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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Monday, December 10, 2007

in the pre-predawn

Once again sleeplessness drove me from bed, this time at about 4:00, into the cold darkness of the house. It was too late for whisky so I poured myself a glass of cranberry juice, twisted on the knobs for our electric heat (–2° C outside), pulled the living-room furniture back into its regular daytime configuration (seating not aimed at the TV), opened up Asimov's Guide to the Bible (Old Testament), and started reading.

I'd woken at around 2:45. By 4:00 I could tell that my racing thoughts would lead me only further into wakefulness. Might as well get up and do something productive.

And it was productive. While my mind is engaged with something to do, it is not distracted by worries and problems. I read up on Exodus, highlighting as I went.

Is there any use knowing things about Exodus? Isaac Asimov must have thought so. He wrote two good-sized guides to the Bible, even though he was a chemist (I think) by training and a sci-fi author by avocation. His interests were truly wide-ranging, and for that reason alone I like him and am inclined to trust him. His tone is always interested, balanced; skeptical but also open-minded--a brace of mental qualities that I particularly admire and regard as traits of the greatest minds. Without apparent effort, he brings tremendous erudition to any topic, seamlessly working all kinds of nuggets of otherwise hard-to-find information into his exposition. Asimov's prose style itself is a model of simplicity and clarity.

An hour and a quarter (and two glasses of cranberry juice) later, I was feeling the chill, and my eyes were feeling gritty and unrested. I stalked back up to bed and crawled in to warm up and rest my eyes for the last 15 minutes before the alarm went off and it was time to formally start the day.


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