For the first time in the five or so years I’ve been aware of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, I am attempting to participate. For those who have not heard of this, it’s a challenge in which participants commit to write, in the month of November, a 50,000 word novel. This amounts to writing ~1700 words a day, which is more difficult than it sounds considering not only the tendency of life to pop up and claim time meant for writing, but the fact that you have to have something to write about. I’m participating not because I have a coherent novel to write, but because I like the idea of forcing myself to sit down every night and work on on growing one thing. I’ve missed two days, but am off this Saturday and intend on catching up…providing I think can of something to write. At present I have decided to have my main character chased into the woods by dogs. I assume I can get a few thousand words out of him trying to get back to civilization.
Over the last week or so I’ve finished a handful of books, both fiction and non-. I resumed Wendell Berry’s “Port William” series with Nathan Coulter, which was the first book I’ve read by Berry that didn’t bowl me over. It’s the first book in the series, and is principally about the relationship between three generations of Coulter men after Nathan’s mother dies. Nathan is a short novel, and lacking completely the commentary characters add in Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter on the changes they see in town. It helps that very little time passes in Nathan Coulter, for the title character is still a boy at its end.
Another book I’ve finished with is The Last Human, a “guide to 22 species of extinct humans”. This work is essentially a catalog of fossils, with a few brief documentary ‘stories’ about the man-apes included, and supplemented with lots of fetching photos. Each chapter details the fossils for a given species (which can be very scant; sometimes amounting to nothing more than bits and pieces of a skull), technical descriptions of the remains (describing, for instance, the thickness of brow ridges or the orientation of a given orifice), and speculations on their behavior and diet given their bones as we have them, and the environment of the time. It’s more suitable as a reference, a snapshot of how little we know presently, than as a popular introduction to the natural history of humans.
I also finished two works which will get comments: CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, which I was taken by, and Train Time, a bit of business projection.
In the next week, I intend for my reading to remain light: I have a book on interlibrary loan, The South vs. The South, and have checked out Sharpe’s Revenge. However, earlier today someone posted a link to a story detailing — of all things — the number of bodies laying about Mount Everest of would-be climbers who succumbed to the elements, and who are not retrievable because of the ravages of the environment. Because of the extreme cold, there are people up there who’ve been deceased for nearly a century. Anyhoo, after that I spent several hours reading about Mount Everest expeditions and learned that not only is it very dangerous and wretchedly painful, but costs $25,000 for permission from the Nepalese government to try. I may be reading Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, who participated in an infamously lethal expedition back in 1996. If I had that much money to spend on one recreational trip, I would not use it to climb a mountain that killed one in four people . I’d learn to fly and rent a P-51, I think…
Happy reading — and happy writing, to my fellow nanowrimo participants.