Sarah Zettel and The Big Book — Part One

books and pen graphic    I’m reading a Big Book.  Seriously.  This thing is big.  Douglas-Adams-space-metaphor-level big.  Over 1300 pages long.
It’s called Hunger’s Brides and it’s by a Canadian scholar/author named Paul Anderson.  In part, it’s about a scholar nun in 17th century Mexico named Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (,  who was a famous poet and thinker and who I’d never heard of.  She also, incidently, fell afoul of the Inquisition.  Wrapped around this is a modern story featuring a couple of literary tropes: the Middle Aged Man who is discovering he’s missed the point of his own life, and the tragic, sexually abused girl.  More about them later.
The Big Book has actually been sitting on my shelf for a long time.  I admit, it came home with me under somewhat shameful circumstances.  I got it on a vulture run.
My town used to have a bookstore in my town called Shaman Drum.  Shaman drum was kind of arty, and more than a bit highbrow.  Great poetry section, lots of “literary” novels, and a lot of obscure and scholarly history books I’d never see anywhere else.  This was mostly why I went there.  I’d get a new project going and I’d always drop in at Shaman drum to see what they had on the relevant area of science, history or politics.
This was where I first saw The Big Book.  It was hard to miss.  It had a lovely cover, all black and terracotta, and took up as much shelf space as 3 regular books.  Plus, it had a little staff recommendation card underneath it, attesting to the fact it was not just any old Big Book but a Good Big Book.  I’m pretty sure I remember picking it up at the time, mostly to marvel that such things were still being published.
Then came the Millenium and all that followed, and like a lot of bookstores, Shaman Drum closed.  With the closing came the sale, and I went, with mixed feelings as I do to such sales.  I want the books, but hate the fact that I’m buying so many because they’re cheap because the store is closing.  I hate the feeling of not just robbing a corpse, but a friend’s corpse.
Well, there I was, trying to sort out which books a) were the most interesting and b) I was least likely to stumble across elsewhere, and there it was — The Big Book.  I could not resist.  It was a lovely book, with a lovely cover, and, in case you haven’t guessed by now, it fed into my fascination with books as artifact.  This one was dramatic.  Big Book came home with the rest of the stack, and went onto the 6 ft. tall Ikea bookcase that is my personal TBR pile.  There it sat, for…years.

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