Hitting the wall on marriage memoirs.
Becoming a Bryson fan.

Listening, learning, living.

Or loving, laughing, whatever.

Either we are eating more around here, or just finding ways to dirty more dishes, because lately it seems like I spend a lot of my time washing dishes. Normally I don't mind this, as washing dishes is the sole household chore I don't actively hate (I think because it's connected with food; outside of food preparation and service purposes, I just don't understand the appeal of "clean," and never have) and I usually have a book on tape to keep me company. The last such book (after the travesties that were The Age of Innocence and The Historian) was Thomas Hardy's classic The Mayor of Casterbridge, and man, do I love old Thomas Hardy. I can thumbnail the plot: young man gets drunk at county fair and tries to sell off wife and child as a joke, but another man takes him up on the offer. Years later, wife and child return to the area after the death of the man who "bought" her, to see how the first man is getting on. Quite well, it turns out: he's the mayor of Casterbridge and a merchant of some repute. Soon after their arrival and reunion, however, the mayor's fortunes start to take a turn for the worse, and various community kerfuffles and tragedies ensue. The plots are really not the point of Thomas Hardy's novels; his characters and his turn of phrases are. Consider this zinger, when he's describing a run-down part of town:

"It was the hiding-place of those who were in distress, and in debt, and trouble of every kind. Farm-labourers and other peasants, who combined a little poaching with their farming, and a little brawling and bibbing with their poaching, found themselves sooner or later in Mixen Lane. Rural mechanics too idle to mechanize, rural servants too rebellious to serve, drifted or were forced into Mixen Lane."

It made for good listening, but when it was done, I found I was without a book on tape, but still had dirty dishes. I went looking for NPR but I couldn't find it on the FM tuner (or they were playing classical music on the regular station) so I switched over to AM and spent most of the last week listening to conservative talk radio. Oh, my. That WAS educational. I normally hit the times when either Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity were talking, and of course the burning story of the week was Arizona's new immigration law. I know NOTHING about Arizona's immigration law, and I can't say I'm much further ahead after listening to radio programs about it. But I will say this: forget Limbaugh. He's just out there, and the more his callers were out there, the more he liked them. But Hannity? Hannity's dangerous. Hannity almost makes sense, and if he was your sole source for the news, I'm sure he'd make total sense.

It was an education (combined with a fascinating article about Sarah Palin in last week's New York Magazine); I did a lot of thinking about politics last week. Suffice it to say that this week I got Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the D'urbervilles from the library on tape, and can retreat to that. Thank goodness for Thomas Hardy.