Yesterday I made the mistake of having a sinus headache, and in our Brave New World of Perpetual Hypochondria, I was ordered to the doctor’s office to have my nose jabbed in search of the dreaded Beer Bug. To no one’s surprise (though to my slight disappointment, as I could do with ten days in quarantine), I was announced clear. Anyhoo, I finished three Steinbeck short works and made solid progress on How Emotions are Made before my poor battery died in the Artic wastes of the waiting room.
The Moon is Down, which I’d scheduled to read the week of July 20 as a reference to the moon landing (in conjunction with The First Men in the Moon, Jules Verne), proved to have nothing whatsoever to do with the moon. Written in 1942, it’s set in an un-named town with a coal mind and some unexpected German tourists — they’ve arranged a mostly-unchallenged occupation of the town, thanks to the help of a sympathizer who paved the way. The sympathizer expects the occupation to go smoothly, since the people are a pacifistic lot who haven’t had to fight in decades, but both the mayor and the leader of the occupation know better. There is nothing more dangerous than a people accustomed to freedom suddenly having it taken away — and sure enough, a rebellion soon follows. Although the short novel does not tell the entire story of the resistance, it’s in full flower as we depart. The novella has sympathetic characters all around, even the German majordomo — a surprising touch given the tense times in which it was written.
The Pearl is a tragedy that I read several times in high school, and concerns a poor fisherman with an ailing son who discovers what he believes to be the Pearl of the World — an extraordinarily large, captivatingly black pearl. Although he can see nothing in the Pearl but a reversal of fortune — money to save his son, to send him to school, even to buy a rifle! — his wife is more conflicted, seeing too what dangers such a Pearl might bring them. When the fisherman attempts to sell his find in the marketplace and finds that the buyers have conspired to offer him insultingly low prices, things disintegrate fast, and we can only remember Tyler Durden’s warning — the things you own end up owning you.”
The Red Pony is shorter still, and is a series of stories about a young boy being mentored — directly, when his prize pony takes ill, and more indirectly when he meets an interesting character in the wilderness. At this point in the afternoon I was mostly concerned with trying not to succumb to hypothermia and didn’t get a great deal out of the story.