Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Around the house

Hitchhiking
I did it. I read — and finished — a book. Somehow. When nobody was looking. Not just one book, but a trilogy in five parts. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

I hadn't remembered much of the second half. I was reading as if for the first time —which is pleasant, but highly unsettling. As if I originally read the series while asleep, or in a parallel lifetime.

While it was an enjoyable enough diversion from the hell that is otherwise currently my life, much as I lost interest halfway through, so did Douglas Adams.

I was a bit put off, actually, by how it all ended, but I suppose Adams had to resolve some questions once and for all, and I feel thoroughly primed to see the movie now. Assuming I don't forget that I read it before the DVD is released.

Swashbuckling
Captain Alatriste, by Arturo Perez-Reverte, and freshly available in English, is reviewed:
It's all good stuff, set against a vivid and often murky Madrid that feels alive and authentic. Is it hyper-realistic, raw and/or naked? No. That's the movie. The novel is brisk and bawdy, and Pérez-Reverte writes with panache and pacing, abetted by his translator, Margaret Sayers Peden, in exactly the way a translator wants to do her abetting: by going unnoticed.

So why aren't I as enthusiastic as I thought I'd be? Is Alatriste not an absorbingly complex character? Yes. Do I not love swordplay as much as the next tío? I do. Am I not an all-around sucker for all things Spanish, especially literary and historical? Claro.

All I can tell you, then, is that the intrigue in Captain Alatriste isn't as intriguing as it could be. The whodunit and the whydunit don't, in the end, take a lot of working out.


And this is the problem, I find, with all of Perez-Reverte's books. Either there's barely a mystery to begin with, in which case much fuss is made over next to nothing (The Nautical Chart), or the endings are complicated and far-fetched (both The Flanders Panel and The Club Dumas), which is unfair to the reader and, in a word, stupid.

He doesn't know when, or how, to end things, which is a shame. He has come to be known to write "literary mysteries" or "intellectual thrillers." Since I picked up The Flanders Panel, years ago, by accident, I've been following this writer. The topics and settings intrigue me: rare manuscripts, Vatican investigations, fencing. I enjoy the read, but the end always disappoints.

His recent Queen of the South is, coincidentally, next up on my bookshelf. I'll be jumping on Captain Alatriste in short order — I'm certain I'll love the ride, even if I'm a bit wary of the destination.

Homeowning
Much as we all have different philosophies regarding packing and moving, so it is with unpacking.

Of course, the disorderly unpacking is a direct consequence of the initial packing, where boxes were filled with absolutely no regard for either theme or location, and moving, where all boxes were deposited in the middle of the main living area. Needless to say, almost no boxes were labelled.

I'd had the foresight to label cutlery, cups and glasses, dictionaries, and office supplies and pack a bag with fresh sheets and towels. Life would in fact be not that bad were it not for the gazillion open boxes in the middle of the floor with contents pouring out of them because someone was looking for something.

I am enjoying alphabetizing and shelving my books. It's meditative. Sometimes I think I should do that for a living.

Dishwashing
The dishwasher arrived Sunday. Imagine my confusion when the delivery men left and the dishwasher remained uninstalled. Imagine my dismay to learn this had been agreed to as a cost-saving measure, and J-F's mom's significant other would be around in a few days to take care of it for us. Imagine my horror when J-F announced he wanted to install it himself.

Imagine me biting my lip as we easily rack up the equivalent of half the installation fee on purchasing parts and equipment J-F thinks are required. Imagine my surprise when J-F's enthusiasm for the project takes hold with less than an hour to go to when I'd intended to start preparing dinner.

Imagine that six hours later, the dishwasher is not yet fully, but almost, installed (though we did break for dinner, which included overdone asparagus — damn that dishwasher in the middle of the floor for preventing me from getting to it in time).

I would've paid the $120 (CAD).

Helena's exploding brain
Helena has changed. Her vocabulary, English and French, has exploded, and her syntax is almost right. She has stories to tell.

She explains in great detail that we're approaching the escalator and I have to carry her, even though I'm also carrying her backpack and a shopping bag. She acknowledges this, but I must carry her anyway because she doesn't like escalators. She tried twice, but it's a weird sensation for her. I know all this, but she is suddenly overwhelmed by the need to communicate this to me.

She uses her old baby foot rattles as hand puppets. They haven't even settled over our fingers when she rips them off her hands and mine because she forgot to give them magic. She lays them on the floor, tells me they're sleeping, waves her hands over them, and recites some incantation in French before they "come to life" and we can resume play.

She has rediscovered the harmonica. Half a year ago, she didn't "get it." We were jamming the other day — all of us taking turns on piano, xylophone, saxoflute, maracas — so I thought I'd pull out the ol' dollar store harmonica. She won't let it out of her sight (she calls it a kazoo). She tells me about the old man in the metro who plays harmonica and demonstrates how he sways and taps a rhythm with his foot.

When Helena has a bath, she washes my feet.

We're in for a weird and wonderful ride.
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