Archive for 2020
William Orpen, ‘Group associated with the New English Art Club’ What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer. —Francis Bacon, ‘Of Truth’ There was an odd passage in a woodworking memoir I read because I was taking the long way ’round in trying to think about craftsmanship. The woodworker had […]
A view (48)
trees and snow.
There is a feeling of relief, drawing near the front of the line at the movie theatre and seeing the clerk post a small notice that the next showing is sold out. It is the same thrill one gets when, after planning a meeting or outing, the other person calls or texts or writes and […]
An arbitrary detail from ‘Portrait of the Comte De M.’ by Jérôme-Martin Langlois (1831). Just last Tuesday, I ended up at the art museum, although I hadn’t intended to go. It was after going to the dentist, you see, and my jaw was sore from a filling and the right side of my face was […]
from the lumber room.
A view of a bridge, in watercolor, ca. 1820. All recollections are like shadows, & all shadows are dark, be the objects that cause them ever so bright. —Emily Foster (Journals, p. 64, ca. May 1822) It is always a little strange to read published journals or diaries. The ones that I’ve encountered – Virginia […]
A view (49)
ennui and falling.
Part of an engraving from 1820. Making the daily circuit around the house, I listen to books on tape (because trying to read while walking on ground uneven from frost heaves is imprudent) and become annoyed at the lengthy chatter of background material provided. These are generalist books and start from first principles. After the […]
appetite alters everything restive beneath words containing all meaning —less you have been used to your beauty
Reading odd bits of books in the evening as consolation for not being able to manage a satisfactory photo of any of the nurse stumps on the short walk through the woods I love the wind even if, exactly, my imagination tends to give it ferocious shapes and colors. Battered by the wind, I go […]
Every time I see these flowers, either in their purple freshness or in rain-bleached white, I think of the story ‘Ալպիական Մանուշակ’ by Aksel Bakunts;1 it is a false association, sadly, because the ‘alpine violet’ of the story is a cyclamen, as the red stems would indicate, but I think the mistake is a common […]
A view (50)
poems, trees, mornings.
It is the small extraordinary things – the excitement of a new pair of pantaloons, the tragedy of a lost pair of gloves, the satisfaction of completing a fair copy to go to the publisher, the suggested tedium of training the maid to mark patterns – that stand out in reading Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals. Although […]
I dip into the well of words and find myself in an ocean and the conversation has swept away and it is time to pay the bill and leave the restaurant. I sit on the sofa and I feel my expressions my gestures my mannerisms are no longer mine they belong to the past the […]
There is the sense that the book has an argument, that it wants some sort of artist’s statement to illumine its depths. I complained of this, and PF observed that experimental authors tend to fall into two camps – the Nabokovian and the Joycean. The Nabokovian camp will tell you in great detail all the […]
Cropped and edited version of Djuna Barnes’s caricature of Helen Westley. It was happenstance, the purchasing of a copy of Interviews by Djuna Barnes. I was looking for a book about Pushkin and somehow found the Interviews at a local bookstore that happens to be in the same building as my dentist, although I didn’t […]
From the frontispiece of Hannah Wolley’s The Queen-Like Closet, or Rich Cabinet Now that we are traveling less, I have been seeing less need to maintain an ebook library – which I was keeping more from laziness than because I prefer the format. So I am trying to decide which books to let go because […]
Despite a subscription to one of the noteworthy review periodicals, I have mostly given up reading book reviews. They never really manage to tell me what I want to know, the information that a blind, intuitive reaching for the shelves will provide – what do I want to read next? Indeed, looking at book reviews […]
Illustration to ‘The Rose-bush’ from Fairy Tales for Workers Children The rose bush did not know where it had been born and where it had passed its early days: it is well known that flowers have a bad memory. —Hermynia zur Mühlen (‘The Rose Bush’ in The Castle of Truths and Other Revolutionary Tales) The […]
so to speak
A scene from Rousseau’s Confessions1 We were walking away from the bookstore, where we had just purchased a second copy (with a nicer cover) of Nabokov’s translation of and commentary on Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, and to pass the time before dinner we talked about Pushkin’s short stories. PF mentioned that Pushkin was noted for his […]
In the mending basket were three pairs of trousers waiting in diverse states of wear and disarray. They had been waiting there for some months, and weighing on my mind for longer – indeed, since I gathered them together with patch and thread and needle to undertake the task of repair, before setting them aside […]
memory, the field of vision, consciousness, a spark.
on dogs, walking, running, Mongolia and nature.
To begin with how it is. Sun fallen behind the ridge to the south, the light fading in the valley, though still bright on the northern hills. Raking up after a frost, hoping to clear the drive and the edges of the road before the rain. For I can push a barrow as well as […]
a singular philosophy
The view from the ridge, circa late summer 2017. The path that I like to walk (and have for some years) is the beginning of a nine-mile trail that goes up to a Forest Service lookout (which I have not yet reached, and probably never will, by that route). The trail climbs a series of […]
on being seen
Tu n’as rien vu à Hiroshima. Rien. // J’ai tout vu. Tout. Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed. —Arthur Conan Doyle (‘A Scandal in Bohemia’, section 1) Had Marguerite Duras […]
It was around the time I was reading the first or second of a series of translations of Beowulf and I mentioned it in passing in an email. My correspondent replied that they thought they should probably read more fiction, but it was hard to find the time. This response surprised, not because I thought […]
A view (51)
Autumn afternoon, Zigzag.
diabolo, l’emigrette & la dame de pique
On toys, literature, gaming, and the perils of history.
Nothing is quite what I’m expecting at the moment. If November was a month in which I could read fluently and easily and joyfully and curiously, December is, or currently seems to be, a month in which nothing makes sense, and every word on a page makes me peevish. I am tempted to retreat into […]
A glimpse of the season’s first snowfall, through the window, at night. The first snow of the season (or the first snow I was awake to see falling) reminded me of something that I’ve been meaning to do. I am trying to read more patiently – not necessarily more attentively or carefully, but more patiently, or […]
21 December 2020 – Portland
Tumbled out of the apartment building, only to find myself in the neighborhood where I have lived, on and off, for perhaps ten years.1 The neighbors pass, masked, some with their dogs and others circumspect, head bowed against the mizzle. It is the solstice, and there’s little I’d like more than to hibernate a while, […]
The other evening I was annoying myself by trying to think up answers to the question ‘what is your favorite book?’ It’s a silly question, because books are good for so many different things – one (generally) wants different things from a cookbook and a poetry chapbook; and it’s a different question from ‘what do you […]