Later today I am taking the Beetle in for some routine maintenance -- replacing the serpentine belt, which must be done before I take it on another long drive. This will cost just over $100, which I have (thank God) but had not planned to spend on car repairs this month.
Still, I'm the first to admit I wouldn't know how to do this myself, and I'm glad to be able to hire someone who does. I do generally know what the serpentine belt does, and why it needs to be replaced at regular intervals, but I don't have the slightest idea what I'm seeing when I look at an engine.
I have a regular mechanic shop. I trust them, although because I don't know what they're talking about, they always wind up over-explaining, which makes me feel like they're trying to talk me into something. Auto-repair chains should invest in communications training for their mechanics; it would go a long way toward raising public opinion of the profession overall. I don't need to know details; I just need to know why something needs to be replaced, or what will happen if I decide not to have a specific repair done immediately.
At least once a year I think I should take a course on basic auto repair, but then I pay the bill and forget about it for another six months.
What I Read These Weeks
Manuscripts, mostly. Did I mention that I have a (used) Kindle now? I can upload manuscripts to it, and it's made my life much easier. But I have finished two books this week, and one of them was 754 pages long.
Laura Lippman, LIFE SENTENCES. This was not the book that was 754 pages long. It's another fine standalone from the author of the Tess Monaghan series, and a book about the nature of memory and memoir. Cassandra Fallows has written two successful memoirs and a much less successful novel, and needs a topic for her next book. Cassandra learns that a grade-school acquaintance had served a prison term under suspicion of murdering her infant child, but never admitted to the crime; she decides to make this tragedy the hook for a third memoir, about herself and her circle of friends. In returning to her hometown, however, Cassandra discovers that her memories are only a fraction of the story, and that the act of remembering itself can change the past. This is a topic that fascinates me -- the fact that one's personal history can and does change, based on what you know about it and how you assign causality -- and Lippman does a wonderful job with it.
Dan Simmons, DROOD. Five years before he died, Charles Dickens survived a catastrophic railway accident in the company of his secret mistress, Ellen Ternan, and Miss Ternan's mother. Friends and biographers say he was never quite the same afterwards. This novel, narrated by Dickens' friend and sometime-collaborator Wilkie Collins, begins with that event and offers a reason for Dickens' change: an encounter with a sinister, otherworldly, half-Egyptian man who calls himself Drood. Collins, the narrator, takes us on a 754-page journey through Victorian London, changing along the way from a good-natured, slightly ridiculous minor novelist to something strange and terrible indeed. A major plot twist about 50 pages from the end of this long, long book does not pay off as it should, and if I finished this book feeling frustrated about the limits real life places on fiction, that might have been Simmons' point.