Friday, August 15, 2008

The Long Way Home

With the possible exception of the three bookshelves in your work area, the closest thing to neatness in your visible environment is the two stacks of books almost directly in back of your desk chair. One stack is for currently published or about-to-be published books. The other stack is the golden oldies, books published some time ago or at least long enough ago to be out of the current loop. These stacks are your review piles. Depending on whether this is a new or old week, you normally select a book from the appropriate pile, then have at it. Depending. On your whim, which is to say you may come across something not in either pile, as in the case of the New York Review of Books Classics series, which they send you from time to time.

Yesterday, being Thursday, was the day of the week you call The Red Line Day, by which you mean it's time to pick a title from the appropriate stack, then start reading. Since reading is a great pleasure, getting the chance to write about something you've read, then be paid for it seems so joyous as to border on the unhealthy. There are even fantasy moments where you consider the possibilities of finding several review sources.

So it is Red Line Day and you have looked at the appropriate stack, but nothing spoke to you, meaning you'll have to read with a greater and longer sense of purpose once you have made a selection. But like a kid who hates all his toys, you allow the nothing-looks-good attitude to spill over to today, where it is now eleven minutes after nine in the p.m., and as if to go in solidarity with you, Sally has returned from a significant evening walk in one of her favorite venues, sneaked out of the back yard, and is even now sulking in your car.

O! what can ail thee, knight at arms, as Keats would say, alone and palely loitering?

And the answer, clear enough, a reference to the questions, the dramatic existential questions advanced yesterday. You know them well. Whose story is it? Etc.

You were thinking because of your admiration for Philip Pullman's trilogy to set a slightly older protagonist than Lyra into a concatenation of mischief and accelerated vulnerability, a graduate student at a university in a parallel universe to the one wherein you hold forth.

But you have been fretting and stewing about there being no risk for you to find in that, and so the answer becomes clear: scrub the graduate student and put you in there, you will surely find some risky business to which you can affix yourself.

That said, Steer Toward Rock by Fae Myenne Ng is beginning to look good.

"The woman I loved wasn't in love with me," her protagonist writes, "the woman I married wasn't a wife to me. Ilin Cheung was my wife on paper. In deed, she beloged to Yi-Tung Szeto. In debt, I also belonged to him. He was my father, paper, too."

Yeah. You're off and reading (already beginning to feel the sweet tummy ache from the subtext of risky business).

1 comment:

Querulous Squirrel said...

So convoluted I had to read it twice. But the question is: will the author be able to make this believable to the reader, or is it too far-fetched? His wife in love with his father??? That graduate student had better get some mixed up love triangles going. Or better yet, a love triangle mixed up with academic competition and cheating scandals, and maybe a couple of disappearances and murders. Not farfetched at all.