I finally finished reading the collection of novellas/short stories I had been trudging through, Legends II, a few weeks ago. It did introduce me to a few authors who I knew by name, but not by their prose. And it also had a couple of bright moments (the George RR Martin story, The Sworn Sword, was one of them). But it also convinced me that I will never seek out the stories of some of the other included authors for further reading.
This was the first of Anne MacCaffrey's Pern stories I've ever read...and it just seemed empty and silly. Most disappointing was the fact that I had already read the Neil Gaiman story in the collection (the story, The Monarch of the Glen, was later republished in Fragile Things which I'd already read). That novella was actually the reason I'd picked this collection up.
Oh well, I guess the Martin story also made it worthwhile reading (as did a few of the others).
I was going to talk more about the stories/authors of Legends II, but I just don't have the enthusiasm. So instead, I'm going to talk about The Woman Who Wouldn't, which I read in just a few days after I finished reading Legends II...
The Woman Who wouldn't
As I've become more familiar with Gene Wilder's writing, it makes me sad to know that he is nearing the end of his life (he could have another decade or two left, but anything beyond that would be unlikely) and has such little time to make his amazing literary voice heard. I hope he finds the time to continue writing because I've thoroughly enjoyed both of the books I've read so far. As much as I don't tend to stay away from non-fiction, I do plan to see out and buy Gene's auto-biography, Kiss Me Like a Stranger.
A major character in the book is an actual historical figure (there may be more than one historical figure in the story, but this is a very primary character), Anton Checkhov the Russian writer. If you know as little about him as I do, you can read more about him here.
To understand why he's a character in Gene's novel, we turn to the dedication:
To Anton Checkhov
whose short stories were my inspiration
to get to the heart of things
And Gene also starts us out with a quote from the Checkhov library
When we do something completely out of control, I think it's a good thing...perhaps something worthwhile wants to come out, it only it knew how.
And so with a single quote, Jeremy Webb, our protagonist, is born. He's a concert violinist andwe don't really know him very well at all before things start to fall apart in his mind/life.
"Do you know your name?"
"Jeremy Spencer Webb," I answered.
Good for you!" the chief doctor said.
"Please don't patronize me."
"I'm sorry," the doctor said quite humbly. "Are you married?"
"No, thank goodness."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because I was married a few years ago and if you had been married to my wife you'd be in a straitjacket now, and I'd be asking you the questions."
"Is that what caused your breakdown?"
"No, of course not - that's just a bad memory. We're divorced now."
Jeremy goes a little bit nuts and is sent off to a hospital to be rehabilitated. While he's there, he begins to get to know his fellow inmates and meets the book's namesake, a young woman from Belgium.
Contrary to what the Englishman said to his fellow lechers, the "Belgie" wasn't what I would call cute in the way that a young girl is cute - this was a woman, and she was quite pretty. She was also delicately attractive. She wore a soft lavender dress which had splashes of pink and light blue. She was a little older than the gossipers had led me to believe; I'd say she was around twenty-four or twenty-five, very thin, and she had beautiful clear skin. Her hair was a radiant auburn, the kind I had only seen in paintings. I assumed her hair was long, because she had it up in a bun at the back of her head. Her mouth wasn't at all inviting. I don't mean that it looked unkind - it was just without the least hint of a smile.
I was reluctant to share the next couple of quotes, because they're a little spoilerish, but the really show the fledgling relationship developing between the two characters and the nature of Clara, the woman who wouldn't.
"Did you notice those two dragonflies that were circling above us?" she asked.
"I did. They seemed very playful."
"Did you know that dragonflies make love while they're in flight?"
"Are you making a joke, Clara?"
"Well, that must be very difficult to manage while they're flying?"
"I suppose you'd like to see me naked now."
My God, this is an unusual woman. "Yes, I would," I answered.
"Well then, ask me."
After the conversation, a pretty "explicit" sex scene ensues. It's not "explicit" in any pornographic way, it just shows the gentle nature of Jeremy - that he denies is there - and the almost childlike innocence of Clara. But the descriptions of the events are very detailed and...well, "explicit."
And now, I'll ruin the ending...
On July 15, 1904, Anton Checkhov died in Badenweiler, Germany. By mistake, his body was sent to Moscow in a refrigerated railway car that had a painted sign on the outside that read FRESH OYSTERS. If Anton knew, I think he would have laughed out loud...and then wished he had written it into one of his short stories.
Well, maybe I didn't exactly "ruin" it, but that is, in fact, the last paragraph in the book.
My French Whore has more action and a completely different type of ending, but the meat of both stories is the same: an average joe doesn't realize what's missing in his life until he finds it. And it changes everything.
Or maybe I just suck at interpreting the meaning of books.
I read Mouse Guard, Fall 1152 in a couple of hours after finishing The Woman Who Wouldn't. The art is nice, the story is interesting and it all reminds me of Brian Jacques's Redwall books (which I haven't read, but I am somewhat familiar with). It's not as great as I want it to be, but it's worth reading for a fan of the Redwallesque anthropomorphic stories. The art is good enough to share, but I haven't bothered scanning any of it yet.
I'm now working on the novelization of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. So far, it's filling in the movie version's holes nicely (as did the novelizations of Star Wars Episode I, II, and III) and it is actually pretty well-written.
The Jetta has, despite a few annoying and semi-expensive critical repairs, been a pretty good car. It's now 9 years old and has about 100,000 miles - which is pretty low mileage considering the car's age - and is now undergoing the most expensive repair yet: replacement of the compressor for the air conditioner (and other assorted parts related to the problem). Cost for these repairs? $1,350.
How can repairs on an air conditioner cost $1,350? I can understand why repairs to critical system components would cost an arm and a leg, but an air conditioner? It's not like people really "need" air conditioning, do they? I guess air conditioning may be critical if you live in Saudi Arabia or Nevada, but I live in San Diego. It usually gets hot here for about a month in August, but the rest of the summer is generally pretty mild (there was a recent week of record highs, but temperatures seem to be back to normal now).
If the air-conditioner was completely non-functional, I might be able to justify the cost of the repairs. But it still works well when the car is moving at freeway speeds, so long trips aren't uncomfortable. It's just local driving that's a little on the warm side.
Are we really so spoiled that we can't handle driving in a hot car for a few minutes at a time during the summer? Imagine if we were living in the era of the founding fathers and their never-ending battles with the elements. They had no A/C, no electricity, no internal combustion engine...but they weren't whining about it. Most of them were actually pretty happy with their lot in life.
Of course, the other question is: is it really worth it to spend $1,350 on a non-essential repair for a 9 year-old car? Maybe it is time to go get something a little newer, but it's hard to go back to having a monthly car payment.
In other news, the Saturn has a new problem: the odometer stopped working a few weeks ago. The speedometer still works (and the "Service Engine Soon" light still comes on from time to time), but determining mileage just got a whole lot more difficult. At least the air conditioner works (and the compressor has never been replaced in this 16 year-old dinosaur). Go, go American-made cars! Take that, VW!
I brought the Mystery snails back into the main tank after about a week. They just looked so sad in the little 1 gallon fishbowl. And I sorta missed them - they are a lot of fun to watch.
After I started adding the banana plants to the tank, I started seeing smaller snails crawling around - but I didn't put the two ebents together until I'd spent a little time looking things up on the internet. I thought the mini-snails were the offspring of my verly-friendly mystery snails, but it turns out they were stowaways (pond snails) on the banana plants. So I started moving those little critter to the fishbowl once the mystery snails were back in the main tank.
Man, are they filthy little things - their water gets so dirty so fast. I'm surprised they stay alive in that polluted little bowl, but somehow they have. Two of the banana plants were actually sprouting new growth, so I soaked them in salt water for a few minutes and then rinsed them off (hoping this would remove most - if not all - of the pond snails. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to have been 100% effective (though I did see a few drop off) because there have been a few pond snails in the main tank that I've have to scoop out with the net.
But here's the more interesting news: a pink cluster of eggs appeared about 10 days ago in the corner of the tank next to the water filter, just above the waterline. This was the definitive answer that the mini-snails weren't baby mystery snails. So I expect to have a whole lot more snails in my tank than I can handle in the coming weeks (I'll be taking the babies to the store that I purchased the snails from, Kahoots, as soon as they're big enough to survive the move).
And then this weekend, we made a new discovery. There were some little white egg looking things on the piece of petrified wood in the tank. They looked like eggs, but we didn't know which of the critters in the tank could have put them their. It wasn't until we lifted the tank's lid to feed the fish later that we discovered the other piece of the puzzle. There was another cluster of eggs, though these were yellowish-white, not pink, stuck to the bottom of the tank lid. My efforts on Google proved fruitless and I can only imagine this is other group of snail eggs (since they were also put well out of the water).
The pregnant shrimp is still carrying around her eggs. I'm beginning to wonder if she's still carrying them because she knows they'll get yanked up into the filter if she lets them go.
But no matter how you look at it - my tank is suffering from over-population. Some of these critters have got to go (maybe I'll return the mating-pair of snails and keep one or two of the new babies).
Buddy the Betta (the only one of the fish to really keep his name) has been jumping out of the water at feeding time for the past couple of weeks. Not high enough to escape, just high enough to be entertaining. And the plants have continued to grow like crazy.