In Which Time Is Not the Only Thing Knotted and Screwed Up

28 February 2004

Madeleine L'Engle has decided me on years.

I finally gave up on finding my missing book boxes at my folks' house any time soon -- we'll be down there at least a couple of times this spring for various events, but I don't know if I'll have time to look then, and I really doubt that the folks will have time to go digging around before then. So. My copy of The Arm of the Starfish will have to keep waiting for me a bit more, and I picked one up at the library so that I could continue reading the series in order.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, this is a series that starts with L'Engle's most famous book, A Wrinkle in Time. Meg and her siblings are the main characters for four books, and then it shifts so that Meg's daughter Polyhymnia/Polly is the major character from that family. The Arm of the Starfish is the first book in which Polyhymnia is a major player, and she's still young, only twelve.

Thing is, L'Engle wrote these out of order. And the other thing is, she wrote in some perpetual present, an eternal now, in which the Korean War is in the immediate past for both Meg and her daughter. In which it is clearly no earlier than the early/mid 1970s when Meg is pregnant with Poly, but Vietnam has not yet become a part of the American or most international consciousness when Poly is 12. It's hardest to escape this in The Arm of the Starfish: in A House Like a Lotus, Polly's present is significantly after her mother's high school days. Also, Arm deals with international thriller science politics jazz. So the "contemporary" setting is very, very clearly around the copyright date of the book, 1965.

It's just strange, is what it is. It's jarring. Also, this book...I loved it when I was little, and now I love it, too, but then I thought it was lovable as a book all by itself. And now I see that it's mostly lovable as an entry in a well-beloved series. That if you were to hand someone this book independent of all the rest, odds are good that it would not go over well.

I just think the moral of the story is that I need to pick a year for Fortress of Thorns. I don't need to put the dates on things, necessarily, but I need to have an idea of when it's happening definitively, because the contemporary setting will not always be contemporary, and if I ever want to work backwards or forwards, I should have a reference point so that it doesn't get this weird.

Also, it is almost never acceptable to name one's Christ-figure Joshua. I mean, really, Madeleine.

I also finished Engdahl's Enchantress from the Stars in time to hand it back to Stella. I'm still having trouble with the Prime Directive (the Oath, whatever). I guess the thing is, I just don't see the point in teaching something like that as a general rule when it clearly has so many exceptions that it's almost more exception than rule. Especially when it's cast not so much as "When is it okay to interfere with other societies?" as "Will so-and-so have to choose between duty and compassion?" Not if you didn't phrase duty stupidly to begin with. And I've never seen a decent justification for that generalized non-interference rule, which makes some sense as the people who are depicting it usually are using it as something to overturn.

I'm still reading Alec's Vicious, still enjoying it. I'm also thumbing through Crescent Dragonwagon's The Passionate Vegetarian cookbook from the library. I'm not going veggie, but we have Dragonwagon's soup-and-bread cookbook and have liked it a good deal, so I thought I'd see what other tasty things she makes. This thing is massive, so it may take me awhile even without reading most of it. (I don't read cookbooks like novels. Some people do. Not me. I read the ingredients lists, and if they look interesting, I read the cooking instructions. If it still looks interesting, I copy it down, and there you go. Perhaps I'm missing something vivid and wonderful, but I think I'm generally all right with that.

And also I picked up Diana Wynne Jones's The Homeward Bounders to take me through last night's airport-trip and teeth-brushing, where Alec's manuscript and the cookbook dealie wouldn't do. I didn't have long with it before I crashed. The airline website claimed that Mark's flight was late, late getting into Indianapolis. Since he wasn't going to Indianapolis but rather coming here, we went on time to the airport, and he was early. Came home, fell down went boom.

There is a particular lovely kind of back badness that makes one feel like a morally bad person, not through some twisted logic but through a direct tap-in to the emotions. Badbadbad. Intellectually I am sailing along; intellectually I know what to do with this book I'm writing it, and I'm doing it, and when I'm not doing it I have other good things to do. When I can keep dealing with things intellectually, all is well. Otherwise, I'm doing the best I can to remind myself that this is a physiological reaction. Bleh, bleh, bleh.

I "cooked ahead," Tuesday night, making things I wasn't going to eat immediately, and it has paid off the last two nights, when there were things to eat with essentially no time or effort on my or anyone else's part. Tonight we will need cooked food. I think it'll be okay, though. Someone can do it. Maybe even me.

I realized I've forgotten to give you people your Noah update! He got to go home at the beginning of this week without any monitors or inconveniences of that nature. He is also up from his birth weight. Last I heard he was at 6 pounds, 5 ounces. Which is still, it has just occurred to me, smaller than my poodle was. But he's working on it. He knows his job right now.

There will be Roo pictures when we get them off the camera. He's very clear with "truck" but was more fond of "brrrrrrrrr" and "wee-ooh, wee-ooh, wee-ooh," since it was an emergency rescue truck. Also he grooves to Bob Dylan and associates it with his daddy. He is nifty. So is Stella, but her niftiness is less easily exemplified in one-liners.

So. I'm going to try to concentrate my computer time, so that I'm getting stuff done when I'm at the computer, not sitting in the same chair reading as I sometimes do. I'm going to try to change the way I'm sitting/standing/lying often, I'm going to take some Advil, and I'm going to take a really hot shower. I'm going to see if I can get this bout of back nastiness beaten down to its normal level, and if I can't, I'm going to see about getting a massage like I did when we first moved here. Enough is enough, already.

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