In Which I See a Silver Lining

I’ve been sick since my last post– the kind of sick where the doctor takes an x-ray just to be sure– and last night was my first night sleeping upright in bed instead of upright and sideways on the couch. What a luxury it is to have a bed! That is the sort of thing you don’t appreciate until you haven’t been in one for a while. We have a comfy couch, but nothing beats slipping your bare feet between some cotton sheets and settling under a down blanket. I drifted right off and probably snored like a Snorlax.
I hope you know what a Snorlax is. If you don’t, go back and do the 1990’s over again.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been too sick to knit (!!!) or even sustain the idea of reading anything longer than a few pages. It took me a week to read this article in the New Yorker.

But there were a few silver linings. One was that I got to watch a lot of television with my daughter, because she was sick, too. As a pair, we languished on the couch and watched entire runs of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Jackie Chan Adventures. Airbender had great dialogue, and I really liked it! We both did. And as for Jackie Chan, I thought I watched those episodes as a child, or at least a teenager– but it was made in 2000! So I watched them as an adult. Ha! So sue me, I like Jackie Chan and Jet Li. I mean, watch this clip from The Enforcer and tell me that isn’t awesome (start watching at 3:20 for my favorite part, and the best is at 5:00 or so).

Another silver lining is that I was not upright long enough to go on Facebook very often, and I think I may have broken my addiction! I won’t stop checking it altogether, but I learned that if you don’t start the ball rolling with a comment, nobody really notices if you are there or not. It is like an Amazonian river that rushes along at a vicious pace, and if your canoe suddenly goes missing, nobody notices because they are too busy keeping their own canoes upright and away from piranhas. I think I’ll be able to be a bit more productive with this realization under my belt.

Yesterday I finally started to read again in earnest. My resolution was to finish We, the Drowned but my brain is still groggy, so I started I Am Half-Sick of Shadows instead. I’ve read all the Flavia books– I love them. The detective is a little girl with a penchant for poisons, and they all take place post-war in a tiny English village, and everything is rather dilapidated. They’re the sort of mystery I like to own and read in paper form, just because you can’t really savor things in quite the same way on a Kindle (as much as I do love my Kindle, and I am in no way anti-ebook).

Buy them all!
Buy them all!

I am only forty or so pages in, but the stage is being set for murder. Flavia’s father has been forced to rent out the estate during Christmastime to a film company. The actors and crew have arrived, and there has already been a nearly fatal accident. A few people are being set up as possible future murder victims– the lead actress is a bit of a despot, something is off about the lead actor, the director is a director, and the lead actress’s assistant is pasty and stressed due to migraines– but what if it is poison? That sort of thing. I love it! The author, Alan Bradley, does it so well– without it ever getting too cute. Part of this, I think, is due to the fact that his narrator is unreliable. She’s a ten year old who tries to poison her sisters when they harass her (they are vicious, so she’s not without reason). She still believes in Santa, and she’s got both father and mother issues.

Unreliable narrators are fun. They keep you on your toes. You can’t be a lazy reader– because you can’t truly accept anything they say at face value. There is always an element of analysis needed from the reader. Not that you don’t analyze when reading omniscient thirds, but any analysis there is more likely scrutinizing the author, not a character.

If you think about it, blogs are nothing but a string of unreliable narratives, and I hope you (and everybody else who reads any blog) are a critical reader. I mean, my recipes are only tested on my family and friends, so if I say to mixmixmix, there should be a critical reader out there wondering, “Does she mean to combine or to blend? Can this be overmixed?” But there you would be questioning the author– not a made up character. When you question a fictional character, you are in those moments without an author, and the character is real enough to have an agenda of his or her own. And that is what I like.

Well, I wanted one that showed him drinking and writing, but had to settle for him looking not tortured at all and drinking a whiskey.
Well, I wanted one that showed him drinking and writing, but had to settle for him looking not tortured at all and drinking a whiskey.

Oh! When I had my second fever (it came back three times, stubborn jerk) I did manage to write a few hundred words into my Chapter Four. I’ve never been a writer who likes to emulate Hemingway (that’s who I think of, but maybe they are emulating Hunter S. Thompson) and write while drunk or tortured. After two beers or two glasses of wine, I’m ready to go to sleep. Or if I do write something while drunk because I have what I’m sure is a Great Idea– it turns out to be absolutely horrible. As for being tortured and depressed– that usually saps me dry and I find it very difficult to write when there’s no chi ( Too much Jackie Chan Adventures! Ha!) left in me to have a positive thought about myself much less be creative and make up a story. Fever, however, sometimes takes away a self-filter, and I can write quite a lot in that inbetween state of frantically driven and dead-tired.

This was such a helpful illness, in a weird way. I learned not to be the mom in Tampopo and to rest when my body says to rest. Some things you cannot simply push through. I learned how to relax and appreciate my kidlet more. Of course, we already relax and love each other– but this was different. She couldn’t depend on me to get her stuff, and so in just sitting together our relationship changed a bit. And I learned that Facebook is a fun way to see what is going on in the lives of others, but that it goes on without me and I don’t have to check it quite so often. Those are all important things to have learned, so as frustrating as the loss of two weeks is, at least it wasn’t entirely unproductive, right? Right.


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