Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lines Written on a Window

Daily Dose

From Just Kids, by Patti Smith


"My table manners appalled Robert.  I could see it in the cast of his eyes, the turn of his head.  When I ate with my hands, he thought it drew too much attention, even while he'd be sitting in the booth bare-chested, wearing several beaded necklaces and an embroideed sheep-skin vest."

From page 64

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Night Is Darkening Round Me

Daily Dose

From Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond


"If they would behave themselves in captivity, grizzlies would be a fabulous meat production animal."

From Chapter 9, Zebras, Unhappy Marriages, and the Anna Karenina Principle

Sunday, December 29, 2013

To a Leaf Falling in Winter

Daily Dose

From The Braindead Megaphone, by George Saunders


"In America, anything even circa-1980s is considered Historical and in fact, several of my fortysomething friends have recently had National Historic Landmark plaques surgically mounted, against their will, into their foreheads."

From A Brief Study of the British

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Snow Storm

Daily Dose

From Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis


"The International Organization of Boosters' Clubs had become a world-force for optimism, manly pleasantry, and good business.  Chapters are to be found now in thirty countries.  Nine hundred and twenty of the thousand chapters, however, are in the United States."

From Chapter XXI

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Times Are Nightfall

Daily Dose

From Four Plays by Aristophanes


"Look here, there are a million and one young guys around.
You know, Tragic Poets
who can outgabble Euripes by a country mile."

From The Frogs

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Silver Filigree

Daily Dose

From Great Expectations, Charles Dickens


"'This is very discouraging,' said I.
'Meant to be so,' said Wemmick."

From Chapter 17

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Walter de la Mare

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen—and kissed me there.

Daily Dose

From The Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan


"I deem I have half a guess of you, your name is old Honesty, is it not?  So the old gentleman blushed, and said, 'Not Honesty in the abstract, but Honest is my name, and I wish that my nature shall agree to what I am called.'"

 From page 312, Penguin Classic Edition, Great-heart talks to Mr. Honest

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

All About Eve

Above would be a portrait of the bookseller as Holiday retailer on Christmas Eve.  Shocking want of cheer, beyond, that is, the hat, obviously.  Truth be told, it's at least felt a very busy, bustling sort of Season; children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile and that sort of thing.  (In so humble a position as mine, I am largely spared the cold realities of the numbers.)  Important to remember also that I at least look forward to working in the bookstore this time of year.  I thoroughly enjoy recommending gifts for elderly maiden aunts, reviewing wrapping-paper-options over the phone, finding the one copy of a most unlikely title for a most unlikely present.

Still, by the time it's all nearly done, one does get just the teensiest bit... crispy 'round the edges.  (Though as evidenced by the ever so flattering picture here, still noticeably soft at the center.)

That said, Christmas Eve is quite possibly my favorite bookselling day of the year.  The staff is a bit giddy, not only in anticipation of a paid Holiday, but also I must confess, I do like the somewhat frantic note of desperation that charges the atmosphere with a very special energy on this last day before choices may become regrets and or returns.  (Plus, we close early.  That's always nice.)

A quick review then of my most noted encounters with customers from this abbreviated shopping opportunity:

"Do you have that new book about an old Japanese lady?"  We did.  Turns out, it was a book-jacket described almost accurately, though incorrectly by the person to whom the book was to be given, and that the title for which this individual was actually looking was Jung Chang's new biography, Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China.  That took a bit of conversation to get to, let me tell you.  (Excellent book, by the way.  I haven't finished it, but I have been reading in it at lunch-breaks for some time now, and the story is of a far more sympathetic figure than I'd ever imagined, at least as Jung Chang tells it.)

"Do you know how to use a calender?"  I do.  This from a small person of limited experience, one assumes, in such matters.  She had been encouraged by her immediate supervisors to pick out a wall calender as a gift for her grandmother.  She'd made a very nice selection, of something large, with reproductions, curiously, of antique advertisements for liquor, but she could not, for the life of her, figure out how the damned thing worked.  I began to explain the modern calendrical system, but she waved this way.  She understood all that well enough.  What she wanted to know was how to move the calendar from month to month and how to hang the thing.  I demonstrated how the pages turned, and where the hook went over the nail.  She was taken aback at the idea of a nail in the wall -- something she seemed to find vaguely irresponsible -- but otherwise accepted my instruction as fundamentally sound.  (Were I to predict, I'd say the young lady has a future in real estate management.)

And finally:

"Can you recommend anything for my mother-in-law?"

"Certainly.  What does she read?"

"You know... books."

And -- scene.

We did find the poor woman some books, by the way.  She will be shocked.

Daily Dose

From The Poems of Tennyson, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson


"Each voice four changes on the wind,
That now dilate, and now decrease,
Peace and goodwill, goodwill and peace,
Peace and goodwill, to all mankind."

From Voices in the Mist

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Thomas Carlyle: A History of His Life in London, 1834 - 1881, Volume II, by James Anthony Froude


"I am but low-spirited, you see.  Want of potatoes, I am ashamed to say, is the source of everything, and I will give up."

From Chapter XXVI, Alone in Cheyne Row, and a letter to Jane Welsh Carlyle Aug. 31

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Not in Entire Forgetfulness

The consequences of the print die-off continue to surprise. Last year the bookstore where I work finally wrote-off a lot of unsold, bound sheet-music, full scores and songbooks. Most of this was Dover and so unreturnable, and some of the stuff was just old and unloved. A lot of these books were oversized and or awkwardly floppy, so their last go 'round was in a big, black bin -- always sad, I think. Little good can come of books in a big, black bin. Mozart and Rossini operas, rockers, piano music, finally, it all just... went. Went pretty fast, at half off. Didn't take long at all to empty the bin.

I can't read music.  It's a damned shame that in my rather spotty education, some time might not have been taken to learn so simple a thing as this.  Perhaps it was tried, I can't remember, but if I ever knew even the rudiments, I have forgot them.  I think now of what pleasure there might be had in following, as I know some friends still do, the scores of Handel and Bach, this time of year.  I won't even let myself consider what it might be like to sing such music.  My singing voice, what there was of it, was at its best before my voice changed and that, my dears, was long long ago.  Still, as someone who spends a good part of his time away from work listening to music, I do rather wish I understood it better, knew at least something of it's mysteries, could follow even it's simplest forms on a page.

Before anyone suggests that there might be no better time for me than the present to correct this failure, let me just say I have made my peace.  I am not a fast study.  I do not take up what seems better left.  No, I may allow myself a bit of sighing here, but no more than that.  It is what it is, my always faulty faculty for learning, and I dare not try it so far as a new language.  (When we took our one trip to Europe, I managed just enough Italian to ask where the WC was, how much something cost, and where to get a bus-ticket.  I understand I have a decent ear for accents, but for actual languages learned, I am grateful to have even such English as I've acquired.)

My point here is a more general one.  Part of what it means to work, as I do in a great general bookstore has for me always been that all around me, whether I had either the need or the notice of it, was the evidence of culture greater than my own.  Do not misunderstand me, this is still the case and I have no intension of reviewing yet again the depredations consequent of changing economic forces in the book business as elsewhere.  Rather, I only make note of this one reduction, this singular loss, to which I have no direct connection, to pose a question:

Where did that music go?

If, as this example would seem to show, all that sheet music did indeed get purchased after it was clearanced away to nothing, who has it now?  Is it in a piano-bench somewhere?  On a bookcase?  in a library?  The books weren't burned or trashed.  Those scores and songbooks ended up somewhere, someone, I repeat, bought the damned things, but who and where are they now?

If no one anymore seemed to come looking for these things, how is it we were able to sell them all so quickly once they'd had their prices halved?

What to conclude from this?  That musicians are poor?  That's as may be.  That the prices of all these things were too high?  That may have been true as well.  The fact remains, there is still an audience for something we were not able to sell, and as a direct consequence of deciding to get all but out of the business of selling such stuff, ironically enough, we seem to have met a need we have not otherwise been able to address.

Seems to me that the evidence, however anecdotal it might be, is all to the side of the good in a strange way.  There may be no good to this story in so far as bookstores are concerned.  We can not, after all, simply sell everything at a price that might appeal.  That would hardly work, even the week's time it might take to go bankrupt.  As for more specialized retailers, when was the last time one saw a music store?  No.  There is no good news in this little story but for whoever it was found all that glorious good stuff in a bin and bought it.  It's that small happiness from which, strangely enough, I take heart.

Nothing, it seems, nothing of real value, ever goes away entirely.  Seems a silly thing to say; too obvious, surely, if true, and possibly not even true at that.  History does not support this theory without at least some qualification.  How many great things, how many whole cultures have disappeared, been erased by conquest and war, devastated by ignorance and superstition, fear and folly?  And yet, with all that.

A friend who'd been to stay with us just this last week and a conversation we had rather in our cups, too late at night, inspired this note.  Without attempting to repeat or reproduce our conversation, just the other day, as I passed the Music section in the bookstore, I was reminded of it.

As might be imagined, we neither of us solved the problem of deciding what is best, let alone of preserving what is best or redressing the losses of mankind that night at my kitchen table.  But my friend, for me represents something very like my reason to hope for the continuation of all good, human things even after he and I are long gone.  He is himself a musician, an instrument maker, an artist, and like artists from time immemorial, he is a bohemian sort of fellow, living very much hand to mouth, and none too sure of his next gig, or even his next meal.  I like to tease him for his somewhat eccentric preference for medievalism and instruments and music made well before the first piano was tuned.  He has learned not to be so easily bullied by the likes of me, and he is quick now to call me out on my Philistine affectations to know anything really on the subject of anything but, to concede to me my little due, Victorian novelists and minor Romantic poets.  (Bless him.  How I do miss his company when he is away.)

I like to think, though it may be no more than sentimentalism on my part, that even such a bull-session as ours keeps at least a spark glowing.  More than that though, and wholly more significant than any nonsense I may ever talk across a kitchen-table or the counter of a bookstore, I like to think that it may well have been someone very like my friend who decided to forgo a meal or two and buy all that glorious, to me indecipherable beauty from that black bin in the bookstore last year.

My friend teaches, you see.  He seldom does so in any very formal setting.  His education, in its way is worse even than mine, but in a more significant sense, his has been infinitely better, as he has taught himself to teach even as he's learned; every time, or nearly every time he plays, or leads plain-song, or makes some masque from nothing, puts on a puppet show of The Book of Job (!) or simply talks to some child or elderly enthusiast of "shape-note", my friend teaches.

I am, to an embarrassingly significant degree, past learning much, even from my friend.  This much however I am confident in having learned from him already.  So long as there are musicians in this world, there will be music.  So long as there are teachers, there will be students.  While what is best and what survives, as he so fiercely insists, may not be always the same thing, he himself proves that something good goes on, if only from individual to eccentric individual, so long as the human race does, "Insha'Allah," as he would say.

I can't pretend that anything I do, selling books, talking about books, boring people, to be honest, often as not about books I'm unlikely to convince many other people to read, will have anything like the same power to continue my enthusiasms on into unseen generations.  I can't worry too much about that.  We do what we can, each in our way.

I do like to think tonight that somewhere in this city, there is someone singing, or playing or simply following a score, had for a song, all but by chance, because it was there, in a bin.

Just as I found a book, once, more than once, in just such a sorry place.  (Was it, Wordsworth, do you think?)

Nothing is lost unless and until there is no one left to find it, no?

Thanks,"Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie/Thy Soul's immensity" for the reminder.

Daily Dose

From The Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


"So sat they once at Christmas,
And bade the goblet pass;
In their beards the red wine glistened
Like dew-drops in the grass."

From King Witlaf's Drinking-Horn

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Something I Do Every Year

Recently, via social media, I've been asked to name my favorite carols, my favorite Christmas music, my favorite Christmas albums, etc.  Not from nowhere come such questions, believe me.  I own entirely too much Christmas music.  I own, in fact, a ridiculous number of Christmas records.  No way 'round it -- for an atheist, I do love me some sacred music.

How to explain this?  I might natter away about our common, cultural heritage, the omnipresence of Christmas music in the retail environment where I've worked for thirty years, perhaps the nostalgia in which we are all of us awash this time of year, and all of that would be true enough.  For whatever reason though, even as I've rejected supernatural explanations of reality, and embraced with enthusiasm an entirely secular worldview, I can not but admit the fact that as soon as December rolls inexorably 'round each year, out come the Christmas records and until the New Year, I will listen to little else in my private hours.

I simply love the stuff.  Not all of it, off course.  There are certainly songs of the season that even I would consign to forgetfulness if I could.  As a man who makes lists every day and is glad of the slightest pretext for so doing, good or bad, I could as easily offer here what, in my opinion are the worst Christmas records ever; the least attractive renditions of holiday standards, the most overblown orchestrations in support of the flimsiest voices, the most appalling "updates" of the classics, etc.  I won't.  Why spoil the mood?  What I would rather do, if I may -- and who's to stop me? -- is just briefly provide without too much talk, the list of my favorites, here, for any as might want it.  I don't imagine I'll make any converts.  My former work-husband and I used to torture our former work-wife every year by caroling at her as early as October.  This was cruel, of course, specially as we were neither of us singers to begin with, but I confess, I at least did this only half in jest.  Any excuse, frankly.  I've even made the more advanced versions of the ol' "mixed tapes" specifically to share with some as don't much like the stuff.  This list though I offer to anyone already so inclined, with little or no thought to bring any reluctant listener 'round.  It's glorious stuff, but I do understand if it's not to everyone's taste.

Here then, just the five albums I listen to every year, straight through, over and over.  There's no real rationale to this.  This is just the short list, as it stands.

Perhaps the second classical recording I ever bought, The Elisabeth Schwarzkopf Christmas Album dates from I know not now when.  I bought it on vinyl in some charity shop, and eventually replaced that rather worn-out article with a CD as soon as I saw it in the new format.  I still listen to this record every year, almost in preference to other, in many ways, better recordings of much of the same material. It is Schwarzkopf's recording of Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht that plays in my head as soon as I think of Christmas.  It may be the only German I will ever know -- sort of -- off by heart.  The orchestra, the arrangements, even the singer's lovely, bright voice can all sound more than a bit old fashioned now.  It's all very formal, entirely traditional, even a bit poky I suppose.  Perhaps because of that, this record seems to preserve, at least for me, that moment of discovery when, as a boy, I first understood how something could be both pure and complex, simple and profoundly artful.  I understood this music, even as I marveled.  Listening to her sing Franck's Panis Angelicus is as near as I might imagine ever coming in this life again to prayer.

How very different great voices can be!  Here the next of my favorite voices, American this time, and as rich and full as a perfect tawny port, the great Marilyn Horne, with full orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, no less!  I know I am of the last generation to buy albums as such, with no thought to buying single songs, but had I no other option, I would be forced to choose between Horne's soulful recording here of  Lo, How a Rose E're Blooming or her big, booming, ridiculously lush Angels We Have Heard on High.  That first is quite simply the most movingly beautiful version of that song I am ever likely to hear, and the second has all the exuberance, optimism and soaring joy ever packed into that phrase, Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

And, a very different voice again.  Odetta was one of folk and Movement performers to whom I listened with fervid devotion in my youth, and then...  There's an earnestness, a sometimes joyless sincerity verging on didacticism to even the best musicians of that generation.  I like to think by now, lessons learned.  Nevertheless, Odetta's Christmas album seems to me as pure a thing as ever she made; there is real joy in this music, and reverence, and the kind of power that isn't to be explained away by saying the woman had a big voice.  Here she is, with just a guitar, singing Oh, Jerusalem and Shout for Joy among others, as if she was having church all by herself.  It's magical.  While I listen at least, I'm glad to go with her.

Then there's Etta.  There are as many if not more secular Christmas records in my collection as there are classical and or sacred.  There are lots of jazz and pop performers whose Christmas albums I love.  In addition to my singers, like Rosemary Clooney and Tony Bennett, and yes, Bing and Frank and Ella, I can't but keep Etta in rotation this time of year.  Hers is a favorite because she swings just as hard as Ella and the rest, but with a stomp and growl that was unique to this great lady's inimitable sound.  She rocks and she rolls, does Etta. She makes The Christmas Song sexy.  Her Merry Christmas, Baby is  the only answer to the Charles Brown original.  And when she rocks Joy to the World, singing just behind the beat, and cutting loose on that chorus, the roof shakes.

If I listen to all my Robert Shaw Christmas albums every year, and I pretty much do, it is particularly to those a-cappella arrangements from the old Joy to the World album, and reproduced on A Festival of Carols that I repeat and repeat.  The Robert Shaw Chorale was a glorious reclamation of choral music in America, and Shaw the man who made it.  Through all the many forms his choruses took, and all the glorious music they made, with and without accompaniment by great orchestras,  there was always the most amazingly clear and true sound of the human voice, blended into one perfect instrument, and no one ever played it so perfectly as Shaw.  Less pure, perhaps than the children's choruses from the great English cathedrals or Vienna, but nothing so warm, so frankly pleasant, familiar, inclusive and yes, American as the sound Robert Shaw made.

As I suggested above, this little list represents a truly tiny and by no means representative selection of the Christmas music I own and listen to.  Think of what I've left off!  How Odetta and not Mahalia?!  And yet, if I'm to be honest, and there's no reason not to be, this is it, what I listen to most, this time of year.

Anyone still looking for a place to start this Season, could do worse.  Meanwhile, I'm going to go root around in the boxes again and see if I can't find five more.

Daily Dose

From The Poems of Samuel Johnson


"But Hark! th' affrighted crowd's tumultuous cries
Roll through the streets, and thunder to the skies..."

From London

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Serial Doodler: A Brief Explanation

So I started making an annual calendar of my caricatures by way of a "Family Christmas Letter."  You will remember that rather uninviting tradition, surely?  Every December in the mail would come not just the time-honored seasonal cards and the awkwardly posed family Holiday photos (matching sweaters, matching grins, deadly cheer, etc.), but also, from one's least interesting relatives, the homemade newsletter.  Cousin X would have been "thrilled" to be starting a new job "in the motor-parts industry," while Cousin Y would be equally excited to review the progress of her ceramics.  The scholastic and intramural accomplishments of little second-cousins, Z & ZZ would be detailed down to third-place ribbons in 4H (category: calf,) and honorable mentions in sack-race and "hygiene."  This drear document would dutifully be passed from hand to hand, less than gently mocked and eventually, all-too easily consigned to the Yule blaze.

For some years, I did make Christmas cards.  Better say, I set myself the task and made a mess of it.  Over-thought?  Maybe.  The results tended to start off rather elaborately festive (round one, November, gilt-paper, hand-made envelopes) and would then accelerate dangerously into scribbled sentiments, stickers and unfolded, green card-stock, mailed at the last possible minute, or not at all.

When I made my first calendar of caricatures, I'd already had calendars made for the folks; old family photos, each as appropriate as possible to the corresponding month.  Looked good.  I understood the process and the cost, which is still entirely reasonable.  I wasn't sure if my pencil sketches would work in the new format, but I actually rather liked the results.  Selecting the best of the blog's drawings was a way of marking the year's passage -- a la the family newsletter, sorta -- without making something about my own, rather dull little life. (For that, in part, I have this.)  I've been making my calendars of literary caricatures, to give and to sell, ever since (the latest, I believe, is the fifth.)  The great benefit has of course been making something in multiples, to give as gifts, and having something of my own to sell as well.  It's proved to be mildly popular.

Then, last year, I did a little book just on the Espresso Book Machine, A Is for Auden: An Alphabet Book of Poets.  It was all original content, pictures and rhymes.  I was inordinately proud of it.  Keep in mind, it runs to roughly 35 pages, including the the hand-scribbled index.  Again, it was primarily meant as an easy gift to give, though in addition to the dozens I've given away, the bookstore has sold 50 copies, which has been a happy shock.

And so, at last, once more unto the breach.

This year, as I'd made no original book, and, as I am approaching the fifth anniversary of Usedbuyer2.0, I thought a retrospective of one sort or another.
Doodles seemed the obvious choice.  I've drawn and posted hundreds here; mostly just of passing faces and jokes very much of the moment at the general Information Desk.  However, with some regularity, I have gone off on a tear and just doodled a joke to death.  It was these that seemed to best worth preserving, though even here, I selected only those I thought might still amuse.

As always, I put all of this off far too long, fussed and muddled myself until the time was neigh too short for the doing.  I learned what a "flash drive" was, or rather, was instructed at least to buy one, plug it in and copy my files to it (having first figured out how to put the digital versions of my doodles into  virtual files.)  Through the truly heroic efforts of my friends and coworkers, Anna, Michael and Josh, and despite a solid month or more of mechanical difficulties with the EBM machine itself, we've only just managed to make copies of the thing to sell and send.

Here it now is, priced at $15.00, with a proper ISBN and barcode, and in stock as the much crowded printing queue will allow.  I hope to have a proper sort of launch for it at the bookstore, schedule allowing, near the end of February.  I mentioned using an "overhead projector" and was laughed down by my juniors, who will have to explain to me the finer operations of something called a "power-point presentation," whatever that may entail.  (I'm thinking maybe a doodle history of power-point presentations.)

If any then were curious what all fuss was about in the preceding few days and posts, this is it.  Call it, a "soft opening" (a somewhat revolting, if strangely inviting phrase, no?)  Anyway, here it is at last, my latest.  May it make someone laugh.  That's the hope, anyway.

Daily Dose

From London Characters & Crooks, by Henry Mayhew


"To quote the words printed on the proprietor's card, 'he is always at his old house at home, as usual, to discuss the FANCY generally.'"

From A Night at Rat-Killing

Thursday, December 19, 2013

First Post-Publication Serial Doodle

Daily Dose

From Thomas Carlyle: A History of His Life in London, 1834 - 1881, by James Anthony Froude


"When he was at home, his own discomforts, real or imaginary, left no room for thought of others."

From Chapter XXV, Mrs. Carlyle's Health

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Just (Barely) In Time for the Holidays!

So, this just happened. 

Daily Dose

From The Awakening and Selected Short Stories, by Kate Chopin


"A person can't have everything in this world; and it was a little unreasonable of her to expect it."

From The Kiss

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Poems of the Sea, edited by J. D. McClatchy


"Bad language or abuse,
I never, never use"

From H. M. S. Pinafore, by W. S. Gilbert

Monday, December 16, 2013

This Year's Introduction

The above photograph from my latest reading of Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory, is taken from a charming notice I found on line, from Rosemary, who I hope will not mind the liberty if I reproduce it here.

Below, would be the text of this year's introduction which I share for any that might be interested.  Call it, a statement of faith.

Welcome everybody! As most everyone here already knows, I'm Brad Craft, a bookseller here at the University Bookstore, and every year, I read aloud Truman Capote's little masterpiece, A Christmas Memory, among other things. Well, 'tis the season again.

'Tis the season, as they say, of Joy; “Joy to the world” and “Joyeux Noel,” “repeat,” indeed, “the sounding Joy,” etc. Joy, it seems, is all all over the place, under the tree, ours for the taking, everywhere you look, right underfoot, and to be had for a song. I read, and read aloud, for Joy. Joy, not of the sacred sort, perhaps, but joy nonetheless. Joy in the discovery of books, in the wonder of them. Joy in the familiar and the new. Joy in the sound of poetry and the resonance of great prose. Joy in the apt phrase and the original thought, in the expression of the individual mind, in the comic scene and the perfect sentiment. Like everyone else, I read to be moved, and amused, informed and entertained. I read to be made better by reading, and I read just to pass the time. I read aloud, as I say, for the joy of it – not, I would hasten to add, for any satisfaction with the sound of my own voice, all appearance to the contrary. I read aloud rather to remind myself, and any who might listen, that in literature there is Joy. In one way, the oldest way, to read aloud is to set that Joy at large; to say the words aloud, to hang even the old and familiar words, as it were, once again in the fresh air.

We know this Joy in the noise of words from the first words we say, and for which we are cossetted and made much of. And when our children and grandchildren want the same story read to them again, and again, and again, we are reminded – again – that the sound is how we, most of us, come to the sense. Sound is the source: of memory, of literature, of our primary communion with our fellow beings – though – noting the exception – it's true, I can't really speak for any of you more contemplative types, ye Buddhists and Quakers and the like. I'll leave you to shift for yourselves.

As for me, I read Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory aloud then, every year, for the Joy of it. (Remember this, please when I get to the sad bits. As Montaigne said, "The most profound joy has more of gravity than of gaiety in it."  And he would know better than me, about everything, frankly.)

And so, A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote.

Found in a Book

Near as I can tell, this was a prescription for "princess."  Can't expect to get that sort of thing just over the counter, can one?

Daily Dose

From Pensees, by Blaise Pascal, translated by A. J. Krailsheimer


"We never keep to the present.  We recall the past; we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight."

From I. Order, #47

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pictures from an Exhibition

Photos by Joe Garvin, bless 'im.

Daily Dose

From The Peasants and the Mariners, by Brian Bouldrey


"And so I am telling you about myself when I list the things I carry."

From Chapter Two, The Golden Age of Things