Books, Writing, Cameras, and Squirrels

I have been reading a book called The Portable Veblen. I bought it when I was called to Federal jury duty and all the information given said no electronic gadgets would be allowed in the courthouse, including mobile phones. Oy, that would have been bad. But I escaped quite neatly through a series of phone calls where a recorded message told me I was not selected. I think this may be attributable to my term of service being in Holy Week and Easter Week, or one or the other weeks of Spring Break. Lucky me. I did serve on a jury 15 years ago but relating that would be a whole other blog. Meanwhile, back to the Portable Veblen.

DSCN4201

The Portable Veblen: Cover with squirrel. ย I bet Boomdee knows this guy.

Thorstein Veblen, if you do not know who he was, wrote The Theory of the Leisure Class, among other things, and coined the term ‘conspicuous consumption’ during the 1880s in the US, also known as the Gilded Age, a time of industrial change, robber barons, and … well … conspicuous consumption. If you can let go of the language, The Theory of the Leisure Class is as pertinent today as it was when Veblen wrote it.

DSC_0002

Celi at the Kitchens Gardenย  challenged her followers (the Fellowship) to photograph the places they write. Here is one of mine, badly photographed with my new camera.

But that, again is a bit beside the point. The main character of this comic novel is named Veblen, yes, after Thorstein. It is a novel with large scale medical fraud, veterans with traumatic brain injury, veterans in comas, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and profiteers, flawed families, a romance, and a prophetic squirrel.

DSC_0005

Sometimes I write here as well. Yes, that is my new bicycle pump on the right.

I’m not sure where to begin. Veblen and Paul meet in a lab of a major university shortly before he leaves to go work for a pharmaceutical company. They go down the road of romance and are soon living mostly together at her tiny restored cottage with a squirrel living in the attic. This book details the fears and adjustments everyone makes when introducing each other’s families (with that maddening acceptance of the weirdness that one never expects) and adjusting to all the ways that those families shaped the beloved.

DSCN4204

Because my trusty point and shoot camera has a lens scratch and because I would like to be able to photograph more, I purchased this last week.

Some of the jacket blurbs mentioned dysfunctional families, which is really a bit overused. Veblen and Paul’s families are not much different than many of my friends’ families. I mean, this isn’t Rebecca, for heaven’s sake; no mad people locked in attics (well, there is Veblen’s father, but he doesn’t seem much more crazy than her mother, who is not in care). Have you ever told someone something awful about your family that had been bothering you and heard, “Oh yeah, my (sister, brother, mother, father) has been (mooching money, doing drugs, off his/her meds, refusing to speak to x)” so that you realize oh holy smokes, this is the human condition?

DSCN4202

Have a look at these! People liked this.

But then there’s the squirrel. It talks to Veblen. Telepathically, I think. Eventually, it talks to Paul as well. And he is not someone you would expect to receive communications from a squirrel. Veblen knows a lot about great squirrel migrations across North America. We all have our quirks, and that is one of the points here, I think: the process by which we accept the other, the beloved, and embrace him or her entirely.

DSC_0004

I think moss was mentioned as being in the woods near Veblen’s cottage. This is outside my dining room window. Taken with the new camera.

This is a flawed book, but some of its insights about romance and human relations are stunning and subtle. It also has a lot to say about status, industry, and ethics. I can see myself in a year seeing a new book and thinking “Elizabeth McKenzie. She wrote The Portable Veblen. Hmm. I should try this one too.” Maybe you should as well. Try this one, that is.

DSCN4203

Because spring is so long coming, I bought tulips for the house this week. Taken with the old camera.

This entry was posted in Community and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

49 Responses to Books, Writing, Cameras, and Squirrels

  1. reocochran says:

    I love how you take the book and show us real life examples of the details. I like the sound of the book but wonder about the quirky squirrel sending messages or “talking” to character. Hmmm. I enjoyed your thought processes and someday if I see this book on the “Staff Suggests” shelf at the library, I will take it as a “sign” and read it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    The book sounds intriguing, esp. the telepathic squirrel. And a new camera – very exciting. Looking forward to seeing what it can do!

    Like

  3. Sylvie G says:

    I am looking forward to seeing the shots with the new camera and now I am on my way to find a telepathic squirrel.

    Like

  4. Love to see such a cleared desk for writing! And cameras are like microwaves – once you learn to do one thing with them it’s all they get used for!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh my…what a neat writing desk! (or did you spiff it up for the photo :-)…) I’ve never been able to write facing a blank wall, so I do like your dining room table as a place to write, with the space and the windows.
    And how I love those tulips! Since they are not growing around here yet, and I’m not able to get out to buy some, I appreciate virtual ones. I once grew a whole bed of orange tulips interspersed with blue grape hyacinths..a view that took my breath away. ( I think one of my previous lives was during the Dutch Golden Age of tulipomania). Did you use your old camera to take the shot of your new camera? I bet you’re going to have fun with that new one!

    Like

    • arlingwoman says:

      I didn’t spiff it up. Living in a small apartment takes a certain amount of discipline if it is to remain spacious–kind of like a boat. I don’t even think about it much any more, just put things away. Not that it doesn’t occasionally get cluttered with magazines and papers…
      I love tulips and bulb flowers as well. On my walk to the Metro from work, there are great swaths of multi-colored tulips and every day I just take them all in. I completely understand your love of them. They seem quite solid with promise.
      I think I’ll be using both cameras for some time and the small one for anything that requires toting and quick reflexes. In last weeks blue jay picture, the foggy bit at the top is evidence of the scratch. It doesn’t always show up, depending on framing.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I think I may have said this to you before, but in case I said it to someone else ….. I admire people who buy cameras that look as if they could fly you to the moon and back and probably cook your dinner on the way. It’s not a thing I have any talent, ability or understanding of – probably as much understanding as I have of the processes involved in flying to the actual moon! They pretty much scare the you know what out of me! So I’ll just wish you good luck and look forward to observing the works of art that fill your blog posts henceforth ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m not sure about the book either. The title alone gives me a headache. Veblen, you say, is a woman. How can a woman be ‘portable’ – it kind of makes me wonder if I’d come out sane at the other end of it – or would I be talking to squirrels too and we don’t even have ’em here! [I’m painting myself as very suggestible here I realise.] Though having said that I might well love it so should possibly give it a try. After all I loved/love The Poisonwood Bible and I know lots of folks who didn’t. Did you read that?

    I love seeing your dining table – takes me right back to sitting there ๐Ÿ™‚ Splendid post Lisa xo

    Like

    • arlingwoman says:

      The camera is going to take some time to learn and gain expertise with. Veblen being portable is a play on collected works of Thorstein and the fact that Veblen the character’s work is portable, thus she can move. There are lots of pieces of this novel that I didn’t cover or do justice to. I liked the Poisonwood Bible author’s first three books–Animal Dreams, The Bean Trees, and maybe Pigs in Heaven. After that I didn’t like them at all. It was like she got angry and self righteous and I felt like I was reading some tiresome political tract. I know a lot of people who liked Poisonwood but by that time, I’d stopped reading her. Right now I’m reading some trashy mystery book with a private eye named Archie. Then I’ll have to go back to the e-reader!

      Like

      • I rest my case! ๐Ÿ™‚ I may possibly enjoy it. It’s good to read light and even trashy [trashy!] sometimes isn’t it. I’ve picked up a ‘light’ read from my pile and it is turning out to be really good! I’m about to launch myself into reading on the computer which is never my favourite occupation – but there are books published on line I need to get to – including yours!! I read Kingsolver’s book after Poisonwood but found what you just said – I think P-wood wasn’t like that. It took a bit of work to get into due to her device of having different characters telling the story from their viewpoint and her ability to write the chapters in the unique voice of each character – once I got used to that I was hooked! Any-hoo………. enjoy Archie ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  7. danellajoy says:

    I’m liking the sound of the book…. sounds quirky!
    I am also liking the look of your new camera! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Like

    • arlingwoman says:

      I used to use two different SLRs. Now after five years with a Coolpix, I’m not remembering much about aperture, shutter speed and other stuff, plus this has a lot of icons I don’t have a clue about. I’m patiently reading the manual and trying things!

      Liked by 1 person

      • danellajoy says:

        I still have no clue about the manual settings. I constantly switch back to “idiot setting” which is what my fellow photography mates jokingly call the automatic setting.

        Like

      • arlingwoman says:

        Idiot setting is so convenient until it won’t allow you to do something you know you can. That and not focusing myself are the two things I don’t like about digital. For the rest, it’s pretty much all good! So it’s just for those times when you want an effect or the light isn’t perfect…

        Liked by 1 person

      • danellajoy says:

        Agreed! ๐Ÿ™‚

        Like

  8. A great, varied, post. Your ‘badly photographed’ picture is not, it is wonderfully atmospheric. Give us a report on your new camera. One day I may progress from point and shoot

    Like

  9. Allison Harbick says:

    Not sure I would read the book, cousin ๐Ÿ˜‰ But loved seeing the few pics of your place. It has been too long since Bob and I have been there. Next visit, our turn to come to you ๐Ÿ˜˜

    Liked by 1 person

  10. KerryCan says:

    Is it wrong that I’m more interested in the camera than the book?? That’s one fine-looking piece of equipment–you’ll have such fun with it! I like seeing your writing spaces, too–your house looks so tidy . . .

    Like

    • arlingwoman says:

      I don’t think this book is for everyone. And I doubt I did it justice, playing up it’s quirky aspects. But the camera is indeed very attractive! I’m going to have some fun learning how to use it to the fullest. As for my house, I was telling Cynthia, living in a small apartment is like living on a boat. Things have to go back where they belong or sooner or later you’re swamped! Not that it doesn’t get cluttered, but largely, it’s a peaceful, sane retreat. Most nights when I come home from work, I step in the door and exhale.

      Like

  11. Laurie Graves says:

    A telepathic squirrel! I love it. Good luck with the new camera and keep us posted.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. jennypellett says:

    I’m very envious of your beautiful wooden floor! I think you’ll have a lot of fun ( and probably frustration!) with your new camera. Happy snapping – I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

    Like

  13. badfish says:

    A very interesting read. Hope things work out with the new camera…digital is a little bit different than film. What I had to learn was to simply put more in the frame, and take less time framing the shot…because with digital it’s so easy to crop later. Also like your neat apartment. Mine starts out neat, and usually becomes a mess…then I put things in their proper places, and the process starts over.

    Like

  14. Boomdeeadda says:

    So this is YOUR telepathic squirrel? Looks just like MY friendly DC Squirrel. Except DC guy had a sign that said, “I โค Peanuts'. He's probably just a versatile character actor. DC Tourist Entertainer and Novel Cover Model are part of his resume. High-5 for the link back to Boomdeeadda ;D you're a doll. The book sounds too weird for me. I like simple stories, happy endings. I also never heard of any of the books you and Pauline convo'd aboutโ€ฆyou two are hardcore.
    Congratulations on your new Nikon! I'm guessing lot's of people around here could answer any questions you'd have. Joe, Laurie, Stacyโ€ฆ..all excellent photographers. I think the Moss pic is pretty interesting. I think writing from your dining area would be really wonderful. The atmosphere of vintage furniture, natural light and woodsy view could lend itself to an indulgent afternoon of blogging. xk

    Like

    • arlingwoman says:

      It’s a quirky book, but it does ends well! Let me tell you, in my old age, I’ve wanted to throw a few against the wall that seemed to have a deliberately unhappy ending. Ugh. I think you would like the squirrel in this book though. I was thinking I should meet up with Stacy over the weekend and go shoot some photos, but maybe I just need a course/seminar one weekend day…

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Robin says:

    Based on your wonderful post about it, I agree with you that I should give this book a try, too. Nice new toy/camera! Your writing areas are so neat. I saw Celi’s challenge, but my writing area is a disorganized mess at the moment. We’re getting ready to renovate this room which means it’s going to be a bigger mess before it all comes together in some slightly disorganized future. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  16. pauljoeRTW says:

    Blue are gorgeous, I agree. Enjoyed all of the lovely photos. Thanks!

    Like

  17. LB says:

    Congratulations on your new camera! How exciting!!
    I like the way you wove the book review into the photos of your home. You’ve got some great light, don;t you?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Maria F. says:

    I love that camera, congrats!

    Like

  19. Maria F. says:

    I see what you got now. I also have a similar camera and I went crazy buying lenses!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s