Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Christmas and KIRKUS
Caribou didn't open till eight today (two hours later than usual), so I slept a little longer, surrendering, by doing so, my "Dawn Reader" appellation for the day. Dawn had already spread her rosy fingers by the time I opened wide to my forty-third Christmas with Joyce.
First impression this morning: Cooking smells from downstairs. Joyce was already at it. We divide duties on big meals: I do the baking and some of the other prep; she likes to do the turkey and the vegetables. We share the clean-up.
But a minor crisis: Our 12-14 lb. bird was missing an essential ingredient: the pop-up thermometer! Fortunately, we have a device with a probe and a cord that extends out of the oven. Panic diminished.
Another minor crisis: Am I getting a cold? Much evidence of such last night, declining this morning. But still ... ? Popped an Advil last night; slept better. But still ... ?
Once I was sure all was well, I microwaved one of my scones, popped it in my coat pocket, and trudged in the snow down to Caribou, about two blocks away. (Actually, I'd walked about a block when I remembered I'd forgotten the warm scone on the dining room table--back I trudged.)
All the way down there, I did what I always do: recited (in my head) some of the poems I've memorized. I have a set I do in the morning, others I do in the afternoons when I'm pedaling the exercise bike. Nerd.
I arrived just as they were opening and briskly walked over to "my" chair and dumped my stuff on it. No usurpers dare make a move on Christmas! The two young women working today are two I know well--both have been there for years, know my order (medium dark), know my routines (sit in the corner and read for about two hours).
Oh, and I answered the daily trivia question, principally because it was the same one as yesterday: Does NORAD track Santa each year? Actually, that's a complicated question, isn't it? They say they are tracking him ... but are they, in fact, tracking Santa? See ... I can be Deep on Christmas!
I ate my scone (smuggled in) while reading the New York Times on my Kindle Fire. Then I checked my email (junk) and Facebook (a few messages to read, a few posts to Like/Comment).
Then I settled in to read 100 pages of the latest book I'm reviewing for Kirkus Reviews. It's a decent book about Colonial history. This is what I do every morning, 365.25 days a year. One hundred pages for Kirkus. Taking notes. Thinking about what I want to say about the book. Wanting to be fair to the writer, useful to the readers of the reviews. Sometimes it's really easy: The writer has done his/her homework, displayed some wit and insight, made me think about something in a new way--or taught me something I didn't know (and, in many cases, didn't even know I needed or wanted to know)--or jarred a cherished belief/bias, or confirmed same.
Sometimes it's harder. A lazy author, a highly tendentious approach. I don't like to write negative reviews (I've received a few myself--know how they feel), but sometimes the writer has just so patently deserved one that I have to comply.
I've been doing this routine-of-reviewing since March 1999, when I did my first review for Kirkus (I am very near 1100 now). When I was teaching at WRA, I cut back a little during the school year: I did one book a week. But when the summer vacations came, it was back to 100 pp/day. Which is what I've done since I retired in June 2011. Haven't missed a day.
I don't know what I'd do without Kirkus. I'd probably just read some other things. But reviewing has sent me to books and writers I never otherwise would have read--often because I thought I wasn't interested in the subject--or had never heard of the writer. Now and then I get a dud of a book by a dud of a writer--but not often. I'm almost always glad I've read the book. Afterwards.
About ten o'clock I finished my reading quota--a little longer than usual because one of the other Caribou regulars, John (a minister), sat down beside me for a while, and we chatted about our aging parents.
When I got home (I have poems to recite on the return, too: nerd), Joyce had already peeled the potatoes--my job!--for boiling later. She said she wanted to save my energy. (Do I need to say more about her?)
Later today I will talk with my mother, 93, in her nursing home room. My brothers will be there. My niece and nephew. My sister-in-law. And their voices will put tears in my eyes.
Meanwhile, we are preparing for the noon invasion of our son, daughter-in-law, and grandsons (3 and 7). And their voices will put tears in my eyes.
And then they will be gone ... and Joyce and I will be cleaning up ... and laughing ... and her voice will put tears in my eyes.
And later we will fall asleep on our forty-third Christmas, and I will wake up tomorrow and head down to Caribou, Kirkus book in my pack.
And the echoes of the voices of my family will be music in my memory. And there will be tears in my eyes.