Saw the midwife today. I was impressed by how thorough a physical she gave me: checked my heart and lungs, thyroid, reflexes, blood pressure (105/64), pulse, and the baby's heart rate (148bpm). Mr. Krapsnart got to hear it for the first time. It's not a sound I get tired of. Just over three weeks until the big anatomical ultrasound.
Nigella's Asian-spiced kedgeree was dinner tonight. Yum, yum, yum. I'd never cooked with lime leaves before. We have a big bag of them now, so I'll have to find some other recipes that use them.
I've been reading a lot lately. Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep, a novel about a bright middle-class girl who goes off to a hoity-toity boarding school in Massachusetts, hit a lot of nerves. Her descriptions of the campus, the alienation that the main character felt there, the intense and sometimes spectacularly failed friendships, the racial and especially class tensions: it all reminded me far too much of my own college experience. Sittenfeld is a very good writer with a knack for capturing the angst of a smart teenager who's a fish out of water no matter where she goes. I liked Prep a lot, even if it was awfully wrenching at times.
Another book I just finished was Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore. I've read all of Murakami's translated fiction and generally liked it a lot, but with this one (another tale of adolescent alienation, with a heavy dose of Japanese surrealism and general weirdness) I found myself rather baffled at the end. I know that the last scene with Hoshino was supposed to be the climax of the book, but I couldn't figure out what it represented. The weird, while satisfyingly meaningful and symbolic most of the time, too often seemed to me to be there for the sake of the weird. (I wonder whether a toke or two would help with this book. Can't test that theory right now, alas.)
Kate Taylor's Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen was marvellous. Historical fiction (in the form of Marcel Proust's mother's diaries) blended seamlessly with the stories of the diaries' translator and a French Holocaust escapee who grew up in Toronto. The book evokes very strong senses of place (especially this city, rewarding since I've been here for so long), and it is a bittersweet, poignant work about love and family and food and history and memory. Highly recommended.
I've just started Edward P. Jones's The Known World, more historical fiction set in nineteenth century Virginia. I can't read very much of it at a time, because I just get to shaking with anger about the whole idea of slavery. Reading about people working for years to put money away to buy their own children brings the true depravity of such a system home on a gut level. I keep thinking about my ancestor who fought for the Confederate Army, and I'm sure that many of my numerous North Carolina relatives must have kept slaves. So there's familial shame and good old lib'rull white guilt burbling up as well, for all the good they do. It would be easy to put this book down and just tuck all that rage and shame away again. But I'll keep reading, because I should know more about this stuff. Everyone should.
Finally, I picked up a copy of Ami McKay's new book The Birth House today -- the midwives were selling autographed copies. It's about a woman in rural nineteenth century Nova Scotia who is apprenticed to a midwife who dies just as a male obstetrician is moving into town and holding afternoon teas to explain why it's no longer necessary to endanger Our Children by letting unqualified women look after mothers during pregnancy and delivery. I suspect this one will have me foaming at the mouth as well. The more I read about the medicalization of birth for women with normal, low-risk pregnancies, the angrier I get about that, too.
Women are built to make babies and give birth to them. Most mothers don't need medical intervention. There are reams and reams of information passed down through generations of women about how our bodies work and how we can treat them well in order to bring about healthy outcomes (and babies).
I'm looking forward to learning more about midwifery so that I can learn more about social history as well. The Birth House should be a fascinating start.
In other news, Martha the cat is still impossibly cute.