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Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey

Lazy Bones

bones
In anticipation of the holiday season, my brilliant and beautiful accomplice and I made a harrowing trek this weekend through ice, snow, and a looming mass transit strike to visit my grandparents and New York City. We kept our tempers fairly cool while we missed our bus, nodded stoically as our flight got canceled, sat placidly in stopped traffic for about an hour, and barely got dejected at all as we got routed from Dulles into LaGuardia instead of Newark. I can confidently say that we both deserve some sort of medal of honor for our efforts.
Anyway, we eventually found ourselves at the Museum of Natural History in New York. I took a bunch of pictures of bones for my future drawing and painting enjoyment. Many thanks to my grandparents and my partner in crime for a nice (but brief) vacation. Any my thanks to the New York transit workers for delaying their strike until we got home…

American Gods

American Gods
Neil Stephenson

American Gods
I read most of American Gods on a recent trip to Washington, D.C. My patience for driving up and down route 81 between here and there has been utterly exhausted over the years, so I took a different route this time, via Amtrak. I picked up the train in Hinton, WV, and traveled by train through the Greenbriar River valley. The fall foliage was in full display at the time, the trip was pleasant, and I got an enormous amount of reading done. Over the course of the trip, I also completed my second foray into the world of beats-and-fiddle. While I can’t claim it to be a tear-jerking work of genius, I can say in all honesty that it amuses me enormously. Which — let’s face it — I usually prefer to genius, anyway.
When I started American Gods, I had sort of a hard time with it. As I tried to adjust myself to the story and style, it dawned on me that I’m just not that used to popular fiction anymore. I suppose I used to read a fair amount of it in high school, but over the course of my education, it seems I’ve wandered away from the contemporary novel. A quick perusal of my recent reading list seems to confirm the fact. So reading something with a linear beginning, middle, and end; something with a small handful of characters with transparent motivations; something with a tidy wrapped-up conclusion — it struck me as a weird sort of story. I found myself looking for something more to it. There’s this guy, and some stuff happens to him, and then some other stuff happens after that. What gives?
At some point over the course of the train ride, my brain remembered about fiction. That it’s supposed to be fun. That it doesn’t need to be a work of genius to be good.
I was OK after that. American Gods is fun. It isn’t genius. I didn’t learn anything by reading it. I’m neither smarter, nor more enlightened, nor more capable after reading it. But it kept me happily diverted on a train for several hours in between sequencing bass and fiddle loops, and in that capacity it does its job well.