Monday, November 11, 2013

Notes to "Anthony Powell on Aubrey, far from 'bloody boring.'"

*Right before Wood died, on November 28, 1695, of "a Total Suppression of the Urine," his acquaintance Robert South made the cruel and unforgettable crack that "if he could not make water he would have to make earth." Powell, while finding convincingly in Aubrey's favor in their quarrel, is carefuly to give Wood his due. He was
an unhappy, unhealthy, malicious, frustrated old man; but one to whom all 'pretenders to antiquity' owe a great debt. . . . He was not, on the whole, an attractive figure, but he did not lack qualities of courage and perseverance. . . . Aubrey had found in him something that was intensely sympathetic, and Wood is yet another instance in the strange annals of friendship of the unlikely human beings who can inspire deep affection.
It's that very openness to difference, to oddity, that animates A Dance to the Music of Time

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Notes to "In a movie theater at least you can hold hands."

* Another: Archie can be seen--if it's possible to conceive this--as a smart, competent Bertie Wooster, while Nero Wolfe could be seen as--again, if it can even be conceived--more confident Jeeves . . . who has turned the tables on Bertie and is, rightly, giving the damn orders himself. ** On this front Sue Grafton deserves to be celebrated. She published her first Kinsey Millhone novel, A is for Alibi, in 1982, and, as she's progressed through the alphabet in her titles, she's deliberately allowed time to get away from her, telling Sarah Weinman in 2009 that Z (is for . . .) would coincide with Kinsey's fortieth birthday in 1990. (Side note to a side note: I've long thought that the Marvel Universe--so incredibly innovative when it appeared fifty years ago--could have been even more amazing had it been able to figure out a way to allow its characters to age. Peter Parker reached his late twenties (maybe early thirties) and stopped; Reed Richards and Tony Stark their forties. Imagine a world where we were in the third or fourth generation of Marvel heroes, where Peter Parker was nearing seventy, Bruce Banner eighty--yet still Hulk-powered, Professor X long dead not through malice but age, Doctor Strange but a powerful memory to his legion of mentees . . . )

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Notes to Best head buyer for the Invisible Library: Robert Bolano

* I've had to at least consider Walt Whitman for the title of Least Desirable Literature Professor. It would be sort of like studying combat--or, worse, willpower--with the Batman. What is he going to say, "Just do like I do"?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Notes to Round and round with Hardy and James

* A note to the volume points out that Stevenson mistakenly dated the letter 1891, for which James gently corrected him, writing to "My dear distant Louis" that he envied "my time-deluded islander" for being "so luxuriously 'out'."

** I'm looking at you, Stieg Larsson.

*** All these seem right to me except Conrad. Am I forgetting scenes of humor in Conrad? Lord knows, I've not read nearly all his books, but what comes to mind is a grim determination verging on dourness. Am I missing something?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Notes to The story, the forest, the chain of transmission

* How pleasing that the man who--though in this paragraph simply credited with naming the wildwood--was one of the scientists who placed the forest's clearance much earlier than generally thought shares a name with Arthur Rackham, one of the greatest illustrators of the creatures of forest, fairie, and fantasy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Notes to Chess

*Despite the fact that Dunnett lets the move-by-move narration go after four or five moves--which, as I had been sketching out the moves as they happened, super-nerd-style, disappointed me immensely--I have not a whit of doubt that she had, in her files somewhere, the log of the entire game. Meticulous doesn't even begin to describe Dunnett's approach to detail. God, I wish there were any other writer quite like her.