Saturday, September 27, 2008

To read things that are whole, and beautiful, and sometimes heart wrenching.

To read them by myself among strangers—on a bus or on a train, or waiting for a bus, or waiting for a train—alone yet not alone. I do this everyday.

When I first came to Boston I was rereading the History of Love. (I first read it because of Sam Dickens). I needed to read something familiar, to be comforted by words that were not altogether new when everything else around me was. I carried that book with me everywhere, and felt braver somehow, and more like me, even on the days when I was lost. As I reread the words I remembered why they first touched me so deeply. It came down to the humanness of it, the text and its characters which seem so true and rich, because of their beauty but also their pain.

Most recently I finished East of Eden. I bought it one day when I was with Elizabeth and Max. Elizabeth told me how much she loves it, and I was sold. While this book broke my heart, and made me sob uncontrollably at the end, it also left me feeling inspired, in humanity and in general. She told me this would happen, and was right. Completely, completely right. I found the writing to be beautiful and compelling, which was none too surprising. The characters here are also so full and moving in their breadth. I loved Samuel and Lee for how kind they both were, and how compassionate, and how wise, but I loved Cal the most. I loved him for his personal discovery of something that William Jame's also knew and wrote about, that “the freedom of the will is true.”

I love the conversation Cal had with Lee, when this discovery was made, when he realized that he didn't have to be his mother. He didn't have to be mean like her, and even if he was mean, it would be his own mean, of his own choosing and making. Even in that meanness then, there is freedom. Its that principle of agency that allows us to not only be human but to become like God.

I love Abra for her warm personality and because she also struggles but makes choices to love, and care, and be genuine. I love that she and Cal both have a good and an evil, because their dual nature is what makes them normal--like humans and like me. And then there is Kate, who is portrayed as something less than human because she seems without a heart, but even still, Steinbeck is not without some measure of compassion. It was interesting as we learned how hurt Kate really was, as a child and even later, and thus how lonely and how afraid. It doesn't make the things she did better, but helps us understand, if only somewhat. I am immensely grateful that I read this book, and so grateful to Elizabeth for recommending it to me with such passion and ardor.

The next book that I have begun to read, but not yet tackle is No Country For Old Men. A gift given to me by Evan the day I left Provo. I have also read a few pages of another book recommended by Elizabeth called Drown. It's by one of her favorite authors: Junot Diaz. We heard him speak last Thursday at MIT, with her friend Lisa, who is now also my friend.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Boston is Beautiful and Other Observations.

For starters:
-The grass and trees are very green.
-The accent is not a myth.
-Dunkn' Donuts on every corner is also not a myth.
-It is muggy. Not all of the time, but sometimes.
-Everything is very small here and close together, everything meaning the buildings.
-Most of these buildings are fancy, including the 7-11's.
-The close proximity is made possible by Boston's complete lack of belief in parking lots.
-While most cities love their sports teams, Bostonians really, Really love the Red Sox.
-There are a multitude of bicyclists, and every one of them makes me jealous and/or really want to buy a bike here.
-Most of said bikers are wearing helmets, which is probably wise since the streets are narrow and the cars are fast.
-Traveling 3.7 miles is bound to take at least an hour, regardless of the mode of transportation.
-Boston does a marvelous job preserving and living with its history.
-My ward looks more like a BYU ward than my BYU ward.
-People are kind and helpful.

Things I like here:
-Max and Betty
-Veggie Planet
-Harvard Square
-The Brattle Theater
-the North End/bay
-the historical sites
-the delicious lemonade I had at Boston Common
-the museums
-The Boston Public Library (which looks like a museum)

Things I don't like here:
-the humidity
-what the humidity does to my already wildly curly hair
-being able to count the number of friends I have on one hand

Words that are starting to take on meaning:
-The T
-GSLIS (Graduate School of Library and Information Science)
-Reference Interview