Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day

It snowed in the night, so when I walked out into the woods with the dogs everything felt very foreign; the monochrome surroundings, perfectly quiet apart from bursts of barking, the cold fresh air, the absence of concrete, the opportunity to wear a hat and gloves and not faint from heat exhaustion.

After two days surrounded by dogs, I'm sort of getting used to them. Perhaps I adjusted properly to Hong Kong and became terrified of nature, or perhaps it was because my most recent exposures to animals have been my brother's West Highland terriers (twin white-haired yapping machines, surely only put on this earth to be hoofed over a convenient fence). Although come to think of it, I've met lots of cats since then, and I've never found them upsetting. Then again, I don't really think of them as dumb animals in the same way that dogs are.

This rabid speciesism aside, the dogs haven't been too bad. When there's all seven German Shepherds milling about in the kitchen at once it can be a little much, but they tend not to be too vocal until they get outside. Once I'm outside and I've got a pair of boots on and a stick in my hand, I can fantasise about being a member of the landed gentry, going for a walk on my substantial estates. With a frankly ridiculous number of canine attendants, of course.

As well as losing plenty of games of cards against different wily members of my fiancee's clan, I got to read some books. I started with How To Sell, Clancy Martin's coming-of-age yarn about the jewellery trade. As well as imparting some information about the best way to clean all the skin-related gunk from your watch (cotton buds, rubbing alcohol, which certainly removed a surprising and disgusting amount of black gunk from my watch strap), there was the following helpful advice:
It is true what they say, [redheads] are more sexual than other women and usually sexually deviant.
Although I told everyone at the dinner table that night about my new found desire to clean my watch, I didn't want to pass on that tidbit as well, because I thought given the colour of my fiancee's hair they might have got the wrong impression, somehow.

I must say, Martin did better for me when I read his shorter work in Harper's; at novel length, it feels stretched out further than it needed. I guess because a five page article with a splurge about the dishonesty of the retail diamond trade is exciting, in the same way as being trapped in a booth with a ranting cokehead for lunch can be entertaining, but a whole novel is more like having to live with the same ranting cokehead and finding it's no so much fun when he's sold all the toilet paper to fund further supplies for his ranting habit.

I also read Mr Pip, a 253 page Booker Prize nominee, written in simple language about a South Pacific island. Which seems to show that if you want to win a Booker Prize, you need to eschew complicated ornamentation in your prose, and stay clear of anything too long either. Maybe that's why DBC Pierre did so well with a frankly horrible piece of work a few years ago. Or Ian McEwan with Amsterdam, which I read two days ago and didn't enjoy at all. But it's odd that Salman Rushdie could have won with Midnight's Children, given as that's so ruddy long.

Anyhow, I found Mr Pip strangely affecting, even if I did read it in three hours. Or perhaps because I read it in three hours. Now I want to read Great Expectations, then muck around with a machete for a while. Read it, you'll understand.


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