Friday, September 12, 2008


Yesterday, on my short but emotionally stultifying walk home from work I saw two teenage girls walking and reading real novels. I smiled at them and they were properly dismissive.

I just finished a great book. I hope to be writing about it for somewhere else. I'll give you a clue: It is a novel by a Canadian author about Cambodia by one of my favorite publishers.


Around the same time I started the first volume of the Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) diaries. After the many, many introductory notes, most of which I actually read, Pepys journal begins with an account of his wife's period going missing for several weeks, Royal Navy news and the perplexing complaint of a nose swollen by the cold. He kept the diaries for 9 years.

B gave me the first three volumes of the newest translation (and supposedly best) for my birthday last year. I am glad I finally started it.

I became interested in the diaries after reading the first book of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, Quicksilver. In the novel Pepys is a kindly and compelling character, already established as a man of knowledge by the time the main character, Daniel Waterhouse, encounters him. He also eventually cuts Waterhouse's nuts open. Because he was a prolific writer, and, by all accounts a man who liked to have a good time, I am hoping that the diaries include some gossip about other (still existing) Royal Society, its members (such as Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, Issac Newton, Christopher Wren, etc.) and their wacky experiments. So far, it is mostly about the Navy.

Have you seen the Thunder Lodge Guestbook? It's a must-read for those stuck at home.


Amanda said...

I am always intrigued by the interjection of a real person into a largely fictional story. Like the book I am reading right now, which brough about a few interesting convergences.

The author of this book lives in my neighbourhood, so reading it is a lot like walking to the store or cycling home from the office...the novel is staged here, and the bars, shops, streets, sights are all familiar.

But, the main character has a girlfriend and she is allegedly a descendent of a real-life author...a great-granddaughter. Chances are any such real relatives would also still be alive today...

Last night, I went to a movie roughly based on the early career of Orson Welles, but involving a fictional person who works for him in 1937. In this movie, Orson goes on a rant, and mentions the same novel written by the above-noted real author, of whom the fictional character in the novel I am reading is supposed to be a great-granddaughter.

All very strange.

Sara said...

I'm reading the new Curtis Sittenfeld, and it's made me curious to read more about Laura Bush. I'm about halfway through and so far I feel a great admiration for the character in the book who's based on Laura. I wonder how much they're actually alike though!

Carrie said...

Sara, if you like first lady fiction, you should check out A.M. Homes' "The Former First Lady and the Football Hero." It was maybe the only story that I really liked in the collection.

amy said...

Aw, thanks for the link!