Like most technology-addled people these days, and especially those who share the burden of AD(H)D, I find my mind flits around a forest of ideas without ever alighting on a single branch. Still, occasionally something seems so compelling, whether attractive or unusual, that I not only touch down on it, but also build a nest, take up residence, and let my mind luxuriate in its presence. Over the past few days my mind has been squatting on these three things:
The word abecedarian. I’ve run across it before, but this time I bothered to look it up. It’s one of those words that I’ve only read and never heard spoken, so I was pronouncing it in my head all wrong. I had thought it sounded something like what you might hear when a magician casts a spell: “abacadabra!” Instead, it’s pronounced like you’re reading the first three letters of the English alphabet: “A-B-C-darian.” And therein lies the clue to its meaning. The word refers to someone who is learning the ABCs or, more generally, to anyone who is a novice. It can also simply mean arranged alphabetically, but I find that definition boring. Now that I know how to pronounce it, I’ve been saying it quietly to myself like a mantra.
The Invisibility Cloak
I had expected that, with a name like The Invisibility Cloak, this odd little novel by Ge Fei would contain a little magic in it, but the cloak is only mentioned in passing, and the plot follows the mostly mundane life of a high-end stereo salesman in Beijing, China. Once I got over my initial disappointment that it wasn’t going to be a Chinese Harry Potter, though, I enjoyed reading the book. And its last paragraph hit me in a way that reminded me of the way the closing lines of The Great Gatsby did when I read it so many years ago:
Then I stood up, hitched up my pants, and said in a tone that surprised even me, “Do you mind if I contribute my thoughts to this one? If you could just stop nitpicking and dissecting every little thing, if you could learn to keep one eye closed and one eye open, and quit worrying about everything and everybody, you might discover that life is actually pretty f***ing beautiful. Am I right?
The Last Days of Night
Graham Moore opens one of the early chapters of his novel The Last Days of Night with this quote by James Watson, who co-discovered DNA:
It’s necessary to be slightly underemployed if you are to do something significant.
Sounds about right.