Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Weighty Tome

I’m reading a book.

This is not news.  I’m always reading a book.  Sometimes more than one, though lately I’ve tried to keep it to a single book at a time because otherwise the mental whiplash of shifting from world to world gets to be a bit much.  But always at least one.  I carry them around with me and pull them out at what are no doubt socially inopportune moments, and I’m not particularly bothered by these moments.  If enough people get annoyed at me reading when they would rather I be doing the tasks they have assigned to me then eventually I will no longer be invited to gatherings where people attempt to assign me tasks and I can read in peace.

You have your long-term strategies, I have mine.

It’s actually a pretty good book – one of those big, broad, synthetic histories that I like, the sort of book that attempts to tie together any number of disparate and seemingly unrelated themes and make them into a coherent argument.  It has its rough spots, but overall I’m enjoying it and if I ever do get to revise that one class that I’ve been meaning to revise since 2015, perhaps I will incorporate material from this book into it as well.

What makes this book somewhat unique, though, is that it appears to have been printed on paper made from depleted uranium and grief.

It’s not that big a book, really – maybe 420pp, hardback, probably just a bit over an inch thick and roughly the usual dimensions of a hardback book – but it exists in a permanent twilight because light bends around it.  It exerts its own gravitational pull.  It cannot be stored on malleable surfaces without distorting them.

Lately I have taken to walking up to unsuspecting friends and colleagues and saying, “Here, hold this!” before handing them the book, just to see how they react as their wrists bend downward and they instinctively grasp it harder to avoid having it fall and crush their toes.

As Calvin & Hobbes once said, “It’s that moment of dawning comprehension that I live for.”

You have to have some diversion from the collapse of American civilization that is going on around us these days.  This is as good as any, I suppose.

I’m almost done with it now, and I will then move on to another, rather more buoyant book.  No doubt for the first few days every time I pick the new one up I will involuntarily end up raising it above my head as if surrendering to a Book Army, until eventually my Up muscles get used to having to do less work for equivalent Up distance and bring it to a halt at a more convenient reading altitude.

And then it will all seem like a vague notion that I had once upon a time.  But it was real, oh yes it was.

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