In Which The Ending Comes as a Surprise to Our Heroine

5 January 2004

I finished reading Grass for His Pillow, which was good but another trilogy-middle book, and then read Callahan's Con. Timprov warned me, so I'm warning you, any of you who are Callahan's fans; then again, he couldn't warn me, and I can't warn you. This book was tough on both of us. There were some things that grated on me about it (Zed -- the ending that made you call it quits on this series is brought up again), but for the most part it was really well done. It answered for me, quite, quite well, the question of what Spider can do to keep any power in these books now that this set of characters has saved the universe several times already. Callahan's Key made me sniffle twice, and Callahan's Con repeated the feat. I am not a crier-at-books. So that really is something.

Without saying anything spoilery, the things that made me snuffle in this book were much more specific to it being the latest incarnation of a long series than the things in Callahan's Key. I don't think a single book could have gotten this reaction from me. Scratch that: I know it couldn't have. I called Spider all sorts of names, of which "dirty rotten rat bastard" was the nicest; but he was right to do what he did. Sometimes he's full of it, sometimes on issues I think are extremely important, but the man can, in fact, tell a story.

In other books, I have discovered the brothel and saloon count in Minneapolis vs. St. Paul in the year 1880. I'm certain this information will come in handy somehow. I'm just not sure how. Also, I find this: "The [first St. Paul Winter] Carnival was inaugurated to prove to a skeptical world that Minnesota in general and St. Paul in particular were not the American version of Siberia but were in fact a great winter pleasure ground where happy citizens cavorted in frosty frolics. To support this dubious proposition, the first carnival included a torchlight parade in which five thousand uniformed members from a variety of clubs marched down Third Street in fourteen-degree-below-zero weather, past buildings decorated with so many glittering candles that one awestruck reporter likened the scene to a vision of 'celestial glory.'" (See, I'm not the only one to look at the Cities lit up in the winter and think of heaven!) The frosty frolics are starting up again: they're cutting the ice blocks from Lake Phalen now. And the temperatures aren't supposed to get above 8 in the next three days. 8 Farenheit. And there's to be snow. I love this place. I'm just glad I've laid by a stock of lotion from Christmas.

The book in question is Lost Twin Cities, and while I'm really glad to have the pictures in it and wish I could have seen some of the buildings...I do wish it seemed possible for people to love old buildings and yet understand urban renewal as a not-wholly-negative force. Larry Millett can't talk about progress, he has to talk about "progress" -- even when he's talking about a dead downtown becoming a living, usable space again. I have my share of frustration at paving paradise and putting up a parking lot, but I also know that not all changes have been bad, and a lot of the buildings torn down were hideous and unusable.

I'm in love with Minneapolis as it is now. We all know that; if you don't know that, I think you probably haven't been reading this journal very long. I don't think it's flawless, but it's mine. And it's alive, and it feels very human-scale to me. Even the skyscrapers are accessible to me. And it isn't the same as it was when I was small, and it isn't the same as it will be when my children are small. When I poke my loved ones and say, "There's my city," or, more often, "There's our city," I'm not talking about a static photo of the skyline. I'm talking about a living thing. I would cry if they tore down the Foshay Tower. (I would probably be inconsolable for days, actually.) But I don't think every building of that age or older is indispensable. I can imagine progress without the quotes around it, that incorporates the best of the old but doesn't get mired in the past to the point of being blind to actual human beings actually using the buildings in question.

If the Minneapolis downtown was all curlicued Victorian office buildings, it would not be nearly so usable. And I think sometimes building taste works in the same way as landscape taste does: Nebraska vistas are only boring if you don't like the prairie. My nondescript is your charming, and vice versa. I can see the charm in some Victorian buildings, but that doesn't make them all charming, and it doesn't make them all creative any more than all modern buildings are architectural wonders.

In other news, Mark is still sick and hacking up bits of lung in the other room. He may attempt to insist that he's feeling better; if he does, we will call him tricksy and false, precious, because people who are feeling better don't have that deep racking cough. I would know from deep racking coughs. I don't know how I've managed to avoid this one, but mostly I've been tired, which I assume is my body's response to fighting off the viruses he's shedding hither and thither.

I'm reading Birgit and Peter Sawyer's Medieval Scandinavia: From Converstion to Reformation, circa 800-1500 now. I've got a lovely stack of this kind of thing waiting for me. Mom and Dad gave me some, and Timprov gave me some, and Mark's grandparents indirectly did by giving me money I could spend on this kind of book. And one of Mark's brothers gave Amazon gift certificates, which are a torturous joy, and I think I've figured out that a book on the Winter War will be part of what I get there.

It's funny: over the last few years, I've been reading more fiction outside the speculative genre(s) than I did before that, but our bookshelves only reflect it in little, tiny ways. The library list is full of mainstream and mystery and litty and historical stuff, but...when I have $50 to spend at Amazon, all for me, I reach for SF and fantasy, still. Maybe always. I almost never buy myself non-spec fiction unless I've already read it or already read enough books by that author that I trust him/her. I dearly love some books that aren't speculative, and I probably read more mysteries last year than some people who read mostly mysteries (14, total, according to the classifications of my list, and 33 non-genre fiction volumes). But when it comes to thinking of what kind of thing I might want to buy, and not just hope the library will buy for me, it's speculative or nonfiction all the way.

I found my home. It's nice to visit other places, but there's no harm in belonging where I belong and loving what (and who) I love.

As you may have seen, or not, I had no time for picture cropping and posting yesterday. Today has gotten off to a slow start, with phone calls and conversations and little things to deal with. Nothing huge, just bits and pieces, getting the week started.

And -- heh heh, funny thing happened. Just as I wrote that, I got my mail. My forwarded mail, from mid-October on. Heh. Every last bit of it already slit open. Including the credit card statement. To indulge in the passive voice for a moment, words were said. Words Mom doesn't like. Eight rejections and -- heh -- I'm just going to go sit and rock for awhile.

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