What are you reading?
“Stumbling on Happiness" by Daniel Gilbert. It’s a psychological perspective on how people conceive of happiness and why that conception is false. We try to predict what will make us happy, but in the end, we can’t accurately predict the future at all. Gilbert believes that humans only really live in the moment, and he backs that up with different psychological experiments that he’s done. He’ll give someone a swatch of color and have them focus on it. Then, later, he’ll ask them to pick that same color out of a lineup, and they can’t do it.”
Why are you reading it?
“I was in a used bookstore on University, and I thought the title was interesting.”
What do you think of the style?
“I like it; it’s conversational and [the author] jokes a lot. It’s corny, but he admits to his own corniness.”
Who is your favorite author?
“Octavia Butler. She wrote The Parable of the Sower. I like that [the author] pulls from things that could be real circumstances. The book imagines a future in which economic and environmental crises have totally decimated the standard lifestyles in the U.S. It focuses on a middle-class girl whose community is totally destroyed. She ends up walking along the highways of California and starting her own commune based on a religion she’s founded called Earthseed. The concept of Earthseed is that God is change. [The protagonist] grew up in a more traditionally religious household, but because of the tragedy of losing her home, she decided that the only real thing in life is change. You can never stop change from happening, so your only choice in life is to guide how change will happen and hope to end up on the best side of it. She challenges the particular place in life that I’m from — I know what it is to grow up as a middle-class person with certain expectations.”
What book has been life-changing for you?
“The Temple of My Familiar, by Alice Walker. There were thoughts and concepts I had that were ratified by the book — someone else had written something that made me feel, ‘Oh, I’m not crazy.’ [Walker] talked about people having past lives. Not so much believing in past lives, but rather that people had experiences they weren’t aware of that shaped who they were. There was more to their understanding than they were consciously aware of. And I sometimes feel like there’s knowledge that I have that I can’t account for. I don’t know how I have it or why I think the things I think are true, but I have a sense that they are.”
Do you read newspapers?
“Once in a while, I’ll scan the USA Today — the color pictures grab my eye.”
Do you talk to friends about books?
“Yes, I have a friend in Berkeley; we talk on the phone about books. We have different tastes, but she’s willing to listen to me ramble. I used to talk about how I read Jack London’s The Call of the Wild and White Fang over and over as a kid. I liked his descriptions of the dogs’ emotions. And he had this one line about the nature of work, about being satisfied in your work and how it was almost like an inspiration for living. His description of that feeling was beautiful.”
NAME: ALISA PARRISH
OCCUPATION: RESEARCH SHIP PILOT
NEIGHBORHOOD: NOAA SHIP KA’ IMIMOANA
WHERE INTERVIEWED: PO PAZZO, LITTLE ITALY