Monday, October 30, 2006

Birthday booty

I think if I requested books for Christmas this year everyone I know would break out in hysterical laughter.

Indiana by George Sand

Judging from everyone else's response, I appear to be the only one who did not like Indiana. I started the book convinced that I'd enjoy it immensely--George Sand! At last!--but I quickly grew so annoyed that I never would have finished if it hadn't been for the Slaves.

Sand's prefaces inform me that the novel is about societal oppression of the individual, the injustice of marriage laws, and can be regarded as a way of fighting against the public opinion that slows the modification of these. Well, yes. Indiana is sorely oppressed--she's had no education and she's married off to a much older man whom she detests-- and society turns against her when she attempts to leave her husband for the silver-tongued devil who's stolen her heart. But I evidently require my fictional victim of society to make more of an attempt to better her lot in life than Indiana can manage. Indiana's primary problem is she lives long before she can be prescribed a lengthy course of antidepressants. Her depression is the true oppressor, and it appears to be genetic in origin, since her cousin Ralph's solution to problems usually involves an attempt at suicide.

And since I've brought up the subject of suicide, may I just say how weird I found Ralph and Indiana's great plan to end their lives? They hit upon the notion in Paris, travel by slow boat to Bourbon Island, and it never once crosses either of their minds during all this time that the "angel of Abraham and Tobias" does not condone suicide, that the eternity they plan to spend together is not going to be "in God's bosom." I'm assuming based on the mention of Tobias that they are Catholic; depression is clearly preventing them from thinking the least bit clearly.

And sometimes I wonder just how clearly Sand was thinking. At times Indiana seems lacking in inner consistency. We begin the novel believing M. Delmare, Indiana's husband, to be very abusive and violent; she begs him not to kill Ralph's dog when he complains that the dog needs to be put outside in the kennel: "Had anyone then observed Madame Delmare closely, he might have guessed the painful secret of her whole life in the trivial, commonplace incident." Yet later much time is spent establishing that Indiana could have had total control over her husband if she'd made the least effort to do so. By the time M. Delmare finds and reads Indiana's cache of love letters from Raymon, I'd begun to feel rather sorry for him. He's gruff and possibly verbally abusive, but he's clearly never even had relations with his young wife (why couldn't she have her marriage annulled, by the way? Was this simply not done in France at the time?) and suffers from so many ailments of the old and afflicted, that I was rather inclined not to find his subsequent act of violence against Indiana nearly as horrific as I expect I ought to have done. Dementia patients aren't held accountable for their violent outbursts in the same way a younger person's would be, and when M. Delmare collapses and dies soon after, I felt a bit sorry for him. He'd been acting childish for quite some time.

Indiana is described as such a wet noodle that I was surprised when she's presented as an enthusiastic hunter: how can she gallop and presumably jump a hunter (an unknown one at that) when she's so weak and frail? And if she's such an expert, why ever was she so disturbed that her husband had killed a hunting dog (that she wasn't fond of) when it proved unmanageable? We learn a lot about the characters on the hunt, and M. Delmare's fall provides an opening for Raymon to ingratiate himself into the family, but this is the point when I really wanted to abandon the book--why couldn't Sand have established earlier that Indiana loved to ride, it wouldn't have taken more than a sentence or two to do so. I lost confidence in her here.

And why are we supposed to believe in the narrator, when it is finally revealed to us who the narrator is? Raymon's thoughts and motivations, the same as Noun's, could never be known by such a narrator, nor from the character who told the story to him. Much of the story we've been told is undermined by revealing who the narrator is, yet I don't believe we're meant to regard him as unreliable.

I don't believe I'll be reading any more George Sand, but I feel like such a philistine since everyone else liked this one!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

What is Ellie thinking?

Probably oh, no. Nap time's over. Here she comes with that stupid camera again. . .

Or possibly, shouldn't she--that camera-snapping fiend-- be working on her Indiana post for the Slaves of Golconda?

Carnival of the Cats will be at Watermark this evening. I bet I don't have an Indiana post until tomorrow. And if I did, Blogger more than likely wouldn't publish it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Am I the last one to know that Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma) and Michael J. Fox are brothers-in-law?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

This week My Bookstore is filled with memoirs I've enjoyed.
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 4 sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.

This was definitely the closest of all:

Indeed, he was not lying when he told her that she was the only love of his life; he had never before loved so purely nor for such a long time. In her presence he would forget everything that was not her. Society and politics were erased from his memory. He was happy with this domestic life, with the family routine which she created for him. He admired her patience and her strength.

Can you guess the book?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Five Things About Me

It seems silly to do the Five Things About Me meme when I did a Thirteen Things About Me earlier in the month, but all I happen to be reading at the moment is Indiana, which I can't talk about yet, and I'm still too lazy to work on the write-ups for the three RIP Challenge books I owe reports on or for Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Do you know that there are already people coming to the blog searching for the Cliff's Notes to Special Topics in Calamity Physics? I don't get it; it was just published in August. Can it already be required reading for a class? Do they want an explanation for the chapter titles or is it the exam at the end that they're looking for answers to? Maybe all they want is a summary so they can pretend they've read it. But why?

Listen up, such people: you'll get no answers here. This blog prides itself on providing no useful information to those who are reading because they have to. Your teacher doesn't care what I think.

Ahem. Five things.

1. Yesterday was pages turned's second birthday and my 47th. One of us is very old and needs more exercise. My party will be on Sunday (I'm expecting lots of books for presents), but we celebrated yesterday by going out to lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant. And then we came home and watched the first act in the Kenneth Branagh version of Hamlet.

2. I am told that my sense of humor is dry and rather dark. An insightful friend once told me that my face does not match my sense of humor and that is why my wisecracks can be regarded as serious statements by those who don't know me well. When I was in high school I had to have a small cyst removed from my cheek. I covered the one stitch with a tiny bandage. The cutest guy in our class (a snare drummer who had never spoken to me before) asked me why I had a bandage on my cheek. I told him I had cut myself shaving. He backed away with a scared look on his face and never spoke to me again. I already knew he was dumb; why did I think he'd get my attempt at a joke?

3. My husband and I once belonged to a square dance club. I expect if we were to ever move back to my hometown that we'd rejoin. Square dancing is dorky, but fun.

4. I am not the least bit afraid of spiders or snakes, but I cannot abide roaches and ticks literally give me nightmares. I have felt sick to my stomach since unexpectedly encountering this at Snail's Tales. (Snails I love).

5. I don't eat red foods.

Monday, October 23, 2006

So this kid--freshman, possibly even still a high school student--comes to the desk tonight for headphones.

He then says something that sounds as if he's asking if he can take the headphones downstairs.

Sure, I say.

No, he says; I've misunderstood. He tries again. His accent is very strong, but it still sounds as if he wants to know if he can take the headphones downstairs where his brother is.

He tries a third time and finally I understand him: he doesn't know how to get downstairs. He is standing no more than 15 steps from an open set of stairs and the elevator, also clearly visible from the desk, is no more than 25 steps away and he doesn't know how to get downstairs.

His eyes light up when I say the word "elevator" and he departs down the staircase once I point it out to him.

My question is: how did he manage to get upstairs?

New use for old textbooks, but. . .

"There are some rifles not even Webster's Dictionary will stop."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Court and the Castle

I'm sure it'll will be weeks if not months before I get around to reading Rebecca West's The Court and the Castle, a volume of lectures delivered at Yale in the 1950s, although I definitely want to do so. But I wanted to give a heads-up on the book now since it appears to be one that would appeal to quite a few (and is unfortunately out of print): lots of attention given to Hamlet and Proust and quite a few authors whose names have been popping on classics tbr lists over the last several days.

Here's a taste from the first chapter:

"For any authentic work of art must start an argument between the artist and his audience. The artist creates that work of art by analyzing an experience and synthesizing the results of his analysis into a form which excites an appetitie for further experience. If the experience which he has chosen as his subject is felt by his fellow men to be unimportant, the work of art is likely to be forgotten, even though his analysis may be intelligently conducted. A large number of modern novels fall into this category. If the experience be not important, and the analysis incomplete, but the symthesis be contrived in an enticing form, the work of art will be noted and will be subjected to a criticism of a purely superficial nature. This is the most popular form of art, and is rewarded by contemporary acceptance. But if the experience be one generally felt as important, the analysis scrupulous and searching, and the synthesis exciting, criticism will become a matter of either surrender or attack on the part of the reader. A major work of art must change the aspect of reality, for it is an experience of the order which breaks up the present as we know it, transforming it into the past and giving us a new present, which we may like better or less than we liked the one just taken from us. It must have a bearing on the question which concerns us most deeply of all: whether the universe is good or bad. If a work of art should make a revelation which discredits what most human beings wish to believe, they will try to expose it as unsound. If they cannot do that, if the point the artist makes is incontrovertible, they may undertake the defense of their shattered universe in another way. They may pretend that he wrote something quite other than what he did. Then it is that the long life-span of literature is a source of danger, for though it gives the writer a many-branched and deep-rooted tradition to uphold him, it also gives time for his readers to repeat these defense tactics to the point of success. The repetition may be carried on so extensively through the centuries that in time a very large number of persons among those who have relations with literature, who move within the sphere of culture, may be under the impression that the content of a famous work of art is not that which the artist has carefully set down on his page.

This is surely what has happend to the play of Hamlet, and it is unfortunate that it should be so, for there has thus been obscured Shakespeare's development of a theme which runs through Western literature and has often provided genius with its material. This distortion was far from inevitable, for there is nothing obscure about the content of Hamlet. The action, though it follows an arbitrary time-scheme, is definite enough; and the language is as sharply explicit as it is in Macbeth, more so than it is in Othello or King Lear. But the practice of misreading the character of Hamlet, and hence the significance of the play, had been carried on by generation after generation of persons interested in the play on widely different levels, all over the world; by many scholars, by people who are true readers--that is, who read all their lives--as well as by people who read only when they are at school or the university, by people who do not read at all but who have see a version of the play acted in a theater or as a film or on television or heard it on the radio, and by people who have no immediate knowledge of the play at all but have simply acquired a knowledge of it by repercussion from these other classes. A host of such people, vastly as they differ from one another intellectually and socially, misread the character of Hamlet in exactly the same way. They see him as a symbol of irresolution; and their unanimity is remarkable if it be considered that there is no justification for this view in the text.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Okay, so I decided only one short month ago that I wouldn't stockpile books. And granted, the stack above has all the markings of yet another stockpile.

But I did leave myself a caveat when I made the buy-and-read policy: I could still buy whatever I wanted at the used bookstore since I can't control when I might stumble upon an interesting book at a good price there. And these lovelies were all too good to pass up.

I do so love a caveat.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday cat blogging

Claudius and Nicholson consider the top of the sofa in the study their favorite hangout. Easy access to the window, plenty of room for joint naps, and they can keep tabs on who's using the computer across the room.

Animals will be boarding the Friday Ark all day today. The Carnival of the Cats will be at Cat Call on Sunday.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen classics I'd like to read in 2007:

1. Charterhouse of Parma. Stendhal
2. Germinal. Zola
3. Tristram Shandy. Sterne
4. A Sentimental Journey. Sterne
5. Buddenbrooks. Mann
6. The Woodlanders. Hardy
7. The Turn of the Screw. James
8. The Idiot. Dostoyevsky
9. Robinson Crusoe. Defoe
10. The Cherry Orchard. Chekhov
11. Paradise Lost. Milton
12. The Blithedale Romance. Hawthorne
13. The Metamorphoses. Ovid

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Talking Heads

TV's hand puppets don't ooze out one word
These days about Iraq's oil. That can be taken
For granted. Anyone tuned-in will have heard
Strong-arm democracy brings home the bacon.
Once we've inflicted freedom and secured
Men's good will, we'll sleep sound, dream right, then wake

To heaped-up platters. Nobody's been forbidden
To mention things that nobody dares think--
That's honor among thieves. Loot, once hidden,
Can still be leached off quicker than a wink.
Where's your cut of the stash gone? Check your eyelids:
Sly thieves and robber barons never blink.

Slick puppet masters have to keep count who's
Made a killing and who's been double-crossed
To bury that on the dark side of the news,
The brain's recycle bin. True recall might cost
Friends, income, or a life too good to lose.
Analysts sometimes ask how decent Germans,
Facing a sudden scarcity of Jews,
Maintained their ignorance of the Holocaust:
None mentions just how many we let squirm
And twist at rope's end for their predetermined,
Preemptive wars. But then, of course, they lost.

--W.D. Snodgrass, Not For Specialists: New and Selected Poems
This week My Bookstore is showcasing several my kids have enjoyed. (I can tell the bookstore is going to be the depository of all my nervous energy for awhile.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

R.I.P. Challenge: Harriet Hume

I conceived of my Rebecca West project --to read all of her fiction, in order published-- not long after reading The Return of the Soldier, a slim, every-word-tells account of a battle-injured man who returns home without a memory of the last 15 years of his life. I became even more of a West fan after reading The Judge, a great big sprawl of a novel that H.G. Wells made sure West knew he hated.

He was enthusiastic over her third, Harriet Hume, which she called a fantasy, not a novel; but then, main character Arnold Condorex was modeled on ambitious men of Wells' type, and Harriet herself was an embodiment of his belief in "the essential 'secondariness' of women," according to the Glendinning bio.

After an afternoon of love-making, Harriet Hume discovers that she can read Condorex' mind. She is dismayed to learn that no matter how idyllic their love, it is much more important for Condorex, a man without family or financial connections, to rise to political power than to remain with her. She lets him go without a fuss.

Aggressive and lacking scruples, Condorex manages to exalt himself to a lordship in large part due to his invention of a ficticious country in the far east on which he speaks most elegantly and knowingly. He marries for money and connection. Periodically he will run into Harriet Hume, largely unchanged, and realize that an unnerving connection remains between them: she can still read his mind and unearth the nasty truths he's managed to keep hidden from himself.

Twenty years later, financially and politically destroyed, abandoned by his friends, Condorex sets off to kill Harriet, his opposite, and thus, to his crazed mind, the author of his ruin. Harriet has told him earlier that she will not allow him to kill her, that it is her one duty not to die, so when he shows up in her garden brandishing a pistol, she calls the police.

"Oh, God above," he muttered, squirming and looking from the face of one to another and seeing nothing but patches of white dimness between a helmet and a chin-strap. "Has my opposite not only done me all this spiritual mischief, but has raised up a material army against me also!"

From this point on I cannot speak definitively. I think readers are supposed to believe that Condorex killed himself back in his study before setting off to Harriet's house, and that Harriet herself was buried a few days earlier in her hometown ("I was obliged to go there to assist at a religious ceremony," replied Harriet, "since they informed me they could not well have it without me.") but I can't quite square that with the conversation Condorex has with his servants after leaving the study or with Harriet's need to call the police, even if they are ghosts. Or why she says she won't allow Condorex to kill her. At any rate, once Harriet gets her house clean and permits Condorex to come in, the policemen wish them "A Very Happy Eternity."

And honestly, I just don't care to attempt to make sense out of it. West deliberately writes in an affected, archaic style (one V. Woolf would call "foppish") which I didn't enjoy in the least and sometimes couldn't make heads or tails of--there were three or four times in a descriptive passage when I just had to admit defeat and move on; repeated readings were not going to reveal the sense in a sentence inexplicable to me.

And I winced every time Harriet opened her mouth: she mews, she bleats, she sobs and she trills and titters. Condorex thinks of her most condescendingly: the little slut, the little hussy, the little silly dish of curds and whey. Ugh.

Fortunately for my Rebecca West project, the book is regarded an an aberation: critics "have tended to pass over Harriet Hume rapidly, labelling it mannered and insubstantial." For the R.I.P. Challenge, it was perfect--discussions of ghosts and other imaginary beings, London described as being "the colour of a grave," dead people at the end, and of course the unsettling notion of having every thought you have being transmitted into the mind of a woman who will then know you better than you know yourself.

If you're an ambitious man like Wells or Arnold Condorex, it will help if the woman who knows you also knows her place. Titter, titter.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The knowledge that another has felt as we have felt, and seen things, even if they are little things, not much otherwise than we have seen them, will continue to the end to be one of life’s choicest pleasures.

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I'm about 50 pages from the end of Harriet Hume and when I get there I'm going to call "Finished!" to the R.I.P. Challenge. Granted, that means I'll have to count The Island of Doctor Moreau from back in August in order to reach the five book quota (reviews pending), and I'll have two-thirds of The Italian still to go, the book most appropriate for the challenge, but I want to give myself plenty of time to read Indiana for the Slaves and to make a bit of progress in In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower for Involuntary Memory and the library stack needs some attention before I begin The Red and the Black with Isabella's crowd the first of November. Ann Radcliffe I can read slowly.

This evening, though, I'm watching Céleste, a German film with English subtitles based on Monsieur Proust, Céleste Albaret's memoir about her years as a housekeeper for Proust while he was writing Remembrance of Things Past.

And I now have what I've always wanted:

My own book store.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Fine Art Friday: Julio de Diego

Julio de Diego

When I first saw, more than 25 years ago, the privately-owned watercolor shown above, all I was told about the artist was that he was Spanish and had once been married to Gypsy Rose Lee.

Thank goodness for the internet. Julio de Diego was quite an interesting character.

When Painter Julio de Diego was a boy of 15 in Madrid, he already knew that he wanted to be an artist, but his father, a wholesale and retail merchant, objected. Father insisted that Julio and Julio's brother should aim for business success. "He even removed the table from my bedroom to discourage me from drawing," recalls De Diego. "One day I found some of my drawings, and he had written all over them, destroying every one: 'You are a Bohemian and this will be the cause of your dying of hunger.' " So Julio stuffed a few clothes into a suitcase, left the house for good, and, true to the romantic pattern of art biographies, became a successful painter. His brother inherited the business, gambled it away, and killed himself. (Time Magazine)

By 1924 when de Diego landed in the United States as a political exile and grandly threw his remaining few cents into the wind from the top of the Woolworth Building, he had worked as a scenery designer, movie actor, ballet extra and army officer.

Starting from scratch, de Diego painted murals for kitchens and bathrooms, designed menus, provided fashion illustrations and children's book illustrations and magazine covers (scroll down slightly). He worked for the WPA, painting "street scenes, landscapes, and 'some very terrible murals.' " (Time Magazine)

His first major art show was in Chicago in 1932, and he retained a close relationship with the city throughout his career. His work is found in many museums.

At age 62, de Diego exhibited 38 paintings at Manhattan's Landry Gallery devoted to the Spanish Armada:

Who but Julio would exhibit 38 paintings devoted exclusively to the Armada? Actually, there are many reasons why he became intrigued by the Armada, from the fact that it set sail on May 9, his birthday, to the fact that it is in every Spaniard's blood. Most of the paintings are small, but their scale does not detract from their impact. The ships struggle against wind and fire in a kind of wild dance; they glow bright red, founder among emerald waves, finally surrender to the sloshing rhythm of the sea. There is always high drama in the fall of a great fleet, and Julio de Diego has caught it well. The Armada's disaster has provided at least this welcome triumph. (Time)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


The good books are the fruit of the tree of knowledge all right, and the devil is always offering us another fellow's damned opinion, which, were we to sample it, might cause the scales to fall from our eyes, so to see sudddenly that king and queen, God and all the angels, are naked, shivering, and in sore need of shoes. That is why just one good book, however greatly good, when used to bludgeon every other, turns evil; why we should be onmivorous: try kale, try squid, try rodent on a spit, try water even though there's wine, try fasting even, try--good heavens!--rice with beans. The good books are cookbooks and good readers read them, try them, stain their pages, adjust ingredients, pencil in evaluations, warn and recommend their recipes to friends.


Yet, what is the goodness that makes the good books good? That confers this greatness on the great ones? Whence comes the character of "the classic" that gives it that cachet?

They glow because their authors are such fine, upstanding people from the best families, graduates of the most expensive schools, and representative of the nobler classes. When I was your age, we would have said to that suggest: in a pig's ear. Do you see a halo hanging over Heidegger's head? Their authors are murderers, thieves, traitors, mountebanks, misogynists, harlots, womanizers, idlers, recluses, sots, sadists, liars, snobs, lowlifes resentful of any success, vicious gossips, gamblers, addicts, ass-lickers, parvenues, whose pretenses to nobility were (and are) notorious: for instance, the clown whose father was a highland peasant named Balssa, lately come to town, and who renamed himself Balzac after an ancient noble family, and finally put a "de" before it, as if he were parking a Rolls in front of a tenement in the belief it might cause the johns to flush--a house, when Henry James paid a visit to Tours to take in the birthplace, he found to have been recently built but already a ruin, a row house that could at least have had the dignity, he said, to be "detached"--yes, a cheap pretender, this Balzac, who would go on to create a world more orderly than God's, almost as complete, and from beginning to end in better words, commencing with the fact that they were French. How about alleging that they glow because the good books uphold the finest ethical examples, support the highest values, display the most desirable attitudes? The way The Inferno is a testimonial to forgiveness? Or the Iliad a paean to pacifism? And by such edifying examples of revenge or the pleasure of killing an enemy, morally improving their readers, agenbiting their inwits, bestirring them to love their neighbors a bit better than themselves. Well, up a donkey's rear to that, too. One of the many lessons ours great teachers, the Nazis, taught us is that no occupation, no level of society, of wealth or education, no profession, no religious belief, no amount of talent, intelligence, or aesthetic refinement can protect you from fascism's virus, not to mention a dozen others. It is not a contradiction for the Chaucer scholar to beat his wife, especially if she resembles the Wife of Bath.


The healthy mind goes everywhere, one day visiting Saint Francis, another accepting tea from Celine's bitter pot--ask for two sugars, please--and hiking many a hard mile through Immanuel Kant or the poetry of Paul Celan--a pair who will provide a better workout than the local gym--before taking a hard-earned vacation in the warm and luscious fictions of Colette. You will live longer and better by consuming deliciously chewy fats and reading Proust than by treadmilling to a Walkman tune and claiming to be educated because you peruse the Wall Street Journal and have recently skimmed something by Tom Wolfe.

--William H. Gass, A Temple of Texts

A Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen random things about me. . .

1. I was in two separate bookstores last weekend and I didn't buy anything for myself either time. I did buy books for a baby shower, however.

2. The books I took with me to Utah:

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

3. My eyes are free agents and don't work in conjunction with one another. I find this a highly efficient system since I'm near-sighted in one and far-sighted in the other, but I evidently don't have as much depth perception as it takes to do those Magic Eye puzzles that get published with the Sunday comics.

4. When I was in high school I wore one contact lens.

5. I was taught to play clarinet in elementary school by a former Our Gang star. (Greenbriar wrote recently of Priscilla Calls' steadfast determination not to talk about it with her students.) Most of my friends in high school were in band and we were total snobs about it.

6. Part of me was relieved when my daughter, a trumpet player, decided not to be in high school band. The band at her school did not use the glide step and it would have been painful for me to be subjected to any other marching style (I did not tell her this at the time).

6. I was editor of the high school newspaper for two years. This gave me license to skip class--a lot--to go to the newspaper office in town where I worked as a stringer.

7. The first money I ever had I spent on two Johnny Cash albums.

8. The first book I ever read on my own was Green Eggs and Ham.

9. I don't have any wisdom teeth.

10. I met my husband in a bar in my hometown the summer after my freshman year at college. Among other things, I liked the fact that he wasn't from my hometown. But. . . it turned out that my mother's best friend/our next door neighbor had dated L.'s father in high school (last girlfriend before he met L.'s mother in college) and the publishers at the newspaper where I worked had played football with his dad in high school. I almost didn't go out with him because of the chorus of people telling me I should!

11. My son was Oberon in a fifth grade production of Midsummer's Night Dream. He was adorable.

12. For several years I had the idea that Dwight Yoakam was a Ray Stevens/Jerry Crowder type--more comedian than singer. In my defense, I was terribly sleep-deprived after R. was born (the year Dwight's first single hit the radio), I listened to the radio only in the car, and the announcers always did say his name as if there was a joke involved. I didn't become an obsessed fan until well after his fourth album was out, when I stumbled upon a Just Lookin' For a Hit tape in Brendles and realized the error of my ways.

13. I quit listening to country radio a good decade ago. My favorite radio station is WNCW, out of Isothermal Community College in Spindale.
In the ideal logotopia, every person would possess their own library, and add at least weekly, if not daily, to it. The walls of each home would seem made of books--wherever one looked, one would see only spines; because every real book (as opposed to dictionaries, almanacs, and other compilations) is a mind, an imagination, a consciousness. Together, they comprise a civilization, or even several. However, utopias have the bad habit of hiding in their hearts those schemes for success, those requirements of power, rules concerning conduct, which someone will one day have to carry forward, employ, and enforce in order to achieve them, and, afterward, to maintain the continued purity of their Being. Books have taught me what true dominion, what right rule is: It is like the freely given assent and labor of the reader who will dream the dreams of the deserving page and expect no more fee than the reward of its words.

--William H. Gass, A Temple of Texts

One Coke for the Road

When I finished Kevin Brockmeier's A Brief History of the Dead last spring I immediately did a search to see if the Coca-Cola Corp. had sued--Coke is the instrument used to bring about a deadly virus.

Cormac McCarthy treats the ubiquitous liquid differently in The Road:

On the outskirts of the city they came to a supermarket. A few old cars in the trashstrewn parking lot. They left the cart in the lot and walked the littered aisles. In the produce section in the bottom of the bins they found a few ancient runner beans and what looked to have once been apricots, long dried to wrinkled effigies of themselves. They boy followed behind. They pushed out through the rear door. In the alleyway behind the store a few shopping carts all badly rusted. They went back through the store again looking for another cart but there were none. By the door were two softdrink machines that had been tilted over into the floor and opened with a prybar. Coins everywhere in the ash. He sat and ran his hand around in the works of the gutted machines and in the second one it closed over a cold metal cylinder. He withdrew his hand slowly and sat looking at a Coca Cola.

What is it, Papa?

It's a treat. For you.

What is it?

Here. Sit down.

He slipped the boy's knapsack straps loose and set the pack on the floor behind him and he put his thumbnail under the aluminum clip on the top of the can and opened it. He leaned his nose to the slight fizz coming from the can and then handed it to the boy. Go ahead, he said.

They boy took the can. It's bubbly, he said.

Go ahead.

He looked at his father and then tilted the can and drank. He sat there thinking about it. It's really good, he said.

Yes. It is.

You have some, Papa.

I want you to drink it.

You have some.

He took the can and sipped it and handed it back. You drink it, he said. Let's just sit here.

It's because I wont ever get to drink another one, isnt it?

Ever's a long time.

Okay, the boy said.


A review of The Road here.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Yay, Ella is back at the Box!

And I'm off to Utah. Or I will be after I pack my suitcase (two loads of laundry yet to go), and once I get off the computer (I haven't printed off my ticket yet). Same outfitters, same companions, same horse, I hope, but a different locale--this time Boulder Mountain with a drive through Zion.

I should be back the middle of next week, limping and sore, but posting should continue in my absence if the guys remember to do so.

Wishing everyone a wonderful week,

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Too. many. books. Too many in progress, too many wanting to go on vacation with me, too many that will be left behind. Too many arriving in packages, too many with my name on them on the library holds shelf. Too many unceremoniously being returned to the library unread, too many being renewed although rationally I know I won't get around to them until some time in, oh, say, 2008. Too many languishing pathetically on the book shelves and end tables and *cough, cough* sofa itself begging for a brief moment's attention while I attend to nonreading matters (yes, on occasion I do things other than read). Too many to finish by the end of the month for the R.I.P. Challenge and the Slaves of Golconda discussion to afford any deviation from October's list; reading at whim this month is strictly prohibited.

Even the publishing industry is wondering if there are too many good books this fall. (Scroll down for the Mental Multivitamin mention.)

And what has happened to the public library? I could always rely on them to process the new books I wanted a month or more after their publication date. I used this slowless to rationalize many a new book purchase. This fall the library is processing as fast as they're being published--Mark Haddon' s last month and Cormac McCarthy's last week. I'm tempted to inactivate my hold on The Echo Maker for a couple of weeks since I cannot possibly squeeze it in before November, but chances are I'll be able to renew it. If a local review sends library patrons scurrying after it I'll need to endure the university library's lollygagging around until Thanksgiving or later before I can read it.

Stefanie sent me a copy of The Looking Glass Wars this week, complete with accompanying cd. My pre-ordered in August copy of One Good Turn arrived Friday evening and Moral Disorder, slated to be a birthday present from my mother-in-law later in the month--along with yet another book that will be delivered by the end of the week--arrived on Saturday. They all look wonderful, but there are already too many books in progress and they will have to wait their turn.

I cannot possibly read fast enough.

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...