Saturday, January 12, 2002
There. Home again, jetlagged and goofy, with deadlines buzzing about my head like wild hornets. I don't think I do holidays terribly well -- I'd rather be writing. (although I got to experience a sandstorm, which was interesting). Woke up this morning for a structure for a drama in my head, which is probably a play for five people who never interact, and a sixth person who isn't there, which made me very happy. Then I tried to figure out when I'd be able to write it, and with luck it'll be somewhere in 2005. Which seems, well, silly.

Lots of interesting questions and comments in on the FAQ line, and I'll try and grab an hour later in the week to answer some of them here and some of them over in FAQs.

Recent reading (mostly on planes): finished a Harry Stephen Keeler sequence of books which I barely realised was a sequence -- I thought initially it was an accident or something -- and then began to delight in the way he'd taken a chunk of something and reworked it and finally made it four novels which contradict each other, but which, at the end, one learns are all part of the same story, all about a red box and the skull of a kidnap victim named Wah Lee. The final volume, THE CASE OF THE LAVENDER GRIPSACK, a courtroom drama, ingeniously manages to demonstrate that everything one has learned in previous volumes was wrong. Even so, I was disappointed to see that, having set it up, he wasn't able to get in the chewing gum that was going to be slipped to the prisoner before he gave his evidence (his attorney, a plucky redhead who needed to win this case in order not to have her evil uncle steal her inheritance, convinced of his innocence in THE MAN WITH THE WOODEN SPECTACLES, was going to slip him a chewing gum doctored with a drug that forces you to tell the truth, while the wily DA, for reasons never adequately explained, decided to replace it with chewing gum that forces you to lie inventively after you've chewed it). Unfortunately the chewing gum is forgotten about in the middle of the concluding book. (The first two books are THE MAN WITH THE MAGIC EARDRUMS and THE MAN WITH THE CRIMSON BOX.)

(If you feel like giving Keeler a try, via the Ramble House reprints, over at, I recommend THE RIDDLE OF THE TRAVELLING SKULL -- although when they bring THE SKULL OF THE WALTZING CLOWN back into print I'll probably recommend that instead.)

Then read Alan Bennett's complete Talking Heads dramas (as fascinating written down as they are performed, in different ways) and the new Dad's Army book (strangely disappointing and empty, as most books on British comedy tend to be).

Finished reading Norman Hunter's Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm (the first book, with the best stories and the Heath Robinson illustrations) as a bedtime book to Maddy, and am now reading her a few of Richmal Crompton's William stories while trying to decide what the next novel is going to be. (Either The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones or The Hobbit, at a guess -- I've not read The Hobbit aloud since I read it to Mike, when he was about her age, ten years ago.)

It ought to be somewhere in the minus 10s around now. Instead it's in the 40s, and yesterday the ice on the lake by the cabin I write at was making deep bass thrum thrum noises, like jazz whale calls, to indicate that it's melting. Not that I'm grumbling. (My assistant, who has been waiting for ten months for the start of the cross-country skiing season, is the one doing that.)