Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Bookstore Doodle

Daily Dose

From Selected Letters of E. E. Cummings, edited by F. W. Dupee and George Stade


"concerning uncertainty (alias insecurity, or whatever mostpeople fear) I rather imagine that insofaras an artist is worth his spiritual salt he can never get enough."

From a letter to Paul Nordoff, dated Silver Lake, N. H., September 22 1948

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Bookstore Doodle

Quick Review

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Perhaps the single most idiotically noble death ever written in a major novel by a great novelist. But then, Hugo is never greater than in his noble absurdities; his narrative, as here, so crowded with both beautiful, realist and carefully researched detail and genuine moral authority, it doesn't ultimately seem much to matter if in the end the whole operatic contraption shoots fireworks and boils steam as it sinks, at last, beneath the waves. Church, politics/society and here, nature, and nothing like the three great Hugo novels for sound moral philosophy, brilliant theatricality, and very real humanity. Ludicrousness, pomposities and all, I am nothing but better for having read it, and I'd happily read it again. Viva de la pieuvre, viva de hugo!

Daily Dose

From Lucking Out: my life getting down and semi-dirty in seventies new york, by James Wolcott


"'Asked for the ten thousandth time why she prefered 'movies' to 'film,' she said, 'Film is what you load a camera with.' Simple as that."

From Part II: Like Civilized People...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Modern Love, by John Keats

Daily Dose

From On the Poet and His Craft: Selected Prose of Theodore Roethke, edited by Ralph J. Mills, Jr.


"A little humility may be in order."

From How to Write Like Somebody Else

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dedication to Leigh Hunt Esq by Keats

Daily Dose

From DuBarry: A Biography, by Stanley Loomis


"The Romans were not very amusing about their vices."

From Chapter 5

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Bookstore Doodle

Quick Review

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

First time I've ever put Bennett down and had to make myself pick the book back up. All a bit strained and thin, though still well worth the reading, I should say. Not the sex, may I say, that bored a bit, but that same old tea-bag of respectability dipped perhaps once too often in the same ol' mug.

Daily Dose

From The Poetical Works of Oliver Goldsmith


"Here lies poor Ned Purdon, from misery freed,
Who long was a bookseller's hack;
He led such a damnable life in this world, --
I don't think he'll wish to come back."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pumpin' Paper

Some time back, around November I think, I finally started using goodreads as a reading diary. For any what don't know, yes, it is a social network for book nerds, but it is also an excellent and easy system for tracking one's reading and or keeping lists. I love lists. I pretty much live to make lists. No, that's wrong. Better say, lists allow me to function above my more natural state of paralytic distractibility, and general flibbertigibbetry. Now, generally speaking there is almost no context when a declaration like the one I'm about to make does not actually suggest it's exact opposite, but you will just have to trust me this time when I tell you that I do indeed read a lot. Potentially a pretty meaningless measurement, I know, and entirely subjective, but it suits my purpose here because when I tell you, according to my latest updated list on goodreads, right now I'm "currently reading" eleven books, even to me, that sounds like a lot. Don't be impressed though, even if you want to be. I'm not trying to make any claim for myself beyond maybe having just enough upper-body strength to lift all the books in that little list without straining a wrist. That's about all that means. (Thus my embrace of the vagueness that is measured by "a lot.")

The eleven books on that "currently reading" list constitute a meaningful set only in so far as these are the books I have been reading, on and off, for the past three months or so without yet having finished any of them. The books I finished in this period have already come off the "currently reading" list and been moved -- by instant computer magic -- to the "read" list. That list, which is already ridiculously large for reasons I'll explain soon enough, already forced me to start another list of my own creation called "abandoned." I've added four books to date on that one, each with an explanation/brief review, with the idea of warning off like-minded readers, if any, from bothering with those titles. (I'm trying to be a responsible participant in the goodreads community, rather than just a snark. Honest.) Now the reason my "read" list has grown to such ungainly size is because I've discovered the time-wasting fun to be had "voting" on other people's posted lists, of, say, "The Best Books of 1989" and or because I've created and posted a few public lists of my own -- not that anybody's noticed yet -- of things like "The Best Books to Read Aloud to Grown Ups" and "Classic American Narrative History." Only too late did I learn that goodreads etiquette frowns on the practice of adding titles to my general "read" list long after the fact. This, it seems, is looked on by the community rather like Mormons making posthumous baptisms among the "Gentiles," or as just plain ol' bragging. My thinking was that I didn't want to vote for something in, for example, a list like "The Best Books of 1989" without people being able to see that I was voting only for books that I had myself read. Besides, using another feature of the site which suggests other titles I might like to read based on all my other lists, marking those as "read" that I did not intend to read again anytime soon, I didn't have to see those books pop up again as suggestions for future reading. The other option was to mark these books as "not interested" which would not be true. I was interested. I read 'em. Thus my "read" list has become, well... bloated and frankly boastful looking.

I'm not bragging, or rather if I am, it's only because I don't have the option, or the time to annotate each and every book marked as "read" with a full review and or a confession of just what I might mean by marking each as such. I haven't explained giving all the Agatha Christies I could remember basically a couple of stars in the rating system because I barely remember one from another, just that I once read Agatha Christie -- as one should -- as one eats Goobers, by the fist-full. Additionally, in my buzzy little brain, it makes more sense to mark the Oxford Illustrated Dickens in twenty volumes as "read" before adding it to my "favorites" list, even though I have yet to read The Mystery of Edwin Drood because I've been saving it to read multiple endings some day, or all of the volume of Reprinted Pieces because I think of it as a dippin' book rather than a-sit-down-read. I want to recommend the Oxford Illustrated to others, but I don't need to provide all the details of my reading therein, I felt, in order to do so.

The one rule I've made for myself so far is that I do not mark anything as "read" unless I read the whole thing, or put it on my "abandoned" list-- unless the individual edition is an anthology, like the great Library of America series, in which case, again I particularly want to recommend these excellent books to a wider readership as representing the best available editions of most American classics, again, without appending to each book yet another subset of what I have or have not read in each.

Makes sense to me, anyway. My muddle, my lists, darling.

To return to my subject proper, however indirectly, my "currently reading" list -- or "shelf" in goodread speak -- allows me to chart my progress in each book I'm reading by number of pages read, which conveniently then works out for me the percentage of the whole I've read of each book, and even makes a useful little barchart of this under each title. Cool. What it also has unexpectedly done for me is to remind me that I have a lot -- there it is again -- that I have started reading, still intend to finish, and might otherwise forget in my enthusiasm to start new books almost every goddamned day. I work in a bookstore, you know. Can't be helped. That though is what I'm considering just here, that habit.

A couple of days back, I posted something here about the stack in my bathroom. None of those books, please note, have I listed on goodreads as "currently reading" Why? Because in the first place, so far as I can remember, there isn't anything currently in that stack that I haven't read already and or that I intend to read again straight through. As I already tried to explain, those books now serve a slightly different function as part of my library, and at least in part that stack will always be something into which I may dip when caught, not to be too vulgar about it, with my pants down. My "currently reading" shelf is reserved then for books I have every intention of finishing someday, if not soon, then, well... someday. I've made my "abandoned" shelf into a bin, so I don't want to put anything there that I will ever pick up again. I haven't moved anything off my "currently reading" shelf until I could honestly mark it as "read." And so the list of the books I'm "currently reading" now numbers no less than eleven titles. Bespeaks a problem, that, or rather it might if I saw it as being any such thing to try to read eleven different books at roughly the same time. I don't.

I don't because I have come in recent years to believe sincerely that this is not only something like the way I have almost always read as an adult, but also the best way for an adult with the means to do so to read. There are good people, people much brighter and frankly possessing much better brains than mine, reading I should think far more difficult or in some other way worthy books I may or may not ever read, for whom such a system, if so it may be called, would suggest nothing but chaos and confusion. I can see that. I've know some brilliant people, devoted and serious readers the lot of them, who read one book, end to end, and down to the notes and the note of the typeface on the last page before picking up another. Some of the people whose opinions on books I most respect read this way. I never have nor could I if I wanted to. I do not read, or think, in such a straightforward and productive ways. I have the utmost respect for well-organized minds. I will, when pressed, admit to a burning envy of such brains as that. (Just think of the discipline of that!) Because I think my reading is done without answering to anyone but myself, I do not see the reason why I should not read, of an evening whatever I wish, and owning so many books, and having access through my job to so many more, I can not now imagine ever again reading just one book until it's done, though I do do that still, very, very rarely. It reflects on the quality or interest of what I'm reading not at all to say I read a book straight through. Yes, I might read a play or a graphic novel in a sitting. Seems likely considering the brevity of the actual text in such books as that, but even there there's nothing to say I need do it just that way or that I will. But by and large, I read just as I want; Trollope tonight and Pope's letters tomorrow. I might be distracted, as I am just now, by a novel by John Buchan about a Puritan preacher in a pagan wood, or by a biography from 1959 of the DuBarry by the charming American narrative historian, Stanley Loomis.

All goodreads has done by tracking all this for me has been to remind me that while the way I read may not be just as others do, it does not seem to have been an unproductive way of reading. In fact, goodreads actually has the perfect system for suggesting not only the connections between the books I'm reading and the books I've read and the books -- oh, so many -- that I have yet to read, but also the connections I may never have noticed from one book to the next in just the books I'm reading now.

I reread Walter Scott's Old Mortality recently. That's what made me take note of the Buchan book, Witch Wood when it came in used recently. I've never read Buchan, even his most famous novel, The 39 Steps. Since the Buchan that came in to me is set in much the same history as the Scott, that seemed a perfect book to try. You see? And that, having whetted my appetite for a bit more history, made me make note of the pretty little volume of Loomis when it came in and take it with me to lunch where I read the first forty pages with very real pleasure. (I find lunch hour is better suited to history, most days, than to fiction, at least any serious fiction, like the James that, yes, I am also "currently reading.") Not to belabor a subject I have no doubt already pummeled all the juice out of, but just by way of one last example from the shelf, reading the Buchan made me pick up Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables again after having read the first two thirds of it on last summer's vacation, just because Puritanism had, all unwittingly, become something of a theme for me in recent days.

I said that none of this was meant to be bragging. If I could say honestly that reading or rereading any of the books mentioned was being done to any purpose other than to entertain myself, then I might, I think, be justly suspected of putting on the dog a bit. Come to that, just mentioning that I'm reading Henry James for pleasure might sound like chest-thumping of an even worse kind. I get that. If however I can in anyway convey how little I will make of any of this reading beyond whatever nearly incoherent gassing I might do about it here, I think that should answer at least something of the accusation of either over-seriousness or snobbery on my part. I recognize that not everybody would willingly read any two of the nearly dozen books I have metaphorically open before me tonight, but that isn't to say, I would hasten to add, that there aren't a legion of readers, and many among my own small circle of acquaintance who wouldn't, without breaking much of a sweat, be able to speak, or write, or even just think about these books, or appreciate them more or understand them better than I do.

Whenever I read better books, and I find myself compelled as I get older to read better books to exclusion of even those books I might once have read with real pleasure, I don't think it is snobbery that motivates me now so much as impatience. I haven't time for much else. I spend embarrassing amounts of my time consuming other kinds of culture, and much of it of embarrassingly inferior stamp, and with no less pleasure for that, but reading now seems to me something I prefer to do with only the best books -- mostly.

And as for that accusation of snobbery, a word I've had hung 'round my neck since boyhood, I feel obliged to say just here that I do not think it fair. When I read books well above my education and sophistication as a child, I did so from the sincere conviction that I was compensating for my origins in a home without books, schools that did not aspire to much, and a society, I mistakenly thought, where getting on meant being better read than than I knew myself to be. By the time I'd kenned just how wrong I was about all of this -- save maybe my largely worthless schooling -- it was too late for me, which is to say too late not to understand at least a little of what made one book better than another. That, it seems to me, is probably how one comes to the habit of reading better books anyway, no? By reading good and bad and learning to recognize why one is better than the other. As for this habit now so established that most of what I read might be described as classic or whatnot, I think it more accurate to say I read mostly the books I trust to be worth the time I can spare them when not giggling with my husband at silly people bouncing into mud-puddles off big red balls on idiotic reality-TV nonsense like Wipe Out. (Come on! Big red balls!! It's funny!)

The list-making, shelving or whatever one might properly call it that I now waste endless stray hours doing on goodreads would doubtlessly be better spent writing or working here, or even doing something really productive like, say yard-work, or trying my hand at knitting or writing poetry again (shudder) but I can't really find it in me to begrudge myself. It does feel like I might yet learn something about myself from all this compiling and classifying and noodling away at goodreads.

You should see the size now of my groaning "to read" shelf!

And look at the steadiness of that wrist!

Daily Dose

From As You Like It, by William Shakespeare

"Can one desire too much of a good thing?"

From Act IV, Sc. I.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Dandy Lad

A Dandy Lad

Daily Dose

From Fictive Certainties: Essays, by Robert Duncan


"But I hurry beyond my story again."

From Poetry Before Language

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Sensible Girl

A Sensible Girl

Daily Dose

From Captains Courageous, by Rudyard Kipling


"Don't go taggin' araound after them whose eyes bung out with fatness, accordin' tp Scripcher."

From Chapter Nine

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Dandy Lad

A Sensible Girl

A Dandy Lad

A Sensible Girl

A Brief Note on Sensible Girls & Dandy Lads

Just by way of introduction, this batch of doodles came about collaboratively at work, as these things sometimes do, all because of some silliness involving the work-wife, T., the work-husband, J., and naturally enough, our immediate supervisor, beloved bookseller and dear chum, P., who this time flatly said, when the phrase occurred, "you have to draw that." The original phrase, arising from a picture in some rather silly fishing book that was set aside for Ms. T., who fishes, don't you know, was "just a sensible Colonial girl," and from that little bud, this nonsense grew. Doesn't much matter if none of this so far makes anything any clearer now, truly.

The point just here is that what I saw straight away was something on the order of an extention of the terrifyingly ernest, and ruthlessly commercial series of books and merch, rather cleverly called, simply, American Girl. The heart swells with civic pride, no? If you don't know it, the enterprise is a whole raft of fictional histories for small females, featuring plucky heroines, each representing her time: ringlets and bonnets for the prairie years, saddle shoes and glasses for the Second World War, etc., and corresponding games, dolls, activity books and all-else for each.

I'm picturing a new series, on the same premise aimed at a slightly older, gayer audience. And so, The Sensible Girls. And so as to not let the fellas feel they haven't something of their own - and - no - girls - allowed, as the boys will still sadly insist it seems, some correspondingly Dandy Lads.

Dear J. suggested at least two of these adventures, thus adding yet another Queen to the mix, as it were.

If this all seems less then empowering, oh do let yourself giggle, darling, or what's the fun of history?

Daily Dose

From Roderick Hudson, by Henry James


"It's rather a hard fate, to live like a tame cat and to pass for a desperado."

From Chapter III

Monday, February 20, 2012


I got a "device" for Christmas. Santa, a.k.a. my beloved husband, A., surprised me with the thing. He is a sweet man; generous to a fault, spendthrift, impulsive, and quite, quite dear. I had not asked for any such thing. The books I'd asked for, and for which I had fielded my conspirators carefully at the the bookstore as always, would have sufficed. ("I believe this stack of remaindered Wodehouse that he left behind the desk for three months now may be just the ticket, if you're Christmas shopping tonight... Oh! and look at all these other more expensive hardcover books likewise squirrelled so conspicuously behind his desk! Perhaps you might buy him these...") It is an old dodge, but reliable. He always adds something less likely to my haul: chocolates, nicer clothes than they've any business in this economy making in my outrageous sizes, pictures. Most often, I get at least a few of the things he found for me through the year and then forgot. This year, in that last category, there were three framed caricatures by the great Victorian "Spy." These he had acquired on various antiquing expeditions with his oldest friend, C., who knows when? Seems he found them carefully hidden in a closet he meant to clean one day. Merry Christmas to me! Such an old darling, my man, truly.

But a "device?" I did not understand it. I do not yet. It is my dear A. who likes the new technology. He's always loved an innovative whatsit, the latest ringing, buzzing thing, all the wee gizmos, the shiny new machines and the hand-held-whosits. (Now, don't be dirty-minded, pray, I mean only the usual sorts of phones and computer-driven conveniences just here. Mind the gentle nature of this diary, please.) My cell-phone? I use it only on the way home, when the car is safely parked at the grocery, to call and ask if he needs another carton of his lactose-free milk. I will not let him buy me another. What for? My own computer, on which I now write this, still strikes me as being frighteningly expensive and underutilized after, what? Is it five years now? Six? At any rate, I am informed it is long since obsolete. Imagine! Ridiculous, when one considers my contentment with anything that has spell-check and an adjustable font-size. (What did one do before?! I shudder to recall.) Anyway, his computer is newer, bigger, no doubt better. That's fine, just fine. His endless carousel of porno screen-savers looks specially smart on such an enormous screen, and his ipod seems to be beautifully integrated with all his Saturday morning streaming of old TV westerns on Hulu, etc. He even plays animated typing games, and solves math equations on the thing, just for fun, bless 'im. I remain content. It's him then that would probably enjoy this latest thing he bought me. I nearly bought him one, in fact, for Christmas!

But no. (I did buy him a new Bose "dock" for his little music player. He liked that.) No, I was the one who got -- unasked for, undreamed of -- a brand new, big, slick, sleek new "device."

I've had the thing "on" half a dozen times since December. Turns out? Wifi works if I am A) already seated in front of my actual computer, or B) in front of our giant new television (Christmas for us both last year.) And at the bookstore where my husband went to the tech department and bought me the very latest thing in new "devices?" At work, there is no reception, if that's the word, anywhere but standing in the cafe; not at my desk, not in the break-room, and no, not even in the office of the tech. department, it seems. I've been assured that this isn't quite true, that again, I've probably just misunderstood, etc., etc. Well that's fine, just fine. I'm sure that it's just me, honestly. No matter. Meanwhile, my own darling might just as well have taken eight hundred dollars or whatever the outrageous sum and just pounded it into a knothole in the floor -- if floors still had knotholes somewhere.

I don't want to hurt his feelings any more than I doubtless have already, so I've promised a very nice friend in the computer department that some time soon I'll schedule an hour with him off the floor and he will "set me up" and then I will be able to actually do all sorts of magical and amazing things with my new "device." Various friends already in possession of one of these things have been trying to educate me long since to the wonders and visions I have denied myself to date by not using the thing. One dear soul explained to me how I could be using it to draw with just my finger. Oh, yes? I've grown rather good with a pencil, if I may say so myself, and even had some attention on that score of late -- very flattering -- but just my finger, you say? Oh, well that would be something. And another friend, a rather renowned person, has insisted that she uses hers for all manner of creative work, that in fact her "device" has become so indispensable to her for all her writing, reading and research that she can not now imagine working without it. This was very impressive talk indeed, as I know something of the sheer volume of work the lady actually does in a week, say, and her output is prodigious. All the more impressive since she's made the mistake of showing me her favorite game -- a noisy business that seems to involve tossing understandably disgruntled animated birds at things -- and now I've come to recognize just how often I hear that familiar squawking coming from her machine when she's sitting in our cafe at the bookstore, supposedly hard at work to meet a deadline.

I will give the thing another, proper try, I swear. Someday. My fantasy frankly would be to download a few newspapers I should read anyway but would very much like to be able to read online wherever I happened to be -- other than our break room, my desk, or any of the other dead-zones about the place. I would also, I admit, be interested to read a book on the thing. I haven't read a book anywhere but in a book to date. While that still constitutes the chief pleasure and purpose of both my working and personal life, I will admit that I see no reason to do so by any means other than the traditional turning of actual pages in some fine old hardcover. Moreover, the introduction into the bookstore of our very own Espresso Book Machine has liberated me entirely from the public libraries I so loath when it comes to finding and reading the old books I can not otherwise find or afford. To date, I must have printed at least three dozen such books for myself, if not more. (I stopped counting.) But so many people have insisted that, if for no other reason, I should get myself a proper new "device" expressly for this purpose as it promises to present me not so much with a new alternative to the activity I most enjoy, but simply access in a new and simple way to more of it than even I might ever have imagined. Well. We shall see.

Meanwhile, as I was passing the sink in my bathroom this morning, I happened to notice that the stack of books just there has grown to rather embarrassing heights. I took the picture above that I might share it here, as I thought it might be instructive for anyone not in the habit of reading, as I do in the old fashioned way; meaning among the many books I own, as my fancy takes me and the opportunity presents itself. This is how my reading actually happens. Note the absence of organization or order. This, I maintain, is how books are best read. First, these are all books that I own. Some of them are relatively new to me at least, though nearly all, to be fair, are old. Where each sits says when I opened it last. Obviously the lowest need not be the lowest in my opinion or in literary rank, anymore than the uppermost need necessarily represent anything other than the book I set down last.

These particular books are all of 'em books I am not so much reading as picking up again as needed, if it is not too indelicate to say just that. The excellent life of Mrs. Gaskell by the divine Jenny Uglow, for instance, I rooted out from it's rest in order to read a bit more about her correspondence with Charles Dickens, and then as ought to be the way with books one owns, I got distracted by some other story therein and kept on. The copy of Verra Brittain's unsurpassed memoir of the First World War, Testament of Youth, I finally fetched up out of a box after holding a copy that came into the Used Desk, for fear of not being able to find mine. I wanted to dip into that book again because of the wonderful, and ridiculously derivative television drama to which the husband and me, and the rest of America, became completely addicted again this season, damn it. In that one, I've read and read again, and recommend it to anyone looking for a more coherent and honest narrative of the unique devastation that war wrought on the whole of British, not to say European society of the period. An amazingly good book, and not bad television drama in the adaptation from the old days, at least as I remember it.

I could of course dig deeper still. There is the stray volume of Colette, a theatrical novel, I think, or one of the vaudeville memoirs, anyway something aromatic of circuses, old wardrobes and even older suitors. Always worth a cigarette and a read -- if only I could still share a smoke with Colette! Then there is the rather formal, Oxford edition of a life of dear Hester Thrale Piozzi. Some Johnson researches to no particular purpose doubtless made me start in again on that one, though it is nowhere near so good as the lady's own book, but probably more reliable. And there's a book of essays by the brilliant Gary Indiana, a book I must have finished by now, but not, I think, if it is still in the stack by the mirror.

Anyway, the point, you see, is not the getting of books into some plain, portable form that might carry them all with me wherever I went, but rather the accumulation of both books and reading wherever I am or may be, that is what books are for me, my books anyway, the geography of my reading life. How would I think to read any of these, or read any of them again, if I were never to actually see them again in the physical world; by my bed, or on my dresser, in the piles by my desk, on the shelves of my hard-won library? What reality, do you think, would one less than familiar title by H. L. Mencken ever have for me again if that book's only presence in my life was as but one of so many hundred or thousand "files" on some glorified calculator?

Oh, I quite understand the potential benefits of having yet another new means of layering in potential reading to the haphazard accumulation that is this wonderful muddle of my books, and I'm nearly ready to try it -- anything to get at whatever books I can't, frankly -- but I wonder it will ever have the charm, the frank allure, of even just this stack by my bathroom mirror?

Daily Dose

From All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren


"Then it was another day, and I set out to dig up the dead cat, to excavate the maggot from the cheese, to locate the canker in the rose, to find the deceased fly among the raisins in the rice pudding.
I found it."

From Chapter 5

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Roderick Hudson, by Henry James


"He belonged to that race of mortals, to be pitied or envied according as we view the matter, who are not held to a strict account of their aggressions."

From Chapter Two

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Washington Square, Henry James


"She said nothing, either tacitly or explicitly, and as she was never very talkative, there was now no especial eloquence in her reserve."

From Chapter 15

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Revolutionary March from Balzac

Daily Dose

From Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson


"I knew it was my own doing, and no one else's; but I was too miserable to repent."

From Chapter XXIV, The Flight in the Heather: The Quarrel

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Bookstore Doodle

Quick Review

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The only kind of memorial the late, great cartoonist would probably have wanted; a well-made collection of his beloved schoolgirl demons, in all their glorious, hilarious evil. Gad, what an enviable, witty line -- and here I mean not just the captions and quips, but the perfect dash of ink that captures a scowl, the wicked tip of a sharp little shoe, a prematurely mature bit of lipstick on a girl going places fast -- and none of them good.

Had Searle done nothing else -- and he did such an amazing lot of work -- dear ol' St. Trinian's would have been enough to secure his reputation as a great cartoonist.

Somewhere now the bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling...

Daily Dose

From Shadow and Act, by Ralph Ellison


"Slangy in one stance, academic in another, loaded poetically with imagery at one moment, mathematically bare of imagery in the next."

From Brave Words for a Startling Occasion

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Bookstore Doodle

A Bookstore Doodle

Daily Dose

From Roderick Hudson, by Henry James


"He had an indefinable attraction -- something tender and divine of unspotted, exuberant, confident youth."

From Chapter Two

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Balzac on Gambling

Quick Review

All too brief a read, and yet I could not do it in the end. I remember with pleasure reading Straub's "Ghost Story" all night long, Christmas Eve, before giving the then brand new book to my sister for Christmas. Thrilling. And there was a good story in this novella, but just that. What would be the lessons, here? 1) Can't go home again, it's true. 2) Any book this short with not one, but two dreams? That's just some lazy spooking. 3) Never reference better writers -- real ones -- in inferior fiction; it's like talking about Thanksgiving over some soggy fries.

Daily Dose

From A Rogue's Life, by Wilkie Collins


"Moralists will be glad to hear that I really suffered acute mental misery at this time of my life."

From Chapter 10

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Bookstore Doodle

A Bookstore Doodle

Daily Dose

From The Odes of Horace, translated by Philip Francis


"I lately was fit to be call'd upon duty,
And gallantly fought in the service of beauty..."

From Ode XXVI -- To Venus

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pope on Dogs

Daily Dose

From Samson Agonistes and the Shorter Poems of Milton, edited by Isabel Gamble MacCaffrey


"Mark what radiant state she spreads,
In circle round her shining throne,
Shooting her beams like silver threads,
This this is she alone,
Sitting like a Goddess bright,
In the center of her light."

From Arcades, 1. Song

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems 1946 - 2006, by Donald Hall


"Let many bad poets praise the Grand Canyon, the Panama
Canal, the Statue of Liberty, Mount
Hood, the Napa Valley with its products of fermentation,
Sicily, Connecticut, and themselves."

from Let Many Bad Poets

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Bookstore Doodle

A Bookstore Doodle

Daily Dose

From The Book of Images, by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Edward Snow


"The rich and the fortunate can well keep quiet,
nobody wants to know what they are."

From The Voices: Nine Leaves with a Title Leaf

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Singers

Daily Dose

From Pym: A Novel, by Mat Johnson


"In movies, when someone is talking crazy, you are allowed to smack him. Unfortunately, I lacked the speed to pop the lunatic in question, and the thickness of my snowsuit would have cushioned the blow anyway."

From Chapter XV

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Bookstore Doodle

Daily Dose

From Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, by David Sedaris


"We can't profess love without talking through hand-puppets, and we'd never consciously sit down to discuss our relationship. These, to me, are good things."

From The End of the Affair