In Which Marissa-san Likes Being Geek

29 July 2003

I have to say, my reaction to shots of Bob Hope jokes to the armed forces used to be, "Was everybody really lame back then? Or were they just desperate for a larf?" But now Joe Haldeman has provided a sensible explanation that does not involve morphine. What a relief.

I think it's more humid here in the last few days, because the smells from outside are stronger, the gasoline and the cut grass. Inside, smells are lingering longer, and it's not that something has spilled or the trash needs taking out. It's just that the air is holding scent better. Which is a little unnerving for me. It also leaves me in a predicament: our bathrooms do not ventilate well at all. (At all.) Which means something more pleasant than you might think: it means that the smells of shampoo are really strong in both of them. I would like to clean them to decrease that smell for myself, as I'm working around here today, but that would make them smell rather strongly of cleaning products for a long time. Hmm.

It might not be the humidity at all, I guess. It might just be that I'm having a day of sensory overstimulation, just like there are days when everything seems brighter or louder than usual. It seems like it's not just me, but I'm the one with the strongest sense of smell around here to begin with, so I'm the one most likely to notice it. And want to bury my nose in my paws and whine.

I mean, for heaven's sake. I can smell the printer, the printer paper, the cardboard in the cereal boxes...I'm going to have to run the dishwasher and do some laundry, and that's a little scary. I can take the recycling out, so that the aluminum and the newsprint aren't factoring into all this, but I'm not sure what else I can do. Keep my fingers crossed that it'll fade during the day, I guess.

It's like Tongue-Tongue, from The Tick, only with a nose instead. Nose-Nose. Ack.

On an entirely different note, I finished A Slender Thread yesterday, and I would recommend it. I also started reading Peg Kerr's The Wild Swans from the library. I'm enjoying it so far. Would definitely read another of her books -- or, y'know, invite her over for dinner. Being as how she's a Minnesotan and all. So I looked up her webpage, and oh. Do I want to read this new book. It's got the Winter Carnival in it, and King Frost, and an ice palace architect. Dang. So I wrote her an e-mail telling her to hurry up with it. So now I'm looking at her livejournal entries from when this book started, getting more and more excited about it.

It's a little scary, though: living in Minnesota doesn't seem to have dampened her urge to write about frost and snow. If anything, it looks to have been inspirational. Is it going to work that way for me still? Am I just going to keep being a snowdrift kind of writer? I suppose there are worse things. But still, I had thought that maybe going home would fix this, because I tend to write about snow and cold more when I'm homesick. (Which would indeed be part of why this novel is set in northern Finland, thanks for asking.) And now I'm not so sure it's all about the homesickness.

Bujold has the Kasota stone. Brust has the experience of being Hungarian, I mean Eastern, among the ScanAms, I mean Dragaerans. I still need to pick up the more recent Will Shetterly books and see what he's got, but Pamela Dean and Emma Bull are right up front about it in some of their books. John M. Ford is another one I haven't read enough of to tell, and I've only read the one Naomi Kritzer and no Lyda Morehouse at all yet, so I can't speak to their work in this matter. Soon, though. Is it that Minnesota gets all the way into these people's brains, or is it just that I'm familiar enough to spot it when it's there? I can smell the prairie in Bradley Denton and Robert Reed, so maybe it's the familiarity. I don't know.

Gotta figure it out. Gotta get ready to go home. I'm reserving The Fortunate Fall at the library right now. ...And now I've been on a book-reserving spree. A veritable orgy of book reservations. Most of them had nothing to do with moving north or authors from the north. For awhile I had a sense that I shouldn't reserve books because I could get them off the shelf just as easily as the librarian could. Why make extra work, was the thought, combined with you-snooze-you-lose in terms of actually getting down to the library and getting them. But the reservation system can also be a snooze/lose proposition, and I get tired of going into the library and looking where it says the book is and finding the book isn't there.

And if The Good Librarian was always working, I could just ask her and she'd check the bookmobile or the back or the random place where that annoying helper sometimes puts stuff or somehow work her Good Librarian magic and find my book for me. But she's not always working, and The Bad Librarians say things like, "Have you checked the shelf?" The shelf! What a novel place to put books, the..."shelf," you said? I must try this "shelf" -- it sounds too droll for words. I say, "Yes." Then they say, "Well, I don't know what to tell you." They don't say, "I don't know what to tell you. We'll have to look for it in the back." Or, "I don't know what to tell you -- I'll put it on a list, and if it doesn't turn up soon, we'll report it as missing." Or, "I don't know what to tell you -- would you like us to request the copy from the Dublin branch?" No. The Bad Librarians say none of these things. They're the same Bad Librarians that refuse to check the shelf themselves for a book that you already returned. Of course they won't check it for a book you haven't gotten yet.

So it occurred to me, as I was reserving The Fortunate Fall, that there were several other books I kept checking for and not finding. At this point, I don't care if someone else wants them. I can pretty well guarantee I've wanted them for just as long and tried just as hard to get them, and if the library has to pay to schlep them over from Newark or Albany, this is not my problem.

It's most likely that the requested books will trickle in a few at a time, so that I'll have to make an extra trip to get a few of them. I think this is probably less frustrating than making yet another check for something that isn't there and isn't going to be there any time soon, though.

With all the birthday books I just got, I really don't need to reserve library books in order to have something to read, but when does an addict say, "Oh, that's all right, I have plenty, thanks?" The problem with my career/lifestyle, I noticed last night in Half Price Books, is that I can see books that I absolutely do not need right now and can conceive of desperately needing in the next decade. Or not. Rock Paintings of the Plains Indians, for example -- useless to me now. I have no rock-painting- or plains-Indian-related novel ideas right now. Not even any short story ideas. (Unless you count -- well, I don't, so it's irrelevant.) But I can conceive of getting one and thinking, "Oh, if only I had that $6 book! Then I would know! Now it's gone!" I go through the entire bookstore -- through most bookstores, actually -- seeing dozens and even hundreds of examples of that. Who knows when I'll need a biography of Greta Garbo? Not now, certainly -- I have no interest in Greta Garbo now. But the more I read and the more I write, the less I can be certain of knowing, in the future, what I will want to read and what I will want to write. It's almost the opposite of being adrift at sea. I'm in a sea of flotsam and jetsam. Practically everything is a barrel or a plank I can grab onto and get pulled to safety, or at least to another barrel or plank.

(What were we doing in Half Price? Well, it's down from our Chinese place, which is open again, and they had $1 children's books outside. $1. I ask you, am I made of stone? Am I supposed to be? Katherine Paterson, Lloyd Alexander, William Sleator: $1 each. Hear that runneth-ing over? That would be my cup.)

I'm wondering how common it is to prepare for a move by rereading Miles Vorkosigan books and Vlad Taltos books and The Dubious Hills. My guess is not very. But we need the abstract, in our preparations, as well as the concrete. How many boxes will we need, how much will the truck rental cost, and where's my copy of War for the Oaks?

Hey, you know what? Sometimes I really like being me. It reminds me of my Japanese professor one day at lunch. He said, pensively, "Marissa-san, I think you like being geek." I laughed and said, "Would I own a Periodic Table T-shirt if I didn't?" He found that most amusing.

The Periodic Table T-shirt doesn't get much wear these days, but I'd still take "being geek" over just about anything else I can think of.

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