So. An update. Let's see. For various reasons that we need not go into at this time, I am learning Italian and moving to Italy. I'm fairly sure this is a bloody stupid idea, but since I'm going along with it anyway, I might as well enjoy it. At least Italy seems to be well supplied with good bookshops? To date, I very much like Italian verbs, which conjugate prettily, and am significantly less fond of Italian nouns, which come with an unnecessarily extensive and confusing set of prepositions: apparently I'm quite happy to remember whether one uses, say, the dative or the ablative (as in Latin), but confronted by a host of pesky little 'a's and 'a + article's and 'in's I retreat in confusion.

The house to which I will eventually (deo volente) be moving has many attractive and desirable features, although these do not currently include wiring, plumbing or, in some areas, floors. Obviously, undertaking a major renovation of a property uninhabited for at least the last 50 years, in a country the language of which you do not currently speak, with absolutely no experience renovating anything, is a sensible and obvious course of action, and I cannot understand why more people don't do it.

I can't help noting that in the last year – a year in which I was supposed to finally settle down and stay in one place, I ended up at various points in Albania, Chile, Columbia, Croatia, Ecuador, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Malaysia, Panama, Peru, Turkey and the UK, plus miscellaneous airports*. Which does seem rather a lot, when I list it out like that. (And then of course I decided to move to Italy.) Perhaps it's time to accept that I'm just not cut out for this whole staying in one place thing? Possibly the fact I've averaged over my entire life somewhere between two and two and a half years per home might have been an earlier clue to this.

Luckily, even at that far distant point – doubtless considerably more far distant than the current builder's estimate – when the work now envisaged on the Italian house is complete, there will still be a number of areas that could use further work, which is a very good thing, because moving again would be a major pain (both to sell the property, given the less than brilliant state of the Italian property market, and because it will be the first time in 7 years all my possessions will be in one place, and the thought of packing them all up again is daunting even for me) and it hasn't escaped my notice that the moment part way through last year when I hung the final picture, completing the decoration of the last room in this apartment, was pretty much precisely the moment I started making serious plans to leave. I really, truly am abysmal at sticking in one place. (I'm not even going to pretend I actually intend to live permanently in Italy, as opposed to just using it as a base. At this point everyone, including me, would have to know I was lying.)

What else? My grandfather, to whom I was very close as he pretty much brought me up, died in August. Given his great age this was not, obviously, a surprise, although since his age was combined almost to the end with good health, largely unimpaired mind and remarkable strength I had got around to thinking him pretty much eternal. Cut for discussion of death )

Well, that was last year. What, I wonder, of the year ahead? I aim to post more (proper meta, I mean, not more self-involved rambling); hopefully also my Italian will improve, or I will find a phrasebook with helpful sentences such as 'Why are there five sets of plans of this property lodged with various government offices, all different from each other, and every single one inaccurate?' and 'But you were supposed to have finished strengthening this wall last week'. Oh, and that meme currently doing the rounds? The one that assumes you have so few books piled up around you that it's an easy task to figure out which one is nearest? Taking my best guess as to the nearest books, my sex life will be summed up either by "In the later Indo-Aryan languages, as in the later languages of western Europe, rhyme became a regular feature of verse" or "However, in 1874 the harvest in Bosnia and Herzegovina failed". Frankly, I find both these options unpropitious, especially the latter: I can only assume I read the wrong sort of books. So I'm unilaterally altering it from the first sentence of pg 45 of 'the nearest book' to 'the book selected at random from nearest bookcase', which gives me the altogether more attractive "Such reminiscences could include youthful liaisons with singing girls, or represent singing girls as part of the beautiful 'scenery' of the far-off land." Dear 2012: I expect singing girls.

* At one point I flew in transit through both Houston and Moscow. In one of these airports: I got off the plane; queued up to show my boarding card; queued up again (while being regaled by tannoy announcements anent not saying anything which might be considered inappropriate nor behaving in a suspicious manner, but immediately obeying all commands); was cross-questioned as to where I lived, what my job was, why and whence and whither I was travelling, and finger-printed; queued up again to pick up my cases; queued up yet again to check them back in; queued up to be given the world's most incompetent full body pat-down (seriously, I have no idea at all what they thought wouldn't be picked up by the regular metal-detector but would by their half-hearted and undertrained groping); queued up at the gate to present my boarding pass once more; and queued up to be lined up against one wall with my carry-on against the other wall for the benefit of a sniffer dog. At the other: I got off the plane, looked round the shops and wondered if I felt like having a cup of coffee. One of these two airports is located in the land of the free and home of the brave, but somehow I'm having trouble remembering which.
6. Writers have a responsibility to tell the truth; not however the truth, but only a truth - whatever partial and limited fragment has caught their fancy, however major or minor, and whether about reality or about the reaches of human emotion and ideals. The world in general and the human heart in particular are full of contradictory and hard to reconcile truths, and doing justice to one at a time is as much as can be asked of anyone; demanding that your pet truth be shoehorned anywhere it could conceivably fit, without regard to the subject and purpose of the work, is both an act of philistinism and a denial of that complexity.

7. Owning books is like building a massive external storage for your mind. After all, if you're familiar enough with the contents of the books you own to know which information you need, and where to lay your hands on it when required, it's at least a bit like knowing everything in your library. (Not exactly, but a bit. Although this approach doesn't work for all sorts of knowledge: knowing precisely what point on what instructional DVD there's a clear description of how to perform a given dance move is not even the tiniest little bit like actually knowing how to do it.)

8. One of the things I most love about books is the ability to see things from different perspectives, to step from one vision of the world to another as I go from book to book. To me, each book says not 'to read me you must accept this is the way the world is' but 'let me show you how the world might look from this viewpoint'. On doesn't necessarily have to like a view to consider it a valuable exercise.

For some reason, I seem to have read like that from early childhood. I always took each book as being set as it were in its own individual universe, with its own rules, including moral rules. It was up to me to decide in what manner that universe related to real life. Thus mere repetition of, say, some moral position even across many books had far less impact than you might expect: obviously there were many things that happened frequently in stories but not in real life, so I saw no reason to think moral judgements couldn't also fall into that category. In fact, I consistently read books as propositions, as a specific way of looking at the world that was being offered for my consideration, not as a full and definitive statement as to how the real world actually is.

9. The number of books not only rises to fill available shelf space but tends to surpass it, and probably always will. (with apologies to Parkinson)

10. I have books I've read, sometimes repeatedly; books I've read the part of that interests me; reference books; books extremely unlikely to be useful for anything at all (but wouldn't it be frustrating to get rid of them and then unexpectedly need to know whether the Brahminy Kite tends to vocalize during flight, or details of the classical tunings of the Burmese harp? In fact, my inability to get rid of books is in large part based on precisely this paranoia, that as soon as I get rid of anything, I will have a sudden and unexpected - very unexpected - need for it); new books on the to-be-read shelf (let's be honest - shelves, plural); books I don't really want to read but know I should; books I'm sure I'll get round to finishing one day ... isn't this normal? It's a working library, not a graveyard in which to store books I've done with.
Look! For once, I'm actually posting something, and in my own journal too, not rambling uninvited in other people's. I said I'd do this, oh, only 5 months or so ago, which you'll admit is hardly any time at all, really. For reasons of length, I'm dividing it into three parts, cleverly getting thrice the posts from the one meme, and allowing me to feel triply accomplished.

1. I find I read considerably more non-fiction than fiction, something I always feel guilty about, even though I can't put my finger on why. Do other people who like non-fiction feel that way? If you predominantly read fiction, do you suffer from an obscure sense you should be reading more non-?

4 more things about books )
quillori: abstract design (stock: book of hours (abstract))
( Jun. 12th, 2010 12:15 pm)
I've been working on the assumption that a satisfactory collection of icons my tempt to me to post, or at least comment, more often. I'm not sure that's true, but it makes an excellent excuse for wasting time collecting them. What I have noticed is that there is a definite aesthetic I'm tending towards: mostly muted colours, illustrations rather than photos (unless the photo is so messed about with or so abstract it might as well not be a photo, or it's not so much a userpic representing me as a placard: this entry/comment is about this fandom/this character), lots of text. I could run down my icons and tell you at once which I'm going to end up changing when I find something more satisfactory, not necessarily because I don't like the icon, but because I don't feel it fits this journal. Of course, if I set up a second journal (hardly likely, given how infrequently I use this one), I've found any number of icons I like that don't fit here, and I might end up with a totally different look. Do other people do this, and if so do they do it by having a consistent theme, or just by a feeling that one icon looks like it fits and another doesn't?

from [personal profile] quinfirefrorefiddle:

1. Reply to this post, and I will pick six of your icons.
2. Make a post (including the meme info) and talk about the icons I chose.
3. Other people can then comment to you and make their own posts.
4. This will create a never-ending cycle of icon squee.

Six icons within )
Before launching our regular and meme-free schedule of things that hopefully aren't about me at all, an introductory set of things that are:

I hate being too hot and also do my best to avoid the sun: my natural habitat is skulking in the shade under a hat whingeing about the heat. Despite this, many of my favourite countries are in the topics. Perhaps this point could be summed up as: I like to make things difficult for myself.

I really cannot do multiple choice personality tests, at any rate not unless the available options include 'none of the above', 'it depends on what you mean', 'that's a false dichotomy' and, one of my personal favourites, 'it's more complicated than that'. Possibly this says all that needs to be said about my personality.

I can turn self-involved rambling to good purpose. Googling to check the correct technical term for something, I discovered my original point 3 was a pretty much perfect description of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. Sadly, a quick check among those people immediately to hand suggests that explaining I have a rare and probably incurable circadian rhythm sleep disorder garners me no sympathy whatsoever. Apparently I remain undisciplined and lazy, even when I can produce documentary evidence that this is an unjust and harmful stereotype.

I compulsively play with punctuation. I can spend a happy and contented hour putting in and taking out commas and semicolons. While it is nice that I am so easily pleased, it does make prose composition somewhat slow.

I pretty much automatically play the Devil's advocate. Show me someone arguing something and my natural instinct is to look to the opposing view. I'll even do this to myself: any time I try to formulate a general principle, I immediately think of a host of exceptions. Now, I tend to think of this as a positive thing: there is most of the time at least something, however small, to be said for the other side in a debate, and I believe it worth saying, just as I believe a poor argument in the service of a good cause is still a poor argument, and indeed will not truly serve its cause in the long run. Unfortunately, given that I tend to automatically take the minority side in any debate, and given that it is natural to gravitate towards the people one largely agrees with, I am frequently to be found taking the side I do not, in fact, hold. I mean, I think I'm offering valid arguments, but not necessarily for the side I think is, overall and taking one thing with another, right. Most people being generally inclined to give to more weight to being on the right side than to being right on any given point, this is perhaps a pity. Have I said something about making things difficult for myself?

I am by circumstance and inclination a constant traveller. I will start calling anywhere I've slept for a few nights home, which does tend to confuse people. This isn't so much a deep and admirable commitment to studying other cultures as that I feel as comfortable slightly dislocated from my surroundings as most people do somewhere familiar. Few things make me happier than driving away from the airport somewhere I haven't been before, and as far as I'm concerned not having been somewhere before constitutes an entirely sufficient reason for going there. Homesickness is a concept I find deeply puzzling: I can miss people or specific things about a place (like the local cuisine or the number of good museums), but I can't imagine missing somewhere just because it's where I currently happen to live. The nearest I can come to imagining homesickness is that it must be like feeling for going back to one place what I feel for going anywhere else.

It is a matter of personal faith that it is not possible to have too many books. But then we all think that, yes?


quillori: Photo of an Intha fisherman on Lake Inle, Burma (Default)

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