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.

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