Wednesday, December 31, 2014

last book read in 2014

I keep thinking I will write up my impressions of the last half of Persuasion Vol II, but I just feel so ill and overwhelmed by the probable endo (or as a Russian friend of mine used to call it, the Red Army's regular invasion, as if our uteruses were Poland). (Spent last three days in bed, slept something like twelve hours yesterday, and FOURTEEN the day before that. A WINNER IS ME.) Maybe it will be something I can do in the new year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sunday, December 28, 2014

blurred and breathless dead

Is it not possible—I often wonder—that things we have felt with great intensity have an existence independent of our minds; are in fact still in existence? And if so, will it not be possible, in time, that some device will be invented by which we can tap them? I see it—the past—as an avenue lying behind; a long ribbon of scenes, emotions. There at the end of the avenue still, are the garden and the nursery. Instead of remembering here a scene and there a sound, I shall fit a plug into the wall; and listen in to the past. I feel that strong emotion must leave its trace; and it is only a question of discovering how we can get ourselves again attached to it, so that we shall be able to live our lives through from the start.

 - Virginia Woolf, Selected Diaries


'the world has more stories than it needs or wants to pay for'

“Six months ago people were quitting their day job, convinced they could make a career out of writing,” said Bob Mayer, an e-book consultant and publisher who has written 50 books. “Now people are having to go back to that job or are scraping to get by. That’s how quickly things have changed.”

For romance and mystery novelists who embraced digital technology, loved chatting up their fans and wrote really, really fast, the last few years have been a golden age. Fiction underwent a boom unseen since the postwar era, when seemingly every liberal arts major set his sights on the Great American Novel. Now, though, the world has more stories than it needs or wants to pay for.

In 2010, Amazon had 600,000 e-books in its Kindle store. Today it has more than three million. The number of books on Smashwords, which distributes self-published writers, grew 20 percent last year. The number of free books rose by one-third.

Revenue from e-books leveled off in 2013 at $3 billion after increasing nearly 50 percent in 2012, according to BookStats. But Kindle Unlimited is making the glut worse, some writers say.

“Your rabid romance reader who was buying $100 worth of books a week and funneling $5,200 into Amazon per year is now generating less than $120 a year,” (Holly Ward) said. “The revenue is just lost. That doesn’t work well for Amazon or the writers.”

Amazon, though, may be willing to forgo some income in the short term to create a service that draws readers in and encourages them to buy other items. The books, in that sense, are loss leaders, although the writers take the loss, not Amazon.



"Being ironic about it doesn't make your list any more relevant. Lists consume irony and shit it out again. Lists destroy everything they touch."

Saturday, December 27, 2014

top albums of 2014 according to

Chelsea Wolfe – Pain Is Beauty
Folger Consort – This England: Music From the Time of Shakespeare
Agnes Obel – Philharmonics
Agnes Obel – Aventine
Tara Jane O'Neil – Where Shine New Lights
The Raveonettes – Observator
Portishead – Roseland NYC Live
Jenny Lewis – The Voyager
Throwing Muses – Purgatory / Paradise
Magnolia Electric Co. – Sojourner
Emily Jane White – Ode To Sentience
Jolie Holland – Wine Dark Sea
Kosheen – Resist
The Klezmatics – Possessed
Nick Cave – B-Sides
Dessa – Parts of Speech
Sleater‐Kinney – Start Together // 1994 - 2006
Elvis Costello – When I Was Cruel
Billy Bragg – Talking With the Taxman About Poetry
Patrick Doyle – Sense & Sensibility - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

via (click on "Last 12 Months" tab)

top 2014 albums

This week, this year, and overall, respectively:

Thursday, December 25, 2014

I thought I of course blogged this already! But I can't fucking find it. So here it is (again?). A VERY MARY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE


Pompeii - Life and Death in a Roman Town ( Mary Beard )

J.R.R. Tolkien's medical admission record from WWI

A man who did his level best to drive me off social media because I criticized a bad review he wrote of a book about women, by a woman, is now loudly trumpeting how he will only read books by women in 2015. I suppose this is what they mean by ironic.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

screw xmas, THIS is what I wait all year for

Liminality needs to be conceived as both a process and a state of being. More accurately, liminality highlights that being is always in-process: dynamic, temporal, future-orientated and open-ended....Its value as an ontological claim about the nature of the self lies in the way it evokes an evasion of ontological security through the crossing of boundaries and embracing of the marginal / threshold. In other words, if liminality is seen as a site of the multiply constituted and relational self, then it is an essentially unstable and elusive site. One could thus read liminality as enacting a shift from an ontology of being to an ontology of becoming; or, indeed, a synthesis of becoming and being. Rather than simply reconfiguring the spatial aspect of the self (i.e. moving from an atomistic to a relational conception of the ‘I’), liminality draws out the temporal features of selfhood through characterising it as fundamentally transitional.

- Paddy McQueen, "A Life Less Liminal? Issues of Inclusion and Recognition for Trans-Identities"
Oh, Tumblr, some of us were Amy Elliott Dunne fangirls two years ago when the book came out.

(And I remember a lot of discussion with people trying to convince me no, Amy was a stone cold bitch and me raving on about femme fatales, but it's all lost in the e-mist of Goodreads Past now.)

Monday, December 22, 2014

never bet the devil your head

IT was well said of a certain German book that "er lasst sich nicht lesen" — it does not permit itself to be read. There are some secrets which do not permit themselves to be told. Men die nightly in their beds, wringing the hands of ghostly confessors, and looking them piteously in the eyes — die with despair of heart and convulsion of throat, on account of the hideousness of mysteries which will not suffer themselves to be revealed. Now and then, alas, the conscience of man takes up a burthen so heavy in horror that it can be thrown down only into the grave.

- Edgar Allan Poe, "The Man of the Crowd"

Saturday, December 20, 2014

There could not be an objection. There could be only a most proper alacrity, a most obliging compliance for public view; and smiles reined in and spirits dancing in private rapture. In half a minute Charles was at the bottom of Union-street again, and the other two proceeding together; and soon words enough had passed between them to decide their direction towards the comparatively quiet and retired gravel-walk, where the power of conversation would make the present hour a blessing indeed; and prepare it for all the immortality which the happiest recollections of their own future lives could bestow. There they exchanged again those feelings and those promises which had once before seemed to secure every thing, but which had been followed by so many, many years of division and estrangement. There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other's character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting. And there, as they slowly paced the gradual ascent, heedless of every group around them, seeing neither sauntering politicians, bustling house-keepers, flirting girls, nor nursery-maids and children, they could indulge in those retrospections and acknowledgements, and especially in those explanations of what had directly preceded the present moment, which were so poignant and so ceaseless in interest. All the little variations of the last week were gone through; and of yesterday and to-day there could scarcely be an end.

-- Persuasion, chapter 23

Gillian Beer on 'Persuasion'

Persuasion is a book about a longed-for and impossible return. It is, in that sense, a ghost story, and Frederick Wentworth a revenant. Like The Winter's Tale it is about love restored against all likelihood.  The gap of loss can be closed up, youth and beauty retrieved, dead affection revived. The work is both domestic and uncanny, offering to Anne and the reader at last paradisal relief.

-- Isn't that amazing? ("And she keeps doing that, too.")

Friday, December 19, 2014

are you fucking kidding me, Internet

Editor's note: This article was originally titled “We Can't All Just Get Along” in the print version of the magazine. The title was then changed, without the author's knowledge or approval, to “It's Okay to Hate Republicans.” The author rejects the online title as not representative of the piece or its main points. Her preferred title has been restored. We have also removed from the “Comments” section all threats to the author's life and personal safety.



GPOY, oh dear

He held the kind of passion for books and learning that only comes when one has pursued an education on one’s very own — but it was a passion that, because its origins were both private and virtuous, tended toward piety and scorn. His temperament was deeply nostalgic, not for his own past, but for past ages; he was cynical of the present, fearful of the future, and profoundly regretful of the world’s decay.

- Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries

stuck in Bath (first half of Vol II)

- the best thing that could happen to Sir Walter is an industrial accident

- I'm surprised Anne hasn't set fire to Elizabeth's hair

- God, William Elliot is creepy

- Lady Russell has NO taste in men whatsoever

- 'I am no match-maker, as you well know' YOU SURE AS FUCK AREN'T

- so in Bath when you finally start feeling better you find this creepy nurse hanging over your sickbed waving "thread-cases" for you to buy as a kind of secular medical indulgence? Ack

- 'Here and there, human nature may be great in times of trial, but generally speaking it is its weakness and not its strength that appears in a sick chamber' in biographical context that is really fucking heartbreaking

- I forgot to mention earlier how Jane's earlier extreme nastiness about the death of 'thick-headed, unfeeling, unprofitable Dick Musgrove, who had never done anything to entitle himself to more than the abbreviation of his name, living or dead' AND his mother's grief being hilarious because she's fat ('A large bulky figure has as good a right to be in deep affliction, as the most graceful set of limbs in the world. But, fair or not fair, there are unbecoming conjunctions, which reason will patronize in vain--which taste cannot tolerate--which ridicule will seize') squicked me right the fuck out. DAMN, JANE, THAT WAS BAD. YOU ARE SO MUCH BETTER THAN THAT

- news from Uppercross in the next chapter! Have we really spent only a month in Bath? It feels like three eternities. And what on earth shall we do with all these pin-cushions?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Persuasion - second half of Vol I

First half of Vol I


-- As far as I'm convinced this is the book that should be called Pride and Prejudice, not Persuasion, no matter how many Brills (Mc)Gills go on about Lady Russell's persuading Anne and persuasion as seduction and the rhetoric of convincing and make you quake in awe of their giant brains. 'Persuasion' has nothing really to do with it. Both Wentworth and Anne are too proud to get over the disastrous end of their engagement, although Anne seems more simply mortified whenever she sees him, but that's probably due to Mary's utterly tactless "oh, he was so ungallant and called you old and withered." Anne's being withered by age seems more like she's actually staled from custom to the people around her: they see her as the spinster aunt, good for nursing children and invalids, so that's all she is in their circle. (She can't be that withered if a couple of days in Lyme produces that much of a change in her looks. More likely, she's withdrawn and depressed.) -- Austen seems to present Mary as being more thoughtless than mean with that remark, but I don't know, Mary is pretty horrible; then again, seeing Mary as insensible to everything is probably the right default.

You can see Austen still sort of feeling her way around with Wentworth, though; he was shocked into saying Anne was "wretchedly" altered (to her family? jeez, Fred), he never got over her, he never met a woman he thought was her equal, he's still unhappy, blah, blahblah. I....don't like him that much? He seems a bit full of himself, although that's probably him overcompensating in Anne's company (although even when she's gone he blathers on to Louisa about the damn hard nut). I do like how he obviously cares for Anne: he gets the kid (literally) off her back (this is later mirrored when she helps manage the stunned Louisa), he sees she is tired, he's rather stunned himself when he learns she fended off Charles and then exchanges speaking glances with William, he wants her to nurse Louisa and asks her opinion of how best to break the news -- tiny little crumbs, to be sure, but Anne eagerly feasts on them, like poor Lucy Snowe with her non-love letters. He does have a lot of very dry witty asides, and Anne reads his face constantly (especially the contemptuous or fed-up expressions), and they even exchange glances and know what the other is thinking a few times. Austen does do her thing where the real hero's past good deed is recounted by someone else, like the housekeeper's testimony of Mr Darcy, and even if Austen doesn't underline it, surely Anne is thinking Wentworth understands Benwick's pain at losing his fiancee all too well.

I'm struck by how silent this book is; poor Anne still has had barely anything to say, except in the very droll bit where she tries prescribing good solemn prose to poor Benwick, as if it were castor oil. By contrast everyone else soliloquizes like Hamlet. People think of Fanny Price as the doormat, but she's always weeping and judging and refusing to act and refusing to marry Henry and rejecting being obedient to society by remaining true to her own conscience instead in general, as Tomalin so rightly points out. (Yes, I am a partisan in the Fanny Wars. I think she's adorable, if a bit wet.) Fanny observes, but she is young and heroic enough that she still stands up for herself (yes she does); we are flatly informed as far back as the second chapter in this first volume that nobody cares what Anne thinks about pretty much anything. And even when someone, i.e. only Lady Russell, does, she still overrides Anne anyway. Anne is numbed but remarkably unbitter; about the closest she gets to bitchy is thinking at Wentworth "how do you like your so-spirited girl NOW," after Louisa literally throws herself at him and lands on the Cobb instead. But even that doesn't seem mean-spirited as much as accurate, you can  just picture Louisa on one of those frigates they keep talking about: "I'll lean over the side only a little bit more! -- " (Splash.)

Mary and Charles seem like the worst couple in Austen; you know Lydia is heedless and hedonistic enough to make Wickham dance to her tune, at least while she's young and juicy, and Lucy Steele determinedly gets just what she wants, famously, "with no other sacrifice than that of time and conscience." (I always love that it amuses Austen to give somewhat-happy endings to her villainous characters: Willoughby does not die of a broken heart, but holds Marianne as his eternal secret standard for women, which must make his wife at least unhappy enough.) Mary is completely self-centered without being that amusing and absolutely unable to be on her own, or to see anyone else get the least bit of attention, and Charles doesn't seem to care about much other than hunting, probably because it enables him to gallop far away from Mary. Mr Bennet at least justifies his existence by being funny, and sheltering Elizabeth somewhat. There is nothing redeeming about Charles and Mary, and Elizabeth and Sir Walter will be just as awful in Bath. Anne is the most alone of all Austen's heroines: even Fanny has Egburp, and gets to know Susan. Anne's sisters either ignore or exploit her, her cousins don't really see her, and the person she truly loves as a mother substitute doesn't know her either (you cannot marry Frederick, you should marry Charles, you must like Bath). The poor thing needs a job, a Hitachi wand, and several dozen issues of Ms.

But this being an Austen novel, she goes to Lyme instead, which is very charmingly portrayed (Austen is rather lovingly dry, just like Wentworth: "a fine south-easterly breeze was bringing in [the tide] with all the grandeur which so flat a shore admitted.") And she gets to talk Byron and Scott (this is another book in which Marmion is lauded, besides my beloved JE; I must try to read it through one of these days), with the palely loitering James Benwick (dry Austen again: "He had a pleasing face and a melancholy air, just as he ought to have").  I think this is the only Austen novel in which the best society, and the pool of possible suitors, is so completely made up of non-titled men who have made their own fortunes: Captain Harville is stuck in a poky lodging house, but has fitted it up very nicely, the Admiral is steered along very well by Wentworth's sister, and the natural openness and freshness of the sea and wind seem to be embodied in the hospitality and high spirits of the sailors. This heroine will not have the reward of a fine country estate or even a settled parsonage, but the social mobility and possible adventure (I particularly love Mrs Croft's rattling off all the places she's been, and Mary absolutely unable to say anything back) are entirely new and exciting.

-- That's what the book is about for me, really: risk, and the decision to take it or not, and the mutability of feeling, which is portrayed in poor Benwick and Louisa but even the main characters. They could stay confined in their roles as rejected, resentful suitor and pining, fading spinster, but Anne and Wentworth in the end are both heroic in speaking out their feelings, even if indirectly. I was confused at first because I kept thinking of this story as a kind of weird Regency Gatsby, an attempt to recapture the past which is apparently successful, but it is really about the kind of emotional risk which lets us overcome the past, not entomb and fetishize it.* Gillian Beers brilliantly compares Persuasion to The Winter's Tale, which is just right: true reconciliation does involve restoration, or perhaps only the realization that what was thought lost has always remained, imperishable. Anne and Frederick change and age, but their love remains constant, their Northern Star.

-- But to get to the completed circle in the gravel path, we must go through Bath UGH. I know Janeite tourism doesn't work this way, but I wonder anyone goes to Bath after reading her books, the associations are usually so unpleasant.

*Relatedly, I just read the last essay in Meghan Daum's new book and I'm sure I'll be naive until I'm ninety, because I was rather shocked by its ending: "I went through this life-changing experience and thought I would change and be better but nothing really happened at all except I did survive a near-fatal infection, so inasmuch as there's a happy ending, that's it, except it's not really that happy because life is so mundane to those who are truly wised-up, like me." Of course true insight is always hard to even hang onto, much less act on, but that seemed to me like nothing so much as her brattily pushing even the possibility of change away. I guess living such an existence truly would be its own sort of punishment, as she more or less points out herself, except that having a major book deal with FSG doesn't seem to be much of a slap on the wrist.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Error," Mark Strand

We drifted downstream under a scattering of stars
and slept until the sun rose. When we got to the capital,
which lay in ruins, we built a large fire out of what chairs
and table we could find. The heat was so fierce that birds
overhead caught fire and fell flaming to earth.
These we ate, then continued on foot into regions
where the sea is frozen and the ground is strewn
with moonlike boulders. If only we had stopped,
turned, and gone back to the garden we started from,
with its broken urn, its pile of rotting leaves, and sat
gazing up at the house and seen only the passing
of sunlight over its windows, that would have been
enough, even if the wind cried and clouds scudded seaward
like the pages of a book on which nothing was written.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Problem: While on mood stabilizers I always feel like my actual feelings are about three feet to the left of me. I can see them! but they're not quite over here.

Solution: THIS IS NOT AN ACTUAL PROBLEM. KEEP TAKING THE MOOD STABILIZERS. (this past summer when we had like no income I had to go off all my medz for about a month and hoooo boy, that got real ugly real quick) (my unmedicated feelings are like Godzilla. They can crush actual cities)

Persuasion - first half of Vol I

I'm breaking my posts on this book into four parts because there's only two volumes, and I don't want to focus on either big volumes or small chapters. The story fits quite nicely in that frame anyway: in chapter 7, Anne sees Wentworth for the first time again (they don't speak) and in Vol II's chapter 7 (chapter 24 continuously) she sees him in Bath. (It is always worth investigating the structure in Austen's novels; she was a very symmetrical plotter.) At the end of chapter 6, which I have just finished, Anne finds out that not only is it that Captain Wentworth, and not only will he be at Kellynch but the Musgroves are determined to introduce themselves to him, which means he will come to Uppercuts* as inevitably as the tide rolls in.

I really did not click with this book at all back when I first read it, and I think now at least part of it was due to my beloved Margaret Drabble's loving descriptions of its mature happiness -- fulfilled romance, second bloom, Austen opening out into new worlds, blahblah. Virginia Woolf famously said that Persuasion was dull because it was a transition novel and "the writer is a little bored" with her own schtick, but I don't think the word is bored so much as bitter. As everyone notes, Austen's humour here is not just sarcastic but caustic: Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliott are never much more than flat ugly stereotypes, ditto Mary Musgrove and Mrs Clay (in a really nasty strike, Austen names the latter PENELOPE in chapter 3, when she is the exact opposite of loving fidelity), and even Lady Russell, the closest thing Anne has to anything like a friend, is rather dull and conventional, and gives Anne terrible advice although she loves her -- indeed, Austen's point is, probably because she loves her, which is a truly depressing insight into human nature. We are about as far away from lovably flawed Mr Bennet and Mrs Jennings as it is possible to get. This is the one book of Austen's set at the time of its writing, where the heroine is older (and still about ten years younger than Austen when writing), isolated, with no real friends, protection or prospects, caught in between being ignored and exploited, with the one great chance of her lifetime missed and far behind her. Anne is fading; her creator was dying.

In fine, I would not describe this novel as sober or grown-up or dull as much as horribly depressing, in its first movement, not just adagio but ritardando. All that joyous reading of The Letter comes late in the game, people! Anne is effaced even in the telling of her own story: the first chapter is devoted to detailing how very unimportant she is (famously, "she was only Anne"): nobody listens to her, and even if they do, like Lady Russell, still nobody takes her seriously. (Again, famously: "She disliked Bath, and did not think it agreed with her -- and Bath was to be her home.") (We also gain a serious clue in the second chapter when Lady Russell wants Anne to go to Bath against her own wishes, for her own good, just as she opposed Anne's marrying Wentworth years ago.) We don't even hear Anne until the third chapter, when she (another clue) defends the navy as a worthy profession, touchingly claiming for them "all the comforts and all the privileges which any home can give" -- as Gillian Beer notes, in this novel the domestic and political spheres are pretty much welded together. Anne only speaks out three times in this whole long scene (Sir Walter and Mrs Clay both rattle away dreadfully), only when other people are silent, and twice only to supply objective information: identities, ranks, as if she were a reference book opened just when someone else wants something. Only at the very end of the scene, and the chapter, when everyone else's more important business is concluded, can Anne slip away to find relief in the night outside (a bit like Marianne Dashwood) and gently sigh about how in a little while "he" may be where she is now. And with this most appropriate consideration of future time becoming time past, the narration slips fully into the subjunctive as we are introduced to the story of the lost suitor who will take Anne's place in the to-be-lost favourite grove. Not Mrs Croft's brother the curate Mr Wentworth, but his brother, the dashing young captain who had no parents, no employment and no permanent home of his own, like Anne when he met her. Austen sidles up on Wentworth, deliberately distancing; his character becomes clear gradually, first far back in time.

Young Captain Wentworth was very dashing indeed: he is described as intelligent, spirited, brilliant, witty, fearless, headstrong and confident ("He had always been lucky; he knew he should be so still") and his confidence is entirely justified as Austen rewards him with not just a job but a promotion, not just success but a great fortune (I think by our terms he's at least a millionaire; what he earns is about equal to what Emma only inherits). Like Colonel Brandon, he builds a strong career on disappointment; like Marianne, Anne loses her "bloom and spirits." The following chapter shows us what Anne's yielding to the "over-anxious caution which seems to insult exertion and distrust Providence" has brought her to: "nobody will want her in Bath" (in neither a social nor familial sense), her other sister wants her mainly as an unpaid governess and buffer between both her husband and mother-in-law, and she is sunk in an atmosphere of a hundred daily little hypocrisies and insults. On the banishment of the to-be prince, she became a Sleeping Beauty. The horror indeed is that this is no horror, "only" a life, in Charlotte Bronte's words in Shirley, that is not a life at all, but "a black trance like the toad's, buried in marble....a long, slow death" of useless "service." One of the most engrossing things for me about these buildup chapters (really, they give new meaning to the words slow burn) is watching Austen show, very carefully and subtly, how someone whose existence is so limited and unsatisfying can turn to a kind of masochistic automatic martyrdom to find their only sense of achievement, and indeed worth. Under cover of the socially acceptable Romance of rediscovered long-lasting love is a far more radical presentation of how how unacceptable what "ordinary" women are forced to accept daily really is.

But behind Anne's loss of Wentworth is a deeper, more permanent loss that can never be healed: the narrative suddenly baldly cries out, "excepting one short period of her life, she had never, since the age of fourteen, never since the loss of her dear mother, known the happiness of being listened to, or encouraged by any just appreciation". She has truly been left "alone in the world," and not just regarding music, either. This puts everything into new perspective: Anne's first, and only, love affair happened when she was nineteen, five years after the death of her mother, and about two years spending three years at school in Bath after that great loss, divorced from family and home. Much is made of the novel's autumnal atmosphere, but the point is that a human being's autumn is followed by the winter of old age and death, not nature's eternal renewal. In the words of Housman's translation of Horace:

Thaw follows frost; hard on the heel of spring
Treads summer sure to die, for hard on hers
Comes autumn with his apples scattering;
Then back to wintertide, when nothing stirs.

But oh, whate'er the sky-led seasons mar,
Moon upon moon rebuilds it with her beams;
Come we where Tullus and where Ancus are
And good Aeneas, we are dust and dreams.

It was Anne's loss of this first love, and her desire to keep even a semblance of it in Lady Russell's ("one who had almost a mother's love, and mother's rights") that made her reject a later, truer, consolatory replacement. The true tragedy of her life is not that she rejected a marriage proposal, but that in attempting to keep emotional security she instead sentenced herself to a life unlived, sterility and numbness, "a sort of desolate tranquility." And society, not only in the persons of her vain and unloving father and eldest sister, but her loving godmother, told her this was nothing but good.

But even if Anne finds that romantic love, it never will make up for that first, greatest loss, or all the years wasted in fear after it. (And indeed at the end of the novel the only flaw in Anne's happiness is the fear she will lose it; but, one way or another, she will lose her husband eventually, and their shared happiness, and even her own life, and our truest bravery consists in welcoming our mortal joy without fearing its inevitable end.)

*Sorry, sorry.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

idle query

I wonder how much of Wikipedia is ripped off (or lightly rephrased) from out-of-print editions of the Britannica Encyclopedia. I don't know how exactly you would figure out the percentage (sit there with side-by-side editions and human eyes, probably), but I'd bet my eyeteeth it's a lot.

Friday, December 12, 2014

two quotes by Meghan Daum

But if most writers have long understood that publishing is a privilege that carries certain responsibilities—foremost among them taking the time to present ideas in a careful and thoughtful manner, ideally with the help of one or more editors—many readers seem to be approaching their commenting privileges like teenagers with newly minted driver’s licenses. Belted in by anonymity and often distracted by the equally reckless ravings of their peers, they take potshots, spread untruths, and, at their worst, spew racism and bigotry that would put a professional writer out of business in a nanosecond. In so doing, they spread a rancor that can eclipse not only the original article but also the comments of readers who take a more constructive, civil approach. They take the very privilege the internet has afforded all of us—the privilege of equal opportunity, instant expression—and spit on it, making the very notion of “speaking your mind” seem almost like a dirty practice, the national pastime of the lowest common denominator.

- The Believer, 2012

....I can’t tell you how lucky I feel that I came of age as a writer before the blogosphere. I mean I had editors whom I worked with. There was a long time to go back and forth on it — I mean, I wrote a whole piece about this in The Believer, about audience reaction and commenting. I started off before all that was really going on. You weren’t writing something and then having readers instantly respond. You heard about it in a few weeks when they started getting letters to the editor, so it’s a very, very different experience.

Do you think writing with that instantaneous reaction would have inhibited your writing?
Definitely. I notice this in students, and I notice this in younger writers. There is a sense of looking over your shoulder as you’re writing and expressing an opinion, because you have this anticipatory anxiety about what the comments are going to say or who’s going to tweet something or call you out on Twitter, or what the reaction is going to be, and I think that’s too bad, because writing is about putting an idea into the world, and letting it kind of sit there for a while and giving people a chance to absorb it. If the blogosphere had been around when I was starting off as a professional writer in the early '90s, I don’t know if I would’ve taken some of the risks that I did. I definitely wrote pieces that were very much the work of a young person and were just deliberately polarizing and certainly, I never wrote anything that I didn’t believe, but I was a very aggressive kind of writer.

And you also had the luxury of once it was off the newsstand —
 — it went away forever.

Yeah, exactly. You didn't have it following you around every time you wrote something new. 
Exactly, exactly. Now, it's sort of at once disposable and nonbiodegradable, you know? It's like everything that is written is kind of the equivalent of Styrofoam.

I was going to say a plastic bag, yeah.
Yes, right. I'm including myself in this. I'm saying, all of us when we write on the web, it's Styrofoam. It's disposable; you don't need it after five minutes, and yet it's never going to go away. It will never break down and be reabsorbed. And that's a very different kind of experience as a writer.

- The Cut interview, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

They drank cocoa (which Wilfred recalled as the great conspiratorial drink of the early twentieth century; trade union meetings in West Ham were usually held at cocoa-rooms).

- The Knox Brothers, Penelope (Knox) Fitzgerald

I just adore her.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


The English language has a great deficit in words to describe the impenetrable hopelessness that mental illness visits upon those afflicted with it. I’ve spent embarrassing amounts of time seeking out words in other languages that give form and substance to this lifetime of experiences. Germans have Verzweiflung, it is the direct translation of despair but it is also accompanied by fear and pain. The Czech litost is the torment of suddenly seeing the extent of one’s own misery. Toska is what Nabakov said could never be fully expressed in English words and described as “a sensation of spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause.”

But my personal favorite has much less to do with misery. It is the Portuguese saudade, a melancholic longing for someone or something that is lost or gone, likely forever. It is often felt for lovers and for the Utopian landscapes of youth, for things that might have never even been but can be longed for nonetheless. My affection for the feeling is not because of its familiarity but because of its absence. I have no such longings. I have no memories of utopias or of perfect lovers or of anything that took might take the shape of bliss. I don’t have any reference points to long into goldennes and then ache for. It is heartening to realize that I don’t suffer from every kind of heartbreak available, just the particular kind that I do.

- The Circumference of Despair: On Depression and Language

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

things making me happy right now

(yes, trying to cheer myself up a little bit....)

Guardians of the Galaxy
Penelope Fitzgerald
Jane Austen
Redbird ("the falling stars will mend our hearts and let us start again....")
my fat black cat purring til he drools
tiny stripey mouthy evil kitten bouncing up from a nap with "HI!"
poached eggs on toasted whole-wheat bread
the new translation of Anna Karenina
my husband finding a DVD of Johnny Mnemonic (favourite so-bad-it's-good movie ever) for me for about six bucks
Dessa, "Sound the Bells" (probably my favourite song of 2014) (runners-up: Laura Marling, "Devil's Resting Place," Agnes Obel, "Aventine," Chelsea Wolfe, "The Warden") (yes I know those came out in 2013, I'm slow)
"In the Hands of Ghosts"

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

books read in December 2014

Fiction is in red. Date of first publication in (parentheses).

178. The Passage, Justin Cronin (2010) (readable enough, but WOW, the hype)
179. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel (2014) (v funny and moving, v Vonnegut-ish)
180. Being Mortal, Atul Gawande (2014)
181. Greywalker, Kat Richardson (2006)
182. Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better, Maya Schenwar (2014) (snaps neatly in two: half compelling memoir, half unconvincing jargon)
183. The Knox Brothers, Penelope Fitzgerald (1977, revised ed. 2000) (like a lost work by Woolf)
184. Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance, Atul Gawande (2007) 
185. The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer (2014)
186. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, Cary Elwes (2014) (get the audiobook of this, not the hard copy)
187. Stranger, Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith (2014)
188. Persuasion, Jane Austen (1818) (all Woolf comes from this)
189. The Annotated Pratchett File (no idea if this counts as a book, but I downloaded it to my Paperwhite and read it. Stops at around 2002, or Once More with Footnotes)
190. Those Who Save Us, Jenna Blum (2005) (pretty bad)
191. The Invisible Bridge, Julie Orringer (2010) (good - fairly sentimental though)
192. The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life, Andy Miller (2014) (more personal than I was expecting, but v funny)
193. How to Be a Heroine: Or What I've Learned from Reading Too Much, Samantha Ellis (2014) (the less said about this the better) (OF COURSE the "top" reviewer on Goodreads loved it, five stars!!! but it did not move her, any more than anything else ever does, to capitalize any letters at all)
194. To the River: A Journey Beneath the Surface, Olivia Laing (2011) (exquisite)

all 2014 booklist posts

Monday, December 1, 2014

of course I adored her

Nebula, Guardians of the Galaxy (Karen Gillan)

what painkillers grouchy old addicts in recovery like me get to take for migraines

1) Advil
2) coffee

3) tea when I've had enough coffee that I know any more will set off pancreatitis/acid reflux/anxiety disorders

4) more tea

5) Benadryl and aspirin

6) more Advil

7) 2-3 emergency cups of black coffee

I cannot tell you the number of doctors -- good doctors, who have seen me for years, who have congratulated me on being sober since April 1, 2002 -- who have offered me Percocet, Tylenol 3, Lortab, Fioricet, Norflex, Vicodin, and I don't know what-all fucking else, including BENZOS (no fucking idea what was going on there, they thought I looked....tense?).  My husband, who has accompanied me to a number of migraine treatment appointments (because when I can't really think or listen or speak that well because PAIN, having someone else toodle along is a good bet) described the effect as something like "a garlic cross waved at a vampire." Whatever the opposite is of drug-seeking, I'm it. Drug-fending-off? When I needed stitches for a minor procedure, "No, I don't want morphine!" When an abscess got so bad I had to go to the ER, "NO, I DON'T WANT MORPHINE." (Husband remarked: "Maybe you could hold up a sign?" That's why I love him.)

And if you are wondering how much pain a migraine could really cause, anyway: as another migraineur once said, a dear friend of mine who was also in recovery, "Imagine you are having the worst headache of your life. (pause) Now multiply that by a factor of ten. (pause) Now imagine that while you're having this headache, someone is splitting open your skull with a red-hot ax. (smile demurely)"

(This grumpy rant brought to you by the construction going on right across the street from my bedroom, which is audible with the windows shut, the white noise machine blasting, and while I'm wearing headphones. Thankfully this wasn't happening during the last four days when I was knocked out flat, but I'm very sensitive to noise, so the migraine has been Looooming over me all damn day, like when you know in the morning as you arrive at school that when it's recess the class bully will beat you up for your lunch money.)
and THEN I got my period ON Thanksgiving day hours before I was going to start cooking, developed a terrible menstrual migraine (flashing checkerboards crying puking the works), and wound up spending basically all four days* of my husband's break huddled in a ball in the dark bedroom. MY LIFE WINS.

*two of them unpaid! \o/

Sunday, November 30, 2014

we are Groot

THIS IS MY NEW FAVOURITE FUCKING MOVIE NOW. JUST SO YOU KNOW. I don't think I have laughed that hard in months. My face actually hurts.

(And the repetition of "Take my hand"! Oh, my GOD. I was totally unspoiled for that ((husband sitting next to me had already seen it twice)) and gasped and said out loud "OH FUCK YOU, MOVIE" and burst into tears. Awesome.)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

As a philosophical form, the fragment reflects the conditions of modernity. In Friedrich Schlegel's view, the hyper-reflexive expressive registers of irony and humor are particularly suited to voice the modern mindset, and are, as such, intrinsically linked to the fragment (such a view is also present in Novalis's writings, though underemphasized in comparison with Friedrich Schlegel). Novalis's turn to the fragment has a different philosophical motivation. The fragment questions the idea that philosophical system-building, be it of a deductive or a teleological kind, is fit to capture the nature of reality. Like Blüthenstaub—though the title was added when Friedrich Schlegel was editing Novalis's text for publication—the fragment emerges as an intellectual seed or pollen that is meant to foster critical and independent reflection rather than presenting a system of self-contained theorizing.

- via

still thinking on that book, like just waking from a dream

But all this happened a long time ago, nearly forty years ago; I do not know if it happens now, even in imaginary countries.

- Ursula K. Le Guin

(Altho was also thinking glumly that if Fitzgerald had had the misfortune to be born in the land of the rich and the home of the broke, without council housing and universal health care, we might never have had one word of her works. But that seems unworthy of the book, and her, and Novalis. The blue flower blooms where its seed falls....?)

Die blaue Blume

Could they play and sing? Naturally they could. How else can the needy pass their time, except with music? Outside the lodgings, in the warm dusk which filled the Schaufelgasse, they began with little airs, little popular songs, then a trio. When the Mandelsloh came down the three flights of stairs, with her purse in her hand, and asked them, 'For whom do you play?'  they replied, 'For Philosophy.'
Have been trying not to cry for the last half of this damn book -- which I knew would break my heart before I even picked it up, and I did so anyway. I was soldiering on, and right fucking there, crackle, CRUNCH. Sob.

This fucking book! It's like a song by Schubert, a phrase out of Mozart, a Prinzregententorte, Dürer's Young Hare.  -- Du! Dein Mutter ist tot! -- Hopp, hopp! Hopp, hopp! Hopp, hopp!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Leverage - S1 E10 "The Juror #6 Job"

GRANDMOTHER: (showing pictures): And this is Emily. She's the eldest, and her sister Anne. And little Charlotte, she's the baby of the family.

MOI: //screams //rewinds immediately //dies laughing

Villain of the piece is also named, wait for it....Earnshaw.

I love my show.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?

And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.

- Genesis 4:8-10 (KJV)

Monday, November 24, 2014

I heard the news choppers and knew there was no true bill

Although of course I'd been expecting it already, like everyone else. That doesn't matter. It's still unbearable. That poor young murdered man. That baby.


today I have

peeled, chopped carrots
chopped asparagus
chopped B sprouts
chopped rainbow chard
peeled, sliced butternut squash

1/2 orange
green beans
rice (thinking simple chicken dish)]

to-be prepped (these will keep longer):
purple kale
red chard
sweet potatoes
acorn squash
onions conviction after about 2 years of E-Z Lern 2 Cook holds that most of cooking is 1) chopping stuff 2) heating stuff what you just chopped

in which Joe Romm has my heart (sorry, T)

Interstellar may be the greatest silent movie ever made. It is a stunningly gorgeous but annoyingly noisy, second-rate sci-fi movie with Icarus-like aspirations of greatness, an intentionally-confusing film with hints of climate change.

....First off, thank goodness this anti-inspirational movie isn’t (clearly) about human-caused climate change, given that a main theme, as expressed by its genius NASA scientist (played by Michael Caine) appears to be:
“We are not meant to save the world. We are meant to leave it.”
And if you find it hard to believe that any modern eco-parable could have such a ludicrously defeatist theme, here’s the trailer:

Christopher Nolan himself admitted of that line, “Obviously, if that’s taken literally it would not be particularly positive.” Duh?

....As the Washington Post notes, the movie ”never explains the source of the blight and the dust storms that plague Earth’s remaining residents.” This Nolan-esque-ambiguity appears to be intentional, based on this recent interview:
Reuters: In “Interstellar,” Earth faces a severe environmental disaster brought on by the grounds drying up. Did you want to address climate change?
Nolan: Not consciously. The honest answer is we live in the same world, my brother and I. We work on the script, we live in the same world as everyone else so we’re sort of affected by the same things, worried about the same things, but we try not to be didactic in the writing, we try not to give any particular message or sense of things.
Yes, why make a big-budget movie about an eco-collapse that looks a lot like worst-case projections for global warming and then bother to give viewers “any particular message or sense of things”?

Nolan responded to media and viewer complaints that there were “parts where the music totally obliterates the dialogue” by explaining that was intentional! What about Michael Caine’s deathbed scene where it’s hard to tell if he is in fact admitting the whole notion that his efforts were aimed at saving humans on Earth was a lie? That was also meant to be intentionally confusing!

George Monbiot writes in the U.K. Guardian: “Movies about abandoning Earth reflect the political defeatism of our age: that adapting to climate breakdown is preferable to stopping it.” Grist notes in its take-down of the multiple absurdities of the movie, “I can’t believe that intergalactic space travel was the best route to food security.”
That’s especially true since — “plot” spoiler — it’s fair to say that humans from the future are not going build a wormhole near Saturn for us to flee Earth to another galaxy. In the U.K. Guardian piece “How Interstellar made Michael Caine think again about climate change,” the actor himself says:
If Earth screws up, I think we all go. How many people can go through a black hole in a rocket? It’s not a bus.
Interstellar — the climate solution for the one percent.
- ClimateProgress

strandbooks posted this on Tumblr and it actually sort of fucking gutted me

But that's OK because my book is about the killing power of nostalgia! :D :D :D

new non-P&V translation of Anna Karenina

  • A major new translation of Tolstoy's enduring classic, by acclaimed translator and biographer Rosamund Bartlett.
  • Based on the best Russian text, the translation preserves Tolstoy's style in a highly accurate version in which precision of meaning and emotional accuracy are conveyed in fluent and natural English.
  • Rosamund Bartlett has won praise for her translations of Chekhov and her biography of Tolstoy (Profile, 2010), her sensitivity to the Russian language enhanced by meticulous research into specialist terminology.
  • Bartlett's introduction and notes are informed by her intimate knowledge of Tolstoy's life, the contexts in which he wrote, and insight into his literary artistry and achievements.
  • Includes a note on the translation, select bibliography, chronology of Tolstoy's life, list of characters and guide to pronunciation.


in which Beatrice is wise, wise, wise

For the most part, my late thirties are treating me exceedingly well. So of course my brain frequently turns to bemoaning all the time I wasted (and still do waste, alas) on perfectionism, because there's no better way to waste your time than to spend it beating yourself up for the time you already wasted. That's some high-level ouroboros-ing; don't try it at home. Seriously, don't.

 But that's perfectionism for you. People who are not plagued by perfectionism think that it means doing everything perfectly, which it doesn't. That friend or relative you have who does everything perfectly is, I guarantee you, not a perfectionist. Perfectionism means that you abandon writing projects halfway through because you can't get that one scene (or even that one sentence) right on the first three tries; that you sit there night after night journaling about how random undignified human moments make you permanently unlovable; that you sabotage good relationships because a known outcome which is a disaster is still safer, in your mind, than an unknown outcome which could be amazing.

....Perfection, most of the time, means not doing anything. Which is why I'm working really hard on not wasting any more of my time on it. In my personal life, anyway: the irony is that in my computer-oriented-role at work I say, all the time, "Perfect is the enemy of good," and mean it. I can forgive software its limitations, but not myself mine. Maybe try to think of myself as charmingly buggy?

- Burning My Study

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Penelope Fitzgerald, Hermione Lee

I absolutely LOVED Hermione Lee's biography of Penelope Fitzgerald, and it also made me want to immediately go back and read all of Fitzgerald's work with all the new thoughts I now have about her in mind, which I think is really the best thing I can say to recommend it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

this is what actually got me out of bed today

'....I wonder if my UK copy of Foxglove Summer is here yet?'


I highlighted (yes it is on the Paperwhite, I have no room for big hardbacks and can't hold them up anymore anyway) 'A short-lived Somerville magazine, Lysistrata, edited by Robert Graves's daughter Sally in 1934' --

-- and then squinted and thought 'No, that's not right....there was Jenny, Catherine and Lucia. Sally was the niece?' But I wasn't sure, so I checked. Yes, niece!

 I WAS SORT OF HORRIFIED and then wondered how pathetic it was I knew the names of Graves's daughters offhand and nobody ever cares about this stuff but me anyway

And look, you can buy the magazine online! How about that. Or browse Sally's bibliography (she went on to become an anthropologist).

most awesome thing I have read all week

I don’t know why I’m telling you this. Maybe I think that if I (or the person who is me, but whose body I am not currently occupying) write this down, I will draw some logical conclusion. I will identify the root cause of this current round of anxiety, and I will suddenly recognise the street I live on, and be able to go to the supermarket without being afraid of the fact that we are hurtling through space, and stand in the bookshop and feel calm and easy. Maybe I think that someone else might read this and go me too! your anxiety is not the most insane anxiety! and I can put my socks on and we can go for a walk in the park and no one will turn into an antelope.

Last week, at my regular counselling session, I told my psychologist I was beginning to feel like A Girl Who Is Separate From But Also Experiences Anxiety. It was wonderful. I was thinking about all the things I could do with my life if I didn’t have anxiety, and I could suddenly see each thing discretely. I could see that I might go on a book tour and feel anxious, but that they were not the same thing. I could imagine being a person who had anxiety, but wasn’t an anxious person. I felt newly purposeful, motivated, insightful but pragmatic.

And now this week I feel like a turnip.

- Anna Spargo-Ryan

'zombies will always be there, stacked up like cordwood in the closet, a standard tool ready-to-hand for any creator with no better ideas'

(Written about games, but it works equally well for writing, movies, anything creative. Look, I liked zombies too, WAY BACK WHEN. But they are DONE.)

(also, I finally saw Shaun of the Dead and y'all are tripping balls, that was *horrible*)

The zombie apocalypse is the weakest apocalypse. The threat of apocalypse is an actual non-fictional thing. There’s climate change, peak oil, peak water, near-earth objects, toxin accumulation, supercalderas, plus there are still enough nukes lying around to end civilisation several times over. On a less global scale, there’s economic collapse, conquest, genocide, colonialism, poverty, homelessness. Postapocalyptic fiction has potential to get us to think about this: but the zombie apocalypse has become a formulaic, often escapist fantasy that avoids the genuinely uncomfortable in favour of squick and headshots. Triffids would be better at this point.

Zombies are the othered enemy. We have a culture that cheerfully divides human beings into those whose deaths must be treated as deeply, individually serious, and those whose deaths can be written off as regrettable but basically inconsequential or necessary. Zombies serve that motive. In particular, the central threat of modern zombies is: a faceless, innumerable mass of mindless, violent, contagious people bent on tearing society apart. That is… just the tiniest itty bit problematic.

Zombies are not actually all that scary if you de-stress the Mindless Inhuman Horde element. Largely this is because we know how they work by this point. (I suspect this has a lot to do with their popularity: they’re homeopathic horror. ‘Oh no, the disgusting mortality of the human body!’ ‘Can we fix it with violence?’ ‘Yes. Yes, we can.’) There are a number of scary things buried in there, but most of them have been bled dry by overuse. Boring territory is safe territory, and vice versa.

- Sam Kabo Ashwell

Nanu, Nano

Q: So how's that writing-a-novel-in-thirty-days thing going?


On top of all my OTHER personal issues re avoidance, procrastination, anxiety, perfectionism, blah, blahblah sing along you know the words, I got two nasty shocks during the actual writing month. One was the loss of the Dems in the Senate -- I knew it was coming for days, it wasn't a surprise, but it was still really fucking depressing. For one thing I think there's now a really good chance of a Republican president in 2016, and God help us all then, especially since this household consists of TWO AGING DISABLED CHRONICALLY ILL MOSTLY-UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE, with cats. (My husband can get programming work, some years, but it's all contract stuff, which means no security, no benefits, and much lower pay.) Seeing as how last time he was unemployed it lasted over a year, and the Republicans want to set fire to the comfy safety hammock of UI, food stamps, utilities grants, and other programs that clearly do nothing but enable leeches, I can't help but feel our future looks particularly bleak. Fuck the whole "I'll never get to do all the stuff I intended to do in my twenties!" gig, now it's more like "How do we keep our apartment and the lights on and the cats fed and...."

The other, bigger, thing was that when I drowned my laptop in coffee, like Prospero but with half-and-half, I lost all my notes, drafts and every writing-related thing. I didn't panic about it at first because I thought I'd had most of it backed up on a flash drive (no, it was not on Dropbox, and I don't have an external HD) but that turned out to be corrupted (the virtual Mob got to it? I don't know).  I know some people who can chirpily exclaim "This is good! I can toss aside all those preconceived notions and start FRESH!" not one of them, to put it mildly. This loss was so bad I haven't even really written about it anywhere. That's how you know things are really bad with me, I shut up.

I dunno, maybe I'll start again next month, or in January. November just does not seem to work out for me. We'll see. Trying to ensure basic survival (T's job ends soon) sort of comes first.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

and then I slept ALL DAMN DAY

after going to bed at 10 (and waking up around 8). What the shit, do I have Stealth CFS or something? And was barely awake enough to cook a really simple dinner. And now I'll probably go back to bed at 10 again, because now I'm getting a headache. WTF is this....

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

talk about sobering

By mid-2012 nineteen states had approved new legislation restricting voting, including seven of the nine battleground states in the general election. The total number of electoral votes potentially affected, 212, was more than three-quarters of the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency.

....For years political operatives have understood that Democrats win by addition and Republicans by subtraction. Now the GOP....was poised to subtract roughly five million votes from an American election.

- The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies, Jonathan Alter

Saturday, November 15, 2014

 'Oh, darling,' said Julia, resting her hands on Patrick's shoulders, 'are you your own worst enemy?'

'I certainly hope so,' said Patrick. 'I dread to think what would happen if somebody else turned out to be better at it than me.'

- Edward St. Aubyn, Mother's Milk

Friday, November 14, 2014

and then my friends BOUGHT ME a LAPTOP

let me just fucking repeat that:
my friends  
bought me  

so I could write and listen to music and have my ebooks and yes post silly fun stuff to Tumblr again and not feel utterly cut off from them and the rest of the world (for various reasons, I don't have a phone)

 I don't even fucking know what to say. I want to say something like 'I'll never complain about anything again' except sadly, that would not be true (heh) and that's not how my friends want me to feel anyway, but goddamn if that doesn't feel utterly true right now. I am just. WOW.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Forever – is composed of Nows –
‘Tis not a different time –
Except for Infiniteness –
And Latitude of Home –

From this – experienced Here –
Remove the Dates – to These –
Let Months dissolve in further Months –
And Years – exhale in Years –

Without Debate – or Pause –
Or Celebrated Days –
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Dominies –

- Emily Dickinson

Monday, November 10, 2014

from 'Collected Poems of Ted Hughes'

from 'Notes of a Native Son'

It began to seem that one would have to hold in the mind forever two ideas which seemed to be in opposition. The first idea was acceptance, the acceptance, totally without rancor, of life as it is, and men as they are: in the light of this idea, it goes without saying that injustice is a commonplace. But this did not mean that one could be complacent, for the second idea was of equal power: that one must never, in one's own life, accept these injustices as commonplace but must fight them with all one's strength. This fight begins, however, in the heart and it now had been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair.

- James Baldwin

'recalled to life'

(A man is freed after forty-seven years in the Bastille.) This city, so beautifully peopled with living beings, it is for him a necropolis; no one knows him; he knows no one; he weeps and longs for his cachot.

 Crushed by grief, he goes to find the Minister whose generous compassion has made him a present of that liberty which so weighs upon him. He bows and says: Let me be taken back to the prison from which you have drawn me. Who can survive his parents, his friends, an entire generation? Who can learn the universal death of his own people without longing for the tomb? All these deaths which, for other men, arrive separately and little by little, have struck me at once. Separated from society, I lived with myself. Here I can live with neither myself nor new men for whom my despair is but a dream. It is not death which is terrible, it is to die the last of all.

....He scarcely wants to communicate with that new race whom he has not seen born; in the middle of town he makes himself a retreat no less solitary than the cachot which he had lived in half a century; and the grief of encountering no one who can say to him, we saw each other of old, speeds him to his grave.
- from Mercier's Le Tableau de Paris, quoted in the Notes to the Penguin edition of A Tale of Two Cities

Compare this with the ending of Oscar Wilde's bitter post-prison fable, "The Doer of Good":
And when He had passed out of the city He saw seated by the roadside a young man who was weeping.

And He went towards him and touched the long locks of his hair and said to him, 'Why are you weeping?'

And the young man looked up, and recognised Him and made answer, 'But I was dead once and you raised me from the dead. What else should I do but weep?'
I think the thing depressing me most right now isn't actually the lost programs (Calibre, iTunes, Spotify are probably the ones I use most frequently) or files (about four thousand ebooks, in various formats, probably 10MB of music, maybe six years' worth of pictures) but not being able to listen to music, really. Music is my boyfriend really my strongest antidepressant, and without it I just....wilt.

Because it's not just the lost music files or iTunes or the Spotify and desktop clients (yes I am a dinosaur) and not being able to stream from YouTube and 8tracks. I quit buying CDs really I don't know how long ago, in a vain attempt to save storage space because hey, it's all online. When I was really broke I ripped a goodly number of CDs and then sold them (yeah that worked out well). "Well! I do have CDs," I thought, and then realized....I don't even have a CD player anymore. Not a standalone, this-works-without-anything-ripped-off/dreamed-up-by-Steve-Jobs-or-Bill-Gates CD player. So without a reliable laptop now there's just....silence, mostly.

(And I've always thought of myself as a speed bump on the information highway. If web 2.0 has me in its clutches this bad, IT HAS DEVOURED US ALL.)
Tried turning on drowned laptop, now dried-out (did everything but use a hairdryer and put it in bathtub full of rice, I have neither). It won't even turn on. It's just dead.

MEANWHILE, T is letting me use his (equally old and cheap, we both got them on special at Office Depot at the same time) laptop but then it started doing this:  


with increasing volume and scariness. Also occasionally it just goes dark (not BSOD; just, it's off) for no reason. No, we can't afford to fix that one, either.

I don't even fucking know. I'LL GET A LOT OF READING DONE I GUESS (yeah yeah this is a 'good excuse' for not doing Nano, but I'm one of those people who needs a keyboard to write, even tho the IBM Selectric II destroyed my hands at an early age; pen and paper is just way too fucking slow) (and if I could get showered dressed and out to the library every day, you know, that would mean I wasn't fucking depressed all the time)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

from Flannery O'Connor's prayer journal

I have been reading Mr. Kafka and I feel his problem of getting grace. But I see it doesn’t have to be that way for the Catholic who can go to Communion every day. The Msgr. today said it was the business of reason, not emotion—the love of God. The emotion would be a help. I realized last time that it would be a selfish one. Oh dear God, the reason is very empty. I suppose mine is also lazy. But I want to get near You. Yet it seems almost a sin to suggest such a thing even. Perhaps Communion doesn’t give the nearness I mean. The nearness I mean comes after death perhaps. It is what we are struggling for and if I found it either I would be dead or I would have seen it for a second and life would be intolerable.

- via


People heard it loud and clear when the baby boomers crossed over to midlife – you couldn’t avoid it. Radio talk show hosts probed into the transition, newspapers described boomer women coping with crow’s feet and men reclaiming their vitality in tribal drum circles. For the generation born after – in the ‘60s and ‘70s, raised by television like no previous generation and with the divorce rate skyrocketing during their childhood years — there is no media watch broadcasting their new trajectory. Few have even noticed that this small, notoriously rebellious clan – those born roughly between 1965 and 1980, which means about 46 million Xers versus 80 million boomers — has entered middle age. It’s a transition that, until now, has been captured, mulled over and ridiculed for each generation for more than a half-century. But not this time.

The problem is, with adulthoods repeatedly shipwrecked by economic disasters, Xers might have neglected to track the crossing over. Susan Gregory Thomas, author of the resonant memoir ”In Spite of Everything,” says that many Xers “are always living in a state of triage, always in a survivalist mode. We’re not thinking long-term.”


(And yet the article ends with: "It's time to rise up and get angry!" It's hard to make your angry voiec heard when you've been going to food banks after being unemployed for two years. Or even to get angry, because, as the article starts, you're just trying to survive.)

(Also: see all those damn articles about how tragic it is that thirty-one-year olds now have to move back home, OHNOES) (some of us have no homes to move back to, by now)

'rage seduces us all' addition to the emphasis on individual catharsis, the culture of unchecked rage that sometimes wracks us is also an artefact of patriarchy itself and its lust for competitive, often violent contest. Much ink has been spilled on the masculinism that infects activist discourse, leading to delightfully snarky epithets like “Manarchism,” but we ignore the fact that white cis men are not the only people perpetuating this; it’s a culture, it does not dwell only in those with a perceived “essence.” We often unthinkingly accept and venerate the modalities and methods that patriarchy most favours; rage fuelled, unempathetic, us-versus-them politics is an ideal fit with the political hellscape of modern, neo-liberal patriarchy. It is a world that prizes the atomised particular over the powerful but compromising collective.

Your rage fuels the profits of every major website on the internet; be it Facebook, Twitter, Fox Nation, the New York Times’ comment sections, blog comments, Reddit, Tumblr, or Slashdot, your rage gets others angry, committing them to call-and-response threads hundreds of comments deep, which keeps them coming back to threads obsessively, which generates pageviews, ad impressions, and more revenue for the interested parties.

....Rage seduces us all, no matter what our background, and its siren song will always be in the language that most appeals to us as individuals, regardless of our politics.

- Katherine Cross

Friday, November 7, 2014

and while I'm reading about the French Revolution....

( -- Why am I reading about the French Revolution? Fuck, I have no idea. My brain is driving, I am just along on its ride. I think I thought Scarlet Pimpernel would be fun, and it just sort of....ballooned from there. I think.)

....oh hey, The Gods Are Athirst got lots of raves, the guy won the Nobel, Orwell liked him (Orwell is so often my touchstone), he was on the side of the angels in l'affaire Dreyfus, why not. Plus his work is free on Gutenberg! The best price of all.
Évariste Gamelin, painter, pupil of David, member of the Section du Pont-Neuf, formerly Section Henri IV, had betaken himself at an early hour in the morning to the old church of the Barnabites, which for three years, since 21st May 1790, had served as meeting-place for the General Assembly of the Section. The church stood in a narrow, gloomy square, not far from the gates of the Palais de Justice. On the façade, which consisted of two of the Classical orders superimposed and was decorated with inverted brackets and flaming urns, blackened by the weather and disfigured by the hand of man, the religious emblems had been battered to pieces, while above the doorway had been inscribed in black letters the Republican catchword of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity or Death."*


//splashes out for Penguin Classics edition on Kindle at Amazon //which takes like TWENTY FUCKING MINUTES to find

I may have gotten in actual flamewars about how nasty people (i.e. men) were about Constance Garnett and her translations back in the day on Badreads, but oh, my God, Mrs Wilfrid Jackson, whoever you are, I am sorry, just, NO. Not right now. Not with a dead laptop and Republican Senate and when the only foods that don't make me run immediately to the bathroom are oatmeal and apples.

*You want l'origine? (ahaha OMG look at that fake SJC French) Sure, why not:

Évariste Gamelin, peintre, élève de David, membre de la section du Pont-Neuf, précédemment section Henri IV, s'était rendu de bon matin à l'ancienne église des Barnabites, qui depuis trois ans, depuis le 21 mai 1790, servait de siège à l'assemblée générale de la section. Cette église s'élevait sur une place étroite et sombre, près de la grille du Palais. Sur la façade, composée de deux ordres classiques, ornée de consoles renversées et de pots à feu, attristée par le temps, offensée par les hommes, les emblèmes religieux avaient été martelés et l'on avait inscrit en lettres noires au-dessus de la porte la devise républicaine: "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité ou la Mort."

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mercury is retrograding from INSIDE THE HOUSE

BIRTHDAY: //occurs
LAPTOP: //breaks after being drowned in coffee
REPUBLICANS: //take back Senate
CHRONIC PANCREATITIS: //flares like a star going nova


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

in the e-queue

The World is a Room and Other Stories, Yehuda Amichai
I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth, Margaret Atwood
I'm Starved for You, Margaret Atwood
At Last, Edward St. Aubyn
All the Truth is Out: The Week Politics went Tabloid, Matt Bai
Bathing the Lion, Jonathan Carroll
What It Takes: The Way to the White House, Richard Ben Cramer
Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured, Kathryn Harrison
The Woman Who Borrowed Memories, Tove Jansson
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel (bought a hard copy of this a while back and have just given up wrangling it with RSI-damaged wrists and elbows)
The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit
A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit
Savage Dreams: A Journey, Rebecca Solnit
The Quest for Corvo: An Experiment in Biography (New York Review Books Classics), A.J.A. Symons


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

what I'm reading

To appeal to her, was made hopeless by her having no sense of pity, even for herself. If she had been laid low in the streets, in any of the many encounters in which she had been engaged, she would not have pitied herself; nor, if she had been ordered to the axe to-morrow, would she have gone to it with any softer feeling than a fierce desire to change places with the man who sent her there.

Such a heart Madame Defarge carried under her rough robe. Carelessly worn, it was a becoming robe enough, in a certain weird way, and her dark hair looked rich under her coarse red cap. Lying hidden in her bosom, was a loaded pistol. Lying hidden at her waist, was a sharpened dagger. Thus accoutred, and walking with the confident tread of such a character, and with the supple freedom of a woman who had habitually walked in her girlhood, bare-foot and bare-legged, on the brown sea-sand, Madame Defarge took her way along the streets.

- A Tale of Two Cities
//gets to rainstorm-under-the-plane-tree bit

//has developed terrible crush on Sydney Carton

I DO NOT HAVE A BAD BOY THI -- no, it's just really not even worth denying anymore, is it.

Monday, November 3, 2014

what I do while on a Tumblr diet (Hugo's Ninety-Three)

Everyone compares A Tale of Two Cities to Les Miserables (....why?) but of course Hugo's actual novel of the Revolution is Ninety-Three. I have the Bantam (abridged?) paperback of that around here, SOMEWHERE. SIGH. I can't read French (WOE; because I went to St. John's, where we learned to dispute about how translation is impossible instead) so I am trying to figure out which translation I want.

Dans les derniers jours de mai 1793, un des bataillons parisiens amenés en Bretagne par Santerre fouillait le redoutable bois de la Saudraie en Astillé. On n'était pas plus de trois cents, car le bataillon était décimé par cette rude guerre. C'était l'époque où, après l'Argonne, Jemmapes et Valmy, du premier bataillon de Paris, qui était de six cents volontaires, il restait vingt-sept hommes, du deuxième trente-trois, et du troisième cinquante-sept. Temps des luttes épiques.

In the latter part of May, 1793, one of the Paris battalions sent into Brittany by Santerre, searched the much dreaded forest of La Saudraie, in Astille. There were only about three hundred men in the reconnoitring party, for the battalion had been well-nigh annihilated in the fierce conflicts in which it had engaged.
It was after the battles of Argonne, Jemmapes, and Valmy, and of the First Paris Regiment, which consisted originally of six hundred volunteers, only twenty-seven men remained, of the Second Regiment only thirty-three, of the Third only fifty-seven. It was unquestionably a time of epic strife.
(I can't tell who translated this, I think it's the "Jefferson version" of the complete works.)

In the last days of May, 1793, one of the Paris regiments thrown into Brittany by Santerre reconnoitred the dreaded wood of La Saudraie in Astille. There were not more than three hundred men, for the battalion had been well-nigh swept off by this fierce war. It was the period when, after Argonne, Jemmapes, and Valmy, of the first regiment of Paris, which had numbered six hundred volunteers, there remained twenty-seven men; of the second, thirty-three and of the third, fifty-seven. It was a time of epic conflict.
(Frank Lee Benedict version. This is the ONLY version available in English on the Kindle. I bought it grudgingly, because it was $2.)

During the last of May, 1793, one of the Parisian battalions led into Brittany by Santerre was scouring the terrible woods of La Saudraie in Astille. The battalion had only three hundred men left, for it had been decimated by the cruel war. It was at the time when after Argonne, Jemmapes, and Valmly, there remained of the first battalion of Paris, originally numbering six hundred volunteers, twenty-seven men; of the second battalion, thirty-three men; and of the third, fifty-seven. It was a time of epic conflicts.
(I think this is Helen Dole's version. At least she doesn't go for "well-nigh.")

A number of people praised James Hogarth's translation, but ALL you can find excerpted online from him is Toilers of the Sea, and while I'm sure some Amazon seller is offering his edition, their site is so hopelessly jumbled, and I recently had such a poor experience with a third-party seller, I went to Powell's instead. I love Powell's but every time I search for something there, I turn up snake eyes. No exception this time. I don't know if it's my rotten luck or their rotten search engine or both.  Elliott Bay had Les Mis and not much else. Ditto the local downtown Ignoble Barn. ("You want Toilers of the Sea? No? You sure? You sure you're sure?") I went for because at least they let me see the damn cover WHILE I was ordering it. "Ninety-three, by Victor Hugo; Translator-James Hogarth; Published by Kennedy & Boyd (2008-09-29); ISBN 10: 190499993X / ISBN 13: 9781904999935; seller, ExtremelyReliable (Richmond, TX, U.S.A.)." That sounds right. Fine, ExtremelyReliable in TX, U.S.A., you have my business, despite your reallyterrible DBA name.

what Tale of Two Cities is like on period brain

RICHARD MAXWELL: //goes on and on at great length about how Dickens complained at having to 'condense' this novel for weekly installments instead of monthly

IRONY: //throws herself on a chaise lounge, sobs, eats bonbons

MAXWELL: Also, this novel is not historically accurate!

MOI: you don't say

MAXWELL: 'This admirable but problematic study (The Bastille: A History of a Symbol of Despotism and Freedom) offers a rich trove of Bastille-lore; however, having discovered that certain motifs and images have a life of their own, the authors seem occasionally close to supposing that there was no Bastille, only a closed set of literary conventions and political polemics about it.'

MOI: damn you Derrida

DICKENS: 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.'

MOI: ....hunh, that is....not what pop culture always makes it sound like.


MOI: Also, funny!

DICKENS: 'It is likely enough that in the rough outhouses of some tillers of the heavy lands adjacent to Paris, there were sheltered from the weather that very day, rude carts, bespattered with rustic mire, snuffed about by pigs, and roosted in by poultry, which the Farmer, Death, had already set aside to be his tumbrils of the Revolution. But, that Woodman and that Farmer, though they work unceasingly, work silently....'

HARDY: Hey, that's MY thing --

MOI: 'Bespattered'?

DICKENS: //defensively It was the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-nine!

 RICHARD MAXWELL: Now, if you read Carlyle's French Revolution --


DICKENS: 'A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this. No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all. No more can I look into the depths of this unfathomable water, wherein, as momentary lights glanced into it, I have had glimpses of buried treasure and other things submerged. It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, for ever and for ever, when I had read but a page. It was appointed that the water should be locked in an eternal frost, when the light was playing on its surface, and I stood in ignorance on the shore. My friend is dead, my neighbour is dead, my love, the darling of my soul, is dead; it is the inexorable consolidation and perpetuation of the secret that was always in that individuality, and which I shall carry in mine to my life's end. In any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?'

MOI: Aww yeah. //settles in

And a final word from that encyclopedia of our times:

'The opposite of resurrection is of course death.[citation needed]'

(I admit I was torn between this and 'As is common in English literature, good and evil are symbolised by light and darkness.[citation needed]')