A Summer's Tale

3 July 2001

Good good good good news. Biopsies and full lab tests are back for Grandpa: all cancer removed. None of it spread in that system or into any others. Woohoo! So no chemo for him. He's going home this afternoon sometime, where he can get well and pester Grandma and Onie (who is coming down for the Fourth). Woohoo woohoo! Everybody happy! This is a very strange feeling. A week ago we didn't know he had cancer to begin with, and now he doesn't any more. I mean, I'm happy about how quickly it's gone and about the results and all of that, but it's just disorienting. When I'm not around, it takes awhile to get adjusted to the idea of someone I love being sick, and now that I'm getting adjusted, he's getting well again and doesn't have serious problems any more at all.

The headline today in the "Science and Health" section of the paper reads, "Fireworks get charge from tiny electrons." As opposed to those massive electrons? As opposed to those things which give off light but have nothing to do with the electromagnetic force? Argh.

I hate firecrackers. Hate hate hate them. They are just an excuse to be loud, and where we live, they're an excuse to be very loud, because they echo off the hills. (I knew there was a reason I didn't like hills.) I like fireworks, mostly when they're done professionally and don't make too much noise, and when I don't have to deal with them for more than once about every four to six months. But firecrackers are just noisemakers, and my dog always used to hate them, and so I hate them, too. (This is not true of everything, but it's a pretty good approximation for a lot of things.)

On Sunday, I finally finished A Winter's Tale. I think that's one of the worst books I've ever actually finished. I've read worse books. I just put them down after a few chapters and said, "No." But this one was just bad, and it sold so well back when it came out that I had to try to figure out why. And I still don't know. Bad, bad book. And I read it at the wrong time: I was in cut mode when I began, and this book could have had a good two hundred pages cut from it. (As far as I'm concerned, it could have had a good 688 pages cut from it. But being charitable, 200.) And I have a pretty fair idea of which ones. I'm all for lush prose from time to time, but it does seem to me that when about 2/7 of your book could go away without a whimper, that's not such a positive thing.

So then I started reading William Browning Spencer's Irrational Fears, borrowed from Tim. And I think that it was the perfect timing for reading that. In any other circumstance, I would probably have grown angry at Irrational Fears for not being Zod Wallop and grumped my way through the first half of it. But I was just so grateful that it wasn't A Winter's Tale that I was halfway through that it hit me that it wasn't Zod Wallop, that it wasn't just something different, it was not as good. And by then, well, why not just let it be what it was? So I did and enjoyed it, although, still, it's no Zod Wallop.

I'm now reading Waltari's A Stranger Came to the Farm, which so far reminds me of Kobo Abe's The Woman in the Dunes. Note that this is not necessarily a compliment. Kobo Abe was one of those authors I believed was part of my Japanese Lit prof's conspiracy to keep me from liking Japanese literature. I don't like what I consider shallow symbolism; I don't like it when the author is sitting around (and you can hear him as you read) mumbling, "Ah, now, if we have sand, that can be symbolic of all kinds of different things all at once, good, so let's set the book in the dunes...." It just seems that I don't enjoy a book when the author was thinking too much about the symbolism and not enough about any of the rest of the book, the characters, the plot, whatever. When they're all around to propel the cool symbols he thought of, that's going to annoy me. Perhaps Waltari won't be like that throughout the book. Perhaps I'll come to care about the stranger, the woman, the old man, the lazy man. Perhaps.

It's strange to me, though, that the Finnish translation reads like a Japanese translation to me. (This is, by the way, one of the most impressive things I believe Bruce Sterling has ever done: he has a short story set in Japan that reads like it was translated from the Japanese. I hope he did it on purpose, but I don't want to know for sure.) Strange, because Finnish and Hungarian are closely related, and because Timprov has gotten by in Hungary twice by speaking Japanese, very carefully and slowly, to the Hungarians, who then speak Hungarian, very carefully and slowly, back to him. So I'm wondering how similar the languages feel to a translator. Hmm. This is not something I recall being covered in Le Ton Beau de Marot. I'd read more books about translation problems, except that I have enough stuff to read for the Not The Moose Book.

I'm all happy now: it has sections. I'm a structure fiend, but my first three books are all pretty simple, and sections were not involved in their construction. I've often said I understand scenes, but I don't understand chapters. This is perfectly true. But I do understand sections. Sections make their very own sense. Sometimes. Sometimes they're just as nonsensical as chapters. Not my three, though. I've got three sections, and all is well. I hope.

Jed and Mary Anne will be over for supper, and other than that, just work work work for me. That's okay, though. I'm on the home stretch for this one.

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