Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Janus post

As I've said before, 2006 was a good year for reading. My favorites--and I'm calling a book a favorite if I finished it convinced that I'd like to read it again someday--are as follows:

The Judge. Rebecca West
The People's Act of Love. James Meek
Suttree & The Road. Cormac McCarthy
The Amalgamation Polka. Stephen Wright
One Good Turn. Kate Atkinson
Black Swan Green. David Mitchell
Triangle. Katharine Weber
Swann's Way. Marcel Proust
The Echo Maker. Richard Powers
The Red and the Black. Stendhal
Twilight of the Superheroes. Deborah Eisenberg

What do I intend to read next year? I'm going to qualify my "Read at Whim!" mantra with a "From the Books I Already Own" tag. I'm going to do my level best to ignore the new book cart at the university library and to keep my holds at the public to a minimum. I want to read the hardbacks already purchased before stockpiling any more. Well, many more.

I've tweaked the list of thirteen classics to read in 2007 that I made back in the fall into this list:

1. Charterhouse of Parma. Stendhal (haven't decided yet, but I may substitute Dumas' The Three Musketeers)
2. Germinal. Zola
3. Tristram Shandy. Sterne
4. A Sentimental Journey. Sterne
5. Buddenbrooks. Mann
6. Return of the Native. Hardy (although I may wind up reading the top-tier novels in chronological order once I start on Tomalin's bio of Hardy)
7. The Turn of the Screw. James
8. The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoyevsky (maybe I'll feel up to tackling another Dostoyevsky novel by fall, but at the moment I'm not going to commit to it)
9. Robinson Crusoe. Defoe
10. Ward No. 6. Chekhov
11. Doctor Faustus. Marlowe (because we have the opportunity to see the play this spring and Paradise Lost may have been a little too much for me to tackle right now)
12. The Blithedale Romance. Hawthorne
13. The Metamorphoses. Ovid

And I'm going to continue with Proust at least through The Guermantes Way. I have Sodom and Gomorrah on hand in the new translation as well but haven't decided whether I'll order the rest of In Search of Lost Time from the UK or go with the more readily available Moncrieff. And even more importantly, since I read Proust so slowly and cannot always predict when I can focus in on it the way that I should, I'm not inclined to commit to making my way through the remainder of the volumes next year; however far I get is fine.

I intend to resume working chronologically through Rebecca West's novels and I hope to read a few Christina Steads as well. I'd like to return to Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series and touch base with some Southern lit.

We'll see how it goes.

Happy reading in 2007, everyone.

Friday, December 29, 2006

End of year reading stats

I've had a very good reading year. I did goof around and waste a lot of time that could have been spent reading, but I should have 74 books completed by New Year's Eve, and that's a respectable amount. I can remember being at a Christmas party a year or two after my daughter was born, complaining to my husband's cousin's ex-boyfriend that I'd managed to read only 20 books that year, and how shocked he was that anyone would think that 20 books wasn't a tremendous number of books to have been gotten through. There are people in this world who brag about not having read a book since 1973; this post is not for them.

Here's how the year breaks down statistically:

Nonfiction: 14

Novels: 50

Plays: 5

Works of poetry: 3

Short stories: 32 stories total, one story collection pending (Deborah Eisenberg's Twilight of the Superheroes should be finished by Sunday at the latest)

Picture book for adults: 1

Books bought and read: 24

Books bought and stockpiled: 75+

Library books: 31

Books "just published" in the last year or so: 33

Works I consider classics: 23

Books written prior to the 20th century: 11

Re-reads: 7

Books started that remain unfinished (not counting those currently in progress): 4

Books written by women: 28

5 out of 21 books from my priority list completed; three others started

I should have my list of favorites and biggest disappointments posted in a day or so.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


I just finished updating my list of books owned but not yet read; I hadn't done so in almost a year and now I know why.

At my current reading rate it would take me almost seven years reading nothing but to get through 'em all; that's including the two outstanding orders that should be delivered in late January.

A resolution should follow that admission, one that involves a lengthy stay on book purchases, but I'm still considering other options at the moment: accidentally on purpose deleting the list, transferring ownership of books to the cats, establishing a goal of having at least a decade's worth of unread books on hand at all times.

So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.

--Ben Franklin

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The best day of the year

Is it wrong for the day after Christmas to be my favorite day of the year?

We had a very good Christmas (and I hope you did, too!) and other than one to-be-expected minor sour note, everything went very well and everyone was in good spirits, but it is always such a relief to have all that stress behind me for another year.

I didn't get many books as presents this year (certainly not necessary since I've read only one of my birthday books yet), but the ones I got look excellent:

Susanna Clarke's The Ladies of Grace Adieu
William Kittredge's The Willow Field
Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise

I strategized my reading for the remainder of the year early last week and realized I was going to make the 75 Books Challenge after all in addition to knocking out great portions of The Brothers Karamazov and the Proust. But I didn't count on not picking up a book--except to wrap or unwrap--from Wednesday on, so it's doubtful now that I manage to finish three books plus great portions of BK and Proust between now and Sunday unless I ignore all the other stuff I'm supposed to do between now and the first of the year.

Our great new find last week:

Bernard, Manny and Fran are hilarious. So hilarious, in fact, that it's like looking into the eye of a duck.

Friday, December 22, 2006

While visions of mousies danced in their heads. . .

If you don't mind I think I'll categorize the following shots as Christmas miracles.

It's easy to get pictures of Claudius and Nicholson together, and Nicholson and Ellie can be found hanging out together at the food dish, but it's nearly impossible to get Claudius and Ellie in the same frame since he hightails it whenever she approaches. (He can't let go of the idea that she might still turn out to be dangerous.)

Which is a shame, because I can tell she really really likes him.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Spitting at the devil

I decided to read something Christmasy, and rather than choosing something from our Christmas treasury, which we've had forever, I went with a story in a Nikolai Gogol collection that my daughter will be getting for Christmas (she's taking a Gogol class next semester).

Called "The Night Before Christmas," it begins like this:

The last day before Christmas had passed. A wintry, clear night came. The stars peeped out. The crescent moon rose majestically in the sky to give light to good people and all the world, so that everyone could merrily go caroling and glorify Christ. The frost had increased since morning; but it was so still that the frosty creaking under your boots could be heard for half a mile. Not one group of young lads had shown up under the windows of the houses yet; only the moon peeked stealthily into them, as if inviting the girls sprucing themselves up to hurry and run out to the creaking snow. Here smoke curled from the chimney of one cottage and went in a cloud across the sky, and along with the smoke rose a witch riding on a broom.

The next couple of paragraphs introduce us to the devil, who pockets the moon temporarily in a scheme to play a trick on the blacksmith, an artistic type who's embarrassed the devil with his paintings for the church for much too long. The blacksmith's mother is a witch, and her Christmas eve tryst with the devil is continually interrupted by townsmen, who want to make love to her as well. By the time the blacksmith comes home to Momma, rebuffed by the vain girl who he loves and feeling very sorry for himself, all the men and the devil are hiding in sacks, which the blacksmith assumes need to be carried back to his forge. . . if he doesn't decide to kill himself first. Once he learns he's carrying the devil on his back, the blacksmith tricks him into helping him obtain the slippers off of the Tsaritsa's feet--the task the vain girl has set for him if he is to marry her. By morning the girl will fear that the blacksmith is dead and decide that she loves him after all; she'll be so happy to see him that she'll agree to marry him even before he shows her the slippers. After they're married, the blacksmith paints a picture of the devil at the church, inspiring the villagers to spit and call the devil a caca.

Not very Christmasy at all, in case you're wondering.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Students less familiar with canon

I'm interested in the findings of the Siena Research Institute, which chart a decline in student familiarity with a set list of 30 Classics selected in 1984 by then chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities William Bennett, but I'm not sure what conclusions I should be drawing from them, especially since the study itself isn't online for perusal.

First, I do believe that high schools that offer English as a semester course--as more seem to be doing--will be turning out students who have read less than those taking a traditional year of English. It is, of course, possible for teachers to cram a year's worth of reading into a semester, but based both on the reading reports from my son's public school counterparts and the many search attempts here for Cliff's Notes and summaries for short stories, I am skeptical that as much reading is taking place in school these days as any English teacher would like.

But beyond that, I'm not sure how concerned I should be that all the titles listed below aren't being taught in the schools to the same degree that they were back in 1984. What's being taught in their place should matter, shouldn't it? Is it somehow better for a student to encounter Dickens in high school than, say, Camus or Kafka? Would a college professor expect more from a student if she's read The Scarlet Letter instead of The Handmaid's Tale? What if we substitute The Brothers Karamazov for Crime and Punishment? How about The House of the Spirits instead of Pride and Prejudice? How about Chronicle of a Death Foretold or some Vonnegut instead of The Catcher in the Rye? Is a field of 30 too limiting for gauging how well the classic classics are doing or ample proof that modern and multi-cultural classics have won?

I just can't get worked up that high school students aren't reading War and Peace (I never knew they were). But if they're not reading 1984. . . then I guess we find ourselves with a bunch of politicans who've used it a a how-to-guide instead of as an admonitory tale.

Here's the list of works (shamelessly lifted from Books Blog) and, for what it's worth (little), when my daughter, a college junior/senior, my son, a high school senior, and I first read them:

1. The Works of Shakespeare (I was required to read R&J, JC, and Macbeth in the 70s; my daughter was required to read only R&J and Macbeth; my son's read nine altogether, I think)

2. The Declaration of Independence (we've all read it)

3. Twain, Mark, Huckleberry Finn (9th grade for me, 8th for my son)

4. The poems of Emily Dickinson (just a few for all three of us in school)

5. The poems of Robert Frost (just a few for all three of us in school)

6. Hawthorne, Nathaniel, Scarlet Letter (high school for son and me)

7. Fitzgerald, Scott F., The Great Gatsby (high school for daughter and me; my son expected to read it in the spring)

8. Orwell, George, 1984 (high school for all three of us)

9. Homer, Odyssey and Iliad (bits and pieces for me in high school; full works for my daughter in college, my son in high school)

10. Dickens, Charles, Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities ( my son read Tale in 8th grade; I was never required to read Dickens except for Hard Times in a college history class; I don't believe my daughter's read any Dickens)

11. Chaucer, Geoffrey, The Canterbury Tales (bits and pieces in high school for both my son and I)

12. Salinger, J.D., Catcher in the Rye (daughter and I both read this extracurricularly during high school)

13. The Bible (most, if not all, for me outside school; bits and pieces for the kids outside school)

14. Thoreau, Henry David, Walden (excerpts for both son and me during high school)

15. Sophocles, Oedipus (high school, everyone)

16. Steinbeck, John, the Grapes of Wrath (high school for me, next spring for my son)

17. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays and poems (excerpts, son and me)

18. Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice (I think daughter read this while living in Germany, but none of us read Austen for school; daughter was required to read Jane Eyre)

19. Whitman, Walt, Leaves of Grass (excerpts, high school for son and me)

20. The novels of William Faulkner (I read "A Rose for Miss Emily" in school; my daughter read Light in August)

21. Melville, Herman, Moby Dick (son and I, high school)

22. Milton, John, Paradise Lost (no one required to read more than a few poems of Milton)

23. Vergil, Aeneid (I translated excerpts from Latin in high school)

24. Plato, The Republic (no one, unless daughter read excerpts for philosophy class in college)

25. Marx, Karl, Communist Manifesto (college for me, daughter probably the same)

26. Machiavelli, Niccolo, the Prince (excerpts in high school for my son)

27. Tocqueville, Alexis de, Democracy in America (college for me)

28. Dostoevski, Feodor, Crime and Punishment (high school for daughter and me)

29. Aristotle, Politics (no one required to read)

30. Tolstoy, Leo, War and Peace (no one required to read, although I read it several years back)

Maybe I'll have a more coherent thought about this once the Christmas prep is complete (panic has truly set in). Is it just that students are reading less these days or are college faculty truly frustrated that students haven't read from a set canon? And is William Bennett's list of 30 classics truly the best of the best for high school students?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The sun shining inside one's head

A deep embarrassment has been stalking him. Every time he lets his guard down these days, there it is. Because it's become clear: he and even the most dissolute among his friends have glided through their lives on the assumption that the sheer fact of their existence has in some way made the world a better place. As deranged as it sounds now, a better place. Not a leafy bower, maybe, but still, a somewhat better place--more tolerant, more amenable to the wonderful adventures of the human mind and the human body, more capable of outrage against injustice. . . .

For shame! One has been shocked, all one's life, to learn of the blind eye turned to children covered with bruises and welts, the blind eye turned to the men who came at night for the neighbors. And yet. . . And yet one has clung to the belief that the sun shining inside one's head is evidence of sunshine elsewhere.

Not everywhere, of course. Obviously, at every moment something terrible is being done to someone somewhere--one can't really know about each instance of it!

Then again, how far away does something have to be before you have the right to not really know about it?

--Deborah Eisenberg, Twilight of the Superheroes"

An interview with Eisenberg here (via Ed Rants)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Out of print

'Twas the night before Christmas, and in our duplex
The children were plugged into special effects,
While pizza with sausage and peppers they downed
With soda, plus popcorn and chips by the pound.

. . . .

When all of a sudden not the sound of reindeers,
But the mooing of Santa Cows came to our ears.
So we ran to the windows and opened the shutters.
We threw up the blinds to a sky full of udders.

Okay, so I understand completely why Cooper Edens' Santa Cows (illustrated by Daniel Lane) is out of print.

But we always found it a moooving experience.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Friendly Reminder

Did you remember to put Bruno Schulz's The Street of Crocodiles on your Christmas list? The Slaves of Golconda will begin discussion of the book on January 31. Please join us--the Schulz can easily count as a contemporary classic if you're worried about an overcommitment to reading challenges, and it's only 160 pages.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Revised Winter's Classics List

Scratch Crime and Punishment from the Winter's Classics list.

I came home from work last night to find that a bored S. had picked up The Brothers Karamazov and wasn't going to need any encouragement on my part to continue. (His sister will be thrilled.) He will, however, need a discussion buddy, so, now that I'm signing on for the impromptu re-read of a 776-pager, I'm throwing earlier plans out the window.

Revised plans are now:
the substituted Dostoevsky
Proust's In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower
Stendhal's The Red and the Black
Chekhov's Ward No. 6
Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author
Mann's Buddenbrooks
Hardy's The Return of the Native

I may not have time to finish the Mann and Hardy before the challenge ends, but I'm definitely going to read them.

And now I must scramble to catch up in The Brothers.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Meme

(via Danielle, who's sporting spiffy bangs and saddle shoes in the Santa pic)

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate, except at Tudy and Dub's Christmas open house when I'll drink any nog offered to me.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree? When I was growing up, Santa didn't wrap. He was lazy that way. So was my mother--she taught me how and then I wrapped all the presents, even my own (usually I was good and didn't peek in the boxes). When my kids were young, Santa wrapped everything.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? We started out with colored lights, switched to white years ago when I decided they were classier, and then started using whatever we could snatch up at the nearest drug store once a string went dead. Currently I don't know which we're on, but I hope colored; white's looking awfully generic to me these days. The ceramic Christmas tree on the computer desk has colored lights.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No. I've never known anyone who did.

5. When do you put your decorations up? After the 15th. At some point after that. The year R. spent in Germany we were decorating the tree when she called home on Christmas Eve, which shamed even us. We're prone to leaving things up till the middle of January, though.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish? I believe they're called second helpings.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child? Seeing extended family and friends who dropped in and out, and dropping in on them as well. Watching Rudolph and Charlie Brown. Setting out tollhouse cookies and milk for Santa. Always getting pajamas and a book or two. Conspiring with cousins on how we were to meet at the barn at midnight so we could hear the animals talk.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? Second grade. My friends Mark and Nancy told me at school and I told them they were wrong, and the teacher's aide said when she entered the argument that I was right, and then I went home and told my mother who said Mark and Nancy were right and I ran and hid behind a chair. It all seemed so wrong.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We open all our presents on Christmas eve. We go to the grandparents' on Christmas morning, 80-some miles away, and this way we get to have our own unrushed, peaceful Christmas before the madness starts (a huge breakfast and twenty million presents under one tree). Plus my family always opened presents on Christmas Eve, too; Christmas day was strictly for Santa.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? Reluctantly, these days, I'm afraid. I lost the momentum of Christmas in '02; my dad died in November that year and my mother died right before Christmas after being in intensive care for 17 days. Both L. and I have a why bother attitude about the tree these days which would be relieved by the kids showing a bit of their earlier enthusiasm for decorating it.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? The last time we had snow for Christmas was 25 years ago. I panicked -- we were getting married in two days and how on earth was anyone to get to the church if there was snow? Ordinarily though, I would love to have a white Christmas, but as we say around these parts, it ain't gonna happen.

12. Can you ice skate? No, not at all.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? My stuffed frog Hoppy. My brother gave him to me. I intended to keep him forever, so I'm sorry to say I had to throw him out just last week. Claudius is not a good cat, and that's all I'm going to say about that.

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Family togetherness. Trying to insure that everyone else has a good time.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Coconut cake.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Having everyone at home. Going to the grandparents' and seeing everyone. R. and I would like a tradition of going to London for the holidays, but we've manged to do that only once.

17. What tops your tree? We don't own a designated tree topper. Sometimes I hang a gold sun with a face at the top because it's so large I don't know where else to put it.

18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving? Giving, when I can come up with the perfect gift. Receiving a perfect gift's pretty wonderful too.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? I am inordinately fond of (translation: I listen to it all year long) Santa Can't Stay--what's Christmas without a little family drama? (Plus there's some seriously whacked out bells at the end of the song and a line you'd never expect to find in a Christmas song, Momma "says he (Santa) might beat the crap out of Ray" (Momma's new boyfriend).) I also lurve Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas (I also listen to this all year long) and John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War is Over)." I like the medley of traditional carols we played in high school band.

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? I am not a big fan of candy canes. I eat one every three or four years, I suppose.

Monday, December 11, 2006


If animals think
about death,
do the nocturnal ones--
the lemur, for instance
or the raccoon--
consider it
a kind of light,
a glare
in the future, a place
where predators
arm themselves in God's
fluorescent shield?

Do they fear
a wilderness of light
the way we fear
the dark? I sleep
with lights burning
in the other room,
as if to fool
what lies ahead, owl-shaped
or prescient
as a bat, waiting
to smother me
in its nocturnal wings.

--Linda Pastan, Carnival Evening

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Just in case someone hasn't seen these yet:


1. Schizophrenia --- Do You Hear What I Hear?

2. Multiple Personality Disorder ---We Three Kings Disoriented Are

3. Dementia ---I Think I'll be Home for Christmas

4. Narcissistic ---Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me

5. Manic ---Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and...

6. Paranoid ---Santa Claus is Coming to Town to Get Me

7. Borderline Personality Disorder ---Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire

8. Personality Disorder ---You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm Gonna Pout, Maybe I'll Tell You Why

9. Attention Deficit Disorder ---Silent night, Holy oooh look at the Froggy - can I have a chocolate, why is France so far away?

10. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder ---Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle,Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells , Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Meta stuff

Changing template--ugh. I have a migraine, itchy allergy eyes, and cold feet. It is very cold here. The gas logs keep blowing out.

If I managed to skip you while recreating my blogroll, let me know. If you have suggestions for sidebar arrangement, please speak up. Do you want the Recent Posts/Archives feature near the top of the page or is it okay having it midway down? Should I make an effort to label the posts?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Naturally. Now, when I have done nothing to prepare for the holidays except set my aunt Margaret's ceramic Christmas tree on the computer desk downstairs, Blogger says I can make the great switch over. But of course.

Will the process be brief, painless, at this point, or should I hold off until I have a chunk of time to spare?


I have taken Nick Hornby back off the shelf. He's causing me to mutter under my breath, but it's quick, easy reading and that's what I need right now.

And I did agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment expressed in this tidbit:

Is the phrase "Deliciously politically incorrect" used with the same gay abandon in the U.S.? You come across it all the time here, and usually it means, quite simply, that a book or a movie or a TV program is racist and/or sexist and/or homophobic; there is a certain kind of cultural commentator who mysteriously associates these prejudices with a Golden Age during which we were allowed to do lots of things that we are not allowed to do now. (The truth is that there's no one stopping them from doing anything. What they really object to is being recognized as the antisocial pigs they really are.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Highway 12 and its adjoining roads transverse the last wilderness in the lower United States to be explored by European Americans. The Henry Mountains, the soot-black, bald laccolithic domes that creep across the sea of red solid rock in the frame of the eastbound driver's windshield, were the last mountains on the continent to be named. The Escalante River, which drains the wooded highlands rising in necessary opposition on that sea's far shore, was the last river on the continent to be discovered. The hamlet of Boulder in its pocket of green off the shoulder of those highlands, was once the most isolated town in the United States. To this day, it is possible to find niches and alcoves, narrow canyons and glens which no modern man has seen except from above. This is because the reach of land off Highway 12's southern edge is the most broken-up, inaccessible, intractable, inhospitable country on the face of the earth, and it is unlike anything else on the earth. It is land in the form of a mindscape, a place that shouldn't exist except as a mental contruct.

--Christian Probasco, Highway 12

C. and I are already planning another trip to southern Utah for next October. Anyone else want to go?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Reading challenges

Booklogged's spearheading the Winter Classics Challenge--read five classics in the months of January and February--and I've selected my titles.

If I don't finish them this month, I will of course be reading Proust's In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower and Stendhal's The Red and the Black (we've been granted permission to overlap other reading commitments, thank God).

I'll also be reading:

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Ward No. 6 by Anton Chekhov
Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello

And if I do finish Proust and Stendhal before the challenge begins I'll be adding Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks and Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native to the list.

As far as Overdue Books' From the Stacks Challenge goes, I've managed to read the requisite five books already, but I'm hoping to continue reading only books I own till the end of January. I have not set foot in a bookstore in a month. I have no books checked out from the public library and have none on hold. I am hoarding books from the university library, but I'm giving those an exemption since I can keep renewing them until the challenge is over. And my one Amazon order with a gift certificate hinged around a yet-to-be-published book and won't be delivered until late January.

If I could just finish some of the books I have in progress. . .
Paul Theroux on E.B. White, anthropomorphism, and raising geese:

When I first began to raise geese, in Hawaii, my more literate friends asked me, "Have you read the E. B. White piece?" This apparently persuasive essay was all that they knew about geese other than the cliché, often repeated to me, "Geese are really aggressive! Worse than dogs!" or "They're everywhere!"—regarding them as an invasive species, spoiling golf courses. Received wisdom is not just unwise, it is usually wrong. But I was well disposed toward E. B. White. In his writing he is the kindest and most rational observer of the world. And a man who can write the line "Why is it...that an Englishman is unhappy until he has explained America?" is someone to cherish. (The Smithsonian)

Monday, December 04, 2006


Am currently without internet--or phone--at home and likely to be that way for another day.

Before I could post to say that my husband had retired (last week) after 30 years with the bank, he signed on to return to the same bank doing the same job (this week) as a sub-contractor. Boo! Hiss! He was supposed to take at least a month off before returning to gainful employment; December was to be home improvement month.

He claims it still will be, conveniently forgetting that there's a major holiday that takes quite a bit of prep work.

Shopping vs. stripping a room bare.

Addressing envelopes vs. ripping up nasty old carpet.

Trimming a tree vs. painting the ceiling and walls.

Visiting with friends and family vs. installing wood flooring.

We have yet to clear enough room in the packed-to-the-gills garage so that L. can manage to do his own prep work out there despite our taking a U-Haul's worth of items to my sister's for storage on Saturday. We spent most of yesterday replacing our old family room furniture with the much nicer furniture which we brought back that had belonged to my late aunt. It appears that we'll need to rent a U-Haul again next weekend to clear out still more of the stuff in the garage, which means it may be the middle of the month before we can actually start on any painting or carpet removal.




At least Claudius, from whom we expected major issues because things are no longer as they were, has rallied. He's not hiding out, he's not going outside the litter box, he's behaving as calmly and well-adjustedly as I'd like to be.

I hid out in the bathroom long enough on Sunday (while L. and S. came up with a much better arrangement of furniture than we'd previously had) to finish The Echo Maker.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Plunged into achromatopsia

He was still walking at random when the street went dark. He took four full seconds to think: power failure. The thrill of thunderstorms and ambulances came over him. He looked up; the sky was deep in stars. He'd forgotten how many there could be. Washes of them, spilling in streams. He'd forgotten how rich darkness looked. He could see, but poorly, without color, plunged into achromatopsia. Both of the achromats he'd interviewed had raged against the very words, red, yellow, blue. They lived for the night world, where they were superior to the color-sighted and merely ordinary. Weber fumbled in the dark for blocks, his sense of direction failing. When the lights surged back on, he felt the banality of sight.

--Richard Powers, The Echo Maker

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...