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The other night I was going to go running at the fitness center, but they had redone the floor that day and moved all of the equipment around so that the only free treadmill couldn’t actually be plugged in anymore.  So I decided to go running in the park around the lake, which you’re not supposed to do at night, but the fog was so thick I figured no one would see me anyway.  The park was beautiful, and it was so nice to run by myself instead of a crowded exercise room.  I startled up a flock of geese, and even though I couldn’t see them, I could hear their wings as they took off.  I caught a whiff of a wet dog, and later of a skunk, but didn’t run into anything else other than strands of fog.

Tomorrow: a grand assembly of old friends, drawn from the four corners of the world (or at least of North Carolina) to our humble apartment for all sorts of good times.  To say I’m looking forward to it would be a great understatement!

My newest obsession is Downton Abbey, and Sam and I plan to marathon several episodes this evening rather than preparing for the party like responsible adults.  You should check it out, though I will warn you that it starts off very, very slowly.  I was a little bored with the first episode, thought that the second one was pretty good, and was hooked by the third.


Things that, unbelievably or not, are real:

I had read “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Tolstoy for a class several years ago, and the story was in a book of other stories, and I always promised myself I would come back and read the rest.  I finally did, and while I had sort of (foolishly) hoped that his other stories would be a little lighter in tone, I was definitely mistaken.  For one thing, even Tolstoy’s “short” stories are 60-100 pages.  The man was chronically long-winded.  They also all end rather badly!  The happiest one of the bunch still quit on what I would consider to be a sour note, though I’ll just bet that Tolstoy honestly thought he was giving that one a happy ending.  Perhaps some people can only write tragedies?

I reread The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell, preparatory to reading the next two books in his Arthur series.  I found books two and three for cheap when the Borders was slowly dying, but I put off reading them because it had been so long since I read the first novel.  I realize that for someone who doesn’t like Cornwell, I read an awful lot of him, but I had enjoyed The Winter King when I first read it (it was what made me think I liked Cornwell, actually–a notion every other book I’ve read by him has then dispelled), and I wanted to see if it was really any good or if I was just crazy the first go-round.  It is certainly better than his other works that I’ve read: the aspects of his writing that I enjoy are stronger, and the ones that irritate me are less prevalent.  The subject matter helps a lot, too; he obviously loves the Arthurian stories and is trying to do them justice.  I almost wonder if Cornwell writes best that way, working with the outlines of existing plots and characters.  They seem so much more alive than his original characters.  In large part, too, I think the inherent idealism of the Arthurian story helps to soften Cornwell’s signature grittiness.  Cornwell’s Arthurian books are still pretty horrifying–this is muddy, bloody storytelling, and I remember being pretty horrified by parts of it when I first read it–but unlike Cornwell’s other characters, his main characters in this novel are strongly motivated by ideals and are relatively complex.

Highlights of the week included an (as ever) wonderful meeting of the Literary League, in which we read poetry and fairy tales and devoured edible books, probably the most ambitious culinary project I’ve ever tackled. One night Sam and I went out to see Sarah’s new house and went for a nighttime ramble in the fields around their farm. In other, less pleasant news, I ran into a new potential stalker at the apartment complex (why, oh why me) and had an unpleasant dentist appointment involving drills and nerve blocks and whatnot. (Though I guess if you’re going to have the drill, you darn well better have the nerve block.)




I read The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett, which is the third book in her Lymond Chronicles series. I think the Dunnett obsession grows very slowly, but once it’s upon you, you don’t have a hope of escape. This book was bloody brilliant. Dunnett’s writing is so intelligent, I feel somewhat like a little kid sitting at the adults’ table, only understanding about half of the conversation. She uses words that even I’ve never heard of—that sounds terribly arrogant, I realize, but it’s a fact that I rarely run across a word I don’t know. “Corymb,” “calyx,” “firlot”…I had to look all of them up. Her books are so full; this one was just over 500 pages of tiny print, and each line is so filled with meaning that it takes considerable digesting. I liked this third book the best so far, probably because I found it the easiest to follow in terms of the history and politics of the time. I still gave myself whiplash several times as I sat up in shock as I got a hint of certain twists. “She wouldn’t…surely…would she?” Oh, she did. Dunnett is a sadistic genius. In every book, she manages to make you absolutely hate the hero, and that takes some doing: we’re conditioned to like the protagonist. But in every book, she still manages to make me despise the hero and love him all over again by the end. She takes characters I thought I loved and turns them into villains. She delights in killing off lovable characters, but she somehow always ends up having such good reasons for doing so. I haven’t run across a writer who can so consistently break my brain in the best of ways in a long time. In summation, I cannot recommend her work highly enough. If you don’t like it at first, please stick with it and give it a good, long chance; it’s worth it!

I’m sure you all are weary unto death of hearing about Sherlock Holmes, so feel free to skip this post and go back to the usual internet findings and book chatter.  For my own enjoyment, I wanted to do one more treatise on the Sherlock series as a whole and specifically on the last episode.  I enjoy writing for writing’s sake, whether or not I have a readership—some people like the sound of their own voice, others like the keystrokes of their own writing, evidently. 😛  If you want to read the short version and have done, here’s an LJ user who gives 10 reasons you should be watching Sherlock.  Can’t say I disagree with any particular point.

If you want the long, spoilery version…heaven help you, and here it is.

You seem to have stumbled upon a storytelling of ravens. Watch for falling collective nouns; you may find a wing of dragons or a charm of hummingbirds caught in your hair. Hardhats are recommended.

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