The Island of Dr. Death

Cover image, from Ultan's Library

I just got notice that the book I request­ed via Inter-Library Loan—The Island of Dr. Death and Oth­er Sto­ries and Oth­er Sto­ries—has arrived at the desk. By cof­fee time I’ll have it in my hands, and by evening I’ll be read­ing some Gene Wolfe short sto­ries.

I’m prob­a­bly more excit­ed about this than I should be, but then I’m a late-in-life Wolfe con­vert, and I’ve got a lot of catch­ing up to do.

Wolfe is the one that once tore to shreds a pret­ty com­mon writ­ing trope—call­ing some­thing inde­scrib­able when it isn’t real­ly—and then, I like to think, poked fun at his own advice a few years lat­er in a dif­fer­ent nov­el. I’ve seen him described more than once as the writer’s writer, and I look for­ward to read­ing some of his short works.

Series: Gene Wolfe

The entire series: The Gold­en Sen­tence; A les­son in a line; Inde­scrib­able; My head’s swim­ming now; The Island of Dr. Death.

Some birth-year words

Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s “Time Trav­el­er” fea­ture, I now know that the fol­low­ing words’ and phras­es’ first record­ed use hap­pened the year I was born:

And dozens of oth­ers, too. How about you?

(Maybe lat­er I’ll indulge in a caipir­in­ha.)

My head’s swimming now

I recent­ly fin­ished my re-read of Gene Wolfe’s Fifth Head of Cer­berus. Feel­ing pret­ty smug, think­ing I’d caught a lot more than I’d picked up on first read­ing it, I Googled fifth head of cerberus analysis, which led me to a pas­sel of arti­cles on Ultan’s Library, includ­ing Prov­ing Veil’s Hypoth­e­sis [warn­ing: many, many spoil­ers] . And… wow.

I had no idea.

I still have no idea.

But I’m glad there’s at least one writer out there as sub­tle, as sneaky, as sly, as Gene Wolfe.

Series: Gene Wolfe

The entire series: The Gold­en Sen­tence; A les­son in a line; Inde­scrib­able; My head’s swim­ming now; The Island of Dr. Death.

Indescribable

A cou­ple years ago, I had an epiphany while read­ing Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun, when the nar­ra­tor Sev­er­ian point­ed out that

It is always a temp­ta­tion to say that such feel­ings are inde­scrib­able, though they sel­dom are.

Today, though… Today I was fin­ish­ing Wolfe’s superb 1988 nov­el There Are Doors, and I hap­pened upon this on page 294:

"An indescribable sound filled the arena"

Which is it, Mr. Wolfe? Which is it?


I must admit, though, it’s nice that, imme­di­ate­ly after he calls the sound inde­scrib­able, he pro­ceeds to describe it with delight­ful econ­o­my. Wolfe may be fond of unre­li­able nar­ra­tors, but his prose is reli­ably amaz­ing.

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Series: Gene Wolfe

The entire series: The Gold­en Sen­tence; A les­son in a line; Inde­scrib­able; My head’s swim­ming now; The Island of Dr. Death.

A curious juxtaposition

Just fin­ished reg­is­ter­ing my new toast­er oven (or “mini oven” as the com­pa­ny would have it). On the last screen, where I’m encour­aged to set a pass­word for my new account (one more I’ll prob­a­bly nev­er sign into again), I was asked two ques­tions:

  • Do you want to receive occa­sion­al emails from the com­pa­ny about prod­ucts and ser­vices? (No. As usu­al.)
  • Do you own a Nespres­so™ machine?

Uh…


Curi­ous as to why they’d be inter­est­ed in my sit­u­a­tion vis-à-vis Nespres­so™, I did a quick Google search for [company name] nespresso. Turns out that the com­pa­ny makes com­pat­i­ble land­fill-chok­ing pods for the Nespres­so™ machine.

Live and learn.