I usually feel bad leaving a bookstore after a lot of browsing without buying something. So, last time went to a Russian bookstore looking for Zemfira cds, but found no new ones. Fulfilling my obligation to the bookseller I bought a book by Tatiana Tolstaya, one of the few missing from my library. It was one of those – a cover tastefully designed by Tema Lebedev, and inside a mixture of the good short stories from “On The Golden Porch” bitter recent editorials/rants.
I was reading this book on the train this morning, and one of the new “stories” wasn’t even a story – it was an introduction to another writer’s book. Scraping the bottom of the barrel, I thought, but continued reading. I was rewarded as there was one interesting tidbit there – a new-agey psychological experiment .
Basically it goes like this: you close your eyes and try to imagine yourself going down stairs until you see a dark forest. In the forest you see a river which you need to cross to get to a cave. You look inside the cave and find an object. That object symbolizes something or other about you. Tatiana Tolstaya described finding a bone and the author for whose book she wrote the introduction found a lump of coal.
No time like the present, no place like the stainless steel worm. I closed my eyes and imagined myself quickly going down a dark spiral staircase, then arriving at a dark underground forest. Turning around, away from the forest, I found a river and a boat waiting for me. The boat deposited me straight at the mouth of the cave. The object that I found there first was an adjustable wrench. Right under it was a set of lineman’s pliers.
And now for a dose of useless trivia. It’s interesting to note that I was incorrectly thinking of the wrench in question as of “monkey wrench”. A monkey wrench is an older type not used much, and is called so after it’s inventor, “Charles Moncky, [...] (who) sold his patent for $2,000, and invested the money in a house in Williamsburg, Kings County, N.Y., where he afterward lived.” A wise investment I might add – houses in that Brooklyn neighborhood are way out of reach these days.
The wrench that I was thinking of is properly known as a “crescent wrench” or a “bulldog wrench”. In Russia I remember it being referred to as “French wrench”.
I guess my choice of symbols is pretty clear – they are engineering tools. Good for plumbing and electrical work – and what’s closer to that than programming?
I don’t know about coal, but the Tolstaya’s bone is pretty much clear to me. She has a bone to pick. A rather nasty essay that she wrote about America’s glorification of Mickey Mouse made it pretty clear to me. She drove a point that most Americans think of Mickey Mouse as of an absolute good. I guess she never looked him up in a dictionary.