This week’s reading list:
The Dome by Suzanne Craig-Whytock
The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa
A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks
Golden Son by Pierce Brown
Great to have a new stack of books to occupy me. All are non-fiction. Now to carve some time to read them! I think I can, as I’ve received my ballot and will voting this week, freeing me from researching issues. (We vote by mail in Oregon; that’s the way it’s done.) Three of the books are from the library books, so the clock is running, but the one that isn’t a library book, The Dome, is calling me. I’ll begin there. Its premise sounds enticing and it’s a smaller book. After the giant Tombland last week (eight hundred pages), I want something smaller.
Politics and books took over my bandwidth last week.
- Books are such time thieves. Writing them takes time, energy, and attention. With energy, I’m referring to intellectual, emotional, and physical energy. The effort absorbs everything. Don’t know if that’s true for other writers, but this is how it is for me.
- Reading books also sucks away time and energy. I read a C.J. Sanson novel last week, Tombland. Tombland isn’t a small novel, registering at eight hundred packed pages. The latest in the Matthew Shardlake series, like the other novels, I was compelled to read, almost as if I’d been cursed. The mystery is relatively thin but that is incidental to the history, period, and characters. His voice is authentic, and the characters are alive and shifting. You feel it all.
- But reading that book meant I was doing almost nothing else. It was that consuming. I was also trying to read it to return it to the library. It was due 10/22, but I had other books on hold. My wife also had library books to return (The Plover, and The House in the Cerulean Sea). (She’d read Tombland before me.) So I was pushing to finish to turn the books in, limiting our library visits and its potential COVID-19 exposure. They do a good job at the library, but exposure is exposure, right? Right. After returning Tombland, I returned home and had an email from the library system: they’d extended Tombland for me. Nice of them but unnecessary.
- I recommend Tombland. This particular novel swirled around murders in Norfolk in 1549. Somerset was the Lord Protector for the young king. It being England and that era, politics around rights for the common people the Kett Rebellion, differences in the church (Protestants vs. Catholics), power struggles among lords and ladies (including Edward’s sisters), and enclosures – fencing off common land that set aside for animal crazy. All the sinister and cynical conniving among the wealthy to increase their power and wealth, and their attitude toward the lower classes, and the subservience expected from the upper classes strikes amazing similarities to what’s happening in the United States in this century.
- Tombland was a fresh reminder of what England endured and how they prevailed and developed as a democracy. Turmoil and bloodshed are occurring in the U.S., but not at the levels seen in England at that time. I want to add, yet. It may come to that.
- The monstrous poverty and homelessness of the era also brought out sharp comparisons to here and now in America. It provided rich fodder for heavy thinking.
- Of course, reading a book that I enjoy helps inform the novel that I’m writing. Nothing I read made me want to tear up my manuscript (or delete it) or start anew. It did inspire nuances and new flavors to fold into the blend, and of course, fuel up the need to sit down and write.
- The skunk and I (and my wife) continue our non-violent confrontation. I don’t want the skunk to go under the house to live; the skunk wants to. I’m not a violent person, and love animals. Watching the skunk (and studying it through the window as it emerges at night) gives more appreciation to who it is. Yet, I know it’s damaging our foundation, insulation, and weather barrier. I empathize with the little critter, though. It’s a tough life out there, and it’s only trying to exist as I’m trying to exist. It certainly has the same rights as me.
- I blame some of my sympathy to the skunk to the Netflix documentary, My Octopus Teacher. A wonderful love story, it revealed standard details the octopus and its tough existence. Naturally, after watching it, I transferred the octopus’ struggles to ‘my’ skunk. There is a difference between the octopus and skunk: the octopus isn’t invading ‘my’ territory. Anyone can argue, the skunks were there first, and that I’m the trespasser. I know; that doesn’t make my job dealing with the skunk any easier.
We’ve been watching His Dark Materials (HBO), and mostly enjoying it, although the story feels like it’s rushed more than the books. But then, that’s why I prefer reading (and writing) books. I can indulge in my imagination more, and let matters (and story) expand and flow with fewer constraints.
Lin Manuel Miranda is playing Lee Scoresby, aeronaut, friend of Irok (the armored bear) and protector of Lyra (one of many). Sam Elliot played Lee in the first movie, The Golden Compass. Sam aligned more with how I saw Lee in the novel, so I thought he was casting perfection. Nevertheless, Lin does a damn fine job (not surprising for someone as talented as Lin).
Here’s the kicker and the point to this whole post: a man who looks like Lin Manuel Miranda as Lee Scoresby just walked into the coffee shop. After I stared at him, watching his passage across the coffee shop (which he noticed) (it seemed to disconcert him), I had to go outside and check – balloon? Large white bear in armor? Gyptians? Flying witches?
No; just Lee, sneaking in for a cuppa…and perhaps here for a secret assignation.
Who the hell knows?
(The weirdest thing: after he came in…he disappeared…)
Flooftagonist (floofinition) – The animal who is the principal character in a work of fiction.
In use: “Enzo, a dog, is the flooftagonist in The Art of Racing in the Rain, a novel about a man’s life, and the dog’s role in his relationships.”