In Which Books Overwhelm, Again or Still

26 January 2004

All of yesterday I was Aragorn Borealis: "Still not snowing yet. Still no snow. Not snowing yet." But now it's snowing very nicely, and they suggest it'll do so off and on until Thursday at least. Snow good. We like snow.

And the lack of it yesterday meant we had no problems getting up to St. Paul to meet Yore and Judy for Chinese food, which was tasty and pleasant. (Unfortunately, the waiter had the same reaction every Chinese restaurant waiter in the world has to me: conviction that something must be wrong with my entrée, based on how much of it I'd eaten. We have enough chicken with noodles in spicy black bean sauce to feed the Army of the Potomac, as my family would say. It's lovely stuff, but they gave me so much of it to begin with. And then he made such a concerned face. Sigh.)

I'm confused by one of the appetizers we had, though. It was called mock goose, and it was pastry with mushrooms and sauce. Lovely stuff, but in no way gooselike. Not even sort of gooselike. In fact, I couldn't see how anyone who had ever tasted poultry of any kind, no matter how many years ago it had been, might have fooled themselves into thinking that what we had tasted like goose. So I'm wondering: is this a name that doesn't translate particularly well? Makes sense in some Chinese dialect, or is a homonym, or something? I mean, I've never tasted turtle soup or mock turtle soup, so I couldn't tell you whether the mockery is apt there, either. I just don't know.

I had to stop reading A Frozen Hell and working on the book last night. It was getting me a bit overwrought. In this case, history seems to understand the concept of comic relief, but it's hard to make it work quite so well when you know that people really have been that brutal and stupid to each other. The relief is less relieving that way. So I went back to The Belly of the Bow, which is not free of brutal stupidity, either, but is not one long slaughter on both sides. It's funny: it seems like I oscillate between reading nonfiction to cool my mind off from the fiction I've just read and vice versa. Last night was a vice versa.

I also -- oh. Oh, my library list. It is so very sad. I tend to note titles I want to look for on my long-term to-do list, and then every once in awhile I go through the library's online catalog and see if I can get them there. If so, they get transferred to my library list. If not, my used bookstore list or Amazon list, depending on how much I want to read them. Anyway, I went through and put a bunch more stuff on my library list. It is now four very full pages. I could squeeze a few more volumes on the fourth page by recopying it and removing the few left on it that I've already read. But there are lots of books on this thing. How can I have so many books here to read and yet have so many books yet on the list? I'm lucky that there are so many books I want to read. I know I am. It's a good problem to have. But...uff da mai. Poor library list, and I have other things to do than attend to it.

Some of the stuff on this list is to mend my crashing ignorance on various important topics, and others are to improve my cultural literacy (I think I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is probably something a literate person in this culture should have read, for example, and I have not). And still others just sounded good. Then there's my quite necessary research. I'm very glad and grateful that the library here has more information on both Finns and Finnish-Americans than the one in California did. Not surprised, but glad and grateful. But it does mean more entries on the library list.

I'm trying to think of it as a duty, truthfully, because that's how I'm keeping myself from running right out in the snow in my pajamas, shouting, "Books! Wait for me, books! I'm coming!"

I think I may become a believer in the book anthropic principle: that the universe is as it is and not some other way because if it was otherwise we could not have so many books. I'm not sure I have any proof for that, but it hasn't stopped believers in the other anthropic principles, so there.

One of my downfalls, when it comes to the library list, is searching for things by subject. Ohhh, no no no. This is something I should never do, because right there by "Mythology, Baltic" there are dozens of other mythology-comma-somethings. And they look interesting. And what if I forget that they looked interesting? Better write them down. Just in case. Wouldn't want to miss out.

I was e-mailing with one of my friends about the library list last week, after he'd contributed to it, and he was saying he'd rather browse and see what catches his fancy. But the thing is: I do browse and see what catches my fancy. When I'm at a bookstore, I am financially constrained. I can't take home everything that catches my fancy: they would ask for money for it. And then, of course, there would be the matter of carting it all home. But at the library, all I have to do is space out when I cart it all home, and also cart some of it back in the intervening times, and it's all fine.

(Why do they taunt me by having entries for "Mythology, Inuit" and "Mythology, Eskimo" and then, for number of entries, zero? Oh why? This is more mocking than mock goose, I feel certain.)

Well. As long as my library list is out of control, you might as well add to it. What should an informed, culturally literate person have read, do you think? And what should a speculative fiction writer have read? Or a writer for teens, or for children? And why the difference? Doesn't have to be a comprehensive list. Just a couple titles you'd like to make sure I've gotten to somewhere along the way. Or several titles. Or authors. Whatever floats your boat. In for a penny, in for a pound, may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, whatever other proverbs you care to apply.

Still snowing. In fact, it's snowing that lovely hard kind of snow where you don't have to squint through bits of the screen or find a window without one: it's clearly snowing, no matter how fuzzily you look at it. So purty. White and nice. And a good frame of mind for reading A Frozen Hell, and possibly a good frame of mind for writing the Not The Moose as well, though we're coming up on spring. Not that Edward will notice, holed up in the Pohjola with the new Sampo taking shape under his hands.

Sampos aren't like books. They're tools, not things on their own. Hmm. They might be tools and things on their own. Which some books are, and some are not.

I guess we'll find out.

Back to Novel Gazing.

And the main page.

Or the last entry.

Or the next one.

Or even send me email.