Friday Night Ramblings: So now the house is quiet, and I can enjoy it

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The Husband has gone to judo practice. It is also the first time in about three weeks that my head feels quiet. Work and life has just been so hectic, I haven’t been able to slow down and just feel quiet. What insanity! I took the day off today after working so hard lately and it was just a treat. I’ve been so tense that even light reading required quite an effort to concentrate on and it was even harder for the reading I have to do the MOOC on Fantasy and Science-Fiction. And what about writing for the blog… When I start pressuring myself to read more so I can write more and it becomes a matter of performance (albeit self-imposed), the fun just plain goes out of it. So, some slowing down is really needed here.

Why do I read? For fun, to relax, to explore worlds and ideas I would not otherwise be exposed to, to pass the time, to escape from my other day-to-day pursuits. That should never be stressful, right?

Let’s take stock of what I am into now.

Last week’s reading for the MOOC was a collection of stories and poems by Hawthorne and Poe. I hardly made a dent in that and I am sure I can read that later. It is after all quality writing. This week’s reading is from H.G. Wells, including The Island of Dr. Moreau. So far that’s been a fun read, although I am getting a little bit tired of undesired and uncomfortable travel by ship. It seems many books I have read lately featured that motif: Life of Pi, Dracula, Frankenstein. And since we are into fantasy and science-fiction, I have been thinking about the purpose of having characters travelling to parts unknown. In science-fiction, we have an extreme that is space-travel, whether it involves space-ships or teleportation. The act of transportation, whether it involves a lengthy journey or an instantaneous one, seems to be to confront the character with a different world and provide excuses for discomfort (and even danger) and to provoke the character into marshalling all their resourcefulness to return home. What do you think? Are there any other reasons behind using this device?

Jumping to another topic, I am reading my first Louise Penny novel, crime fiction set in Québec, by an anglophone writer who actually lives in Québec. So far the story is fun, if not as fast pace as I would like it. It also contains fewer factual errors than I have found in Kathy Reich’s novels.

I also started reading a novel by author by Samuel Archibald called Arvida. Arvida is a town on the river Saguenay (well now actually part of the city of Saguenay after the government of Québec enforced town mergers some years ago). Arvida is named after Arthus Vining Davis, its founder. It is also the heart of Alcan, an aluminium company that now belongs to Rio Tinto (my employer). I was drawn to the book as I thought it would give me some insight into the local culture. I have been in the region for work a few times but never enough to get a feeling for the place. I hope I get a chance to spend more time there in the coming months. For the time being, I will have to be content with the novel.

When I was a graduate sociology student, I worked as a research assistant for a demographer who was studying population movements in the Saguenay region. I had to analyze some data on family composition and size over several generations. People in the region (as in other regions of Québec) had large families and many children died in infancy… But one interesting fact that seemed to make the region somewhat different from others was the amount of social mobility that took place in it.  One would think that sons of farmers would inherit the farm and continue on and that sons of professionals such as doctors and lawyers would also pursue studies and become professionals. In that region, there was a lot of cross-over. Farmers’ sons became professionals or opened stores, and sons of storekeepers ended up in farming… far great social “mobility” than in other places and not necessarily “upward” as common understanding would have it. Well, that was what I knew over twenty years ago. Now I wonder what the actual state of knowledge about this is. The professor I used to work for is still active… Maybe I should give her a call and ask about these things. It would be great to catch up. She was such a nice prof to work for.

I also started La mort du roi Tsongor, by Laurent Gaudé, a celebrated French writer. I had borrowed his latest novel from the library three weeks ago, but as I had not managed to read much of it, I had to go back to the library to try to renew it. Well, I could not. Because it was a “novelty”, it could not be renewed and had to go back to the “novelty” section for other patrons to enjoy. So I walked into the stacks to pick up an older Laurent Gaudé. This one looks very intriguing so far and the writing is just beautiful.

So here we go, so many books, so many thoughts but two days of weekend to enjoy myself.

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