East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Keep it safe, and keep on reading

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The-Dinosaur-Project-9780921912460I’m currently reading Wayne Grady’s The Dinosaur Project, about the joint Canada-China dinosaur-digging expedition in the Gobi Desert, in 1985.
Great stuff, an excellent account of science, research and adventure.
Good science writing.

And the sort of book that rises a few eyebrows when somebody asks you “And what are you reading?”
The point being, why should anyone read such stuff.

I get off the hook easily – I’m a paleontologist, so it’s work-related.
But I was discussing last night with a friend about this thing – that anything out of the ordinary gets you weird looks.

An increasing number of people will react with a “What for?” when you tell them you’re reading something completely reasonable like a tourist guide to the Moon, a book about squids and octopi, a collection of Elizabethan recipes or a learned essay about the Wild Hunt.
They fail to understand the fact that maybe you’re just curious, intrigued by the subject, looking for something different.
It’s a bit as if, by reading something that catches your fancy, you were somehow rude towards them.

One cashes in a lot of snubs.
A lot of “if I were you…”

So here’s the solution – keep a nice and simple (and possibly well-known) mystery novel at hand.
Good novels are fine.
Agatha Christie is a winner.
James Ellroy is also good, or Michael Connelly.
The Hannibal books by Thomas Harris are also fine.
And when asked about what’s it you’re reading, go with that.
It’s ok, it’s safe, it’s normal.
They’ll make some idle talk, they’ll tell you how much they loved – or hated – that book or another one by the same author, or maybe the movie, and then they’ll move on.
So you’ll be able to go back to that book about Japanese cross-dressing stage shows.

It does not take much to make our neighbours happy – and our lives quieter.

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Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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