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.