The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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July 14, 2011

Have a nice section!

      Mathilde turned around. She saw a man with hooded eyes looking at her with uncommon gentleness, she registered his shirt, stuffed into one side of his trousers, loose on the other, she saw that his thin face didn't match his hands which seemed to have come from a Rodin statue, and she immediately understood that things would now improve.
      Detaching himself from the wall, Adamsberg pushed the door of his office and beckoned her in.
      'It's true, of course,' said Mathilde, seating herself, 'this isn't the lost-property office. It's been a bad day. And not much better yesterday, or the day before either ... A whole section of the week gone to pot. I hope you've had a better section than I have.'
      'A section?'
      'Well, the way I see it, Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, that's section number one of the week. What happens in section number one is different from what happens in section number two.'
      'And that's Thursday-Friday-Saturday?'
      'Of course. If you pay attention, you'll see there are more serious surprises in section one as a rule -- note that I'm saying as a rule -- and more fun and distractions in section two. It's a question of rhythm. It never switches over like the parking in the street, where you have to park one side one week and the other the next. Why do they do that, anyway?  To give the street a rest? Let it lie fallow? No idea. Anyway, sections of the week don't change. First section:  you're alert, you believe all sorts of stuff, you get things done. It's a miracle of human activity. Second section:  you don't find anything you're looking for, you learn nothing new, it's pretty much a waste of time. In the second section there's a lot of this and that, and you drink quite a bit, whereas the first section is more important, obviously.  In practice, a section number two can't go far wrong, because it doesn't really matter, so to speak. But when a section number one goes haywire, like this week, it's really horrible. And another thing:  the special today in the cafe was beef and lentils. Beef and lentils is a dish that really depresses me to the point of despair. Right at the end of a section one. Just no luck at all, a wretched plate of lentils.'
      'What about Sundays?'
      'Oh, Sundays, that's section three. Just that one day takes up a whole section -- see how important that is? And section three is the pits. If you get beef and lentils combined with a section three, you might as well go hang yourself.'
     'Where were we?' asked Adamsberg, having the sudden not unpleasant impression that his thoughts could wander even further talking to this woman that when talking to himself.
      'We hadn't got anywhere.'
      'Right, OK, we've got nowhere.'
      It's coming back to me,' said Mathilde. 'Since my section one was practically a write-off, as I was passing your police station I thought I might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, so I'd give it a go. But you see, it doesn't work -- trying to rescue a section one might be tempting, but it gets you nowhere. What about you, anyway?'
      'Oh, it's not been a bad week so far,' Adamsberg admitted.

from The Chalk Circle Man, by Fred Vargas

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