Thursday, September 17, 2009

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

… is upon us once again. Chestnuts and acorns rain down like hailstones these days as I walk up that last steep stretch of hillside to work (though only by daylight: they don't fall as I walk home at night, interestingly). The heating is on in the office already, because it's cold and damp (a) at that altitude and (b) on the edge of the forest; at home I'm going to hold out for the rest of the month, or until Saturday.

What have I been up to? Mostly work, with a small amount of play. The office is swallowing my life right now, I'm working over 50 hours every week. And it's strenuous work too, lots of thinking. Some evenings when I get home, I am too tired even to read e-mail. This will continue until mid-October, then there will be a downward shifting of gears. The reason is this: the project is on a flat and sandy site beside a lake, the basement is below ground-water level. We need to have the basement floors and walls built and waterproofed before the level rises to its annual high in May, and that means that the construction company will need to start digging on January 2, and that means that we need to get the bulk of the tender documents written and the bids collected and a construction company chosen during November.

Building below the water level is unexpectedly exciting. We are spending entire days in meetings with hydrological engineers and concrete specialists.

I finished Infinite Jest, and after a pause of three weeks (and several other books) have started reading it again. I'll write about IJ some other time, it'll take longer than I have available now (writing in my pyjamas before work), but let me say this about that. IJ is in many places a frustrating and annoying book, nowhere more so than at the end. The diffference between reading a book and listening to a storyteller, is that the reader has physical clues that the tale is about to end ("only 20 more pages"). The reader of IJ holds on to the great big brick of a thing, feeling the immense weight of known story in his left hand and the rapidly dwindling sheaf of unread pages in his right, and thinks "How on earth can all of these loose ends be tied up in the remaining N pages?" Well, dear reader, they aren't. IJ doesn't have an ending, it just stops. This grates, dear readers: it feels like is the author is cheating us, perhaps even mocking our expectations. But then, after a week or so of being annoyed, an interesting thing happened: I found myself reconsidering whether the loose ends had perhaps been tied up after all.

IJ is not written consecutively, event after event, week after week, in the manner of a police procedural: it moves chapter-length in jump-cuts forwards and back across several decades. Perhaps, I thought to myself, the answers are in there somewhere. So I started reading it again, as a surprisingly large number of people apparently do. I'll let you know.

Time to go. I hope you are all well and happy, my dears.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Bruce Oksol said...

An update from you is like receiving a letter from a distant family member. All I need is an occasional note to reassure me you are doing well. I can go to bed tonight knowing you are working hard, but apparently feeling rewarded by your work. Enjoy those falling chestnuts. Your notes bring back wonderful memories.

September 18, 2009 at 5:16:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Dale said...

Nice to catch a glimpse of you, Mr Udge!

September 18, 2009 at 5:26:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger JoeinVegas said...

But, won't the house pop up and float away when the water rises?

September 22, 2009 at 4:29:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

Joe, you were probably joking but that is exactly what happens :) That's why it is important to get the tub finished and waterproofed, it can then be loaded up with sandbags to keep it from rising.

Thanks Bruce and Dale, I'm sorry that these posts are so few and far between in recent months. The state of my kitchen, if you could see it (be glad you can't) speaks sad and dreary volumes about the state of my soul — and about how little time I am spending awake at home.

September 23, 2009 at 7:44:00 PM GMT+2  

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