The Madwoman's Journal
Copyright 1998 New Moon
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  Prev 12 August 98

Light travels faster than sound; that's why
some people seem quite bright until you hear them speak.
-- Tom Snyder, The Late, Late Show

Last night we got quite a light show. All yesterday afternoon we watched clouds building and roiling all around us as the hot humidity that was parked over us fought off the cool front, but it wasn't until nearly sunset that the battle was earnestly engaged in the quietest, but most lightning-filled thunderstorms we've seen in these part for a while. I watched the show from a city sidewalk, as my friends and I summed-up and rehashed the meeting we had just attended. The lightning was cool colored orangey-reds, and it sparked and blossomed and snaked across the sky like a combination of fireworks and laser show. Very pretty to watch-- but we didn't hear any thunder. Out of habit, when I see lightning, I automtically begin to count until I hear the thunder, so I can gauge the distance. [seconds/5 = miles away] But this time I didn't hear any, and the storm(s) didn't look to be that distant, either. It made me wonder. Was it the nature of the storm that made it quiet? Because the lightning was staying within the clouds, was the sound of the thunder muffled by them? We watched the show all the way home, and later I watched some more from the back porch. But there still wasn't any sound of thunder. We didn't get any rain until the middle of the night, and heat and humidity didn't decamp until early morning, so sleeping was uncomfortable. When I got up, I had a full-blown sinus headache.

The day was damp and dull, and my headache wasn't improved by work. Today the network card on the library's public Internet access computer decided to quit. It was six o'clock before I got a proper diagnostic run; by then I had discovered an additional system problem, and I had the beginnings of a migraine. I shut the computer down, hung an "Out of Order" sign on it, and left-- overtime be damned. I'll swap network cards tomorrow.

I went to Ma's and forced myself to eat a bit of supper with the three aspirin, and that took the edge off, so when I got home I had a chance to begin reading Someplace to be Flying by Charles de Lint. Even though I've only read Chapter 1, I've gleaned two valuable pieces of information. One, the name I couldn't remember for the phenomenon of a pattern of coincidences (synchronicity); two, Charles de Lint's Internet address (

I've been meaning to write to Charles de Lint since I got burnt by purchasing his last novel, Trader. See, parts of it was written in first person, present tense. As Mad Magazine puts it: Yeecch! I can not stand reading stories written in the first person, present tense. The technique just does not work-- ask any serious fiction reader. You see, to unfold the story properly, the past must be present. By that I mean, that it is only through the lense of time, by looking backwards, that the writer can determine which details, which points, which thoughts, which actions are important to the telling of the story. To see a story clearly, the reader must be a given a perspective. To tell a story properly, the narrator needs to have perspective, too… I'm not explaining this very well.

I am aware that present tense is very effective in certain instances-- heck, Moby Dick, a not too shabby novel, begins "Call me Ishmael," but-- but! the narrative goes on to transport us into a present that is in located the past. That's the proper way of storytelling. And it yields a story, a place in the past, that readers can return to again and again. But pages of perpectiveless stream of consciousness, such as: "I go back down stairs and circle around to the rear or the building… Everything goes black," do not transport us anywhere-- and, well, frankly, I don't want to "be there" with the narrator-- not that something interesting isn't happening, but, I'd rather hear about it after the fact, so that I can put it in context, get the perspective-- hear a round tale.

Perspective gives us the story as an object, which may be scrutinized and examined at leisure. As an object, like a work of art, each time we contemplate it, we can see it differently, perceive it differently, notice new things… increase the depth of our understanding of it.

Long before all the news programs started reporting in the present tense, and book publishers started thinking that to appeal to the younger, hipper audiences-- suck them into the story with feigned immediacy!-- they should do the same, Roger Zelazney used present tense stream-of-consciousness-- sparingly, thank goodness!-- in his novels. I always hated it; I always skipped those pages. These days, I hate listening to the news. As far as I am concerned, the technique does, indeed, suck-- it's like listening to someone on a bad trip. It adds nothing to the telling of the tale. And it makes news sound more like the ravings of hysterical bystanders, than reasoned and objective reports of events.

I've probably explained this all badly, but it's been a helluva day. At least my headache is mostly gone, and I should be able to get some work done. Then, it's off to bed to read another chapter of the book-- and I'd better not find any of that sucky present tense crap in it, either, Charles de Lint! Be warned, Authors and Publishers: I won't buy any more first person present tense narrative books-- hardcover or papberback, not even at discount! I will rend and toss into the trash those that are given to me! I won't have such horrors in my collection. And I will warn the Library Director to avoid all such books, too-- and she'll heed the warning, because she hates them as much as I do! We have discussed this. She didn't add Trader to the collection because I warned her. Keep that in mind. The copy of Someplace to be Flying I'm reading now is borrowed from another library. We'll see if there'll be two more sales or not!



  I was searching for information on lightning and thunderstorms and came across this: FEMA Tropical Storm & Hurricane Watch. FEMA = Federal Emergency Management Agency. Aren't these are the guys who are plotting to take over when The Plague is released? (See: The X Files: Fight the Future)


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