28 April 2014

My literary doppelganger


Since I loved Mary McCarthy's novel The Group and liked The Groves of Academe, I couldn't pass up this lovely hardcover edition of  Birds of America that I found recently at a book sale.

It's 1964 and Peter Levi, an American with an intellectual Italian father, a classical musician mother, and more than a few step parents, heads off to Paris to study for a year at the Sorbonne. Although student riots and the escalating Vietnam War form a part of the story they are by no means the focus of this fairly humorous but very thoughtful coming of age novel. One of the things I appreciated so much about this book is that it is a contemporary account. One doesn't have to wonder whether or not the author got the historical details correct. Some of the details and message seem so familiar to me I had to keep reminding myself that it was published in 1965. This was especially the case when Peter predicts the legalization of pot and more or less describes the car sharing programs that are in so many cities today. Although in his formulation, use of the cars would be free.

As much as I loved Peter's life in Paris, it was nothing compared to how I felt about his life in the US which makes up the first third of the book. He is an old soul and he loves New England and was old fashioned even for 1964. He is a nerd and more than a little OCD. In other words he is a character after my own heart, and indeed I felt a very strong connection to his weird ways.

I have trouble asking questions unless it is a forum for questions, then I can't ask enough. But in the real world, either because I don't want to disturb people or out of fear of embarrassment, my inclination is not to ask for help. Here is Peter's take:
Except in the classroom and of people he already knew outside it, Peter loathed asking questions. When he was little, he could not bear to have his mother stop the car and call out to a native for directions. "They won't know, Mother! Please go on!"
John and I talk about retiring in the northeast and would love the opportunity to pull out a map and choose a spot. After divorcing her second husband, Peter's mother decides they should leave Berkeley, California and move east. She let's Peter choose where they will live. A romantic notion for sure, but I am also charmed by their pre-internet research and the possibilities and pitfalls that entailed.
She got the state guidebook out of the college library and looked up Rocky Port; she found the name of a real-estate agent in a directory of realtors and sent off a letter with their specifications, asking about schools and transportation.
When they get to Rocky Port on the Massachusetts coast, they set out to live their idea of America--chock full of nostalgia, and full of so many of the things that make me want to transplant myself to a small town in New England.
She had her own notions of what was American, going back to her own childhood. Reading aloud to children in the evening, Fourth of July sparklers and fireworks, Easter-egg hunts, Christmas stockings with an orange in the toe, popcorn and cranberry chains on the Christmas tree, ducking for apples at Halloween, shadow pictures on he walls, lemonade, fresh cider, picnics, treasure hunts, anagrams, checkers, eggs goldenrod, home-made cakes, muffins, popovers, and corn breads, fortune-telling, sweet peas, butterfly nets, narcissus bulbs in pebbles, Trillium, Spring Beauty, arbutus, lady's-slippers, cat's cradles, swings, bicycles, wooden ice-cream freezers, fishing with angleworms, rowing, ice-skating, blueberrying, hymn-singing.
The move also compels his mother to abandon her interests in cooking international food to focus on the foods of America. Peter's worries that a diet consisting solely of American food will quickly become monotonous are soon laid to rest.
They had pot roast and New England boiled dinner and fried chicken and lobsters and scallops and bluefish and mackerel and scalloped oysters and clam chowder...They had codfish cakes and corned beef hash and red flannel hash and chicken hash (three ways), spoon bread and hominy and Rhode Island johnnycake and country sausage with friend apple rings and Brown Betty and Indian pudding and pandowdy and apple pie and cranberry pie...The rules of the Rocky Port kitchen were that every recipe had to come out of Fannie Farmer, had to be made entirely at home from fresh--or dried or salted--ingredients, and had to be, insofar as possible, an invention of the New World. Pennsylvania Dutch dishes were permitted, but gnocchi, they sadly agreed, although in Fannie Farmer, did not get under the wire...A dish, his mother decided, did not have its citizenship papers if it had been cooked in America for less than a hundred years--discriminatory legislation, Peter commented.
In the days when foodies like Julia Child were just beginning to change how Americans approached food and ingredients, Peter and his mother scoured the town for old fashioned things like beanpots. They also found it surprisingly hard to come by fresh fish even in a fishing village.

Like the curmudgeon that he is, Peter believes that tourists should have to pass an entrance exam before being allowed to see certain things like the Sistine Chapel. This is exactly what I said when we went on safari in Kenya. I want tourist spots preserved for me. The rest of you should stay home. He also laments his mother's choice of phonograph player. "Does it have to be stereo?" Even in the details Peter and I share a lot in common, both of us favoring "The trumpet shall sound" from Messiah for the solo trumpet part. I listened to that endlessly as kid.

Feeling that Peter was a kindred spirit and enjoying the description of his world was the icing on a very thoughtful and funny cake. I think it may even land a 10 out of 10 on my reading scale which would make it an all time favorite.

25 April 2014

The Geography of Books

   
(The real) Andorra
I don't have much interest in reading travel writing, but I do like the experience of place when I read novels. But what do I mean by 'the experience of place'? As an urban planner, the notion or feeling of 'place' is very much on my mind, yet it is so often a difficult thing to explain. As I sat at my desk trying to come up with a way to explain it, I went through a series of mini epiphanies that ended up surprising me a bit. The first is that, while I definitely prefer a book with a discernible geographic setting, not all locations can induce this feeling of experiencing a place. For instance, for as much as I love Forster's sunny Tuscany, the grey streets of Anita Brookner's London, the bucolic Scottish countryside in D.E. Stevenson, or any number of other places described in various much loved novels, the settings of those books don't necessarily trigger an actual emotional reaction. As I pondered this, it seemed to me that I only feel the setting of a book when I haven't already been there. But then I realized I have read lots of books set in places I haven't been that don't give me this feeling. I've loved the worlds that Rushdie and Naipaul and others have introduced me to, but they don't necessarily make me feel the place on a visceral level.

So what in the world is it that makes me actually feel a place in a novel? What do books like Durrell's Alexandria Quartet (Egypt) and Peter Mayle's Anything Considered (Monaco) and even Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley (Italy) have in common? Ah ha! the Mediterranean. That's it, they are all set on the Mediterranean.  But then I realized that for as much as I hated Lowry's Under the Volcano (Mexico) the one thing I really did like about that book was the feeling of place I got in the opening chapters. But that is nowhere near the Mediterranean. What could it be, what could it be? I'm not entirely sure I have it figured out, but I think has something to do with an older, European-settled, urban place in a warm climate. A place with long lunches at outdoor cafes, national alcoholic beverages playing the triple role of coolant, social elixir, and emotional anesthetic, siestas, swimming, grand old hotels, linen trousers, trains, telephones, handwritten notes, newspapers, luggage, late dinners, cobblestones. Yes, yes, yes. Somewhere once grand, maybe still so, somewhat remote, or at least set apart from everyday life. Hmm. Places with no TVs, no internet and where the International Herald Tribune is always a few days old at best. Oddly, Katherine Anne Porter's brilliant novel Ship of Fools--set almost entirely at sea between Mexico and Germany--also gives me this feeling of place.

Alexandria, Egypt in 1930
So is it really place I am experiencing or is it some sort of time warp travel fantasy? Maybe both.

Andorra by Peter Cameron
Whatever it is, I felt it from the very beginning of Andorra by Peter Cameron. I picked up the novel at a book sale a few weeks ago almost entirely because I had recently been spending a lot of time online trying to name all 196 countries in under 12 minutes. After some study, I was eventually successful in doing so, but one of the countries that often eluded me was the tiny country of Andorra, landlocked between France and Spain. It isn't big enough to be seen on the map when doing the quiz so I often forgot about it. So when I saw this book on the sale table I couldn't pass it up.

The odd thing about the Andorra of Peter Cameron's Andorra is that it isn't in the right place. Cameron apparently wanted to set his book in a tiny country on the Mediterranean so he made up a country so located and then decided to call it Andorra. Why he didn't just make up a name rather than move an existing country about 200 km closer to the sea, I do not know. But, once I got over this geographical oddity, I realized how much I liked this book, and how it induced that experience of place for me. Published in 1997 the book is just old enough to suggest the time warp nostalgia trip I described above. Alex Fox checks into a grand hotel hoping to leave something from his past behind him. He meets a woman at an outdoor cafĂ©, he takes naps, people leave notes for him at the hotel, he walks the streets exploring the capital of this tiny nation, there is beach, espresso bars, boats, old families, everyone knows everyone's business, the outside world doesn't really exist.  You can see how this one tripped all my triggers.

The fake Andorra? (Banyuls-sur-mer, France, about 200 km from the real Andorra.)
There are various little mysteries along the way, and some big secret Alex is holding onto, but this is no whodunit. I kind of guessed the big secret half way through but there were still times I wasn't sure I was right.

This book is unlikely to change your life but it is enjoyable and interesting. Definitely worth a read.

23 April 2014

A Reading Revolution?

 

On this week's episode of The Readers, Simon and I responded to a question that a listener named Sue posted on the podcast's group message board on Goodreads. Sue asked us how we find good books that don't get hyped and may be flying under the proverbial radar. In her question, Sue rightly points out that many book bloggers, have become the tools [my words, not hers] of the publishing industry and don't necessarily provide insight to the 'little' books out there.

We tossed around a few ideas--probably the sanest and least helpful of which was personal recommendations--but then Simon had had a brainstorm and decided he was going to start a Reading Revolution. He charged us all to go spend some time at the library and check out as many overlooked books as our lending limit allowed. In my case, the DC library system does not have a limit on how many books you can take out so I limited myself the number of books I could comfortably carry home.

As I combed through the shelves looking for books that might have flown under the radar three things occurred to me:
  • With my penchant for older books, would I even know if a recent book had been neglected?
  • What is the line between forgotten and overlooked? What if something came out two years ago, had a bit of a buzz, or at least enough initial interest that people checked it out, but then it had been ignored on the shelf for a couple of years? Is that forgotten, or overlooked?
  • Without having read any of these books, how could I know if they were good books or merely good enough to find a publisher?
How did I attempt to pluck under the radar gems off the library shelves?
  • I realized I wouldn't know they were gems until I tried reading them, so I just put that worry out of my mind.
  • I skipped any author I had heard of or who had multiple titles on the shelf.
  • I skipped any novel that was represented by more than one copy on the shelf.
  • I looked for small imprints and presses.
  • I looked at the date due stamps to figure when it was last checked out (if at all). This turned out to be an inexact science as the date due stickers could have been replaced and for some brilliant reason the DCPL has decided not to stamp books with due dates any more--they simply tell you what the due date is. I think this is lame for multiple reasons, but don't get me started.
While I contemplated the choices, roughly following the rules above, I noted the following:
  • There are a lot of books with titles following this construction: THE [POSSESSIVE NOUN]'s NOUN such as: The Professor's Niece or The Dog-Groomer's Second Cousin, etc. I am wildly biased against such books. It just seems a little too cute, really lazy, and drafting off the success of other novels with similar titles.
  • So many contemporary books--over the last ten years or so--seem to be really interested in giving the reader some sort of hook--and usually something of the earthshattering variety. Like clickbait on the internet where headlines are constructed to get people to click on fairly mundane stories. These are the anti-Pyms and anti-Brookners.  They don't even equate to good plotting, they merely seem to suggest that every new author is the result of some MFA program that drills it into their students that there needs to be some crazy twist or no one will want to read the book.
  • A lot of authors seem to be hell bent on providing Oprah-level "A-ha" moments.
  • There is a fair amount of historical fiction out there. Part of me thinks that may be a function of the DC system catering to a non-fiction biased reading public, but part of me wondered if those kind of books require less imagination for authors. I'm not knocking historical fiction by any means, but it seemed like finding some historical character and coming up with some fantastic or dark or touching or unbelievable thing that could have happened to them in ye olde times might be easier than coming up with a story from whole cloth. 
It will be interesting to see which, if any, of these nine books might be considered hidden gems. Or if I can even finish all nine or any of them.

Remembrance of Things I Forgot by Bob Smith
Familiar by J. Robert Lennon
Winter Birds by Jim Grimsley
Wolves of the Crescent Moon by Yousef Al-Mohaimeed
Miss Fuller by April Bernard
I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti
The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah
The Forgiven by Lawrence Osborne
Man Alive! by Mary Kay Zuravleff

Are any of these popular enough as to disqualify them from being under the radar?

P.S. While I was at the library I couldn't help picking up two Eric Ambler mysteries. I recently asked on Twitter for ideas about old fashioned mystery / spy novels and Ambler's name was mentioned. But those are too old and probably too popular to fit the #ReadingRevolution.

22 April 2014

Did Wilkie Collins come back from the dead to write spam?



Tell me that this lightly edited spam email I got today does not sound like Wilkie Collins could have written it. Imagine this being written with a quill, folded up, sealed with wax, and dispatched by messenger.

Dear Friend,

Greetings in the name of God, Please let this not sound strange to you for my only surviving lawyer who would have done this died early this year. I prayed and got your email ID from your country's guest book which I have been with my late husband and liked to visit once more if God will in his infinite mercies.

I am Mrs Glory Douglas from London. I am 58 years old. I am suffering from a long time cancer of the lungs which also affected my brain, from all indications my condition is really deteriorating and it is quite obvious that, according to my doctors they have advised me that I may not live for the next two months, this is because the cancer has gotten to a very bad stage.

I was brought up from a motherless babies home was married to my late husband for twenty years without a child. My husband died in a fatal motor accident. Before his death we were true Christians. Since his death I decided not to re-marry. I sold all my inherited belongings and deposited all the sum of (10 million dollars) with a First Inland Bank.

Presently this money is still with them. The management wrote me, as the true owner, to come forward to receive the money or issue a letter of authorization to somebody to receive it on my behalf since I cannot come over because of my illness or they get it confiscated.

Presently, I'm with my laptop in a hospital in Switzerland where I have been undergoing treatment for cancer of the lungs. My doctors have told me that I have only a few months to live. It is my last wish to see that this money is invested to any organization of your choice and distributed each year among the charity organization, the poor and the motherless babies home.

I want you as God fearing person, to also use this money to fund churches, orphanages and widows, I took this decision, before I rest in peace because my time will soon be up.

As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the contact of the First Inland Bank. I will also issue you a letter of authority that will prove you as the new beneficiary of my fund.

Please assure me that you will act accordingly as I stated herein. You are requested to send to me the following information to enable me use it to write a Letter of Authorization on your behalf to the bank so that they will release the money to you as my new next of kin.


Hoping to hear from you soon.

Waiting for your reply

Thanks And God Bless

Mrs. Glory Douglas

21 April 2014

Pushing these reviewlets out of the nest

  
The Affair by C.P. Snow
If you have any interest in the minutiae of the faculty hierarchy at Cambridge then C.P. Snow is the author for you. He does for academia what Anthony Trollope did for ecclesiastica. Not surprising then that he also wrote a biography of AT.  Most of Snow's fiction forms a series of interrelated books that focus on intellectuals at university and in government.  Both of the titles I have read, The Masters and The Affair were set at Cambridge, but the latter had a story line that was connected to Whitehall.  In The Affair, a young master is accused of academic fraud and the entire book is about the office politics of giving him a fair hearing. I like this milieu so I liked this book.

The Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy
Although The Groves of Academe was published in 1951, eight years before The Affair, and it also deals with a kind of academic fraud, its themes and setting seem decades apart from Snow's old fashioned work. There are women on the faculty, students are part of the story, there is sex, language and manners are modern, and you don't even for a second expect anyone to be wearing a bowler. McCarthy's story focuses on a lecturer at a progressive school in the U.S. northeast whose contract is not going to be renewed. He gets the faculty on his side by lying about his wife's health and the reason for his dismissal. I almost stopped reading this when his lie was found out thinking the novel had nowhere to go after that. But it did. My second McCarthy novel, not as good as The Group but enjoyable. (And stay tuned, I have since read another of her novels which I am going to review for real in the coming days.)

Tove Jansson in 1956
Fair Play by Tove Jansson
A series of linked short stories about an artist and a writer in their 70s. If you have read The Summer Book you will be happy that the little, solitary island makes appearances in this collection. Jansson's work is atmospheric without being ambiguous. Each story is more of a vignette with each adding up to something akin to a novel. In general I like Jansson's work, some of which I find quite lovely, but overall I must say I just like her, not love her.

The Widow by Georges Simenon
Tati, a French widow with furry mole on her face invites a complete stranger to live with her to help with her small farm. Turns out Jean is not just a stranger but a convicted murder. She sleeps with him, she sleeps with the father of her dead husband, Jean sleeps with the dead husband's niece. A bit of farming, family jealousy and greed...it doesn't end well. I mean it ends well, a very good book, but not for the characters.

Provence, 1970 by Luke Barr
If you like food and/or Julia Child you will enjoy reading this bit of food history. Food writer (and novelist) M.F.K. Fisher's grandnephew writes about the fall of 1970 when Fisher, Child, and James Beard hang out in Provence. I like the insight into that delicious, somewhat cozy world, but Barr's thesis about that fall being some turning point for the protagonists as well as food culture in America doesn't seem very well supported.

MFK Fisher
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
The writer of The Devil in the White City looks at the life and work of the American Ambassador to Germany in the lead up to World War II. Interesting to have this bit of history filled in but I wasn't blown away by it. Perhaps his wife didn't play much role in any of the relevant events, but I really think the author could have given us a better taste of who she was. We certainly hear lots about the rather trampy daughter. There are times when I find narrative non-fiction a little more speculative than it should be--but I guess that is what makes it narrative non-fiction. So once I accept that the author is taking some poetic license, I don't want to feel like I am reading a recitation of facts. I think Larson could have used a better editor. Some scenes seemed to be included just because the information was available without concern to whether or not they were interesting or advanced the story.

A Cup of Tea by Amy Ephron
Tea, 1917, short. Should have been a fun, quick read. Well it was quick, but it wasn't much fun and  was pretty predictable and one-dimensional.

14 April 2014

Bits and Bobs

  
Last week Teresa from Shelf Love tweeted about the big Stone Ridge Book Sale just outside of DC, linking to a story about how this year was to be the last for the annual spring event. Filling three gymnasia over four days, one is hard pressed to resist. Last year I went for the first time with Teresa and Frances (Nonsuch Book) and we had a great time gossiping and browsing and of course buying. This year I am trying not to acquire books since we are in temporary quarters and spending all our spare cash on the house project. But my need to have something to do outweighed those concerns so I grabbed a couple of bags and headed out to the sale.

After packing up my library in January my book buying interests have shifted. I used to cast a pretty wide net at these sales, snapping up hard to find titles or editions just because they were hard to find. It didn't always matter whether or not I had any notion of reading them. But after weeding 20+ bags of books this winter I have a much more narrow focus when it comes to acquiring more.

Even though I did indeed limit myself to things I think I might actually want to read, and even that is within the more limited universe of harder to find titles, I still managed to fill a bag.


I can reasonably say that I am interested and reading all of these. And with an exception or two I tried not to buy anything that I could get easily at the library.

From top left

I enjoyed one Tove Jansson book and abandoned another. At a hundred pages in a pretty NYRB Classics edition, I thought I should give her one more chance with Fair Play.

Recently Simon Thomas got me hooked on an online geography quiz where you have to try and name (type) 196 countries in less than twelve minutes. After two days of practice I was able to name all of them with eight seconds to spare. One that is too small to appear on the map and therefore easily overlooked was Andorra. I've already started reading Andorra by Peter Cameron and will have a few words to say about it in the near future.

I've started watching The Forsyte Saga when I do my ironing and Simon Savidge and I recently talked about it on The Readers as one of those classics we hadn't read but wanted to.

Always interested in finding Virago editions but trying not to buy stuff I won't read, I was on the fence about None Turn Back by Storm Jameson. In the end I decided in favor of it because I wanted to read more about the 1926 general strike.

I read A Girl from Yamhill a memoir by children's author Beverly Cleary years ago and loved it.

I tend to like Doris Lessing when it isn't The Golden Notebook. Plus I always like when a serious author's work has been packaged to look like trash.

For better or worse I am a Tom Wolfe fan. I almost didn't buy this because I could get it at the library and the dust jacket has sun damage, but eh, what can you do.

My recent interest in old fashioned spy novels prompted me to pick up CIA Spy Master by Clarence Ashley.

For my collection of UK related non-fiction I bought London Nights by Stephen Graham a collection of studies and sketches of London at night. The illustrations aren't very good and it seems like it might be a little too chummy, but I like the fact that it is a contemporary look life in London from 1926.

I like Mary McCarthy's work so Birds of America (a young man goes to Paris) was a natural. Plus it is a nice hardback with dust jacket in mint condition.

Tea, 1917, short. Should have been a fun, quick read. Well it was quick, but A Cup of Tea by Amy Ephron was pretty predictable and one-dimensional.

I am drawn to non-Maigret Simenon. Plus I love that the title character in The Widow is named Tati.

I've only ever read one Alexander McCall Smith books and thought The Unbearable Lightness of Scones might be something good to read during a slump. Plus I like the title because it pokes fun of Kundera's uber serious novel and it reminds me of my blog post Zadok the Scone.

Part of me thinks I have already read When the World Was Steady...damn, I just checked my list, I have indeed read this. The cover art messed me up. I should have known better.

Love me some Elizabeth von Arnim and I just saw The Caravaners reviewed by The Indextrious Reader.





06 April 2014

What I discovered when I took a break from Facebook

 
A couple of weeks ago I decided to take a mini-break from the internet. I realized that I had become paralyzingly addicted to wasting time with the help of my laptop. But to understand why, I need to add a little background.

As many of you know, I have been without a job for almost a year now. The project I was working on had been having its budget slashed year over year and it finally caught up with my position. I have done a few freelance projects but for someone with my professional background (urban planning and historic preservation) and at my experience level, job opportunities aren't exactly thick on the ground. Especially in a region so dependent on federal spending. Thankfully, we are nowhere near destitute thanks to John's hard work, but it does mean that I have oodles of free time.

But what is the quality of that free time? At first the days seemed to be limitless. Unprogrammed hours just vibrating with potential. But over time that morphed into existential angst about my place in the world. Feelings of guilt that I am not pulling my weight at home or in society at large. Then mundane tasks began to fill my time in a way that they would not have if I were working. I don't mean that I started to add housekeeping tasks because I had additional time, but rather the same tasks I did before began to fill more and more time. Or, if not the tasks themselves, the whole downward spiral that is procrastination wherein I am neither doing what I should be, nor doing something more fun and interesting because I am thinking about what I should be doing.

And that is where the digital double-edged sword comes into play. The internet can fulfilling and it can be deadening. But let me break down the villains in this festival of procrastination.

Dramatis Personae
Facebook - Love that it keeps me in touch with friends and family in a way that I think is very positive. Hate that I find myself repeatedly refreshing the page hoping my working family and friends will say something to amuse me or respond to something I have posted.

Twitter - Love that I have connected with so many wonderful bookish people around the world. Hate that I find myself scrolling and scrolling and scrolling looking for what?

New York Times, Washington Post, and The Daily Dish - Love the fine reporting and commentary in each of these online news organs. Hate that I reflexively look at them throughout the day when FB and Twitter don't satisfy. Also, really hate how they can get me incensed about the state of the world and feeling frustrated that there is little I can do about anything.
Simon Savidge and I have chatted a few times on our podcast The Readers about the internet's impact on our reading habits. We talked about how great it can be for bookish fulfillment, but we also talked about how it can be a big time waster and keep us from actually reading books.

As I have had such a slow reading year, I thought I would give myself a partial break from the internet to see if I could reconnect with reading. So a week or two ago I decided to go five days without looking at Facebook, Twitter or any news website or blog. I didn't rule out my blogs, or other book blogs, and I didn't rule out email. Not only do I not consider those to be time wasters, they have actually been neglected in recent months because of my addiction to the others mentioned above.

So what happened during my media moratorium?

1. I realized that checking Facebook, Twitter, and news sites was so reflexive that I found myself wanting to check them after about every two pages I read in a book. I had no idea I was interrupting my reading that much for social media. HUGE revelation.

2. Oddly, I also watched less TV. I think because when I watch most TV I have my iPad in front of me and the two things together just put me in a media coma.

3.  I was more productive around the house. I discovered that BBC Radio 4 has lots of fun and interesting programmes to listen to while ironing and doing other chores.

4. I got more exercise.

5. I realized that people assume Facebook is a fail safe way to contact me. Even though I said I would be gone for a while I still got messages on FB that required answers from me. I didn't see any of those messages for five days.

6. I realized I could happily do without reading or hearing the news. In addition to avoiding news websites during this time I also avoided NPR news on the radio. Blissful. I missed nothing. Does this mean I will forever be ignorant about what is going on in the world? I doubt it, but it did prove the maxim that ignorance is bliss.

7. I felt more isolated. John was out of town and I began to feel a wee bit lonely. I realized I only have about four people in the world who wouldn't find a phone call with me to be unusual.

8. The experience made me totally rethink my recent decision to get a smart phone. I shouldn't do it in the first place just because of the expense, but I was close to taking the plunge. But now I think I really don't need or want that kind of time sucking potential to be at my side 24 hours a day. To anyone who thinks smart phones are indispensable, I get it. They can be extremely helpful and handy and fun. I know at some point I will get one, but I hope to god it doesn't become the crutch it has become to so many users.

No one will convince me that everyone needs to be connected to everything all the time. You don't. You just don't. No, I know that, but you really don't. You aren't that important. None of us are. And I will be annoyed and offended if you and I are sitting together and you need to check whatever feeds you are following. Why don't you just go somewhere else and be with your phone. You don't need me for that. And if I am so boring that you would rather be doing something else, please, by all means, go do it.

Unoriginal and not really surprising final thoughts on the experiment?
Everything in moderation.