Generally: life’s intrusions
They have started to appear along the forest path. First there was one, and the precarity was amusing; between one walk and the next the stack usually would have toppled, either gravity or other passers-by objecting. Now they line the path, darkling signposts, and the sight unnerves me – one such is charming, but seven or […]
A view of Constantinople, ca. 1635, by Matthäus Merian Somewhat jokingly I said that I wanted the shelves to reflect the great arc of history, not a hodgepodge of regional narratives. In the beginning, this was fine. There was room, narrative room, to arrange the books in something like a chronology to present something like […]
It is supposed to be warm this weekend and, as usual, there is no air conditioning. Well, that is not quite accurate. There are two air-conditioning units, which may or may not work, that the previous owners left in the storage area, but there are no window supports and no instruction manuals and no one […]
It is a foolish question – what book is the most formally perfect? – because it assumes, first, that there is an ideal form for a book, and second, that perfection is attainable.1 The only perfection possible is the heat death of the universe – frozen droplets of iron suspended, isolated, in a deafening void, […]
I don’t think the illustrator got the phthisical phiz of Lorry Slim quite right in this dapper sketch of a portly parson. Idleness does not cause disease primarily and in itself, but by means of excess. For parts of the body characterized by idleness become weaker and less robust, as each excess comes about due […]
the forest path
Sometime near the end of last November or beginning of December I managed to hurt my left heel. For the first two weeks or so I didn’t allow myself to think too much about it and kept my daily routine of walking (usually some three to five miles, depending on the weather and my inclinations), […]
What on earth does this Socrates of yours mean?
the guest-room bookshelf
Not quite a guest-room bookshelf, ca. 2012. So many books enter one’s life through happenstance, rather than through the ordered chaos of book reviews or bibliographies or the propinquity of a library or bookstore shelf (each good in its way).1 This aleatoric approach to book selection is something I associate with travelling, and I like […]
A passage from Homo Ludens, chapter VIII. The small points when reading for a project (arbitrary or intentional), when discrete facts from disparate sources align to form, in another text, a constellation, the resonances of which exceed the harmonics intended by the author. So in reading Johann Huizinga’s Homo Ludens as part of a broader […]
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, […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
Saint Jerome Reading, (Jusepe de Ribera [called Lo Spagnoletto], ca. 1624) Proteus: Upon some book I love I’ll pray for thee. Valentine: That’s on some shallow story of deep love… The chair from which I work is by a window – or a set of windows, rather – overlooking a street and some trees and, […]
As in a moment, some weeks or months passed without record. This is not to say that nothing happened.
For reasons I don’t fully understand, I have not been able to concentrate on reading this year. Perhaps it is because so much of my working time is spent reviewing words on a screen that when I am through, I no longer feel the need to look at more words. This does not seem like […]
too dark to read
It is strange, this land of dogs. A cat may occur in secret, but the dog translates one into a different culture, which runs parallel but only partially visible to the commonplace of books and walks and cemeteries. Strangers speak to me now on the street, wanting to greet the dog, needing apologies when the […]
…if ever we should find ourselves disposed not to admire those writers and artists […] whom all the learned had admired, not to follow our own fancies, but to study them until we know how and what we ought to admire: and if we cannot arrive at this union of admiration with knowledge, rather to […]
The days are warm; even the stacks of books at the local bookstore relax into a puddle on the floor, unable to withstand the heat.
The walk to work takes an hour to cover approximately three miles. This is a bit slow, perhaps, but given the uncertain state of draw bridges, traffic signals, and my own ambling pace, it feels about right. It gives me plenty of time to think – about the day ahead, about anything at all. The […]
Truth and lies are faced alike; their port, taste, and proceedings are the same, and we look upon them with the same eye. I find that we are not only remiss in defending ourselves from deceit, but that we seek and offer ourselves to be gulled; we love to entangle ourselves in vanity, as a […]
the will to be peeved
Drawing (with self portrait) from one of William James’s notebooks I don’t quite remember what led me to read William James. It could have been PF talking about him, or the mention in The Dead Ladies Project, or it could have been something I’ve forgotten about entirely. In any case, I settled in and read […]
It has become the favored place to go for a stroll. It is quiet. The world passes through slowly, the shifting seasons providing the most dramatic changes – fallen branches, frost heaves, holly berries, and flowers in spring. One sets external concerns aside; even the most tenacious anxiety or care has been, by the time […]
It has been unexpectedly cold, and on that particularly evening we were preparing for a very cold weekend, with frost and potentially snow. The puddles from recent rains had frozen, which is a rare thing – if I had a better memory, I could probably count on one hand the number of times this has […]
and another thing
Eventually, it did snow.
A view (46)
Meaning and mediocrity.
up to nature
Mirror Lake on an overcast day Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable. [ . . . ] If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much. –Mary Oliver, ‘How I go to […]
One might be tempted to think this is merely the result of a false sort of conjugation, something along the lines of: ‘I have taste; you have preferences; s/he has an unfortunate partiality’; except I would be the first to admit that I have no real taste – it has been rarefied out of me […]
A rather large spider has taken up residence in the living room. Well, it is not so much that the spider is large as that it has, shall we say, presence: one notices this spider. Indeed, it notices one right back, turning and glaring (if indeed spiders may be said to glare) when one comes […]
It cost too much, to begin with. I really had no excuse for buying it, except that I was feeling out of sorts and aphoristic philosophy seemed like a good choice at the time; it seemed to be a clean copy, too, which would go a little way to excusing the price. At home, however, […]
Forgot Easter is tomorrow. A gaggle of families carried four outsize crosses (not sturdy enough to bear human weight, but strong enough for faith I dare say) in the direction of the river. A few minutes later, a fifth cross scurried down the sidewalk to catch up. Or so it seemed from the coffee shop. […]
There are imperfections. A part of me would like to say that I have made a thing that is as perfect as possible, that the work’s flaws are entirely due to lack of technique or poor materials, but that is not the case: I have been lazy. I have made errors and, though I have […]
At this point it is unlikely I will finish reading any more books this year, so I might as well make a list of the books I most enjoyed reading in 2015: Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon Dashiell Hammett, The Thin Man Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby Anne Garréta, Sphinx Mary Lascelles, Jane […]
let no man speak
It has been a wretched week. Black cats crossed my path, a man missing a leg turned up on my doorstep claiming to live in my apartment, the car which I have the use of declined to start, and the rain – normally a solace – has almost seemed a blight. For consolation I turned […]
In the middle of too many projects. Work projects, personal projects, web projects, textile projects, reading projects. Everything is – or rather has become – a project, mostly because I am too lazy to try to think of another way of thinking about things. So I am left with these projects, which given my laziness […]
Now Reader, don’t go making trouble fixing names to all this. I say thereଁs not a person nor a thing in this book that ever stepped outside of this book. It’s all out of my head. And don’t go looking like a sick cat for wicked envy, it’s a thing you might come to yourself: […]
A view (44)
I cannot allow those other common friendships to be placed in the same line with ours. I have as much knowledge of them as another, and of the most perfect of their kind, but I should not advise any one to measure them with the same rule; he would be much mistaken (190). anachronism –entry […]
a mere habit
It is snowing outside and there is nothing to do save sit in front of the fire and read. Indeed, there is nothing one would rather be doing. Did she distrust all figurative language because she was sharply aware of the aptitude of the most languid figurative expressions for persisting as a mere habit of […]
Evidence of a brief excursion outdoors. There’s a fire in the fireplace. There are books on the table. It’s misting outside in the true Oregon manner.
mise en scène
The other day I noticed that the old apartment was empty – the one we had lived in before. It faces west with a view of the city, and has certain conveniences (a trundle bed, a refrigerator that doesn’t block a window) that the current apartment lacks. I emailed the property manager about it, to […]
barrier to entry
Reading at the window, December 2013. There were too many things to do this summer, each day crowded with too of the little nothings that are so necessary if anything is going to happen. Now, though, projects are winding down, and there’s nothing to do but bustle about and procrastinate on those last few things […]
Scent through the open window – party-goer’s perfume or an evening bath, mothballed sociability. Dull beats from the club, from the event space fluorescent light, and the shouting or murmurs of the smokers. Another scent. Ready for winter – ready to close the windows.
Out and about. It’s been warm and that brings with it vexation. I’ve been filling out paperwork for other people and then carrying it hither and thither because it can’t be emailed, but only faxed; fax machines and I have a long-standing disagreement, so walking it is.1 I could use the exercise, anyway. I sometimes […]
I can’t remember if that was the actual color of the sky or if that was just what my camera saw.
Taking pictures around the house. It’s the repeated, regular acts – the habits – that are, oddly, the most interesting thing. I wouldn’t have thought it. For his own part, Adams inclined to think that neither chaos nor death was an object to him as a searcher of knowledge – neither would have vogue in […]
A down-graded storm. There are of course other things I should be doing, even other things I should be reading, but just at the moment detective stories seem to be what I want. They are amusing and plotty and charmingly shamefaced. There’s not a one that takes itself too seriously, not one that claims it […]
A few books close at hand. Her favourite reading was a mouldy old book called Urn Burial, that she read in bed; and she liked creepy, rustling things like tortoises and cacti. She had a dark, haggard face that made one think of an old graveyard, but her eyes were so dark and deep that […]
The path thither. There has been a stagnant air warning for the area during the past couple of days – extending through the middle of the next week (and into the new year, I suppose). Smoke from the local stoves collects in any open space, and probably mingles with the exhaust from day-trippers going up […]
The typewriter has found a new home. Well, I found a new home for it some months ago – hopefully with someone who will it give it some use. I don’t hold out much hope for it, though. One acquires things like this, of dubious beauty and doubtful utility, either as a pose or because […]
No snow, sadly. And of course expected – hoped for – snow at the mountain for Christmas; I’m sure there is, too, another few hundred feet further up. The only thing for it is to skate Skarphedin-like across the hardwood floors in stocking’d feet for another cup of tea.
…life’s earnestness is in no way to sit on the sofa and pick one’s teeth… —Søren Kierkegaard (Repetition, p.4) In Repetition Kierkegaard tells the story of two trips to Berlin – one of his attempts to prove the theory of repetition. On the first trip he had a grand time, stayed in a fine apartment, […]
remarks on teaching
Students in the English club. After five years of teaching and team-teaching and teacher-training and observing lessons, I look at this picture and still cringe that one of the students is texting. It’s a club, sure, but do me the favor of paying attention.1 Students paying attention isn’t the point of English classes or clubs, […]
hours of indolence
…and of course one begins the year with the best of intentions, sweeping through books at a gallant pace, which one’s attempts at scribbling cannot match.
It’s too cold to ride.
It’s nice not to have to focus on anything.
hope against hope (1)
in which nothing much is said, especially about Hope Mirrlees.
I live in fear that there is not enough material to complete the task. This fear prevents me from doing anything with or about or to or on the project; it is much easier that way. I need never fear that it will be incomplete, because it will never be done. Yes, that will do.
We are at last reduced to talking about the weather. I suppose it must happen eventually, when you are learning a language – talking about the weather. It is more than collection of vocabulary and predictions, though; we haven’t anything else to talk about. Daily routines, general likes and dislikes, grammatical particularities, and the answers […]
Four men in orange vests clean the street. Two men work with overgrown spatulas – or worn down snow shovels – tapping the surface to break up the compacted snow, then scraping it towards the side of the road. They work together, each working on half of a lane (with, meanwhile, a clear lane of […]
Getting ready for the talent show. It was the last day of the fall vacation, and the teachers competed in a talent show. Each of the departments put together as many performances as they could, in the least amount of time. I think the foreign language department started working on their act on Monday. Luckily […]
View of Darkhan. The snow stays on the ground mingling with the dust, not melting even under the sun. Everything is very dry. The dust is the same color and texture of finely ground coffee, as though one could scoop it up into a սրճեփ and enjoy one’s cup of bitterness on the rolling steppe. […]
Women from the surrounding rural districts come to the city to sell food; milk and yogurt in the morning, and vegetables in the afternoon. Running late for school one morning, I saw two women quarrel over their barrels of yogurt. Three men in fur-collared coats had difficulty in keeping them apart, as they went at […]
The other sign in the classroom says ‘Knowledge is essential to freedom’.
And in choosing, from the mid-afternoon drowse, between a biography of Virginia Woolf, some slightly silly essayettes,1 and English Society in the Eighteenth Century (which is, as it sounds, an introductory history to society in 18th century England), I must choose the latter – because its aims are clear, and it will not fight with […]
Books. There’s an invoice there, too.
the importance of reading long books.
aydqan mard es
The more languages you know, the more of a (hu)man you are.
the local library
NB: This entry was initially published as a page to solicit donations to fund a project supporting the library; the campaign was successful. Goris is a small town located in the rugged mountains of Syuniq marz, which is the southernmost region in Armenia. Once the cultural center of the region, its situation on the road […]
it was in the bleak december
Ah yes, distinctly I remember, what I was doing ten years ago today. Of course looking at where I’ve been: 2000 (-ish)1 2005 …and where I am now:2 …one hardly knows what to expect for the next ten years.3Not the exact view, but close enough [↩]Well, the picture is from last year as Goris isn’t […]
Cowpaths The image occurs to me: Odysseus’ men eating the cattle of the sun; because they are hungry of course. But they do not see that the cattle are sacred, and more to the point, do not belong to them. The word returns to me: νήπιοι. And it felt good to say it.1Which is not […]
the heart of the matter
have a rest
Tuck the blanket around your feet, lean back in your deck chair. Go and have a rest.
The view from the kitchen.1 The landlord came to the apartment to repair the leaky sink in the kitchen, which was leaky because the neighbors are doing some remodeling and wanted to separate our plumbing from theirs. The landlord works long hours, and has to deal with people who don’t always want to do what […]
A cup of over-steeped tea brings back the memory of student days, bent over a book, surrounded by papers, the tea overdrawing and becoming tepid, forgotten, on the desk. Legs crossed at the ankles, or sitting on one foot, it is possible to forget time itself, to say nothing of a cup of tea. A […]
We’ve been waiting for the school to be remodeled for a long time. We were supposed, at first, to move in on the first of September 2008; this was quickly adjusted to 1 Sept. 2009. Knowledge day1 came and went and the building was still not ready. The director clenched and fretted in her tiny […]
a backwards glance
The sight of a Greek head depresses many people, strikes an unliberated chord, reminds them of books in their grandmother’s parlor and of all they were supposed to learn and never did. —Joan Didion (‘The Getty’ in The White Album, p. 75)
The journey from the capital to the southern cities has an allegorical feel, especially when leaving through the equinoctial twilight. We speed along the straightaways through the floodplains beneath the summits of unattainability, then slow to twist and turn through the vale of woe, night and snow falling hard through the trees. We rise through […]
I’m holding the envelope in my hand, the envelope which says where I’m going to spend the next few years. It feels like I’m holding my future, that it’s fragile and if I look at it incorrectly it will spontaneously combust or dissolve into dust. I know this is not true. I know that it […]
The memory of cranes flying in rain-heavy sky, lit in low-slanting sunlight; tall grasses and the bounce and hum of a bus; gold-leaved crowns, and painted walls, dank scent of earth, and the brightness of the cranes, flying. Don’t know what direction they flew, nor what direction I went, but away from the past and […]
Since selling off most of the books earlier this year, I’ve been trying to avoid purchasing more, which has led to increased, or perhaps simply more self-conscious library usage. The following are the books I have most recently checked out of the public and local university libraries (including three interlibrary loans): Aksakov: Years of Childhood […]
They took away sixteen boxes of books, a future, a past & a half-baked dream, and left a bill of sale, a cheque, and an increasing sense of freedom.
My bookshelves look like a fighter’s mouth, full of painful and surprising gaps. Even books I thought I could not do without, books that shaped my taste and who I am, are gone. Let me explain. When we decided to move abroad I knew, of course, that most1 of the books would have to be […]
Cataloguing one’s home library has its good points. Entering in ISBNs and publication information is a wonderful way to devour time. One also gets a chance really to look at one’s books; one so seldom has the opportunity. One buys the book, sometimes one even reads it,1 and then it goes on the shelf, jumbled […]
The look of sunflowers bent in the streetlight. Streets butting into dead ends and empty lots (still smelling of farmland), signposted ‘private property, trespassing, loitering forbidden’. Circumspect distance maintained between pedestrians while waiting for the crosswalk signal in pseudo-suburbia: ca. eight feet. Inconvenient end of the concrete sidewalk in molehills, broken glass, blackberry brambles and […]
Three chairs on the deck of the house opposite rock of their own volition, looking at the sea and seven sail-less sailboats. The bright pink flowers of potted geranium plants refuse to lose their petals. And I, sadly, am reading William Hazlitt.
we like sheep
a versifying Pet-lamb.
they say it’s May
cf. She schools the flighty pupils of her eyes, With levell’d lashes stilling their disquiet; And puts in leash her pair’d lips lest surprise Bare the condition of a realm at riot. If he suspect that she has ought to sigh at His injury she’ll avenge with raging shame. She kept her love-thoughts on most […]
To move away from one thing is not necessarily to approach another, though this may be the unintended consequence; to move towards an object does not require departing from another – but this, too, often happens. Few can observe their impulses with perspicacity.
I was sitting on the floor outside one of the meeting rooms at a rather silly academic conference—as one does, you know: it makes one ‘memorable’.1 It was the morning of, I think, the third day, about fifteen minutes before the first round of papers was to begin.2 As I was sitting on the floor, […]
Such dim-conceived glories of the brain Bring round the heart an undescribable feud; So do these wonders a most dizzy pain, That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude Wasting of old Time—with a billowy main— A sun—a shadow of a magnitude. —John Keats (‘On Seeing the Elgin Marbles’) Allow me to sound heartless for a […]
Note to Self (4)
11 January 2003.
Treasons, Strategems, &c.
‘Most of the people I like,’ she said, ‘listen to the same sort of music I do—it’s how we find out what we have in common.’ Most of the people I like do not listen to the same sort of music as I do—mainly, I think, because the sort of music I really like is […]
Something about Kurt Weill. About Aristotle’s Rhetoric, and Fellini’s La Strada, about Der Blaue Engel or Byzantium. Also something about wishing that Richard Burton played the part of Humbert Humbert in Kubrick’s Lolita, that more people resembled Peter Sellers, that someone, soon, would write a really good experimental novel that was, at the same time, […]
With the greatest of ease
Departure The British are a humorous people; on the coach to Heathrow the driver urged us to ‘notice, please, ladies and gentlemen, that your seats are equipped with seatbelts. As you no doubt are keenly aware, there have been a spate of road accidents involving buses. In one of the latest, five people died, fifty-five […]
Note to Self (3)
9 December 2002.
So I’ve been trying to sort it out; the social life of my house-mates, I mean. Not that I’m interested. Because I’m not. But as a means of distraction. Diversion, that’s it. So there are three other girls. Well. Two girls, I would say, and one young woman, which may be too fine a distinction, […]
For words have a weight beyond their meaning, the sound of the stithy drawing measure from the iron of Elizabethan poetry, skirting the Joycean quicksilver to forge a something other than consciousness—a feeling, then, a fear. The chthonic sibilance and uneven lisp hammering out associations and leaving nothing but the need to hear.
Note to Self (2)
17 November 2002.
The child was small, with glasses, and carried a bright bouquet of Gerbera daisies wrapped in cellophane. He offered a pint of ice cream to his mother. Mother: No, dear, put it back; we don’t need ice cream today. Child: Why not?
At the top of the theater, the benches are steep, unpadded, unbacked. The voice of the Vice-Chancellor rises dimly droning, and the broken light from the windows moves across the faces of the students on the (padded) seats below.
Note to Self (1)
15 September 2002.
Lustral Basins, or the Archaeology of Remembrance
We stood in the sun, which was sharp and swimmingly white, though not quite directly overhead. The only thing brighter than the sunlight was the dust, which swirled and eddied low around our feet, stirred by the rare breezes. The olive trees and other low, scrubby plants were soaked in this dust, and seemed nearly […]
Finally it became a matter of principle, this standing about doing nothing. I watched and waited and wondered when the flies would land, when the process of decay would become incontrovertible. The inexplicability of it almost startled me; but it was, I think, beautiful.
11.06.02 – Tuesday
When I was around five years old, my father took a sabbatical from the institution and drove the family in a brown Ford van throughout the western United States. We stopped at numerous national parks – Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, the Grand Tetons, even the Badlands: you get the picture. My grandparents on my […]
12.03.02 – Tuesday
Searching. The heaviness behind the eyes – which at present comes of wanting to read. Waiting. I would like tomorrow to be done with, complete, perfected. That seems to me the most horrible thing a person could wish – the negation of possibilities. Aimless drifting. The steadfast refusal of the orders to resolve. Crumbling. Tottering. […]
09.03.02 – Saturday
10 a.m. – overcast – damp concrete and asphalt – buildings and cars reduced to slick darkness. The taste of old coffee settles, permanent, in my mouth, ashen, dull. I woke up late and my only desire was to read about history – Chinese history, architectural history: history. Anyway. Then, after noon. Appeareth the sun, […]
28.02.02 – Thursday
Note: I can no longer see where the pillow was stained when you spilled coffee on it.
10.01.02 – Thursday
I wonder if it isn’t just a certain arrogance, quaedam insolentia, that marks the difference. There’s a nuance to that – it’s not just an overweening sense of superiority, it’s also an innocence, an ignorance, an inexperience. Yes, I suppose.
Is it possible to feel nostalgia for a place one has not left? Can one miss and long for the very place one happens to be, because one shall too soon leave? I dread returning to my country.
note to self (a) 9.iii.2004
anachronism When you reach that point when everyone says: ‘thank you, I’m not actually interested in you: just listen to my problems, they’re important, you know’; when there’s no one left to whom you can write and complain or even express yourself clearly because, in keeping back different pieces of yourself from different people, you […]