In Which It Wouldn't Be The Same

11 May 2003

Happy Mother's Day to the motherly among you!

It's always a little odd to deal with someone whose view of me is shaped more by what they want me to be than by what I am. It's also odd to deal with someone whose view of me is shaped by what I was like at age 8. Hanging out with my old friend Mindy was a little of both, I think. She seemed to be trying to see what I'd become, as opposed to what she anticipated, but sometimes her previous assumptions seemed awfully deeply embedded, too much so for her to notice that they were there. (This is very strange for me, as I seem to feel a lot more continuity/commonality with me-circa-1986 than most people I know do with themselves from the same time frame. I still make sense to myself and can usually reproduce what the heck I was thinking, even if I was missing something at the time. So when there's discontinuity between what people thought I would be like and what I'm actually like, it confuses me. I wasn't trying to be sneaky! I'm almost never trying to be sneaky. It just happens accidentally sometimes.)

The big assumption with Mindy is my appearance. For a little girl just come to America, whose parents had her wearing long wool skirts and stockings in whatever color they could get, I'm sure my grade-school self was the height of fashion. And I'm sure that my then-blonder hair, first in braids and then in a frizzy 1980s little-girl permanent, was the last word in Being American. I can understand where all that came from. But now, Mindy always takes special notice of my hair and clothes -- even when we're having a casual afternoon and grilling out. I was wearing a suede-y fawn-colored tunic shirt, a pair of jeans, and Smart Wool socks. I had done nothing to my hair (well, I washed it, combed it, and then brushed it when it was dry). I threw on some gold hoop earrings and a gold chain. It was decent looking, I'm sure -- nobody would refuse to admit they knew me, nobody would refer me to a homeless shelter, and if a major agent/editor came to the door, I wouldn't hide in the closet. (Well, not based on how I looked, anyway.) But to Mindy, my hair looked "wonderful," and I "always dress so well." If it had been someone else, I probably would have made some cheerful remark about being able to get my legs in the right spots on the second try, with the dressing well thing. But with Mindy, I just said thanks. Later she commented on how I had "that kind of thin face that looks good with every hairstyle." Which was nice of her in the hairstyle idea, and I don't mean to say that I have a particularly round or fat face. But I wouldn't immediately choose "thin" as the first adjective to describe my face. It's not outstandingly so. My friend Andrew or my cousin Mariah could be picked out of a line-up of people by that attribute; I could not.

I think I became her standard for these things, somewhere along the way, and if I'd worn a white T-shirt and gone barefoot, it would have been "simple elegance" to Mindy. It would have been "understated" and "classic." (Scott and I have had long discussions of the word "classic" as applied to clothes. I think it generally means "never particularly fashionable, never particularly unfashionable." He's much happier with this idea than the one his parents set forth, which was that classics were always fashionable. Um, no.) I think we all do this, a bit -- our friends get the good adjectives and our enemies get the bad ones. If someone we don't like drawls, it's "twanging" and "hickish"; if someone we like does it, it's "gentle" and "charming." The important thing, I think, I hope, is that we try not to make the enemies list too long, and that we don't include ourselves on it. It's sweet to tell a friend she has beautiful hair. It's a little less so when the clear subtext is "because it's the exact opposite of mine." And refusing to take a compliment oneself, while dishing them out lavishly, is not playing fair.

(I say this mostly because I'm not very good at taking compliments graciously, although I try pretty hard. I don't see why I should have to be the only one trying hard. The rest of you have to have your fair share, too, so there.)

(At my very first con, an author I won't name taught me how not to take fan compliments. Trent told her how much one of her short stories meant to him, and she grimaced and said, "Oh, that. Yeah, it's been anthologized a lot." Wrong line, lady! Your line was, "Thank you, I'm so glad to hear that." Or, if you must say something about how the story has been popular, "It seems that one worked well for a lot of people. I'm glad you liked it." I would even accept an excited, "Oh, I know, I was so happy with how that turned out!" But I don't care how many times you've been complimented on the same piece, you still need to be gracious about it. Really. And you-all can kick me in the shins if you catch me not doing so, in some glorious multi-complimented future.)

(Tell me that's why you're doing it, though, because if you just kick me in the shins, I might take it poorly.)

So. I finished Fool's Errand, which I think is a difficult-to-label book. It's labeled #1 in its series. It is not. Do not, do not, do not go read Robin Hobb's Fool's Errand unless you have already read the Assassin series first. In its entirety. The characterization, relationships, plot points, and world-building will be pretty much assumed at the beginning of Fool's Errand. On the other hand, it's clearly not #4 in the Assassin series, as that plot arc was wrapped up at the end of book #3, and new plot arc has begun here. So...#2.1, perhaps? Where the previous series was 1.1 through 1.3? It was fun, anyway. The parts in which it dragged were forgivable. I'll read the next book.

I've now started Laila Hietamies' Red Moon Over White Sea, a novel about Karelia, translated from the Finnish. I don't know if it was badly written, badly translated, or both. I suspect both, because while the translator has to be at fault for some of the really bad constructions, there are annoying plot points and pieces of characterization for which he cannot be blamed. The Bolshevik schoolteacher, for example, is not only hated and mistrusted, but deserves that response, and has small, beady eyes, doesn't let her daughter play with her best friend, and is generally horribly unpleasant. The two Bolshevik male characters thus far are similarly distasteful. And this is a book from 1992, so it's not like the Soviets had been killing the author's friends and family in the recent past.

I was wondering why this book got translated when so little Finnish stuff does. And so I went to the publisher's webpage: Aspasia Books. Oh. Drool. If there is such a thing as a classic of Saami mythology, they have it, right there, and I'm thinking I need to order it. Ack! They don't let you order online, and Amazon and ABEBooks say that this book is unavailable. Ack! I may have to call the publisher's number and order over the phone! (I don't think I've ever ordered anything by phone.) And Barnes and Noble just ditched the Laestadius entirely and gave me a list of books by people named Lars! ACK! (Powell's didn't have it, either, but at least they didn't try to give me an "all Larses are equal" line, when obviously some Larses are more equal than others.)

Right, then. I'm calling Canada. Or else Ingebretsen's. I haven't decided which yet. If Ingebretsen's has it, I can beg and plead with someone in the Cities to go get it for me. On the other hand, I don't have their phone number, so I would have to get someone from home to do the calling and the fetching, which would be kind of a big favor. Whereas if I called Canada, I could just get the book myself. Hmmmmm. I'll think on it.

Amazing the errands that go from nonexistent to urgent in the space of half an hour. I think I'm supposed to blame capitalism for it. Manufacturing demand or something like that. Whatever. I want this book.

I just looked at Mark and wailed, "The internet has failed me!" In a similar mood/physical state previously, however, I have been known to snuffle, "The problem with this house is that it doesn't have any chocolate in it!" So I invite everyone to take my distress with the proverbial grain of salt. (And this apartment does have chocolate in it, in abundance, so worry not.) I'm trying to keep the wailing and the snuffling to a minimum. This has not been a good weekend, however, and when I talk to my mother for Mother's Day, I will be consulting with her on whether I should make an appointment with my doctor over this particular physical state. Blech.

I'm feeling a bit dizzy to go shopping, so, logically, we're not going shopping unless I start feeling less dizzy. Sometimes I try to behave sensibly, just to keep you people off-balance. Or on your toes. But preferably not both.

When I was in the shower, a couple of scenes of The Mark of the Sea-Serpent jumped out and bit me in the butt. Proverbially speaking. So I dried them off (and dried myself, too, and got dressed) and came out and started writing them down. And when I am done writing them down, I will close the file and set them aside and go back to writing the Not The Moose Book. I will say, firmly, "It is not your turn." I will not go haring off after another YA. I will not start looking up details to go into the next chapter. I already fought that urge twice this week and won. I can beat it this third time. Even with really vivid scenes. All I need to do is write down the specific scenes and set it aside.

I can do that.

No, I can.

So there's your lower bound on the number of books I may have on my waiting list: three of them have tempted me this week specifically. Come on, guess! Nobody has guessed correctly yet. Three people are tied for the closest guess. You could break that tie by being closer! Wouldn't that be exciting? Wouldn't it be a thrill? It'd be like nothing you've ever experienced before!

I'm not saying it'd be better than anything you've ever experienced before. Just not quite like the other stuff. Yesterday when the Wild lost their first game to the Ducks in 2OT, Mark said, "Well, it wouldn't be the same if they didn't go down 3-1 before coming back to win." True. It might be better, but it certainly wouldn't be the same.

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