The Female Brain

This caught my eye in City Lights bookstore– the image of a telephone cord wrapped up like a brain on the cover. After skimming through it, I added it to my list of library requests and took it on the trip to Mexico. It’s a quick read, and she’ll repeat some metaphors, but all is interesting throughout. Essentially, it’s about how women’s brains differ chemically from men’s. Things I remember off the top of my head: women’s brains 9% smaller in size than men’s, but same amount of braincells, so more densely packed. For first 8 weeks, fetuses have same brain, then at week 8 boy babies are infused with a wave of testosterone that kills off cells in the communication area and increases the size of agression/sex area. Boys think about sex every 52 seconds?!
Brizendine a neuro-psychiatrist turned author, many of the data points coming from her studies at UCSF. She posits that there are several stages in which women’s brains undergo changes: babies, puberty, post-puberty, mommy brain, mature female brain.
I kept parroting interesting facts as I came across them to Max… however, none of the traits that the women display in the book seem like me at all– where is MY brain book?

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Stories

A man walking in the rain eating a banana. Where is he coming from. Where is he going. Why is he eating a banana. How hard is the rain falling. Where did he get the banana. What is the banana’s name. How fast is the man walking. Does he mind the rain. What does he have on his mind. Who is asking all these questions. Who is supposed to answer them. Why. Does it matter. How many questions about a man walking in the rain eating a banana are there. Is the previous question one of them or is it another kind of question, not about the man or the walking or the rain. If not, what’s it a question about. Does each question raise another question. If so, what’s the point. If not, what will the final question be. Does the man know any of the answers. Does he enjoy bananas. Walking in the rain. Can the man feel the weight of eyes on him, the weight of questions. Why does the banana’s bright yellow seem the only color, the last possible color remaining in a gray world with a gray scrim of rain turning everything grayer. I know question after question after question. The only answer I know is this: all the stories I could make from this man walking in the rain eating a banana would be sad, unless I’m behind a window with you looking out at him.

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Boyhood

Childhood memories in South Africa written in 3rd person and yet still intimate tales. Moving from Cape Town to the small town of Worchester, where he pretends to be Catholic at school in order to skip out on the Christian services. Eternal fear of the large and brutal Afrikaans boys, of being found out not to be English but also Afrikaans. The feeling of belonging to the farm (his uncle’s), long walks with his cousin Agnes, watching the sheep get shorn, detailing the complicated feelings of having servants and navigating how to interact with them properly.

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Brazen Careerist

Useful and easily digestible advice for the 20-somethings who are entering the new world of work. Basic stuff like not using company email to break up with your significant other, delivering bad news or feedback face to face instead of via email, how to manage up, etc. Great wisdom around focusing on what your boss’s goals are, and aligning your priorities around them. Also good advice on having a neat workspace– a cluttered desk signifies incompetence. I found the sexual harassment section interesting– use it as leverage to get yourself into a better position instead of reporting to HR and getting entangled in legal battles & being blacklisted.
Trunk has a blog where she dispenses advice on a nearly daily basis.

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The Nimrod Flip Out

Loopy, surreal stories from the middle east. An off hand mention of the border, going to Sinai to relax and party, but for the most part, nothing terribly Israel-centric about these stories; they are universal, if you consider a beautiful woman who turns into a hairy short man at night universal. (The boyfriend ends up palling around with the short man, starts getting into football, discovers unknown clubs. The girlfriend is just glad he accepts her “flaw.”)
Actually I’ve Had Some Phenomenal Hard-Ons Lately a cute story about a man who loves his dog more than his wife or mistress. Malffunction taught me that short stories can be as short as a paragraph. Shriki about the average Joe who invents olive stuffed olives, and goes on to wild success with avocado stuffed avocados and apricot filled apricots.
A refreshing mint for the mind. Tasty, cleansing, leaves me ready for something different.

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Mothers and Sons

Nine stories detailing various aspects of the relationship between mothers and sons. From a burglar who sets the Rembrandts on fire, to the priest accused of molestation, the sons also range from talented singers whose mom abandoned them to sons who find their mom’s albums in the basement and release a Best Of cd. Also the son at his mom’s funeral and the days following, going to raves and getting generally trashed.
My favorite of the bunch was Name of the Game, where the widowed mom scrapes together a new plan and phases out the bankrupt grocery store with a chip shop and liquor store. The son gets thoroughly into it, begins acting older than his age and conversing with other merchants. He becomes despondent when he realizes his mom is selling the business to get out of that town and into the anonymity of Dublin.
The final two stories, A Summer Job and A Long Winter, detailing the love of a grandmother for her grandson, and a mother walking out on her family once they drain her supply of alcohol in hopes of curing her. The wandering mom is trapped in a blizzard and presumed dead.
Light notes of male on male love, no true strong female or mom characters.

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Jenny & The Jaws Of Life

There was a period of my life when I didn’t read short stories. That time is over. Thirteen wacky and offbalance stories grip you and shake you and then leave you smiling. These characters are misfit, edgy, shadow figures; Betty the advice columnist, the woman who begins to see ghosts which breaks up her marriage, a sister whose kids murder her accidentally, Jenny (beautiful Jenny who falls and teeters and gets better with age), Mr. Lazenbee and Marsha who drives her psychologist parents betty with lack of empathy and laughing at inappropriate things… it goes on.
Yes, read it.
Reprint from the Betty story here.

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Jenny and the Jaws of Life

Dear Betty,
One time I was at this Tupperware party at my girlfriend’s. Actually, it was just like a Tupperware party, only it was marital underwear, but it was run the same way. Anyway, everybody was drinking beer and passing around the items, and cutting up, you know, laughing about the candy pants and whatnot, and having a real good time. Only all of a sudden this feeling came over me. I started feeling real sorry for everybody, even though they were screaming and acting silly. I thought about how much work it was to have fun, and how brave we all were for going to the trouble, since the easiest thing would be to just moan and cry and bite the walls, because we’re all going to die anyway, sooner or later. Isn’t that sad? I saw how every human life is a story, and the story always ends badly. It came to me that there wasn’t any God at all and that we’ve always known this, but most of us are too polite and kind to talk about it. Finally I got so blue that I had to go into the bathroom and bawl. Then I was all right.
—–Partly Sunny

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