Friday, September 30, 2005

Serenity at last!

It's opening night! Yippee!

Other people's obsessions seldom make sense to us. We see someone collect 19th-century waistcoat buttons or build the Taj Mahal from Popsicle sticks and shake our heads. So when I knew one Observer reader had spent $450 to attend a sneak preview of "Serenity" - that's an overnight trip to Atlanta, an unpaid day off and a scalped $50 ticket - I wondered, "What kind of movie inspires such deranged adoration?"

Local reviewer Lawrence Toppman climbs onto the Joss Whedon bandwagon after watching Serenity.

It probably isn't fair to Joss Whedon's "Serenity" to say that this unassuming science-fiction adventure is superior in almost every respect to George Lucas's aggressively more ambitious "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith." But who cares about fair when there is fun to be had? Scene for scene, "Serenity" is more engaging and certainly better written and acted than any of Mr. Lucas's recent screen entertainments. Mr. Whedon isn't aiming to conquer the pop-culture universe with a branded mythology; he just wants us to hitch a ride to a galaxy far, far away and have a good time. The journey is the message, not him.

Manohla Dargis reviews Serenity for the New York Times.

Making his feature debut as writer and director, Whedon fashions a story line that slyly mirrors his own efforts to keep his short-lived show Firefly alive. Serenity focuses on the struggles of a ragtag band of outsiders trying desperately to get a high-tech videotape played on intergalactic television. The Alliance will do anything to keep it off the air, including murdering the only independent broadcaster in the 'verse. The film, right down to the tagline ("You can't stop the signal"), is one big middle finger to Fox TV executives.

Matt Singer weighs in for the Village Voice.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The newest member of the family

Ellie the bob-tailed kitten

Head over to The Ark on Fridays or the Carnival of the Cats on Sundays for a round up of the best and latest pet blogging photos. This week's carnival has been hosted by Meryl Yourish; next week's carnival will be at Music and Cats.

Why read when you can TiVo?

Poll worker hours run from 6 am to 8 pm. Polls are open from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm. During that time on Tuesday we had 75 voters in the precinct (2,300- plus on the books) bother to come by. I managed to get close to 300 pages read in On Beauty--not as much as I'd expected, but it was so cold in the school gym that I had to devote a lot of the time to walking around trying to keep warm and work the crick out of my neck. Serves me right: I knew to bring a jacket and I managed to leave it at home all the same.

But I left with an increased appreciation for all my fellow bloggers and internet buddies because after the fourth time of being asked what I was reading I had to realize that describing a book as "an updated Howards End" carries no meaning outside a relatively small group of people. Mentioning Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins doesn't help matters; people either don't recognize their names or if they do they think you're talking about English butlers.

So it clearly doesn't matter that this is Banned Books Week, and nothing's sillier than someone's efforts to remove a book from a library's shelves or a school's curriculum. Why ever did Kirkus Reviews bother to assemble its reviews of the Ten Most Challenged Books--no one's reading anything these days anyway.

Excuse me. Except for Dan Brown and John Grisham.

Mary Lee Settle died Tuesday.

Joss Whedon and Neil Gaiman are interviewed.

Bill Watterson is interviewed.

Janet Maslin reviews E.L. Doctorow's The March, which is now waiting for me at the public library.

World Literature Today compiles a list of the 40 most important works in the world. I've read only five of them, and own another nine. Someday.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Hiding out in the bush league

It's hard to focus on blogging when you have a new kitten in the house. It's even harder to focus on blogging when the fact that you have a new kitten in the house means Claudius has gone into hiding under the couch and must have his latest bout of silliness catered to so that there are no bad kitty accidents in the house. It's exceedingly hard to focus on blogging when R. and G. come home from college to meet the new kitten and bring her potent catnip. Under the influence of catnip sweet docile Ellie transforms into demon spawn who dares crawl under Claudie's couch and chase him repeatedly through the house until he takes refuge in R.'s closet with Ellie lurking right outside the door.

Bad Ellie. No more catnip for you.

Poor Claudius. How to make you see the new kitten really isn't the least bit dangerous.

I have been reading, though. I'd ignored all the hoohah last spring about Nicole Krauss and Jonathan Safran Foer and how they must have collaborated on their novels because I truly wasn't interested in reading either of them. But The History of Love kept being steadily and positively mentioned at Readerville, and I did so like the cover, so after allowing the Krauss to languish on my desk at work for several weeks I picked it up one night last week and instantly fell in love with the voice of Leo Gursky. Simply a lovely, lovely book that I'm already looking forward to rereading, although I think I ought to read Bernard Schulz' The Street of Crocodiles first, since Krauss made reference to it several times. There's an interview with Krauss here, where she says:

"In the beginning," Krauss says, "this book was very much about writing. I was thinking, well, how many readers does one really need? If it reaches one person and changes her life, is that enough? Or two people? The idea that there is a book that has a print run of under 2,000 and that nobody reads but in the end a single copy of it connects and changes all these lives was very moving to me," she says. "I write because I want to reach people and have the kind of conversation with them that can happen only through a book. It's one of the most beautiful conversations there is, I think. So as the book progressed, I realized that I was writing as much about reading and being a reader as about writing. And I became unabashed about occasionally putting in lines from all the writers I love."

I've also been reading Walden and (re)reading A Canticle for Leibowitz with S. I've read a few pages of Zadie Smith's On Beauty and intend to take it with me tomorrow when I work at the precinct.

I've also been counting, the new blogging craze. I counted more than 50 multi-volume authors using the four-volume cut off, but just a bit more than a handful—Shakespeare, Margaret Drabble, Anne Tyler, Larry McMurtry, John Updike, Robertson Davies—when I use the double-digits cut off. I'm a real bush leaguer compared to others.

I think I'll go slink under the sofa and live with Claudius.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A feeling of sadness came over him. All these years Litvinoff had imagined he was so much like his friend. He'd prided himself on what he considered their similarities. But the truth was that he was no more like the man fighting a fever in the bed ten feet away than he was like the cat that had just slunk off: they were different species. It was obvious, Litvinoff thought. All you had to do was look at how each had approached the same subject. Where he saw a page of words, his friend saw the field of hesitations, black holes, and possibilites between the words. Where his friend saw dappled light, the felicity of flight, the sadness of gravity, he saw the solid form of a common sparrow. Litvinoff's life was defined by a delight in the weight of the real; his friend's by a rejection of reality, with its army of flat-footed facts. Looking at his reflection in the dark window, Litvinoff believed something had been peeled away and a truth revealed to him: He was an average man. A man willing to accept things as they were, and, because of this, he lacked the potential to be in any way original. And though he was wrong in every way about this, after that night nothing could dissuade him.

--Nicole Krauss, The History of Love
Of the two thousand original copies printed of The History of Love, some were bought and read, many were bought and not read, some were given as gifts, some sat fading in bookstore windows serving as landing docks for flies, some were marked up with pencil, and a good many were sent to the paper compactor, where they were shredded to a pulp along with other unread or unwanted books, their sentences parsed and minced in the machine's spinning blades. Staring out the window, Litvinoff imagined the two thousand copies of The History of Love as a flock of two thousand homing pigeons that could flap their wings and return to him to report on how many tears shed, how many laughs, how many passages read aloud, how many cruel closings of the cover after reading barely a page, how many never opened at all.

--Nicole Krauss, The History of Love

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

In between commentaries over the weekend on Don Quixote (Carlos Fuentes considers it and other lasting literature in his opening speech to the Literature Festival in Berlin), I read a wonderful coming-of-age novel: Jim Lynch's The Highest Tide. In addition to enjoying the story of Miles O'Malley's 13th summer, the summer when he discovers much about himself and those who are close to him as he becomes increasingly well- known for a string of amazing discoveries in the Puget Sound, I also found myself becoming interested in learning more about the sea and Miles' hero Rachel Carson, who I've never read. An interview with Lynch is here; photos of marine life in the Puget Sound are here.

The semicolon: pro or con. Trevor Butterworth pauses to consider.

Sharon Olds declines an invitation to attend the National Book Festival.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

So there I was tonight, walking down the sidewalk on my way to the parking deck on campus, when this little fella came running up to me insisting I bring him home to live forever.

"Okay," I said.

The "I Finished Don Quixote" Post

When I turned the final page of Don Quixote Thursday night I sat quietly exulting for a good five minutes. I'm free, I'm free, I can read any. thing. I. want.

So I looked up the call number for Nabokov's Lectures on Don Quixote, which both Stefanie and Sandra are turning to, and walked up to the fifth floor to retrieve it, taking note of the more than an entire library case of DQ-related material and snagging Avellaneda's Don Quixote, the fake Don Quixote novel Cervantes snarks throughout Book II, in the process.

The fun is just beginning.

While I can't imagine that I'll ever read the entire novel from start to finish again, reading about the novel and rereading sections of it certainly appeals. This weekend I read Jane Smiley's commentary on DQ in my freshly-delivered Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel (Book I looks back to The Decameron and The Heptameron and Book II is more modern and sophisticated); Harold Bloom's chapter on Cervantes in The Western Canon (Don Quixote and Sancho are the largest characters in the Canon excepting some of Shakespeare's); and the Guy Davenport foreward to the Nabokov (prepare for all you've ever been told about the novel to be torn apart).

"How good an author was Avellaneda?" ask John E. Keller and Alberta Wilson Server, translators of Avellaneda's Book II. "Had all trace of both parts of the true Quixote been lost and forgotten, Spanish literature could claim with considerable pride that Avellaneda had produced a great novel with memorable characters. It is comparsion with the unsurpassable masterpiece the true Quixote is that has diminished the false Quixote's worth."

Lots to think about.

Hal Barnell shows both the route taken by Avellaneda's Don Quixote (bold black line) and Cervantes' (broken line)

Barnell illustrates a scene taken from Avellaneda's Don Quixote: Quixote prances about the room in armor he claims was forged by hand by hell's blacksmith while Sancho cowers in fear behind the furniture. No wonder Cervantes felt compelled to lambast the fake edition:

"But tell me, Senora, [said Sancho] and may heaven find you another lover more tenderhearted than my master, what did you see in the next world? What's it like in hell? Because whoever dies in despair is bound to go there."

"To tell the truth," responded Altisidora, "I probably didn't die completely because I didn't enter hell, and if I had, I really couldn't have left even if I'd wanted to. The truth is I reached the gate, where about a dozen devils were playing pelota, all of them in tights and doublets, their collars trimmed with borders of Flemish lace and cuffs of the same material, exposing four fingers' width of arm so that their hands appeared longer, and in them they were holding bats of fire, and what amazed me most was that instead of balls they were using books, apparently full of wind and trash, which was something marvelous and novel; but this did not amaze me as much as seeing that, although it is natural for players to be happy when they win and sad when they lose, in that game everybody was grumbling, everybody was quarreling, and everybody was cursing."

"That's not surprising," responded Sancho, "because devils, whether they play or not, can never be happy, whether they win or not."

"That must be true, " responded Altisidora, "but there's something else that also surprises me, I mean, surprised me then, and it was that at the first volley there wasn't a ball left in play that was in condition to be used again, and so they went through books, new and old, which was a remarkable thing to see. One of them, brand new and nicely bound, was hit so hard that its innards spilled out and its pages were scattered. One devil said to another:

'See what book that is.'

And the other devil responded:

'This is the second part of the history of Don Quixote of La Mancha, composed not by Cide Hamete, its first author, but by an Aragonese who is, he says, a native of Tordesillas.'

'Take it away from here,' responded the other devil, 'and throw it into the pit of hell so that my eyes never see it again.'

'Is it so bad?' responded the other one.

'So bad,' replied the first, 'that if I myself set out to make it worse, I would fail.' And they continued with their game, hitting other books, and I, because I had heard the name of Don Quixote, whom I loveand adore so passionately, did my best to keep this vision in my memory."

"It must have been a vision, no doubt about it," said Don Quixote, "because there is no other I in the world, and that history is already being passed from hand to hand but stops in none, because everyone's foot is kicking it along. I have not been perturbed to hear that I wander like a shade in the darkness of the abyss or in the light of the world, because I am not the one told about in that history. If it is good, faithful, and true, it will have centuries of life, but if it is bad, the road will not be long between its birth and its grave."

Saturday, September 17, 2005

"Faith" Is a Fine Invention

"Faith" is a fine invention
When Gentlemen can see--
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.

--Emily Dickinson

Friday, September 16, 2005

Mug Shot

Claudius is the primary suspect in the case of who left a turd in Susan's shoe. Susan has cleaned the litter box twice since the incident and hopes continued scrupulous attention to the conditions of the box will keep the suspect's criminal inclinations under check.

If you want to look at law-abiding kitties this week check out Cats in Sinks (thanks for the heads up, Carol Peters!) or, as always, head over to The Ark on Fridays or the Carnival of the Cats on Sundays for a round up of the best and latest pet blogging photos.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

That saturation point I mentioned I'd reached where books were concerned? Merely a short-lived phenomenon.

I used my Borders gift cards last night. I decided against the Flame Trees of Thika dvd ("you know we'd only watch it once," S. said) and obtained it in the more apt to be used more than once form of a book.

I also ordered Jane Smiley's Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel (at 600 plus pages I don't want to get this one from the library); Zadie Smith's On Beauty (because of the Howards End connection); and the Patty Loveless cd I'd originally intended to purchase.

Book greed. Yum.

(And yes, I'm working on my Revealing Books list, not to mention Don Quixote.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Hovering over all the ruminations about literature and life that follow is the cosmic question of why so many of us feel compelled to go through life with our noses stuck in a book.

Maureen Corrigan's Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading is excerpted.
Kurt Vonnegut is going to be on the Daily Show tonight. Should be interesting.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Thou seest we are not all alone unhappy:
This wide and universal theatre
Presents more woful pageants than the scene
Wherein we play in.

(and usually quotes the more famous lines that follow)

We went to the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival this weekend. I recommend it for those of you who live close enough to High Point that it's a feasible drive. Somehow we managed seats that were front and center and had a wonderful time.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

9/11 is history--but how is it being taught to students in history courses? George Bush and other conservatives maintain that the attacks were acts of evil; liberals, while they condemn the attacks, see them as having a social and political context that we need to understand. These differences are reflected in the debate over the textbooks written in the past three years.

--Jon Wiener, "Teaching 9/11"

It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States, or, as he is known in West Wing jargon, POTUS. The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him. Hagin, it was decided, as senior aide on the ground, would do the deed.

--Evan Thomas, "How Bush Blew It"

Random Ten

Last ten songs played:

1. Mad World. Gary Jules
2. Seven Bridges Road. Dolly Parton
3. Me and the Eagle. Steve Earle
4. Ballad of Jed Clampett. Earl Scruggs and friends
5. To Love Somebody. Flying Burrito Brothers
6. Don't Strike a Match (To the Book of Love). Hal Ketchum
7. No Regrets. Emmylou Harris
8. We'll Meet Again. Johnny Cash
9. Freight Train. Marty Brown
10. Talk Like That. Kelly Willis

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Doctorow is a stranger writer than he at first seems; his fiction, though generous with the conventional pleasures of dramatic plot, colorful characters, and information-rich prose, yet challenges the reader with a puckish truculence.

John Updike reviews E.L. Doctorow's The March in the New Yorker (and deems it "splendid.")

Friday, September 09, 2005

Friday morning Claudie blogging.

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.

Booker Short List and a Challenge

Yes, I'm posting in the middle of the night. S. has been on a fitness kick since he recovered from foot surgery, has signed up with a personal trainer and everything, and consequently, the home is free of all junk food, including caffeinated beverages.

Instead of supper I had a mocha frappe at work tonight and I am wired.

The Booker Short List. Not that I've read it, but I'm pulling for Ali Smith's The Accidental.

More importantly, Mental Multivitamin has listed the books that actually say something about her and has issued a challenge for others to do so as well. She was inspired by my post last Sunday when I commented that top ten lists that contain nothing but classics don't reveal much about their compilers.

I doubt I limit myself to ten books and I may open up my list to include music and the definitive movie or TV show (few and far between), but putting such a list together, revealing a life this way, will certainly entertain me even if it does no one else.

Can you timeline your life with books? What will it reveal about you?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Thursday Evening Goat Blogging begs for a bit of poetry:

What was he doing, the great god Pan,
Down in the reeds by the river?
Spreading ruin and scattering ban,
Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat,
And breaking the golden lilies afloat
With the dragonfly on the river.

--Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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.

I'm expecting a $50 gift certificate from Borders in the next week or so.

I'm intending to buy a cd (Patty Loveless' latest) and a mini-series on dvd (The Flame Trees of Thika).

Is it possible that I've reached my saturation point for books? It's true I'm expecting a shipment in the next few days-I wanted a copy of Robert Sapolsky's Monkeyluv to take on the Utah trip and adding D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths to the order insured I'd get free shipping-but lately I'm not feeling a burning desire to own most items I so eagerly place on my wish list.

Perhaps my disinclination to buy books these days is based on the fact that we're totally out of shelf space. I'm beginning to double-shelve, which I hate, and the sofa and chair in the study-usually the cats' domain-- have been put to use as overflow storage as well. R. and I have been trying to persuade L. to build more bookcases, but we haven't yet ripped up the carpet and installed the hardwoods in the bedroom, a job that definitely needs to finished before we seriously even think about putting in another wall of built-ins.

And then there's the fact that I always reason that library books ought to be read before the books I own. I must have at least 60 books checked out right now. That's practically a year's worth at my current rate of speed. I need to return some of these, recheck them out at a later date.

One book I do want to buy, though I'm definitely waiting until it's out in trade paper or I can pick it up used since I've already read a library copy, is Pinkerton's Sister. I actually want two copies of it since I intend to use a highlighter on one which will render it useless as a reading copy once I'm finished.

Sandra asked eons ago for my final verdict on the book and Danielle has asked as well. I've put off my response for so long that I've lost the link to a Rushforth interview that explained how he'd originally set out to write a book about Pinkerton himself, but the sister took center stage.

So my long overdue final verdict:

I loved it. I unabashedly loved it. But I don't think most readers who attempt it will.

It's too long. There are a couple fantasy set pieces that were too much even for me. And of its 729 pages I'd guess that less than 29 of those pages concern themselves with what takes place outside the main character's head (that's my highlighter project right there) on this wintry day in 1903 New York, the day that her brother is to leave for Japan-the rest is all the memories and musings of Alice Pinkerton, 34-year-old never-married still-at-home-taking-care-of-mama Alice, known throughout her Longfellow Park neighborhood as "the mad woman in the attic." (She technically lives on the third floor, not the attic.)

It's also terribly elliptical. Alice's mind freewheels from one literary reference to the next, from one horrid visit with her therapist to the next tedious tea party with the neighbors (she is to be re- institutionalized in Pughkeepsie on Wednesday, the reader learn fairly early on), somehow managing to circumvent, in spite of the wealth of words, because of the overflow of words, from what the reader believes she'd most like to know.

But I loved it. I love Alice Pinkerton.

Alice has issues. Alice has a formidable imagination that she frequently puts to use against those around her. Alice loves books and language. She is, albeit a secret one, a writer and has a writer's sensibilities. Although she is clearly out-of-step with the society around her, the depression she suffers from is due in large part to actions taken by her father years ago. The reader is free to conclude that these actions will never be mentioned in her therapy sessions and that the doctor would be nonplussed if they were.

For a large book, I read this one very fast. Next time through I'll take my time: Alice is for those with patience.

And speaking of patience, I'm making an effort to have it with Don Quixote. Sandra is no doubt finished with it already and Stefanie is probably a hundred pages at least further on than I am-I just finished the scene where Quixote and Sancho ride the wooden horse. It's been really hard for me to disengage enough from the news so that I can finish this book.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Ang Lee on why he wanted to make "Brokeback Mountain":

"When I first read the story, it gripped me. It's a great American love story, told in a way that felt as if it had never been done before. I had tears in my eyes at the end. You remember? You see the shirts put away in the closet side by side."

Who could forget? When Annie Proulx's short story about two cowboys in love appeared in The New Yorker nearly eight years ago, it was so startling and powerful that for many people, the experience of reading it remains a vivid, almost physical memory. As for those shirts, the image is unique and indelible: hidden years earlier in the back of a closet, they hang from a single nail, the outer, denim one, bloodied by an old blow, the second, a torn and dirty plaid, carefully tucked inside the first, its sleeves worked down into the other's sleeves, the pair like two skins, one inside the other, two in one. It's an emblem of love so plain and homely that it could only be true.

"Brokeback Mountain" is set to be released in December.

Today, someone's taste for the "classics" can cover up no discernable individual or original taste of their own. Classic trumpeting can be a refuge for philistinism or nationalistic indolence. Unlike the word masterpiece, the classic category only pretends to be an aesthetic valuation.

--Alan Warner, "The Curse of the Classics"

There is nothing less revealing than reading someone's top ten books list when the list contains nothing but classics.

"Journalism isn't something I've learned. . . .It's a natural inclination. I grew up without brothers and sisters, I was not automatically part of a group, so I became very curious about the way things work, how people interact. I watch and learn."

--Lyle Lovett, "Lyle Lovett's J-School Days"

Make mine a cheeseburger.

Goethe's Faust reminds us forever that the devil is personal, not impersonal. That the devil is putting every individual to the test, which every one of us can pass or fail. That evil is tempting and seducing. That aggression has a potential foothold inside every one of us.

--Amos Oz, "The Devil's Progress"

Empathy is what we long for - not sadness for a house we own, or owned once, now swept away. Not even for the felt miracle of two wide-eyed children whirled upward into a helicopter as if into clouds. We want more than that, even at this painful long distance: we want to project our feeling parts straight into the life of a woman standing waist-deep in a glistening toxic current with a whole city's possessions all floating about, her own belongings in a white plastic bag, and who has no particular reason for hope, and so is just staring up. We would all give her hope. Comfort. A part of ourselves. Perform an act of renewal. It's hard to make sense of this, we say. But it makes sense. Making sense just doesn't help.

--Richard Ford, "Elegy for My City"

While circling the world in the HMS Beagle, naturalist Charles Darwin reaches the Galápagos Islands in September 1835. Amazed that "islands formed of precisely the same rocks, placed under a quite similar climate, rising to a nearly equal height [could be so] differently tenanted," Darwin on his return to England spends 23 years formulating an explanation for this and other observations. He publishes his theory of "natural selection" in On the Origin of Species in 1859. Darwin dies in 1882, age 73.

--Alison McLean, "This Month in History"

Saturday, September 03, 2005

If you're still in a summer frame of mind, NPR's Summer Reading 2005 may be worth a leisurely browse. If you're already in the mood for fall, the Washington Post's Fall Book Preview will give you heads up on plenty of new titles. I've already placed holds on E. L. Doctorow's The March and Maureen Corrigan's Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading. Kaye Gibbons' The Life All Around Me By Ellen Foster is on the fall list although Amazon is listing it with a January 6 publishing date. That one I'll probably purchase.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Today's reading

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

--George Bush, today

"No one can say they didn't see it coming."

--FEMA, 2001

"It's kind of been like trying to give aspirin to a cancer patient."

-- Louisiana coastal activities office, 2001

"With the land around us constantly sinking, our natural storm protection is disappearing. Levees protect us, but they're not enough."

--The Times-Picayune

Timeline outlining the fate of both FEMA and flood control projects in New Orleans under the Bush administration.

How to donate.

A brief history of Mississippi flooding and the levees policy.

And Mark Twain, on river floods:

This present flood of 1882 will doubtless be celebrated in the river's history for several generations before a deluge of like magnitude shall be seen. It put all the unprotected lowlands under water, from Cairo to the mouth; it broke down the levees in a great many places, on both sides of the river; and in some regions south, when the flood was at its highest, the Mississippi was seventy miles wide! A number of lives were lost, and the destruction of property was fearful. The crops were destroyed, houses washed away, and shelterless men and cattle forced to take refuge on scattering elevations here and there in field and forest, and wait in peril and suffering until the boats put in commission by the national and local governments and by newspaper enterprise could come and rescue them. The properties of multitudes of people were under water for months, and the poorer ones must have starved by the hundred if succor had not been promptly afforded.

Orhan Pamuk

ISTANBUL, Aug. 31 -- An acclaimed Turkish novelist, Orhan Pamuk, has been charged with the "public denigrating of Turkish identity" and faces a possible prison sentence of three years, his publisher said Wednesday.

The charge stems from an interview that Pamuk gave to a Swiss newspaper in February in which he said certain topics were regarded as off-limits in Turkey. As examples, he listed the massacre of Armenians in 1915 and the ongoing war between Turkish security forces and Kurdish guerrillas. (Washington Post)

I mentioned back in April that Pamuk's detractors had ordered his books removed from the shelves before determining that there were actually no Pamuk titles on the shelves. (see Kurdish Media News)

His court date's set for December 16.

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...