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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Monday, January 16, 2006

writing, and a bunch more reading

Steady, heavy rain out of a dark sky all day. I was awake just after 4:00 a.m., with dark thoughts and disturbing emotions, and an elevated sense of alertness that I knew would prevent me from returning to sleep. After the alarm went off at 5:30, up and at 'em.

But I made good progress in my writing. Once I know what a scene is doing, what's going on, I can move quite fast, especially if I myself am enjoying the action.

Also today came books I've bought online: not one, not two, but five. A boxed hardback arrived first, wedged into the mailbox on my porch, which I was able to fetch in quickly before the rain got to it: The Limits of Empire: The Roman Army in the East by Benjamin Isaac. It's a brand-new book which I got at a (supposedly) used price. When I saw a reference to this book in another book from which I as keying notes, I thought I probably could not afford to miss it. The other four came in a bundle of differently-wrapped packages from different U.S. used booksellers, all held together with an elastic band. The mailman (I've been told his name is Tony) rang the bell because he could not quite jam the sheaf into our tinny little mailbox. I appreciated his consideration, and took the books in. These ones are: Comparative Politics: An Institutional and Cross-National Approach by Gregory S. Mahler (a textbook), The Inner Ocean: Individualism and Democratic Culture by George Kateb, Individualism & Collectivism by Harry C. Triandis, and Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing by James Waller. I cut them from their packages, removed stickers, and wiped down their grubby used covers with a damp cloth.

In a way, I prefer not to receive more than one book on any day, since I generally can start only one new book (folding it into my current reading mix) on any given day. Often, the books I don't select to start on the same day wind up waiting a long time, when there is a gap in the influx of books to the house. I'd forgotten I ordered some of these. Today's lucky winner is going to be, I think, Comparative Politics. Reading my other political-science text, I came to realize how I don't know much about the theory of government: what the rationale is behind the separation of powers and why there might be two different legislative assemblies and so on. This book looks like it should fit the bill admirably.

Kimmie has just made it in from the rain after her walk home from work.

"Cold out there," she said, presenting her cheek for me to feel. I felt it. Yes: cold.

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