back half of the book.
Instead of going on, I’ll link to this review from a user at Goodreads, since it pretty much perfectly sums up my view on The Ghost Map.
Next up, I think, will be Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News.
English artist Julian Beever is considered a leading chalk artist in sidewalk art. He’s also (clearly with good reason) called Pavement Picasso.