Monday, September 13, 2010

Desert sojourn: day 4

In the morning I left for my walk earlier than ever, when it was really rather dark, and I was just able to make out the road when I got to the unpaved part. But I had the advantage of walking two-thirds of my walk before the sun rose. Then I made coffee and sat out on the back porch, which is on the shady west side of the house in the morning, and read the Psalms.

The only way I could get away to get down here was to arrange to work remotely, that is, to do my day job from here. Fortunately, the internet connection has been as advertised, because my whole job is pretty much using online systems -- email, the bug tracking system, the document management/authoring/publishing system, chat. But because there is no phone at all in this house, I found myself using my cell phone for an hour-long meeting. Then I realized that if I had a meeting once or twice a day I would use up all my mobile phone's minutes in a jiffy. So I called Verizon and upgraded my plan. I can set it back down in a month when I leave.

In the evening I tried and failed to find a laundromat. You'd think that in a military town which Twentynine Palms is, there would be a ton of them, but I found only one, and it closed at 7:00 pm -- which is the time when I arrived there. So back home I went with my load of dirty laundry.

I did give up reading "Divisadero" when I got to the part, which takes up the last 25% of the book, about the romantic French writer. All the other characters, the ones whose story takes up the first 75% of the book, never come back. Suddenly you're stuck in an uncertain time period with a character you don't care much about. Plus, the timelines are vague and confusing: The bucolic first part seems to take place in the 1920s or 30s, but when the characters have aged ten or fifteen years, they're suddenly living in the modern present, and you know it's the 1990s because the book makes reference to the Gulf War. Similarly, one character is researching a writer who, it seems, lived no more recently than the 1890s or so, because people are going around in horse-drawn carts; but a character who is a child during that period is no older than 45 when he meets the girl, again in the 1990s. It's as if whole decades vanish conveniently. I suppose the reader is supposed to think this is akin to magic realism or something, but it just seems sloppy and romantic.

So that's it for "Divisadero" (which has nothing to do, really, with the San Francisco street of that name other than a fleeting reference; you get the sense that the author just liked the way it sounded).

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