Tuesday, 11 November 1997:

Moments of Transition, Moments of Revelation

I'm working on reading Sheri Tepper's novel Gibbon's Decline and Fall for the book discussion on Thursday. It started off very slow, but after 150 pages or so it's gotten a lot more interesting. There's still something about the characterization that irks me, but I'll see how it works out. I'm about 2/3ds done.

I almost never stop reading a novel once I've started. I figure that the ending is (or should be) such a major part of any novel that it might end up redeeming itself if I stick with it. So if I don't finish it, then I won't know if it was really any good. Of course, sometimes the book is not so good; I struggled through Brian Aldiss' Helliconia Spring, which I simply could not stand, and this past summer I dragged myself to the end of John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar. And I can't offhand think of a book that I thought started slow and ended up being brilliant. But I figure, just because I haven't encountered one means there aren't any?

Although I'd be surprised if I had a hard time getting through the first part of a book and ended up putting it on my favorite books list.

Gibbon's Decline And Fall spends a lot of time ruminating about how men and women relate to each other, especially in relationships, both good and bad ones. The book focuses somewhat on how the men in bad relationships treat women, and less on the men in the good relationships. My reaction to this as one of those heterosexual-male-type-guys is to think about how I treat women, both in and out of relationships.

I think I do pretty well on this score, and I have some objective evidence to back it up (though that's more detail than I feel comfortable going into here). I know I can be rather standoffish, though, and I think I'm becoming more so as I get older. But I think I make a fair effort to understand what's going on with my partner (when I have one), and I've generally tried to be forthright when I don't understand what's going on with myself. I'm not very argumentative, and certainly I'm not a violent person.

This sort of understanding sometimes instills strange feelings in me. As best I can put it, it's something like realizing that there are women out there who are in bad or horrific relationships who might have an interest in me (if they knew me), or vice-versa (if I knew them), and that I might "treat them better" or "be better for them". But there's also the realization that just because I might treat someone better doesn't mean that things would work out between us. I think some part of me just finds it incongruous that how people treat each other can wreck a relationship, but it can't make a relationship. Even though that's perfectly logical.

I also suspect this is partly the result of a conflict between my ego and my brain. I'm proud of the fact that I'm basically a nice person, but I also realize that that's not enough, and that I don't really know what 'enough' is, and I worry that I ain't got it, whatever it is.

My ego has taken quite a beating over the last couple of years, poor old thing.

So, last Friday I was heating some milk to make hot chocolate and I let it run way too long. (I've since timed it and learned that seven minutes on medium is perfect.) So I ended up with crusty milk junk on my stove. Which I didn't clean off. When I got back to the con on Sunday I used the same burner to cook spaghetti. When I came out to check on it, my whole kitchen and living room were filled with smoke! (Note to myself: Change battery in smoke detector.) Bleah! Milk-smoke smells bad!

So now my apartment smells like smoke, and it's kinda chilly to leave the windows open. I guess the first step is to vacuum the carpet (can you tell I'm a little slow about such things?), but in the meantime I'm trying to cover the smell with scented candles.

Well, at least the cats don't seem to care. Heck, they've been delighted that I've spent the last couple of evenings reading rather than sitting at the computer.

I feel like I'm on the cusp of learning something important about myself, or developing in some significant way. (Sort of like the "moments of transition" and "moments of revelation" in Babylon 5.) I feel like this sometimes. I don't remember what came of the last time I had this feeling. The first time I had it was when I left grad school and started working at Epic, but it was pretty flamingly obvious what was going on then.

I wonder if I'll eventually see what this one means?

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