May 2, 2005

Popes, paints and a partial book review.

Let me just start with this: “Pope Benedict XVI” does not exactly roll trippingly from one’s tongue. And is it just me, or does this new guy look like he’s just peeved at the world all the time?

In other news, apparently it’s been a long time since I dealt with oil paint. I’d kind of forgotten how long the stuff takes to dry. I was good, and I didn’t abandon my autumn painting to go off with any of my shiny new ideas. I worked hard on it for most of a weekend, finishing up all of the background and laying down the nice, black tree trunks I’d been planning. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. And banged about my studio, cussing about the damn trees and how the hell long were they going to take to friggin’ dry anyway? And waited. And finally discovered that they were indeed dry, or at least dry enough to paint the next layer over.

And simultaneously discovered that I hadn’t cleaned my trunk-painting brush very well, and the paint in it was dry, too.

That was a couple of days ago. I’m still pissed about the brush, so I’m ignoring the entire situation.

Went to a book sale recently, and made a pretty good haul – eight books for $14. One of the books I picked up is an old, book-club looking thing (I’ve you’ve ever seen books from 1940s-era book clubs, you’ll know what I mean), and I’m not sure how it ended up in my armload of books. But I’m glad it did, because I’m enjoying it a lot more than most of the books I’ve read recently. It’s called “Banner by the Wayside”, by Samuel Hopkins Adams. (Random House, 1947, in case it matters) The story is set in the area around the Erie Canal, in roughly the 1830s, and deals (mostly) with the trials and tribulations borne by a traveling theatre troupe. (Among other things.)

While I’m enjoying this book, and while I’m even prepared to recommend it to someone who might be interested, I do have one big, fat complaint about it. I have no problem in the world with a book having some kind of romantic storyline/subplot running through it. Quite honestly, I prefer my books that way. (Hey, if it was good enough for Louis L’Amour, the king of westerns, it should be good enough for anybody.*) But. But, but, but, but, but! The female protagonist, Durie (short for “Endurance”) is a great character, until she suddenly turns into a complete and total nitwit for the sake of having a romantic subplot! And my God…if the entire conflict between the two main characters is the result of a misunderstanding that could be cleared up by one decent conversation, and that conflict carries on for endless chapters with the aforementioned conversation being derailed at the last minute by all and sundry, it gets damned old.

I’m hoping things get cleared up and Durie goes back to her old self pretty soon. I’ll keep you posted.

Okay, hold the phone…I actually have two complaints about the book. Mr. Adams really got carried away with his slang. From the way it reads (and from the little bit I’ve read about him online) I suspect that he researched this book quite extensively, and that the characters’ language is accurate to the time and place. However, if your reader can’t understand whole sections of what is being said, what’s the point? Was river-boatmen’s slang of the 1830s still common enough in 1947 that he just assumed it wouldn’t be a problem? I’m thinking not.

*(What, you consider Zane Grey to be the king of westerns? Fine with me, but he was fond of his romantic subplots, too.)