Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Here they comin with their guns, guns, guns

reset that counter

this video just made my fucking day

And I will come dressed up in dreams

"Living with the News," W.S. Merwin

Can I get used to it day after day
a little at a time while the tide keeps
coming in faster the waves get bigger
building on each other breaking records
this is not the world that I remember
then comes the day when I open the box
that I remember packing with such care
and there is the face that I had known well
in little pieces staring up at me
it is not mentioned on the front pages
but somewhere far back near the real estate
among the things that happen every day
to someone who now happens to be me
and what can I do and who can tell me
then there is what the doctor comes to say
endless patience will never be enough
the only hope is to be the daylight

- via the recently unchained New Yorker

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I think the first thing—if you want to be a writer—the first thing you need to do is write. Which sounds like an obvious piece of advice. But so many people have this feeling they want to be a writer and they love to read but they don’t actually write very much. The main part of being a writer, though, is being profoundly alone for hours on end, uninterrupted by email or friends or children or romantic partners and really sinking into the work and writing. That’s how I write. That’s how writing gets done.

- Cheryl Strayed

Saturday, July 19, 2014

stuck in Longbourn

This....is just still really not going well at all.

Sarah said, "You do not suppose he could be partial to you at all, do you, miss?"

"Oh, goodness me!" Elizabeth laughed...."Don't be such a silly, Sarah."


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

new in the e-queue

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys, Viv Albertine
Rusalka, C.J. Cherryh
Why Read, Mark Edmundson
The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language, Mark Forsyth
Master Flea, E.T.A. Hoffman
War of the Whales, Joshua Horwitz
After the Apocalypse, Maureen F. McHugh
The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language, John H. McWhorte
The Mockingbird Next Door, Marja Mills
Shards, Allison Moore
Delia's Shadow, Jaime Moyer
John Lennon, Philip Norman
The Actress, Amy Sohn
Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science, Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont
The Illusionists, Rosie Thomas
Annihilation, Jeff Vandermeer

Almost done with Atonement (had to take a break during the ripped-off war nursing part where THE GUY'S SKULL FALLS OFF), still struggling with Longbourn, trying to find some ebooks about the Binjamin Wilkomirski hoax but my usual, uh, sources fail me. Later on I'm going to pick up a copy of No Time for Romance at the library, which I'm looking forward to.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

what NYC literary feuds sound like when you're on the Left Coast*

CLICKBAIT ARTICLE: ....and the controversial article on Emily Gould by Ed Champion --

MOI: Who? //clicks over

 EDRANTS: "They are largely white women who are almost totally in the dark about their privilege, many bolstering a blinkered neoliberal feminism that demands a rectifying army of Mikki Kendalls and Djuna Barneses"

MOI: Who wha motherfucking what

EDRANTS: "But when a minx’s head is so deeply deposited up her own slimy passage"

MOI:  Oh fuck you, you sexist pathetic bastard, you -- 

FIRST COMMENT ON EDRANTS, FROM "DEPRESSED READER": Everyone who's read anything she’s written knows that Emily Gould is vapid, vicious and fame-hungry, and not particularly interesting beyond that. But man, you have some deeply pathological obsession going on here. I would delete this post if I were you and seek professional help.

TWITTER: //blows up (Are all these people in New York sitting in the same Starbucks composing Tweets about each other on their laptops while they're five feet away? I guess so? Do they ever go outside?)

MOI: But who the fuck is this? Why is he vaguely familiar....very, very vaguely....

EDRANTS:  No job no money no hope, I go to throw myself off a bridge! GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD THIS IS NOT A DRILL

MOI: ....have Hugo Schwyzer and this guy ever been seen in the same room together at the same time?

DAILY DOT: He was the one who pored over that spy novel and found out most of it was plagiarized.


*Roxane Gay left us out of her 'places where people write which aren't New York' post -- I thought I ranted about this on my blog, but now I think it was on GoodReads, which I don't use anymore -- and although the Stanford Creative Writing Program, founded in 1946 by Wallace Stegner, was the second in the country after Iowa, we didn't figure much in MFA v NYC (which one's Alien and which one's Predator?), either.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

street haunting

Woolf often conceives of life this way: as a gift that you’ve been given, which you must hold onto and treasure but never open. Opening it would dispel the atmosphere, ruin the radiance—and the radiance of life is what makes it worth living. It’s hard to say just what holding onto life without looking at it might mean; that’s one of the puzzles of her books. But it has something to do with preserving life’s mystery; with leaving certain things undescribed, unspecified, and unknown; with savoring certain emotions, such as curiosity, surprise, desire, and anticipation. It depends on an intensified sense of life’s preciousness and fragility, and on a Heisenberg-like notion that, when it comes to our most abstract and spiritual intuitions, looking too closely changes what we feel. It has to do, in other words, with a kind of inner privacy, by means of which you shield yourself not just from others’ prying eyes, but from your own. Call it an artist’s sense of privacy.  

....There can be something enjoyable, even revelatory about that feeling of self-protection, which is why we seek out circumstances in which we can feel more acutely the contrast between the outside world and our inner selves. Woolf was fascinated by city life—by the feeling of solitude-on-display that the sidewalk encourages, and by the way that “street haunting,” as she called it, allows you to lose and then find yourself in the rhythm of urban novelty and familiarity. She was drawn to the figure of the hostess: the woman-to-be-looked-at, standing at the top of the stairs, friendly to everyone, who grows only more mysterious with her visibility. (One of the pleasures of throwing a party, Woolf showed, is that it allows you to surprise yourself: surrounded by your friends, the center of attention, you feel your separateness from the social world you have convened.) She showed how parents, friends, lovers, and spouses can become more unknowable over time, not less—there is a core to their personhood that never gives itself up. Even as they put their lives on display, she thought, artists thrive when they maintain a final redoubt of privacy—a wellspring that remains unpolluted by the world outside. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Kate Zambreno on leaving Twitter

I kind of played against what was “good” or “successful” and ultimately quit Twitter because I found myself repulsive, caring and craving so much for witness and recognition, and warring against myself whether to promote myself on Twitter or retweet praise or write about the process of writing, which felt at times like a sort of promotion, a real-time behind-the-scenes I’m Writing! Read my Next Book Entitled Suicide is Amazing in 2016!—even though I like writing about process, and I like reading about writer’s processes....Basically, whenever I think I’m doing something that would be good for publicity, I wind up bailing on it. Maybe I have issues with success. I find failure more interesting. I also think in general the writers who use Twitter to promote themselves or their projects, instead of writing about ideas or writing about reading or posting weird jokes or having a conceptual project, were the ones I found really boring, like being at a publishing party, and it made me cynical about being on Twitter myself.

....I think noticing who was following me or unfollowing me based on something I wrote depressed me in small yet critical ways, or made me think of writing something to appeal to more readers—which I found poisonous as a writer—all that sort of currency, or thinking of being a writer as publishing, or as being an author, or as having cultural capital, instead of as reading and writing. Also feeling a fixed identity—a box—and I felt like I was not able to change or refine ideas or be in the process of becoming. That’s why I quit the online world, for now.

After the last book came out, I needed to calibrate things offline, and go back to having a private life, to mourn or complain or read privately for a while. Writer friends or online friends or people who like reading me will still often write me and say they miss my online presence—which is nice, but also a strange feeling, like you don’t exist if you’re not on social media, or that your online presence is what they read of you. There’s this pressure to be continually writing on the Internet in order to stay a writer. But I kind of like the feeling of being invisible, of not existing for a while. I think I’ve been interested lately in a poetics of anonymity, a performance of invisibility. Maybe that’s why I like twitter accounts that immolate themselves and are performative/ephemeral. Like I think Kafka would have been really brilliant at twitter, but he would have had 40 followers and would have been disgusted with himself and quit it often.


two quotes

Do not, under any circumstances, delete your blog. Close comments, take it off your bookmarks, and for God’s sake if you had a Google alert deactivate it. Set it to private if you must. But leave it there. Your blog may not seem consequential to you, but it is part of a complex network that includes other people’s memories, experiences, conversations, and, less esoterically, links. To delete it creates a tear in the history and meaning of that network.

- Jessica Tripler

You are not a waste. You are not wasted. No part of you will ever be wasted. When you are done being you, every one of your atoms will go on to do something else. You will never run out of things to be, until the day when nothing is anything at all anymore.

So you’ve got all of that going for you.

Do you create? You’re a miracle. Do you create badly? You’re still a miracle, and just because you create badly now doesn’t mean you always will. Do you think you don’t create enough? You create as much as you should, and if you should create more than you do, you’ll find a way to do so. Do you have things left unfinished? You can finish them. If it turns out you can’t, you can’t. It’s not a crime. Forgive yourself for it.

Forgive yourself in general.

- Sunny Moraine

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Great Recession should have put the victim-blaming theory of poverty to rest. In the space of only a few months, millions of people entered the ranks of the officially poor—not only laid-off blue-collar workers, but also downsized tech workers, managers, lawyers, and other once-comfortable professionals. No one could accuse these “nouveau poor” Americans of having made bad choices or bad lifestyle decisions. They were educated, hardworking, and ambitious, and now they were also poor—applying for food stamps, showing up in shelters, lining up for entry-level jobs in retail. This would have been the moment for the pundits to finally admit the truth: Poverty is not a character failing or a lack of motivation. Poverty is a shortage of money.

- Barbara Ehrenreich

a small portion of books in the e-queue

The Music of Chance, Paul Auster
The Last Nude, Ellis Avery
Ghosts, John Banville
Simone de Beauvoir, Philosophy, and Feminism, Nancy Bauer
The Mandarins, Simone de Beauvoir
The Face in the Frost, John Bellairs
Phantoms on the Bookshelves, Jacques Bonnet
The Story of Pain, Joanna Bourke
Mrs Poe, Lynn Cullen
Olivia Manning: A Woman at War, Deirdre David
A Bone from a Dry Sea, Peter Dickinson
Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness, Joel Gold
Friendship: A Novel, Emily Gould (someone gave this to me, she doesn't need my money)
The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, Nick Hornby
The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo, Paula Huntley
California, Edan Lupecki (a little worried this will be the Flamethrowers of the season, i.e. the book everyone LOVED and I inevitably didn't) (ETA: SURPRISE, this is exactly what it was. sigh)
D.H. Lawrence: A Biography,  Jeffrey Meyers
What Matters in Jane Austen, John Mullan
The Whispering: A haunted house mystery, Sarah Rayne
The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy, Pietra Rivoli
Amy Lowell Anew: A Biography, Carl Rollyson
The Shelf: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading, Phyllis Rose
The Mabinogion Tetralogy, Evangeline Walton

So what did I ACTUALLY read today? I reread....We Have Always Lived in the Castle, for the nth time. //facedesk (Shirley Jackson is my homegirl forever.)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

it can't be easy, living with a Wiseman fan

MOI: HEY, you know those three long documentaries about the murders in West Memphis? Damien Echols?

T, cautiously: ....yeah?

MOI: And how there was yet another documentary about the murders that we saw too?

T: ....?

MOI: Now there's a feature film! Streaming on Netflix!

T: //wilts

Thursday, July 3, 2014

what reading is like when you're really spaced out from emotional shock

MOI: Hunh, this is like.....Constantine Lite.

MIKE CAREY: I wrote for Hellblazer!

MOI: ....oh.

NOT!CONSTANTINE: I exorcise ghosts, musically!

MOI: ....  

NOT!CONSTANTINE: With my tin whistle!  

MOI: .....your tin what

NOT!CONSTANTINE: It may be small, but it's powerful!  

MOI: If you say so, pal.

SUCCUBUS: I'll drain you dry and make you love it. Also, I have pure black hair, midnight eyes, and the rest of my body is freezing ivory, including my nipples.  


SUCCUBUS: //is gotten the best of by Not!Constantine, vanishes for the next 200 pages

MOI: //pines

NOT!CONSTANTINE: omg no I broke my tin whistle

MOI: .....I heard that happens to every guy at least once in his lifetime, honey.

MIKE CAREY: Here, have pages and pages of detailed descriptions of sex trafficking, rape and murder. It's so awful. Let me describe it some more, very graphically! In all its awfulness! The violation of women, done by one man and told to another!  

MOI: .....where's the succubus? She could fix these guys.  

NOT!CONSTANTINE: No, I shall save the day! ....damn, I miss my tin whistle.  

AMAZON REVIEWER (US): How can you play music on a whistle?  

NOT!CONSTANTINE: I'm going to leave this pile of moral wreckage in the basement where he raped and murdered the girl he tricked into sex trafficking. With her angry, angry ghost.

MOI: Yay!

MIKE CAREY: But we don't really want to see that, do we? How about some manly heroics? Exciting guy-on-guy fight scenes! The hero saving the day with a recording of his tin whistle!

MOI: //sighs

SCARY-ASS HIT MAN: //turns into a pile of rats

MOI: .....you really went there, didn't you. Piping the rats?

MIKE CAREY: BUT, the horrible ghost that animated all the rats is still alive. Sort of. And now really pissed at the piper!

NOT!CONSTANTINE: "But that was a thought to linger on during some warm summer evening yet to come."

MOI: //sighs

SEQUELS: //are lined up

ONE OF THE FEW FEMALE CHARACTERS: Hey, you know how I've been the Girl in Schrödinger's Fridge for like the past hundred pages, am I alive or dead or what?

NOT!CONSTANTINE: Hush, I'm sexily lock-picking in my sexy lock-picking manner.

MOI: .....so where's the succubus again?

EVIL DEMONIC GANGSTER: Haha, not!Constantine! I knew exactly when you arrived, for I have caller ID.




EVIL DEMONIC GANGSTER: Let me use these bolt cutters to snap your substitute bone flute to pieces right in front of you, Not!Constantine.

MOI: //sighs


MOI: !!!

MIKE CAREY: "She looked like every woman you ever loved or dreamed about loving, miraculously combined, miraculously open and willing, like a solid sign of God's mercy."


SUCCUBUS: "I'll make you so ecstatic in your agony that your soul will never be free of me."

NOT!CONSTANTINE: //concentrates really hard //scrabbles and finds only sad pieces of broken bone flute (no rly) //scrabbles and finds bolt cutters //unbinds succubus



SUCCUBUS: //does satisfying violence to everyone, which is described much more briefly than the reported retrospective raping and murdering earlier

NOT!CONSTANTINE: //kneels and bows head

SUCCUBUS: "My mark is on you. I can whistle for your body or for your soul, and you'll bring them to me and beg me to take them. You wear my chain, which can never be broken."

NOT!CONSTANTINE: "Without looking up, without meeting her gaze, I nodded."


MIKE CAREY: How about a touching emotional reunion between the living and dead sisters?

MOI: Does the succubus come back in the sequels?


MOI: Okay.

NOT!CONSTANTINE: "Discretion is another virtue I've never really got the hang of, but I decided at that point that a breath of fresh air would do me a world of good." //leaves sisters to their touching emotional reunion offpage


SUCCUBUS: It's OK, in the sequels I'll teach them about the Bechdel test.  And they'll like it.

snippets (ceci n'est pas une booklog) (aussi ceci n'est pas une magritte)

After getting really really dreadful news -- I mean actually fucking tragic news, the kind of news that would delight your born enemy and worst persecutor -- I wound up rereading about half of MaddAddam; I skipped around at first, then settled in at about page 150 or a bit later. (Yes I was reading a paper book. I needed that, right then.) (Also that book's so much about writing and reading and learning and storytelling it does seem -- just a bit -- obscene to read it in pixels.) I am always surprised all over again, every time, at how great art cheers you and lifts you up and heartens you, like brandy for the soul, or something. Like Mozart. (I consider all three books of that trilogy masterpieces and if you disagree, I will fight you.) The great pleasure at being pleased. The older we get, the more like our childhood selves we grow, I guess; in reaction to horrible news, some people scream, some cry, some drink, some eat, some blog. I read. I've always been that way, since I was a kid.

Several days ago I fell through the wormhole of My Life as a Fake -- kept on reading, reading, reading: at first forcing myself into the story a bit but then utterly caught up in it, then going faster, too fast, gulping it all down. (Also read as a paper book.) Finished it in a day (don't look at me like that, it's not that long). I....don't know if I enjoyed it very much, actually. It really was quite well-written. I thought it would be much more about the Australian literary scene than Kuala Lumpur, and non-white people didn't really appear, except as rather violent and ignorant walking plot points. But it was a bit like when I first read The Moon and Sixpence, I didn't much like the people in it, but once the master storyteller starts talking in your head, you have no choice but to listen, "ensorcelled," as Anais Nin would say. Carey can create an amazing mental gravity well from sheer narrative drive, I'll give him that. -- But I also wasn't happy with the portrayal of women -- yes, it's narrated by one, but she keeps insisting she's sexless (and is yet also....a lesbian? what) and the other very few women who appear are just walking Animas. And then of course all my criticisms collapsed in the face of the absolutely wrongheaded Grauniad review -- it has that structure because it's BASED ON FRANKENSTEIN, you dolt! Not the movie,  the novel, which is all about people telling you what's in letters, and letters describing what other people said, about what still other people said someone else said. Gahh. I am sure I missed out on 90% of the Frankenstein references, it's been so long since I read that book (and frankly most of it is a slog), and even I got that. And Morrison misspells the hoax's historian's name as "Hayward," which is the kind of thing nobody but me ever cares about, but I got sore because it made the "definitive story" WHOSE TITLE GOES UNMENTIONED damn hard to Google. (For the record, it's The Ern Malley Affair, by Michael Heyward, which I will probably wind up getting out of the library, since it appears to have sunk into oblivion.) (There is, inevitably, a website: http://www.ernmalley.com/.)

Before that, I had utter period brain, and because I've reread the Pratchett Witches books (only my favourites: Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords & Ladies, and Carpe Jugulum as a chaser) so many times, I reread the Harry Potter series instead -- I think I'd read the first two books God knows how long ago, skimmed the third, and skimmed the last. This time I sat through it all....no, I lie, I skipped four and five, again, four because it was so laden with sports competitions I just couldn't even try, and five because one of my giant red buttons is when a beloved shelter turns into a nasty horrifying trap. No personal issues THERE, I assure you. Was, as before, very unimpressed. Also, when you read the whole series straight through, the DIRE shift in tone about halfway through the fourth book is really jarring. It goes from something you could read aloud at an eight-year-old's bedtime to Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies -- for so long, I thought that was a joke! My problem before had always been that I loathed Harry too much to read an entire series about him, but he seemed wispy enough I was able to pretty much ignore him this time around. Loved Hermione, as usual (I was Hermione -- can there be any doubt? Jo was Hermione, too -- why, oh why, couldn't the book have been about her?). No, this time the giant stumbling block in my path was RON, who seemed like a horrible Nice Guy with terrible jealousy and anger issues. I took to tapping out "!" and "!!!" and "JERK" and "JACKOFF" on my Paperwhite screen every time he appeared. I liked Ginny more than most people did (even my friends who liked the series thought she had no personality), but that was probably because I saw her as a junior Molly Weasley, whom I adored. Some dear friends had to put up with hormone-addled e-missives like "OMG HEDWIG" and "someone tell me Ron goddamn Weasel fucking dies in the end" and "seriously wtf is this obsession Rowling has with fucking pumpkin juice, it shows up at EVERY meal" (I loathe pumpkins only slightly less than I loathe beets), but fortunately this was apparently somewhat entertaining. The epilogue still sucks, and I still think there's no sparkage between Hermione and Ron //shudders -- Rowling definitely shifted to Team Harry several volumes into the actual writing. But she stuck with her Seven Year Plan, which is why the epilogue sucks.

(From yet another email: "But the bit in Not!Heaven with Dumbleduns was puzzling. Who the fuck was the baby? D's sister? What?")

Oh yes, and today I reread Friend of My Youth, some stories (the title one, "Meneseteung," "Hold Me Fast, Don't Let Me Pass," "Oh, What Avails," and "Differently," which I believe I first read in the New Yorker) more than once. I don't think this volume is anyone's favourite, but it's the first Munro book I ever read, and I think a lot of it still holds up. I was meaning to read and reread all her books (in chronological order, of course!) after she won the Nobel, and this has been sitting around on my Paperwhite forever to remind me to begin that particular reading project, but I just reread it instead. Whoops.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

poem of the day

Remorse is memory awake,
Her companies astir,---
A presence of departed acts
At window and at door.

It's past set down before the soul,
And lighted with a match,
Perusal to facilitate
Of its condensed despatch.

Remorse is cureless,---the disease
Not even God can heal;
For 't is his institution,---
The complement of hell.

- Emily Dickinson (1896 edited version)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I may be certifiably batshit* and unable to hold down any job of any kind, but



books read in July 2014

Fiction is in red.

103. My Life as a Fake, Peter Carey
104. The Devil You Know, Mike Carey
105. The Woman Who Wasn’t There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception, Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo J. Gugliemo, Jr. (after seeing the movie)
106. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney
107. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris
108. On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, Alice Goffman (amazing, heartbreaking)
109. California, Edan Lepucki (yeah, that was mediocre, plus everyone is comparing it to Atwood, which pisses me off)
110. The Whispering, Sarah Rayne
111. Atonement, Ian McEwan
112. The Driver's Seat, Muriel Spark (see here) 
113. One Kick, Chelsea Cain (see here)
114. Longbourn, Jo Baker (for a "chamberpots and all" corrective to Austen, that got horribly sentimental at the end, ugh)

all 2014 booklist posts

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Vic Chesnutt, "Panic Pure"

My earliest memory
Is of holding up a sparkler
High up to the darkest sky
Some 4th of July spectacular

I shook it with an urgency
I'll never ever be able to repeat

At times I might could be accused
Of being painfully nostalgic

But as of late I'm looking forward to the future
Though I've never been much of a planner
Throwing caution into the fan
Catch as catch as those catchers can

And so all you observers in your scrutiny
Don't count my scars like tree rings
My jigsaw disposition, its piecemeal properties
Are either smoked or honey cured

By the panic pure
Yeah, yeah, by the panic pure

Monday, June 23, 2014

poem of the day from one of my many dead literary satirical boyfriends

How clear, how lovely bright,
How beautiful to sight
  Those beams of morning play;
How heaven laughs out with glee
Where, like a bird set free,
Up from the eastern sea
  Soars the delightful day.

To-day I shall be strong,
No more shall yield to wrong,
  Shall squander life no more;
Days lost, I know not how,
I shall retrieve them now;
Now I shall keep the vow
  I never kept before.

Ensanguining the skies
How heavily it dies
  Into the west away;
Past touch and sight and sound
Not further to be found,
How hopeless under ground
  Falls the remorseful day.

- A.E. Housman

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I sometimes teach classes on writing, during which I tell my students every single thing I know about the craft and habit. This takes approximately 45 minutes. I begin with my core belief—and the foundation of almost all wisdom traditions—that there is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.

Then I bring up the bad news: You have to make time to do this.

This means you have to grasp that your manic forms of connectivity—cell phone, email, text, Twitter—steal most chances of lasting connection or amazement. That multitasking can argue a wasted life.

- Anne Lamott


Kathryn's advance thanks for multiple messages of support sat very sadly above the short exchange.

'Why?' asked Strike heavily.

'Why what?' said Robin, looking up at him.

'Why do people do this?'

'Blog, you mean? I don't know....didn't someone once say the unexamined life isn't worth living?'

'Yeah, Plato,' said Strike, 'but this isn't examining a life, it's exhibiting it.'

- J.K. Rowling, The Silkworm

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

If I live too long I'm afraid I'll die

Wye Oak with Jonathan Meiburg - Strangers (The Kinks cover)

'From A Reader's Book of Days'

When was Frankenstein made? (The story, that is, not the monster.) The moment of Mary Shelley's creation has been nearly as enshrouded in legend as the "dreary night of November" when Victor Frankenstein gave the reanimating jolt to his monster. It was, as the story goes, a wet and dreary June in Switzerland when Lord Byron suggested to his guests—Dr. Polidori, who had just sprained his ankle, and the scandalously not-yet-married couple, Percy Shelley and Mary Godwin—that they each write a ghost story. As Mary Shelley recalled it later, after the men told their stories she had a vision in her bedroom of a scientist terrified by his own creation as it begins to stir with the spark of life. Terrified too by her vision, she rose to the sight of moonlight over the Alps, a detail that a Texas astronomer has, with methodical literal-mindedness, traced to a single possible hour for her inspiration, between two and three in the early morning of June 16.

- via

Saturday, June 14, 2014

'Middlemarch,' opening of ch XXVII

An eminent philosopher among my friends, who can dignify even your ugly furniture by lifting it into the serene light of science, has shown me this pregnant little fact. Your pier-glass or extensive surface of polished steel made to be rubbed by a housemaid, will be minutely and multitudinously scratched in all directions; but place now against it a lighted candle as a centre of illumination, and lo! the scratches will seem to arrange themselves in a fine series of concentric circles round that little sun. It is demonstrable that the scratches are going everywhere impartially and it is only your candle which produces the flattering illusion of a concentric arrangement, its light falling with an exclusive optical selection. These things are a parable. The scratches are events, and the candle is the egoism of any person now absent—of Miss Vincy, for example. Rosamond had a Providence of her own who had kindly made her more charming than other girls, and who seemed to have arranged Fred's illness and Mr. Wrench's mistake in order to bring her and Lydgate within effective proximity.

Edward Casaubon as self-portrait

I am happy to accept Casaubon as a compound of George Eliot’s self-knowledge, self-criticism, elements from other difficult temperaments with which she was acquainted, and material fresh from her own mint. The choice of the name Casaubon for her character is not commented on in her extant writings. Like her Mr Casaubon, the Elizabethan Isaac Casaubon was a theological and classical scholar; unlike his fictional namesake, Isaac published many scholarly works of exegesis and was what Middlemarch’s Mr Casaubon aspired in vain to be, namely an internationally acclaimed scholar (his contemporary Joseph Scaliger described him as “the most learned man alive”). A subtle and not completely unsympathetic irony is observable in George Eliot’s gift of the name to her troubled character.

- Rosemary Ashton