Another day of literature and ice packs

(To read El Gringo Feo’s Costa Rica Diary from the beginning, start here.)

Friday, September 14

I’m not going to lie. I’m already a bit stir crazy. I miss my walks on the beach. I even miss my death marches into town.

On the bright side, I’ve spent more time reading in the past few days than I have since I did my master’s work in Birmingham almost 30 years ago when I was devouring the Western canon, preparing for my comprehensive exams. I holed up in my claustrophobic apartment on the city’s Southside, reading one book after another by day, editing new stories at the now-defunct Birmingham Post-Heraldby night. I did little other than read and eat. It worked. I earned the degree.

Compared to my Birmingham reading frenzy, this is an upgrade. I saw a pair of Toucans yesterday while reading, not to mention countless yellow flycatchers. And while the howlers have moved on for the next several days, my house gecko, Chuckles, has been doing a good job of keeping me amused. He was even joined by an impudent frog who leaped on me while I was reading in bed. At first, I thought he was one of those nasty green cicadas who seem to be everywhere here. But then I saw him hopping across the floor and realized it was a frog. I tried to capture him but he was incredibly fast and agile. Unlike me.

Gratuitous beach dog photo. I shot this the other day right before me lastimé el tobillo.

I finished Knausgaard’s Spring and recommend it highly. It’s an amazing work. As I started considering my next book, I realized I’d been reading male authors. thus far so I switched it up with Middlemarch by George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Ann Evans. It’s telling that she chose a male pen name in an effort to have her work taken seriously. It took a bit to get into the flow of the book. Her writing is serpentine and rich in classical allusions, not to mention the fact that she weaves in an array of characters moving through multiple plot lines. But I’m already in awe of her ability to capture the nature of her characters through their speech patterns in the dialogue she writes. The book is about 750 pages, so that will give me something to chew on for a while.

The ankle is about the same, maybe a bit improved. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking. I’m hitting it with ice packs three or four times a day and I’m doing my best to stay off it. I spent a good bit of time yesterday in the hammock reading Middlemarch, and I take my Kindle along with me when I hobble down to the kitchen to eat. In the evenings, I’m still plugging away at The Book. I’ve stopped writing and am currently working on plotting. John Gardner’s section on plot in the Art of Fiction was revelatory, and I’m rethinking things based on some of what I learned there. With luck, I’ll be ready to make a run a a first draft of Chapter 3 this weekend.

I plan to call a cab today to go into town on a supply run. I’m hoping to find a driver who will be willing to wait for me while I run into the grocery store to stock up. Should be an adventure. I’ve created a list of Spanish phrases to use with the cab driver, including me duele el tobillo (my ankle hurts) and me lastimé el tobillo (I injured my ankle). With luck, I’ll find someone who speaks a smattering of English and we can meet in the middle.

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