You might hear that some guy you know is having a party, so you call him up, but he says there’s no party. But then you call back, using a different voice, and suddenly there is a party.
One day, you ask people to take a look at a skin rash you have. Then, a few days later, you’re looking at theirrashes. You send someone a death threat and then, mysteriously, the police come to your house and threaten you.
Maybe you find a nice flat pebble on a riverbank, and when you pick it up and throw it it skips across the water several times. But then the next pebble you can’t even pry loose because, what is this, glue mud? You notice an ant drifting away on a leaf in the water. Then you look up to see your aunt drifting away in a rowboat.
Eventually, I believe, everything evens out. Long ago, an asteroid hit our planet and killed our dinosaurs. But, in the future, maybe we’ll go to another planet and kill their dinosaurs.
Even in the afterlife things probably even out, although I can’t imagine how.
Still don’t believe that things even out? Try this simple test: flip a coin, over and over again, calling out “Heads!” or “Tails!” after each flip. Half the time people will ask you to please stop.
Once you realize that things even out, it’s like a light being turned on in your head, then being turned off, then being turned to “dim.”
Probably the perfect example of things evening out happened to me just last month. I was walking to the post office to mail a death threat. It was a beautiful day. I was happily singing away in my super-loud singing voice. I didn’t step on any chewing gum, like I usually do, and when I threw my gum down it didn’t stick to my fingertips. As I rounded the corner, there was a bum begging for change. I was feeling pretty good, so I gave him a five-dollar bill. At first I tried to make him do a little dance for the five dollars, but he wouldn’t do it, so I gave him the five dollars anyway.
Not long after that, I was reading the paper, and there was a picture of the bum. He had won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry! He had a little bigger nose and straighter teeth, but I’m pretty sure it was him. So, my five dollars had made him change his ways and become a chemistry guy.
A few days later, I was walking by the corner again, and there was the bum, back begging. So, things had evened out. He had gotten the Nobel Prize, but now he was a bum again. I asked him for the five dollars back, but he started saying weird stuff that I guess was chemistry formulas or something.
I told my friend Don the story, but he said it wasn’t an example of things evening out so much as just a stupid story. That’s interesting, Don, because you saying that evens out what I said to your mother that time.
I have a lot of stories about things evening out, but I think the one about the Nobel Prize-winning bum is the best. I’d say it would take about three of my other stories to even out that one. ♦
The Devil’s Teeth Susan Casey
This book freaked my freak in more ways than one. A. It’s about great white sharks and how awesome they are, a subject that is exceedingly interesting B. It is set on some islands that are only 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco, which just turns out to be the “best place in the world” to study great whites C. It’s written by a woman journalist who apparently totally rocks and manages to become so obsessed with these sharks that she ends of making some extremely questionable decisions in terms of her safety and that of others, and don’t we all love it when other people go a little nuts and risk their lives? D. more than 3/4 of the people mentioned in this book are categorized in the vein of “hot biologist” which is just a category that I would like to see more of. Did I mention that these sharks are HUGE and that they bite things?
American Gods Neil Gaiman
This book is kind of spooky like Lake Wobegon meets ancient gods driving taxis and living in broken down apartment buildings. Since we’re getting all pro-America lately I thought this was appropriate as this book makes me want to take a road trip and remember what it means to live in this country in the first place.
Then We Came To The End Joshua Ferris
I liked this book. I picked it up at the library because A. I’m drawn to brightly colored book covers B. it was supposed to be a story concerning the lives and deaths of employees in a Chicago ad agency and that appealed to my current status as quasi business person and also it was shortlisted for best book of the year by several reliable publications. This book was very enjoyable and not at all hard to get into. I was impressed that this is the author’s first novel, and he managed to pull off an anonymous “we” point of view, which must have posed some problems. I appreciated the characters whose complications made them both realistic and unnerving as people tend to be. And I really liked how every time it seemed that we were about to be taught a lesson or delivered a take home point Ferris takes the conversation in a different direction. There are no easy outs in this book and no ready answers, and the last sentence is simply genius.
The Boys of My Youth Jo Ann Beard
This is a collection of creative non-fiction writing mostly about the author’s rural youth. Something that perhaps some of us can relate to. The stories are excellently written, if a little meandering, but if nothing else read the one called “The Fourth State of Matter.” That is probably one of the most well put together pieces of writing I have come across. Seriously, at the end you’ll be all like, “Woah.” Nice stuff.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics Marisha Pessl
I read this last year and the more I think about it the more I love it. The writing style is a little hard to get into at first, but I just fell in love with the main character, Blue VanMeer. It also contains one of my favorite pieces of advice, “Whatever happens look like you’re having a Christ experience.” Right?
Cat’s Cradle Kurt Vonnegut
This book clearly rocks. The more I read it the more I realize that it is absolute genius. I am hopelessly in love with Vonnegut, and when I was on the East Coast several years ago I entertained some elaborate fantasies of “happening” upon him in Cape Cod, and being adopted or something. Regardless of that, not a word in this book is wasted. Each chapter is somehow both complete on its own and seamlessly meshed with the others to form the whole. The pitfalls of the apocalypse have never been so familiar.
The Sirens of Titan Kurt Vonnegut
That said, this is probably my favorite of his books. Vonnegut manages to be an incredible observer of the ridiculousness of human behavior without sliding into abject cynicism. His satire is warm, human, and familiar. This book is totally insane and absolutely wonderful.
The Turn of the Screw Henry James
I like ambiguously scary stories. Is the nanny crazy or are the kids demons? You have your opinion, but you leave the book with the sense that you will never really know.
Total Eclipse Annie Dillard
I heard about Annie Dillard for the first time last year when I was assigned to read her book The Living about the first white settlers of the Bellingham area. After also reading The Maytrees I can’t say that I’m in love with her fiction stuff, but her creative non-fiction is very enjoyable. This short essay will make you stop and stare kind of like you would in the presence of an actual eclipse. Subtly terrifying on a grand scale.
The Sparrow Mary Doria Russell
Good book. Really accessible science fiction, with great characters, and a meaningful story. I did not want this one to end, although I can’t necessarily recommend the sequel, which did not leave me with the same magical feeling.
The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger
This is just a great love story. Part of the appeal is that you fall unapologetically in love with Henry the time traveling librarian. Part of the appeal is that it is just totally awesome. I haven’t met anyone who has read this book who hasn’t loved it.
Native Tongue Carl Hiaasen
Carl Hiaasen writes about Florida, a state whose magic begs to be explored before it is totally taken over by pre-fab communities with names like Wild Oak Springs.
Options: The Secret Life of Steve Jobs Fake Steve Jobs
Growing up with my dad who has loved Macs since before they were cool, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for that little apple. This book reads like the private journal of Steve Jobs, a narcissistic genius obsessed with the combination of clear and white plastic. Pretty funny actually.
I Want A New Gun David Lerner
I know it is totally cliche for someone my age and living in San Francisco to like this guy, but like Bukowski, maybe it’s because there’s just something about the grimy glitter of youth that needs to be remembered over and over so we don’t shrivel up into our cubicles and die. Here is a sample:
from Mein Kampf