Animal Crossing, Camping, and The Bear — Oh My

Here’s what. I’ve been obsessed with Animal Crossing: A New Leaf. So obsessed that I did the final project in my Web Usability summer class (A+) on how to improve player interaction with Blathers. It’s very annoying how he goes on and on and on… Let’s just say he is aptly named. All I want to do is donate a fossil, okay. TAKE MY FOSSIL, PLEASE!

Anyway, everyone in my town is saying I’m a fashionista because I change my outfit every day that I play, and I just dyed my hair white and got it cut like Anna Wintour’s.

Last weekend I went camping, for the second time ever. I felt a little bit like Miss Piggy. Y’know how she’s always dressed to impress and gets huff-and-puffy when she isn’t reclining on a divan in a lovely dress eating bonbons? Well, I guess I WISHED I felt more like Miss Piggy, because I was wearing some frumpy cutoff jeans and the only huffing-and-puffing I did was up a “moderate” slope that didn’t stop going uphill for about 40 minutes. There were s’mores though, and that’s kind of like bonbons, so okay.

I sound like I’m complaining, and I did think I actually might die of a burst-open lung on the hike, but the shower afterward felt like heaven at a quarter a minute, and it was really fun being with friends for the weekend in the great outdoors. So it was worth the suffering.

Anyway, it occurred to me that camping is sort of like Animal Crossing. There was a bluejay who kept screaming for his friends to come join him in stealing our trail mix. There were some grumpy squirrels who kept throwing acorn shells at our heads. And every single neighboring tent BYO’ed their dog. These IRL animals didn’t have the same level of manners that my Animal Crossing neighbors have, but it was still nice to wake up to their twittering, and to have them chuffing around the campsite while we cooked potatoes and drank a billion cups of good coffee from Four Barrel.

Speaking of twitter, it was kind of nice not to have any cellular service. Except when that 6.0 earthquake hit and we didn’t know if it was the apocalypse or what, so we just went back to sleep after confirming everyone was okay and not crushed by a falling rock.

The other thing I did was, I brought a book with me, because I never go anywhere without a book to read: just in case. The Bear by Claire Cameron begins with the brutal mauling death of a mother and father by a bear, leaving their infant son Stick and barely verbal, pre-school daughter Anna to make their way to safety off the island campsite, solo. Not such a great book to bring on a camping trip. I mean, there’s a photo of a bear caught on film by motion-triggered cameras in the visitor center of the state park we were camping in. Still, I read it all, and it’s a good book, written wholly in the daughter’s voice in a compelling stream of consciousness style. Anna doesn’t know what has happened or what’s going on, but the reader does, and that builds the appropriate level of tension to sustain the story as the kids bumble through the forest and encounter dangers they can’t fully comprehend. I give it many stars.

Speaking of stars. We went to a star party, which is even more awesome than it sounds. But I’ll leave that for another post, since it’s not animal-related.

Monsieur Zola and the Ladies’ Paradise

I have a bad habit I’m constantly striving to overcome. I love to shop. Window shopping kills me: I always find at least three things I am certain I MUST HAVE NOW. I feel a little bit like Veruca Salt when I go window shopping. Which is why, as a rule, I don’t do it.

The other day, I had to buy a couple of specific things I need for an upcoming vacation, and came home with neither of them — the luggage was too expensive and there were no zippered straw beach bags to be found anywhere in the world. As some sort of consolation, I did buy a badass straw fedora with a big girly bow, a pair of earrings that look like they were made in the Hadron Collider, and a canary-yellow wristlet. I justify my purchases with the “but it was on sale” principle of self-deception.

I blame Émile Zola.

Au Bonheur des Dames is Zola’s novel about shopping, and could almost have been penned by the writer who gives us the Bridget Jones books. Modeled on Le Bon Marché department store, the plot of The Ladies’ Paradise hangs on the unlikely relationship between a shop-girl and the owner of the department store, whose primary aim in his business is to exploit women by creating desires that would not have originated without the assistance of the store’s psychologically manipulative sales techniques.

Part Cinderella story, part treatise deconstructing desire and consumption, Zola is always a good read. But if you don’t feel like reading — presumably because you’d like to get more quickly back to shopping — you can watch the BBC’s Paradise miniseries, a pretty good rendition. Don’t be afraid of Zola, though. Yes, he was dauntingly prolific and, sure, The Ladies’ Paradise was written in the 1880’s, but it’s surprisingly modern and there are no paragraph-long sentences or tricky grammatical constructions or anything else you might be terrified to encounter in 19th century capital-l literature. Easy reading, and wry.

I suggest you check it out of your local library though. If you go to a store to buy it, you may just come back with Morley’s The Haunted Bookshop and a Niccolò Ammaniti novel, like I did when I was informed that The Ladies’ Paradise wasn’t in stock at the moment.

Au bonheur, indeed. Happiness is a well-used book.

Sources to Explore

Hadron Collider

Émile Zola

Le Bon Marché



Discovering Murakami

I sent this to a friend the other day, someone experienced in the work and worlds of Haruki Murakami who has recommended his books to me a time or two.

I started reading Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World today.

First couple of pages I was thinking, I dunno if I want to keep reading this. By the end of the first chapter I thought, hrm, I’m slightly interested. End of second chapter, I was compelled to continue out of confusion. End of third chapter? Completely, utterly HOOKED.

Line & Sinker.

What I love most about this book is the delicate balance of I have no idea what is going on here, juxtaposed with: ah-ha, I’m starting to see what might be going on here. Some authors try to spring something on you, as if a trick twist you could never have predicted in a million years is some kind of a mark of literary honor, with no reverence for Chekov’s gun. But the gradual revelation of method in what seems like madness is, for a reader, beguiling enough to keep her reading straight through to the end. Like I did.

This book folds and folds on you like a delicate meringue-based batter. It’s thoughtful, hilarious, disaffected, weird, beautiful. And I’m a sucker for a book populated by librarians.