In Which Our Heroine Discovers Stoppard Was Right

16 May 2005

I'm home safe and sound. For now. Mark has had the first of his birthday celebrations and opened the first bunch of his birthday presents, and he is spoiled as usual. Common wisdom has it that only children are spoiled, but my data suggests that it's really people who marry only children.

I read three books this weekend: John M. Ford's The Princes of the Air, which I enjoyed enough to giggle madly in some spots and chew my lip in others; Gregory Maguire's Mirror Mirror, which was jerky and didn't do nearly enough to interest me (honestly, this is the third of his books I've read, and I do not get the appeal in the slightest); and Adam Hochschild's Bury the Chains: Prophets, Slaves, and Rebels in the First Human Rights Crusade. The last took up most of my reading attention this weekend, and I'd recommend it. It's about the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. It's not a happy-fun-fun book, but it manages to walk a difficult line: it neither sanitized the institution of slavery nor wallowed in gore for its own sake.

This is one of those lovely times as a reader when two things I wanted to read anyway, separately, turn out to enhance each other. I'm in the beginning of The Mauritius Command, and Aubrey is writing about Maturin's response to the slave trade. And now I have a good deal more context for that reaction. I don't even remember what my gateway drug was in this whole long addiction. Probably Cowboy Andy, and they've never stopped kind of sticking together from there.

(Many small children get obnoxious about a book and want to hear it over and over and over again. Mine was Cowboy Andy. I don't even remember why it was so much better than its nearest competitor, Donald Duck and the Magic Stick, which I demanded over and over and over again when my parents* were driven to deception and hid Cowboy Andy. It was just my book. I think that may be the last time in my life I had a clear-cut favorite book, and it was way, way before kindergarten. People treat the "desert island five/ten book" question as though it's a fun thought experiment, but it fills my heart with dread.)

I'm working on "Awake" again, and "Carter Hall Sweeps a Path," and this morning I started something called, "The Rose of Tralee-4," which probably shows that something went fundamentally wrong in my upbringing through no fault of my parents (though not through any fault of my school system, either, as numbered planets and pale-moon-rising ballads were equally and utterly beyond them). The short story thing is starting to feel reasonable, and I've given myself permission to work on Thermionic Night again as soon as I want to, even without all parties heard from.

I keep thinking of the bit from "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern," at the beginning, with the players: "We're more of the love, blood, and rhetoric school. Well, we can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can't give you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory. They're all blood, you see."

I didn't mean to be that kind of writer, but then, I didn't mean not to be, either. And as long as we're not confusing blood with gore, I'm afraid that's where we stand: blood and rhetoric, mostly, with bits of love here and there where it gets sneaky (which it will do). But mostly not, or mostly not traditionally. (By which I do not mean that there's one more boy or girl involved than is generally the case, but that there are usually more circuit diagrams or possibly spells or what have you. People keep going around in love with things and ideas and places. I can't help it.) I think it was inevitable when I fell in love with The Kestrel, the blood and rhetoric part, I mean. Maybe it was before that, with The Scarlet Pimpernel. Yah. I think it was that. The love bits were of course in there, but we didn't dwell on them, my dad and me; but maybe that's because I had already established my preference for blood and rhetoric over love in books by the time I was 5. And cabbages. The cabbages were much better than the love.

But it sounds like one of the things I need to do is poke the love in Thermionic Night -- and again, not the traditional human-to-human kind of love, necessarily. Hmm. Maybe I can get through it with more blood and rhetoric. But when Alec had blood and rhetoric and mostly love in indirect and under-the-table ways, I hollered, so maybe I'd better not try it. (I believe what I hollered was, "Where is my hot squire lovin'?", though, so perhaps I oughtn't to listen to me after all. I'm more than half-convinced he shouldn't.)

*It may not have been my parents. It may just have been my father. I tell you this lest my mother feel slandered.

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