Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.


Sometimes I like burying myself in books. Like Scrooge McDuck‘s coins, there are days I just want to pile all my books on the floor and swim in them. Not the hardcover ones, of course.

In this ocean is Theft by Peter Carey. I take a dip inside:

In Australia everything is the opposite of what it seems to mean. E.G. I was SLOW BONES because I moved so rapid, it was my way of moving they referred to. … I was Slow Bones. I know its meaning no matter what I said before.

Somewhere deeper is Atul Gawande’s Complications:

The junior resident picks out a spot for the stick. The patient is so hauntingly thin. I see every rib and fear she will puncture his lung. She injects the numbing medication. Then she puts the big needle in, and the angle looks all wrong. I motion for her to reposition. This only makes her more uncertain. She pushes in deeper and I know she does not have it. She draws back on the syringe: no blood. She takes out the needle and tries again. And again, the angle looks wrong. This time Mr. G feels the jab and jerks up in pain. I hold his arm. She gives him more numbing medication. It is all I can do not to take over. But she cannot learn without doing, I tell myself. I decide to let her have one more try.

I try a backstroke, and my form is tested by waves produced in Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves:

It is customary in the UK, incidentally, to blame all examples of language erosion on the pernicious influence of the US. Certainly American spellings are creeping in to our shop signs (GLAMOR GIRL! I noticed in a huge chain pharmacy over Christmas– where it ought to have been “Glamour” with a “u”).

A short story story pokes its head out of George Saunders’s In Persuasion Nation:

Say you call Derek “Lovemeister.” (I am using this example from my own personal home, as my wife Ann and I call our son Billy “Lovemeister,” because he is so sweet.)

Confederacy of Dunces washes me ashore:

“How old is he?” the policeman asked Mrs. Reilly.

“I am thirty,” Ignatius said condescendingly.

“You got a job?”

“Ignatius hasta help me at home,” Mrs. Reilly said. Her initial courage was failing a little, and she began to twist the lute string with the cord on the cake boxes. “I got terrible arthuritis.”

“I dust a bit,” Ignatius told the policeman. “In addition, I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”

I dry off. It’s time for dinner.

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