Tuesday, January 31, 2006
I'm not exactly off to a stellar start in either department at this point. Only five books completed in January, MIA from the Seven Types of Ambiguity discussion.
Can I blame everything on the whale?
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.
We were very tired, we were very merry
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.
We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, "Good morrow, mother!" to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.
--Edna St. Vincent Millay
Sunday, January 29, 2006
--Joseph J. Ellis
I started Spider Blue at the gym yesterday afternoon, intending it to be the book that I'd read over the next several sessions on the treadmill. Encouragement, if you will, that I'd actually make the time to work out.
Instead, I cheated. I came home, parked myself on the sofa, fielded a few questions on Moby Dick from the other end of the sofa, and finished the entire book.
Spider Blue follows Keeping Silent in the Caleb Knowles mystery series. Caleb is a social worker/therapist in South Carolina, as is his creator, Carla Damron (I've met Carla via a shared interest yahoo list). He's a divorced father with a girlfriend who's questioning whether she's wasting her time with an altar-shy man and a brother to a deaf artist (accused of murder in Keeping Silent) who's thinking of throwing caution to the wind and moving to Atlanta where his career would definitely catch fire. Caleb doesn't want to lose either of them, but he's hard pressed to know how to prevent it.
Caleb returns home from a social work conference one night to find himself immediately engaged in the aftermath of two seemingly unrelated and motiveless murders. His girlfriend Shannon's best friend lives across the street from a nurse who's just been stabbed to death and is distraught enough to need to stay with Caleb and Shannon until the police can determine who killed her neighbor and why. When Caleb returns to work the next morning his schedule has been adjusted to allow him to squeeze in therapy sessions for several mill workers who witnessed a fellow employee inexplicably gun down three of their co-workers the day before, as well as sessions for the gunman himself and the emotionally fragile pre-school -aged daughter of the slain nurse. Before he knows it, Caleb is involved with the police investigation of both murders.
Damron's deft at both plots and honest, respectful portrayals of characters with mental illnesses and physical handicaps. I know I'm not much of a mystery reader, but as long as she keeps publishing them, I'll keep reading.
Friday, January 27, 2006
I'm looking forward to reading it as soon as I finish the ever-so-quirky Moby Dick, which is leaving me scant time to read anything else on the side.
A few quick links—
A librarian is my hero.
Peter Shaffer's Equus a stabbing success with second graders.
And of course, happy birthday to Lewis Carroll, born today in 1832.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
I've been trying to keep my spending under a tighter rein, which involves not ordering what I can get from a library, unless it's clearly a Must Own. The dvd of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill was on my wish list at amazon, but when I methodically checked items on it against the library catalogs last week before using a just-arrived gift certificate, I found that the public library showed Wild Parrots with a "just received" status. Considering how often I re-watch movies, or, for that matter, watch movies in the first place, getting it from the library is probably the best choice. Nonetheless I'm annoyed, because the dvd now shows a "checked in" status on all but one of its copies instead of "in transit" designations to the people on the waiting list. Of which I'm number three. I do hope these copies aren't being held out of general circulation for some reason. I'd love to watch parrots this weekend.
And speaking of catalogs, I haven't done more in the last month than add a few to Library Thing. I'm feeling the urge to have another marathon cataloging session, but I need to clean the study before I can do so since I haven't yet cleared away all the piles of books from the last time. And although I've not finished cataloging what's on our shelves, I'm inclined to ignore them for awhile longer while I move my attention to the cds or the dvds. I have more than a sneaking suspicion that many of our cds are once again in the wrong jewel cases; it would be wonderful to get them squared away, which cataloging would force me to do. And it would be nice if L. had a list of all the movies he's already burned onto dvd instead of continuing to record what we already have.
Veronica returned unfinished to the library. Forty chapters of Moby Dick completed.
Monday, January 23, 2006
This time it's just pure unadulterated fun—at least until S. decides to stage a mutiny. So far so good.
Some of the quotes I've marked from the early chapters:
Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for magnificient parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces—though I cannot tell why this was exactly; yet, now that I recall all the circumstances, I think I can see a little into the springs and motives which being cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced me to set about performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the delusion that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill and discriminating judgment.
Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air.
Yes, the world's a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.
I'll try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy.
I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible Prebyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolator in worshipping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought I. Do you suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven and earth—pagans and all included—can possibly be jealous of an insignificant bit of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship?—to do the will of God? that is worship. And what is the will of God?—to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me—that is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolator. So I kindled the shavings; helped prop up the innocent little idol; offered him burnt biscuit with Queequeg; salamed before him twice or thrice; kissed his nose; and that done, we undressed and went to bed, at peace with our own consciences and all the world.
From Icelandic, Dutch, and old English authorities, there might be quoted other lists of uncertain whales, blessed with all manner of uncouth names. But I omit them as altogether obsolete; and can hardly help suspecting them for mere sounds, full of Leviathanism, but signifiying nothing.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Saturday, January 21, 2006
But just because we can no longer see it doesn't mean the underlying problem isn't still there. A chiropractor was in the fitness center trolling for new business Monday night, and S. was an easy hook. When he stands, he's 25 pounds heavier on one side than the other. That can't be good even if the doctors think his degrees of curvature are no longer in the danger zone.
Our doctor, who'd earlier sent us to see the orthopedic specialist about both his spine and his foot, faxed a referral and S. spent the morning at the chiropractor's office on Thursday. We went back again on Friday morning. We're going to be spending a lot of time there during the next month. His spine is without question better than it was, but X-rays showed several spots that could definitely lead to extreme pain and problems in the years to come; in fact, he'd already begun to mention back pain to L., although he'd attributed it to workouts at the fitness center. S. maintains it comes from standing up straight.
Fortunately, the office is less than five minutes' drive from the house, and most adjustment sessions should last betwen 30-40 minutes. And most fortunate of all, S. takes things seriously this time around and can shoulder primary responsibility for getting himself better.
On the reading front, we've agreed to make our way through Moby Dick at the pace of five chapters per night, although I've convinced S. we should up it to ten tonight since we've reached a patch of very short ones. We're both enjoying it. I'll try to post some of the best lines in a day or so.
I'm also trying to make my way quickly through Mary Gaitskill's Veronica, since someone has placed a request for it at the university library.
I managed the chapter on Einstein in the Bryson while on the treadmill at the gym this morning and came home to find an Escher card and kitten bookmark in the mail. Many thanks, MFS! He's purrr-ty!
With any luck I'll be back to the Perlman discussion by this evening.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
--Henry David Thoreau
"Is that real butter?" said Jimmy.
"Nothing but the best at Watson-Crick," said Crake. "Once it's flattened, it could never be rebuilt."
"Because why? Got any salt?"
"Because all the available surface metals have already been mined," said Crake. "Without which, no iron age, no bronze age, no age of steel, and all the rest of it. There's metals farther down, but the advanced technology we need for extracting those would have been obliterated."
"It could be put back together," said Jimmy, chewing. It was so long since he'd tasted popcorn this good. "They'd still have the instructions."
"Actually not," said Crake. "It's not like the wheel, it's too complex now. Suppose the instructions survived, suppose there were any people left with the knowledge to read them. Those people would be few and far between, and they wouldn't have the tools. Remember, no electricity. Then once those people died, that would be it. They'd have no apprentices, they'd have no successors. Want a beer?"
"Is it cold?"
"All it takes," said Crake, "is the elimination of one generation. One generation of anything. Beetles, trees, microbes, scientists, speakers of French, whatever. Break the link in time between one generation and the next, and it's game over forever."
"Speaking of games," said Jimmy, "it's your move."
--Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake
Monday, January 16, 2006
"Boy, take these to the composing room," Larkin barked. "And any time you see copy on that spindle, you run it down there. Don't wait to be told."
So Poulenc had grabbed the sheets off the spindle and hurried down a flight of grimy stairs to a smoky room where three clattering machines made a racket. He found a likely-looking boss in a bib apron and handed him the copy. The man grunted.
"Boy, don't run off," the man said. So Yves had a chance to examine the new Linotype machines, which could set type much faster than ever the fastest hand compositor. Acrid smoke drifted up from hotpots containing molten typemetal that would be cast into slugs, or lines of type, by those rattling monsters. The smoke seared Yves' delicate throat and lungs, and he desperately wanted to get out of there. Eventually that foreman handed him a sheaf of galley proofs, long thin sheets of newsprint containing a column of trype printed with sticky black ink.
"All right. You're new. One set to the proofreading room, the other to Larkin."
Thus did Yves hurry back to the newsroom and deposit one set with the editor, and then wandered through various burrows until he found a room where several people sat on high stools under a glaring bulb and read galley proofs that were laid on a slanting surface. Grimy dictonaries, a city directory, and other reference works lay about.
"Boy," said one of them. "Take these downstairs."
So Yves returned to the composing room with the proofed galleys. And then he brought a big page proof up to the editor. This was an image of an entire page, with ruler lines between columns, headlines, woodcuts, and filler material. It amazed Yves that this plant could create a whole paper in a few hours, break it all down, and create an entirely different product the next day. This was no factory producing the same items by the thousands, but a place where each day's product was a custom job, and only a few items, such as nameplates, mastheads, and other standing material, remained the same issue after issue.
--Richard S. Wheeler, Second Lives
When I first started working for the newspaper in my hometown, the presses were in a building half a block up the street.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
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.
Friday, January 13, 2006
"Oh no it doesn't," I said with a confidence born out of nothing but joy. "There's still a bad guy. The writer, for making the reader feel sorry for himself."
--Elliot Perlman, Seven Types of Ambiguity
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
I may be reduced to rereading the Bobbsey Twins by the time this one's over.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
The all-too-brief Golden Age of Zombie Literature lasted from the publication of Andrew von Lorimer’s “Neither Dead Nor Alive” in 1861 through Agnes Renfrew’s “Open Grave” in 1865. It is generally agreed by scholars that the early work of Mr. von Lorimer is responsible for bringing the roman de zombi to the attention of the reading public, and imitators abounded. Although most were cheap horror novels aimed at the eyes of the lower class and featuring endless white-gowned maidens swooning before The Living Dead, a few more literate classics of the genre survive today, and are well worth the attention of the modern reader.
Otherwise, the year is not off to a stellar start in the reading department. The highlight so far has been the transformation of the foreign language shelf in the study into an actual to-be-read shelf. My philosophy has always been to shelf newcomers wherever they'll fit, but I'm hoping that having all the books I want to read this year together will make me a bit more focused that usual. I reread Book I of The Metamorphoses of Ovid, but otherwise, I simply admired how the books looked together, sans the Rebecca West, which went with R. to Chapel Hill on Sunday. Well, it was technically her birthday present last year anyway. I can always check out the library copy if I need it before she brings it back in the summer.
I finished The Winter's Tale last week. I read what Asimov, the Lambs and Bloom had to say about it, but couldn't rid myself of just feeling "eh" about it. I'd hoped watching the BBC version of the play would arouse a bit of enthusiasm for the work, but it was impossible to wedge it in between Arrested Development episodes. Maybe later this week.
I'm over half-way in Second Lives: A Novel of the Gilded Age. It's been hard to engage with this one as well. Wheeler has characters ride an electric elevator to the top of a hotel in Denver to dine in the restaurant. In 1885. My book on Victorian America glosses over the date electric elevators came into use, and I find conflicting info on the internet: one site mentions electric elevators installed throughout the U.S. by 1875, but another debunks this and claims the first elevator west of the Mississippi wasn't sold until 1890. I don't know why I even care.
R. and I saw Brokeback Mountain on Friday and I was impressed with how closely it stuck to Proulx's story. I want to read it again and definitely intend to buy the movie once it's out on dvd. Whoever decided to stick a fake mustache on Jake Gyllenhal and make him the spitting image of Kix Brooks, though, ought to be horsewhipped. Repeatedly.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
He and his co-hosts, Nicholson and Ellie (who'll be around shortly), hope you'll enjoy this week's particpants.
First, we have newcomer Domino, "owned" by John of Lifetime Reading List and Reading Gibbon. Hi, Domino!
Cat M-mv is evidently worn out by the holidays. No doubt there were
many nights spent reading into the wee hours in the Mental Multivitamin household.
Dulce stops to smell the poinsettas. Dulce and Danielle are also first timers
to the carnival.
Carl Zimmer cat-blogs from Deep Time.
Miss Maple's eyes glowed brighter than the Christmas lights. According to
Gus Van Horn, she's been wired with her own power supply!
Pasha and Pixel take naps. . . but things are looking rather spotty. ACM was on hand to document things.
PJ was determined to get a picture of Rafe with his eyes wide open. Success!
Willow has a bath. Once she learns SRP posted the pics, she's going to be very angry!
Beezer discovers people treats. LHK will know to hide them next time.
S. E. Smith catches Mr. Bell and Mr. Shadow kissing.
Sabaki and Lady wonder,"What the heck have Robin's and Jonah gotten themselves into now?" Robot Vegetable artwork, it appears.
Sabaki says, "Drat! You've Found the Secret Door!" Robot Vegetable photography, this time.
Please don't let Abby sing; I've just stopped drinking Coke. Debra supplies the Manx Mnews--and singing lessons.
Duncan and Henry might consider singing "Together Again"--if they're both awake at the same time. Blueberry also presents Airborne Cats.
Mr. Gato helps with recycling. I'm sure Barry winds up doing most of the work.
Thalia sinks to a new low. Jeff is on hand to document it.
Hobbes has an obsession with plastic bags, so lucky for him, sometimes Dolphin forgets to close the door.
Ever see a cat pretend to be the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Moi's cat is talented that way.
Maddie's still playing with her Christmas presents.
And Laurence reminds us that there are still "Katrina Kitties" that need adoption.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
And it was only the night before that AS, my daughter's best friend, greeted me by saying, "So I understand you gave R. a book about cannibalism and castration for Christmas."
Well, yeah, but unwittingly. Who wouldn't have supposed that a newly published novel about Czechs and mystical Christians in Siberia in 1919 would be the perfect gift for a Russian and Eastern European studies major? I'm sure she read much worse during her Serbian death camp reading phase.
And anyway, I'm looking forward to reading it myself.
There's just no accounting for taste.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Nicholson and Ellie will be hosting the 94th Carnival of the Cats this Sunday evening. To hang out with the gang at the top of the stairs, be sure to fill out the Carnival Submissions form. We'll be happy to include you!
And check out The Ark on Friday for all the latest pets pictures.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
--Kelly Link, "Some Zombie Contingency Plans"
Beware of men who leave prison with their heads full of zombie contingency plans.
Monday, January 02, 2006
So fully acknowledging that placing these books on a priorities list automatically makes all newly published books that much more enticing, these are the books I'd really really like to read this year:
The Metamorphoses of Ovid. Allen Mandelbaum
Suttree. Cormac McCarthy
The Darling. Russell Banks
New Grub Street. George Gissing
Swann's Way. Marcel Proust
The Black Book. Orhan Pamuk
Snow Country. Yasunari Kawabata
Oscar and Lucinda. Peter Carey
Lempriere's Dictionary. Lawrence Norfolk
Invisible Man. Ralph Ellison
Ulysses. James Joyce
Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel. Jane Smiley
The Backbone of the World. Frank Clifford
Will in the World. Stephen Greenblatt
A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare. James Shapiro
The Peabody Sisters. Megan Marshall
Walden. Henry David Thoreau
Selected Essays, Lectures and Poems. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson Among the Eccentrics. Carlos Baker
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. Rebecca West (Book One)
A Short History of Nearly Everything. Bill Bryson
The last five on this list are already in progress, so the sensible approach would be to finish them before starting any more. But that would conflict with my Read at Whim! policy. And since I'm basically starting the year by reading one off my son's priorites list (Moby Dick), and continuing to work my way through a pile of library books (the priority there being due dates), I'm not really looking to make any headway my own list until February. Sensible approaches need not apply.
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