quicksilver update 1

My god, that has to have been one of the most ham-fisted expositions I have ever read. A veritable wall of history! Delivered as a question-and-answer dialogue! But it seems ham-fisted (and the next chapter reads as the “real” beginning) to the point where it probably was something the editor insisted on, over the author’s protests.

Editor: These are Americans, man, they’re not going to have a clue what you’re talking about.

Author: But, shit, a dialogue? Are you kidding me? They’re not going to sit through it long enough to get to the actual book!

Editor: And how do you think they’re going to sit through the actual book when they have no idea who half these people are, or what their politics were, or what politics actually meant in these countries at this time?

Author: Yeah but–

Editor: Enough. Do it or GTFO.

In the editor’s defense, he has a point. My dad has likely the largest private library of history books in his state, and was not gentle in his insistence that we make use of it, but I still appreciated the history lesson, however contrived. I know a bit more than I would have otherwise about this period because I read Edward Rutherford’s London not so long ago, and the parts surrounding Cromwell (my grandfather named his labrador after him) were particularly interesting–but barring that I’d’ve been a bit at a loss here.

I do try to cut the authors some slack when I come across these flagrantly copped-out expositions. No one would want to start a book this way, surely. Maybe no one would want to think so little of their reading audience that they might need such a historical bludgeoning, right off? Perhaps one has to believe better of one’s readers, to engage in such a huge affair as this series turned out to be. Surely you have to go into this thinking a bit better of the people you want to reach. Who wants to write a 4,000-page series for people you condescend to?

Anyway, the first glimpse of the next chapter sounds more like the beginning everyone wants to write. So I shall stick around. I was having my doubts there in the agonizing dialogue but nope, okay, we shall carry on.

here we goooo

No, I don’t know why someone cut out the middle moon. Used book. But this is touted to be like Name of the Rose–probably my favorite novel–and sounds, not that the people talking about it to me made the comparison, like so many of Iain Pears’ books–especially the last one I read, Stone’s Fall, which still excites me sometimes when I remember it–that I will put it off no longer.

Like NotR, it looks at a period of history I neither have much interest in or love for. But that book, and to a slightly lesser degree Pears’ books, won me over by sheer force is character. Which I require for history and fantasy both–lyricism is not enough, for those. I don’t know much about Neal Stephenson beyond the fevered recommendation that I read this series, but I hope he brings this to the table. Failing that, the intricacy of the historical tapestry Pears weaves has to show up in spades.

that post everyone makes

Why am I getting this degree? Because people in charge of me told me it would be a good idea. And I was born and bred to jump through hoops–I want to please the people in charge of me. But as I get older, and people retire left and right, there is no one left to impress. Eventually I will find myself in the position my FIL finds himself in, without the protection of friends in admin: middle-management, with people younger than me looking down on me, hoping to weed me out somehow to replace me with someone smarter and younger and cheaper, with praise coming from precisely nowhere.

I already have one useless master’s. Why am I acquiring another?

Because I’m good at getting degrees. Not so much at enjoying them. Or the doors they open. I jump through all the flaming hoops and then come out on the other side and realize I hate the whole tent and everyone in it.

no, really : it’s just a game

Every time there is a gathering of people engaging in an activity intended to be fun–whether it be a Celtic dancing class for beginners or bowling with friends or playing cards with your mother- and sisters-in-law–there is someone exhibiting a fundamental disconnect from the basic premise of the gathering. Namely:

We are here to have fun.

Or more specifically, because I probably shouldn’t presume to speak for everyone: I am here to have fun. I am not here to become a bowling goddess. I am not here to win all your M&Ms from you at cards, and I am definitely not here to become the next Lord of the Dance.

You there, putting your beer down to insist again that I listen to your treatise on proper form or strategy: you need to take a step back.

I have now experienced this with a wide variety of people at an extremely wide variety of events. It is easy to dismiss such behavior as a desire to dominate, or to excel and to show oneself to excel to make up for other parts of one’s life that are, shall we say, lacking. But that’s assuming everyone to be awfully mean and shallow, and it’s so defeatist to read people thusly. So I’d like to propose an alternative interpretation.

Perhaps they just don’t get it.

They don’t get that there is a huge, huge difference between ascribing personal, qualitative value to a pursuit and there intrinsically being such value to that pursuit. They don’t get that what for them may be deadly serious may, for potentially many others, simply be play. Fun. You know, that thing you’re doing when you’re not trying to win.

Which isn’t to say I frown on competition, or that I’m not competitive! I’m viciously competitive. Just not all the time. Not, for example, on a dancefloor. Or around a card table. Or in a bowling alley. These are things I do for fun. Not to become an expert or even close to it. I’m hanging out in such situations for the camaraderie, not for the chance to thrust myself toward some ineffable state of physical or mental perfection.

These people flipping out need to take a look at some of these videos of crazed soccer dads screaming at six-year-olds on the soccer field. “EYES ON THE BALL, HONEY, EYES ON THE GODDAMN BALL.” Because that’s what you look like to me, people. Crazed soccer dads foaming, incoherent with spittle and rage at other people’s six-year-olds. You need to relax. Take a step back. And allow those around you not to be perfect, not even to be good at what they’re doing.

It’s not going to kill you. But your continued insistence on perfection may very well kill everyone else’s enjoyment.