Friday Five

Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin1. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. I forget when I originally heard about author Colm Toibin, only that his name kept popping up in various places until I picked up his most recent book, Brooklyn. Boy, I’m glad I did. This is one of those books that sneaks up on you. At first it seems like a simple story about a young Irish woman who, through no desire of her own, is shipped off to the US to get a fresh start in the aftermath of WWII. It’s a story that’s been told before, right? But then something happens. You find yourself thinking about the main character Eilis, her elegant sister Rose and their fragile mother even when you’re not reading the book. You find yourself rooting for Eilis as she tries to adjust to her new life, something very relatable if you’ve ever moved to a new city. (One of the most terrific scenes of the novel!) She eventually does settle in with the help of a local boy named Tony and a reliable department store job. Her tiny village in Ireland is never far from her mind and when she must return she’s faced with a difficult decision: stay on for good or go back to Brooklyn and the new life she’s building for herself.

I love the spareness of the prose. Toibin doesn’t need to use big words or paragraphs that go on for a full page to get the reader’s attention. I also love the attention to detail without overwhelming the reader with description. A lesser writer might have harped on the comparisons between Eilis’s Irish small town and the big city Brooklyn as she tries to take it all in and overcome her homesickness, but of course he doesn’t and gives credit to the reader for knowing the difference. In that way, it’s a quiet book. Like several other readers, I did have a small issue with the ending in that I felt it was rushed. The first parts of the book are so tightly drawn and plotted that the ending felt like it wrapped up in a hurry by comparison.

If you’re looking for evil wizards or heart gripping car chases, this one isn’t for you. If you’re looking for a character-driven story where the author is in complete control as the tale is woven, I bet you’ll enjoy this one. (Also look for the movie based on this book coming in 2014.)

I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading. Do you have any great book recommendations? 

2. When the going gets tough…You know things are getting tough at the office when someone posts this sign at the sink. It wasn’t me. I swear.

Just do your dishes


3. Of all the theaters in all the towns in all the world, they walked into mine.  During an afternoon off work, I took the opportunity to see the movie Lincoln. I was excited about seeing the movie in the middle of a weekday – something I rarely get to do. I’d have the entire theater to myself, like my own private screening. I was in for quite a surprise when I opened the door of the theater to find 200 tweens filling nearly every seat in the house. I stopped stone-cold in my tracks. It took me a minute to process that they were on a school trip. Of all the theaters in all the towns in all the world, they walked into mine. There were two options: I could ask the manager for a refund or stay and accept that the kids would be whispering and moving around throughout the show. If I stayed I had to fully accept the situation. Not pretend to accept it and be secretly annoyed anyway.

A teacher, who was kind enough to scrounge a seat for me, leaned over and said, “I bet you weren’t expecting this when you bought your ticket.” When the movie started, the kids quieted down – for a while. It’s a long movie about voting on an amendment in the House of Representatives. Not exactly the stuff that titillates the 12-year-old set. But again I was surprised. They were actually paying attention. During the dramatic scene when the votes are being tallied to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery:

Movie: Representative Jones, what say you? I vote nay!

Kids in the theater: Boo!

Movie: Representative Smith, what say you? I vote yes!

Kids in the theater: Yay!

A little later when President Lincoln dropped the f-bomb:

Kids in the theater: Oooooohhhh!

At the two-hour mark, they did start getting restless. A lot of whispering and bathroom breaks were going on. Two girls in front of me where chatting in hushed tones and a boy leaned toward them and said, “Quiet down. I want to find out what happens.”

Indeed. Thanks, kids from PS 183. I had a blast watching Lincoln with you.

4. Just in case. I was searching in my jewelry box when I found an old  costume earring that had lost its mate. In 2005. Instead of tossing the leftover earring I put it back in the box. I thought, why did I just do that? Well, you never know if that missing earring will turn up, I answered myself. I don’t think I’m alone in the “just in case.” (If I am, please don’t tell me. I’d like to remain in a state of denial. Thank you.) But the “just in case” mentality is part of what leads people to end up on the show Hoarders.

Some people try to combat this by living a lifestyle that turns consumerism on its ear called minimalism by only buying what is essential and repurposing when possible. Some take this to the extreme by setting a self-imposed limit of material things. They may own no more than 50 or 100 items.  It’s hard to imagine whittling all of my possessions down to a magic number. Since we’re all friends here, I can tell you I’d cheat by lumping all of my socks together as “1”. When I came across the Reverse 100 Thing Challenge (unfortunately after the challenge had ended), I was intrigued. Instead of having only 100 things, Courtney found 100 things in her house to donate or give away. She focused on personal belongings rather than household items. Just glancing around my apartment from where I sit I can probably list a dozen things I can donate right now. I wonder if getting to 100 would be difficult.

Have you ever donated/gave away 100 things? Do you have any trouble with the “just in case?”

Reggie's toys

Reggie’s toy graveyard. The stuffing has been pulled out. The squeakers are broken. The limbs are ripped off. But I keep thinking he’ll play with them again. Soon.

5. It’s elementary. I’ve been getting hooked on the BBC show Sherlock (better than the US version Elementary and better than the recent movies) which bring the master deducer and his sidekick Watson to modern day. It’s edgy and creative and somehow never feels far-fetched. I’m always amazed at Holmes’s power solve a mystery. It’s not necessarily his smarts or kookiness that aid his conclusions, but his ability to pay attention. I came across an article about Maria Konnikova’s new book Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes which suggests four key strategies for optimizing your attention:

Be selective. Holmes said that your brain is precious real estate. Use it wisely. Be selective about what information you store. In that case, watching the latest Honey Boo-Boo episode was likely a big mistake.

Be objective. Separate the factual situation from your subjective interpretation of it.

Be inclusive. Attention is about every one of your senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch. I often tell my writing students to use all of their senses when describing something.

Be engaged.  Staying in the present moment allows us to extract more from what we are doing and also makes us feel better and happier.

Have you seen the show Sherlock? Are you able to pay attention the way he does? 

Have a  great weekend, everyone! 



    1. I agree with you about that. I’d rather read subtitles than voice over dubs. I hope you find a theater without 200 kids in it. 🙂

      Do you have any plans to go to Broadway shows while you’re here?


  1. Miles has a graveyard of stuffed animals, but he keeps playing with them. Every day I wander by a hippo head, giraffe leg, bear arm, and there’s one I can’t identify anymore but I think it was his moose. If you try to throw one of them away, he cries at the trash bin until you pull it out. Last night he had a mental breakdown since one of his toys fell into the laundry basket and he couldn’t dig it out.


    1. It’s quite a jungle at your place. 🙂

      Poor Miles. I can just see him standing at the trash bin, waiting longingly for his giraffe.

      Have you tried the toys that hold an empty water bottle? They don’t have any stuffing. The doll has velcro so you can insert the bottle. It makes a nice crinkly sound that Reggie loves. Then when it’s all “crinkled out” I replace it with a new bottle. Maybe Miles would like something like that toy.


      1. I haven’t seen that. Next time I’m in the shop I look for one. Thanks. His latest obsession is trying to get me to take him to the vet. He went at the beginning of the year for a dental. Had several teeth removed (he’s ten) and then had to go back after the weekend. I thought he would hate going back. But now each morning he pulls me across the street we take to get to the dentist. It’s the oddest thing. I for one, hate the dentist.


      2. Since you mentioned the dentist, I’m a little concerned about Reggie’s teeth. He’s ten also (I think), and one of the back molars isn’t looking good. Though he won’t let the vet look at it. He hates the vet. He starts shaking in the waiting room. It gets me stressed too.


      3. Miles has always loved going to the vet. Any opportunity for him to shine, he steps up. He walks in like a rock star saying hi to everyone. At least the tooth experience didn’t ruin it, but I don’t want to take him to the vet every day to feed his ego. Such an odd dog.

        Poor Reggie. I noticed that Miles was drinking more water and chewing on his toys more. Then when the vet said he needed a cleaning I knew he was going to lose some teeth. Now his teeth are white again, but they did take out one of his little ones in the front that was adorable. Do you brush his teeth? They stressed that to us and now we try to remember each night. Ideally, we should morning and night. Give Reggie a pet for me.


  2. Before I forget, is Ruta Sepetys’ latest book on your radar? I read “Between Shades of Gray” at your recommendation, and I loved it. Now she has “Out of the Easy” out, and it is on my list.

    Just in case… socks. Why am I unable to toss the sole sock in my drawer? The countless sole socks in my drawer? Why? Because the match may make its way back to the laundry some day. So I hold on to them…just in case.

    Sherlock. Brilliant show. Brilliant. Not enough episodes. I gobbled every one up, savoring every minute. I suggest you look into “The Last Enemy”, a mini-series with Benedict Cumberbatch. It is thrilling and fast paced. And, well, Benedict Cumberbatch is in it.

    Happy weekend, Jackie.


    1. I’m so glad that you loved Between Shades of Gray. I have Out of the Easy on my TBR pile. Can’t wait to get to it.

      Oh, Lenore. I have so many single socks. I’m thinking of starting a dating service for them. 🙂

      Another Sherlock fan. A woman in my office had gotten me started on the series and she has it on good authority that a 3rd season is underway, but the 2 stars had been busy on other big movie projects.


  3. I haven’t seen Sherlock or Lincoln, I’m afraid–and I had not heard of “Brooklyn”–sounds like a great book. Love your reading recommendations. I’m reading a memoir called “The Center Can not Hold,” a memoir about a woman overcoming the challenges of schizophrenia that came on while she was a Fulbright scholar.

    Sara and I deep into getting rid of things–not at all easy for me. Love the idea of donating 100 items. By the way, Ralph mutilates his toys, as well.

    Hope you and Reggie have a wonderful weekend. Stay warm, my friend.



    1. Nothing like selling your house as a major catalyst to purge. Sometimes it feels very overwhelming. One drawer at a time is my policy. Good luck!

      Reggie was very happy with the snow this morning. 🙂

      Be well!


  4. Wow, I haven’t seen Sherlock or Lincoln, but I’m very curious about both now. I just loved reading your story about the teens at the movie. The way you write, I could read your blog all day long. Have a good weekend, Jackie!


  5. Kudos to you, Jackie, for not letting yourself get away with sitting through the teen enhanced Lincoln experience in a quiet snit – it’s wonderful that they were so smart, and you got to witness it!

    I save all those single earrings for the day I become a pirate. Arrr!


    1. Ha! Now I know why I’ve been saving all of those earrings.
      Me thinks I have a costume for next Halloween. Shiver me timbers.

      Or maybe I’ll start wearing mismatching earrings. I’ll single handedly start a fashion trend.


  6. Brooklyn sounds like something I’d love–thank you. Haven’t seen Lincoln yet, but it’s on my list. Saw Argo yesterday and liked it very much.

    Rocky has some pretty nasty-looking toys, but I just keep washing them and hoping he’ll get tired of them one day. I tried replacing his little green hippo, but he knew the difference and wouldn’t touch it. 🙂

    I have not figured out what to do with just one earring. Especially if it’s a nice one. Surely the other one will turn up one day?

    Hoping Sherlock is on Netflix. . . .


    1. What a smart little guy! You can’t fool Rocky. If I try to put Reggie’s toy away, say he’s ripped the stuffing out of it, he runs to the spot where he last saw it. Then he stares at me. Circles the spot. Then stares at me. Paws at the spot. Then stares at me. “Hey, I’m not crazy. That thing was just here.”

      Sherlock is indeed on Netflix. Add it to your queue – you won’t be sorry. 🙂


  7. I love Sherlock! What a show and the acting is amazing. I hope I would’ve stayed during Lincoln (and the tweens) but I’m not sure… I’m a sensitive movie viewer and by that I mean I want to be able to focus without distraction. I would’ve been amused and interested in the tweens’ reactions but I’m afraid it would’ve made it a different viewing experience. I loved your positive attitude. As for the 100 things, I don’t know if I could do that but I am really hoping to whittle down my possessions this year. I have WAY too much stuff. Giving away 100 things sounds like a more than realistic goal!


    1. I had a few moments in the theater when I was planning to leave, but I remembered my 2013 word “balance.” Balance some whimsy with the seriousness, some fun with gravity. I was very amazed at how well behaved they were.

      I’m going to try to give away 100 things too. Surely I can find 100 things that I don’t use or need anymore. Wondering if I can count Reggie’s toys in the graveyard individually? 🙂

      Stay warm!


    1. Reggie is very specific (read: picky) about his toys. They must have a squeaker and they must be plush. Then once he breaks the squeaker which takes about 5 minutes he loses interest. And as for the toys that are labeled “indestructible”? Ha!


  8. Um… yeah… you see, were using TPS soap now…
    did you see… the memo… about this? Yeah… if you could just go ahead and make sure you scrub-up with that from now on, that would be great. And, ah, I’ll go ahead and make sure you get another copy of that memo. Um-kay?


    1. Whoever thought to use Lumbergh from Office Space as the heavy was brilliant. Still not saying it was me.

      Oh, and remember: next Friday… is Hawaiian shirt day. So, you know, if you want to, go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt and jeans. Oh, oh, and I almost forgot. Ahh, I’m also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too… 🙂


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