Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Main Entry: frac·tious
Pronunciation: 'frak-sh&s
Function: adjective
Etymology: fraction (discord) + -ous
1 : tending to be troublesome : UNRULY [a fractious crowd]
- frac·tious·ly adverb
- frac·tious·ness noun

The book I'm reading: I wasn't sure what to make of it, didn't think I liked it, and wondered what review had made me take note of it and buy it (almost a year ago, according to the receipt tucked inside the cover). It's Light, by M John Harrison, and it's anything, and everything, but light. I really liked the first chapter, read in-store, and appreciated how the fact that the guy's a serial killer is treated pretty much as an aside, though it is a bit offputting, but the subsequent chapters, introducing the two other main story threads, just confused me. Although, these are both set in 2400, like they must have a closer relation to each other than with the mathematician-who-happens-to-be-a-serial-killer story; maybe it's this imbalance that's setting me off kilter. Mostly, I'm hugely disappointed to have finished my Dumas book and to have no more Dumas at the ready (oh, if I had a copy of Queen Margot [I liked that movie, wasn't aware of the Dumas connection]). No book quite felt right, none would, and what with work obligations and some meaty reading planned ahead I thought some light reading would be in order, and the title tricked me, so now I'm reading Light, and after 40 some pages and a few days, I'm finding my rhythm with it and wanting to know what happens next.

Maybe it's the fact that in 40 some pages, the word "fractious" has appeared a handful of times, and Anna says it's like they're in a Tom Waits song. Anna's fractious, the book is fractious. I'm fractious, Helena, J-F, work, my sleep, my reading behaviour, my nasty blog habit — all fractious.

Today I took a breather from work to shop for winter accoutrements for the girl: boots, coat. I carry her footprints with me, their outline, to slip them into footwear to size it properly. Because shopping with Helena, especially with a specific task at hand, is usually not fun (but oh how I love pointless wandering with her). So this is how I usually buy footwear for her. And I always end up hesitating between the "perfect fit" and the slightly larger ones, because the difference seems almost negligible. And I always buy the bigger ones, because it's better to have a little extra toe-wiggle room. And they're always too big. But she's always grown into them eventually. Today's lovely boots: too big. Allowing her to grow into them doesn't seem practical, as our still only potential snow will likely have melted by then.

And I've been wanting to buy Snakes and Ladders, but I've found only fancy gigantic snakes and ladders, or tiny magnetic snakes and ladders, or over-priced cartoon-character-themed snakes and ladders, and I want classic snakes with classic ladders. Because I am oh so tired of playing Cache-Cache Grenouilles with her every morning and every evening. And the novelty of some card games has already worn off, and the difficulty of others seems insurmountable at this point. So when Rachel mentioned dominos, I obsessively latched on to this idea — the perfect game! (for 3-year-olds) — and the thought of acquiring some has been all-consuming, for days. Again, I eschewed the cartoon-character-themed ones, and the farm-animal-themed ones, and the colour-coded geometric-shape-themed ones, and I found some! plain ol' white dots on black! for a dollar! We gave it a go this evening, but it's too early to tell if it'll take. Helena was more keen on serving them up as biscuits at her tea party (oh I am so tired of tea parties).

After my little shopping expedition I was to pick up Helena from daycare (J-F's out of town), so I descended the stairs to the metro station to find access barred and hordes of students just standing there, waiting (don't you have better things to do?), and I still have no idea why the station was closed. I did find a bus, but I was late, and it was generally hellish. Did I mention it was raining?

However. En route from pseudo-mall to metro station are bookstores, used. One, a bust, today. Another has changed hands and sells only new books now, and literary ones (note to self: return for pretty editions of Paul Bowles collections as birthday gift to self). Yet another, one I've never before set foot in as it keeps unpredictable hours, is filled with odd-smelling, mostly genre, very definitely used-many-time-over paperbacks. There I found Alexandre Dumas's Horror at Fontenay, his "immortal occult novel," in which it is wondered how long does life persist after the head is severed. I love you, Madame la Guillotine, for the inspiration you've served this master storyteller.


Oh, I really should be working right now...


Maxine Clarke said...

I enjoyed the movie of La Reine Margot, I saw it when I still had an independent life (pre-children). I knew it was from a Dumas book, and it turned out that someone at work had a dog-eared copy as that was the only book he read -- when he finished it he just turned to the start and began again.
I never got started on it in translation, but the movie has kind of stayed with me over the years so maybe I should read it. I did read some history of the region at the time-- fascinating, but scary, stuff.

Anonymous said...

hi Isabella
I know it's ages now since you posted on M. John Harrison's Light - but I've just finished reading it, so thought I would respond to your call for thoughts!
In terms of where it fits into the genre, at first I thought 'totally Philip K. Dick' - but then realised there's something much more humanist and psychological going on.
Although most of the book is trippy, extreme, chaotic spacey delirium, at the end I realised where it was all going in human terms. When all the characters finally encounter the Shrander, they stop 'running away' from their fear of the infinite, as they have done throughout the novel - eg, through Seria Mau's escape into the ship, Michael Kearney's escape into serial killing and Ed's escape into the VR tank...
Anyway, I've just posted on this subject on my blog at - have a read and let me know what you think!