Though it seems to be taking me forever to read, I'm very much enjoying the Jay Parini Steinbeck biography. I was especially pleased with this bit I read last night — What is the common touch that it is supposed to be so goddamned desirable? The common touch is usually an inept, stupid, clumsy, unintelligent touch. It is only the uncommon touch that amounts to a damn. (John Steinbeck, 1949) Over the years (and sometimes in this journal) I have lamented that I do not have the common touch and never shall; these three sentences make me feel a little better about it. Also, we finished Lemony Snicket's The Austere Academy, which I think is my second favourite of his so far, after The Reptile Room.
I am enormously flattered that docbrite has seen fit to name her new baby corn snake, in part, after Deacon Silvey. As for her long entry of this morning, I don't think she would want me commenting upon it. I will say only that there's a good reason I've spent many years trying to convince would-be fiction writers that there are hundreds of much easier ways to be miserable, that the life of a writer is neither romantic nor glamorous, and that garbage men and office temps have it better than most professional novelists. The publishing houses of NYC have always been a harsh mistress, but since the 1970s or so, they have become another sort of beast altogether, one that chews first, spits wherever it pleases, and asks questions latter. But this is turning into a commentary, which I already said it wouldn't do.
Oh, and Superior Court Judge Ronnie Batchelor has ruled that the Harry Potter books will remain in Gwinnett County school libraries. Honestly, someone needs to adjust poor Laura Mallory's meds.
After taking my rest at the edge of the deep rift or fissure where Suregait forced me to pause in my blind retreat from setsuled and his orcs, when the sun was rising again, we rode east, hoping to discover the end of this mighty crack in the brittle skin of Gorgoroth or at least an unguarded goblin bridge across. But we searched that way to no avail, and shortly after noon turned and retraced our path westwards. By late afternoon we still had found no crossing, but I did locate a ledge, wide enough for a horse, leading down into the fissure. I thought perhaps we might have no choice but to make our crossing by entering the crack and hoping that a similar ledge could be located on the far side, the route by which we might manage our exit back to the surface. But this seems now to have been only my latest deadly error in judgment, for we are lost, and at least an entire night and day must have come and gone since entering the fissure.
After searching in vain for a corresponding, ascending path, I led Suregait along a narrow side branch or, were this a river and not but a dry crack in the world, I might say tributary, which seemed, for a time, to rise, bearing us up from those black depths. But too soon it proved a dead end, pinching out with at least two hundred feet still remaining before we might have regained the surface. By then the sun was well down, and it seems that neither the light of star nor moon can reach us here. I do not believe I have ever known or imagined such a profound absence of light. I am writing this by the stub of a candle from Suregait's saddle bag, where I also found my flint. When this wick is gone, there shall be no more light until the dawn.
I believe this rift must have been opened during the final eruption of Orodruin, when the One Ring was cast into the Forge of Sauron and unmade. It is a labyrinth, Inwë, and I have passed entrances to what I take to be ancient tunnels, leading yet deeper into the rotten flesh of Mordor. I paused at one and listened, thinking I heard the distant sound of running water. My thirst had grown so great that I almost followed that path wherever it might lead me, but Suregait blocked my way, though her thirst must also be terrible. I hear things in the darkness. I fear I am not alone in this dreadful pit. I was mad to take this road. I was mad to ever have come within twice a hundred leagues of Mordor or to have accepted this impossible quest. And if I was not mad then, I must be mad now. Mad with fear and with thirst. And with guilt and doubt, as well, for I can not conceive why Radagast would not have rejoined me, save his shame at my deserting the imprisoned Easterlings. I will stop writing here, Inwë. I must conserve what little remains of the candle. I may need it farther along. I will try to sleep now and hope to dream of the shining Vales of Anduin, of brave horesmen with green shields emblazoned with golden suns and flying green banners with fine white horses painted upon them.