Reading for Fun and Education (Oops – The “E” Word

There’s fiction and then there’s fiction. Actually, in terms of the Pretentiousness Rating, there’s all kinds of fiction. There’s Literary Fiction, which always appears with Caps in my head. Big time themes, heavy and ponderous. The kind that moves you just a few steps away from wanting to kill yourself because of the existential hopelessness of it all. You know it’s heavy because the other kind of fiction is Light Fiction, but without the caps. Caps would weigh it down and make it heavier.

I like reading all kinds of fiction, except for the romance genre and the thriller genre. OK, and the horror genre, and most of the fantasy genre. Well, on further consideration, there’s a lot of genres I don’t like. But what I do like is a book from which I can learn something. It is amazing what you can stumble upon even in a mystery, and even in one that isn’t all that great a book in general.

A fine example of this is Carolyn Jourdan’s Out On A Limb – A Smoky Mountain Mystery. It was an OK mystery, not at all noir, and the reader soon comes to realize that nothing bad is really going to happen, and it will have an ‘all’s well that end’s well’ ending. A charming, even delightful book. She wrote two others, both non-fiction: Heart in the Right Place, and Medicine Men, both of which I have also read.

In Out On a Limb, I learned about the mycetozoan group of the amoebozoa, otherwise known to us civilians as slime mold. And yes, the story revolves around slime mold. And climbing extreme tall trees. Really interesting stuff I never knew. But then, how many of us DO know anything about tree climbing? Or about slime molds? Did you know they aren’t quite plants, aren’t quite fungii, aren’t quite animal, but a really spooky combo. I got so interested in slime molds from this book that I have downloaded a bunch of articles on them. And these creatures kind of jar our complacent definition of intelligence and sentient. And they should should star in their own horror movie — oh, wait! They did: The Blob) Here is some slime mold solving a maze.

It’s a-maz-ing. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

The other thing I learned from this book was a bunch of interesting facts about frogs. You know, you can’t say enough about frogs. Did you know they are deaf to all but the resonances of the calls of their own species? They live in a silent world, hoping to hear from somebody they can ….. ummm…. have consensual sex with.

So the mystery plot was fun, but the extraneous info was worth its weight in natural history.


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