Saturday, January 14, 2006

Today's haul

Because my dear sweet family permitted me to put my life on hold "just until I finish this book," I've completed and am now dying to discuss Seven Types of Ambiguity. Diana? MFS? John? Sandra? I am soooo glad I didn't let my initial feelings on this one prevent me from continuing.

I made quick runs to the public library (to return items) and the used bookstore (to, uh, pet Hoppy, the sweetest softest bunny ever) this afternoon, but still managed to gather up an armful of goodies in both places.

From the bookstore:

Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard

A weasel is wild. Who knows what he thinks? He sleeps in his underground den, his tail draped over his nose. Sometimes he lives in his den for two days without leaving. Outside, he stalks rabbits, mice, muskrats, and birds, kiling more bodies than he can eat warm, and often dragging the carcasses home. Obedient to instinct, he bites his prey at the neck, either splitting the jugular vein at the throat or crunching the brain at the base of the skull, and he does not let go. One naturalist refused to kill a weasel who was socketed into his hand deeply as a rattlesnake. The man could in no way pry the tiny weasel off, and he had to walk half a mile to water, the weasel dangling from his palm, and soak him off like a stubborn label.

Beyond the Hundredth Meridian by Wallace Stegner

On July 4, 1868, about the time when Henry Adams was turning back toward New York to face a new and sharply altered America after ten year of study and diplomacy in the service of the old, two men who would have been worth his attention as a historian were going about their business on the western edge of the Great Plains.

Celebration by Mary Lee Settle

On April Fools' Day, 1969, a woman woke at daybreak from a pitch of familiar dreams released by her first night without pain or drugs. She stumbled, yawning, into one of those kitchen mornings when the sun was just touching a supermarket tomato that she had put on the windowsill to be warmed into some taste. A cucumber and an eggplant lay beside it. On the butcher-block table, the apples in the ceramic bowl from Malakastan were still dim in dawn shadow.

Hyperspace by Michio Kaku

Two incidents from my childhood greatly enriched my understanding of the world and sent me on course to become a theoretical physicist.

An Imaginary Life by David Malouf

It is the desolateness of this place that day after day fills my mind with its perspectives. A line of cliffs, oblique against the sky, and the sea leaden beyond. To the west and south, mountains, heaped under cloud. To the north, beyond the marshy river mouth, empty grasslands, rolling level to the pole.

And from the library:

The Love Artist by Jane Alison

It was a very hot day in June when Ovid first saw Xenia, nude and blue, on the farthest coast of the Black Sea, in the corner of the maps where sea monster coiled and the river Ocean bit its own tail around the world; where he had collapsed upon a fallen tree trunk, his hair thick with salt and his sandals full of needles, exhausted from his journey.

Shadowplay by Clare Asquith

On 15 November 1539, a procession wound its way up Glastonbury Tor, a steep conical hill overlooking the peatlands of Somerset in the south-west of England. The journey over the windy ridges was arduous, for the crowd struggled to drag with them three men tied to sledge-like wooden frames. On the top of the hill stood a newly constructed gallows; near it was a fire, knives and a cauldron.

Stevenson Under the Palm Trees by Alberto Manguel

Robert Louis Stevenson left the house and walked the long trek down to the beach just as the day was setting. From the verandah the sea was hidden by the trees, six hundred feet below, filling the end of two vales of forest. To enjoy the last plunge of the sun before the clear darkness set in, the best observation-post was among the mangrove roots, in spite (he said bravely to himself) of the mosquitoes and the sand-flies. He did not immediately notice the figure because it appeared to be merely one more crouching shadow among the shadows, but then it turned and seemed for a moment to be watching him. The man was wering a broadrimmed hat not unlike Stevenson's own, and, even though he could see that the skin was white, he could not make out the man's features.

Flint's Gift by Richard S. Wheeler

A white-clad lady was coming. Sam Flint steered Grant and Sherman, his big mules, off the two-rut road and halted them. He would let the approaching spring wagon by.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosopical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

And finally, first paragraph much abbreviated due to its length and my migraine (cold front moving in, folks):

The Virginian by Owen Wister

Some notable sight was drawing the passengers, both men and woman, to the window; and therefore I rose and crossed the car to see what it was. I saw near the track an enclosure, and round it some laughing men, and inside it some whirling dust, and amid the dust some horses, plunging, huddling, and dodging. They were cow ponies in a corral, and one of them would not be caught, no matter who threw the rope. We had plenty of time to watch this sport, for our train had stopped that the engine might take water at the tank before it pulled us up beside the station platform of Medicine Bow. We were also six hours late, and starving for entertainment.

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As a reader I cherish the fantasy of one day stopping acquiring books, of subsisting only on what is already stashed away in the crammed lar...