December 03, 2011
"State of Wonder" — Ann Patchett
The remarkable main characters in "State of Wonder" — Dr. Annick Swenson, a physician who's "gone bush" such that she has become part and parcel of her research project on lifelong fertility among a tribe in the deep Amazon jungle; Dr. Marina Singh, once her resident, forced to leave her training program after a terrible surgical error, only to find herself after 13 years forcibly reunited with her former attending; and Easter, a deaf and dumb 12-year-old boy from a jungle tribe who, after being brought back from the brink of death by Dr. Swenson, has become Dr. Swenson's jack-of-all-trades assistant and general factotum.
The story, about the search for the key to the secret of extended fertility, is in and of itself compelling, moving back and forth from the bleeding edge drug company in Minnesota that's funding the basic research both in its own labs and in the Amazon.
It's hard to believe the author didn't spend an extended amount of time in the Amazon jungle, so realistic is her description.
The book starts out quite briskly and I was instantly absorbed, growing ever more so as the chapters (11 in all) passed.
What makes the novel great is that good as it is from the get-go, it keeps getting better and better until finally reaching a surprising climax that's completely unexpected yet, once you start to think about, quite plausible.
Even the secondary characters are expertly drawn, such that reading the book is almost a cinematic experience.
And again, the sense of verisimilitude in scenes set in the Amazon jungle, where the bulk of the book takes place, is just skin-crawlingly lifelike.
Below, the author reads from her book.
Below, an extended (over 26 minutes long) interview with the author.
Read the first six pages and a few others here (click on "First Pages").
Five more pages here (click on "Surprise Me!").
I cannot imagine how any movie that might be made from this book could possibly approach the level of the novel.
What is it?
Answer here this time tomorrow.
Hint: Not made of wax.
Another: Smaller than a bread box.
50 best songs of 2011 — listen to 'em all
Free, the way we like it.
Wrote Tyler Kane on Paste Magazine's choice for the #1 song (top), "If there was one track this year that made you question your place in the world, it was probably Fleet Foxes' 'Helplessness Blues.' Frontman Robin Pecknold's near-paranoid lyrics ask the big questions. The singer even touches on the meaning behind creating music itself in the loaded five-minute track backed by the band's breathtaking arrangement and harmonies."
Wrote Jane B Kulow regarding Paste's list, "There goes the day!"
Yes, this appeared here back in 2009 but last week another old jacket's main zipper pull finally gave up the ghost and snapped off in my hand, and I was able to find the one remaining from the set of two I bought back then and in a few seconds my zipper was once again smoothly functional.
Cheap at twice the price considering the headache in terms of time and money of taking a garment in for zipper repair.
Set of two: $3.99 (half the 2009 price).
Hillary Clinton's barefoot security detail
Above, a photo taken Thursday at the Shwedagon Pagoda, a Buddhist temple and one of Yangon, Myanmar's landmarks, during the secretary of state's first visit to the suddenly transforming nation.
Note that everyone is barefoot, including Mrs. Clinton but more remarkably her security detail, the two large men to her immediate left and the suited gentleman to her right facing the crowd behind her.
I strongly doubt they checked their weapons at the door.
Of interest is that Mrs. Clinton chose to go with bright red toenail polish
rather than coordinating her pedicure with her outfit.
ChillBall — It's not what you think
"ChillBall keeps wine chilled without watering it down."
That IS what you thought?
From the website:
Not only does it keep a glass of white or rosé wine at perfect serving temperature, but also a clever clip keeps the frozen orb securely in place at the bottom of your wine glass.
Frozen ChillBalls won't affect flavor, float to the top to interfere with drinking or dilute wine like a melting ice cube.
The non-toxic gel inside provides the longest chill possible and allows ChillBalls to be washed in hot water and reused over and over.
Set includes 6 ChillBalls, 4 medium clips, 4 large clips and tray/case.
SmallParts.com — "The hardware store for researchers and developers"
Oddball stuff 'R us — he came to the right place fer shur.
Keep Calm and Carry On Pencil Tin
"Inspired by a 1939 WWII poster commissioned by King George VI."
$10.95 (includes 12 full-size pencils).