When the pandemic hit, like a lot of people, I thought it’d be a good time to focus on self-improvement. It was a break in everything. No more office, no more grocery stores, no more people. No more people. Oh my god, finally, no more people. Maybe I’d have a zoom call with some friends once a week, but other than that, it was me time. Time to get back to running.
Then I read an article about how runners expel more particles, so you should stay away from running trails, and also you should wear a mask while running but it could be bad for your heart, also the plague is probably going to kill me anyway so what’s the point, really?
I didn’t do anything. I made zero self-improvements. I got worse. I watched a lot of garbage television. I ate a lot of cake. I watched a lot of garbage television about cake. Plus, I’d always used races as a focal point for running. I’d train for a specific race. But races were over. The world was closed. So far, this post is four paragraphs of excuses, and I had way more excuses than this.
The main reason I do anything, it seems, is as a reaction to my mental health. I’m either doing something to improve my mental health, or I’m doing something as a result of my mental health. I think about it way too much. My cholesterol is too high, and I’m a little heavier than I’d like, but I’m mainly getting back into running to fight off some depression. It’s working. It always works. So it’s essential that I don’t stop. It’s hard to think about doing something forever, but I should probably do it forever.
During the pandemic, I just kinda got used to being a little depressed. And one of the joys about having a brain that doesn’t work great all the time is that once you fall off your mental-health improving habits, your brain starts telling you that nothing you were doing was really helping in the first place. You’re misremembering. It’s always been this bad. Running didn’t really help.
This week I ran 7.5 miles over the course of four runs. Three runs were good, one run was bad. The run that was bad stopped because I started thinking about an article I read. The article was about how the rain now contains man-made cancer-causing agents, it had a line in it about how it was imperative that we do something about it before it’s too late. So I started thinking about that. How it’s another thing we won’t do anything about. I kept spinning in it until I couldn’t shake it and went “ah what the fuck” out loud like a lunatic and walked to my car.
My other three runs were great. All helpful. My legs and lungs are getting stronger. My head is coming along. One day at a time.
Black Leopard Red Wolf is a big, complicated, not-waiting-for-you-to-keep-up type book. I read it over too many months, and I’m a little worried I misinterpreted my poor memory of what I read for over complexity in the text, but if you’re going to read this, get a notepad. Dig in. It’s a lot of book. I also wound up finding a few chapter recaps on reddit that I found useful after losing my way once or twice. There’s a moment, maybe more than one, where he’s telling a story to a character inside of a story to another character, and the ‘when’ of what’s happening got muddy for me. YMMV.
I also felt like it sprinted a bit at the end like the author realized there was a long way to go and he was already at 500 pages. It felt a little dismissive of the main characters (the leopard and the wolf) relationship in a way. Their relationship is complex and flawlessly executed throughout the book and then at the end, it’s just kinda gone, which happens in real life and all that, but a bummer in the book. I’m hoping it’s explored in more detail in the sequel, which I’m looking forward to.
I’m realizing as I write this sentence that I’ve never written any kind of book review before. I have no idea what I’m doing. Anyway, if you like fantasy, you’ll like it. There are maps! I love when a book has a map of its world in it, one of the best things in life.
I also read The Clarity of Hunger by Cheryl Papas, which is probably more in my wheelhouse than BLRW. It’s a short collection of short stories, about 45 pages of perfect writing. I always think about my own writing when reading, which I shouldn’t do, but sometimes I think “I could write something like this, something close to it.” And other times I read something like The Clarity of Hunger, which felt so unique and specific and strange and lovely. I’ll be returning to it.
Next: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet