In Which Our Heroine Is Scattered

15 June 2004

Here is why I bake: because Sunday morning I woke up in a strange hotel room, and I knew the minute I was conscious what day it was and what we had to do that day, and when I got out of bed, I had some of my mom's cranberry bread waiting for me, and it was like a hug from my mom, like having her there to lean my head on her shoulder for a minute. And when I bake, someone else can have that from me.

It's not all of why I bake, but it's part.

This weekend went as well as one can expect such things to go. In some ways better: Grandpa made it through his entire eulogy of his beloved Tres, and that was more than I could have done in his shoes, or even in my own. People were invited to stand up and say what they wanted to of Grandma, but I couldn't do it. I thought I ought to, but I couldn't make myself.

Everyone at Northwest Airlines went out of their way to be kind to us over the bereavement fares, which were a third of the normal price.

Lots of people wore purple.

We got to pet Mark's cousin-puppies, Abby and Duchess, who are lovies and no mistake. They wandered around being lovey to everyone they could get at. Naturally, I'm not a sucker. Nor for the niece-and-nephew-kitties, to whom we said hello briefly before fleeing their allergens. Poor cats: they're cursed with stupid, stupid humans when their own humans are gone. They flopped most cutely and rubbed their heads and went merrrr by the treat cabinet, but none of us got treats out for them. Very sad to have such dumb humans in the family.

I'm left with scatterings of thought around here, not sure what more to say than I've said. It's not that there's nothing, it's that it comes out in little rushes. I'll talk to my mom on the phone (talked to my dad yesterday), and probably a few more friends. I don't feel like taking a few days off this week is so much a choice as a necessity: I wander off mentally a fair amount, between sentences, between words. I just need a rest.

So. I've done a lot of rereads lately, childhood books, comfort reads or attempts thereat. I have a stack of more of them on my desk for this week. I've noticed a heck of a lot more Ralph Waldo Emerson influence than I recalled from childhood, in both Louisa May Alcott and L. M. Montgomery. I wasn't surprised, in retrospect, with the Alcott; what does surprise me is that I never thought to track down the Emerson and read it as a kid. I made a habit of finding the books referred to in the books I read (still do, sometimes), and Grandpa had some Emerson, I think, but I never connected the two, or else I was never interested. Having read some now, I can see why I wasn't.

Anyway, Rose In Bloom entertained me despite its preachy Emersonian flavor, and The Blue Castle delighted me. It was always my favorite L. M. Montgomery when I was a kid, and it's pretty transparent about wish-fulfillment: the heroine kicks over the traces and starts saying things to her relatives that she's been thinking of them for years. I think anybody from a large extended family can cheer that on. Paula says that her Montgomery reading list was divided on the subject of whether the marriage in the book had been consummated, which I think is pure silliness, since one character expresses her relief that another has not offered to live with her "as a brother." I would prefer not to have that picture drawn any clearer, thanks; that's plenty clear for me. Montgomery's Emily Climbs has held up the least well of the childhood favorites I've reread lately. I probably couldn't stand it if it weren't for the overwhelming sarcasm of most of the supporting characters and the relative dearth of Teddy Kent. Who, frankly, bores me stiff. All of the male characters in this series stink. Did they always? I loved Dean Priest in the first book, but by this one, he's starting to show his evil side -- and petty, personal evil, not even a grand tragic evil. Bleh.

I also reread Arthur Ransome's Swallowdale, the second of the Swallows and Amazons books, and I swear there's an entry coming along about me and those books, but not today. And then I reread Brust's Taltos and Bujold's Mirror Dance. Both of them kept me totally enthralled, as expected, but it's Taltos that has me impressed all over again. I don't know if I'd forgotten how good that series is or if I was not at a point in my own work where I could appreciate the different things Steve's doing with these books, but this is good stuff. Good good good. I start to think, "Oh, that's got to be the best of the series," and then I recall Teckla, which I just finished, and that was doing very different good things. And I haven't gotten to the rest yet, but I will. They're on my pile, at least mentally. Also, how did I read 560 pages of Miles Vorkosigan and come out of it wanting more Miles Vorkosigan? I don't think that's fair play. I'll have to get around to Memory a little sooner than expected, too.

Mirror Dance looks like much more of a turning point from this vantage than it did the first time I read it. It's clear that the plots of the rest of the series required it -- no Mark means a very clearly different direction for the rest of the series. But I think the quality of the rest of the series also demanded it. Every ongoing series can deteriorate into repetition and/or idiocy, and neither Miles Vorkosigan nor Vlad Taltos has done that, and I think the choice Bujold made in Mirror Dance is a very key part of that, to force Miles out of just his own concerns (and while the Barrayaran Empire is large and external and in some ways not his choice, it's also a very personal concern for Miles) and broaden his horizons; to make him grow up, I think.

I wonder how much the non-sequentiality of the Vlad Taltos books has to do with their freshness. I have no idea how much they "needed" to be written out of chronological sequence. I suspect it's related, but that may be my own bias in my own methods of writing. I try not to project too much in that regard, but it's hard.

I think I chose well for comfort books. So far, at least; and if I pick up Busman's Honeymoon or Downbelow Station or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress from my stack and find that they're not working in that regard, I think I can go on to one of the series mentioned above that did work. I think it's clear that an avoidance of death is not key in comfort reading for me -- Taltos is about death, death death death, killing and gods and death. It's one of the deathiest books I've got short of Terry Pratchett. (Hmmm. Maybe also a good comfort read. SQUEAK. I digress.) Very good comfort reading, though. Familiarity? Maybe, but I haven't reread this series in a loooong time. Same with most of the other stuff I've been reading. I'm still thinking about it. I'll let you know what I come up with.

I got a recall notice for one of the books I got from the U library, so I guess that's going to be the first errand of this afternoon. I'm going to drop by C.J.'s and see how the car people have progressed on his car, and beyond that I don't really know. I don't really have to know, I guess. That's part of the point of days like today.

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