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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Book Review: The Round House, Louise Erdrich

My wife Jen passed this book on to me. It was one of her book club reads and they had all raved about it, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I also just noticed that it won the National Book Award for fiction.

Louise Erdrich is a member of a the Turtle Mountain band of the Chippewa tribe, whose reservation sits in north-central North Dakota. The novel takes place on the reservation and the characters are Native American, both of which (place and Native culture and family relationships) play central roles in the book.  

It seems to me that the greatest works of art are both innovative and accessible. The viewers/readers can lose themselves in a pleasurable experience, and yet are also pushed, challenged, and opened up. The Round House is such a work of art. 

The central incident in the book, that sets the plot tension and pervades the entire novel, is a tragedy that knows no racial or cultural boundaries. The characters respond to the incident through their own Native American cultural and family traditions, but the weight of larger American culture, which incredibly does not allow for justice in this situation, is felt heavily. The issue of justice is the central one for the main character, a 13 year old boy. 

On the other hand, the book is a page turner crime novel and is a pleasure to read. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Recent Listening: A Christmas Mix (with no Christmas music)

Here's a mix I've been putting together over the past couple of weeks, filled with music I've been listening to over the past month or so. I've been trying to broaden my horizons and listen to more than just rap. I've dabbled a bit in some end of the year lists to get inspiration, but also happened upon some of these in other ways, for example, I saw Jim James on Austin City Limits, and Rolling Stone magazine is always a good instigator of new tunes. Here's the mix

Recent Listening: A Christmas Mix, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, December 6, 2013

40

I turned 40 on December 5. I don't feel ready, to be honest; this birthday has hit me harder than any other. 

30 didn't phase me a bit, and as a decade, the 30's were one of building-up. 40, on the other hand, feels like a threshold, where some things I've treasured are changing, against my will; for example, my body is less youthful and resilient, and my children are steadily marching away toward independence. And I know that this process will accelerate. On the other hand, there's a noticeable softening that I embrace, and I think that I am enjoying life more.

Of course there's still much building to do, and I've constructed a good base upon which to build more. Several have said to me, "Life begins at 40." Well, only those over 40 say this, but I get it. At 40, you must accept a new reality and once you do, a new life begins.

There's still so much to love and do. 
  • At 30, I burned to establish myself in my career, and I knew what I needed to do. At 40, as a Full Professor, I just want to stay passionate about, and engaged in, my work, and I'm not sure how to do this or how things will unfold. I do know that I feel the need for new challenges.
  • At 30, my kids were little (6 and 3), and my duties as a father  and husband were basic: love, provide, and protect. At 40, my kids are big (16 and 13), and lately I'm wondering how to pay for their college, and also how to help them transition into an engaged and balanced adulthood.
  • At 30, I burned to live abroad. At 40, my focus has shifted, and I burn to reach as many summits as I can in our back yard wilderness areas: the Rattlesnake, Bitterroot, Bob Marshall Complex, Pintlers, and Glacier Park. 

Anyway, I say good-bye to the last decade and hello to the new. I don't know what's to come, but I relish the opportunity to live more life. And I feel an urgency, because the years are flying by.

Had a great 40th Bday party at Kadin's warehouse: drinks, DJ, and friends made for an awesome night.