Sunday, December 31, 2006

a ragbag collection of this and that

to end up the old year. My mother actually had a rag bag, which hung in the hall closet of our old house (later in the new house, it was just a rag corner in a linen closet shelf). She especially prized my father's old T-shirts for their dust-catching quality (in the before-Swiffer and even before-Pledge days), but there were also pieces of my sister's and my clothes in there, giving up their last days to dust the piano or winkle out dirt from corners of the kitchen the mop didn't sufficiently clean.
I went to a very good party last night where there were mostly writers--poets, journalists, memoirists, novelists--and their hapless spouses and SOs, and there was a lot of talk about books. Not so much the ones being written (although there was some of that), but those being read and recommended. Here's a gleaning, from conversations and eavesdroppings:
Dashiel Hammett's letters (that was me)
Hammett's Red Harvest (I can't convince Charlie that it's a wonderful book)
Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential
Memento Mori
, Muriel Spark
The Working Poor (forgot the author)
The Life of Pi (am I the only person who hasn't read this?)
Sylvia Plath's poetry (with a side conversation on Ted Hughes goodness or badness)
Oliver Sachs's books
Bridget Jones
the Helen MacInnes spy thrillers (this was me again)
Alistair MacLean (this was because at first I said Helen MacLean, conflating these 2 quite dissimilar spy-thriller writers)
Tom Clancy
John LeCarre
Sarah Gridley's poems
Middlemarch, which several of us are reading, although I'm sadly behind.
Some other this-and-thats:
Some kind people have put together a list of underrated writers, a nice way to fulfill any New Year's resolutions you may have about reading more widely. I was charmed to find Elizabeth Bowen on this list, and also Michael Martone (who is very funny and off-the-wall) but most of them I haven't read--new literary fields to gambol in.
Worried about the state of the novel? He's not dead yet--here, from MrBFK is the report of a sighting.
If you're a fan of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, you'll be delighted to hear that the Library of America had published an edition of his stories. In his review of this and a book-length essay on Lovecraft by the French novelist Michel Houellebecq, Luc Sante lists the fears that fed Lovecraft's horror:
He was also frightened of invertebrates, marine life in general, temperatures below freezing, fat people, people of other races, race-mixing, slums, percussion instruments, caves, cellars, old age, great expanses of time, monumental architecture, non-Euclidean geometry, deserts, oceans, rats, dogs, the New England countryside, New York City, fungi and molds, viscous substances, medical experiments, dreams, brittle textures, gelatinous textures, the color gray, plant life of diverse sorts, memory lapses, old books, heredity, mists, gases, whistling, whispering—
Well, who isn't afraid of gelatinous textures, I ask you?
Happy 2007.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

the slow week between Xmas and New Year's

The week of suspended holiday, the week when the decorations are still up but the relevance is leaking out of them. The shine of the ornaments makes you nostalgic, makes you remember sitting in your father's chair and stairing into the tree as if it were a shadowy, bulb-lit cave with gleaming treasure, and although this is a beautiful memory, it's tinged with all-gone, never-again, back-in-the-dayness.
I like the slowness of it though--a pause before you throw yourself into a new year where you're supposed to be resolving and making goals. I am resolved this week to
--read a lot
--look out of my window w/o thinking consecutive thoughts
--write down notes of this and that w/o thinking of what they might turn into
--look at seed catalogs, and plan to buy seeds of kohlrabi or ruffled lettuces
I'm warming up to the next revision of the novel, shaking the tinsel and glitter of Christmas out of my hair before I take out my metaphorical scissors and snip, snip, snap.
More from-the-car photos:

Sunday, December 10, 2006

what's on my mind

Taking a leaf from Plan B's blog page, this is what's rolling around in my head on this December day:
--Winter, and how it is so wonderfully beautiful (the sun on the snow, the blue sky) today, but how I hate it nevertheless because it's dark by 5, and my winter clothes are bulky, and my garden is just some wilted leaves and dried stalks sticking up out of the drifts.
--The Black Book, Orhan Pamuk's book--I'm almost done reading it and still in the dark about how it works, but still intrigued. It's so closely tied to Istanbul, its streets and people, that I am starting to feel as if I have memories of being there, that I have gone to Aladdin's shop opposite the City of Hearts apartments where Galip's family once lived, that I have gone to the gangsters' hideouts or the pudding shops. Why don't we have pudding shops in Cleveland? instead of all those coffee places? stop on the way home for a cup of tapioca instead of a latte?
--the end of the semester, which is over in the sense that classes are over, but not over in the sense that dozens of students are craftily preparing piles of papers that I will be reading next weekend. Every end of the semester is fiercely desirable, every beginning makes new insight possible. (Every summer is heaven, of course.)
--Xmas shopping, which is done except for those things I can't buy on line--flowering plants (for my Aunt Honey, which I'm safe in saying because not only does she not read this blog, she doesn't have a computer. She thought for a while in her retirement that she might like to get an electric typewriter, but is not interested in the internet, which she maybe regards as a kind of fantasy that her nieces and nephews are collectively having.), and bottles of booze, and the kinds of things that can only be found as you wander through stores in the mall feeling desperate, while you eat a pretzel dog-- Christmas patterned socks, small flashlights that can be rigged as a headpiece, guaranteed waterproof phone carriers, stretchy beaded bracelets, tiny books that offer humorous and ironic rules for living, pierced earrings for the daughter who, I always forget, doesn't have pierced ears, soaps that smell like mango and chocolate, a Hello Kitty calendar. (This passage is an inept but fond homage to The Black Book.)
--my novel, which I set aside during the last weeks of school, and which is waiting balefully, or maybe hopefully? for me to trim, prune, eviscerate, etc.
--my knee, which is slowly recovering from its desire to bend slightly the wrong way.
--the fact that I need a new winter coat, that the one I have is getting shabby, even though it is so warm and so light (down). It's so warm that I've used it for a blanket, notably during one winter residency at Vermont College when the high temperature was below zero for 6 days in a row, and the heating pipes in the rooms where the faculty slept, which had once been dorm rooms to cadets at a military school, groaned and clanked ineffectively. People put food on the windowsills to keep it cold, as in a refrigerator (mostly wine and cheese). The coat was my 3rd coverlet, over the two stiff, scratchy, repellent khaki blankets issued to us.
--my camera--I have become an obsessive picture taker. I'm particularly fond of taking picture while driving in my car. Probably there's a psychiatric description for this. Note above one of my attempts to take a photo of downtown from Chester Ave around 4:45 pm.

Friday, December 01, 2006

driving home

Rain, rain, rain...

you are such a pain--

you're hurting my brain,

you're really lame.

Home again.