Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Notes to I know where to hide those ludes!, or, Place-based boredom

*The outer limits of conceivable eternity at that point being, say, the sixteen years (and scraggly mustache) to which your REO Speedwagon–t-shirted neighbor had attained.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Notes to The English Ghost

* I can use these words that way without mixing metaphors, right? "Magpie" plays the role of an adjective, modifying "archive mouse"? Work with me here, people.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Notes to Fitzgerald's beautiful and damned. In both senses of that apostrophe.

8 And that's only the first of a dismayingly large number of playlets, a mistake forgivable in a first novelist who feels omnipotent, far less so in a novelist submitting himself to the public a second time. I know This Side of Paradise was a success, but wasn't there any carping? Any criticism that might have buffeted Fitzgerald just enough to make him draw in his wings a tad?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Notes to Harry Mathews and the productive pleasure of constraints

* When I was six, I wrote two songs: "Horses are Fun" and "Horseshoes on the Sidewalk." The latter was a sad song, in a minor key.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Notes to Surprises, pleasant

* This category overlaps significantly with the category of books I find myself reading aloud from to rocketlass. The Book of Freaks had a strong showing in that category, but it's going to be tough for anything this year to top Ian Frazier's Travels in Siberia. No matter what he's writing about, Frazier's work begs to be read aloud, and his Siberia book--because it's about Russia, and Russia is crazy--has something worth sharing on nearly every one of its 500-plus pages.

rocketlass is remarkably tolerant.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Notes to Peace, but not the world's peace, or, Rumer Godden's In This House of Brede

* It turns out that Jo Walton is a fan, too.

** The Abbess, far from cruel but wholly dedicated to her task of keeping Brede's sisters to their vow of poverty--and keeping their attention on heavenly things--even forbids them to keep the rapidly burgeoning family of cats that lives on the grounds. They may keep two, newly spayed; the kittens, initially condemned to drowning, are saved by the extern sisters, the affiliate nuns who go out into the world on errands, and who, in this case, rapidly find homes on local farms for all the kittens.

The medieval volume of guidance for enclosed orders Ancrene Wisse has some amusingly strident things to say about cats and other animals:
My dear sisters, unless need drives you and your director advises it, you must not have any animal except a cat. An anchoress who has animals seems more like a housewife than Martha was; she cannot easily be Mary, Martha's sister, with peace in her heart. For then she has to think of the cow's food, of the herdsman's hire; to flatter the bailiff, curse him when he impounds it, and pay the damages anyway. It is a hateful thing, Christ knows, when people in a town complain about an anchoress's animals. Now then, if anyone has to have one, see that it does not bother or harm anyone, and that her thought is in no way fastened on it. An anchoress ought to have nothing that draws her heart outward.
Is it just me, or are there hints of Sei Shonagon's peremptiveness in that passage?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Notes to Casanova and Don Juan

* Does this still hold, even in Tournier's native Europe? Though I know the name of Don Juan still has currency, it's hard to imagine adolescent American teenage males, as they adjust their backwards baseball caps and sing along to their Nickelback MP3s, thinking of themselves as Don Juans.

** Am I wrong to think that, however illogical this might be, Casanova would be slightly easier to defend (or enjoy without guilt) were there a female Casanova as well? I realize that 1) Casanova truly was singular, and that imagining another, of any gender, is a silly exercise, and 2) the lack of a female Casanova is in a sense, the point; that life was an option for a man, not for a woman. Maybe the Empress Theodora could be our admittedly inadequate stand-in?