Sunday, May 15, 2011

Depressing novels, new and old, and "singing fish"

Depressing sells books.
Nothing new here, but it never ceases to amaze me. My latest case in point is The Gathering from Anne Enright, winner of the Man Booker Prize. The poverty and ignorance that pervades all modern Irish tales is one thing--sometimes those themes can be written in such a way as to be uplifting, even...but why does every post-modern novel (or is it post-post now?) published have to revolve around the lingering effects (depression, drugs, alcoholism, suicide) of some sort of childhood abuse?
I am also reading Crime and Punishment (click here for a public domain ebook), which isn't helping. Dostoevsky didn't just blame everyone's parents and teachers--and policemen and priests--he blamed society itself for the evils of society.
Both of these novels are gorgeously written, at times, but they are a sure cure for insomnia if taken in large doses. This is quite helpful when a loud hum goes through the hull of one's boat from about 2 am to 4 am, leading you to speculate on everything from illegal underwater generators to mysterious undersea divers and what they might be up to. Some local Catalina Harbor fishermen suggested it was the sound of local fish, "Midshipmen" by name--but we pooh-poohed that answer...Finally Googled "midshipmen fish" and "hum" and got this from wikipedia:
"Mating in midshipman fishes depends on auditory communication; males during the breeding season broadcast a sound usually described as a hum, generated by rapid contractions of the muscles in the swim bladder. The sound can be kept up for up to an hour, and is loud enough to be heard by (and to puzzle) people on nearby land and houseboats; the hulls of the boats tend to amplify the sound to sleep-disrupting levels. Reproductive females develop a selective sensitivity to this sound, and respond by laying eggs in the rock nest of a singing male."
Solves that mystery, and just goes to show what you can learn while out and about in a boat...The whole article, complete with illustration of the ugly devil is here.
hasta pronto!