The Beekeeper’s Lament by Hannah Nordhaus is awesome. This is one of my favourite parts. Entomologist Justin Schmidt made an index ranking the pain of insects stings, and it’s quite poetic and lovely:
1.0 SWEAT BEE: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
1.2 FIRE ANT: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet and reaching for the light switch.
1.8 BULLHORN ACACIA ANT: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
2.0 BALD-FACED HORNET: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.
2.0 YELLOWJACKET: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W.C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
2X HONEY BEE AND EUROPEAN HORNET: Like a match-head that flips off and burns on your skin.
3.0 RED HARVESTER ANT: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.
3.0 PAPER WASP: Caustic and burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
4.0 TARANTULA HAWK: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.
4.0+ BULLET ANT: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.
When entomologists are also amazing writers, everybody wins.
The Game by Ken Dryden, which chronicles a week in the life of the 1978-1979 Montreal Canadians. They say it’s the greatest hockey book of all time, so I picked it up at the library, and it didn’t disappoint. He’s a great writer, rare for an athlete, especially such a good athlete, and he’s also super introspective and conflicted — which is the really interesting part considering he was the best goalie on the best team in the league and won the Stanley Cup six times in eight years. What is there to be conflicted about when you’re so awesome?
Oh, but he does ennui so well:
From the referendum on Quebec’s independence to the “son of Sam” murders, I find almost everything ‘interesting’ and if pressed for more, I offer explanations. I show that I ‘understand’ how such things happen and I go no further. But as I hold back, giving less of myself, I find that I am losing my enthusiasm for the game. In an athlete, it is not the legs that go first, it is the enthusiasm that drives the legs.
Easy, David Foster Wallace. And here he is, on playing at Maple Leaf Gardens in the late 70s vs. going there as a kid.
It was a period piece – elegant, colonial Toronto – perfectly shamelessly preserved from a time before glitter and spectacle came to the city; and came to sports… I don’t much like the Gardens now. Competing against a child’s memory, that is perhaps inevitable, but it is more than that. The building’s elegant touches are gone, but anachronistic perhaps, even in that other time, most deserved to go. It has been expanded and modernized for contemporary needs – more seats, more private boxes, a bigger press box – but I dislike the haphazard, graceless way it was done. There is a veneer of newness about it now that doesn’t quite fit. It has been stranded in an awkward transition; no longer what it was, it cannot be what it wants to be. Now after nearly fifty years, there is nothing special about it. It is just another rink; just another place to play.
Such a great book. Highly recommend it.