As usual, I couldn’t decide, so now I’m reading three books at once. Blackout, Brideshead Revisited, and The Riddle-Master of Hed. This is a ridiculous way to read a book, of course. I often have two or three going at once, more if you count read-alouds to the children, but most of the time only one of my two or three is a novel. The others will be nonfiction, which I like in bursts. Both Blackout and Riddle-Master are terribly gripping, the sort of book that makes me wish for a nice miserable virus that would land me in bed for a day or two with nothing to do but, say, cough and read. Alas, here I am in tiptop form. (And tempting fate, probably.)
Which book I pick up has mostly to do with what time of day it is. Riddle-Master is a library book, the whole trilogy in one fat tome with perilously small print, not at all convenient for reading in bed. So it’s my daytime read, and Blackout, which I have on Kindle and phone, is my nighttime choice. As for Brideshead, I haven’t got far yet; he’s just beginning to remember, is just setting out in the car with his devil-may-care friend, and it has exactly the English country manor vibe I was craving. Oh, for a good flu…
(Dear Fate: JUST KIDDING!)
I read The Riddle-Master of Hed in junior high, and strangely, all I remembered about it was one tiny sliver: the riddle about the High One’s harpist, Deth, visiting the inhospitable man who has been told he will die if his next visitor does not tell him his name. The terrified man opens the door to the harpist and begs him, repeatedly, desperately, to say what his name is, but all the visitor will say is (so he hears), “Death.” This frightens the man so much that his heart stops. I’ve thought of that bit often over the years, but I couldn’t have told you a single other thing about the story—and right now it’s as if I’m reading it for the first time. In fact, I began to wonder if the Deth-riddle wasn’t perhaps from one of the other books in the trilogy; had I missed the first? But then I came to that bit, a quiet paragraph in a tense moment, so I guess I did read the book and have well and truly forgotten the plot: a thing that almost never happens.
It’s funny; I’m always saying I wish I could read such-and-such a book for the first time all over again, and now I’m really getting to.
Algernon Means “With a Mustache”
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What have you in bloom?