12 January 2011

Read, Run, Repeat

I really didn’t intend this as a book review blog, and I’m sure the frenzied pace of reading will abate at some point in the near future, but I read another book over the weekend and thought I might as well not recommend it to you all. During my prowl through the Cezky Krumlov bookstore on New Year’s Eve, I decided to take a relatively big gamble on Dave Eggers, giving him two of five closely contested spots in my return flight stack-o-books. Honestly, I didn’t think it was such a gamble. I loved What is the What and everything else I knew about Eggers politically and personally. The man lives in Berkeley, wrote about Sudan before it was trendy, and started McSweeneys and a whole slew of storefront shops (including the pirate store!) to support kids’ writing endeavors. What’s not to love? Apparently, the answer is You Shall Know Our Velocity.

The hook for the book was good: two guys have a life-changing event and decide to go around the world and give away a substantial amount of money. The actual book was two guys going around the world doing incomprehensibly stupid things that made me alternate between cringing and raging. As an added bonus, it had pretty serious errors in both technical and substantive editing.

In trying to pin down why I disliked this book so much, I was tempted to think that I just don’t enjoy books with characters to whom I can’t relate or whose basic character traits I dislike. The more I think about that conclusion though, the less convinced I am. I adored Lolita, couldn’t get enough of Gatsby, and count a large number of dictator-driven plots among my favorites. I think that the book maybe just isn’t that good. Dave’s got another chance to come back with A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (which I’m told is much better), but I’m implementing a two-strikes policy on authors, so he’d better make it up to me.

In non-book news, there really isn’t that much news to report. I’ve been told that the key to making it through the boredom and frustrations of a place like this is to develop routines. For a bunch of reasons both good and bad, mine got upended toward the end of November and I’m now trying to re-establish them. I’ve been running most evenings at sunset, a nice little 5k course through Capitol Hill that takes me past all three branches of government. Tides, the local ex-pat bar/rooftop lounge, has started movie nights on Tuesdays, offering the closest thing Monrovia has to a movie theater. Even though the same pirated US movies are available – remarkably quickly – on bootlegs all over town, there’s something nice about watching a movie outdoors with a group of somewhat-similarly situated people.

If I manage to keep a Ministry car for the weekends, I try to make it to the beach on Sundays when everything in town is closed. If not, I’ve been using my wily charms to get into one of the pools at the fancier compounds in town. For better or for worse, I’m now keenly aware of my need for Vitamin D and whatever else it is that sunshine offers, and without any public parks in town, pools and the beach are the best options for getting my fill of sun. Sunday nights have a pretty regular poker game which is a great way to stave off the gloom of impending Mondays. Somewhere in the middle of all that, I walk to work and back (staying there for roughly 8 hours in between), cook a good deal, listen to a ridiculous amount of BBC World Service, and make my way through old TV series I missed the first time through. Despite many offers of friendship from random people on the street while I run (“Hello, please be my friend.” “Hello, can I know you?” “Marry me baby”), it’s a pretty lonely existence, but one to which I’m slowly becoming accustomed.

And when all else fails, there is more lapa to be procured and there are more dresses to be designed. Here’s one of the newest efforts (and the last picture taken on my camera before it was stolen last week):

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