July 31st, 2011

Berthold Run


"Sometimes you have to move. Why? Too much schtuff." -- George Carlin

How about having less schtuff? Oh, yeah, that can work.

It's been a cleaning weekend (in between getting out to yesterday's Trek in the Park and having science-fictional thoughts). I got rid of an ancient bedspread of mine -- as in "used it in the Eighties and maybe the Seventies" ancient -- that almost literally had had the stuffing beaten out of it. I could do this because I'd finally bought another bedspread at Goodwill, where I went this morning to drop off two bags' worth of schtuff. Books I no longer needed or wanted, slippers that someone else could use, freebies I never asked for but had been given to me over the years anyway, some toys that others would appreciate more: they're now in a bin, or getting sorted out of a bin on their way to maybe possibly going to someone who'd like them.

Earlier than that, I got schtuff out of my closet. Cleared its floor for the first time in years, and stepped inside to see how my place looked from that perspective. I'm a sucker for different perspectives. And then I had schtuff I could sort, some of which is now getting washed because it can use washing (e.g. bedsheets I haven't used in a while). The closet floor now holds a rolled-up sleeping bag and back issues of Air & Space Magazine from 1986 to 1994; I'll either donate those to the county library's used book store (nicely named Title Wave) or recycle them. And then the floor can be used for something better!

Because being choosy at Goodwill is a bad idea, and because one goal of mine is to move to a place that can accommodate a larger bed, my new bedspread is flower-themed. I look at it and want to mangle Captain Mal: "I swear by my pretty floral bedspread I will end you." I decided it wasn't overly girly and would do the job, and hey, I won't risk getting stuffing in my mouth. I prefer (Stove Top anyway.)

This entry has used the word "schtuff" in honor of George Carlin. I also think maybe we should honor him by adding "schtuff" to our Spell Check.

This *could* be a good habit...

How best to get into books? One word at a time, like writing them in the first place, but not all books open up easily. I'd tried China Mieville's Perdido Street Station once, several years ago; I didn't get past the opening italicized prologue. Probably I was starting the book too late one night; it probably just wasn't the right book to read then.

(It can still surprise me when it happens, when I can't find my way into a story. I often remember it when it does. All the way back in fifth or sixth grade I needed two tries to get into reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; that first reading I just petered off barely into Chapter 5; and that was on top of having seen a bit of the Hitchhiker's miniseries a couple of years before and not quite getting it, so that's kind of like I needed three tries to get into an easy-to-read book that would have a huge effect on me. Honestly, had I wound up reading, say, Robert E. Heinlein's Starship Troopers back then instead, my life may have been MUCH different.

(And another surprising not-getting-into-it book? Elmore Leonard's Get Shorty. I got the paperback for a cross-country trip and somehow got stuck on Page 2.)

But I hate getting stuck on a book, or abandoning it. This hating-getting-stuck led to me taking a year on the difficult Katherine Dunn novel Geek Love, slowly whittling away at it. I can remember where I tailed off on books, and part of me wonders "Well? What happened then? WHAT HAPPENED THEN?" I wasn't interested enough at the time to finish reading, but I can sometimes remember where I'd stopped. Huh?

It helps that I got encouraged to read out loud.

Caitlin R. Kiernan included a note in her novel Threshold saying the book was best read aloud. I got that seed planted in my mind in 2002 and, come 2004 when her Murder of Angels came out, I spent the month of October of that year reading aloud the whole thing.

There's a variation on that which I'm starting to make a habit: read at least a book's opening section(s) out loud. Maybe I better feel the shape of the story by doing that; at least, it helps me get started.

This means, in this case, that I just read the first 19 pages of Perdido Street Station, meaning the prologue, Chapter 1 and part of Chapter 2, and, so far, that seems to have helped.

In other news, I like the sound of my own voice. As one should. I hope you do.

Here's to words tasting good on our tongues.