The New Reacher is Nigh.

Today is September 4. This means that we’re T minus four days from the tentatively scheduled release of Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher novel, Make Me.

You regulars here know how I feel about Reacher.

Last summer, I so eagerly counted down the days until 2014’s new Reacher novel appeared in stores that its release seemed almost anti-climactic, though admittedly this may have been related to the fact that we were frantically preparing to move. We moved almost immediately after I picked up Personal. It was the end of August, and I had very little time for reading in the month of September, as unpacking consumed the entire month. (We’ve been in our house for a year now? What?!)

Non-stop domestic activity kept me from such tantalizing pursuits as pulpy reading, but even when I did find time to open the book, moving-fatigue dulled the experience. I remember reading two pages at a time before passing out late at night, and that was only once or twice a week, if that. I was tired, busy, distracted. I finished Personal with little enthusiasm, and I may have mentioned to Callaghan that the story seemed somewhat… reduced to its formula. I liked Personal, sure, but it just didn’t thrill me. Again, I’m not sure it wouldn’t have been different had life been routine and uneventful at the time.

This year, though? The cells in the part of my brain responsible for escapism have been salivating since I read the synopsis for the 20th Jack Reacher novel. Methinks that Make Me will be a super intense ride, and life circumstances right now are ripe for it!

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-LeeChildMakeMe

 

In honor of Reacher’s return, I present the reappearance of Callaghan’s drawing of Reacher (this is becoming an annual tradition):

 

Callaghan's drawing of Jack Reacher, as described in the novels.

Callaghan’s drawing of Jack Reacher, as described in the novels.

 

So let’s raise our glasses, fellow Reacher fans, because may we all remember that blond, blue-eyed, NOT-handsome, NOT-glib, super tough, tall and inhumanly strong BADASS Reacher would toast us with a whole pot of coffee. We’d say, Tchin! with respect to his French mother… but Reacher would say nothing.

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The First-World Problems of an English Major.

A fact of life: One never knows how many Stephen King books one owns until one moves. And yes, “Stephen King” is an adjective.

Decent progress has been made in the unpacking arena. I’ve now arrived at the books part of it, and… and nothing. I’ve just arrived. And I’ve taken the books out of the boxes – go me! But that’s where my victory dance ends, because now I have to decide how to sort all the books, and for some reason, I’m overwhelmed.

Well, I know why. It’s because this move is the last move for the foreseeable future; as far as I’m concerned, this abode is the forever abode, so my OCD-tendency-leaning self won’t let me get away with shoving books on the shelves every which way “because we’re going to move one day anyway” anymore.

I’ve carried books around with me all of my life. Over the years, I’ve sold, traded, donated and given away hundreds of books. I’ve lost some; I’ve “lent” some. But somehow, I still always move with at least ten good-size boxes of books.  My current collection includes some that I’d left in France (a pile of Shakespeare and some Russian lit, some of them duplicates, mysteriously enough) in my attempt to bring down the weight of our overseas shipping, and I have a small stack set aside for a garage sale we’re planning in the upcoming weeks. Still, I’m now confronted by piles like this:

 

Book piles in the living room.

Book piles in the living room.

 

And this:

 

Piles of books on the desk in the guest bedroom.

Piles of books on the desk in the guest bedroom.

 

And that’s not all of it. I also have a pile of books about Buddhism/eastern philosophy beneath the Butsudan, a pile of cookbooks tucked away in the kitchen, a pile of random books on the big bookcase in the dining area and a smattering of books in my office. And these are all just my books we’re talking about… Callaghan, too, has lots of books in his office.

This is what the inside of my mind looks like when I’m standing before these books:

Should I group them by century? Should I separate the American lit from the British lit? Should I separate them by century and group the Americans and Brits within the centuries? Should I group all the anthologies together, or should I put the poetry anthologies in the poetry section? Should I mix the pocket-size books with the trade paper and hardcover books? If I lump all the pocketbooks together, should I organize them by genre, or alphabetically by author, or both? Should I categorize the books by genre, only? Should I nest genres within nationalities within centuries (i.e. 19th-century British Romantics)? Should I mesh poetry and prose within those groupings, or should I keep poetry and prose separate? And which groups should I position where in the bookcase? Should I group the Russian lit alongside the British lit alongside the American lit, or would the Russian lit make more sense neighboring the philosophy section? Should I line the entire top of the bookshelves with poetry volumes, using them to bridge the two? Should I shelve the poets in alphabetical order? How should I organize the poetry… by era, or by style? If the era and style are inseparable (as with the confessionalists, the post-modern poets, the New York School, the avant-garde imagists, the Black Mountain poets, etc.), should I attempt to merge all the books similarly? What about my textbooks and essays about poetry and prose… should I put them with their authors, or in a category of their own? Should I put the surrealism section next to the magical realism section, or should I put the surrealists next to the poets? Should I put the biographies and autobiographies of poets and authors with the books those poets and authors have authored, or should I make a separate category for biographies and autobiographies? What about the smaller sections like classical Greek lit, medieval lit and non-Shakespearean drama? Should I separate Shakespeare’s poetry from his dramas, or keep them all together in the Elizabethan section? (Would it be weirder to have a poetry section without Shakespeare’s poems, or to have a Shakespeare section without his poems?) What about the contemporary literature? The non-fiction? Should I separate the political non-fiction from the general non-fiction? What about creative non-fiction? What about my western religious texts? The feminist texts? Should I group my books in French together, separate from the books in English, or should I merge them?

Etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

I’ve been staring at these piles of books for a few days now.

I’ve already decided to put reference books and instructional books, including all of my French grammar books and dictionaries, in the big bookshelf in the dining area.

I’m hoping that somehow, my collections of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, Stephen King, Lee Child, J.K. Rowling, Anne Rice and the like, along with random other books, will all fit in the tall, narrow bookcase in the guest bedroom. I like the idea of stocking that room with brain candy for visitors who are on vacation (Callaghan’s going to add some books in French for our visitors from France).

None of these considerations came into play in the apartment we’d just vacated. I knew it was temporary, so I created double rows of books in some parts and didn’t care that the ones in the back rows weren’t visible. In this house, though, I want to be able to see every single book, and I want to be able to find books easily. In the past, I’d typically arranged books alphabetically, by author. I’m craving that level of organization in my life again because I’m craving rootedness. I feel like if my books are in order, then my life will be in order. When I was a kid in grade school, some of my friends used to tease me about my reading, saying, Kristi’s going to turn into a book! Maybe that’s finally happened.

On that note, I’m off to spend the day away from the office, going to appointments, seeing people, running errands, and so on. Happy Friday, All!

Little Ranch House in the Desert

In my “July Favorites” post (that seems all too recent), I mentioned an on-going adventure that consumed the month. It actually started on the last weekend of June, and the situation changed so frequently from the very start that we just decided not to mention it until the end. That brings us to today. We’re moving!

No need for alarm. We’re only moving down the street this time. Heheh.

We loved our apartment, truly. It was peaceful, and we appreciated the unfettered feeling of renting rather than owning our living space. Having lived in many apartments and owned properties in the past, I’ve always felt more comfortable as a renter than as a homeowner. But over the last few months, several compelling reasons to reconsider welled up.

One, we needed more space. Callaghan used the larger of the apartment’s two bedrooms for his studio, but still, the room overflowed with the accoutrements of his multifaceted craft… plus, we also had to use that space for storage, making it even more cramped.

Two, we weren’t properly set up to host guests, and when your guests mostly come from Europe for longer stays, that’s a big deal. Two of our visitors from France slept on an air mattress we put in the middle of said cramped studio room at night, which wasn’t very comfortable for anyone, and the third – a couple and their daughter – stayed in a hotel (yet somehow, they were the ones who accidentally saw me naked).

Three, I didn’t have an office, and I had been sorely feeling that lack of a dedicated writing space. Obviously, I can survive without one, but I just reached some kind of limit after several years of officelessness. I needed that room of one’s own, to echo Virginia Woolf. Since 2010, I’ve been carving out little office spaces for myself here and there by placing a small desk in the corner of a crowded room, usually the bedroom. I longed for an office again.

Four, nearing the end of our apartment lease, we discovered that our rent would be raised upon re-signing. We had to make a decision.

All of this led to the final thing (and the catalyst for everything) that happened: I was half-joking around one night at the end of June when I filled out a form online. Next thing we knew, we were swept into the eye of the house-hunting storm that defined the months of July and August.

It’s a good time to buy, and looking for a house was fun. The twists and turns of our search initially took us out of our preferred area, but eventually, a house right down the street from our apartment appeared on the market. It happened at precisely the right time, and it happened that we both loved it at first sight, and it happened that our inspector found it to be in excellent condition (unlike the previous house we’d almost committed to buying).

Built in 1958, the house is your standard four-bedroom/two-bathroom ranch-style abode so common here out west. It has everything we need, and nothing we don’t. It was critical to us that we didn’t get more house than we absolutely needed. Most importantly, its location is ideal. The appraiser recorded the house as being situated “1.5 miles from the center of the ASU campus, in a highly sought after area of old town Tempe,” and that’s exactly where we wanted to be.

 

Little Ranch House in the Desert

Little Ranch House in the Desert

 

The house-buying process was almost complete when the universe, in a flamboyant move to confirm our decision – just in case we were having doubts! – hurtled a spectacular monsoon into our apartment neighborhood, knocking out our power, taking down trees and permanently altering the botanical composition in front of our balcony. It’s still lush and green out there, but suddenly, the tree house effect that had so captivated us in the apartment was gone! We were sad for the destruction of the trees on our street, but it was a magnificent storm.

 

Our apartment is the in the upper left....

Our apartment is the in the upper left….

 

The storm made quite an impact on our street!

The storm made quite an impact on our street!

 

I don't think anyone was hurt, though.

I don’t think anyone was hurt, though.

 

It was the one good storm of the season.

It was the one good storm of the season.

 

We got the keys last night, and this weekend will be all about the move. It is, in fact, happening, and I’ll be so glad when it’s over and we’re unpacked and organized! I’ve been fantasizing about an organized life with a place for everything for years, it seems. It’s amazing. I’ll have an office, and Callaghan will have a studio that’s just a studio, and visitors will have a guest bedroom and bathroom, and Ronnie James and Nounours will have lots of running-around space, and there will be no shortage of storage space, either.

So, that’s the story behind this latest move into this latest dwelling, which we see as being a Very Long-Term Situation. It’s sweet. It’s a sweet little house, and we’re grateful to have gotten it. We got lucky, is what we got.

Happy Friday!

“A Room of One’s Own”

I return with pictures! As I’d gleefully noted before, my books are up, which means I once again have, as Virginia Woolf would say, “a room of my own.” It’s such a simple thing, but it makes all the difference. After being away for over two years, I’m feeling truly at home again, and I’m grateful for it; my office is our living room, and it’s like a big cozy library. All the relics are here… the Chagall prints I’d scrounged from a dusty pile in that thrift store in West Germany almost twenty-five years ago, just before The Wall came down, and also from West Germany, the iron dragon candlestick found on a stroll through a street fair on a cold wintry night. My brother’s old Six Million Dollar Man thermos (c. 1974) and the white porcelain cat a friend gave me when I was sixteen. The fresh flowers, childrens’ books and pocketbook-size literature and pulp fiction in the dark bookcase by my desk, and, on the other side of the room, the bulk of my book collection awaiting detailed organization in the larger bookcases. The butsudan my Grandfather refurbished for me before he died. The candlestick a beloved friend sent from France. And so on.

 

My desk...

My desk…

 

 

...with the old Chagall prints

…with the old Chagall prints

 

 

Looking over my shoulder, I see the bulk of my book collection in the cases against the opposite wall

Looking over my shoulder, I see the bulk of my book collection in the cases against the opposite wall

 

 

The typical array of candles, framed photos and knick-knacks lining the top shelf, and some art made by friends.

The typical array of candles, framed photos and knick-knacks lining the top shelf, and some art made by friends.

 

Corner detail by the butsudan.... I positioned the clock so we'd have a reflection of the time in the mirror.

Corner detail by the butsudan…. I positioned the clock so we’d have a reflection of the time in the mirror.

 

 

So this is our living room. We’ve clustered our loveseat, ottoman and my beat-up old German trunk (serving as a coffee table, as usual) under the window on the wall between the two sides of the room.  Callaghan’s all set up, too… he’s got the larger of our two bedrooms for his art studio, and it’s perfect for him.

In other news, I can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving week already!

Return to the Land of AZ

We are here! And as of yesterday afternoon, we have internet! Once again, we’re surrounded by boxes, and this time we’re unpacking every last one of them.

We left Austin early on Friday morning, dragging our ponderous beast of a rented trailer behind us as we drove west. An unexpectedly odd sensation: 13 hours later, we were somehow still in Texas. At the half-way point, very late at night, we stopped to sleep for a few hours at a motel. We were still in Texas! It’s not even like we left from the eastern border; Austin is in central Texas. Come to find out it’s one thing to look at a map and note the area of the state compared to other states, but it’s something else entirely to take in its vastness on the road. It seemed that we drove and drove and drove, and we were still there! Under the overcast sky, it almost felt like being in the twilight zone. But we took in some charming little towns on our way out – Fredericksburg, for one (must go back for a proper visit!) – and enjoyed seeing as much of Texas as we could until the sun went down.

The next day, right on cue, the sky turned bright blue and sunny when we reached the actual southwest. It was like we entered New Mexico under a party of sunbeams, and when we crossed the border into Arizona, the broad desert sky was like a gorgeous, familiar embrace.

 

Heading west on a Texas country road

Heading west on a Texas country road

 

In Fredericksburg, Texas

In Fredericksburg, Texas

 

Entering New Mexico!

Entering New Mexico!

 

We had to stop and do the touristy thing and get New Mexico t-shirts. And then I had to take a picture in the truck. This is me in the middle of a long road trip on just a few hours of sleep... in a New Mexico t-shirt.

We had to stop and do the touristy thing and get New Mexico t-shirts. And then I had to take a picture in the truck. This is me in the middle of a long road trip on just a few hours of sleep… in a New Mexico t-shirt.

 

Back home in the desert!

Back home in the desert!

 

Entering Arizona, at last!

Entering Arizona, at last!

 

Basking in it... and here's Callaghan's New Mexico t-shirt.

Basking in it… and here’s Callaghan’s New Mexico t-shirt.

 

Arizona - the prettiest flag in the States, in my opinion!

Arizona – the prettiest flag in the States, in my opinion!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Mess with Texas!

I was sorry to be MIA here on Monday – the schedule this week went off the rails into the great abyss of move preparation. We’re within three days of moving. We’re not overwhelmed, since we’ve been going at a pretty good pace, but each remaining moment will definitely count toward getting everything packed up and squared away.

I wanted to give a huge, hearty shout-out and “thank you” to Texas for being fantastic! When we got here we couldn’t predict we’d cut our one-year-then-we’ll-see plan short and only stay four months, but we did what we wanted to do… we went with the flow and enjoyed Texas while we were here. We spent the four months of summer in exactly the right place, and it proved to be an amazing time.

 

A little keychain souvenir

A little keychain souvenir

 

Texas is great for many reasons. Here are just a few highlights, things we especially appreciate:

–The people here are friendly, warm and big-hearted. They have an easy way of making one feel at home, and they’re genuine people. Good people. In three words, Texans are awesome.

–The service everywhere is outstanding. Texans know hospitality!

–It’s easy to live here… the cost of living (in Austin, anyway) is very reasonable.

–We’ve had nothing but solid, good experiences with the public transportation system here. There’s a convenient network of buses that take you everywhere you want to go, which includes buses that run late at night. Also, we’ve noticed that the freeways here are never too jammed (compared to, say, California).

–Austin is a good time! It’s interesting just by virtue of the fact that it’s the state capitol. There’s the capitol, itself, and there are many museums to explore.

–We’ll never forget the bats under the bridge, and with the Colorado River here in town and our fossil-hunting family adventure up north by Dallas and the countryside in between, we got to enjoy some sides of nature we’ve never seen before.

 

And the t-shirt, of course

And the t-shirt, of course

 

So the next few days will flash by, and then, like the Ingalls’, we’ll pack up our covered wagon (well, a U-Haul trailer attached to the back of our truck) and head west.

Happy Trails, y’all!