Thursday, April 03, 2008


It’s rare that I don’t finish a book. I read quickly, and I read constantly, and if I don’t finish a book, then I have to find something else to read that much sooner. The obvious corollary to this is that I read a lot of reviews, and keep a list of books to watch out for when I go to the library or the bookstore. I’ve been in Victorian mood lately, at least as far as fiction goes, so when I saw reivews of The Sonambulist, it immediately went on the list: right period, it was about a stage magician (though very few novels about magicians match JB Priestley’s Lost Empires), got good reviews — what’s not to like?

In a word, milk.

The title character drinks milk the way private eyes in the pulps drink cheap whiskey, guzzling it by the gallon, chugging it before every action, carrying it with him when he can’t finish his tipple in the bar or at home. And I really hate milk. If I’m not very careful with it, it makes me sick; more than that, though, I don’t like the way it tastes. It’s always sour-ish, no matter how cold you get it; it’s a thin, nasty flavor except when it’s so rich it gags you. It leaves a gross film on the dishes, dries to disgusting flakes — in short, I find milk completely revolting. Every time the Sonambulist chugged down another pint of milk, I got a little more queasy, until finally, about two-third of the way through, I had to stop.

I had just settled down to supper (yes, I read at meals, and I feel a little frisson of satisfaction every time I do it, having been forbidden to read at the table most of my childhood) and opened the book — to yet another description of milk-drinking. This time, the Sonambulist had spilled some down his shirtfront, and it had dried, and I just couldn’t go on. I put that book down, picked up another, and had my supper in peace.

After supper, I stared at The Sonambulist for a while. It was an interesting story, and I did want to know what happened; however, I’d been skimming the milk-drinking episodes for quite a while, and I was still reading more of them than I wanted. It was time to give up. On the next morning’s walk, I dropped it into the library’s return box.

Next in my stack was a biography of John Dillinger: badly written (“providential” used in place of “provincial” — that kind of error), poorly attributed (too many “facts” come from mysterious papers collected by an ex-cop, and then lost in an attic for years), but still infinitely preferable to another glass of milk.


At 12:03 PM, Blogger Mel said...

I can't say that my milk aversion is lifelong or quite as bad as yours, but certainly now that I rarely drink it, I really do notice the smell when I'm stuck with it. Going with chocolate milk is helpful for masking it, I find, and the smell doesn't bother me so much when it's cheese.

At 6:50 PM, Blogger Brooklynne Michelle said...

ewww I don't like milk either, growing up my younger brother is allergic to milk(as in it makes his throat close up and skin burn) I hate books that have issues like that, they are rather good except one small issue that throws you off, I once had a similar experience except the habit was chewing tobacco and described in way too much detail, the book actually made me vomit. I'm currently halfway through book two of this series by a sci fi author that lives extremely close to you(maybe even inside your head) :-p that has me totally enthralled by the science that i go back to re-read whole portions several times just so i can read about it again! Hope all is well with your animals, and your well!

At 5:03 PM, Blogger edired said...

New meaning to lactose intolerant . You have a point though . Why read something that puts you on edge when there are more good books than we'll ever find time to read . I'm lucky no books featuring creamed corn , brussel sprouts or beets so far . Did see in Locus that Elizabeth Moon is revisiting " Packsenarian " . Should be good . Now your turn and R. A. Mac Avoy need a new one !


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