now and then, i like to try impossible things.

There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it, the other that you can boast about it. -- Bertrand Russell

So I have a few confessions to make. Why not? After all, it's a bleak, icy Monday afternoon. Isn't that a good time to get things off your chest?

Brace yourselves: here's the truth. In spite of my proud English major training, I still judge (and buy) books based on their covers. I do. I really, really do.

Also, I sometimes lose my head entirely when I'm in a bookstore. All logic goes out the window. I become impulsive in a whole new way.

Two summers ago, I was going through a pretty rough time. I was kind of a mess. And then I wandered through Barnes & Noble, and fell in love. At first sight.

With a 1331-page, $28.00 hardcover edition of Les Miserables. And I made sure it followed me home.

So now it's been on my bookshelf, haunting me with its glorious cover, and all those pages...

There's something about a massive book, I mean a really massive book, that whispers to me that I will, one day, have the time and intelligence and presence of mind to actually read the thing.

I like to believe that about myself. Even if it never happens.

But lately, that never happening has been getting on my nerves. I look up at my collection of large books, like Don Quixote, War and Peace, and a fair amount of Dickens. And I'd really like to believe that I'll read them all someday, but I never make that kind of time.

So last year, I put number seven onto this list. I want to read this book before September rolls around.

February 2011 is a really bad time to try and wedge a 1331-page book into my life. I mean, I have so much else on my mind. So many things happening, changing, rearranging, moving forward, falling behind... Who has the time?

But, like I said before, I'm not a mentally well-balanced kind of girl. One of the happiest semesters of my life had three major literature classes in it. I miss having hours and hours of reading. I miss getting completely lost in a book. Word drunk. Book binging. Page diving.

So this is my plan. I'm reading Les Miserables. I'm finally doing it, getting to know this book. And I'm hoping to read the whole, messy, glorious thing during the month of February. Which is a little crazy. But after all, it turns out to be just 1194 pages of text, which, if I'm doing my math right, works out to about forty-three pages a day.

Which is, um, a bit more than I've been reading lately. Okay, a lot more.

But if I don't do this, then I'll be terrified that every emotional crisis of my life will warrant another huge literary paperweight. Or that my attention span will calcify. (Have you read this article? There's a quote in there about how we can't absorb information as well as we used to... People are actually losing the ability to read books.That's enough to give me nightmares for weeks...)

So, here goes nothing. Me & Victor Hugo: we'll be spending February together. And I'll let you know how it goes.

Nothing like a good book dare, an impossible reading challenge, to take the chill out of the air.


book crush thursday: A Girl Named Zippy

The day ended with me laughing so hard I thought my appendix would burst. -- Haven Kimmel, A Girl Named Zippy

My earliest memory is of a wolf in my baby bed.

Somehow my first wig and my first really excellent pair of slippers arrived simultaneously.

So, here's the truth: I'm not much of a "memoir person." I've begun a few, trying to branch out in my reading life, but they were so hopeless and so depressing I had to stop.

And then I read A Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Kimmel. And I loved it so, so much.

It's a brilliantly-written memoir about Kimmel's quirky, astonishing, hilarious childhood in Mooreland, Indiana. It's full of wonderful stories about her family, friends, her adventures in that small town, and all the unusual things that made up "Zippy's" life.

Even so, it's not a saccharine story: there are still moments of difficulty and sadness. But overall, it's so funny and so full of warmth, it makes me want to do childhood over again. And be a little more like Zippy.

(And I'm serious about the hilarity: that last quote about the wig and slippers? It's the first line in a chapter called "Hair," which is so amazingly funny, it made my sisters and I nearly sick with laughter.)

Recommendation: I love the idea of reading books about childhood while having tomato soup. Could anything be better? So that's what I'd say: a sunny afternoon, tomato soup, and this fabulous memoir.


writer in progress: clothes make the writer

Today I'm rediscovering the joy of writing in pajamas. It's overcast outside, but inside it's cozy-warm and I'm oh-so comfortable... and the writing is going brilliantly! So I'm being productive... and lazy... at the very same time. I love it.

The only thing we need now is chocolate.


number 1 & number 21

Slowing down is really, really good. We live in a world where it's become a talent, a lost art, something we have to relearn: Slow down. -- Heather Sellers, Chapter after Chapter

Ever since the week of Christmas, my brain seems content to move at half-speed. I'd like to blame Kristen's winter vacation... I think the idea of "being on break" is completely contagious.

Or, maybe I'm just staggeringly lazy.

But even as I acknowledge that, I have to admit this too:

I am so unworried.

Maybe it comes from spending so much time recently with my niece.

There's something about hanging out with a little sixteen-month-old girl. You start to notice the tiny things: the very important yet very small.

The way her hands move. The new words, even new syllables, that she says. Her little dance moves.

And then the even smaller things that she notices: the speck on the carpet, the microscopic tear in a piece of paper.

And I think her attitude may have spilled over, because I feel content to celebrate the small and beautiful things that I'm seeing everywhere: like the icicles growing beyond our kitchen window.

The snowflakes catching on my scarf.

And, too, the little victories in my writing day. The slow progress that is still progress. A handful of sentences that make me laugh. A touch of good dialogue.

I'm content to write this chapter of my book slowly. I don't need to whip myself into a writing-wonderwoman frenzy. Maybe I can let myself savor every decent sentence, every bit of description that's, somehow, just right.

... I've been savoring other things too: Kristen's amazing sugar cookies, still warm from the oven (swoon). Knitting an insanely fun hat for the store (helloooo cabling needle, how I've missed you). Organizing and neatening my writing desk, until I can find those wonderful sentences I had, somehow, mislaid.

Which brings us to Number One from this list: yes, I finally did the much-needed book purge. There they are, facing the wall in a neat little stack, awaiting further judgment. Poor things. I guess it's not their fault that I don't need them anymore... but it's a relief to keep only the books I want. Goodbye, extra baggage!

And what else is good already in 2011? The long wonderful conversations with family and friends. Tromping through the snow until my toes are so cold they hurt, and yet not really wanting to go inside.

And then, most definitely: Number Twenty-One from the list. I love greeting at church! I love seeing the friends and the new faces, and I even kind of love getting blasted with icy air every time the door opens.

Wakes me up quicker than coffee...