Friday, May 31, 2013

What I'm reading

Clement K. Shorter: Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle

Saturday, May 25, 2013

penguins going extinct

You know what is im-fucking-possible to find anywhere? The PENGUIN 20TH CENTURY CLASSICS EDITION OF JACOB'S ROOM, that's fucking what. Everyone - Elliott Bay and Ignoble Barn included - has the shitty new Harcourt "annotated" version, which I read, which has woefully incomplete notes that most of the time, reference the 1992 Penguin edition. I can't find it even in used bookstores around here (the ones that are still left). Yeah I can get it used off Amazon but that's always a crapshoot, especially with the steady rise in sellers who pronounce a book "Fine" and then it arrives and the glue in the spine is so flaking and cracked the cover falls off (happened to me this past month). I don't even want to think what might show up if I requested "the version edited by Sue Roe". Look, my needs are simple: £500 a year pre-war value,* a room of my own and THIS BOOK. Preferably without its cover falling off. (And I hate ordering books new from De Nile, picturing some poor fucker scrambling around in a freezing or dangerously overheated warehouse cherry-picking merchandise with no union, no breaks....)

It's always frustrating to study an annotated version and realize you've read the wrong one - happened to me with Shirley too. (Margaret Smith, usually My Girl, OMG how she let me down with that one. I later got the Penguin Classics ed. with the intro by Lucasta Miller -- which is smashing -- but to go through the notes I'd have to read Shirley all over again, Jesus no. MORAL: pick your cheap non-scholarly annotated paperbacks carefully.) (Or in this case, Bo Diddley aside, maybe you can judge a book by its cover: the Harcourt Room has an amazingly ugly Mondrian, the Penguin 20th uses a beautiful Vanessa Bell painting.)

*Does anyone else associate that (rather exorbitant) sum with Socrates's deadpan suggestion that his punishment should be living in the Parthenon (or wherever it was) rent-free for life, like the retired Olympic athletes? Especially since Woolf knew her Greek -- No? Just me then? OK.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Virginia Woolf's reading notebooks

Woolf kept a diary. She also kept draft notebooks for her novels and the essays she wrote alongside them. The reading notebooks are a third kind of notebook, more casual than either of these. Volume 19 is a notebook with cardboard covers, reinforced inside and out on the spine with cloth. Two pairs of metal grommets on the front and back permit it to be bound with laces (and there is a very heavy shoelace attached here, though no longer binding the pages). Inside, are over 100 loose pages, each with two holes. This permitted Woolf to unbind pages from old notebooks and pull old notes as she was revising and expanding essays—for her Common Readers, say. As Silver points out, this can make dating notebooks extraordinarily difficult, as a single notebook (like notebook 26) may contain pages from 1919, 1920 or 21, 1926, 1928, 1935, and 1938.

- Anne Fernald

Thursday, May 23, 2013

all I could see

Vintage postcard from Camden, ME., Millay's home town - I believe this is the view at the beginning of "Renascence."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

first publication of the Hogarth Press

'I am a sick man... I am a spiteful man. I am an unpleasant man.'

It was evident, from only one glance at Dostoevsky, that he was a terribly nervous and impressionable person. He was slender, short, fair-haired, with a sickly complexion; his small gray eyes darted somewhat uneasily from object to object, and his colorless lips were nervously contorted.

Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt, 1821-1849, Joseph Frank

The house was quiet and the world was calm.

André Kertész, American, b. Austria-Hungary, 1894-1985
Pont des Arts, Paris (man reading between trees), 1963, gelatin silver print
Courtesy Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures 2007

'they want to leave their stories behind'

But this is what I know about people getting ready to walk of the edge of their own lives: they want someone to know how they got there. Maybe they want to know that when they dissolve into earth and water, that last fragment will be saved, held in some corner of someone's mind; or maybe all they want is a chance to dump it pulsing and bloody into someone else's hands, so it won't weigh them down on the journey. They want to leave their stories behind. No one in all the world knows that better than I do.

― Tana French, Broken Harbor

oh my my

Screenshot from Jill Barber's "Oh My My"

Readsday 5/22 (the ALL-VIRGINIA edition)

Ahh, poor Readsday. You are my spaniel; the more I beat you, the more you fawn on me, even as I spurn you, neglect you, lose you, don't update for weeks....well, this one'll be short, anyway.

What did you just finish reading?
As you might have guessed from all the quotes, I'm still reading Hermione Lee's biography of Virginia Woolf -- it is AMAZING, certainly the best book I've read all year, one of the best books I've read ever. I have about two hundred pages to go before the notes and index -- I've been really taking my time, savoring and enjoying. My latest status update was something like "I am just so in love with this book." I cherish it as if it were a person. I can't really talk about it now without sounding incredibly gushy and soppy, but MY GOD, what a book. I haven't been reading anything else, and I've been reading it pretty slowly, really taking it in. I've already reread the chapters on Katherine Mansfield and Virginia's reading habits -- I read them even before starting the book.

What are you reading now?

What do you expect to read next?

Monday, May 20, 2013

a press of one's own

The (first) two stories were Leonard's "Three Jews" and Virginia's "The Mark on the all." By publishing together, they signalled that the Press was a joint enterprise and a vehicle for their own writing. For Leonard, the story was a signpost pointing down a road he would not take -- as a fiction writer, as a Jewish writer. But for Virginia it "marked," as her title suggests, a completely new direction, the beginnings of a new form and a new kind of writing.

- Hermione Lee

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mark Gertler's former home (note blue plaque), 32 Elder Street, Spitalfields, London

the poet, the painter, the patrona

T.S. Eliot, Mark Gertler, and Ottoline Morrell

Saturday, May 18, 2013

'after many a summer dies the swan'

Lee mentions Virginia, in 1899, testing her new pens in the back of her journal "with some fragments and quotations -- including the first verse of Tennyson's sad Tithonus...." I remember Woolf quoting that in other journal entries, too, and at least one book. It must have echoed frequently in her mind:

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes: I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-haired shadow roaming like a dream
The ever-silent spaces of the East,
Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.

Which is Mopey High Victorian at its finest, and not as risible to a later irony-ridden age as, say, "Mariana," but there's something unsettling about Tennyson, a modern weariness, once all the smoke and cannons from "Crossing the Bar" or "Charge of the Light Brigade" die off* -- something of the same sad music in Morris. Remember me a little then, I pray, The idle singer of an empty day, which has haunted me ever since I first studied it in college. You hear the same echo in -- Housman? altho that's what he's fighting against, with his tough-minded strenuous irony. Hopkins maybe: O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed....

"Tithonus" goes on too long, and is too fluent, fluidly beautiful, mellifluous (as Charlotte Bronte tartly said of "In Memoriam") and yet --

....the steam
Floats up from those dim fields about the homes
Of happy men that have the power to die,
And grassy barrows of the happier dead.
Release me, and restore me to the ground....

*Then again, I doubt anyone under the age of forty even remembers "Crossing the Bar" to dismiss it. Or perhaps fifty. I remember a teacher in grad school being amazed that nobody in the class knew "Light Brigade" when we were reading To the Lighthouse -- I did, but I kept quiet because that's what you do when nobody else in an American classroom knows the answer.

from 'Virginia Woolf,' Hermione Lee

Her writing in this biography is just so beautiful:

The first memory of this relationship, for both (Virginia and Vanessa), was of meeting in the dark secret space underneath the nursery table at Hyde Park Gate. "'Have black cats got tails?' she asked, and I said 'NO,' and was proud because she had asked me a question. Then we roamed off again into that vast space." In the earlier version of this, Virginia adds: "In future I suppose there was some consciousness between us that the other held possibilities." And this first memory is suggestive. The sisters confirmed each other's view of life in a secret space below and inside the life of the family. Virginia is characteristically proud of making an impression. There is freedom and space between them as they wander off again.

vintage dust jacket: "My Life," Isadora Duncan

'men work and play sports and make an impact on the world and women are there to get fucked'

The pictures from Steubenville don’t just show a girl being raped. They show that rape being condoned, encouraged, celebrated. What type of culture could possibly produce such pictures? Only one in which women's autonomy and right to safety counts for so little that these rapists, and those who held the cameras, felt themselves 'perfectly justified'. Only one in which rape and sexual humiliation of women and girls is so normalised that it does not register as a crime in the minds of the assailants. Only one in which victims are powerless, silenced, dismissed. It is impossible to imagine that in such a culture, assault and humiliation of this kind would not be routine - and indeed, the most conservative estimates suggest that ninety thousand women and ten thousand men are raped in the United States alone every year. That’s what makes the Steubenville case so very uncomfortable - and so important.

Here we have incontrovertible evidence of happy young people not only hurting and humiliating others, but taking pleasure in it, posing with their victims. The Abu Ghraib torture pictures were trophies. The Steubenville rape photos are trophies. They're mementoes of what must have felt, at the time, like everyone was having the sort of fun they'd want to remember, the sort of fun they'd want to prove to themselves and others later. The Steubenville rapists had fun, and they broadcast that fun to the world. They were confident that nothing could touch them, so baffled by the idea of punishment that they wept like children in court.

- Laurie Penny

I said please don't let me go

Friday, May 17, 2013

'The outsider will say, "in fact, as a woman, I have no country"'

Virginia Woolf's curriculum vitae is, in public terms, full of gaps. She did not go to school. She did not work in an office. She did not belong to any institution. With rare exceptions, she did not give public lectures or join committees or give interviews. And in private terms her life-story is sensational only for her breakdowns and suicide attempts. She did not have children. Her sexual life, though unusual, was not dramatic or notorious. She was not the subject of any public scandals or law cases. She did not engage in hazardous sports or bizarre hobbies. She never flew in an aeroplane, or travelled outside Europe. Her exploits and adventures are in her mind and on the page.

- Hermione Lee

'Perhaps we're being dense.'

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Matthew Jaffe

From 'The Arthur Machen Project,' Matthew Jaffe


Steinbeck was actually a tremendous formative influence. I began reading him in high school, and he was one of those eye-opening authors for me. He’s one of the writers who taught me invaluable lessons about characterization; that stories, novels, are not about events. They’re about people. When they stop being about people, you’re writing shit.

- Caitlin R. Kiernan

you're late! you're late!

Why am I still keeping this journal. No, yeah...I know you read it. You don't have to remind me that you do. But the blog is dead. Long live Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr! Long live the shortest imaginable attention span! You have a hundred friends! Less more is more! Who has time for blogs? How wasn't that true ten years ago? Fast! Speed! So little time! That toxin "quick and easy" wins over substance!

Where are you going in such a hurry?

- Caitlin R. Kiernan

Wye Oak - Civilian (Live on KEXP)

'but you will be'

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

that shitty Gatsby movie


We desert those who desert us; we cannot afford to suffer; we must live how we can.

- Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart

Sunday, May 12, 2013

'I mean it's dirty to keep yelling "Digression!" at him when he's all nice and excited'

Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine; they are the life, the soul of reading; take them out of this book for instance, you might as well take the book along with them; one cold eternal winter would reign in every page of it; restore them to the writer; he steps forth like a bridegroom, bids All hail; brings in variety, and forbids the appetite to fail.

- Tristram Shandy

Friday, May 10, 2013

"my dellarobbia Susan"

"Red is a very Plathian color and I should not have any need to cite examples from her work. Red also is a mythic color throughout Birthday Letters; the final poem was titled “Red.” In “Red” Hughes acknowledges Plath’s preference for that color, but he thinks “blue was better for your...was your kindly spirit” (BL 198). So in Hughes’ color-coded scheme for his women, Plath was blue, Alliston was red. (What of Assia Wevill? Brenda? Jill? Emma?) Can’t you just picture the official Ted Hughes limited edition Crayola box!"

'I wasn't some girl, I was as tough and as valuable as any boy'

I am so sick of the constant, blatant sexism. And any time any one points anything out as being sexist, they're accused of "whining" or "nagging" or "not taking a joke."

From the Steubenville rape trial to the obituary of Yvonne Brill to the fact that more women read books than men, more women write books then men, but only a small fraction of books that win literary awards are written by women. Women are the publishing industry's bread and butter, we are the backbone of the damn entertainment industry, but we are constantly demoted to "fluffy" to "light" to "meaningless."

From a very young age, I knew that "girly" meant inferior, so I avoided it like a plague.
- Amanda Hocking


I dislike blogging about TV but this is too good not to be shared: we are watching 2-3 eps of Fringe a night and just got up to about 4x14. T remarked, "This is like when that nerdy guy took over Buffy for one episode....only Peter Bishop has taken over the whole show."

Happy early Caturday!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

photo used for the cover of Plath's "Unabridged Journals"

Draft of "Stings," Sylvia Plath

The Shirley McClintock series, by B.J. Oliphant (Sheri S. Tepper)

The Unexpected Corpse (Shirley McClintock, #2)The Unexpected Corpse by B.J. Oliphant

I am now officially out of Shirley McClintock books. Fucking boo. The politics in the middle books are hair-raising and Shirley is too often absolutely right about absolutely everything, but I quite enjoyed having a quasi-cozy series with an older (mid-fifties, early sixties) twice-married heroine, her devoted companion, and foster daughter, set in semi-rural Colorado and New Mexico. Tepper's other Southwestern mystery series, written under the name A.J. Orde, is very good too -- much better than the McClintock books, in fact, largely due to the first-person narration -- but has a younger male (if sympathetic) amateur detective, and it's much more urban, set in Denver. I have some J.A. Jance, I've read nearly all of Tony Hillerman and keep meaning to try Sarah Andrews and Kathy Reichs (altho I CANNOT FUCKING STAND "BONES"), and people have recommended Walter Satterthwait, Judith Van Gieson, Louis Owens and Nevada Barr, but I don't think I'll find another heroine quite like Shirley. Bad knee and all.

View all my reviews

'manuscripts don't burn'

When I was little, my ambition was to grow up to be a book. Not a writer. People can be killed like ants. Writers are not hard to kill either. But not books: however systematically you try to destroy them, there is always a chance that a copy will survive and continue to enjoy a shelf-life in some corner on an out-of-the-way library somehwere in Reykjavik, Valladolid or Vancouver.

-- Amos Oz

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

this is me avoiding Tumblr (too nonverbal)

'Sometimes I think heaven must be one continuous unexhausted reading.' - Virginia Woolf, quoted in Hermione Lee's biography

"I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books."

Personal digression about the C.S. Lewis God reveal: because I was raised an atheist, when I first started reading the Narnia chronicles the Jesus-analogies which would have been completely obvious to anyone else slipped right by me. Seriously, I didn't have a clue until the last goddamn page of The Last Battle, when Aslan-Jesus shows up and informs our beloved characters that they are all DEAD and that dying before you reach twenty is the BEST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU, and that this whole time Narnia was just Christian heaven. The frothing-furious, soul-searing betrayal I felt at this was beyond my ability to even process. Twenty-six years later I'm still mad, and also deeply disgusted at the idea of writing in a children's book that the character to be pitied is the one who WASN'T on the FATALLY CRASHING TRAIN. (Neil Gaiman wrote a short story about Susan, which could have been a really fascinating discussion of the dangers of a religion which focuses on the afterlife and innocence to the extent of condemning all real-life experiences, and what it's like to grow up after believing that, but what Gaiman actually wrote was bestiality porn. Sigh.)

- from the fabulous, fierce, and absolutely funny blog "Burning My Study," and why aren't you reading it NOW! Go!

she has had her vision

“Radiant as [To the Lighthouse] is in its beauty, there could never be a mistake about it: here is a novel to the last degree severe and uncompromising. I think that beyond being about the very nature of reality, it is itself a vision of reality.”

-Eudora Welty, from her introduction

from "The World of Yesterday"

I have nothing left of my past but what I carry in my head. I regard memory not as a phenomenon preserving one thing and losing another by chance, but as a power that deliberately places events in order or wisely omits them. Everything we forget about our lives was condemned to oblivion by instinct long ago. So I ask my memory to speak to me and choose for me and to recollect my life before it sinks into the dark.

-- Stefan Zweig

Monday, May 6, 2013

the book of HD

OMFG Elliott Bay called me to specially let me know my book was in early! I LOVE YOU EBBC I WILL NEVER BADMOUTH YOU ON THE INTERNET AGAIN.

"the fork"

In his youth, Kierkegaard earned the nickname “gaflen,” or “the fork,” for his ability to discern the weaknesses in other people and to stick it to them. All his writing life, Kierkegaard wielded his red-hot stylus to stick it to bourgeois Christendom.

'I would rather see her lovely step'

Some men say an army of horse and some men say an army on foot
and some men say an army of ships is the most beautiful thing
on this black earth. But I say it is
... what you love.

-- Sappho, Fragment 16, tr. Anne Carson

Ο]ἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον οἰ δὲ πέσδων
οἰ δὲ νάων φαῖσ᾽ ἐπὶ γᾶν μέλαιναν
ἔ]μμεναι κάλλιστον ἔγω δὲ κῆν᾽
     ὄττω τὶσ ἔπαται.

'But colour returns'

Sunlight strikes in upon shaving-glasses; and gleaming brass cans; upon all the jolly trappings of the day; the bright, inquisitive, armored, resplendent, summer's day, which has long since vanquished chaos; which has dried the melancholy mediaeval mists; drained the swamp and stood glass and stone upon it; and equipped our brains and bodies with such an armoury of weapons that merely to see the flash and thrust of limbs engaged in the conduct of daily life is better than the old pageant of armies drawn out in battle array upon the plain.

- Virginia Woolf, Jacob's Room

Sunday, May 5, 2013

oh, Elliott Bay

EBBC STILL didn't have The H.D. Book. GROAN. It was maybe going to be there on Friday? Not over the weekend, no. Possibly Tuesday. Wednesday by the latest. The guy on the phone was v young and super-apologetic and even put me on hold (no music!) to go look and make sure it hadn't come in.

This is me not getting the book a helluva lot faster from the Evil Nile, Elliott Bay.

....well yes I did get some other books. Maybe. Possibly.

happy late Caturday

Leonard Woolf, "Downhill All The Way"

Saturday, May 4, 2013

'She would promise never never to forget.'

Then Katherine died, horribly and sadly, at the age of thirty-four, in the Gurdjieff commune near Fontainebleau, on 9 January 1923. Virginia heard the news at breakfast on the 16th, from Nelly, who'd seen it in the morning paper. Immediately, she began another relationship with her, which continued, and revised, the unsatisfactory failed living friendship. This posthumous relationship began in memory and remorse. At once she wished she had not let things go, had not taken offence when Katherine didn't write, had not found it all 'too difficult.' For the first time she realised that she had 'never given her credit for all her physical suffering & the effect it must have had in embittering her.' She felt depressed, disappointed, flat: there seemed 'no point in writing any more.' The echo had gone: 'Katherine won't read it. Katherine's my rival no longer.' The loss of the rival was as important as the loss of the friend. 'There's no competitor. I'm cock -- a lonely cock whose crowing nothing breaks -- of my walk.'

- Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf

"We have got the same job"

The memory of that last evening is so curious: your voice & Vanessa's voice in the dark, as it were -- white rings of plates floating in the air -- a smell of strawberries and coffee....My God I love to think of you, Virginia, as my friend. Dont cry me an ardent creature or say, with your head a little on one side, smiling as though you knew some enchanting secret: 'Well, Katherine, we shall see....' But pray consider how rare it is to find some one with the same passion for writing that you have, who desires to be scrupulously truthful with you -- and to give you the freedom of the city without any reserves at all.

- Katherine Mansfield to Virginia Woolf, June 1917 (quoted in Hermione Lee biography)

Friday, May 3, 2013

we are the hollow men

"Mount Corona" - the Corona Ash Dump in Queens along the Flushing River. via

“This is the valley of ashes, a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the form of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.”

old sport

“For Christ’s sake don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me. I’ve written it into the book."

F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Hunter S Thompson used to type out The Great Gatsby to experience what it was like to write “possibly the Great American Novel, if you look at it as a technical achievement. It’s about 55,000 words, which was astounding to me,” he said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “Not a wasted word. Shoot, I couldn’t match 55,000 no matter how I chopped. There are few things that I read and say, ‘Boy, I wish I could write that.’ Damn few. The Book of Revelation is one. Gatsby is one” - Grauniad

what I'm reading

books read in May 2013

Fiction is in red.

83. Jacob's Room, Virginia Woolf
84. The Good Nurse, Charles Graeber
85. Call Me Zelda, Erika Robuck
86. Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, R. Clifton Spargo
87. Virginia Woolf, Hermione Lee
88. Murder as a Fine Art, David Morrell
89. Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Occupied Paris, David King
90. The Wine of Angels, Phil Rickman
91. Midwinter of the Spirit, Phil Rickman 
92. A Crown of Lights, Phil Rickman
93. The Lamp of the Wicked, Phil Rickman

2013 booklist

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wild Flag Live In Concert: NPR Music At SXSW 2011

Wild Flag - Romance (Live on KEXP)

Wild Flag performs Black Tiles on Sound Opinions

SXSW 2011: Wild Flag performs Future Crimes

don't save

"The Gallop," Jane Hirshfield

There are days the whole house moves at a gallop.
Bookshelves and counters, bottles of aspirin and oil,
chairs, saucepans, and towels.
I can barely encircle the neck
of a bounding pen with my fingers
before it breaks free of their notions;
open the door before the dog
of lop-eared hopes leaps through it;
pick up the paper before it goes up as kindling.
Barely eat before something snatches
the toast from my plate,
drains the last mouthfuls of coffee out of my cup.
Even these words
before the blue ink track has dried on the paper,
they’ve already been read
and agreed to or flung aside for others I don’t yet know of,
and well before
I have dressed or brushed out the braid of my hair
a woman with my own shadow
has showered and chosen her earrings, bought groceries
and fallen in love, grown tired, grown old.
Her braid in the mirror shines with new ribbons of silver,
like the mane of a heavy warhorse.
He stands in the silence as if after battle, sides heaving, spent.

what you miss by not following me on GoodReads

The sun is shining (yeah shutup it gets sunny in Seattle), birds are chirping on the fire escape outside my window, my cats want to play with them, and I'm reading about giant Swiss industrial corporations killing the environment and giving little kids horrible neuroblastomas.