Sunday, August 31, 2014

A-puttin' on his little red shoes A-pointin' a finger at me

the place of secrets

She came looking for me. Most people stay arm's length away. A patchy murmur on the tip-line, Back in ’95 I saw, no name, click if you ask. A letter printed out and posted from the wrong town, paper and envelope dusted clean. If we want them, we have to go hunting. But her: she was the one who came for me.
Awww yeah that's good old French right into the vein, slide it in nice and slow....suddenly my day is brighter than ten thousand fucking suns. SMELL YOU LATER.

10% in: Moran: aww! Bit of a cautious lad. I like him. (But not like RICHIE, OMG, RICHIE, WHERE DID YOU GO. Broken Harbour fucken BROKE me.) And Holly! what a tough cookie. Daddy's girl indeed.


....omg who am I kidding, it's a Tana French novel, everyone is going to get fucked over.

ETA: 35% in: Tana, if you partner up Moran and Antoinette the way you did Scorcher and Richie, and then shatter them apart the way you did Scorcher and Richie, I will never ever forgive you, I don't care how much of a kickarse writer you are. MY HEART CAN'T TAKE THAT AGAIN.

//reads on with enjoyable dread

40% in: all you people bitching about the "supernatural" element and how it's not supposed to be in a police procedural (including the "top" reviewer at GoodReads, who is a fucking idiot): you don't know how to read. It's always been there. It was there most strongly in the first book, In the Woods, yes, but, yes, it was also just there, in the last book, Broken Harbour. It's part of what French does. So if you're slagging off her for including that because it seems so unbelievable or uncharacteristic or out of key -- you're missing a lot.

(I had several paragraphs about Tana French on Goodreads and how she uses the supernatural -- I thought it was in a review of In the Woods -- but apparently not. argh. I really need to cut and paste all my GR reviews over here. And delete them there.)

a very short review of The Dark Knight

CHRISTIAN BALE: //sounds like a road-company version of Wolverine who has just had his vocal cords savaged with a rusty chainsaw after gargling with Drano

MOI: Is he going to talk like that for the entire fucking movie?

T: When he's Batman, yeah.

MOI: ....

(As usual coffeeandink said it best way back when: "(It) ends up endorsing politics I find viscerally repugnant and outright dangerous. I'm not even sure it meant to--there are some gestures towards undercutting the fascism and paternalism of the main storyline--but they're just gestures, and in the end the movie comes down in favor of the Great Man Theory of History and vigilantism and lying to people for their own good and making decisions for other people and good people being good enough to be trusted with supreme power and violating privacy being okay if your heart is pure and your cause is true and the dehumanization/demonization of opponents who deserve to be put down because they're just that crazy/unreachable.

"Some of this is par for the course for superhero movies, but the movie foregrounds it instead of making it background wish-fulfillment power fantasy, which makes it hard to ignore.")

Friday, August 29, 2014

and then I got a sinus infection

which I'm sure has aaaaaaaaaaabsolutely nothing to do with the three GIANT construction projects going on not 300 yards away from my house in all directions (no, I do not exaggerate), my being extremely sensitive to dust/pulverized concrete/pulverized wood/exhaust/chemical fumes/other bits of particulate matter flying gaily around the block, and my 1912 apartment house having poor insulation (i.e. massive drafts) and no cross-ventilation.

(Let's not even talk about the horrific noise levels. Which included three guys shadily drilling a two-inch hole through a concrete wall for the new fucking gym next door at THREE IN THE MORNING. Yes really, THREE IN THE MORNING. Did the cops come? Was the builder fined? Were the workers fired? This is Seattle! To hell with a couple hundred tenants and their peace of mind, what really matters is the six-story mixed-use rabbit hutches with no parking to cram the Amazon coders into.)

//queues up mysteries with female leads on e-reader

Thursday, August 28, 2014

how the hell did they get that voice into that little blonde girl

if you don't know Postmodern Jukebox you are just seriously fucking missing out

It's such a shame Dorothy Parker is remembered mainly for those blazing one-liners (altho she was terribly unhappy that most people remembered her for "News Item"*) when really her sustained riffs are even more funny.

In fact, so thoroughly was I baffled as to the real identity of the thief that, at the end of the first act, I regarded all the members of the cast, the leader of the orchestra, the hat-room boy, and the ordnance officer in the right-hand stage box, with equal suspicion.
It grieves me deeply to find out how frequently and how violently wrong I can be -- it doesn't seem reasonable, somehow.
....Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband -- invariably spoken of as "The Ideal Husband" by the same group of intellectuals who always refer to "The Doll's House."**....Somehow, no matter how well done an Oscar Wilde play may be, I always am far more absorbed in the audience than in the drama. There is something about them that never fails to enthrall me. They have a conscious exquisiteness, a deep appreciation of their own culture. They exude an atmosphere of The New Republic -- a sort of Crolier-than-thou air.
 (That one nearly made me choke on my coffee. You don't even really need to know exactly who Herbert Croly is ((I didn't)). But once you do, it's even funnier.)

*The glasses one. You know.

**I actually once saw a Final Jeopardy contestant lose because they wrote "The Doll's House" instead of "A Doll's House." True story.

my neighbourhood on Twitter

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

about that hiatus

Then I hopped on to Tumblr to "just link to one thing" and wound up making something like 200 posts in 2 days.

yyyyyyyeah. //sighs, leechblocks it again (one friend dubbed me, years and years ago, "Queen of Extremes." She was not wrong. Binge-Purge Girl, that's me -- but without the eating disorder)

from the Built to Spill artist page comments

"how have I never heard them before??? It's like emo manchester orchestra"

"'It's like emo manchester orchestra' Manchester Orchestra is like emo Manchester Orchestra"

Monday, August 25, 2014

from other EVSM bio

But dying is really rather hard, you know. Not for oneself, I mean; that's comparatively easy: just get things all neatened up, and then go ahead and do it. No. It's the other people. They hang on to one so.

- Edna St. Vincent Millay, July 27 1944 letter to her publisher (quoted in Savage Beauty) (which is really rather awful)

Ursula K. Le Guin on anger

I know that anger can’t be suppressed indefinitely without crippling or corroding the soul. But I don’t know how useful anger is in the long run. Is private anger to be encouraged?
Considered a virtue, given free expression at all times, as we wanted women’s anger against injustice to be, what would it do?
Certainly an outburst of anger can cleanse the soul and clear the air. But anger nursed and nourished begins to act like anger suppressed: it begins to poison the air with vengefulness, spitefulness, distrust, breeding grudge and resentment, brooding endlessly over the causes of the grudge, the righteousness of the resentment. A brief, open expression of anger in the right moment, aimed at its true target, is effective — anger is a good weapon. But a weapon is appropriate to, justified only by, a situation of danger. Nothing justifies cowing the family every night with rage at the dinnertable, or using a tantrum to settle the argument about what TV channel to watch, or expressing frustration by tailgating and then passing on the right at 80 mph yelling FUCK YOU!
Perhaps the problem is this: when threatened, we pull out our weapon, anger. Then the threat passes or evaporates. Bu the weapon is still in our hand. And weapons are seductive, even addictive; they promise to give us strength, security, dominance. . . . 

I see in the lives of people I know how crippling a deep and deeply suppressed anger is. It comes from pain, and it causes pain.
Maybe the prolonged “festival of cruelty” going on in our literature and movies is an attempt to get rid of repressed anger by expressing it, acting it out symbolically. Kick everybody’s ass all the time! Torture the torturer! Describe every agony! Blow up everything over and over!
Does this orgy of simulated or “virtual” violence relieve anger, or increase the leaden inward load of fear and pain that causes it? For me, the latter; it makes me sick and scares me. Anger that targets everything and everybody indiscriminately is the futile, infantile, psychotic rage of the man with an automatic rifle shooting pre-schoolers. I can’t see it as a way of life, even pretended life.
You hear the anger in my tone? Anger indulged rouses anger.
Yet anger suppressed breeds anger.
What is the way to use anger to fuel something other than hurt, to direct it away from hatred, vengefulness, self-righteousness, and make it serve creation and compassion? 

18 August 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

I have just discovered Maria Bamford

and oh ghod she is so funny it feels like my face will CRACK OFF

and then she starts talking about obsessive thoughts (which I have, in spades, and have almost never talked to anyone about ever, including any shrink, because they make me feel INSANE) and I nearly start crying. God fucking bless you, Maria.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

do the work

Maria Bamford has a mantra of sorts, and here it is: Do the work. Three words, three syllables. An easy, orderly thing. She tells it to herself when she wakes up in the morning, whether it’s at her bungalow in a middle-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Los Angeles or at a Holiday Inn in Boston or a Marriott in Bloomington, or any of the other highway-side hotels she hits for one night before moving on. Do the work. It’s a stay against paralysis, against the descent of dread. It’s less dramatic than “seize the day!” more affirming than “stop overthinking everything!” It is functional, and that’s what she’s trying to be. Do the work. She repeats it on airplanes, in taxis, on the long walks she takes to calm her nerves before a show. Sometimes she amends it to: Just do the work, the “just” a reminder that she’s not, after all, performing surgery on babies. There’s another, more refined version, too. Do your bits, she’ll tell herself, resigned to the idea that this may always be a struggle. Just do your bits.

- via (h/t aerialiste)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

what I'm reading

During his lifetime, the image and pseudonym of Mark Twain sold playing cards, Oldsmobile cars, Pullman train passenger cars, baking flour, jumping-frog mechanical banks, scrapbooks, photograph albums, cookbooks, postcards, sewing machines, shaving soap, fine china, decorative silver spoons, and, of course, whiskey and cigars.

- Mark Twain's Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years, Laura Skandera Trombley

(....sewing machines? -- One opportunity for ad copy was lost: Twain's secretary bought him an Arnold electric vibrator for massage, but first tried it out with her future husband: "We had a most lovely evening." Trombley comments wryly:  "Twain loved his slightly used Arnold electric vibrator.....(and) subsequently purchased a second vibrator that ran on batteries.")

ETA: In her endnotes, the author links to this website with pictures of some truly terrifying Mark Twain memorabilia (that DOLL). But still, no sewing machines.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Readings in the humanities tend to be lengthy, intellectually weighty, or both. The challenge of digital reading for the humanities is that screens—particularly those on devices with Internet connections—undermine our encounters with meaty texts. These devices weren’t designed for focused concentration, reading slowly, pausing to argue virtually with the author, or rereading. Rather, they are information and communication machines, best used for searching and skimming—not scrutinizing.

- Naomi S. Baron

I Remember, I Remember

I remember reading John Berryman’s “Dream Song #14” in my twenties, with its famous opening words, “Life, friends, is boring.” I remember being struck by its wit, irony, playfulness, delight: it is the kind of poem students read aloud to each other in a pool of laughter and admiration, and there is nothing wrong with that, for it reinforces their sense of cynicism and superiority, and it is crucial at that age we find a like-minded group to whom we can belong. I remember rereading the poem, not for the second time, some thirty years later, and being struck by its excruciating pain, which is entirely without irony. Many persons who knew Berryman have remarked that he spoke, always, without irony, which means, simply, that he always meant what he said. If you are going through a particularly stable period of your life, and you encounter his bleakest statements, you will react with chagrin and disbelief, as if listening to the ablest jester. If you are going through a particularly unstable period of your life, the straightforward articulation of suffering that has already twisted and dislocated its bearer renders a tension that will very nearly kill you. But I did not know this then.

- Mary Ruefle

in the e-queue

A Queer and Pleasant Danger, Kate Bornstein
Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making: More Stories and Secrets from Her Notebooks, ed John Curran
A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Book 1), Barbara Hambly
Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Love, Sex, Death and Words, John Sutherland
Codex, Lev Grossman
My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders, Jennifer Finney Boylan
The Sea, John Banville
The Compass Rose, Ursula K. Le Guin (beloved book, time for a reread)
Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, ed William Butler Yeats
Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, Julia Serano
The Last Days of Dorothy Parker, Marion Meade
Lincoln's Melancholy, Joshua Wolf Shenk
American Eve, Paula Uruburu

WHAT I AM ACTUALLY READING: rereading The Secret Diary of and The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole. Again. (Period brain.) God she was just so funny.

Monday, August 18, 2014


I’m grateful that I wasn’t a young writer with a blog or a massive following on social media. The years of silence were deepening ones. My story burrowed its way deeper and deeper into my being until it became a story I could turn inside out, hold to the light like a prism, craft into a story that was bigger than its small, sorry details.

I worry that we’re confusing the small, sorry details—the ones that we post and read every day—for the work of memoir itself. I can’t tell you how many times people have thanked me for “sharing my story,” as if the books I’ve written are not chiseled and honed out of the hard and unforgiving material of a life but, rather, have been dashed off, as if a status update, a response to the question at the top of every Facebook feed: “What’s on your mind?” I haven’t shared my story, I want to tell them. I haven’t unburdened myself, or softly and earnestly confessed. Quite the opposite. In order to write a memoir, I’ve sat still inside the swirling vortex of my own complicated history like a piece of old driftwood, battered by the sea. I’ve waited—sometimes patiently, sometimes in despair—for the story under pressure of concealment to reveal itself to me. I’ve been doing this work long enough to know that our feelings—that vast range of fear, joy, grief, sorrow, rage, you name it—are incoherent in the immediacy of the moment. It is only with distance that we are able to turn our powers of observation on ourselves, thus fashioning stories in which we are characters. There is no immediate gratification in this. No great digital crowd is “liking” what we do. We don’t experience the Pavlovian, addictive click and response of posting something that momentarily relieves the pressure inside of us, then being showered with emoticons.

- Dani Shapiro

Sunday, August 17, 2014

you don't know what what it's like

from the current (partial) book wishlist

Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder, Blaise Aguirre
The Dark Side of Innocence: Growing Up Bipolar, Terri Cheney
A Lethal Inheritance: Three Generations of Mental Illness, Victoria Costello
A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal, Ben MacIntyre
November of the Soul: The Enigma of Suicide, George Howe Colt
Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite, William Deresiewicz
Mudhouse Sabbath, Lauren F. Winner
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, ed Richard Lancelyn Green
Virgin Time: In Search of the Contemplative Life, Patricia Hampl
Myths about Suicide, Thomas Joiner
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Eric Metaxas
Unexplained Fevers, Jeannine Hall Gailey
She Returns to the Floating World, Jeannine Hall Gailey
Becoming the Villainess, Jeannine Hall Gailey
The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, Jeannine Hall Gailey
How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America, Otis Webb Brawley
Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience, ed Shaun Usher (HARDBACK)
Life after Life, Kate Atkinson (HARDBACK: it was really difficult reading this as an ebook, being unable to flip back and forth even just a few pages)
What We See When We Read, Peter Mendelsund (HARDBACK)
Miriam's Kitchen, Elizabeth Ehrlich
Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson's Intimate Letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson, ed Martha Nell Smith
The Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel
Out of My Bone: The Letters of Joy Davidman
Nightmare Alley, William Lindsay Gresham
Lenten Lands: My Childhood with Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis, Douglas Gresham
Surprised By Love: The Life of Joy Davidman, Lyle Dorsett
The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life, Andy Miller
How to Be Well Read, John Sutherland
Kill or Cure: An Illustrated History of Medicine, Steve Parker (HARDBACK)
Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph, Jan Swofford (HARDBACK)

Bonus wish CD: Acoustic Classics, Richard Thompson

ah, cultural myopia

Before Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, there was a dearth of young adult literature that straight-up admitted how hard the teenage years are. 

Dear Lauren Eggert-Crowe, excuse me while I slap you down with the ENTIRE COLLECTION of the works of JUDY FUCKING BLUME. I realize these books were published before you were born, unlike those cultural touchstones Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, but I assure you, they existed and young women actually read them! You could possibly walk into a bookstore and find a copy of one right now! There was in fact this HUGE FUCKING GENRE of YA "problem novels" which pretty much kicked off the "Young Adult genre," you know, that thing that existed before Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, and that's even before books like The Bell Jar and To Kill a Mockingbird and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Emily of New Moon and The Long Secret, all of which I read AS a girl, despite the terrible handicap of being alive in the Dark Ages before Rowling and Collins. And I got that list by getting up from my desk, going into the hallway and looking at a bookshelf. It was not that hard.

("She has written essays, book reviews, interviews, and cultural reportage for Salon, The Rumpus, The Millions, The Nervous Breakdown, Midnight Breakfast, and L.A. Review of Books." God help us all, she wants to be Laura Miller. Well, she's well on her way to being as ignorant as same.)

(Bonus gratuitous slap at older books: "Little Women these books were not." Ah yes, the horribleness of Little Women! Which was only about stuff like young women writing and an all-female household and the domestic front and even, dare I say, sneaking out! Why the fuck do these "I'm too hip for the Marmee" women writers ((who probably brag about their knitting and quilting "skillz")) all have to go after one of the few established Female Books in the canon? The answer is **INTERNALIZED MISOGYNY** thanks for playing.) ("I'm not like other girls, I don't like Little Women! Let me bore you with how I'm canning my own okra! Betty Friedan who?")

(It amazes me that she NEVER ONCE references Anne Sexton's Transformations, which did everything Block does first backward and in glass high heels, but that would be too much to expect from a....woman poet who's published a couple of books? Okay then. Writers are part of a culture! Nobody works in a vacuum! The minute you say some fucking stupid thing like "there was a dearth of" you are very probably WRONG. You should just erase the fucking sentence and move on. Because literature does not work that way.)

bet you tell her I'm crazy

(yes I am obsessed with this album right now)

the pleasures of guilt

It’s a common and easy enough distinction, this separation of books into those we read because we want to and those we read because we have to, and it serves as a useful marketing trope for publishers, especially when they are trying to get readers to take this book rather than that one to the beach. But it’s a flawed and pernicious division. This linking of pleasure and guilt is intended as an enticement, not as an admonition: reading for guilty pleasure is like letting one’s diet slide for a day—naughty but relatively harmless. The distinction partakes of a debased cultural Puritanism, which insists that the only fun to be had with a book is the frivolous kind, or that it’s necessarily a pleasure to read something accessible and easy. Associating pleasure and guilt in this way presumes an anterior, scolding authority—one which insists that reading must be work.

But there are pleasures to be had from books beyond being lightly entertained. There is the pleasure of being challenged; the pleasure of feeling one’s range and capacities expanding; the pleasure of entering into an unfamiliar world, and being led into empathy with a consciousness very different from one’s own; the pleasure of knowing what others have already thought it worth knowing, and entering a larger conversation. Among my catalogue are some books that I am sure I was—to use an expression applied to elementary-school children—decoding rather than reading. Such, I suspect, was the case with “Ulysses,” a book I read at eighteen, without having first read “The Odyssey,” which might have deepened my appreciation of Joyce. Even so—and especially when considering adolescence—we should not underestimate the very real pleasure of being pleased with oneself. What my notebook offers me is a portrait of the reader as a young woman, or at the very least, a sketch. I wanted to read well, but I also wanted to become well read. The notebook is a small record of accomplishment, but it’s also an outline of large aspiration. There’s pleasure in ambition, too.

We have become accustomed to hearing commercial novelists express frustration with the ways in which their books are taken less seriously than ones that are deemed literary: book reviewers don’t pay them enough attention, while publishers give their works safe, predictable cover treatments. In this debate, academic arguments that have been conducted for more than a generation, about the validity or otherwise of a literary canon, meet the marketplace. The debate has its merits, but less discussed has been the converse consequence of the popular-literary distinction: that literary works, especially those not written last year, are placed at the opposite pole to fun.

- Rebecca Mead

Saturday, August 16, 2014

from "The Night The Bed Fell"

Old Aunt Clarissa Beall (who could whistle like a man, with two fingers in her mouth) suffered under the premonition that she was destined to die on South High Street, because she had been born on South High Street and married on South High Street. Then there was Aunt Sarah Shoaf, who never went to bed at night without the fear that a burglar was going to get in and blow chloroform under her door through a tube. To avert this calamity—for she was in greater dread of anesthetics than of losing her household goods—she always piled her money, silverware, and other valuables in a neat stack just outside her bedroom, with a note reading: “This is all I have. Please take it and do not use your chloroform, as this is all I have.”
Aunt Gracie Shoaf also had a burglar phobia, but she met it with more fortitude. She was confident that burglars had been getting into her house every night for forty years. The fact that she never missed anything was to her no proof to the contrary. She always claimed that she scared them off before they could take anything, by throwing shoes down the hallway. When she went to bed she piled, where she could get at them handily, all the shoes there were about her house. Five minutes after she had turned off the light, she would sit up in bed and say “Hark!” Her husband, who had learned to ignore the whole situation as long ago as 1903, would either be sound asleep or pretend to be sound asleep. In either case he would not respond to her tugging and pulling, so that presently she would arise, tiptoe to the door, open it slightly and heave a shoe down the hall in one direction and its mate down the hall in the other direction. Some nights she threw them all, some nights only a couple of pairs. 

This is never not funny and I can't even really tell why. Three things unfailingly always make me happy: An American in Paris, Terry Pratchett's Witches books, and My Life and Hard Times. 

(And now, the Adrian Mole books. Four things. //Monty Python)

Some nights she threw them all.

Friday, August 15, 2014

what I'm reading


-- Girl in Need of a Tourniquet: Memoir of a Borderline Personality, Merri Lisa Johnson

social media 'hiatus' (AHAAHAHA) halfway point sense of time is so bad I remember looking at the calendar last week and thinking, pleased, "I have overshot my social media hiatus goal by ten whole days!" and then remembering, -- NO, LABOUR DAY IS SEPTEMBER FIRST.

(Stuff like this is why people have thought I am dumb/flakey/crazy/putting it on for my entire life. No. No, that is just My Brain. Even when I had an office job for nearly two years, I would amuse/annoy coworkers by saying "See you tomorrow" every Friday at five. Every Friday. I would get lost in the town I grew up in. Frequently. I can get lost in the neighbourhood I have lived in for the past twelve years. ((Less frequently, but this is because I developed agoraphobia and now rarely go outside.)) My mother is the exact same way. I personally think it's the girly "inattentive" flavour of ADD where you can get completely lost in your own head daydreaming out the window and often cannot focus or process for shit. Because again, my mother has been the same way her entire life. Except then later after puberty I got a heaping helping of Oppositional Defiant FUCK YOU, but anyway.)


Staying off Tumblr -- yes! (This was the big one.)
Staying off Twitter -- yes! This is less of a Thing because I dislike Twitter intensely, altho I'm sad because all my friends are either there or on Facebook (which I don't do either). sigh. (Twitter really is just like having ADD. It's distracted by the least little thing, it has no memory, there's no focus and it frequently explodes.)
Reading more -- yes!
Rereading less -- yes! (I love rereading. But if left to my own devices I'll do nothing else, v typically. sigh.)
Blogging more about books -- yes!
Getting up and walking around apartment more instead of sitting for hours -- no, not really. This is No Good. (There's been a heatwave, so I haven't really been exercising at all, also No Good.)
Exercising more -- see above.
More offline activities -- see above. I have been eating a good dinner with T nearly every night, and watching shows and documentaries with him, which is nice (I dunno how "offline" this is since we're streaming from Netflix or Youtube usually).  Being able to snuggle up on the couch and bingewatch shows is pretty damn cool, I can see why it's so popular. I don't have basic cable so I don't get trapped in the CNN news cycle or watching endless shitty reruns anymore. It's been that way for about....eight years now? and really feels pretty good.

(Altho "cocooning" loses some of its appeal when it happens because you're agoraphobic, let me tell you.) ("No, no, spending all day in the bathroom with a blanket and a pillow and a bowl of cherries and five books is not a good idea. No, no, making a little nest in the bedroom closet with a blanket and a pillow and a bowl of cherries and five books is not a good idea, either. Making a little nest on the couch?....okay." Mental health means treating yourself like the world's crankiest toddler: patience, calm, much repetition, refusal to take the tantrums seriously, constant distraction. "No, you don't want to die! Look at these envelope poems by Emily Dickinson. Aren't those neat? If you were dead, you wouldn't be able to see them." "BUT I'M GOING TO DIE AND THEN I'LL BE DEAD AND I'LL BE NOTHING AND I WON'T EVEN KNOW -- " "But that is later. You can look at them now." "BUT EMILY IS DEAD TOO AND AND -- " "But you can look at her now! See?" Dealing with a cranky toddler might be less exhausting, because you would occasionally get a break when they fucking slept.)

I do feel like I am slowly reclaiming my brain from the Tumblr emphasis on visuals and nothing but, and the cutesy stunted baby-speak ("feels," "totes," "p rn," could you talk like a fucking adult, please) and one reason why I got disenchanted with Twitter early on was I could feel myself thinking in shorter and shorter bits that would fit more easily into 140 characters. That was kind of horrifying. (Many people would probably argue that I could do with a lot more brevity, but well, how can we put this delicately, fuck you.) (See above about that Oppositional Defiance thing.)

So even though I have not been writing five thousand words every night and cleaning my house madly and reading The Man Without Qualities in the original and running a marathon, I have made some progress! This is not bad! Go me. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

like reading a bad fucking student paper

Pythagorean philosophers deprecated a voluntary end to life because, to them, life is sacred. Pythagoras taught that each of us is stationed at a guard post, responsible for attending to it until we are dismissed. Plato would borrow the idea, which remained a cogent metaphor for centuries.

- Jennifer Michael Hecht, Stay

DID NO ONE EDIT THIS. And it's illiterate too -- she fumbles on about Euripides before concluding "Euripides values life and seems to disapprove of suicide." Medea? Never heard of her, apparently. How, how did this get published at all, let alone reviewed favourably? How?

In her unwillingness to interrogate the concepts she introduces, Hecht gives us an unphilosophical history of philosophy, a non-intellectual history of ideas. Nothing disturbs the premise of her own pain: that when it comes to the immorality of suicide, the suffering of survivors is proof enough. This makes for an unconvincing argument—and one that ultimuately embodies the very ethical confusion it sets out to diagnose.

ahem (what do you want from me, my life is dull)


What better voice to deliver the dry, brooding, suspenseful story? Without melodrama, and without understatement either, he delivers the prose of the master spy novelist. A friend of mine who has watched the series and read the book several times tells me she never really, deeply understood the plot in all its intricacy until it was read aloud to her by Jayston.

I already checked on my favourite "positively seething with goodwill" moment and it is fabulous. (Jayston does different voices for each character, which is also fabulous. His Toby Esterhase just about made me fall out laughing.)

Sadly, no adaptation -- film, miniseries, audiobook, dramatization -- has ever managed to make me shiver the way just reading this one sentence on the page does: "'For God's sake,' Guillem whispered, 'let me sweat the bastard.'"

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

in memory of Robin

 Dear Moira Russell,
Amazon will now donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases when you shop at AmazonSmile ( We will reach out to Depression And Bipolar Support Alliance to ensure it is ready to accept donations from Amazon. 

Little enough, but it is at least something. (Was torn between supporting bipolar charity or AA, since partner and I are both bipolar addicts, and my family is full of same. But I like this charity a lot -- a friend of mine used to do blogathons for it.)

on the other hand

Nobody tells you the rage and grief and sick jealousy you feel as you watch your peers named Most Promising This and Best Young That will go away.

Unfortunately, it will be replaced only a short while later by rage, grief, sick jealousy and a new horror as you watch people a decade younger than you named all of those things.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"The Sea," Ruth Dallas

The sea like death accepts all things,
Bird-voiced water from far inland springs,
Sunset rock-pools of a few hours,
Snow and glaciers and summer showers;
There the muddy river is made clear,
Uprooted tree and flood-wrack disappear.

Bone with my bone is every abandoned shell;
Calm the water lies as in a well
In open pools along the unresting shore:
In hollowed bone I hear the seas roar
Telling of what is past and still to pass
A voice among voices like the voice of grass.

Jenny Lewis - "The Voyager" (Live at WFUV)

Monday, August 11, 2014

random poem

Look and remember. Look upon this sky;
Look deep and deep into the sea-clean air,
The unconfined, the terminus of prayer.
Speak now and speak into the hallowed dome.
What do you hear? What does the sky reply?
The heavens are taken: this is not your home.

Look and remember. Look upon this sea;
Look down and down into the tireless tide.
What of a life below, a life inside,
A tomb, a cradle in the curly foam?
The waves arise; sea-wind and sea agree
The waters are taken: this is not your home.

Look and remember. Look upon this land,
Far, far across the factories and the grass.
Surely, there, surely they will let you pass.
Speak then and ask the forest and the loam.
What do you hear? What does the land command?
The earth is taken: this is not your home.

- Karl Shapiro, "Travelogue for Exiles"


More itty-bitty non-reviews:

Mistress of Rome, Kate Quinn.
This came very highly recommended by a couple of friends, who have excellent taste. I bounced off it hard, but this was probably more of a personal reaction: I loved the historical detail, didn't like some of the romance elements, and the dealbreaker was just about halfway through when Domitian bought the slavegirl heroine he'd been torturing for the past summer in his country villa. It's unusual for me to stop reading a book when I've read that much of it, and actually enjoyed a lot of it. But between the long descriptions of the love interest's gladiatorial fights and the heroine's traumas, it was just too violent for me. (The book opens with a self-injuring ritual the heroine continues all through the story, so there's that, too. Maybe that should have warned me off.) It was a shame because I really liked Thea -- which actually made it worse, because every time an even more horrible thing happened to her, I felt actually upset. Quinn is a compelling writer even when her subject matter is overly grim for me, and I really liked her take on ancient Rome, so I might try either Daughters of Rome (a sort-of prequel) or Empress of Rome (sequel with different characters), both of which look a lot less gory. I hope.

The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes, Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr.
I am a sucker for Holmes pastiche* (Lyndsay Faye wrote the best one I've ever read, Dust and Shadow -- HOW I WISH she had gone on to write a Holmes series of her own, instead of the dreary period New York Alienist-style stuff), but this book has pretty much just novelty value: it's cowritten by Doyle's son and Doyle's authorized biographer (who also wrote The Hollow Man, supposedly the best locked-room mystery ever -- I have it, but haven't read it yet). These stories are some of the earliest ('54) Doyle pastiches, as well as being authorized. (Earlier than the boom kicked off in the seventies by Adrian's death and the publication of The Seven Per Cent Solution, anyway.) There's also the hook that these are "unwritten canon" based on offhand details in the original stories, but this doesn't really work. It's apparently hard to figure out who wrote what, but I liked the first six stories, which I think were written either jointly or mostly by Carr,** and later republished as More Exploits of Sherlock Holmes. The stories Adrian wrote solo, the next six, are, well, just awful. The introduction trumpets: "Adrian Conan Doyle....was brought up in the tradition of the Victorian era and in close contact with his father. The son, like the father, has a lust for adventure, cherishes relics of the past, and above all has the same sense of chivalry that so completely characterized his father-or should we say Holmes?" (Ohhh dear.) "Adrian Conan Doyle uses the very desk on which his father wrote. He is surrounded by the same objects that his father handled, and he has in every way endeavored to recreate each particle of atmosphere that formed Sir Arthur's environment." (Poor Adrian. No wonder his Holmes stories are awful -- talk about anxiety of influence....)

J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist, Thomas Beller.
I liked this, but had many conflicting feelings about it, especially since Beller glides over Salinger's documented history of domestic abuse and writes off the testimony of Joyce Maynard and Margaret Salinger. It's well-written, but reading it felt like watching Hannah & Her Sisters (one of my favourite movies in college) after the allegations about Allen's child abuse were made. Beller is also TOTALLY COMPLETELY WRONG ABOUT JAMES THURBER, ahem (it's amazing, New Yorker writers who weren't even born at the time are still pissed off about Thurber's biography of Ross. It's like some kind of genetic -- genetink? -- thing). I had so many things to say about it that all I can manage right now is this squib.

I also reread chunks of Death of the Heart the past couple of days -- nearly all of Part 3, some of Part 1, most of Part 2, in that order, heh.  I still think it's one of the most brilliant books I've ever read -- the first time was right after the Masterpiece Theatre airing of the Granada 1986 film, which I videotaped off a Bravo repeat years later. (The film is amazing. The book even moreso.) The sense of claustrophobia and muffled disaster are fantastic -- I can never figure out what the hell is going to happen to Portia after the end. (Well, obviously, she'll get fobbed off on that offstage aunt, drift around some, maybe get a typing job, or fall into a Jean Rhys novel -- she seems about as dreamy and impermeable as a Jean Rhys woman, if not lovely as most of them are....) I have seen a fairly convincing critical article (Somewhere on the Net, sigh) that says Bowen means us to date the novel precisely to 1936 with the Marx Brothers movie reference, and she herself emphasized the pre-war period's high tension, the combined feelings of personal doom and general looming catastrophe, the strained unnatural emphasis on individual feeling as a kind of last resort.  The atmosphere in the book is always pitched sky-high and yet screwed down tight. And the 'minor' characters! Matchett, Major Brutt, the 'vulgar' Daphne (brought indelibly to life in the film by Miranda Richardson, then in her late twenties) -- all real, feeling, absolutely solid people.

The only flaw in the story for me is Bowen's emphasis on Eddie as an innocent, like Portia, because he just seems like such a horrible person, but I suppose the point is that he really doesn't have any of the decadent experience he wants to shock people with: he's all pose, nothing but surface. The dialogue gets a bit frostily quite-quite at times, especially when St Quentin is on the scene (it is hilarious to me that Bowen's writerly self-insert is such a capital-A Aesthetic hypocritical simp) but since I saw the movie first, I just heard Patricia Hodge and Nigel Havers talking while I read, and all was well. I am a notorious critic of movie adaptations (people -- including family -- have point-blank refused to see them with me, and I tend to just sit there hissing "That's not in the book....that's not in the book....that's not in the book") but Peter Hammond made a flawless film. (It just works as a flawless film, period, even if you haven't read the book.)

*No, I don't watch BBC Sherlock, because THERE IS ONE SHERLOCK HOLMES AND HIS NAME IS JEREMY BRETT (and now all my Basil Rathbone-loving friends will want to fight me). You don't want to know what I think of Moffat and Gatiss and their queerbaiting and -- yeah. 

**The introduction again:  'Conan Doyle and Carr wrote together "The Adventure of the Seven Clocks" and "The Adventure of the Gold Hunter." "The Adventure of the Wax Gamblers" and "The Adventure of the Highgate Miracle" were written almost entirely by Carr. "The Adventure of the Black Baronet" and "The Adventure of the Sealed Room" were written almost entirely by Conan Doyle. The last six stories were conceived and written by Adrian Conan Doyle after John Dickson Carr suffered a brief illness.' As S.T. Joshi says, this seems a bit improbable, given that locked-room mysteries were Carr's favourite trick.

back to disgustingly healthy breakfasts again

(Why am I even up at 7 AM -- after having been asleep, NOT after having stayed up all night? Why am I eating at this hour? Who is this person?)

- ONLY two cups drip coffee with skim milk (sob), half coffee half milk (DOUBLE sob)
- oatmeal with skim milk, organic blueberries, organic banana (but it has a "Dole" sticker. Dole hunh)
- garlic hummus on whole grain bread with coarse ground black pepper and diced red bell pepper
- organic apple
- Earl Grey double bergamot tea
- water (I just use tap water and keep a glass bottle in the fridge. I need to get a glass pitcher so I can have diced fruit or sliced lemons in it....)

-- none of which changes the fact that OMG I COULD MURDER FOR A CROISSANT RIGHT NOW. I do not think I will be setting my teeth in any baked goods again in this lifetime. Pancreas, how I loathe thee. (Also extremely dubious re anything organic from my local urban gross supermarket, but I SLEPT THROUGH the farmer's market yesterday, augh.)

And to top it off, am all out of cherries. Bah.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

text on WWI field service postcards

NOTHING is to be written on this side except the date and signature of the sender. Sentences not required may be erased. If anything else is added the post card will be destroyed.

I am quite well.

I have been admitted into hospital.
and am going on well.
and hope to be discharged soon.

I am being sent down to the base.

I have received your
letter dated

Letter follows at first opportunity.

I have received no letter from you
for a long time.

Signature only.


Postage must be prepaid on any letter or post card addressed to the sender of this card.

Reader, I laughed out loud

(or at least snorted quietly to myself at my desk, at 3:36 AM)

....(Philip Roth's) very public retirement, so formal I wonder if there wasn't cake and a gold watch. It's almost as if he's managed to normalize the whole crazy enterprise of being Philip Roth and be a glove manufacturer who has decided to move to Florida -- followed by the equivalent of postcards from Roth, with phrases like "This not-writing thing is great!" scrawled on the back, written from a pool somewhere as he floats on a raft with a colourful drink in his hand.

- J.D. Salinger, The Escape Artist, Thomas Beller

ETA 40% in fell abruptly out of love with Beller with a bad bump when he declared "(Thurber's) most enduring contribution to the culture is 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.'" (! and even !! -- From which I can only conclude he has NEVER read My Life and Hard Times.) (Also, Beller's little blog-essaylets about his daughter in the New Yorker seem faintly creepy, as if he sees her mainly as a source of endlessly cute salable copy.)

Friday, August 8, 2014

I know I said I was on hiatus, but

In the first version, Persephone
is taken from her mother
and the goddess of the earth
punishes the earth—this is
consistent with what we know of human behavior,

that human beings take profound satisfaction
in doing harm, particularly
unconscious harm:

we may call this
negative creation.

Persephone’s initial
sojourn in hell continues to be
pawed over by scholars who dispute
the sensations of the virgin:

did she cooperate in her rape,
or was she drugged, violated against her will,
as happens so often now to modern girls.

As is well known, the return of the beloved
does not correct
the loss of the beloved: Persephone

returns home
stained with red juice like
a character in Hawthorne—

I am not certain I will
keep this word: is earth
“home” to Persephone? Is she at home, conceivably,
in the bed of the god? Is she
at home nowhere? Is she
a born wanderer, in other words
an existential
replica of her own mother, less
hamstrung by ideas of causality?

You are allowed to like
no one, you know. The characters
are not people.
They are aspects of a dilemma or conflict.

Three parts: just as the soul is divided,
ego, superego, id. Likewise

the three levels of the known world,
a kind of diagram that separates
heaven from earth from hell.

You must ask yourself:
where is it snowing?

White of forgetfulness,
of desecration—

It is snowing on earth; the cold wind says

Persephone is having sex in hell.
Unlike the rest of us, she doesn't know
what winter is, only that
she is what causes it.

She is lying in the bed of Hades.
What is in her mind?
Is she afraid? Has something
blotted out the idea
of mind?

She does know the earth
is run by mothers, this much
is certain. She also knows
she is not what is called
a girl any longer. Regarding
incarceration, she believes

she has been a prisoner since she has been a daughter.

The terrible reunions in store for her
will take up the rest of her life.
When the passion for expiation
is chronic, fierce, you do not choose
the way you live. You do not live;
you are not allowed to die.

You drift between earth and death
which seem, finally,
strangely alike. Scholars tell us

that there is no point in knowing what you want
when the forces contending over you
could kill you.

White of forgetfulness,
white of safety—

They say
there is a rift in the human soul
which was not constructed to belong
entirely to life. Earth

asks us to deny this rift, a threat
disguised as suggestion—
as we have seen
in the tale of Persephone
which should be read

as an argument between the mother and the lover—
the daughter is just meat.

When death confronts her, she has never seen
the meadow without the daisies.
Suddenly she is no longer
singing her maidenly songs
about her mother’s
beauty and fecundity. Where
the rift is, the break is.

Song of the earth,
song of the mythic vision of eternal life—

My soul
shattered with the strain
of trying to belong to earth—

What will you do,
when it is your turn in the field with the god?

-- "Persephone the Wanderer," Louise Glück

Thursday, August 7, 2014

recent books read - capsule reviews

Trying to post about books regularly on the same day every week just isn't working for me, and when I try to write up one or two reviews on their own I feel the need to write something Profoundly Important (hah), or at least coherent, and freeze. So for right now while the books are still fresh in mind I'm trying this.

The Magician's Land, Lev Grossman.
I actually seem to like this series more than most people I know, which is baffling, but then again I'm a big fan of Brideshead Revisited, Narnia, and Hope Mirrlees. Maybe you need to be a thoroughly thwarted Anglophile to really appreciate it. I had many messy feelings about this book, and the ones closest to the surface, easiest to grab, are: God, Quentin is as much of a schmuck as the hero of every Neil Gaiman novel; I love Plum and Alice and Julia and even Janet (who gets not just a stunning monologue but serves as witness to the Apocalypse) and wanted the book to be about THEM; Grossman's style has been nearly ruined by Internet slang (at one point he actually writes, "'OMG,' she said"); and towards the end, apparently panicked that his message wasn't fully spelled out enough in the characters' actions, he resorts to boldly telegraphing what he wants us to take away, like a host too eager to clear out a party lasting too long shoving the wrong coat and a mismatched scarf into your hands on his doorstep. For all that, it is very, very enjoyable, and I liked reading it very much. It's interesting to compare this to the infamous Philip Pullman take on Narnia. I can imagine rereading the books in this series (I've already reread The Magician King twice, I think, mostly because of JULIA) but as best I can recall I reread The Golden Compass once and never again, which is unusual for me.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North.
Some wag of a reviewer called this "Death after Death," but while this is basically a scifi take on Kate Atkinson's beautiful fantasy of a repeating life (which I loved), it doesn't have anywhere near the same wonderful prose style, to say nothing of the fully rounded people. Disappointingly, this was also a very interesting idea with a schlub at its heart, only this time there weren't even any women blazing off the sidelines into the narrative every so often. "Claire North," AKA Kate Griffith/Catherine Webb, said in an interview that she didn't want a female narrator because the hero's lifespan takes place between the 1920s and 1970s, and feminism, she implied, would have....gotten in the way of the story. Okay. For the same reason, romance didn't fit into her plot, so while there are a few fleeting glimpses of the schlub's girlfriends and wives, they are pure cardboard. (And near the end, when one particular cardboard piece changes hands: "You took her because she was mine." A female author wrote that! Sure, she's like ten years old or something, but JESUS.) Maybe as Griffith/Webb/North matures she will take the natural step for women writers away from thinking male characters are more 'objective,' a la Ursula K. Le Guin. But it's disappointing that a young privileged female author in 2014 still feels compelled to think that a man's life wouldn't be affected by the feminist movement in his time, and that a woman's view of same would "impede" the story. Live by the genre sword, die by the genre sword.

I've felt very restless about reading lately. It was hard to get myself interested in new books, and while I started some rereads, I couldn't finish them, feeling I was wasting my eyes (I have ocular rosacea and have to nurse them along) and my time (my life is probably about half over by now! Or moreso! GAH). I have stacks of 'serious' books (Poets in a Landscape, The Riddle of the Labyrinth, Anarchism is Not Enough), stacks of 'fun' books (Women Destroy Science Fiction, Unexpected Stories, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot), stacks of books which are both (Gaudy Night, The Lives of Margaret Fuller, The Letters of Dorothy Sayers) and I just sit and cast a jaded eye over it all like someone who has spent all fifteen of their lives at increasingly elaborate banquets. For some reason, having an ereader is part of the problem, I don't know why -- I've always loved the heft of books, their size and shape and weight and the colour of the covers and the texture of the pages and the way they smell and everything about them, and having that taken away is still hard. But oh well.
The same thorny consciousness that can make us miserable also enables us to forgive, to connect, to change. “The Magician’s Land” casts human identity as a ritual of storytelling. We struggle against prescribed narratives, and too often stories don’t properly portray life as it’s truly lived. But stories also enable us to celebrate and comprehend the human experience. It’s in stories that we find ourselves.

- Edan Lepucki

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

what I'm reading

This wasn't Tolkien -- these weren't orcs and trolls and giant spiders and whatever else, evil creatures that you were free to commit genocide on without any complicated moral ramifications.

- The Magician's Land
Oh, fuck you, Grossman. No shit you're not Tolkien (that is not a compliment) -- and great job trivializing genocide (OED: "the deliberate and systematic extermination of an ethnic or national group") by including fucking spiders. And Tolkien saw the Great War up close; it killed all his friends, and he knew more about death and murder than you ever will.

(12% in -- GOD, I miss page numbers! -- and I'm pissed and I'm not even a Tolkien fan. I don't like Aragorn!* I hate the movies! Bah.)

ETA 40% in or so -- much better. I LOVE Plum. Loved Janet's narration of her desert adventure, especially the end. Can't wait to see Alice and Julia again (I peeked). Still not that hot on Quentin being the reader's magic portal to the novel, but he's better than most Gaiman hero-schnooks.  I did think we were going to maybe see a kind of revolt against the foreign humans who just showed up and ruled everything! but uh, guess not, unless that was more in the first book and I forgot it. Liked the Antarctica bit best, I think. Had completely forgotten what the fuck happened to Emily Greenstreet, whoops. Eliot's journey into True Manly Grown-Up Manliness interests me even less than Quentin's. And he's gay and just....single? There are no willing fantasy minions? Nice one, Lev.

I don't see how this is supposed to deconstruct Harry Potter, tho, since Harry Potter basically....deconstructed itself in the last 2-3 books. And wait....

Rowling shows us Harry in later life. I love Rowling’s work, but I don’t think that epilogue is a success. Where is the ennui, the depression, the search for meaning, the sense of belatedness due a man who saved the world when he was 18 and had to live the rest of his life in his own shadow? Harry Potter could learn a lot from Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom.

Now I'm pissed off at him again. Hah.

(And I don't even really like Rowling! I mean, I am not a fan. I don't think I'm a fan of Tolkien either, I read the books early and grew up with them and all that, but....fannish, no. What am I a fan of? By some definition, you are fannish about a thing you would emblazon on a cup or a keychain. I think we know where this is going.) (I would have a Bronte mug, I just can't afford it. And this one's gone.)

(Why do I have a keychain with Karolina Pavlova on it? Because I was doing character research and saw it on Amazon and absolutely could not fucking resist it. There was a Bronte-sisters-three keychain, but it was too expensive even for me, and ugly. And it was a good thing I got Karolina, because now you can't -- it's not the zazzle one, I like mine better, plus it was much less expensive.)

(at 47%)

BITCH ABOUT JO ROWLING NOT HAVING UPDIKE'S SAGGY NUTS ALL YOU WANT hour later the downside of that fucking awesome reveal (which I had NOT guessed at all) is that now I am going to sulk because the rest of the book isn't about her fox hunt. WRITE A SEQUEL, LEV, AND I WILL BE HAPPY.

*Anyone who rejects Eowyn I hate automatically.

'What are you doing here, you pariah?'

 It's been too damn hot to think here, so we have been, in today's parlance, consuming media -- i.e. watching a lot of TV via Netflix. T has been happily mainlining British scifi series -- Survivors, Continuum, Orphan Black -- and I finally saw the famous BBC miniseries of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, with Alec Guinness in one of his indelible performances as the perfect Smiley.  The Netflix DVD doesn't have subtitles, and while all the actors (Michael Jayston! Michael Alridge! Ian Richardson! Joss Ackland! Patrick Stewart in one of his many fantastic pre-Picard BBC bit parts!) are fucking amazing, the British thespian tendency to mutter is on full display. In a book it's all right because you are, well, reading the muttered sentences, but when a bunch of great British actors are muttering to each other in full spate, in late seventies Dolby sound no less, you can only rewind so many times before it gets annoying. We had the volume turned up so high the (excellent and beautiful) score blasted out during transitions, I know a lot of dialogue very well from multiple rereads, and we were still both constantly poking each other going "....what did he....did you get that? Who said -- "

Until one famous bit when Alridge-as-Alleline (that haunting refrain, "There are three of them -- and Alleline") is tearing Jayston-as-Guillam (another perfect performance) a new one, and absolutely popped off the screen with "You may not be aware of this, but I am of an extremely forgiving nature." (Stare of the kind you receive from a growling dog about to attack.) "I am positively seething with goodwill." (The dog will rip out your windpipe in one more second.) We screeched with laughter and I just about fell off the couch. That became another one of the instant catchphrases common in our house: "Are you hungry? Should I start dinner?" "I am positively seething with goodwill."

And then Alec Guinness deliberately looks up at someone through Smiley's Coke-bottle-bottom-thick glasses, or gives a pained little smile lasting half a second, and all the Great Acting (and it is great) going on around him just falls away. It's like Anthony Hopkins in Remains of the Day, one of those great masklike performances that is so communicative he almost seems to be projecting the character's thoughts telepathically, or some damn thing. He's the real Merlin, and the witchcraft of his performance is still spellbinding, after thirty-five years.

Friday, August 1, 2014

books read in August 2014

Fiction is in red.

118. Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St Mary's, #1), Jodi Taylor
119. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John Le Carre (after we watched the miniseries, then the film -- I don't use the word "masterpiece" lightly, but, damn, this book is one, still fantastic after I don't know how many rereadings -- according to the marginalia I last read it through in 2011)
120. The Magician's Land, Lev Grossman (good, but I had a lot of mixed feelings)
121. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North
122. J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist (Icons series), Thomas Beller
123. The Death of the Heart, Elizabeth Bowen (first reread in several years, I think)
124. The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes, Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr
125. The Lost Chronicles of Sherlock Holmes, Denis O. Smith
126. Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl, Stacy Pershall
127. Girl in Need of a Tourniquet: Memoir of a Borderline Personality, Merri Lisa Johnson (now THAT was GOOD) (Stacy's memoir was just....ehh)
128. My Life and Hard Times, James Thurber (comfort reread due to period brain) (can this really be classified as nonfiction? Or, God help us all, "Humorous memoir"?)*
129. Mark Twain's Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years, Laura Skandera Trombley
130. The Last Days of Dorothy Parker, Marion Meade (decidedly meh - it's a shame Meade has anointed herself Parker's champion because her prose style is, as ever, shitty)
131. Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?, Marion Meade (reread) (read this book when it FIRST came out, God, I am old) (it is still shitty)
132. Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Nancy Milford
133. Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties, Marion Meade (godawful)
134. Lock In, John Scalzi (not bad, not great)
135. Alpine Giggle Week: How Dorothy Parker Set Out to Write the Great American Novel and Ended Up in a TB Colony Atop an Alpine Peak (A Penguin Classics Special) (why don't we have a collected edition of her letters? Or a new one of Millay's? Or Sylvia Plath's? Or -- )
136. Complete Broadway, 1918-1923, Dorothy Parker
137. Lake of Sorrows, Erin Hart (sickbed reading, don't judge)
138. A Free Man of Color (Benjamin January, Book 1), Barbara Hambly (damn, that was good. Beautifully written too)

*"There are two classes of people whom it is my cross to meet in my small daily round: those who think that Ring Lardner is a humorist, and those who have just discovered that Ring Lardner is something more than a humorist -- the latter group makes me perhaps a shade sicker than the former." -- Dorothy Parker 

all 2014 booklist posts