Snoozing with Socrates

I really have made a good-faith effort to exercise my brain by reading Plato’s Republic this week. I’ve picked it up, carried it around, even gotten through the first half of Book VII. But it is sloooooow going. I don’t know if it’s the drowse-inducing weather, the demands of kids and dog and household, the stress of coping with an out-of-town spouse, or just that it requires so much concentration for me and I need the perfect storm of energy, desire, and free time to make it happen.

True story: I fell asleep while reading The Republic and dreamed of Socrates. I don’t remember anything about our encounter, but I imagine he was irritating me. Professor Roochnik describes Socrates as “a very annoying person,” which I found a bit shocking at first glance. On second glance, this was a guy who would ask you questions and never be satisfied with your answer. He’d just keep pushing it and pushing it and pushing it until you were ready to kick him. Or in the Athenian government’s case, to throw him in jail and give him a nice glass of hemlock.


What I’m doing instead is enjoying Diana Gabaldon’s latest novel in her Outlander series, An Echo in the Bone. I find Gabaldon’s writing hard to describe because she doesn’t really fit any category. Her fiction is both literary and genre, and the genres covered are romance, action/adventure, historical fiction, and sci-fi (both in the discussion of actual science and in the device of time travel). Her novels are long, contain lots of asides in Gaelic, and still manage to be riveting.

The protagonist, Claire Fraser, is a surgeon from the 1970’s who is living in 1777 America with her 18th-century Scottish husband, Jamie, and they are participating in the Revolutionary War while trying to escape back to Scotland. The detail, the scope, and the breadth of the research are delightful to read.

Especially while drinking Scotch. Specifically, a lovely 12-year-old single malt from the Islay region called Caol Ila.

Allow me to explain. See, as some people pair beautiful wines with their food, I like to pair drinks with what I’m reading.

Okay, that’s a lie.

The truth is that I’m susceptible to advertising. Much as watching a KFC commercial makes me want chicken (the Colonel puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes ye crave it fortnightly!), reading Claire Fraser’s descriptions of delicious Scotch and its effects after a long day of [performing surgery/dealing with rebellious colonists/doing other fancy things I can’t do] makes me want Scotch.

I started reading her series about 18 months ago, and on the second time through I started experimenting with Scotches. Quickly I discovered that the only ones I like all come from the Islay region, an area where the peat undertone is dominant. It’s like having a campfire in my mouth.

I’m going to go pour a glass and dig back into An Echo in the Bone. Hope you’re having a lovely Friday night too.

Categories: Brain Workouts

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