BOOK & BLOG
November 18, 2008
Books of the Week:
When I heard Michael Crichton had passed away, I felt genuinely sorry. Though I felt that his politics occasionally informed his writing to an uneasy extent, Crichton had a breadth of vision that few writers attain. And talk about your elevator pitch if you had to get someone interested in your book in the thirty seconds you spent with them on an elevator, saying “dinosaurs live again and attack humans” would be the perfect example. Of course, Crichton wrote many other books, all the result of a great amount of research powered by a compelling story. He gave me hours of reading pleasure. It was a lot of fun reading JURASSIC PARK again.
Dave Duncan is a prolific writer of science fiction, but somehow I hadn’t read him before. ILL MET IN THE ARENA was a good book to start out on. It’s an action tale set in a society very unlike ours, on a planet most like ours. Duncan’s world building is unobtrusive and extensive, and the plot moves swiftly. Duncan’s protagonist is the product of a brutal rape, and his mother is permanently traumatized. She was a princess, but the circumstances of his birth have made Quirt a shadowy figure in a rigidly regulated society. Quirt’s mission is to expose the man who raped his mother, but there are layers upon layers in the conspiracy. This was a thoroughly satisfying read, and I look forward to reading more of Duncan’s books.
THE VERNEYS is a wonderful account of the Verney family in England, who had the wonderful habit of keeping all their correspondence. The Verneys were people who lived life fully, and among their numbers they included a courtier, a convert to Islam, and assort ne’er do wells. I haven’t completed this book, but I am enthralled, and I’m only in the 17th century with the Verneys now. Tinniswood has written a wonderful account of a large and noted family and the times in which it lived.
Some of Laurell’s readers didn’t read the messages I posted on the board after I found out that Laurell will be writing more Merry Gentry books. So for all of you who emailed or pm’d me, here’s the acknowledgement! It’s good to hear there will be more of these wonderfully imaginative novels.
What do you say to a dying person? There’s no etiquette to cover a painful situation like that. It seems ludicrous to pretend that all is well, that life will go on, that there will be a future that person can share. But then again, unless you are very close, it seems awful to talk about the person’s impending death. When I visited a church friend in hospice this week, I found myself talking about . . . the weather.
It seems that when you are in the presence of a person who is about to take the last step between one world and the next, you could think of something better to say. And yet, it’s all too easy to falter; to think that mentioning the impending passage will make it come faster. It’s like admitting the inadmissible. Death is the elephant in the room that no one wants to mention.
“I hope you’re not in pain,” I said finally, and that seemed to be as close as I could get to the reality of her situation. My friendly acquaintance (a person I’ve known many years, and liked) drifted in and out of consciousness, and she seemed to be comfortable.
Maybe when you’re standing beside someone who’s so far along on the road leading away, there’s really not much to say. Maybe your presence has to say it all. Or if you’ve been a close friend for many years, maybe there’s more to talk about. I don’t know. It’s hard not to feel you’ve failed someone, if you can’t think of something significant to say -- no matter how casual the friendship is -- for what may be the last time.
There are too many thoughts and regrets to count. In his most famous poem, Dylan Thomas said, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” But I find myself thinking, “Go gentle, friend.”
© 2009 Charlaine Harris