Friday, April 21, 2006


Who uses it: Firefighters
What it means: The point at which a fire's temperature rises high enough to make the fire accelerate dramatically.
How you can use it: When things are building to a crisis.

Central Maine is so dry right now that grass fires are breaking out all over. Dizzy took me down an unfamiliar path to the Cobbossee Stream yesterday, and I couldn't help thinking that it all looked like a bonfire laid for the match.

If it all goes up in flames, we'll be far away, hitting the road this morning. Tonight's destination is Washington, D.C.; tomorrow's is Mechanicsville, for Meg's baptism. Dizzy and I will be back in Maine sometime around May 3, but I will be working from the road and checking e-mail frequently. While I'm traveling, some posts will be early and some posts will be late -- you'll just have to keep checking in.

What I Read This Week

Stephen King, Cell. Fear is about more than self-preservation; it's about how you imagine pain and loss. What you fear defines you. Stephen King understands that, and this novel is a parable of destruction through technology and alienation; ultimately, what King says is that cell phones have created a race of zombies. He dedicates it to Richard Matheson and George Romero, and it owes a great deal to both I am Legend and the Living Dead movies.

Angela Carter, Wise Children. I am ashamed to admit that I'd never read Angela Carter before this book. She is one of those authors, like Robertson Davies, whose writing changed the worldviews of her fans. I think this was her last novel, a Shakespearean epic about the Chance twins, Nora and Dora, who were the bastard offspring of a great theatrical family. This book is like one of those carved ivory balls, with layers within layers, and I expect to reread it at regular intervals for the rest of my life.

Peter Craig, Blood Father. An old outlaw biker, trying to go straight, goes to the rescue of his long-estranged daughter. He might not be able to save himself, but he believes that he can save her. I admired this book without liking it much, but I understand why several of my male friends (with daughters) think this is one of the best books they've ever read.

Nuala O'Faolain, The Story of Chicago May. Nuala O'Faolain, author of two fine memoirs and a wonderful novel (My Dream of You), tries her hand at biography in this story of a turn-of-the-century outlaw. May Duignan stole her family's savings and left Ireland to become a prostitute and thief. She traveled the world, stole a fortune and lost it, and served hard time in prisons in France and England. She wrote her own life story, but it didn't please O'Faolain, who found it lacking; May told us what she did, but not who she was, so O'Faolain tries to correct that. It's not entirely successful, and this book frustrated me -- I felt as if I were trying to see a painting in an art gallery, but the docent kept blocking my view.

C.J. Box, In Plain Sight. Each of Box's Joe Pickett novels, about a Wyoming game warden, has examined a different issue of the modern West. In this one, Box looks at "the curse of the third generation," the chaos that happens when grandchildren try to divide an estate built by pioneers. While Pickett tries to figure out what happened to the Scarlett family's matriarch, an old enemy comes back to take revenge for events that happened in Box's first book, Open Season. The book ends with Joe at a crossroads, needing to make some important decisions about the next phase of his life.

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