Wine and Candles

8 February 2002

Day two of thoroughly unromantic dining room darkness. I have a couple of candles going now, simply because people keep giving us candles and we keep admiring them but not burning them. And they're pretty, but I keep dusting them, and wax gets harder to dust after awhile. When we lived in Concord, I often remembered to light the candles at dinner, and that had a sort of warm, homey touch. It was a kind of "push back the darkness" ritual. (Of course, there was more darkness to push back when we lived in Concord.) Here, we have places to store candles other than on the kitchen table, so it doesn't work that way quite so much. (I also don't use a crystal salad bowl as an "outbox" for mail, because we can store that, too. Convenient.)

Same deal goes for wine: people keep giving us bottles of wine, and we keep admiring them but not drinking them. We'll drink about half a bottle when the giver is around, but usually we have another bottle open, and we use that instead, it being chilled and all. (I am a horrible philistine: when I drink red wine, I drink it chilled. I cannot stomach warm red wine. Some red wines I can't stomach at all.) Which leaves us with -- I'm sure you can all do the math -- a net half a bottle from most dinner guests. Oops. We drank wine more often in Concord, too -- maybe more darkness-pushing. I don't know. In any case, it's been months, maybe up to a year, since I actually bought any red wine, and we can go awhile longer still. We have a bottle of Georgian wine that Jen gave us -- Georgian as in the former Soviet Republic, not as in next to Alabama. We keep failing to find occasions that are fancy enough to use it. We thought about it on Thanksgiving, but then there was very little wine drunk, and it seemed a shame to open it then. Even Timprov's Tokay has half gone to waste. We buy white wine periodically, but I keep cooking with that.

We're just not very good drinkers, I guess.

On sort of that theme, I finished "A Nose for Spirits" last night, keeping the streak intact. It was my first ghost story, and it might be my last. Not because it was a bad experience, just because I haven't had other ideas for ghost stories, and it's not the sort of thing I'm going to try for. If I never had any ideas for "chapter books" (books for the early or middle grades), I would probably try to figure out something. But ghost stories, no. Not so much.

"A Nose for Spirits" was set in Germany, and I found myself with an odd dilemma. Do you translate the titles? I ended up saying yes -- that I was translating the rest of the dialog, and that Herr is more or less equivalent to Mr. I mean, I hate it when authors don't translate the handful of foreign words they know, "yes" and "thank you" and "Mrs.," in order to demonstrate that These Characters Are Foreigners, No, Really. It's almost as bad as when the characters don't translate the simple words.

Is the distinction unclear? Here's what it is: in the first case, Pierre is talking to Jacques, presumably in French, although you're reading the story in English, and some of the easy French words are in French; in the second case, Pierre is talking to Kirsten in English, and some of the easy French words are still in French. There's really no excuse for the former, although it shows up all the time. In the latter case, you could think, okay, maybe Pierre has forgotten a word. But Pierre never forgets "zeitgeist" or "pudding" or "barrel vault" or "high voltage." He knows all of those cold. It's "no" and "tomorrow" and "green," the first words you learn in a language, that go south on him. Let me tell you, if I ever have to deal with an alien invasion in Japan, I will have a hard time with "invasion" and "mothership" and even "run for your lives," but if the aliens land near the red post office and someone wants to know where they are? I'm golden.

("You're John Carter of Mars? You're so cool!", right, Timprov? "Deja-Torisu wa doko ni imasu ka?" Sadly, if there is one Japanese sentence my brain will hang onto forever, it's "Where is Dejah Thoris?" Nobody even has to wonder what that's indicative of, in a deep psychological sense. I'm sure all of you can figure it out.)

Oh, on a totally unrelated note, I saw the best headline at the supermarket yesterday. I think it was on Mademoiselle, but it might have been any of those magazines. It said, "Is that my butt?" No, I'm not kidding. That's what it said, "Is that my butt?" I mean, I'd heard that some of these people didn't know their butt from first base or from a hole in the ground, but that's a bit ridiculous.

So I've got all of yesterday's ideas still available for today's writing, since I didn't finish any of them. That's fine. The tally for the week stands at two SF, two fantasy, as long as you count the ghost story as fantasy. Which it is under some conventions. Anyway. Off I go.

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