#10: Books

"It’s left them unable to properly tabulate risk."

Lol the last time I wrote one of these was July 28. It’s been a year, as we all know. I miraculously started a new job, which I’ve already been at for six months, and which makes a fine excuse for letting other projects fall by the wayside. But also, the last nine months have been… you know.

I just took a week off in which I read a ton of books and finished two crafting projects and that in itself feels like a victory since earlier this year I couldn’t focus on a single thing. Pandemic brain. I remember deciding to read Crazy Rich Asians in the spring, thinking it would be mindless and easy to zoom through while I was worried about other things, and it took me three months to read.

For whatever reason, when I’m in the midst of turmoil, internal or global, I always want to read and watch real fucked up shit. In the past months I’ve read:

Sleep Donation by Karen Russell — A weirdly relevant novella about a pandemic (of insomnia) which some people this is “fake” and which other people try to sell weird snake-oil cures for.

The Bitch by by Pilar Quintana — A really brutal allegory, recently translated from Spanish, about a Colombian woman who takes in a stray puppy as a stand-in for the child she can not have. Absolutely brutal. But beautiful.

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi — This isn’t just a book about a weird, manipulative drama teacher with unconventional relationships to his gifted high school students. It’s also, as the title hints, a lesson in unreliable narrators, and I loved it. Bonus points for Houstonians: matching the characters in the book to ones in the real-life Houston art scene.

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam — Extremely tense, weirdly dissatisfying, and full of body horror. But I still liked it! It’s poar6tially a book about hunkering — remember in the early days of the pandemic when we all coped by making sourdough? These characters make boxed cakes instead, and lots and lotssss of cocktails. But its also about becoming inured to disaster, as this New Yorker review sums it up well.

“Part of the problem is that these people aren’t just used to comfort; they’re used to crisis, and it’s left them unable to properly tabulate risk.”

What about you? What have you been reading, doing, making to cope with these nine-months-into-a-disaster days? Have you read any of the books above? If so, let’s talk about them. Got any other fucked up shit to recommend? I also like The Pisces, Severance, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, which I read last year. Recommend me something!

Galveston Resilience Flag

This holiday, I am thinking of buying myself a Galveston Resilience Flag. Not only is it a good-looking flag, it is also rich with meaning. Plus, we all need a little resilience right now.

The Galveston Resilience Flag draws upon key pieces of Galveston’s geography and history.

A lone star, the central piece of the flag, not only denotes the State of Texas but draws from the Galveston City Company logo of 1838. The formation of the Galveston City Company was one of the earliest official steps of the formation of the City of Galveston.

The star also honors the Juneteenth flag. Juneteenth celebrates the June 19th, 1865 delivery of General Order No. 3 by General Gordon Granger, which announced the total emancipation of those held as slaves.

Colors featured on the flag are inspired by Victorian paint palettes and early Sanborn Insurance Maps of Galveston, with an obvious reference to the contrast between water and land.

The division line symbolizes both Seawall’s barrier between water and land as well as the building up of the island during the post-1900 grade-raising. It also references the unique angle and shape of the island as contrasted against the coastline.

This is from this summer but I don’t care

Tiny treehouse for your houseplants

I’ve bought a few things from Amsterdam-based Botanopia, but how cute is this little model-metal treehouse and rope ladder? There is also a park scene, a teeny birdhouse, and lots of other cool goodies on the site.

Coming of Age in the Third Ward

I always knew that I wanted to be able to give my own children that same self-awareness and dignity that was given to me, especially in times such as these. When my wife and I started looking for a home three years ago, Third Ward was the only place I could imagine living. When we talked about having children, I could not think of a better place to raise them. The day we bought our house in the Ward was one of the proudest days of my life. Then the video of Floyd surfaced last June.

Hue Shift

A post shared by Brittanie Shey (@brittanie.shey.makes)

Finally, I started an Instagram for photos of my needlework and other handmade things. As I wrote before, knitting is one of the ways I’ve been self-soothing during this strange, long year. Last I wrote, I had just stared the Hue Shift blanket from Knit Picks. Now, I’m nearly finished, hopefully by the end of the year. It feels good to have an endgame in sight.

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