Wednesday, November 30, 2005

New and shiny

Jeff at Necessary Acts of Devotion wants us all to get in touch with our inner Slaves of Golconda:

Coleridge divides readers into four kinds. The first three he believes are to varying degrees lazy, casual, and inattentive. "The fourth," he says, "is like the slaves in the diamond mines of Golconda, who, casting aside all that is worthless, retain only pure gems."


Those of us aspiring to Slaves of Golconda status will be posting on our individual blogs on December 18 about that jewel of a book, Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Grab a copy and join in on the fun!

Budd Parr has begun a new venture for book and literary bloggers as well:


MetaxuCafe


MetaxuCafé will highlight the best content from the community of bloggers who write about books and provide member forums.

I've joined, but I feel intimidated already.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Who knew?

Marshall Saunders, author of childhood favorite Beautiful Joe, was a woman--Margaret Marshall Saunders. She was Canada's first million-selling author.

She wrote a sequel, too--Beautiful Joe's Paradise.

Why didn't anyone ever tell me? And why don't the libraries here have this one?
So this morning I decide I'll make a concession to S.'s current conversation obsession--bagels--and take him out to breakfast at Bruegger's. We get into the car, slam the doors in unison, and the back windshield crumbles to bits and drops out.

Huh.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Another catch-up post

Where do the old gods go when they retire?
When velvet ropes define museum spaces
In front of obelisks once crowned by fire?
When names are unremembered, and their faces?
Not that they do not have their worshippers.
They do. Those who still see them, and who gaze
At them with interest, and unlike us
Count their own wisdom not in years but days.

We recognize this worship in his eyes
By something in their colour, depth and size,
Like windows on to lawns where if you waited
Long enough you might expect to see
The gods happy again, and quietly
Pottering in the garden they created.

--John Fuller, Ghosts

I read the first three volumes in the new Canongate myth series this month and am now anxious for the next batch of myth books in the series to become available. In the meantime I'll have to console myself with the books L.'s mom brought us from her trip to Greece and Turkey and gave to us on Thanksgiving: Greek Mythology and Religion by Maria Mavromataki and Pergamon by Turgay Tuna. She now totally regrets the day she spent back in the apartment in Berlin to rest her feet while L. and S. and I went to the Pergamon Museum.

Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad was my favorite of the mythology books and the one I most look forward to rereading. Penelope tells her side of the story, with enough of Homer's own ambiguity to leave a doubt whether she's telling the truth or spinning an Odysseus-size yarn and with an abundance of wit: "the gods often mumble;' "nothing more preposterous than an aristocrat fumbling around with the arts;" "happy endings are best achieved by keeping the right doors locked and going to sleep during the rampages;" "there is always some servant or slave or nurse or busybody ready to regale a child with the awful things done to it by its parents when it was too young to remember;" and her scathing assessment of Odysseus: "the manners of a small-town big shot." The chorus of "hanged girls" whose song and dance numbers alternate with Penelope's tale changes from being amusing asides to powerful indictments of "the standards of behavior" of ancient times during a 21st-century trial that devolves into a showdown between the Furies and Pallas Athena.

(For some inexplicable reason I skipped Atwood's Oryx and Crake, but I'll be catching up with it soon, especially since she has a new book coming out next month.)

Jeanette Winterson's Weight, a retelling of the Atlas and Heracles myth, is almost a match in the wit department with the Atwood and concerns itself with whether the burdens we bear are put upon us by fate or are self-inflicted: can we remove the world from our shoulders? And Karen Armstrong manages to write a brief overview of myth in A Short History of Myth that contains fresh bits of perspective and insight and the references she cites will make for great further reading.

I finished Walter Kirn's Mission to America over the weekend. It was great fun while it lasted, but left a bad aftertaste: did I learn anything new? did I care about any of the characters? Uh, no. A nice diversion, that's all.

I've started Gretch Moran Laskas' The Midwife's Tale because it seems like forever since I've read anything set in the Appalachians.

I spent way too much time cataloging books at Library Thing over the holiday, but at least now I've broken into the top 100 libraries: currently I'm 88th. Although S. claims having books off the shelves for cataloging purposes makes the house seem too small, at least shelves are getting dusted, and I'm locating books that had gone missing for quite some time. I still haven't figured out where David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day has run off to, but most of the other awol books have been accounted for. I think I'm about halfway through the cataloging project, but doubt I'll do much more until after Christmas.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

As a paper topic over the weekend, he asked all three classes to consider whether literature could be cured by antidepressants.

--James Hynes, The Lecturer's Tale

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Entering Penitentiary Canyon.

"Don't sneeze, Susan!" A view up at canyon walls.

The view after leaving Penitentiary Carnyon.

San Rafael Swell

A view of camp on our final day.

The view from the latrine in camp.

Study in Blue


Dead juniper on our last day in the San Rafael Swell
I let the gel dry and watched the nighttime interstate out the recessed, cell-like bathroom window. Each car and truck represented another soul out of reach of our influence, lost to its true nature. Growing up, it had always bothered me how easily we consigned non-AFAs to lives of dissatisfaction and insignificance. The universe pivoted on our heads solely, even though we'd just recently organized ourselves. The older I grew and the more I read, the more confusing it all seemed. How could a settlement tucked up in the woods at the edge of the power grid and the zip code system have a bigger lever to shift history than the millions of people who voted for the government, farmed the Great Plains, and administered the markets?

--Walter Kirn, again

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Mission to America

Partly we did it out of pity. We felt sorry for people who didn't know what we knew. By reading their newspapers in our village library and questioning the occasional lost hiker or adventurous dirt-road motorist, we realized as never before that life out there had become strident, disheartening, and harsh while life back here, back home in Bluff, Montana, remained harmonious and sweet. But we also had selfish reasons for what we did. Over the years we'd come to understand that there was something we needed from the outsiders, without which our charmed little world might not survive. We needed new blood. We needed wives and mothers. We needed a few brown eyes among our offspring, more dark curly hair, and less inherited color blindness. We needed to stir our lumpy hard old stock until it was soft enough to pour again. And so, for the first time since we came together one hundred and forty-seven years earlier, and in violation of our traditions of silence, modesty, and isolation, we gathered a party to go down out of the hills and mount, at long last, a mission to America.

The strange disturbed place needed help, and so did we.

Our wisdom for their vigor. We hoped to trade.

--Walter Kirn, opening lines to A Mission to America

Friday, November 18, 2005

Cats and apologies

Dave at Book Puddle has a cat who reads. Here's a picture of gorgeous Jack that I failed to put in the Carnival of Cats a couple weeks back. My apologies to Dave and to all who've sent email to me in the last month that I haven't responded to-- for the longest time all emails at my pagesturned email address simply spilled over into my regular email and it never even crossed my mind to check the blog account for anything that might not have made its way through. Dumb me.

I have Danielle to thank for the Kitten War link. I voted for so many kittens a few nights back I dreamed about them, although the kittens in my dream were all the size of Ellie and Claudie's catnip mice.

No cats of my own to showcase today since our camera has gone neurotic on us and refuses to take decent inside shots, but as always, you can see the best and latest pet pictures on Fridays at the Ark. The 86th Carnival of the Cats is currently at Curiouser and Curiouser and the 87th will be at Scribblings on Sunday.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I was within minutes--mere minutes--of the end of Peter Ackroyd's The Lambs of London Tuesday evening when I came to the library. Unfortunately, we're not permitted to listen to audiobooks while we're at the service desk, so I was gratified to have Susan Tyler Hitchcock's Mad Mary Lamb to tide me over until it was time to leave.

I'd not realized the extent of literary license Ackroyd had taken in his novel--not surprising once I considered Milton in America, but at least then I knew from the outset that he was taking Milton somewhere he'd never actually gone. While he keeps the overbearing, difficult mother and the father with dementia, he never mentions an older brother to Charles and Mary, living elsewhere in London, nor the elderly aunt who lived with them in their rooms above a Holborn wig shop. He also excises the introduction of a nine year old apprentice to Mary, who'd come to live with her family in the fall of 1796, and who Mary had chased with a case knife immediately before turning it fatally upon her mother.

Ackroyd could have stuck with the unrelenting strain of providing elder care and a family predisposition toward mental illness to tell Mary Lamb's story, but then he couldn't have cleverly dovetailed it with a historical case of Shakespearean forgery, which is the true subject of Lambs. While there's no actual evidence Mary knew young bookseller William Ireland (that I'm aware of, at any rate), who confessed, in the spring of 1796, to writing several Shakespearean documents. To weave these two events together, forgery and matricide, Ackroyd invents unrequited feelings toward Ireland for Mary and creates an overheard conversation between William and his father to serve as a precipitating event before the murder.

The Lambs of London has been my only true success where audiobooks are concerned. It kept my attention from start to finish and it was easy to follow in the audio format. Although I told Sandra a month back that Simon Callow was the reader, Lambs is actually read by Alex Jenkins; Callow reads Death in Venice, which I'll be listening to next. Then I think I'll try some nonfiction, which everyone assures me works much better than fiction in audio.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Links and civilization

Patry Francis has a book deal. Excellent news. Go read all about it.

In Bloom, great writers commune and contend with each other, as, in his view, they do in the canon. Don't be surprised, therefore, to find in Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine (Riverhead), Bloom's new book, that Saint Mark reminds him of Edgar Allan Poe, or that Freud crops up in connection to the Book of Daniel. And because Bloom has long since pronounced Shakespeare our greatest writer, for him there's nothing peculiar about bringing Hamlet and Lear into discussions of Jesus and Yahweh, as the god of the Hebrew Bible is sometimes known.

An interview with Harold Bloom, conducted by Harvey Blume, in the Boston Globe.

A fundamental truth about people is that they are shaped by the world around them. In the here and now, get-the-job-done environment of modern America, the knowledge for knowledge's sake ethos that is the foundation of a liberal arts education -- and of a rich and satisfying life -- has been shoved to the margins. Curiously, in a world where everything is worth knowing, nothing is.

J. Peder Zane relates a story Lawrence Naumoff tells at a dinner party, of how his creative writing students not only don't know who Jack Kerouac is, they don't even know his name, before indicating that "our culture gives us a pass, downplaying the importance of knowledge, culture, history and tradition." (Shouldn't Zane have at least parenthetically mentioned that the Kerouac scrolls are on exhibit at UNC, or has this already received adequate coverage in the Triangle area?)

Zane's piece reminded me of how Edward Abbey said cultures can exist with little trace of civilization within, and that civilization "while dependent upon culture for its sustenance, as the mind depends upon the body, is a semi-independent entity, precious and fragile, drawn through history by the finest threads of art and idea, a process or series of events without formal structure of clear location in time and space. It is the conscious forefront of evolution, the brotherhood of great souls and the comradeship of intellect, a corpus mysticum. The Invisible Republic open to all who wish to participate, a democratic atistocracy based not on power or institutions but on isolated men."

MFS calls participants in this Invisible Republic "monks," and that's certainly what one feel as if one were once the realization sets in that our culture doesn't care about knowledge.

Also, favorite former president Jimmy Carter has a new book, Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis, coming out this month. There are two interviews with Carter at NPR; he provides a commentary on our current situation in the LA Times.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Stupid gym

While I was ever so innocently hiking the Boone Fork Trail with C. on Saturday, enjoying my company and my surroundings, thinking the occasional sweet thought about my family back at home and in Chapel Hill, L. willfully, deviously signed me up at the gym.

(S. swears he himself had nothing to do with it, but since he's been pleading with me to join ever since he started going back in August, I don't think he encouraged his dad to think twice before doing it. Saying it's for my own good after the fact only makes me cranky as they well know.)

I hate gyms. I had reminded L. of this on Friday, as we hiked in our local nature preserve. I reminded him of it yet again on Sunday, as we hiked there again. I'm not opposed to exercise, I just don't like gyms. I don't like the noise, I don't like the aesthetics, I don't think it very likely that I'll start going in the evenings when I get off work—or that anyone will want me to do that anyway—and the idea that I'll go at the crack of dawn is not worth considering: I don't like people at that time of day.

I've grudgingly agreed to go on Tuesday mornings, though—S. has drama class Tuesday evenings and I sometimes take him to the gym during the day on Tuesdays anyway. And I suppose I can go late in the day on Fridays and possibly on Saturdays.

But I'm not the least bit happy about it.

S., who has a personal trainer and has, accordingly, become quite knowledgeable about fitness, showed me a great deal of equipment this morning. Not everything, because I begged off due to brain overload after 30 minutes. He'll have to show me a few more times, no doubt, before everything stops looking like every other piece of equipment.

I spent most of my time on the treadmill, which, I might add, I could do at home. I listened to The Lambs of London with the volume turned up loud. I could still hear wretched pop music and TV din. I would have had a better time walking through the neighborhood.

I came home and undid any good the session might have done me by pouring myself a glass a lemonade. And then another.

I'm seriously considering making chocolate chip cookies. The only thing holding me back is knowing that S. won't help me eat them. He's into protein bars these days.

Stupid gym.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Ack!

Once again, they're all coming in at once. Why does it always work out that way?

Waiting for me at the public library:

Mad Mary Lamb: Lunacy and Murder in Literary London. Susan Tyler Hitchcock

Fledgling. Octavia Butler

Mission to America. Walter Kirn

Weight. Jeanette Winterson

Computer woes

For a little more than a week, Blogger has been reduced to an array of unhelpful boxes on my screen. At first, I thought the problem was Blogger's, but I gave up that notion once I signed in using S.'s computer. By the weekend, I'd lost Picasa's Hello--the UI fails to initialize, whatever that is. Reinstalling hasn't improved matters.

Anyone experienced either of these problems before? Any suggestions?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!


My reward? I get to spend the day hiking in the mountains. Happy weekend, everyone.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

"You read the weirdest things"

. . . or so I was told Tuesday while working at the precinct. Considering who spoke those words, I don't think the comment was meant unkindly; at any rate, my choice of reading material that day was certainly more appropriate than that of the worker who brought in Ann Coulter's latest. He must have assumed keeping the book face down on the table in front of him squared with the oath we take not to attempt to influence any voter's decisions, although he did read aloud from the book once when there was a voter in a booth. Of course, the read-aloud session was at the prompting of our Republican judge, so that makes it all Perfectly Okay.

Feh.

I have a between books feeling since finishing Desert Solitaire and reading all of The Solace of Open Spaces during the election. Walden is still in progress, but I want to have something else going as well. Maybe I'll start This House of Sky tonight, or maybe I'll wait for Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad to come in at the library--probably by the weekend.

We're watching Robert Sapolsky's lecture series on Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality. Ours is the first edition, with only eight 45-minute lectures; already I'm grieving that we don't have this expanded version with discussion of brain evolution and ethology and various perspectives on behavior because Sapolsky is just as engaging and incredible a speaker as he is a writer. S. is reading Monkeyluv now because of the lectures; I'll read it once he's done.

Last night our student worker had a question about drones--are they really born of unfertilized eggs?--and I offered to go up in the tower to retrieve a book about bees that I read a good ten years back: The Queen Must Die by William Longgood. A title on the shelf above it snagged my attention:Parrot Culture. (The library always strips books of their jackets before placing them in general collections, so the cover Amazon shows was a complete surprise.) It begins with Alexander the Great's first exposure to parrots; our Trevor is in build, although not in color, simply a miniature Alexandrine parakeet, although I have babysat the real deal.

There's an article in the Christian Scientist Monitor on Library Thing.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


The morns are meeker than they were-
The nuts are getting brown-
The berry's cheek is plumper-
The Rose is out of town.

The Maple wears a gayer scarf-
The field a scarlet gown-
Lest I should be old fashioned
I'll put a trinket on.

--Emily Dickinson

Sometimes it pays to be a packrat

Thursday night I snapped the left earpiece on my prescription reading glasses. It took until Monday for me to find an old pair of glasses I'd used only while driving with screws that looked comparable (kinda hard to tell without reading glasses ). I made do with the broken pair yesterday at the precinct, but headed out for my optomologist's office first thing this morning, where it was quickly determined that the screws were the same size, although hinged differently.

Yay!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Rock and sun in the San Rafael Swell


Light. Space. Light and space without time, I think, for this is a country with only the slightest traces of human history. In the doctrine of the geologists with their scheme of ages, eons and epochs all is flux, as Heraclitus taught, but from the mortally human point of view the landscape of the Colorado is like a section of eternity-timeless. In all my years in the canyon country I have yet to see a rock fall, of its own volition, so to speak, aside from floods. To convince myself of the reality of change and therefore time I will sometimes push a stone over the edge of a cliff and watch it descend and wait-lighting my pipe-for the report of its impact and disintegration to return. Doing my bit to help, of course, aiding natural processes and verifying the hypotheses of geological morphology. But am not entirely convinced.

Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear-the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break. Turning Plato and Hegel on their heads I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that a man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.

Under the desert sun, in that dogmatic clarity, the fables of theology and the myths of classical philosophy dissolve like mist. The air is clean, the rock cuts cruelly into flesh, shatter the rock and the odor of flint rises to your nostrils, bitter and sharp. Whirlwinds dance across the salt flats, a pillar of dust by day; the thornbush breaks into flame at night. What does it mean? It means nothing. It is as it is and has no need for meaning. The desert lies beneath and soars beyond any possible human qualification. Therefore, sublime.

The sun is touching the fretted tablelands on the west. It seems to bulge a little, to expand for a moment, and then it drops-abruptly-over the edge. I listen for a long time.

Through twilight and moonlight I climb down the rope, down to the ledge, down to the canyon floor below Rainbow Bridge. Bats flicker through the air. Fireflies sparkle by the waterseeps and miniature toads with enormous voices clank and grunt and chant at me as I tramp past their ponds down the long trail back to the river, back to campfire and companionship and a midnight supper.

--Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Sunday, November 06, 2005

85th Carnival of the Cats


Claudie! Claudius! Wake up! The Carnival's already started downstairs! Come join the party!

Laurence has somehow managed to let Nardo get eaten by a pumpkin.

Clare reports that Boo is trying to open the door just to escape the mayhem.

Rahel has spotted a kitten in the feeding station.

Carrie catches Mr. Gato flirting.

Barry, on the other hand, catches Mr. Gato exhibiting a bit of a Clint Eastwood attitude.

ACM spies Pixel and Pasha engaging in a love-fest.

SRP witnesses Miss Clover and Miss Cloe both bathing and going for the jugular. Then the gals make sure all the doors are in proper working order.

Jeff is besotted with Thalia's big blue eyes--and so am I.

Debra opens the refrigerator per Boo's instructions.

PJ documents Rhett's prowess with big game.

Jazz indicates that Sassy ought to join Claudie in the nap room upstairs.

Julie fails to meet Smoke, Bandit and Grace's expectations and the cats let her know about it.

Elisson visits with Neighbor.

Skully snaps a snuggle between two members of her crew.

(Please note that this week's carnival is divided into three parts. Check below if your link isn't included in this first batch.)

Catnip for all!


Ellie advises everyone to line up behind her on the counter--the catnip's in the freezer.

Blueberry shows off the lovely California girls.

Michael has Tinker on hand to do the deep thinking.

Peaches has a kitty who's a wee bit possessive--about the sofa.

Lab Kat catches Pica doing yoga.

Rebel has a collection of Neko narcolepsy shots.

Kate has a cat--Elvis-- with excellent taste in literature.

Brian's Smacky has definitely had a whiff of catnip. He's looking for the Door Into Summer. (Hey, two literary cats in a row. Cool.)

MFS's cat is a study in patience. No doubt that's because he's a literary cat, too (er, three).

And there's fourth! Dave's Jack, I've been told, actually reads. Lately he's been reading The Meaning of Everything.

Omnibus Driver's Tiger Boots and Miss Marilyn endorse closed door meetings.

Josh's cats, Snowball and Church, hit the catnip pretty heavily.

Maggie has a friendly kitty. He's just a little hard to see over.

Dolphin's kitties play Freeze.

Platypotamus' lovelies take a sun bath.

Moi scratches Freak under the chinny chin chin.

The gorgeous Doby is Signor Ferrari's shower inspector. (I'm doubtful that NaNoWriMo participants have time to take very many.)

leucanthemum b has some good looking black kittens in his back yard.

SB provides valuable information on orange cats.

Russ informs us that Lou knows how to power nap.

(Second of three parts. Go here and here for the rest of the 85th Carnival of the Cats.)

Nicholson watches the other cats run amok. She's immune to cat nip.


The Robot Vegetable notices Lady making eyes at the Tramp.

Ferdinand T. Cat provides a commentary on owner Bruce's messy minefields.

Gigilokitty grieves. Our hearts bleed.

Elison catches Matata in a sunny spot.

Leigh-Ann reports that Jackson and Frank are not getting along.

Farrah has princess kitties! In a castle!

Jennifer: Action photographer. Mystic: Rather scary.

Sisu reports that Arthur and Daisy have recently attended birthday parties. She also remembers a moment of happiness at a time of sorrow--kitty Lucie has disappeared.

Jack's cat IS beautiful, but I refuse to hate her.

Catherine is pleased because her cat is in a photogenic mood.

Tommy has a psycho kitty.

Matt provides a glimpse of Rosie.

Heidi presents Hannah.

BJ gives us "a half-baked history of leonine imagery."

Mog presents kitties gone away and a poor little Frankenkitty.

Brandon gives us Cali in the sunshine.

Does Martin's Morris have fleas?

Mira faces the welcome home crew. Ho hum.

Don't miss a late arrival to the Carnival (it's a goody):

Kimberly catches Sergei losing a battle with Sasha--it's hard to attack successfully when you're up against the fur defense.

And that's it for this week's Carnival, unless you've missed Parts One and Part Two. I'll be here, mopping up. If I've mischaracterized your cat, botched your url, or somehow missed you entirely, let me know in comments.

Friday, November 04, 2005


Trevor was dumped off at an animal shelter a co-worker runs out of her home several years back-in a dog crate. For quite some time after we brought him home he'd "call the dogs" at suppertime, sounding incredibly like B. herself: "Come on. You can do it." He eventually quit calling dogs (even though we called, too!) as our pug was always underfoot anyway, and stone deaf to boot.

Today Trevor's calling for cats. We'll be hosting the Carnival of Cats here Sunday evening and we're hoping for an unruly herd of 'em to come streaking through the door. Send in your entry via the Carnival Submission Form (my preference) or email to submissions (at) carnivalofthecats.com .


Come on. You can do it.

A Birth

Inventing a story with grass,
I find a young horse deep inside it.
I cannot nail wires around him:
My fence posts fail to be solid,

And he is free, strangely, without me.
With his head still browsing the greenness,
He walks slowly out of the pasture
To enter the sun of his story.

My mind freed of its own creature,
I find myself deep in my life
In a room with my child and my mother,
When I feel the sun climbing my shoulder

Change, to include a new horse.

--James Dickey

Wild horse blogging in the San Rafael Swell


Hey, look! Up on the ridge!

There they are!

Thank goodness for telephoto.

The stallion whose hoofprints were spotted near our camp on the Muddy River. He'd been checking out our mares during the night.

On our last day in the San Rafael Swell we saw our third herd of wild horses (no pictures of the first herd, unfortunately).

Lots of buckskins and youngsters in this herd.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Have you anything to do more important than reading?

There is really no time except the single, fleeting moment that slips by us like water, and to talk about losing time, or saving time, is often a very dubious argument. When you are reading you cannot save time, but you can diminish your pleasure by trying to do so. What are you going to do with this time when you have saved it? Have you anything to do more important than reading? You are reading for pleasure, you see, and pleasure is very important. Incidentally your reading may bring you information, or enlightenment, but unless it brings pleasure first you should think carefully about why you are doing it.

--Robertson Davies

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

On line reading

Stefanie's Bookman is gearing up to read all of the Bard's plays, and he's set up a blog, My Year of Shakespeare, to chart his progress.

JoanneMarie provides us with the staff of Harvard Bookstore's Top 100 books. (The ones I've read are in bold.)

A People’s History of the United States Howard Zinn
The Wind Up Bird Chronicles Haruki Murakami
The New York Trilogy Paul Auster
The Crying of Lot 49 Thomas Pynchon
Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien
Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
Crime and Punishment. Dostoevsky
On the Road. Kerouac
Alice in Wonderland. Carrol
Brothers Karamozov. Dostoevsky
The Age of Innocence. Wharton
Don Quixote. Cervantes
Perfume. Suskind
Ulysses. Joyce
Anna Karenina. Tolstoy
Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor
Cry the Beloved Country. Paton
Dracula. Stoker
The Eagles Die. Marek
Emotionally Weird. Atkinson
The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood
Infinite Jest. Wallace
Kitchen. Yoshimoto
London Fields. Amis
Moise and the World of Reason. Williams
Movie Wars .Rosenbaum
Paradise Lost. Milton
Persuasion. Austen
Tortilla Curtain. Boyle
Visions of Excess. Bataille
Where the Wild Things Are. Sendak
Wild Sheep Chase. Murakami
Beloved. Morrison
Counterfeiters. Gide
The Bell Jar. Plath
Blind Owl. Hedayat
Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe
The Count of Monte Cristo. Dumas
Dealing With Dragons. Wrede
The Earthsea Trilogy. Le Guin
The Ecology of Fear. Davis
Franny and Zooey. Salinger
History of the Peloponnesian War. Thucydides
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. Alvarez
Kabuki: Circle of Blood. Mack & Jiang
Of Human Bondage. Maugham
The Satanic Verses. Rushdie
The Sheltering Sky. Bowles
Tristam Shandy. Sterne
Well of Loneliness. Hall
Wicked Pavilion. Powell
Collected Stories of V.S. Pritchett
War and Peace. Tolstoy
Babel 17. Delany
Dora. Freud
Empire Falls. Russo
For Whom the Bell Tolls. Hemingway
Girl in Landscape. Letham
Goodbye to All That. Graves
Ham on Rye. Bukowski
Life Like.
Mao II. Delillo
Random Family. Leblanc
Revolutionary Road. Yates
The Stranger. Camus
Humboldt’s Gift. Bellow
White Noise. Delillo
Atlas Shrugged. Rand
Bastard Out of Carolina. Allison
Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills. Bukowski
Delta of Venus. Nin
Fast Food Nation. Schlosser
Ficciones. Borges
Go Ask Alice. Anonymous
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Adams
Iliad. Homer
On Photography. Sontag
Republic. Plato
Shockproof Sydney Skate. Meaker
Society of the Spectacle. Debord
Strangers in Paradise. Moore
The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway
A Wrinkle In Time. L’Engle
Dubliners. Joyce
The Breakfast of Champions. Vonnegut
No Logo. Klein
Aeneid. Virgil
Ariel .Plath
Charlotte’s Web. White
Curious George Learns the Alphabet. Rey
Enormous Changes at the Last Minute. Paley
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. McCullers
Henry VIII. Shakespeare (did he really write one on Henry VIII?)
I, Claudius. Graves
The Lost Continent. Bryson
Master and Margarita. Bulgakov

... my father was a poet - not a journalist, not a scientist, not a legalist, and not a moralist. He subordinated clinical facts to spiritual truths, and so did every other poet who ever lived.

That’s because poems are lies.

We don’t read poetry in order to be fed lifeless data about the happenings of everyday existence; we read it because its illusions resonate with something at the very core of what we know ourselves to be, or perhaps it illuminates what, at our best or worst moments, we dimly sense ourselves to be. Either way, it reveals to us what we did not know we knew. Poetry, then, is the very inverse of journalism. Journalists present a sequence of facts about a given situation and allow their reader to interpret their own meaning. Poets begin with meaning, and facts are only incidental to their poetic purpose. The poem is the vessel by which poets create (and recreate) the world as they want it, as they think it ought to be, and as they believe it essentially is. Dad liked to say that the poet shows God a few things He may not have thought of.


--Bronwen Dickey, James Dickey's daughter, "The Truth As A "Lie," in the South Carolina Review

Getting started on a verse translation is in some respects not all that different from original composition. In order to get the project under way, there has to be a note to which the lines, and especially the first lines, can be tuned. Until this register is established, your words may well constitute a fair rendition of the paraphrasable meaning, but they cannot induce the necessary sensation of being on the right track, musically and rhythmically.

--Seamus Heaney, on translating Sophocle's Antigone

So, how does Libby stack up against the competition? This question was put to Nancy Sladek, the editor of Britain’s Literary Review, which, each year, holds a contest for bad sex writing in fiction. (In 1998, someone nominated the Starr Report.) Sladek agreed to review a few passages from Libby. “That’s a bit depraved, isn’t it, this kind of thing about bears and young girls? That’s particularly nasty, and the other ones are just boring,” she said. “God, they’re an odd bunch, these Republicans.” Unlike their American counterparts, she said, Tories haven’t taken much to sex writing. “They usually just get caught,” she said.

--Lauren Collins considers conservative erotica, especially that of recently indicted Scooter Libby

A weird, lovely, fantastic object out of nature. . . has the curious ability to remind us--like rock and sunlight and wind and wilderness--that out there is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world which surrounds and sustains the little world of men as sea and sky surround and sustain a ship. The shock of the real. For a little while we are again able to see, as the child sees, a world of marvels. For a few moments we discover that nothing can be taken for granted, for if this . . . stone is marvelous then all which shaped it is marvelous, and our journey here on earth, able to see and touch and hear in the midst of tangible and mysterious things-in-themselves, is the most strange and daring of all adventures.

--Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A reading catch-up post

On Beauty by Zadie Smith—While I read this because of the connection to Howards End, I have to say now that I wish Smith had broken free from the Forster template and allowed her story to develop a bit more organically. The ending in particular is obviously shoehorned and could have been stronger if it had evolved a bit more naturally. Plus, despite Smith's blatant talent, she's not on Forster's level, and it's a distraction to have that thought in mind while you're reading.

Also, the editing should have been completed before the book was published: "For Monty, though, Carlene wanted to get something 'really nice', and so they decided to brave three blocks of snow-walking in order to reach a fancier, smaller, specialist boutique that might have the cane with the carved handle which that Carlene had in mind."

The March by E.L. Doctorow—I've got to go back now and read all those Doctorow novels I've missed since reading Ragtime and The Book of Daniel twenty plus years ago.

Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill by Mark Bittner—My plane book for the flight out to Utah. Finished it—in tears—the morning we drove out to the Swell. The documentary is being released on dvd on Dec. 27—I think that means it's intended to be my anniversary present this year.

The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee—Hadn't read this one since high school and needed to reread it since S. will be reading it as part of our unit on Thoreau, so it was plane reading from Salt Lake to Minneapolis. Don't know if this one has continued to be performed through the years but if it hasn't, it's due for a revival.

The blog's already getting hits for quotes from The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, so for those searching, here's a brief excerpt:

John: Welcome home. How's your overstuffed brain?

Henry. I've forgotten everything already.

John. At least you've got a diploma!

Henry. No, I don't.

John. Why not?

Henry. They charge you a dollar. And I wouldn't pay it.

John. But think how Mama would love it--your diploma from Harvard, framed on the wall!

Henry. Let every sheep keep his own skin.

Rising From the Plains by John McPhee—My first McPhee, unless you count daughter Martha. I made a stab at reading Basin and Range a few months back; I'll be returning to it now. This one's about geology in Wyoming and geologist David Love's Wyoming heritage. It's overdue, can't be renewed unless I switch it to S.'s card, yet I'm reluctant to return it to the library even though it's finished. I just like knowing it's readily available.

Still in progress: Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey—On our drive from Torrey to the Swell, our wrangler (who part-times in the local bookstore) and our outfitter's co-owner discussed and argued the merits of Abbey's brand of environmentalism--when they weren't dealing with flat tires on the horse trailer and pointing out geological wonders and bald eagles and fielding questions on farming and ranching practices in the high country from the rest of us. Desert Solitaire is the Abbey our wrangler most recommends and I'll be posting selections from it in the days to come.

Also still in progress: Walden, a delightful asj fanfic offering from Karen Sumners, and, on audio, Ackroyd's The Lambs of London.