Does not help that most of the things I would write about here want to be great clonking essays. I am sure they will be fun great clonking essays when I can get to them, but.
Oh, this is a small neat thing that happened about which I am not sure anyone will care but me, but I remain entertained--
-- so the strangest childrens' book I know is Terry Jones's Nicobobinus (yes, the Terry Jones from Monty Python), which begins perfectly ordinarily with Nicobobinus and his friend Rosie wanting to go look for dragons and then does some things I cannot even describe as a left turn at Albuquerque but more a sprightly leap into the WHAT. It has some prose tics I now find annoying, and the plot may well have been decided via repeated tossings of a Boggle set, but for sheer peculiarity of imagination I have never run into anything like it and I love it to pieces. It is one of the books I grew up on which makes it difficult for other books to surprise me. And it has held up as I have gotten older.
Now, for most of my life I have assumed that as soon as the protagonists leave their home-town, fifteenth-century Venice, they sail straight off the map and into the Land of What Is This I Don't Even, because they are fairly promptly captured by pirate monks, which seems unlikely. I recall, as a child, wanting to be sure about this, and going to an atlas and checking and seeing that the names in the relevant region were not remotely similar.
But last week I was reading a history of the Upper Adriatic, the way you do, and I realized that apparently my childhood error was in not consulting a fifteenth-century map, because I was reading an anecdote, with all the right place names, about the way that the clergymen of a particular town in what is now Croatia were considered rather scandalous because they used to bless the pirates which were that town's main source of revenue, and sometimes even accompany them on raids. And then I read about the history of piracy in the region, and how the Venetians used to conquer bits of it to try to deal with the pirates, only to find that all the money had gone into the churches, where it was much more difficult to extricate. And from that, it is a small leap to pirate monks, and I could see where Terry Jones got it.
I cannot recall the last time I had a moment of quite so much existential vertigo. There is basically nothing weirder than finding out that a completely made-up thing from one of your childhood books, a thing which you already checked up on, is pretty much true. It makes reality itself stranger when this happens. I had already learned, in college, that one should never underestimate the research capacities of Monty Python-- they did the only even vaguely accurate Arthurian movie, after all, and bits of it are from really obscure sources-- but this came out of left field.
Been thinking to myself every so often 'Pirate monks. Huh,' and smiling slightly. And really that is most of what has been going on around here.
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