Monday, February 18, 2008

Literary Lines on Page 123: A Meme

The eminently readable and highly entertaining (and informative!) Polly over at Polly-Vous Français tagged me for a fun meme that only took a few moments of thought to put into action -- now this was something I could handle, for once! I'm not the most frequent blog-poster, as I'm fully aware, but I have this ridiculous habit of overthinking everything before "putting it out there". At least with this one I could go with my gut -- and with what was waiting patiently for my attention on my bedside table!

Without hesitation, I picked up the first book on the top of the pile -- and trust me, that pile is mounting by the days, weeks and months, and is threatening to topple over at any moment -- and turned to page 123, as Polly instructed. I was meant to read the first five sentences, and then share the following three sentences here with you on the blog.

For some quick background on my book choice, and the reason behind its placement on my to-be-read pile, some of you may know that I very recently attended Tatiana de Rosnay's reading from her book Sarah's Key at the Village Voice on February 7th. The evening was emotionally intense and intellectually stimulating at the same time, and it included a highly successful reading and subsequent discussion. There was a crowd of fans of both her French and English editions of the book, and after reading an excerpt in English, Tatiana's translator also read a bit from the French edition. Some of you may also already know that Tatiana has several blogs, one of which is her English-language blog, Fig Tree Franglais, on which she writes about recent experiences, musings and reflections, her travels, progress on her upcoming novel -- plus much more! Sarah's Key has been getting excellent reviews and has now been translated into 20 languages (if i'm not mistaken) -- and counting! I've been wanting to read it ever since I first read about it for the first time on Maîtresse's blog a few months ago. That's when I first discovered Tatiana's blog as well. Sarah's Key has a blog of its own, where you can read much more about the novel, updates on latest editions, press reviews, etc. And now I finally have a copy of my own, and a signed copy at that! Tatiana is just as lovely in person as on her blog, and I'm so pleased to have had an opportunity to meet her.

So, without further ado, feast your eyes on a few (the 6th, 7th and 8th!) lines from page 123:

"I leaned forward over the table.
'If I gave you an exact address, could you help me trace a family? A family that was arrested in Paris on 16 July 1942?'"

That was quite a hook there, wasn't it? I know I can't wait to read it... And if I can only make it through to the end of Atonement (whose page 123, coincidentally, I just read this morning -- another good one!), Sarah's Key will be my next long-anticipated novel to be read!

And just because, like Polly, I couldn't resist, I decided to share three lines from page 123 of the next novel in my pile, Nancy Huston's Lignes de faille, for my French-loving readers (which, incidentally, I have in the Babel livre de poche edition, and in fact the three requisite lines continue on the top of page 124 -- I love Actes sud's Babel collection and the highly "aerated" pages, but it's intriguing to note how few sentences fit on one page! And also to note the difference in authors' sentence length at this stage in the book...):

"Je mange mes corn-flakes le plus lentement possible parce que maman m'a interdit de quitter la table : 'On n'est pas chez nous, alors il faut être sage comme une image aujourd'hui, d'accord?' Mon regard volette de-ci de-là, j'ai l'impression d'être enfermé dans une espèce de maison de poupée. Partout où je pose les yeux : meubles et bibelots, coussins et napperons brodés, bols en cristal taillé, statuettes, photos et tableaux encadrés sur les murs couverts de papier peint à fleurs, chaque centimètre carré est occupé et décoré et je voudrais être une tortue Ninja pour donner des coups de pied de poing de bras à droite à gauche et m'en aller de là, vlan ! bing ! bang ! bong ! - ou, mieux encore, Superman : il suffit de lever le bras et on est propulsé dans les airs comme une fusée, le toit se déchire et on fonce à grande vitesse vers le ciel bleu limpide."

And now it's my turn to do some tagging: oh, let's see, who might be up for this? Tatiana, if you happen to stop by and have a moment, I'd love to know what you're going to be reading next. And let's also hear from Meredith at Poppy Fields, La Page Française, and my literary inspiration, Maîtresse!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fridge Fun

It's been a strange couple of weeks, and yet at the same time there's not a whole lot to tell. I've just been struggling with lots of fatigue, which I know is fairly normal, and at the same time I'm pretty much hungry all the time -- as a matter of fact, I sometimes surprise myself with the quantity of food I put down my throat on my own! Yesterday I ate a huge amount of pasta with some ground beef I had left to simmer in some tomato sauce with a shallot and some garlic... Along with a salad, half an avocado, and then a bowl of -- yes, that's right! -- Country Crisp chocolate granola cereal... Sheesh! I was a bit embarrassed, but luckily I was home on my own, so no one was there to chide me -- of course now that I've shared my lunch with the Internet, I guess it's no longer a secret!

Last weekend my boyfriend and I were in Le Havre once again, spending time with his father. I actually arrived late Saturday afternoon on the train and only spent that night and Sunday with them. The incredible thing is that I spent most of that whole weekend sleeping. I had a good night's sleep on Friday night, but was exhausted by noon on Saturday, when I found myself at les Halles shopping center with a friend, hoping to find something interesting at the maternity department of H&M. [Of course, I'm not really showing all that much yet, per se, but I can't seem to button up most of my pants, so I figure any day now my whole wardrobe is going to be useless -- hence the need for at least a few essentials. And I definitely don't want to have to spend a lot of money on new clothes for the next 6 months, so I'm hoping to find a few things used, secondhand, or through friends and colleagues. As a matter of fact, an absolutely wonderful colleague of mine has already loaned me an assortment of things that I'm keeping on hand for when the need arises. I would still like to treat myself to maybe a dress or two, and I'm going to need at least two pairs of pants to tide me over, but otherwise I plan on wearing some stretch sweaters and dresses as much as possible.]

By the time I got on the train at St. Lazare on Saturday, I could hardly stay awake, so I slept for almost the whole two hours. I fell into bed at about 11:00 that night, woke up around 9:30 the next morning, and then slept on and off all afternoon! A serious allergy attack knocked me out and made me feel even more exhausted, so for once my boyfriend actually prepared lunch (a lovely blanquette de veau -- I was impressed!) and I laid around relaxing. My boy was convinced I wouldn't sleep at all on Sunday night after all that snoozing in the afternoon, and even in the car on the way back to Paris, but believe it or not I slept through the night, like a -- baby. That's pretty much my life in a nutshell right now: sleep, eat, start all over again.

This weekend I was determined to get some things done around the apartment, make up for some lost time, especially since I haven't done any decent housecleaning in several -- gasp! -- weeks. Yeah, I know; I'm not very proud of that fact, but when you're away for most of the weekend and working during the week, it's hard to keep up with these things. Unfortunately, yesterday didn't start out so well when I had another ridiculous allergy attack, and I wish I could figure out what sets these things off -- it's got to be either the dust that is inevitable in our hardwood-floored apartment, or the chemicals in some of the cleaning products I use... Either way, apparently I'm super-sensitive to something. It all started as I was wiping up the sink in the kitchen. And it slowed me down for the rest of the day. In the end, I only managed to get one major project done: the deep-down-and-dirty cleaning of the inside of our refrigerator**, something that the pregnancy manuals and the on-line journals all tell you you're supposed to do once a month. Um, yeah. I can see that happening *cough, cough*.

I had just come back from the market, it was around 1:00, and I figured I'd have it done within the half hour... Well, little did I know that the allergy attack was going to cripple me a bit, and that digging everything out of the refrigerator, going through it to get rid of the far-too-ancient stuff, and then scrubbing down the inside of the fridge would take more than a half an hour. But in the end, when I finally finished the task, I couldn't help but feel proud of myself -- the inside of our fridge hasn't looked this spotless in two years!

I don't tend to leave stuff festering in there for ages or anything, but you know how it is: an old bottle of jam here, another half-full bottle of guacamole there -- well, some of that stuff just tends to get overlooked. (And I hate wasting...) Add to that the fact that I kept finding a puddle of water accumulated at the bottom of the refrigerator, under the vegetable bin, over the last few weeks... I would sponge it out and put back the vegetable basket, but then it would start all over again. I couldn't figure out for the life of me what was causing this, or where the water was coming from -- that is, until I saw that the hole in the back of the refrigerator where the water is supposed to drain was full of, er, goo. Can anyone tell me how this sort of thing happens? I'm sure you're probably all thinking I'm a complete slob, but I haven't the slightest idea how or when this gook got in the back of the fridge... I unplugged the draining hole as best I could, so here's hoping that the water puddles won't be back anytime soon.

After the fridge fun, I had my enormous lunch -- and then laid down for a two-hour nap. Talk about veering away from my initial plans for the day...

And this afternoon I haven't gotten a whole heck of a lot more done, aside from a few loads of laundry and some putzing around in the kitchen. I'm now gradually trying to use up everything inside of our freezer so I can attack another long-delayed task ASAP: the defrosting of the freezer and subsequent mopping out of that particular kitchen appliance! I had been planning on making a cream of mushroom soup for a few weeks now, and I finally dragged out the bag of frozen mushrooms that have been waiting to be simmered for soup. I knew that mushrooms tend to "shrink" after cooking, but the 300g I prepared in a pan didn't leave much for a meal, so I only managed to eke out two bowls' worth -- that I proceeded to scarf down with some toasted bread... There goes my plan for this week's worth of meals!

In any case, this is definitely not the most productive time for me, but I guess I'm just going to have to resign myself to the fact that it's only a period and that it shall soon pass... I'm also going to have to learn to be less hard on myself, because I'm so tired of the self-berating and guilt. It's always been much more important to me to spend time with my friends and family than keep the house spotless, so unfortunately I'll probably never live up to my mom's expectations in that department (much less in others -- but that's a story for another time!).

And in the meantime, here's to small victories! Like a nice clean fridge.

** I just have to make a note here of the fact that I received a phone call halfway through my fridge-scrubbing task: Jenn was checking in with me, and we ended up chatting away while I disinfected the refrigerator. She actually laughingly told me I should blog about this thoroughly exciting subject, so I had to share the fact that this particular blog post was brought to you courtesy of the Double Dog Blog Dare! (Ah, and you thought I wouldn't really do it!)