Thursday, June 30, 2005

A year ago this week we were in Berlin, and since R. flies back to Germany this evening to spend a week with her former host family and friends before the honors program starts in Vienna, I'm going to post several pictures from our trip over the next several days. The Kaiser-Wilhelm was the first landmark R. took us to see after the rest of us arrived from the States.
In the Looking-glass world of the White Queen the inhabitants lived their lives backward, and memory worked both ways. Memories of the future intruded into the present. The Queen--she practiced believing in impossible things--screamed before the brooch pricked her finger; the bleeding came later, with no screams, as the pain had already been experienced. In a similar looking-glass reversal, Alice felt--it was what Dr. Wolcott Ascharm Webster made her feel--that her past lay before her, and not behind her. All that would happen, all that she would become, was shaped by what had already been, and what had already been could not be changed. She would travel through her life, to find her past moving backward toward her from the future, and she would relive all that had already happened.

--Peter Rushforth, Pinkerton's Sister

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Today's cookie

You have an ability to sense and know higher truth.

Audio books

I've never been a big fan of audiobooks for myself, since I'm prone to zoning out while supposedly listening, but I decided I'd give them a chance since I'm in dire need of some consistent time spent on the treadmill. C. told me Sunday that Audible was giving away listening devices with new memberships and I signed up yesterday.

I chose Iris Murdoch's Jackson's Dilemma and Patrick O'Brian's Treason's Harbour for my first selections. Will I be able to walk fast while listening to slow-moving prose? Guess I'll be finding out.

I selected classics, fiction, drama and poetry as my primary interests, so I was a little surprised at Audible's first recommended batch of titles for me: Sue Miller's Lost in the Forest; LaHaye and Jenkins' Left Behind: The Kids, vol. 4; and Edgar Wallace's The Four Just Men.

The only one in that list I'd be remotely interested in is the Miller. I'm assuming the Edgar Wallace must be linked to the O'Brian selection--I had never heard of him before Ed the horse's recommendations--but at least it makes a bit of sense. I can't imagine ever being desperate enough for reading material that I'd resort to anything in the Left Behind series.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I received this lovely hand-bound journal from Iliana over the weekend, and now that we finally have a functional card reader again, I can post a picture. The end papers are my favorite shade of lavender. Thanks so much, Iliana! It's a fine thing to have blogging buddies who possess both generosity and wonderful talents such as yours.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The North Carolina contingent of Readerville--and Katharine Weber, who flew in-- met for lunch in Chapel Hill today. I drove down with LA, and we were able to work in a brief visit to McIntyre's in Fearrington Village, where I happily encouraged LA to buy books. It was the least I could do since she gave me an ARC of John Crowley's Lord Byron's Novel.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Is this enough proof that Claudius is really a space alien?

Don't forget to check out The Ark on Fridays and the Carnival of the Cats on Sundays for a round up of the best and latest pet blogging photos.

Friday, June 24, 2005

A quick meme

Best I can tell, the person who started the following meme did it in retaliation of all the "snobby," "elitist" book memes he'd seen. So, of course, it's seemed ironic to see all the classics people probably read in high school or freshman year of college on their lists. I'll try to keep mine lowbrow.

List five books you liked well enough as a teen to read again as an adult.

1. My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
2. Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! by M.E. Kerr
3. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid by William Goldman
4. Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
5. Couples by John Updike (mainly because I didn't have a clue what was going on the first time)

And a second list I'm tacking on:

List five books or authors you'll never read unless someone pays you at least a thousand dollars cash in advance to do so and even then you might be tempted not to do it

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (that'll be $1,000 per volume, thankyouverymuch)
2. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (I don't care that it was your book club's biggest hit)
3. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce (because I'm not smart enough)
4. & 5. Ayn Rand & L. Ron Hubbard (When you're cheating to get your favorite to the top of the Modern Library list, please don't make it so bloody obvious).

Friday morning Ezra blogging

She looks rather scruffy in this one. All that egg laying a few months back put her behind in molting.

Don't forget to check out The Ark on Fridays and the Carnival of the Cats on Sundays for a round up of the best and latest pet blogging photos.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Tangents and non sequiturs

Two of my favorite people--Jon Stewart and Dwight Yoakam--riff off one another in that way they do.

A few links

Orham Pamuk wins the 2005 German Book Trade Peace Prize for his literary work in which "Europe and Islamic Turkey find a place for one another."

Nabokovilia is a haphazard collection of quotes by writers who have snuck references to Nabokov and things Nabokovian into their work.

The Icarus Girl was published this week. The 20-year-old author, Helen Oyeyemi, interviewed in the NYTimes, says her main character "represents this kind of new-breed kid, the immigrant diasporic kid of any race who is painfully conscious of a need for some name that she can call herself with some authority."

And remember when John Ashcroft mocked librarians? Remember how he claimed the Patriot Act had never been used by the FBI to obtain records from libraries and accused librarians and critics of Section 215 of "hysteria" and "distortion"?

Did you believe him?

"Law enforcement officials have made at least 200 formal and informal inquiries to libraries for information on reading material and other internal matters since October 2001, according to a new study that adds grist to the growing debate in Congress over the government's counterterrorism powers." (NYTimes)

The study, released Monday by the American Library Association, finds that "public anxiety and librarian concern over law enforcement activity in libraries is justified."

"We now know with certainty that law enforcement is visiting libraries and asking for information on library patrons. We must ensure that the proper oversight is in place to ensure that the government doesn't conduct 'fishing expeditions' at America's libraries," says Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the ALA Washington Office.

The study was funded in part by the group that announced the horrifying revelation that one-third of the high schoolers in the United States believe the First Amendment goes "too far."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

She herself was a victim of that lust for books which rages in the breast like a demon, and which cannot be stilled save by the frequent and plentiful acquisition of books. This passion is more common, and more powerful, than most people suppose. Book lovers are thought by unbookish people to be gentle and unworldly, and perhaps a few of them are so. But there are others who will lie and scheme and steal to get books as wildly and unconscionably as the dope-taker in pursuit of his drug. They may not want the books to read immediately, or at all; they want them to possess, to range on their shelves, to have at command. They want books as a Turk is thought to want concubines -- not to be hastily deflowered, but to be kept at their master's call, and enjoyed more often in thought than in reality.

--Robertson Davies, Tempest Tost

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A depiction of the moment

Because she could not read, Annie had a particular fondness for pictures of people reading, and sought them out. . . . Because she could not write, Annie had left the picture to speak for her. The young woman in the blue smock was facing to the left, standing at a window, though the window was not depicted. It was something that you knew was there, but could not see. The whole picture had a sense of things that were not there, things just out of reach, things that yet were central to its meaning. The light flooded her face, and the front of her body, as she stood-utterly absorbed-her head bent slightly forward as she read the letter that she held with both hands, her arms resting against her. She was gripping it tightly, her knuckles clenched. Her mouth was slightly open. It was a depiction of the moment at which a reader or viewer melted into the text, into the play or opera, into the painting, the moment at which breathing halted, time ceased to exist, and Alice found her own mouth drooping open, her breathing slowing, as if it were she who was reading the words in the letter, she was who the woman in blue. The young woman's head and shoulders were in profile against a large map that hung on the white wall like a tapestry behind her, the lines and markings of a place that had been exhaustively explored, its frontiers delineated, all details named, a place that had lost its mystery. The young woman herself was mystery entire; nothing was known about her, and it was what the viewer was that made him (or her, or her) see what was seen in that captured moment.

--Peter Rushforth, Pinkerton's Sister

Monday, June 20, 2005

No one was as close to her as words on a page. She hugged the books to her, lover-like, and heard no sound but what those words said. She preferred to read in a room by herself, but if she read when other people were in the room--she drew nearer to her book to exclude them--she was always conscious that they did not know the words she read, could not hear what she was hearing, as if a voice was whispering inside her telling her something that only she should know.

--Peter Rushforth, Pinkerton's Sister

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Shakespeare also drank beer

This morning L. got snarky about In the Stacks: Short Stories About Libraries and Librarians. He pretty much dared me to find a story that wouldn't prove to be a narcotic.

I'd only read the Berriault so far, and as much as I liked it, didn't feel that he would, so I scanned the contents looking for something that I thought would appeal. I touted Bradbury, Borges, Munro, then claimed the next story I'd read from the collection would be based on this title alone: "Ed Has His Mind Improved."

L. started reading that particular story, then started talking about how the main character had a horse that could talk. Is Ed the main character or the horse, I asked. The horse, he told me. The owner is named Mr. Pope.

Of course I remembered that Mr. Ed was owned by Wilbur Post, so I wondered if "Ed Has His Mind Improved" was some sort of spoofy quasi-Mr. Ed fan fic (or if L. was making the entire thing up because the idea of interesting librarian stories was just too ridiculous for him) and I snatched the book as soon as I could to have a look. Turned out Walter R. Brooks, of Freddy the Pig fame, wrote 26 stories about a talking horse named Ed and his owner Wilbur Pope. Ed was the inspiration behind the 1960s TV series, which (of course) I loved since I came out of the womb already a horse lover.

Michael Cart, editor of In the Stacks, is also Brooks' biographer. Best I can tell, the Ed stories remain uncollected, but you can bet that I will buy a book of talking horse stories if it ever becomes available:

Ed had a politically incorrect affection for alcohol. After a few of the Ed
stories were published in The Saturday Evening Post, the editor told
Brooks "Get Ed off the sauce or get him out of the pages of the Post!"
Ed was unwilling to surrender his booze, so the stories then began appearing in Argosy. (Virginia Herrmann)

In "Ed Has His Mind Improved" Ed learns to read and develops a preference for Edgar Wallace. He resists Wilbur's efforts to improve his mind: "Listen Wilbur said Ed I'm a horse. What good is an improved mind in a stable? Get me a good Western to read tonight will you?'

Ed reluctantly becomes involved in teetotaler librarian Miss Sigsbee's efforts to raise funding for the library. He resorts to extortion in the process, but in a way that assures that Miss Sigsbee's position remains secure:

Pooh! said Ed. They won't either of them dare say a word about this. No
said Mr. Pope they can hardly go around complaining that they were insulted by a
horse. Vulgar but effective--that's Ed. Yeah said Ed and the same thing could be
said of Shakespeare. Dear me said Miss Sigsbee I never thought of it that way.
But it's true. Just the same said Ed that fifteeen-hundred smackers will buy a
lot of Edgar Wallace. O wait a minute lady he said I know I know. But part of it
you're going to get Edgar Wallace with aren't you? If you want to make the world
better you got to stop trying to improve people's minds and start improving
their dispositions. Speaking of which Wilbur how about a can of beer? O excuse
me ma'am for mentioning it. Not at all said Miss Sigsbee archly. After all
Shakespeare also drank beer.

Wonder if there are any stories behind Francis the Talking Mule?

Friday, June 17, 2005

I've reached the point in Dracula where it's reminding me of those horrible monthly boy scouts ceremonies we used to attend, where a handful of troop leaders would stand at the front of the sanctuary and do nothing but gush once again of their deep and everlasting love and devotion and respect and trust for one another while I sat there thinking that it would be nice if someone actually said something about the boys for a change, instead of all the swell moments the adults had shared off in a side room during the troop meetings.

Which is to say I'm tired of Stoker's characters assuring one another of how much they respect and love one another. Talk about vampires for a change, would you already?

Thursday, June 16, 2005


In the past week I've been accused not once, but twice, of running a Claudie-centric blog. "Where's Ginger, where are the birds, where's the other cat? Why are they being snubbed?"

I have resolved to try harder to take better photos of the less photogentically-inclined members of the household.

This is Nicholson. She's been snubbed in the past because A) her eyes turn into demon's eyes whenever a camera is pointed in her direction (I've yet to encounter a "redeye" fix that works where she's concerned) and B) she's been so focused on snubbing R. that she's deserved a little snubbing of her own.

See, she used to be exclusively R.'s cat. They were BFFs. R. carried her around inside the front of her overalls and called her her "joey" or in her arms with Nicholson's legs poker- straight in front of her and called it flying. This was great fun for the both of them. Nicholson helped R. with her homework and slept with her and didn't seem to mind the loud music that gave everyone else a headache except for the times when R. couldn't hear her crying for entry outside the door and we'd have to yell "LET NICHOLSON IN. YOU"RE BREAKING HER HEART" and R. would open the door a crack and Nicholson would scoot in. They were teenagers together and life was good.

Then R. went to Germany for a year. Nicholson had to branch out. She became the family cat. (She doesn't allow people outside the family to see her. This is the number one rule to live by if you're Nicholson.) S. became her best buddy. Life was still good.

R. came home from Germany. Nicholson didn't run and hide the way she would with a non-family member, so we knew she still remembered her, but she wouldn't have anything to do with her, either. It took a week before she crawled into R.'s lap for petting.

A month later R. went off to college. This second leaving was too much for Nicholson to forgive and she's been blatantly snubbing R. ever since. Evidently, she cannot have a relationship with anyone who merely comes home on an occasional weekend and at Christmas. Snub, snub, snub. Don't even think about carrying me or petting me or cuddling me in your lap, you-you-you deserter.

When R. came home last month at the end of exams she and I laid down on opposite sides of Nicholson while she was napping under the covers. We pulled back the covers, petted her, and talked to her. Nicholson loved all the loving until she happened to turn her head and see R. behind her. She gave her the meanest look a cat can possibly give and left in a huff.

Life is bad when your BFF gives you the cold shoulder.

I'm sorry to say that for the past month there's been a contest of wills to see who could out-snub the other. R. has seemed much more demoralized by the conflict than Nicholson has. She has also resorted to attempts to buy Nicholson's love by opening cans of Fancy Feast for her and feeding her white meat chicken, but Nicholson has refused to be bought.

Fortunately, some progress was made only yesterday. R. went outside to lie in the sun and Nicholson, who generally goes out only to eat grass which she can then barf up in some inconvenient spot inside the house, scooted out the door as well. Perhaps the hot sun warmed her heart; in the evening Nicholson allowed R. to sit beside her on the loveseat and pet her for a bit. It was quite gratifying to see.

So, life with Nicholson is getting better, but R. leaves again at the end of the month and Nicholson is sure to resent it. I have a good idea what's going to happen once she returns in August.

One step forward and two steps back
Nobody gets too far like that.

Just the same old song and dance in Snub City.


Don't forget to check out The Ark on Fridays and the Carnival of the Cats on Sundays for a round up of the best and latest pet blogging photos.

Some people always wait for the paperback

What's it like, I wonder, to have an otherwise brilliant career in
publishing marred by the fact that I, Mark Bazer, refuse to hand over an Andrew
Jackson and an Abraham Lincoln for your precious book, or to pay for it by
check, credit card or money order?

Hee, hee, hee. Mark Bazer's response to publisher Stephen Rubin's announcement that The Da Vinci Code will not be released in paperback any time soon.
This week R.'s been reading Slavenka Drakulic's How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed. I don't think she intends to take it with her when she leaves for Croatia--it isn't on her syllabus-- so I may get a chance to read it later this summer.
A list of books for the Billy Joel- lovin' booklovers among us, which definitely includes but isn't limited to Stacy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House voted Wednesday to block the FBI and the Justice Department from using the anti-terror Patriot Act to search library and book store records, responding to complaints about potential invasion of privacy of innocent readers.

Despite a veto threat from President Bush, lawmakers voted 238-187 to block the part of the anti-terrorism law that allows the government to investigate the reading habits of terror suspects.

The vote reversed a narrow loss last year by lawmakers complaining about threats to privacy rights. They narrowed the proposal this year to permit the government to continue to seek out records of Internet use at libraries. (New York Times)

For final votes results, go here.
Once again, I have veered from my current monthly reading list. I've started Dracula, because it seems rather silly to be lusting after the latest vampire novel, The Historian, if I've never bothered with Bram Stoker's. Besides, both R. and S. have read it; can't have the offspring getting too far ahead of me. I'm slightly past the account of the ship voyage that brought the Count to England, and I'm just having a grand old time.

I finished A. L. Kennedy's Everything You Need over the weekend. It was too long, and it exposed me to things I'd rather not have encountered (alcohol enemas, anyone?), but man, do I ever love her style and the way she gets inside her characters. I'll definitely be reading Paradise, but only after I've had time to recover sufficiently from this one.

Finished my Mother's Day present, Rick Bass's The Diezmo, on Monday. The war in Iraq definitely colored the first chapter, but I didn't notice any obvious influence in the rest of the novel. This is another one where the writing won me over more than the actual storyline; the reviews have compared it to both Blood Meridian (I bailed out of that one after 100 pages--evidently Harold Bloom did as well the first time he attempted McCarthy) and The Red Badge of Courage (of which I remember nothing but that I didn't like it). I've Bass' Caribou Rising checked out from the library right now; I've not read anything by him the last few years and I feel the need to catch back up.

R. and I watched The House of Mirth when I was halfway through The Age of Innocence. Neither of us were much taken with it; it was hard for R. to follow since she's not read the book and I kept thinking too much of the book had been left out or compressed. I need to reread, because at the moment I couldn't honestly say which book is my favorite. Wharton is just incredibly fine.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

E-mail received from ReaderPrivacy.Org

Dear Reader Privacy supporters,

As early as late today or tomorrow, Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is expected to introduce in the U.S. House of Representatives an amendment to the House Commerce, Justice, State (CJS) Appropriations Bill to cut off funds for bookstore and library searches under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. The amendment to the CJS Appropriations Bill, which funds the Justice Department, is co-sponsored by two Republicans--Rep. Butch Otter (ID) and Rep. Ron Paul (TX)--and two Democrats--Rep. Jerry Nadler (NY) and Rep. Tom Udall (NM).

"Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act is part of a dangerous erosion of our constitutional rights that, little by little, is making us a less free nation," said Congressman Sanders. "American citizens across the political spectrum have made it very clear that they do not want the government monitoring their reading habits when they walk into a library or bookstore. We can protect our nation from terrorism without letting Uncle Sam read over our collective shoulders."

With the crucial vote appearing imminent, the Campaign for Reader Privacy urges you to ask your representative to support the Sanders-Otter-Conyers-Paul-Nadler-Udall Freedom to Read Amendment.

There's no time to lose: If you haven't done so yet, please e-mail, fax, or call your representative as soon as possible and tell him or her that you want him or her to vote YES on the Freedom to Read Amendment.

Section 215 amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to vastly expand the power of the FBI to secretly search the bookstore, library, medical, and other personal records of anyone it believes may have information relevant to a foreign intelligence investigation, including people who are not suspected of committing a crime.

The Campaign for Reader Privacy strongly recommends that you make calls to your representatives' Washington and district offices. Contact information is available through the House of Representatives web site.
When my bottom toolbar fills with minimized pages it's time for another post of links.

First, via Bookish, Livio De Marchi's house made of books. We saw some of the wooden items within the house--the clothing in the amoire-- in a storefront in Amsterdam last summer.

Edward Rothstein explains the political and social reality behind the authorial allusions in Don Quixote--why it would have been impossible for an original Arabic version of the novel to have ever existed in Spain at the time Cervantes was writing. (New York Times)

Those who don't enjoy the occasional ramble through Bartlett's
may quickly lose patience with Queen Loana,
but bookworms will get an added kick out of puzzling out the dozens of literary
allusions. Even more than Eco's The Name of the Rose, his new
novel 'is a tale of books.' It's probably illegal to write a book about memory
without referencing Marcel Proust and his crumbly cookie, but Eco is just as
erudite about Mandrake the Magician.

Yvonne Zipp whets my appetite with her review of Eco's latest.

And there are three reviews of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian to turn to: Colleen Mondoor at Bookslut loves it; Janet Maslin horrifyingly reveals a preference for Dan Brown's skill at writing suspense; and Jon Fasman says there's ultimately too little danger at the heart of the novel . Funny, I was reading the reviews of Dracula at Amazon last night, and someone made the same complaint of it.

And Michael Cunningham's Specimen Days still continues to get tepid reviews, the latest by Michiko Kakutani.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Orchids and bromeliads

Despite our despair over failing to be released, the forced march to Perote felt like freedom compared to the fortress at Molino del Rey. We left the valley floor and went up into the mountains, which during the rainy season were usually swathed in clouds. We smelled the fresh sweet scent of fir and pine and saw tropical ferns and the late-season bloomings of tens of thousands of orchids. There were bromeliads--Charles McLaughlin had read about them, and told us about them excitedly--plants with upturned spiny leaves that formed cups and goblets holding so much rain water that sometimes they supported little populations of minnows, which in turn fed on the mosquito larvae living in those same cupped flower goblets. Each blossom was its own tiny world, with the world's struggles within, and as McLauglin pointed them out, nearly all two hundred of us, Mexicans and Texans alike, crowded around him to listen and to take turns peering into the flower.

Transfixed, we each crouched beside it, staring into its shallow waters as if into a wishing well, watching the translucent little fish hanging suspended in their horizontal positions, finning steadily, and the wriggling little commas of wiggletails on the surface. Columns of sunlight came down through the treetops and illuminated the depths of the tiny world into which we were staring like giants.

--Rick Bass, The Diezmo

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Books I'm Not Buying

I'm not buying books right now because I don't have the money to buy books right now, but if I did, these are the books I'd be buying in a heartbeat:

Pinkerton's Sister by Peter Rushforth

Literature and the Gods by Roberto Calasso

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham

Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Luana by Umberto Eco

The public library doesn't have the Calasso or the Pamuk, although it probably will order the Pamuk. I could get on the extensive waiting lists for the Kostova, Cunningham and Eco or bide my time until they show up at the university library, and I can probably have the Rushforth by the end of next week if I go into the library today and pay my fines, thereby getting my privileges restored.

Sigh. Guess I'll go pay my fines. That's the cheapest solution.

Friday, June 10, 2005

He hugged tighter, self against self, jolted again by the shock of his own nature, the reflex that would always kick him into writing the very things he would like to leave lie, into staring where he shouldn't even look, because that was where the life was. There was never a genuine choice involved, never the chance to skim out the hurt and leave the joy, to edit his commitment--there was only his mindless, nerveless appetite, the knife-point compulsion to make all of everything speak, no matter what--to always try for that. If it would make for a better sentence, he knew, he'd consent to anything.

--A.L. Kennedy, Everything You Need
Naked Without Books' Bybee has referred to me, more or less, as a kickass bookworm. I have never felt so honored in all my life.

May I just say: it takes one to know one.

Check her out. She's funny as all get out, reads fantastic books, and is a Johnny Cash fan.

Well, if you really want my opinion. . .

Remember to check out The Ark on Fridays and the Carnival of the Cats on Sundays for a round up of the best and latest pet blogging photos.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

I love this summation of As I Lay Dying in the Christian Science Monitor's article on Oprah's book club:

A husband and children go through fire and flood to honor a woman's last
request to be buried with her kin. Sounds touching, no? Well, the husband, who
may be the most selfish man in Mississippi and is certainly the laziest, wants
to get himself a new set of teeth. The daughter is pregnant and hoping to get an
abortion in town. The middle son is so jealous of one of his brothers that he
missed saying goodbye to his mother just to ensure that the favorite not be
there when she died. Oh, and that last request was something in the nature of
payback for 30 years of misery and backbreaking poverty. Meet the Bundrens. Or
rather, hope that you never do. "As I Lay Dying," told from 15 different points
of view, is for those who like their comedy black and completely unsweetened.
Faulkner called it a "tour de force," and it's both deftly written and mordantly
funny, but there's a relentlessly mean undertow sucking at a reader's
consciousness as well.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

When all the girls my age were reading Tiger Beat and the other teeny booper magazines of the day, I was devouring Equus and Western Horseman, and plastering my walls with Arabians and appaloosas and Quarter horses instead of with David Cassidy or Bobby Sherman, or for the more discriminating among us, with Ben Murphy and Pete Duel . Which means while I was at the mercy of friends who might tire of their mini-posters of Ben and Pete and then hand them down to me, for careful saving in my green plastic pencil box, I did come across this 1971 Western Horseman photo of Pete at the San Bernardino Sheriff's Rodeo, a photo I've yet to see elsewhere on the internet.

(This posting prompted by DB, who came to visit yesterday with two large boxes full of Alias Smith and Jones and Ben and Pete memorabilia. I was in fangirl heaven, let me tell you.)

In more recent news, Bill Bryson is donating a copy of A Short History of Nearly Everything to every secondary school in Great Britain.

"The government is backing the scheme, aimed at reversing the decline in interest in subjects like physics and chemistry among students." (BBC)

Would the U.S. government permit such a scheme? Probably not, considering how offensive many Americans seem to find science these days.

And, the Louvre Museum can be toured on line.

Dario: Dance on, bear

Alberto Perera, librarian, granted no credibility to police profiles of dangerous persons. Writers, down through the centuries, had that look of being up to no good and were often mistaken for assassins, smugglers, fugitives from justice--criminals of all sorts. But the young man invading his sanctum, hands hidden in the pockets of his badly soiled green parka, could possibly be another lunatic out to kill another librarian. Up in Sacramento, two libraraians were shot dead while on duty and, down in Los Angeles, the main library was sent up in flames by an arsonist. Perera loved life and wished to participate in it further.

"You got a minute?"

"I do not."

"Can I read you something?"

"Please don't." Recalling some emergency advice as to how to dissuade a man from a violent deed--Engage him in conversation--he said, "Go ahead," regretting his permission even as he gave it. Was he to hear, as the last words he'd ever hear, a denunciation of all librarians for their heinous liberalism, a damnation for all the lies, the deceptions, the swindles, the sins preserved within the thousands of books they so zealously guarded, even with their lives?

With bafflement in his grainy voice, the fellow read from a scrap of paper.

Greet the sun, spider. Show no rancor.
Give God your thanks, O toad; that you exist.
The crab has such thorns as the rose.
In the mollusc are reminiscences of women.
Know what you are, enigmas in forms.
Leave the responsibility to the norms,
Which they in turn leave to the Almighty's care.
Chirp on, cricket, to the moonlight. Dance on, bear.

--Gina Berriault, "Who Is It Can Tell Me Who I Am?," In the Stacks: Short Stories About Libraries and Librarians

I loved this story. Anyone familar with Berriault? Or the poet Dario?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

That evening he unpacked his books from London. The box was full of things he had been waiting for impatiently; a new volume of Herbert Spencer, another collection of the prolific Alphonse Daudet's brilliant tales, and a novel called Middlemarch, as to which there had lately been interesting things said in the reviews. He had declined three dinner invitations in favor of this feast; but though he turned the pages with the senuous joy of the booklover, he did not know what he was reading, and one book after another dropped from his hand. Suddenly, among them, he lit on a small volume of verse which he had ordered because the name had attracted him: The House of Life. He took it up, and found himself plunged in an atmosphere unlike any he had ever breathed in books, so warm, so rich, and yet so ineffably tender, that it gave a new and haunting beauty to the most elementary of human passions. All through the night he pursued through those enchanted pages the vision of a woman who had the face of Ellen Olenska; but when he woke the next morning, and looked out at the brownstone houses across the street, and thought of his desk in Mr. Letterblair's office, and the family pew in Grace Church, his hour in the park of Skuytercliff became as far outside the pale of probability as the visions of the night.

--Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

Monday, June 06, 2005

Do you have time to read this post?

Oh, if there were but world enough and time! This is the main reason to aspire to an afterlife: to sit under a celestial tree, with no library fines, and the library right at one's elbow (the library preferred to the bookstore, at least in heaven).

--Cynthia Ozick

There comes a point when every reader must confront the knowledge that there's no way they're going to read it all:

"Some people process this and adjust with ease. Some feel a dull ache occasionally but don't get hysterical. Others never recover from the knowledge, the inevitable incompleteness of their reading hanging over them like an irremissible debt." (Times Union via The Literary Saloon)

Interested in American history from an international perspective? A Barry Gwen essay discusses a dozen recent history books and the approach they take to history.

Political exile Ismail Kadare has won the first international Man Booker award, beating out the likes of John Updike, Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Muriel Spark, Günther Grass, Philip Roth and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. (Guardian) I was happy to realize that while I was totally ignorant of Kadare my library was not. All Kadare's novels are available to me in both English and French.

And words fail me. You'll just have to see for yourself how sublime this Beatrix Potter "lost episode" of Alias Smith and Jones is. I mean, who hasn't, in the privacy of their own minds, recast Peter Duel and Ben Murphy with Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny? Especially since "The McCreedy Bust" parallels so nicely with the story of Mr. McGregor's garden. . .

Sunday, June 05, 2005

In an effort to prioritize

A downside to reading several books at the same time is the feeling that progress is being made in none of them--1,200 plus pages read and no end in sight! I need a change of strategy.

First, foremost, finish The Age of Innocence this week. I love Wharton and I now regret buying a leatherbound copy of this one at the used bookstore. It's lovely, but I want to mark favorite passages!

Also, get caught up in Don Quixote. I postponed last week's reading and will have to get through ten chapters this week.

Next, finish Everything You Need. I'm more than halfway and would have finished by now if not for starting the Wharton to read with A.

S. and I are reading Heart of Darkness together. Don't know how much we'll get through before he leaves for camp, but we ought to get it finished before drama workshop begins.

I've read Emerson's Nature and "The American Scholar" and can now resume reading Emerson Among the Eccentrics, with the appropriate essays from the Forties to follow once I've finished the chapters on the Forties. This is going to have to be a long term read.

A Short History of Nearly Everything--another long term read. I'm happy S. is now reading it. He says he'll never look at phosphorus in the same way.

Short stories? Whenever I can work 'em in.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A Summer of Faulkner

Oprah's chosen three Faulkner novels for her book club this summer: As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, and Light in August, and they're being issued as a box set, complete with study guide, I do believe.

Sometimes you just want to hide your head away. . .

As always, remember to check out The Ark on Fridays and the Carnival of the Cats on Sundays for a round up of the best and latest pet blogging photos.

Larry McMurtry gets asked really dumb questions in an interview touting his latest, The Colonel and Little Missie : Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, and the Beginnings of Superstardom in America,and runs out of patience:

What, exactly, do you think cowboys represent, other than the triumph of alpha males?

Cowboys are a symbol of a freer time, when people could go all the way from Canada to Mexico without seeing a fence. They stand for good ol' American values, like self-reliance.

Maybe some American values, but you can't say that cowboys were ever interested in spreading democracy.

No, they were interested in spreading fascism.

If you put it that way, how do you explain your own fascination with Buffalo Bill?

I never thought about it. (NYTimes)

Hee. Of course, my favorite part is when he goes off on Pres. Bush's ranch:

"I find it hard to think of it as a ranch. Crawford is basically a suburb of Waco, and I have been through it a million times. The president has this obsession, which he inherited from Reagan, of brush clearing. I don't get it. What do you get when you clear brush? You get a photograph of yourself with a chain saw and a cowboy hat."

And, of course by now we've all seen the list of the ten most dangerous books of the 19th and 20th century and all the runners-up as selected by the conservatives. (Human Events) The only thing keeping me from hiding my head away in shame since I've read exactly one book on the list is that that one is the most dangerous of all! I fared better with the supplementary list. Decide for yourself which books are the most dangerous.

LW and I were trying to remember yesterday where we'd heard N.C. Congressman Walter Jones' name before. She thought maybe he was the one who thought rape victims couldn't get pregnant, but I googled last night and found out he's the one responsible for having the menus in DC changed to say "freedom fries" instead of "french fries." Perhaps we'll remember his name this time round: he's introduced a bill in response to children in Wilmington having access in the library to King and King:

"Dubbed the Parental Empowerment Act of 2005, the measure if passed would create local review boards of five to 15 parents who would have the authority to review and make recommendations on elementary school library and classroom materials before they could be purchased. Under the law, introduced May 11, states that failed to put the parental panels in place would lose all federal education funding." (School Library Journal)

Jones said, “I can’t understand why parents [can’t] have the power to oversee what children are reading."

See, I was under the impression they could. I just didn't think they should have the power to decide what other parents' kids should read.

Pardon me while I go listen to Dwight Yoakam's "Dangerous Man". . .

Thursday, June 02, 2005

And it was on this day in 1977 that the writer Raymond Carver quit drinking. . . .He died of lung cancer 11 years later, but he once described those last 11 years of his life as "gravy, pure gravy." (Writer's Almanac)


Last night, alone, 3000 miles from the one
I love, I turned the radio on to some jazz
and made a huge bowl of popcorn
with lots of salt on it. Poured butter over it.
Turned out the lights and sat in a chair
in front of the window with the popcorn and
a can of Coke. Forgot everything important
in the world while I ate popcorn and looked out
at a heavy sea, and the lights of town.
The popcorn runny with butter, covered with
salt. I ate it up until there was nothing
left except a few Old Maids. Then
washed my hands. Smoked a couple more cigarettes
while I listened to the beat of the little
music that was left. Things had quieted way down,
though the sea was still running. Wind gave
the house a last shake when I rose
and took three steps, turned, took three more steps, turned.
Then I went to bed and slept wonderfully,
as always. My God, what a life!
But I thought I should explain, leave a note anyhow,
about this mess in the living room
and what went on here last night. Just in case
my lights went out, and I keeled over.
Yes, there was a party here last night.
And the radio's still on. Okay.
But if I die today, I die happy--thinking
of my sweetheart, and of that last popcorn.

--Raymond Carver

Read it and squee

Dark Horse Comics provides a five-page preview of the first Serenity comic. Publication date is July 6.
The young man was sincerely but placidly in love. He delighted in the radiant good looks of his betrothed, in her health, her horsemanship, her grace and quickness at games, and the shy interest in books and ideas that she was beginning to develop under his guidance. (She had advanced far enough to join him in ridiculing the "Idylls of the King," but not to feel the beauty of "Ulysses" and the "Lotus Eaters.") She was straightforward, loyal and brave; she had a sense of humor (chiefly proved by her laughing at his jokes), and he suspected, in the depths of her innocently gazing soul, a glow of feeling that it would be a joy to waken. But when he had gone the brief round of her he returned discouraged by the thought that all this frankness and innocence were only an artificial product. Untrained human nature was not frank and innocent; it was full of the twists and defenses of an instinctive guile. And he felt himself oppressed by a conspiracy of mothers and aunts and grandmothers and long-dead ancestresses, because it was supposed to be what he wanted, what he had a right to, in order that he might exercise his lordly pleasure in smashing it like an image made of snow.

--Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Carol Peters was in town last week teaching a seminar and presenting her thesis as she finished up requirements for an MFA at Queens University. I attended student readings with her on Friday afternoon, was introduced to program director Fred Leebron, for whom I swiftly performed faux pas tricks such as inquiring after Robin Hemley (how am I supposed to keep on top of who replaced whom where?!?), poet Cathy Smith Bowers, and after a dinner with several students, attended readings by Ann Cummins and Robert Polito.

I bought Rebecca McClanahan's Word Painting based on Carol's recommendation, and will be seeking out Naeem Murr's work--opinion was evenly split among my dinner companions on whether I should start with The Boy or The Genius of the Sea.

Saturday Carol sent me a copy of the first chapter to her novel, which is, I'm happy to report, an absolutely brilliant piece of work: dead-on gorgeous language with plenty of narrative drive to boot. I can't wait until Place of Refuge shows up in the bookstores.

A bang, not a whimper

  Two months into L.'s retirement, and I'm finished with the stockpiling of books. No more book purchases! Or at least, no purcha...