I saw that John Jakes died yesterday–or they announced he had passed yesterday–which was kind of jolting; primarily because he’d come across my radar again lately. I don’t remember who or how, but I was looking at something or looking up something and a quote from him about reviews and critics and his place in American literature, or he was asked about the literary stars of the day or something (these memory lapses are so aggravating) but I loved what his response was: I don’t remember exactly the comparison, but he compared books to wine: his were an inexpensive wine you could pick up at a grocery store, satisfying but nothing special, while others were the really rare and fine vintages you went down into the cellar to retrieve and had to blow dust off the bottle. (It may have been meats; I can’t remember exactly but the wine analogy seemed more correct and apt, frankly.) I appreciated that, because I spent a lot of my teens and early twenties reading Jakes’ American history novels. They were fun to read but not great, and I wound up reading the entire eight volume Kent Family Chronicles as well as the North and South trilogy (and I think in some weird way the train of thought that led me to the Jakes quote was remembering Kirstie Alley and Patrick Swayze in the mini-series of North and South, because I was also thinking about the Civil War because I was watching Civil War documentaries on Youtube, which led me to abolitionists and a meme I saw reading I don’t argue with people John Brown would have shot and you see how that all goes; the weird and twisted slipperiness of my mind. I hadn’t thought about Jakes in years; and now he’s popped up twice within a couple of weeks. (He was ninety, so had a long and full and vastly successful life. Those books were all bestsellers and the first three of the Kent books were filmed for television; I think the original plan was to film them all but that ended after the third made for television movie.)
I think there were eight books in the Kent Family series; the original plan was to follow the family through American history, but the book series ended in the 1880’s, I think; it ended before the twentieth century–which was smart. How would you cover the world wars and Vietnam? Civil rights? These were very pro-Americana books, too; they were all part of the big Bicentennial Celebration of 1976–which was a very big deal at the time, if you weren’t born yet, and the years leading up to 7/4/76 were a lot of patriotic overkill, frankly. Every business and company had some sort of Bicentennial celebration tie-in, starting in about 1974, I think, so by the time the actual Bicentennial rolled around many of us were already sick and tired of hearing about it. We had just moved to Kansas that summer, and we still only could get one channel–CBS out of Kansas City. (Hard to believe there was a time when you could live somewhere and only get one channel, but it used to be very commonplace, and there were only three networks anyway.) The primary problem, for me, with the Kent series was how plausible is it that every member of this family is a friend or acquaintance of every famous person in our history?
I slept well again last night, which is marvelous. I did laundry and put the dishes away after work, and made a grocery run, picked up a prescription, and got the mail. I was a busy Gregalicious yesterday, and I worked some more on the book as well. I feel a lot better about the book–it’s not nearly as terrible as I had feared; I really do need to work on not hating my work or at least going overboard as far as their condition, frankly. I am looking forward to making some more good progress this weekend as well; now that I am feeling more myself again (I feel good this morning, too) I think I am going to be able to get all of this finished and revised and reworked and handled and improved. This is the part of writing a book that I enjoy; the drudgery is the first draft, and the polishing and improving is the most satisfying, because you see and can feel it taking shape.
I did break down and watch the first episode of the new season of Ted Lasso without Paul last night; it was marvelous, as expected, and just such a delightful show and characters. I decided it was okay to go ahead and watch because I figured I wouldn’t mind a second watch when the Festivals are over. It just might well be my favorite comedy series of all time; definitely up there with Schitt’s Creek and Cheers for sure. Today I also am heading in to see the doctor this afternoon about my toe, which still hurts to bend and twinges when I walk, but I am not limping. Maybe it’s a waste of the doctor’s time, but you never know, and once you’re past sixty you kind of have to take any of these sorts of things that happen seriously. (I have a tendency to ignore it and hope it goes away on its own.) It’s been nearly a month since it all started; I think it was exactly four weeks ago today that it started hurting and initially swelled, but between Carnival and Mom, I didn’t really have a chance to get in, and as soon as I was able to know for sure I could make an appointment and keep it, I did–and this was the first one available. Fingers crossed it isn’t anything more serious than arthritis or (sigh) gout.
It’s amazing what a difference to my overall mood getting back on the writing horse makes, seriously. Now that I am working on the manuscript again, I’m sleeping better and feel more settled and like myself again, which is lovely–I was beginning to wonder. I wasn’t quite as tired yesterday when I left the office, and I have to say, it’s been marvelous feeling rested and being able to work again. Much as I whine and complain about writing–usually, it’s not the writing itself I complain about, but rather deadline stress more than anything else–I do love it, I do love doing it, and it really makes me happy. I recently realized that while my primary identity is author, another identity (and one I’ve held much longer than author) is reader. I have always been, first and foremost, a reader. I love to read, and wish I had more time to do so; hence the not worrying about ever being bored if and when I do get to the point of retirement–there will always be books to read, stories to write, and something to clean around the house. I am only bored if and when I choose to be; and there’s also always some movie I haven’t seen I can stream, too. I’m a homebody, and the older I get the more true that becomes. I am putting off a Costco run until after the Festivals, even though we’re getting low on things and out of others; there’s no point in doing much restocking of the kitchen since Paul will be moving down to the hotel on Wednesday and not coming home until either Sunday or Monday. I need to figure out what I am doing over the weekend myself. I think I have something Saturday morning, a reading that afternoon, and then a panel on Sunday? I don’t know, I’d have to check I suppose, and at some point I should get that all put into my phone calendar.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.