Right. I was mapping the various degrees of ECRS. I already talked at length about the Omnivorous Serial (O.S.). Now let’s confront a more serious and socially destabilizing form of ECRS: the Library Hater (L.H.). The L.H. is a procrastinator, and doesn’t seem to realize that checking out thirty books at the same time is conducive to massive heartburn and sleepless nights. The L.H starts reading the book he/she thinks is the less appealing, reserving the favorite authors for last. (The same way you, gentle reader from Rome, leave the top of the rosetta *bread for the last bite. The examples vary accordingly to regions, states, and whole countries. Today I felt nostalgic. And I have always been partial to a freshly baked rosetta with mortadella.) Woolgathering aside and coming back to more serious thoughts, what happens next to the naïve reader is that (few weeks after in real life, but just seconds for the L.H.) the Public Library sends a courtesy mail asking for the books back. The procrastinator waits until the eleventh hour, and few minutes after that, to renew the lease of the books, and discovers (dramatic music playing) that it isn’t possible. Someone else has requested the same books (how did they dare!—Eddie Izzard’s voice in the background) and therefore the L.H must release them. Several things occur at once: the L.H curses the Public Library and its unfair policies. He/she tries to read as many pages as possible to reach the end of the chapter. Then the L.H. has a sudden and violent bout of Tourette (due to the realization that the story that has sucked big time until three pages ago has finally become interesting). The L.H. tries a last desperate effort to check if pressing again the renew button of the Public Library’s web site will change the status of the books. No. It doesn’t. Finally the L.H put the books inside several plastic bags (normally it rains outside and the books could get all mushy and sad) and drives to the place where he/she normally gets his/her fix (the same Public Library that has been smitten to crumbles few minutes before). The ordeal is repeated in the same order as soon as the Public Library’s website acknowledges that it has received the books, and the L.H requests the same titles again. The moral of the story is that the L.H. never reads the novels he/she really wanted to read in the first place, since they are always buried under a whole stack of other books. You know what they say about the definition of madness…
*Typical Roman bread looking more like a turtle than a rose. Deliciously hollow inside. Fill it as your heart desires.
Also known as Seattle. Although it seems almost impossible to top one of the coolest ideas ever, (the Battlestar Exhibition at the EMP/SFM), this wonderful city did it again. Along with the aforementioned crowd pleaser, Seattle is also hosting a—wait for it—Harry Potter Exhibition at the Pacific Science Center. Now, if I may be so bold as to suggest the only way Seattle can reach the point beyond perfection, I would say that a Firefly Memorial could do just that. One should never stop dreaming.
Rainy Monday! My choice for the week is an absolute masterpiece, Archangel by Sharon Shinn. This novel is one of my favorite books. I have a list of ten books that I compile every year,and Archangel has been there for a good while. I read it several years ago, and I have been rereading it at least once a year. It’s my comfort reading. Archangel is the first in a series of five set in the imaginary planet of Samaria. A complex array of human beings populates the variegated geography of the planet. The Manadavvi are sophisticated landowners from Gaza. The Jansai are greedy merchants from Jordana. The peaceful Edori are composed by nomadic tribes hunted by the Jansai and forced to slavery. Above them all reign the Angels, superior human beings who can fly and communicate directly with the god Jovah by singing. The angels sing to Jovah to keep Samaria’s erratic weather pattern under control. They sing to ask for medicines that fall from the sky. The angels live separated from the humans in three hosts that divide Samaria in as many regions. Raphael, the current Archangel, is also the leader of the host in Windy Point. Ariel is the leader of the host in Monteverde. Gabriel is the leader of the host in the Eyrie, and the next appointed Archangel. The story is set in motion when Gabriel seeks the Oracle Josiah to ask the god for the name of his bride, the Angelica. Gabriel has delayed the task as long as possible, but the mass gathering singing of the Gloria is only six month ahead. To his surprise, the god Jovah has selected for him an Edori slave. Rachel is headstrong and not at least awestruck by the arrogant angel who proclaims to be her chosen spouse. She refuses to believe Gabriel, even when her “kiss” (the colored piece of glass most of the Samarian children get implanted during the Dedication Ceremony) illuminates to match his own. Rachel, daunted by her feelings toward Gabriel, runs away from him at every turn, looking for the comfort of the Chievens, the Edori tribe that adopted her when she lost her family. At first Gabriel is forced by the circumstances to follow her. It is his duty to make her listen to reason. Without the Angelica by his side during the Gloria, the annual gathering where everybody in Samaria must sing in harmony, the life on the planet will be annihilated by Jovah. In his journey across Samaria Gabriel realizes the depth of his sentiments toward the renegade bride. He understands where she comes from, and what she has endured to become who she is. Gabriel and Rachel united will save Samaria from the destruction caused by Raphael. What I liked the most about the cosmos Sharon Shinn has created is the absolute coherence of the characters and their environment. While I was reading the book I found myself more than once imagining about the places Shinn described. The blue city of Luninaux, where the craftsmen live, vibrant with life and shining with art. The white city of Semorrah, built on a small island in the middle of the river Galilee, where Rachel is brought as a slave to serve a family of river merchants. Gabriel’s beloved Eyrie, a place where celestial music is sung day and night, perched over the busy city of Velora. The bleak peak of Windy Point where Raphael commits his acts of hubris against the divinity. And as detailed is the description of the geography in Samaria, so is the description of each character. From the two protagonists, Gabriel and Rachel, who are both strong and weak at the same time, to the secondary characters who propel the story. Nathan and Magdalena are a good example of the quality of the subplot in Archangel. They are both angels, respectively brother and sister of Gabriel and Ariel. In Samaria angels, both men and women, are strongly encouraged to bed as many human partners as possible to ensure angelic progeny. Angels are difficult to be conceived, and the union of two of them is prohibited because it doesn’t normally end up in healthy babies. Nathan and Magdalena fight their sentiments, but their “kisses” come alive the first time they kiss. Every character in the novel has a story, and all the stories come together beautifully in rendering a well drawn picture of a whole universe. Sharon Shinn commented that the first scene she envisioned when writing Archangel was when Gabriel shields Rachel in his wings. It’s the same scene that makes me come back to the book again, and again. Rachel wakes up, after a traumatic experience, fully embraced in a white cocoon of feathers. The scene is breathtaking because of the two characters involved. Sharon Shinn is very good at creating conflicts that transform a mere embrace into something more. Something that makes you read a novel several times. Each book in the Samaria series can be read as a stand-alone, but I suggest to read them following the chronological order of the story line (even though is not the order Sharon Shinn wrote them). Angelica would be the first one, set one hundred years before the events narrated in Archangel. Archangel would be the second one, followed by Angel-Seeker set few years after it. Jovah’s Angel is set one hundred years later. And finally the truth about Samaria and it’s vengeful and mercurial god is uncovered in The Alleluia Files. A final consideration is due about John Jude Palencar, who is the artist behind the ethereal covers of the Samaria’s books. Before I bought my copy of Archangel, I picked up one at my local Library simply because my eyes were caught by the clean beauty of the art cover. Love at first sight. It exists serendipitously.
Have a glorious reading.
I already said how much I love the Northwest. A lot. Today I just discovered that I have another reason to be so happy to live so close to Seattle. Battlestar Galactica, one of my favorite sci-fi shows, is coming to town! The EMP/SFM, an architectural masterpiece designed by Frank O. Gehry, is hosting a Battlestar Galactica exhibition. I am too overwhelmed with joy at the idea of touching a Viper. I know you are too.
The ECReader’s life is hell on heart. Nobody can really understand the horrors he/she is forced to endure every day. The ECRS is a freshly discovered syndrome, and as such hugely underestimated. I have decided to shed some light on the matter and clarify the way ECReaders are classified. I will try to categorize the different types of ECReaders as best as I can (depending on which way my inspiration leans). Today I will describe the most common type: the omnivorous serial. Keep in mind, gentle and discriminate reader (yes I know, it’s always you I am talking to) that the average ECReader is everything, but discriminate about his/her reading habits. The ECReader is normally omnivorous by definition. Anything goes. Today can be romance (every reference is purely random), tomorrow can be speculative science fiction, next week it’s going to be fan fiction, a month from now the ECReader will have finished the whole body of work of some unknown Monica La Porta (just saying), while at the same time passing through the enlightening and funny biography of a shoe seller (Tony, I didn’t find happiness since I hadn’t lost it to begin with, but thank you for the ride). The ECReader must find his/her fix wherever. The ECReader can’t afford to be picky, therefore he/she is omnivorous. Having the ECRS is also conducive to being a serial reader. Once the omnivorous ECReader finds an author of his/her liking, the poor addict, already starving for more of the same, immediately seeks any scrap of paper published by the aforementioned writer. The ECReader is a collector at heart, and can’t sleep at night knowing that his/her library( aka the traveling stack of beloved paperbacks which doesn’t seem to find peace on earth—but mostly inside the house) is missing an important piece. Although the syndrome can be quite expensive to treat, and life is unfair—no insurance pays for the Amazon bills (the ECRS Foundation is working on that)—there are little subterfuges that help relieving the strain on the domestic finances. One of those lifesavers is renting books from the nearby Public Library. Another is swapping books between friends, but depending on the level of ECRSism (new term I am testing here for the first time) is not always recommended. Borrowing and lending books can be an alternative only among the lighter ECReaders. As you can see, there are several branches of the ECRS that need to be further studied. I promise to give the problem the importance it deserves ( in other words, it takes some time and effort by my side to invent things). I will be back with new and improved terms, and even more wonderful ,fantastic (read the adjective as in: detached from reality; not as in : awesome), psychedelic (that’s what I was looking for), theories. Be tuned. And drink some tea. Always drink some tea when in doubt.
Lately a young author, Lauren Willig, caught my attention. I was looking for some romance, and while scouting at my Library Express, I picked up one of the Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation novels. This series falls under the chick-lit genre, well written chick-lit, but, I am happy to report, with a twist. The main character, Eloise Kelly, is an American historian who is trying to unveil the secret identities of a group of English spies who try to stop Napoleon Bonaparte’s plans to destabilize and invade England. Eloise, after having left Harvard and a boyfriend with a tendency to put his tongue in other girls’ mouths, ends up in London to pursue her research where her spies lived and loved. In London she meets Mrs. Selwick-Alderly, who not only opens her private archives to Eloise, but introduces her to her great-nephew, Colin Selwick. Lauren Willig cleverly splits the narration between nowadays London, where Eloise tries her best to conquer Colin, and 1800’s England, where flower-named spies find their soul mates in the long forgotten diaries and letters perused by Eloise. I am on my forth Pink Carnation novel, and the one I liked the most is The Deception of the Emerald Ring (the third one in the series). Eloise has come to terms that she really likes Colin, as in falling in love head over heels, and she is following the fate of the Pink Carnation through the scraps of information left behind by Letty Alsworthy. Letty’s misadventure starts when she tries to save her sister Mary’s reputation, and she finds herself married to Lord Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snape, who is the man her sister was eloping with. I particularly liked the premises of this novel. Letty is forced to marry a man who is in love with her beautiful sister. Unbeknownst to Letty, Geoffrey is also the second in command of the League of the Purple Gentian, now helping the Pink Carnation to put an halt to an Irish rebellion against England led by the cruel French spy known as the Black Tulip. Geoffrey and Letty are reunited in Dublin, where, while being forced by circumstances to cooperate in a secret mission, they slowly start knowing each other. Appreciation between the two follows, and as a result England is saved, again, and Geoffrey and Letty discover that they were meant to be. The novel ends with nowadays heroine, Eloise, finally getting a date with her shiny English beau, Colin. Lauren Willig’s style is fresh and humorous, her characters are funny, her dialogues highly entertaining. It is also noteworthy that the author knows a great deal about the fascinating era she is writing about. The Pink Carnation series is the kind of reading that goes well with a steaming cup of tea, and a nice misty day.
It has just been brought to my attention that there is a category of ECReaders who suffer from painful relapses in the awful realm of quotidianity. (I am aware that the word “quotidianity” doesn’t exist in English—at least in the opinion of the Oxford Dictionary, among others—but I found the notion offending, and being the just person that I am, I couldn’t let it pass. In case you are wondering “quotidianity” means regarding the uninteresting daily life.”) I have also decided that the term ECRS’s for excessive compulsive readers wasn’t correct, and therefore I changed it in ECReaders. But I am digressing. My original intention was to examine the brutal world of all the poor ECReaders who are forced to stop reading. It is cruel and unusual. As if we could stop being who we are. We are born this way. There are no rehabilitation camps for us (although it seems that electric shock has been used to cure other “syndromes” with fairly good results. The loss of short term memories seems a good trade off in the opinion of a certain part of American society. But none of the victims…I meant subjects…has commented on the matter). A recent testimony of an ex-ECReader, who wishes to remain anonymous (but we are going to call her “I Wish I Could Girl”, for the sake of humanizing the subject), brought me to tears. The poor being doesn’t have time to read due to social circumstances generally known as offspring of the male gender. There are no words eloquent enough to express the agony of I Wish I Could Girl. We are with you. Don’t give up. The ECRS Foundation will organize a parade to raise donations (in form of babysitting hours) to help the cause of all the I Wish I Could Girls in the world. You are not alone. Meanwhile drink some tea.