Tuesday, August 30, 2011


It's been a hell of a week. A week ago was the East Coast Earthquake. I was sitting at my desk at work when I heard the windows shake, and at first thought it was a wind gust. Then I felt the floor shake and thought there was blasting going on at the construction site nearby. But then it kept on shaking, and I rose to see if anyone else had any notion of what was going on. My boss was standing in the doorway of his office. "It's an earthquake!" he shouted, and he knows earthquakes after living for a few years in Iceland. I immediately felt myself start to panic, and it only got worse when we realized that the building was starting to sway, and we were on the 9th floor...

Obviously, I came out OK. The office building, and my apartment building, suffered no damage, and aside from being badly rattled I was unscathed. Of course, there's damage here and there in the area, ranging from the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral to my friend Denise's basement. It was a relatively mild earthquake, obviously, but this is a region where buildings are not built for that, people don't have earthquake insurance, and people like me have never experienced a quake and are terrified by a tremor.

And then came Hurricane Irene. Yeesh. Although she was pretty laid-back as well; this past Saturday was merely rainy and windy until late at night when it really got bad. And then I lost power about 2am, and dreaded a long stretch without power like I had with Hurricane Isabel some years ago, when I was 5 days without power. But I got power back at 11pm Sunday, and neighbors were restored about 24 hours later, and a felled tree on the next block was cleared quickly. So we're recovering, bit by bit.

During the downtime, I did finish a book from the library, Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn.

This was diverting. In Victorian London, Lady Julia Grey's husband dies in torment, at first believed to be a heart attack. But she finds out her husband had engaged the services of a private inquiry agent, Nicholas Brisbane, and she ends up engaging him herself because she suspects her husband was murdered. And she ends up digging up all sorts of unsavoury stuff, and being attracted to Brisbane in the bargain, which is expected.

It's a decent plot, and the writing is good, but the characterizations are just a little too much. We're driven home the idea of Julia being unconventional for her time, but she comes across as the perfect open-minded liberal modern woman, totally fine and dandy with her lesbian sister, extremely accommodating with her servants, and objecting to racism and antisemitism in society. (To her credit, Raybourn prevents Julia from being too perfect as she has a temper and sometimes does fall prey to snobbishness.) Brisbane is also almost too perfectly romantic; he's dark and brooding, suffers from migraines, has Gypsy blood, is a talented violinist, suffers from psychic visions, and has that whole menacing/tender thing going on.

Normally, something like this would have me throwing the book across the room, but the story does work, and while the characterizations are often too modern for their milieu, they're otherwise believable and (most importantly) human. They're not an attempt at an accurate or realistic depiction of Victorian times, but a modern projection of an idealized Victorian age, and on that level, they're perfectly fine. I have to admit, despite a certain amount of eye-rolling I did at the improbably modern characters, I am sufficiently intrigued to want to check out Raybourn's next book, and that says something.

So another summer's almost over, and I turn 46 tomorrow. I'm still gonna keep going at this blog, so stay tuned. I'm actually thinking of putting up a calendar of events, which I'm sure readers in the DC area might like, and if folks elsewhere want to me to plug something, I'm open to persuasion.

And yes, you read that right, 46. I'm a damn young 46, if I say so myself. Despite a little creakiness, I still feel like I'm in my 20s, in all the good and bad ways.

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