Anyway, so I had kind of forgotten how quickly one can go through a book if one has nothing to do but read. If, for instance, one is trapped in a tiny seat on a fully-loaded airplane for hours and hours and hours. Also airports. Shuttles.
And here I should stop and say that this last trip was the first time ever in my life when I didn't absolutely loathe flying. I didn't *love* it; that's not ever going to happen unless I'm flying in a fabulous plane that's mysteriously devoid of strangers because, honeys, there are few things worse than being trapped in a box with people who appear not to have bathed or—omigod—*flossed* at any time in the last, oh, several
Anyway, so I leave home with two books in my bag. One is about 3/4 finished, and the other I haven't started (they're Kate Atkinson, Case Histories and One Good Turn). I also have the new O Magazine, for fill-in reading. I'm all set, right?
Wrong. By the time we land in Oakland, just enough behind schedule that we miss the shuttle and have to spend two hours in the crappy part of the terminal (you know: there's the groovy part, with shops and restaurants and Starbucks, on the post-security side of the terminal, and there's the crappy part, the part with poor lighting and hard plastic seats and nothing to buy and nobody around but the grouchy people staffing the rental car company desks, on the non-security-having side: that's the side we were stuck on for two hours), I realized I'd seriously miscalculated. I had finished the first book and read all but the last 1/4 of the second, and I had 4 nights of bedtime reading and another 4-hour-+ return flight left to go.
Imagine how I whinged. I manned up, though, and paced myself admirably, and I made that last little bit last me until Sunday, when we were back in the Oakland airport on The Good Side, and I left the carry-ons with The EGE and set off in search of a book-selling kiosk. I distinctly remember (whoa) finding lots of good books at airports in the past. I once found a book I really wanted, about clothing, but it was so 1) expensive and 2) heavy that I settled for ordering it used online while I was standing there lusting after it. Shame on me. Perhaps that's why Bad Karma dogged me this time: I swear publishers have hammered out some horrid agreement that certain books, and ONLY certain books, will be available in airports. No others. Never. Nowhere. I saw the same books in every single place that sold books. You're thinking, "Ah, Ricë, you silly. Those were the best sellers, of course. You should get out more." To which I reply, "Non. Nyet. Nope. Wrong." Every one of these places had copies of Stephen King's The Shining, for instance. There are other for instances, but I can't remember those. I just remember wandering forlornly from shop to shop, trying to find something that would engross me enough that I wouldn't regret having spent $10. I finally settled on Bed of Bones, by Patricia Cornwell, although I knew I didn't much like her writing.
And here let me say that there are people who write stories, and there are people who write. And there are some few fabulous people who can do either and both and anything else. Stephen King is a story-teller. His writing isn't bad, but you read him for the stories. James Lee Burke I read for the writing; I don't care what Dave and Clete do, and I don't care what happens in the end. I read every word and love them all, even the old-man-philosophizing-about-existentialism stuff that does, indeed, get beyond tiring. Still. The man can put words together.
I don't like Cornwell. I don't like first person present tense because it's difficult to sustain that sense of immediacy. Oh, I could go on, but here's this: one of the first things you learn, if you have a good teacher, is how to write dialog. I've never written a novel, but I had graduate seminars, and some of the people wrote fiction, so you covered the basics, and the first thing you learn is that "said" becomes invisible. For instance:
"I can't believe you're such a dolt," he said.
"Me? You're calling *me* a dolt? If anyone's the dolt, it's you. And your mother," she said.
"My mother? What about your mother? She makes my mother look like a saint," he said.
And so on: "said" becomes invisible, and you focus on what people are saying. But if you put in other stuff, look:
"I can't believe you're such a dolt," he muttered under his breath [redundant: muttering is always under your breath]
"Me? You're calling *me* a dolt? If anyone's the dolt, it's you. And your mother," she pointed out. [It goes without saying that she's pointing this out.]
"My mother? What about your mother? She makes my mother look like a saint," he argued. [Of course he's arguing; he just contradicted her.]
Granted, there are lots of places where words like "muttered" and "argued" help explain what's going on, help the reader see the action. But often, they just get in the way. And Cornwell is driving me nuts.
"I've got no idea," I puzzle. (pg 243)
Just in the few pages I scan, there's "he adds" "I observe" "I suggest" "Luke reports" It's distracting, and it hinders the flow of the story, which is—duh—a mystery, which should have a good pace.
OK, I'll stop. I'm almost finished with the book, and I'll be passing this puppy on to someone else. Not that I care who killed the dead woman in the water. It was so weird: we're also going through CSI: Miami in Netflix, and the episode we watched the other night also featured a dead woman found in the water and clues pointing to a fellow law enforcement officer, and I got entangled in the two stories and almost gave up right then. But I'm pushing on. You know: I've come this far and all that.
So next week we're flying again, another pair of multi-hour flights, and by golly, I'm going to be prepared! So I hie myself off to Miz B's, the used book store where I used to have many, many dollars worth of credit. When my mother died, I took most of her books there, and I think my father's widow was going to transfer all my dad's credit to me when she moved. Alas, the store has changed hands, and credit lasts only three years, and it's been at least 7 years since I've been in. But you can still get a book for what it costs to get one used from amazon.com: about $4. I decided I'd get the last few Sue Grafton ones. I used to read each one as it came out, but I tired of them or forgot about them or something, and my collection out in the storage building ends with one that came out years ago. So I went to get a stash to take with me. I picked a letter near the end; "N" seemed a good place to start, and I vaguely remembered some of the things in the last book I read. I went through several and decided I'd read "N" and would start with O is For Outlaw, because nothing on the first page seemed familiar, and I got O, P, R, S and T. They didn't have "Q," but I figured I could order it and still get it in time. $20, 5 books, I'm all set. They're easy to read, light to carry. Perfect!
I came home and, before I got on amazon.com, thought I'd check to make sure I didn't somehow already have "Q," so I went out to the storage building and hauled out the ladder and climbed up to the shelf with the Bin o' Books, where I have the few mystery series I liked enough to collect, and I'll be damned if there, positioned so it showed through the clear plastic of the bin, was S is For Silence. See, I'd put it like that so I could just glance up at the bin, without even getting the ladder, and see which was the last one I'd bought. I actually planned it so I could do that. And there it was: "S" looking out at me. Meaning that I bought five books and have four of them already.
So when The EGE came home from school, I told him what a total goober I was, and he laughed and said, "Um, didn't your husband tell you to Always Shop At Home First?"
Yes. Yes, he did. I have now taken the bin off the shelf and am going to bring it inside and find a place on the bookshelves for all those books, where I can see them so this. will. never. happen. again.
The good thing, though, is this: I have books to read on the flights. I don't remember anything in them (not so far, anyway). I can give them away or leave them behind when I finish them, lightening my traveling load along the way, which is always good. And I've learned a valuable lesson. Again.
Always Shop At Home First.
(Yes, that's me you hear giggling like a crazy person.)