You never know what piece of flotsam will call to life a long-slumbering memory. If you view these pictures of Libraries of the Rich and Famous and scroll down to the last one, you’ll learn that the library depicted is enormous (70,000 books worth $4 million) and belongs to noted academic Richard Macksey. Many years ago, as an appallingly clueless freshman, I enrolled in one of his classes. The exact name escapes me, but it was detective and mystery fiction, from its more traditional forms to The Crying of Lot 49 and Borges’ work. As I said above I was clueless. I never took another class with Mr. Macksey, never read Proust and needless to say never got anywhere near his famous library. Later in my collegiate career I demonstrated I still hadn’t learned anything by taking a class with Orest Ranum and again managing to remain ignorant of the man’s career and accomplishments and exactly how much one could learn from him.
I still plan to attempt Proust though, and maybe I can teach my children to be less oblivious of the opportunities life puts in your path.
My reading became extremely scattershot over the last week or so. Irritation with A Game of Thrones led me to pick up C.J. Cherryh’s Downbelow Station, a book I previously attempted last spring in the wake of the Brain Incident. Now both are sitting on my nightstand, stacked atop two from the library, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, because the movie adaptation was excellent and I’ve never read anything by her before, and Jo Walton’s Among Others, which brings us full circle since it was some her writing that led me to try Cherryh’s work. These last two I haven’t started yet, but I couldn’t avoid the temptation to bring them home with me. The library is bad like that, and strolling through the stacks in the children’s room with Madeleine I kept noticing all sorts of titles I wanted to read – necessary to scout out good books for Madeleine and Dash to read when older. I also noticed that (Ursula) LeGuin and (Madeleine) L’Engle sit side by side on the shelves, ready for lucky first-time readers to discover them together, which I believe to be an excellent arrangement.
After all that, the non-fiction front feels like a bit of let down. I finished Storm of Steel, which despite being a slim volume seemed to go on forever, and moved on to The Missing of the Somme. I remain in the trenches.
I’ve also been thinking of more ‘lost’ books from way-back times. In both 3rd and 4th grade, my teachers read to the class. Some of these books I remember clearly, How To Eat Fried Worms for example, but I’m not having much luck in fully recalling some of the others. There was the one about a family of dolls, living in a dollhouse, who came to life when their owners were absent. This may have been The Doll’s House, by Rumer Godden, but I’d have to read it to be sure. Another book concerned the adventures of a child, or children, who discovered a mysterious grease that when applied, allowed perpetual motion in machines. I haven’t been able to track that one down, nor another story of which I have even vaguer memories: children using museum-piece civil war cannon to defeat the bad guys. I think maybe there was an island involved.
During the same years I also remember reading The Wolf King, by Ann Turnbull, and several entries in the Three Investigators series, which back then still had the Alfred Hitchcock name attached, or at least the editions I read still did. Mostly I remember liking it for the hideout the Investigators used, a trailer buried in the middle of a salvage yard.
It is both surreal and terrifying when your ER doctor asks if you have a preferred neurosurgeon. The predominant emotion at any given moment that follows will be determined by the level of opiates flowing through your body at any given moment that follows.
We did not have a preferred neurosurgeon. We did however, find ourselves with an excellent one. He did a fine job, making the incision right along the edge of my hair. You wouldn’t notice the scar unless you already know to look, but it’s there, following the arc of the widow’s peak on the right side of my head. I have gotten in the habit of tracing the path of the scar with my fingers, absent-mindedly rubbing it while I read, or think, or stare at a computer screen.
In the right kind of light, if I tilt my head to the correct angle, I can see the slightly raised bumps on my head that mark the location of the dime-sized pieces of metal (titanium steel I believe) that covered the holes and held my skull together following the surgery.
This morning when I walked into the kitchen Herself kissed me and said “Happy Brainiversary.” I’m delighted to be here to celebrate.
There are certain books I could happily read over and over again. The Lord of the Rings comes to mind. I read it probably two dozen times by the time I reached junior high, and still return to its pages periodically.
A Game of Thrones is not proving to be one of those books. I’ve embarked on the reread I mentioned a while back, and parts of the book are a struggle to get through the second time. The cartoon villainy of Queen Cersei and Prince Joffrey grates, as does Ned Stark’s stiff-necked plan of disaster for his family and Sansa’s medieval mean girl act. So I’m not loving Game as unreservedly as I do Tolkien’s work, although I am deriving enjoyment from the paying renewed attention to the story lines of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, two characters I believe will feature very prominently in the final volumes, as well as the Tyrion Lannister, the Omar Little of this saga.
Speaking of Tolkien and rereads, I can’t remember if I previously linked to this piece by Gene Wolfe on The Lord of the Rings. I was rereading it last week and was moved to track down the name and full text of the C.S. Lewis poem that Wolfe quotes. The name of the poem is Cliché Came Out of its Cage and I think the second part is as apt a summation of the ‘Northern Thing’ as any I’ve come across. I think that though the ‘Northern Thing’ runs like a cold, clear stream through Tolkien’s writing of Middle Earth, it flows closest to the surface in The Silmarillion, which is more akin to the old sagas than to a novel like The Lord of the Rings.
Anyway, here are the lines I’m referring to:
By way of comparison, here is an excerpt from The Silmarillion:
Nor, despite Hobbits to mediate between the reader and Tolkien’s world, is the the sentiment missing from The Lord of the Rings. Call to mind Eomer before the walls of Gondor:
In case you’re not a giant Tolkien nerd like myself, here’s what the man himself meant by the ‘Northern Thing:
I’ve never been one to fight shy of borrowing from a home skillet, so here are some songs currently residing on my iPod’s ‘EarWorms’ playlist.
Snowflake – Kate Bush
A ten minute song written from a snowflake’s point-of-view and performed by Kate Bush’s son? Yeah, I’m surprised as you are to find it here, but I have to admit I’ve found it haunting since first listen.
Mission Bells – Armistice
The rest of the EP left me kind of cold, but this song has been on the list since early last year.
Johnny Appleseed – Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
I first heard this while watching The Future Is Unwritten and it immediately jumped in my head. (Note to self: seek out more of Strummer and the Mescaleros.)
Bhang, Bhang, I’m a Burnout – Dum Dum Girls
I love this sound.
When You Were Mine – John Heart Jackie
The second great cover of this song. (Yes, the first is obviously Lauper’s version.) No video, but look – free download!
On Battleship Hill – PJ Harvey
A song, indeed an album that is an appropriate sound track as I work my way through Storm of Steel towards The Missing of the Somme.
In the end I caved and Dicken’s Christmas Stories is now living in my car until I have a chance to return it to the library. I have it mind to take another run at Mr. Dickens, maybe with A Tale of Two Cities, but that will be further down the road. Someday. Maybe. Perhaps. There are an awful lot of books out there, or on my shelves waiting my attention, that I know I will enjoy reading.
When my daughter started to take a strong interest in books, I began to cast my mind back to ‘lost’ books, dimly remembered books from my childhood and adolescence, faded away into vague memories until recalled to clarity through copious internet searching. For instance…
One of these lost books I could only recall as a picture book (maybe books) about a ghost living in a New England town that I would read when visiting my grandparent’s house in Salem. Turns out Robert Bright wrote a whole series of books about Georgie the ghost, of which my grandparent’s owned the first two, Georgie and Georgie to the Rescue. I hunted down a copy of Georgie (sadly all the books seem to be out of print) which Madeleine loved* and literally read to pieces.
A Google search of ‘Norway’ + ‘sleds’ + ‘gold’ returned to proper memory Snow Treasure, by Marie McSwigan, a story of Norwegian children smuggling gold out of their occupied country by sledding it past the German army. I read this book at least a dozen times when I was in grade school. Supposedly it was based on a true story, though there now seems to be some doubt about that. Snow Treasure is still in print, so I can look forward to reading to my kids when they’re old enough. I also dredged up from the recesses of my mind The Black Stone Knife, by Alice Lee Marriott, a book so forgotten it possesses no reviews on Amazon. But I loved it once, or at least read it many times. Not sure if I’ll introduce this one to Dashiell and Madeleine.
I’m still trying to track down the name and author of a book set during the American Revolution, in New York City if I’m remembering correctly, featuring young adult, or maybe child, protagonists, spying for General Washington. I think. I maybe confusing it with another forgotten title set during the Revolution and taking place on the coast and involving small boats. Yeah, not a lot to go on there.
*So taken was Madeleine with Georgie that she named her stuffed cat Herman, after Georgie’s feline friend. This is a high honor, since very few of Madeleine’s numerous stuffed and toy animals have actual names, instead being addressed by such descriptive terms as ‘Black Dog’ or ‘New One Dog’ or ‘Bunny.’
I love Netflix. Love. It.
Was the price increase and the Qwikster affair handled in a fashion clumsy beyond belief? Sure, although if Future Me had appeared time travelled back to tell 1999 Me about the enormous amount of movies that would be delivered to his doorstep and made available online for $25 month, 1999 Me would have been pretty well chuffed.
I love Netflix because of the ready access it has provided me not only to film but to film history. I signed up in a fit of irritation over not being able to find a prominent John Wayne/John Ford (She Wore A Yellow Ribbon) film at Blockbuster and have since discovered and watched all sorts of movies I would not otherwise have seen. Some, like Touchez au grisbi, have become favorites. I Know Where I’m Going is another such film. This article prompted me to add the movie to my queue, and I watched it shortly thereafter when it became available to watch instantly.
I Know Where I’m Going reminded me of The Quiet Man. Both films are tales of outsiders finding love in remote, Gaelic communities, but I found the former to be a far superior film. If The Quiet Man is Ford’s love letter to Ireland, it is, like many such, too sweet and cloying, not too mention twee. The Innisfree depicted seems to me as articial and forced as any CGI-concotion one might find today. The Archer’s vision of the Hebrides, and the Isle of Mull in particular, is undoubtedly idealized, glossing over the harshness and isolation that must have been part of life there in the 1940s, but it seems a real place, featuring real people who are rooted in that place.
I Know Where I’m Going also served as my introduction to the work of the abmove-mentioned Archers, the director-producer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Since The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp was also available to watch instantly, I took it in over the course of several sittings (it’s a loooong movie and my time is limited these days.) Roger Livesey, who starred as Torquil MacNeil in I Know Where I’m Going, stars here as Clive Wynne-Candy, the Colonel Blimp of the title. It may have been my disjoinyed viewing schedule, but for me Colonel Blimp took a bit to find its footing, though by the time the Colonel arrived in Berlin I was properly hooked.
I’m currently watching (streaming again) Black Narcissus, which sadly does not feature Mr. Livesey (though I will see him again in A Matter of Life and Death) but does have Deborah Kerr as the head of a nunnery in the Himalayas. So far it is my least favorite Powell and Pressburger work, but it is still quite diverting, especially if you happen to be up late passing time with an infant. After this, I’ll make my way to Ill Met By Moonlight, a dramatization of Leigh Fermor’s wartime exploits in Crete, before giving the Archers a rest for a while. I’m sure Netflix will have something else to offer me.
Here are two things you may not know about me.
1. I love Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It is my absolute, favorite holiday story, a position formed by multiple viewings of multiple versions of the tale courtesy of the UHF stations of my youth. It seemed then that at any point of the Christmas season one could sit down, turn on the tube, twist the dial, and tune into a Christmas ghost story, with dark and scary moments that stood out against the Rankin and Bass productions that littered the 70s. My 7th grade English teacher made the actual text assigned reading and I discovered I loved it as much as the movies, more in some cases, as I had never much cottoned to the musical adaption with Finney and Guinness. A few years later George C. Scott’s turn as Scrooge in the 1984 television film became for me the perfect Christmas special, not least because it adheres faithfully to Dickens’ original story.
2. Apart from A Christmas Carol, I have never read any of Dickens’ work. Not a single one of his books was ever assigned to me again, not in high school and not in college. Ten or so years ago I attempted Oliver Twist, but made it only halfway before succumbing to boredom and the allure of other, more appealing titles.
I offer up these two facts so that you might understand how it is I came to be wrestling with a copy of the Oxford Illustrated edition of Christmas Stories as we head into February. The book was on display at the library and I thought ‘Oh, I love A Christmas Carol. Surely I will love these other Christmas stories Dickens wrote.’
So far I can only say ‘not so much’. Over the course of several weeks I trudged through The Chimes, the second Christmas tale Dickens wrote (after A Christmas Carol.) It contained all the moralizing and none of the magic his first effort, failing to fulfill the story-teller’s first obligation: to entertain. The goblins (or ghosts – I’m still not sure who was doing what) of the Chimes are not the least bit interesting and pale in comparison to the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
Christmas Stories remains on my nightstand and I tell myself I will continue the struggle, at least to the extent of attempting The Cricket on the Hearth, the next story in the book, but I do have piles of other books that are far more tempting. I think Dickens and I might just call it quits.
N.B. I have a tumblr blog, at least for now. We’ll see where it takes us.
Today is my daughter’s second birthday. In the words of parent’s everywhere, it goes by fast. Very fast.
For two years I’ve watched her create herself from the ground up. My wife and I provide food, shelter, and of course lots of love, but Madeleine has done the hard bits herself: sitting up, crawling, standing up, walking. Talking. It’s been amazing to watch. She is, in my extremely biased opinion, amazing.
Seemingly overnight Madeleine has morphed from milk-demanding bundle of limbs with a shrill cry, to her own little person. She busts out the complete sentences, difficulties with pronouns and prepositions aside, and enjoys carrying on conversations. Anything she likes is described as ‘perfect’ and the next step up from that is ‘love.’ She loves Mommy and Daddy, Nana, Gramma, both Papas, and her Aunties and Uncles. She also loves her hands and squash soup so we try not to get too flattered.
One of my favorite things to do watch her play. I have no idea how imagination fits into the developmental schema, but Madeleine’s is in full force. It is very entertaining to observe what I call the ‘Horse and Cow Dialogues’ as she plays with her Fisher Price toys. It is like having a front-row seat at a very avant-garde play.
One night this past week Madeleine woke in the small hours from a bad dream. When it became obvious she wasn’t going to settle herself back to sleep, I went in and picked her up out of the crib. I wrapped her in her blanket and together we sat and rocked in the chair. Madeleine’s default mode these days is ‘busy-too-busy-to-cuddle’ and she has never been overly mushy, so increasingly I treasure these moments to simply STOP and hold her and drink in the moment.
The above is from a transcript of the Hard Copy episode featuring the Solid Gold Dancers. Study the material – there will be a test later.
Question: is the word juggling above a transcription error? You know, like the ‘sexiness bunch?’ Or was there actually juggling on Solid Gold? I generally favor the ridiculous, and so would prefer to believe there was a slinky dance routine that really featured some juggling, to go along with the flashpots.
Also – sexiness bunch? Would make an excellent name for a band.
Your awesomeness for the day is this collection of fake Tintin covers, including the one below by Yves Rodier, which is my favorite of the lot, probably due to its strong similarity to Herge’s own work. I have several of the original adventures of Tintin, in the large format I remember from my childhood and not the horrible tiny and cramped hardcovers I’ve seen in bookstores. When the time comes I’ll share them with Madeleine. I hope to spare her from the upcoming movie, which I expect will be dreadful.
Copyright © 2013 Obscurorant 2.0 - All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress & Atahualpa