My favorite part of Moby-Dick is when Ishmael and the cannibal Queequeg are huddling in blankets from the cold. Only their noses are bared to the chill:
…Truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm. For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich.
I love the idea of this passage and find it to be true. There is an art to being just uncomfortable enough. By and large, comfort is what you make of it, what you allow yourself to become used to.
I just finished Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. It was great; I couldn’t put it down for large sections at a time. Here’s my three-second review:
- Quicksilver: Good book. The first third of the book has a different feel from the rest of the series, so don’t get discouraged if science isn’t your thing. Leaves you with plot blue balls.
- The Confusion: My least favorite of the three. Long in setup, short in action. Though, it can be forgiven a bit because it opens explaining the unresolved plot thread from Quicksilver.
- The System of the World: My favorite of the three. This book was all climax.
Oy, I haven’t been very productive this past week; I made the mistake of starting Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. When I get into a book, it is hard to put it down, and any other activity chafes at my mind because I would rather be reading. It requires a lot of self-discipline just to take showers.
Normally, my strategy is to go for broke and finish the book as fast as possible. Then, I make sure not to start a book for a while so I can be productive. Or at least, not to start a good book. However, Neal has me by the balls because there are three books in the series. I finish one only to have a whole new one staring me in the face.
This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if the books were more self-contained and could take breathers in-between, but I need to find out what is going on with certain characters. Sigh.
To make matters worse, I just received season four of the West Wing. I will be dead to the world for the next week.
I like this simile I found in Quicksilver:
This Gothick fortress of Newgate, planted in the midst of such a neighborhood, was like a pelvis in a breadbasket.
From The Importance of Being Earnest:
Jack: I am sick to death of cleverness. Everybody is clever now-a-days. You can’t go anywhere without meeting clever people. The thing has become an absolute public nuisance. I wish to goodness we had a few fools left.
Algernon: We have.
Jack: I should extremely like to meet them. What do they talk about?
Algernon: The fools? Oh! about the clever people, of course.
Jack: What fools!