Tuesday, November 18, 2003


Insomnia is an evil thing. It happens to me so seldom these days, thank God, but when it does it simply wrecks me. You just lie there thinking that you should have had a melatonin and a nice wank at eleven, but it's too late now, if you take the melatonin now you'll be groggy all next day... and then an hour later you're wishing you had done the melatonin-and-wank the hour previous, now it really is too late... then another hour passes and you start wondering what it was that you did wrong today, what it was that banished the accustomed sleep. Perhaps I should have had a hot herb tea instead of that glass of fat-free "holiday nog" (Caroline brought it over because it didn't heat up well and so was unsuitable in tea or oatmeal, though the very thought of putting eggnog in tea or oatmeal makes my teeth shiver; the eggless nog was strangely translucent, and I imagine it makes up for its lack of fat by being utterly packed with sugar) before I went to bed, or that perhaps I should have eaten vegetables at dinner instead of just meat, or perhaps I shouldn't have used the elliptical machine at the gym and stuck to my exercycle-and-treadmill routine.

It's the second-guessing yourself that makes insomnia so unpleasant. I mean, lying awake isn't so bad, but when all you can think of is how early you have to get up and how stupid you are to let yourself still be awake at three a.m. when you have to be up at eight, and all the work you haven't been doing at the office that you really need to catch up on and all the shelves and Christmas presents you need to buy with no money and whether or not Schwarzenegger is going to do something really ghastly to the state, there's no joy in it.

I finished reading Anne Rice's latest, Blood Canticle, while I was sitting here owl-eyed in my bed unable to doze off. I'm afraid I didn't care much for it. I liked the ending, I think... I mean, I found the plot-points touching rather than satisfying; and the last few pages of writing, though as jumpy and difficult as it had been all through the book, had a lovely poetry to it. I liked the tying-up-of-loose-ends in the plot, and I enjoyed some of the characters. But I didn't care for the scattershot approach to narrative, the long-winded exclamatory passages that didn't really say anything, the jolting fingers-napping poetry-jamming rapid-fire glissandoes of slang and Creole idiom shoved in there for no apparent reason except to demonstrate a familiarity with the slang and Creole idiom.

I think this was perhaps the most self-indulgent of Mrs. Rice's novels... I felt that the desire to please an audience was firmly set aside in order to give her scope to achieve something she's wanted to do for some time. It had more personal merit for her, I think, than literary merit. And good for her! You know you've arrived when you can pour out some private needs and desires into a lovely Knopf-published hardbound book, and people buy it... and even if they don't buy it you don't really care because you're richer than God and you have a core following of millions of readers who, like me, order your books the minute they're published, before they're reviewed or even publicized. And I think the book stands as a literary milestone, because it gives us the most insight into Rice's own character. She even signs it with her own name at the end, instead of with the name of her narrator.

The novel is dedicated to her late husband, Stan... I think that must be the genesis of the heavy interspersions of poetry in the novel, a tribute to her poet husband. Just as the proliferation of homosexual apologia in her last few novels is, I think, in tribute to her son Christopher. The house of the Mayfairs is her own house, the city they live in is her city, the places they go are the places she's been. It's all very personal, and as such it is more interesting as a portrait of the mental state of Anne Rice than it is a portrait of a set of fictional characters in a fictional plot.

Nevertheless, it wasn't an entertaining or even fascinating book. The writing wasn't beautiful to me, and I didn't find the plot very gripping. That doesn't mean that I am going to take her off my Amazon Alerts list, it doesn't mean that I won't buy her next book the very second I hear it's been published. I like my serial authors... Anne Rice, J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry, all these lovely authors who are still alive. Since most of my favorite authors and singers are dead, and the only new things you get out of them are the "undiscovered" works (usually undiscovered for a reason), living authors and singers are very exciting, they leave you with the tantalizing knowledge that the book you just read and the CD you just heard isn't the last ever, that there will be changes, developments, novelty. It's incomplete, unfinished, anticipatory. Like children, I guess.

Can you tell that I got four and a half hours of sleep? I think what kept me awake last night was a backlog of thinking that I haven't been doing in the daytime lately. My inability to concentrate is still with me, my dust-allergies are still with me, and I have been absorbed in The Sims pretty much every time I sit in front of the computer... largely because they are a lovely escape from having to think about the disorganization of my life and how far behind I am on my work, my laundry, my oil-changes and hair-and-nail maintenance and credit-card payments.

I'm trying to avoid my worries, is what I'm trying to say, and worries don't like to be avoided. They just build up and wait for you to become vulnerable, wait for you think you're tired enough to not need a melatonin-and-wank, then pounce and keep you awake until three-thirty in the morning.

Well, Grandmother just asked me to go run my laundry that's sitting in the machines so she can do a couple of loads today. And I'm supposed to be at work in half an hour, I need to eat some breakfast, and the responsibilities of the day are calling to me. I hope you have a lovely day, and I'll do my best to have a lovely day also. Although I'd much rather have a nap instead.

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