Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mental Health Work, more printed books, less social media

So, after weeks of ever-intensifying need to be active, resist, and so on, I found myself deeper than I wanted to be in social media.  Still active, but not responding to every new outrage at the moment. Including those where people totally misunderstand my words and bring their friends in to hate on me!  No, I don't spend energy there, just block, delete, move on.  And I got back into extended reading in the last couple of days, to retrieve my longer attention span, and my balance.

To be exact,  to Margaret Drabble, a novelist I've followed since her first novel, having some fellow feeling for someone almost exactly my age, but with a very different life path.  We had some similarities in education, and our literary classics are about the same.  So, despite her determination to see the blackest side of everything, even her more lighthearted works more or less being cheerful in spite of everything, I still like to read her. Temperamentally poles apart.

She's a thrillingly intelligent writer, full of echoes of familiar literature, but she doesn't quote them, simply glances off them, the reader either gets it or doesn't, doesn't matter to the onward movement of the work.  

Her latest novel is The Dark Flood Rises, an examination of old age and how her different characters approach it. Her range of characters is limited, since she's always been an academic and doesn't seem to have much insight, or, I'd guess, interest, in other forms of work or of people, but never mind, good to stay within your limits, and know them. 

She does comment that she likes to muse on her own life and times. And I'm noticing that she considers herself old and a bit crocked up, as do most of her characters, though they are at most in their early seventies.  Which made me wonder if attitude is part of this, as well as good luck and good health or the lack of it. Interesting book, not exactly a novel, though, more a series of episodes, roughly interlinked.

The other Drabble I'm reading is The Pattern in the Carpet, a nonfiction work about jigsaw puzzles and other kinds of pastimes for all ages.  I read it partly to get some insight into why people like jigsaws, because she loves them, and I hoped her analysis would get me there.  Which it only partly did.  

I ended up concluding that people who love puzzles of this kind are at heart not interested in visual invention.  They are following the path laid out for them, fitting in the pieces designed to go only one way into their ordained places.  

It's similar to my puzzlement (!) at people who love patterns of any kind.  To me patterns are only momentarily interesting, giving way to variations that I would like to see there! very personal response. I know mathematicians and scientists who love puzzles and card games, and I think it's a similar response, the comfort of patterns and of correct answers.  Perhaps people who love and get great pleasure out of working kits are enjoying a similar experience.

Not, as Seinfeld would say, that there's anything wrong with that..and I conclude that I accept, well, I have to, but don't understand, the affinity for pattern.  Very good book for all that, whether or not you're a puzzle fan.

One interesting sidelight on Drabble: she's one of the few people I've noticed who is a Dame in her own right, and a Lady because her husband was knighted. So her title's a bit lengthy. I think it's Dame Margaret, Lady Drabble, or something like that.  Cool. No doubt there are books of etiquette prescribing when you use the whole thing and when bits of it are correct.  She's also the sister of A S Byatt, brilliant novelist, and probably a Dame in her own right, too, but neither of them likes to be asked about the other!  endless rivalry there, but two geniuses in one family seems a bit much for the bonds to handle.

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