Happy 2011! (And An Illusion, Dashed)

In Books, Medicine, Peanut on January 3, 2011 at 10:17 pm

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas and an awesome New Year’s!  We got to spend time with both our families and had a white Christmas for the first time in years, which was beautiful.  We took advantage of the white stuff by taking the Peanut sledding for the first time, which she greeted with … suspicion, mixed with reserved distaste.  It is becoming increasingly clear that she is dead-set on letting us know that she is a city girl.  At the age of 12 months I took her to the park on a beautiful summer day, thinking she’d enjoy the feel of the soft grass on her little bare feet, and I wish I’d had my camcorder to record the dainty wrinkling of her nose and prissy lifting of each foot, one at a time, to carefully shake off any invisible contamination.  Needless to say, a Little House on the Prairie-esque skipping down the grassy hill with girlish abandon did not ensue.

"Seriously, couldn't we do a spa or something instead?"

Nonetheless, we had a wonderful Christmas season.  Every New Year’s Eve since we’ve been married, somehow either Tolkien or I have been on call.  This year it was his turn, so my parents joined me and Peanut for a low-key NYE celebration, which we enjoyed, and now it is back to real life and goodbye to another holiday season.  January is really kind of a crappy month (my apologies to any January birthday-babies out there) — why does it always have to follow the glittering party that is December?

Anyway, I have already achieved my sole 2011 resolution, which was to finish Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles.  (It helps that I only had 35 pages to go by Dec. 31, and also that I made no other resolutions.  I set the bar high.)  I’ve been reading this book for three and a half years, and not because I’m in the slow reading group.  (I reads real good.)  I was so bored by the slow pace of the first half of the book that I dropped it and read a million others in between.  But that boredom was finally outweighed by the annoyance of seeing it taunting me smugly from my nighttable day after day, and so I vowed not to allow myself to pick up another book until I finished that one.  Which vow I then proceeded to follow with two months of just not reading at all.  Finally I gave myself a mental disciplinary thrashing and forced myself to open it again.  Turned out to be quite an interesting book, in the end, but so very depressing.  The point of all this, though, is that recently whenever I finish a book I enjoyed I’ve been entering it into, a site that spits out recommendations for other books based on the one you type in.  The recommendations it has given for other books have been fairly spot-on.  For Tess?  It recommends “nothing.”  Not sure what to make of that.  

All this recent book obsession is clearly the sign of a long-starved reading-lover who was ensconced in her medical bubble for years and has only just been emancipated.  I have friends who managed to read fiction during med school, but I was not one of them.  After cramming microbiology and pharmacology for 13 hours a day, every day, I just couldn’t take the eyestrain of more reading, even for pleasure.  And the thing is that even after the first two years of med school, when you finally leave the classroom and start on the hospital wards, you still have so much studying to do for your clinical rotations.  Then in residency you’re reading like crazy about your patients and their conditions.  And studying for lecture exams.  And then when you’re done residency you’re cramming like crazy for your written and oral board exams.  My oral board exam was in May of 2010 and it was my last exam for 10 years.  10 years, people!  Do you know what it is to tell a physician that they don’t have an exam for 10 years?  Probably something like being told you’ve won the lottery and don’t need to worry about money for the rest of your life, but not quite believing it, so you keep secretly squirreling away dollar bills on the side while publicly splurging on a Lamborghini.  I still study several days a week.  Only now I also have a stack of novels on that nightstand.

Christmas gifts received, and now next up on the reading list.

Which gets me thinking about all the books I read and loved as a child, especially since I’m hoping that Peanut might one day be literate and could enjoy some of the same ones.  One of the authors whose books I really devoured was Enid Blyton.  I was so into her British boarding school novels that I frequently used the word “fortnight” in regular 10-year-old conversation, and it took me several of them (fortnights, that is) to realize how preposterous I sounded.  So anyway, thinking of her stories, I Googled her yesterday, and would you believe, it turns out this author of sweet innocent children’s tales was apparently an adulterous, abusive, malicious, lying crazy person

This information has so shaken my belief system that this entire post was a rambling way of getting to that single point.  Enid Blyton, an insane witch.  Why don’t you just tell me there’s no Santa Claus too?

  1. What a great post! I love the picture of Peanut, which made me laugh even before I saw your caption. I already mentioned this on Facebook, but I hated “Tess…”. If “The Brothers Karamazov” is my literary archnemesis, “Tess…” will have to settle for being a nemesis. (Interestingly, my phone keeps autocorrecting “Tess” to “read.”) I read 100 books in 2004; I certainly didn’t study enough.

    Now I’m just rambling…

    Happy New Year! Congrats on achieving your resolution! I took a different approach with mine–picking some that will probably keep me busy through December. I am sure I will be jealous of your 100% success rate.

    • Thanks! I very much admire the resolutions you laid out so thoughtfully on your blog. Perhaps they will inspire me to be more ambitious next year. Probably not. But ambidexterity is SUCH a cool resolution. You’ll have to teach me.

  2. I have enjoyed reaching my new year’s resolution goals every year for the past several years, with great ease… largely because I stopped making resolutions several years ago. I guess I’m not the ambitious type when it comes to self-reflection and improvement. 🙂 I can’t wait to read the 2nd book in the Stieg Larsson series, but I’m stuck on “Freedom” for my friends’ new book club… slow book with characters that I difficult to like. Happy reading! (Oh, and Enid Blyton?!? Craziness. Naked tennis sounds uncomfortable.)

  3. […] only her side would be told.  Oh, these revelations about my favourite childhood authors.  First Enid Blyton, then LMM … who’s next, Dr. […]

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