I started re-reading Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China that Never Was by Barry Hughart. It has been one of my favorite books for years and was probably my first exposure to fantasy in a non-European setting. I have re-read it several times. That said, this book was written in 1985 so it does have some aspects that might be considered problematic. It also does read like a real (albeit fantastic) history - it is very violent, occasionally disturbing, sometimes uplifting and overall epic in its sweep.
It starts ...
I shall clasp my hands together and bow to the corners of the world.
My surname is Lu and my personal name is Yu, but I am not to be confused with the eminent author of The Classic of Tea. My family is quite undistinguished, and since I am the tenth of my father's sons and rather strong I am usually referred to as Number Ten Ox. My father died when I was eight. A year later my mother followed him to the Yellow Springs Beneath the Earth, and since then I have lived with Uncle Nung and Auntie Hua in the village of Ku-fu in the valley of Cho. We take great pride in our landmarks. Until recently we also took great pride in two gentlemen who were such perfect specimens that people used to come from miles around just to stare at them, so perhaps I should begin a description of my village with a couple of classics.
|The Cowherd and Weaver Girl - a Chinese folktale that was an inspiration for Bridge of Birds|
To the rocket scientist, you are a problem. You are the most irritating piece of machinery he or she will ever have to deal with. You and your fluctuating metabolism, your puny memory, your frame that comes in a million different configurations. You are unpredictable. You're inconstant. You take weeks to fix. The engineer must worry about the water and oxygen and food you'll need in space, about how much fuel it will take to launch your shrimp cocktail and irradiated beef tacos.
For The Friday 56 hosted at Freda's Voice here is something from page 56 of Bridge of Birds
I slid down and pulled the covers over my head, and did not emerge until I heard the door open and a familiar voice said, "What a stroke of luck! Your engagement is a godsend - incidentally, how did you like the winsome damsel who recently ruled China?"
I jumped up and embraced him. "Master Li," I sobbed, "if my fiancée resembles her grandmother in any way, I can never go through with this!" A happy thought suddenly occurred to me. "But if we're engaged, I won't even see her until the wedding."
"Normally that would be the case, but an exception has been made because you've already seen almost all of her," he said.
Page 56 of Packing for Mars offers us ...
"You want us to sing?" Romanenko laughs his grainy laugh. "We would need fifty grams of whiskey!" I apologized for not having brought any.
"I have it," Laveikin says. "In my office."
It's 11A.M. But I am not Jerry Linenger.
Laveikin leads us through the museum, narrating as he walks. Here are the giants of Soviet rocketry, one per glass display case. Earlier today, I visited a Moscow natural history museum, and sections of it were arranged in this way – not by taxonomy or ecological niche, but by guy: field notebooks from expeditions, some prized specimens, honors from the tsar. The rocket engineers are represented largely by accessories: pens and wristwatches, eyeglasses and flasks.
|Laveikin (with guitar) and Romanenko aboard Mir.|