Returned safely from a great trip to Saba. Went directly to the hospital to see my brand new niece, who decided early yesterday that she'd had enough of the womb and wanted to arrive over a month early. She looks wonderful and seems to be in good health - it's going to take some time to wrap my head around being an aunt, but I know I'm going to enjoy the process. For those keeping baby stats - Lucille Rose is 5lbs 3oz - not sure what her length is, but I do know she has some crazy long fingers! I know there will be pictures up in here soon enough - I was kicking myself during the visit for leaving my camera packed in the car with our carry-ons.

Now to grab a power nap so I can actually feel human while trying to visit people later tonight.


2010 Book 2 - West with the Night - Beryl Markham

Where was Beryl Markham when I was growing up? As a young tomboy, I looked up to Katherine Hepburn for her ballzy though feminine ways, and always wondered why there weren't more women around who were like her, and, as an extension, like me (or at least the way I saw myself).
I was given West with the Night by a coworker, who thought I would enjoy the work - apparently he recommends it to just about everyone he knows. After finishing the piece, I can see why. Markham's prose flows smoothly over her accounts of her less-than-conventional upbringing in East Africa; she makes boar hunts, horse training, campfire congresses, and solo flights over uncharted swamps that could be smelled from a thousand feet become poetic. From her words, you can tell that Markham's relationship with Africa was a love affair - each anecdote was brought as vividly into my mind as the memories must have been in her own when she set them to paper.
From here, I am paying forward the favor done for me by my coworker by advising anyone and everyone to read this book. When you're done, I am fairly sure you will do exactly what I did, and seek out more information about the lively individuals she acted as biographer for in miniature, and the cities and towns she praised or condemned.
Book number two for the year has also been a big thumbs up - I hope the trend continues.


2010 Book 1 - Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Some people are doing 365 photos for 2010 - well, I missed the boat on that one. Instead, I think I will make an effort to log the books I read this year, and to explain, briefly, why I did or did not like them.

Zeitoun is the true story of what happened to one man of Syrian origins in New Orleans after Katrina. My first impression, sad to say, was judging the book by its cover. I have to admit that even before I heard the favorable reviews, I was drawn to the art work and texture of the book's cover. Zeitoun is a lovely hardcover edition (not sure how the softcover will come out) graced by very attractive, almost wood block printing stylized artwork.
Moving on past the aesthetics, one is introduced to the protagonist, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, an American citizen who was born and raised on the island town of Jableh, Syria. Zeitoun, as he is known about New Orleans, is an industrious entrepreneur who owns and operates his own painting and contracting company with his American-born wife, Kathy; together the couple have four children. As the narrative progresses, you get to know the Zeitoun family as a close-knit one, bound together by love, faith, and hard work.
Dave Eggers's writing captures the growing tension, and the wavering between skepticism and fear the Zeitoun family must have felt in the hours leading up to the evacuation and arrival of Katrina. When the time to decide came, Kathy departed from New Orleans with the children and the dog, while her husband remained to care for the couple's various rental and commercial properties. Description of the storm itself is patchy and disinterested - a reflection of the reality that Zeitoun's area was not severely impacted by the storm itself, but by the aftermath of the levees breaking. In reality, Zeitoun slept through most of the main event. What follows the departure of Katrina is a description of a surreal waterworld of abandoned pets, abandoned homes, abandoned humans, and, occasionally, the abandonment of all sense of humanity.
I don't want to spoil the rest, but I will put this book in my 'yes' pile, and encourage my friends to read on.


White Out

The title is self-explanatory I guess. Today we have heavy heavy snows falling in the city, making everything lovely, and everyone slow. My commute was akin to trying to run on a sandy beach, with my incredibly heavy snow boots on, and the 3+ inches of snow to slog through. Amazingly enough, I managed to beat the bus on the mile walk to the el stop; the people of Chicago were more diligent in their sidewalk shoveling than the plows were in clearing the surface roads, so apparently I had an easier time than the motorists.
As a result of the city's slowdown, things are quiet in the library today, which plays a bit part in why I am blogging. With some hope, I may be able to catch up on my 'to do' list here if things remain calm - hopefully in writing this, I haven't managed to jinx myself.