I'm on sabbatical.
I wrote (often more like "compiled") geography books for teens over the past four years, up until last month.
The job was like being under a fairy tale enchantment, set to turn piles of statistics into 17,000 words of interesting prose, over and over, without breaking chronological order, offending parents, or using the passive voice.
(Actually the task didn't include creating interest, I added that, based on my memory of reading these kinds of books for grade school reports.)
Often tedious, it did spin gold, of a sort:
the limitations cleaned up some of my worst writing habits, and I produced a lot of good sidebars. (I'll put one of my favorites at the end of this post.)
The work also ironed my dreams out flat.
I was so taken up translating ideas, I didn't generate many fantasies. I couldn't even imagine what else I might want to do.
I realized I needed to quit--or take a break, a sabbatical--and let my brain fluff up again.
That's starting to happen.
Last night I dreamed that an author was showing me his book.
When I opened the attractive, small volume,
it turned into tidy lines of wires,
from which hung small, translucent squares of images (like lit-up slides).
Words were handwritten on the images' opaque frames.
The man told me he'd been depressed for many years and was just starting to create again.
I think he is part of my brain.
Plague in Algeria
Algerian author Albert Camus (1913-1960) set The Plague––his most popular novel––in Oran. Camus describes how the city's citizens begin to notice rats dying. Soon the people begin to die horribly too. The plague had come to Oran.
Rats don’t cause plague, but they carry fleas that do. The bite of fleas infected with the bacteria Yersinia pestis spreads the disease. It starts with fever, chills, aches, and vomiting. In its most common form, bubonic plague, the bacteria invade the body's lymph nodes. There the bacteria reproduce and cause “bubos,” or inflamed nodes. The painful bubos swell and break open. The plague was also called the Black Death in the past, because the bubos are a deep, dark purple. If untreated, plague kills 60 percent of its victims. Antibiotics cure the plague, if it is caught in time.
Camus warned that the disease can lie dormant for years. The Plague’s final sentence states that at any time the plague could “rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die…." In 2003 ten people in Oran got the plague. Nine survived. No new cases have been reported since then.