Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Set in the last half of the 14th century, World Without End by Ken Follet is the story of the lives of the citizens of the imaginary town of Kingsbridge in England, the setting of his previous epic, Pillars of the Earth. WWE follows the lives of some of the descendants of his previous tome. I wished it hadn’t been so long since I read Pillars. Some of my details are foggy, but the feel of the two books were the same.

I remember wondering if the sex and violence in Pillars were gratuitous or necessary. Follet continues as a master of vivid description, which can be startling in the sex and violence scenes. The battles and fights, with their knives and swords and arrows, seem much more disturbing than gunshots, the damage done more horrific. And the punishments dispensed by the priests! I wanted to look away, but it was a book. I hated to keep reading, but I couldn’t put it down.

I think those details, however grisly, are necessary to the character development. It is one thing to say she fought off the attacker and won. It is another to hear the knife slicing through sinews, feel how hard she thrust, see where it came out, and what came out with it. I feel much more impressed with her ferocious self-preservation. I doubt I could do that. The description of the Great Plague was nightmarish and exhausting. The details, however revolting, create a more visceral reaction from the reader. By contrast the love and the beauty were more inspiring, more of an oasis.

I also think the details, although fictional, are historically accurate. How miserable life was 700 years ago! How dangerous! As humans, we have been mistaken about so many things. We have come a long way, but I’m sure we are still mistaken about much in our world.

The other thought I had after reading the book was about extremism in religious and social structures. This book follows the lives of four people: two caught in the extremes of society and two struggling away from those extremes in religion. It seems that the Earl and the peasant were both helpless against the injustice of class and obedience. They could not foment any change. It was the merchant class characters who made any lasting social impact. Their struggles and visions ultimately improved society. Makes me wonder what that says about us – about me.

I really enjoyed this book and recommend it, although it is not for the squeamish. Any of you who like horror books & movies with probably think it is nothing. I just hate to witness evil and brutality. However, the book is not about evil so much as the triumph of hope over it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sorry for the long gap.
I finally finished that long book, World Without End by Ken Follet last night at 12:30. I have several observations to share, but first, I have to catch up on everything that went by the wayside while I was reading.

So,I'll tell you my Urban Word of the Day: Choreplay. Can you guess what it is?

Monday, January 21, 2008

This picture is from last week.
It is so cold today. When I first looked at the thermometer this morning it was 8 degrees. Brrr! Great day for a mug of coffee, a blanket, and my book!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I have started a 1000 page book. I almost didn't because I knew what would happen. The laundry stacks up. The kids have to cook for themselves. I unintentionally stay up too late.

I am reading Ken Follet's "World Without End." Nothing was "the good old days" about the 12th century. What mean times they were. Kids and women were rarely treated with any dignity and expected abuse.

I think we are evolving as humans into a more compassionate humanity. The question is, is the part of us that is evolving going to survive the part of us that is using up all our resources? At least I'll have time to finish my book first.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Friday night I did an odd combination of events. I had to go to a singles dance as part of my job as a singles columnist for a local magazine. (What a job, right?) I knew it would be fun, and I was right. But just before we went, I felt compelled to stop in at the funeral home for a viewing. It was quite a contrast of emotions.

A man in my community, just a little older than me, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Initial reports didn't indicate drugs or alcohol were involved on either party's part. The man was wearing his helmet. I don't think excessive speed was involved. Someone just didn't see him and pulled out into the road where he was driving.

I have encountered his wife several times in our community. She worked at the pre-school where my daughter went. I taught her daughters in Sunday school 6 or 7 years ago. My oldest daughter and her youngest daughter have become friends and slept over each other's houses this fall.

The funeral home was packed. Although I am not close to the widow, I can't imagine the trauma and fear and worry she is feeling and I felt compelled to go hug her. I'm glad we have the tradition of a viewing for just such a purpose.

Because we have never been close, I'm not sure how to help in the months to come. I have talked to other widows who said they just appreciated it when someone came and did something, like walk the dog or mow the grass. I suppose I can just keep my door open for her daughter who is my daughter's friend and watch and listen for something we can do.

Does being reminded of the fragility of life make you enjoy yours more? I think it is easy to ignore the fact that we're all going to die. We don't know when. Better make the most of things now. Some people think it is morbid to dwell on our mortality, but I find it a bit motivating.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Another sweaty attic improvement shift has produced some archival treasures. I found my 8th & 9th grade yearbooks, and various old snapshots that are an interesting comment on the pre-digital days of photography.

The first inscription in my 9th grade yearbook is from someone named Karen who I'm not sure if I remember. She wrote,
"It was nice knowing you in school, but it was kind of weird..."

Some of the signatures admonish me to remember cryptic, inside jokes that must've been funny 28 years ago.

"We really should get together and make another Hoffman cake sometime."
"We finally got rid of Mims & Zocks, but look at all the trouble you got into with Duck."
"Too bad I had to hear all your stories from Ann-Margaret, Mary, & Sange. They really gave me a bad impression of you!"
"Remember the tin soldier and 'Where's your passport?'"

I see I haven't grown up at all in 28 years.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The holiday season has passed and now I'm into the first new season of the year: science fair season.

I did have a wonderful Christmas and a warm, lovely New Year. I got my last present in the mail yesterday - a stuffed, two-headed calf from our dear friends in Boise. My kids were delighted.

Now, however, my kitchen is a temporary lab - testing the effect of varied glycerin levels on the longevity of bubbles. I think that after at least a dozen of these projects I am finally getting better at the selection and procrastination part of the project.

My daughter's entrepreneurial spirit popped up when she was mixing her varied solutions and trying one out with her homemade, ineffectual, wire wand.

"We should market this stuff!" she exclaimed. I hated to burst her bubble but I explained that she was a little behind the curve on that idea.

Right now we are currently having a "delay in the lab" due to the lack of a normal bubble wand. Ironically, despite the perhaps gallon of homemade bubble solution on my kitchen counter, I'm going to have to go buy some bubbles for the wand. Figures.

I love bubbles - the perfect introduction to the ephemeral nature of beauty. I remember my 2 year old son drinking a couple of big chugs before he registered that they didn't taste good and his wide eyes when he burped a bubble. They had an ill effect on him over then next day.