Monday, August 31, 2009

I Love Minutiae!

It's not even 11:00am yet, and it's already been a busy "day off." The way my schedule panned out this semester, I have all day on Mondays to relax and have some Andi-time, though usually the day is stuffed with paper grading and other preparations for the week's classes.

Today is no exception. Chuck woke up feeling icky, so I popped out of bed to take Rocketgirl to school at 8:20. I came home, actually had the solidity of stomach to make breakfast, and sat around watching old episodes of John & Kate Plus 8 until I realized that Rocketboy had no lunch money with him today. I threw on something presentable to wear, rushed his money to his school, and now I'm back, listening to Chuck snore, and generally being lazy until I start grading online class stuff shortly. And I was determined to blog! As I am determined to become a regular, near-daily blogger again! I shall overcome!

Now that you know about the minutiae of my day, how about the real point of this post?

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I started reading Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth on a whim. It's not in line with my Reading in Order Challenge whatsoever, but this book has been staring at me from my bedroom bookshelves for months. Every time I walk by, it looks loud with its yellow cover and I yearn to pick it up. So I did.

If you're not familiar with the story, here's how the blurb puts it:

"...presents a graphic view of a China when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and social upheavals of the twentieth century were but distant rumblings for the ordinary people. This moving, classic story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-lan is must reading for those who would fully appreciate the sweeping changes that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese people during this century."

What a blurb, right? For all this high-flown language and talk of classicness and revolution and sweeping epic awesomeness (which is all true), I love the story for the teeny tiny details. A story from my childhood, if you will indulge me:

When I was in 6th grade, my reading teacher, Mrs. Johnson, informed us that we would be reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods together as a class. Having had no prior interest in the plight of the pioneers, I was less than excited to pick up the book. However, a magical thing happened: I LOVED IT. Specifically, I loved reading about the minutiae of everyday life during Wilder's time. The smoking and curing of meats, maple sugar poured over fresh snow to make candy, the making and mending of clothing. I was absolutely enthralled by it all--by a life so very different from my own.

Over the years, this fascination with lifestyles alien and removed from my own has only grown. I loved PBS's "Pioneer House" series for much the same reason, and I'm always delighted to find a book that tickles my interest the same way that early reading of Little House in the Big Woods did.

As I'm reading The Good Earth I'm delighted by Wang Lung and O-lan's cunning and craftiness. They work the fields, they stockpile food to sell in the winter months, they make their own clothing, cook meager food, and care for the idols in a local temple. It's all just so cool!

My question for you all, dear readers: what books have you found delightful for their details of everyday life in different cultures or time periods? I definitely need to add some more titles to my wishlist.


  1. I read The Good Earth years ago and loved it but don't remember enough about it to remember why. Maybe it was the little details of daily life. I can't think of other books like that right now - it's Monday!

  2. I'm reading a book that's packed with realistic detail, The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick. In fact, trying to get it read in time for the review date might kill me. It's definitely a book I'd rather take my time with and savor.

  3. I've been meaning to read The Good Earth for ages but it's one of those books I keep pushing to the bottom of the pile. Glad to hear you're enjoying it!

    One of the reasons I love reading historical fiction is for the insight into life in another time and place. Of course, specific titles are evading me at the moment!

  4. I've been reading The Tale of Genji this summer, four chapters a week, and it's full of minutie. It's like an extended course in Medieval Japan. I've really enjoyed that aspect of the novel, too.

    It's not usually something I read for, but when I find it, I enjoy it.

  5. It has been a long time since I read The Good Earth but I remember I liked it very much.
    There is one book called Pioneer Women:Voices from the Kansas Frontier by Joanna L. Stratton that I recommend. Talk about hardships. When the grasshopper hordes would come, they not only attacked their crops but anything green, which meant that if you had some green in your dress they would eat it while you were wearing it. Prairie fires, cow hooves coming through the roof of your sod house, stichin' up scalps after Native attacks, high infant mortality rate, extreme loneliness, and husbands going off on long business trips by horse and falling down some gully or cliff and the wife never really knowing what happened to her husband. Yep, it was a hard life. There is one story, kind of humorous, of how the Native Americans did not have the same kind of concepts of privacy and this women was sitting at her dresser I believe combing her hair and suddenly she sees a Native American man staring through the window. She wasn't scared of him and tried to shoo him off and the next thing she knew more started coming through the windows and door. Again, she set them all straight and told them they needed to ask permission to enter her home. She said they never hurt her and were just hungry and wanted food. Anyway, I recommend this book.

  6. I know what you mean about minutiae! I enjoyed the Little House books as a kid because I learned useful things like how to make an 'apple' pie from a green pumpkin, or how to find your way home in a blizzard. And when I was about 12 I feverishly read all of my dad's Louis L'amour books and was relieved to discover that if I was ever lost in a desert and dying of thirst I could just watch for bees and follow them to water. ;)

  7. Bermuda, it was VERYYYYY Monday wasn't it?

    Nancy, thanks for the tip! I've always heard great things about Chadwick, but I've never read any of her stuff.

    Lesley, if you think of any of those titles, let me know! I love historical fiction, but I've stumbled across some pretty cheesy ones in the past, so I prefer working from recommendations.

    Thanks, CB! Genji is not one I would've thought of on my own.

    Fem, that book sounds FANTASTIC! Just the kind of thing I'm looking for. Now if I could find something similar for every time period I'd be in heaven. I know they're out there, it's just so much digging to find them!

  8. The minutiae of life definitely draws me in! Hmm.. can't think of any titles in particular at the moment but you really caught on to something that made me like those pioneer books!


  9. Isn't it great when you finally pick up one of those shelf-sitters and it ends up being wonderful?

    Glad you are enjoying your read!

  10. My class scheduled worked out that I don't have class on Thursday or Friday. Starting next week I'll have to go into work those days, but this week I just had them off. But, even with all that free time I haven't accomplished much of anything even though I've felt busy the whole time. Oh well :) I'm glad you're feeling better!

  11. Thanks, Sharry! I never dreamed I'd love those pioneer books like I did, but they sure captured me! Another one that comes to mind is Lyddie, by Katherine Paterson. Not pioneer, but textile mill!

    Amen, Iliana!

    Kim, that schedule is dreamy! I'm glad you got to enjoy those days off before the hustle starts! :)


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