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Confessions From Quarantine

May 19, 2021 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen tagged as , , ,

Confessions From Quarantine

Fourteen months ago, when life became weirdly constricted, I didn’t wonder what to do with all that extra time. I’d read of course. Read, write a bit, and read some more.  I could never tire of reading but by month 7 my eyes could — and did. I was ordered to rest my vision for one month. There’s always audio books, but I hate earbuds.

Daytime TV

I tried daytime TV – in that murky upper cable range.  I found myself in awe of the creativity of producers desperate for material to fill a 24/7 schedule. What obscure subjects! Shows like Storm of Suspicion. “True crime series that examines spellbinding crimes where the weather uncovered or solved crimes.” Wow! How many of those can you dig up? I moved on to an array of paranormal shows that all seemed to feature casually dressed young people filmed by a shaky camera in a deserted house where they would stop in shock and ask in a whisper, “Did you hear that?”  Well, I never heard any thing and Ghost Busters did the hand held ghost meter thing a whole lot better. I conclude that daytime TV is not much of a pasttime.


Next — cooking. I’ve said before I’m not much good at it, but I do strive (now and then) to improve. I Googled ‘simple French recipes’ hoping to dazzle Tom and tried a stuffed chicken roulade touted to be “All the French, none of the fussiness.” Tricksy click bait, that. First I needed to pound my butterflied chicken breasts to ½ inch thickness. Pound them? I have hammers, but I wouldn’t eat something I used them on. I settled on whacking them about with a rolling pin. They weren’t all that thick anyway.

I made the simple filling (I’m good with vegies and nuts). It was the roll up part that got me. My breasts just weren’t cooperative. Once I finally got them in the hot pan they refused to stay neatly rolled. In the end it tasted pretty good, but it wasn’t pretty. Enough with cooking.

Back to Reading

By now the eyes felt rested and ready to resume their primary function— reading. It was just a question of what to read. I wanted something entirely new to me. Something I might never in a million years seek out. And I found it by the cover. There is a promise in the lurid illustrations of a hugely muscled man, his clothing torn from battle, his eyes uncompromising. The tales of Doc Savage, the man of bronze were written in the 1930’s and 40’s, all 182 of them.

Lester Dent authored most under the house name Kenneth Robeson and the world and characters he built for the tales hold up beautifully 90 years later. Doc himself was once a victim— his parents were killed by bad guys — and he spent his youth honing his mind and body with lots of mysterious eastern mind techniques, exotic hand to hand fighting methods and grueling discipline — so he could spend a lifetime righting wrongs and punishing evil doers. Doc gathers a group of wonderfully eccentric characters to fight along with him. My favorites are Ham the dandy, and Monk the ape-like chemist.

All successful series books need to work as stand alone stories but need to supply enough background to explain the series characters and setting. It’s a difficult thing to do well without feeling heavy handed. Mr. Dent solved the problem simply: every Doc Savage book uses the exact same one to two paragraph description and character sketch of each supporting actor — and then he gets on with the action. And it works! I read 22 of the 182 Doc Savage adventures and by book 4 I had those set pieces memorized, but they are so good and so funny the tale would have felt empty without them.

It’s hard to decide what’s best about the Doc Savage books. It could be the complete innocence of of the world Doc protects, or the fact that Doc and his team never kill anybody (instead they take them to his Fortress of Solitude in the arctic and give them an operation that ‘cures’ them) or that Doc is a real doctor, he’s stinking rich and uses his money well, has a photographic memory, or that he is very shy around women. I loved it all.

It just goes to show that you can judge a book by its cover.

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