土曜日, 1月 03, 2004

Finished Reverse of the Medal (Book 11) three days ago, and had underestimated the number of books I should have borrowed from the library. After a day of abstinence, my hands actually started twitching...I settled for finishing Master and Commander, finally. (The copy back home has the bookmark somewhere in the middle.) I'm now done, and America is so ill-designed that you need a car to find a decent bookstore. My temporary solution is to hang around O'Brian discussion forums until it's time to get back to Boston. The concentration of erudition on those mailing lists is daunting. In twenty years, I might feel confident enough to join the conversation.

I've read the claim that Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin don't grow as characters (Jack grows VERY fat, but you know what I mean.) Bullshit. It's such a shock to go from RotM, with it's older, more sombre characters, back to the beginning, when Jack believes making post will guarantee smooth sailing till he hoists his flag, and when Stephen's still unentangled in espionage and Diana. There's an exuberance in the two that diminishes as the series progresses. No doubt Patrick O'Brian was feeling the ravages of time, but this man began writing the series when he was FIFTY! Surely there isn't that much of decline between fifty and seventy.

While we're on the subject of O'Brian's age at M&C, let me admit how encouraged I am by it. We live in an age of prodigies, flashes in the pan, burned out geniuses--the implication is that if you're not published in Nature by 30 and tenured by 45, you're an utter failure. Well, I'll go down that path and do my best, but something tells me that I'm not cut out for early success. Perhaps it's my utterly unpractical interests, fluctuating amount of ambition, distaste for socializing...if life were a multiple choice test, I'd have a better shot at fame and fortune. As it is, I will give it all my best shot before settling down to some remote cottage in the mountains of Taidung and writing the Great Taiwanese Novel. (Less competition than the Great American Novel.) Or I'll muddle my way into the Chinese Democracy movement and watch it all come to grief. There's a fat Dickensian novel somewhere in that.

Can you tell that I've been reading George Orwell all day? My English Lit teacher was right to warn me of Orwell courses in the winter. I, counting on the resilience of youth, dismissed his advice the moment he gave it. Aiyah.

Anyway, I've now been deprived of Patrick O'Brian for a day, and my hands are starting to twitch again. This morning, I picked up Treason's Harbor, started reading from a random point till the scene where Jack discovers that his promised command has been given away. There is now a high chance that he will be cut off on shore with half pay:
He was eating his dinner, not in the dining-cabin but right aft, sitting with his face to the great stern-window, so that on the far side of the glass, and a biscuit-toss below, the frigate's wake streamed away and away from him, dead white in the troubled green; so white that the gulls, poising and swooping over it, looked quite dingy. This was a sight that never failed to move him: the noble curve of shining panes, wholly unlike any land borne window, and then the sea in some one of its infinity of aspects; and the whole in silence, entirely to himself. If he spent the rest of his life on half-pay in a debtors' prison he would still have had this, he reflected...and it was something over and above any reward he could possibly have contracted for.

Tears are nasty business when a library book is concerned, but in this case I hope they will forgive me.

"This fellow has created characters and stories that are part of my life." --David Mamet