Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Queen Victoria: Twenty-Four Days That Changed Her Life, by Lucy Worsley


"It's almost shocking to us today to see a female world leader looking so lugubrious. We forget that 200 years ago, it was surprising to see a female at all."

From the Introduction

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Virginians: A Tale of the Last Century, Volume One, by William Makepeace Thackeray


"'Show me Mr. Washington's wild oats, I say -- not a grain!'"

From Chapter 5, Family Jars

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Breakfast at the Bookstore with Brad and Nick #149

Daily Dose

From The Pugilist at Rest: Stories, by Thom Jones


"Only an archfiend could devise a dilemma where to maybe get well you first had to poison yourself within a whisker of death, and in fact if you didn't die, you wished you had."

From I Want to Live!

Monday, January 28, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers, by The Revd. Alexander Dyce


"During one of those days Sheridan, having observed Gibbon among the audience, took occasion to mention 'the luminous author of The Decline and Fall.' After he had finished, one of his friends reproched him with flattering Gibbon. 'Why, what did I say of him?' asked Sheridan. -- 'Luminous! oh, I meant -- voluminous.'"

From page 46

Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Autobiography, by Harriet Martineau


"There was meantime much fiddle-faddling to be gone through..."

From Section III, aged 25

Saturday, January 26, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Spence's "Anecdotes, Observations, and Characters of Books and Men." A Selection, edited by John Underhill


"Mr Addison wrote a letter to Mr. Pope, when young, in which he desired him not to list himself under either party. 'You,' says he, 'who well deserve the praise of the whole nation, should never content yourself with the half of it.'" -- Pope

From Biographical Anecdotes

Friday, January 25, 2019

Today (Roughly) We Are Ten

Daily Dose

From The Last Essays of Elia, by Charles Lamb

"Man, I verily believe, is out of his element as long as he is operative. I am altogether for the life contemplative."

From The Superannuated Man

Thursday, January 24, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, by Kory Stamper


"... a language that doesn't change is a dead language, and as much as etymological fallacists seem to love the purity of Latin, you'll notice that none of them have abandoned that whore English for it."

From Posh: On Etymology and Linguistic Originalism

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Handful of Dust, by Evelyn Waugh


"She ate grapefruit and kippers and scrambled eggs on toast, complaining fitfully about her wet clothes."

From Chapter 4, English Gothic -- II

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Breakfast at the Bookstore with Brad and Nick #148

Daily Dose

From We Are Never Meeting In Real Life: Essays, by Samantha Irby


Aha! There it was: BACON SHAME. From someone with a preternaturally high metabolism who looked very good in the inappropriately tight turtlenecks he was fond of wearing."

From You Don't Have to Be Grateful for Sex

Monday, January 21, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Day

From How to Travel with a Salmon and Other Essays, by Umberto Eco


"How can such misfortunes be avoided? With notes and notebooks, I would suggest leaving them in an unlikely place, while abandoning in a desk drawer a kind of buried-treasure map indicating the existence of these documents but with undecipherable directions for finding them. This wnsures both that the manuscripts will remain hidden and that many dissertations will be written on the sphinx-like impenetrability of those maps."

From How to Watch Out for Widows

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Heavenly Days, by James Wilcox


"His brown eyes, dark as a gypsy's, plead."

From Chapter 13

Saturday, January 19, 2019

All the Place You've Got

“Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it. Where is there a place for you to be? No place... Nothing outside you can give you any place... In yourself right now is all the place you've got.” 
― Flannery O'Connor , Wise Blood

It's not the usual way of English words to carry so many meanings. English takes on what it needs as it goes and is just as likely to add a word as to use the same one in multiple senses. Ours is not, by it's nature an evocative language. Ambiguity, at least as I was taught by the noble spinsters and widows of my childhood classrooms, is no friend to accuracy, and accuracy of expression was the highest good.  To be misunderstood was most often the fault of speaker not the listener. Say what you mean. Be honest -- but not rude. If you don't have anything nice to say... you need to work on your vocabulary.

The most immediate meaning I know of place is all to do with home. My grandparents used the word to give directions, "... up to the old Sopher place and turn right at the stand o' pine there." The Sophers, by the way may have given up their tenancy and the ghost long before the listener was born, but no matter. "Went by your Dad's place the other day" I still hear from friends back to home for a visit.  Place in this sense is both familiar then and a little formal where I grew up; the assumption of ownership, a little land, time.

Might mention here, My Brother's Place is the name of the bar where they've held my last two class-reunions. I did not attend.

For my mother, my sister, and my sister-in-law, place most often means a table-setting and if needs be a bed. If they know you, or you know somebody they know, there's always a place for you. Hungry or not, there's a plate. Fresh sheets on the sofa if there's nowhere else to lay your head. When a high school friend was thrown out of his home for reasons that sadly seemed obvious to us all at the time, and even though my parents may not have approved of him entirely for that same reason, he was welcome to stay as long as he needed. What you do.

For my father place could also mean good work or bad, but steady. It was always good news when someone found a place in the shop. And a job meant a place of your own someday, if the pay was enough and that was good too. I never thought but that I would find a place of my own in both ways when I grew up.

Another of my father's places was less happy in that he raced coon dogs and of "win, place, or show," place was often as near as he came to the prize. The story as he told it usually had more to do with men than dogs. He had some good ones, some that weren't. Loved dogs either way. When the good ones lost though, and it was often the case, someone put in a fix, or called the thing for their friend instead of the winner, or a line-judge was just "g-d" blind. It is the way of things. Effort and skill don't guarantee a damned thing. Why that dog only placed.. Everybody knows it, not supposed to say it, but damn.

"It's not your place to say..."

That's the place with which I am exercised just now.

When I was in the seventh or eighth grade, the boat people were very much in the news. At the ignoble end of the American war in Vietnam, you may remember, refugees first in their hundreds and then in their thousands crowded onto any boat they could find in an attempt to escape the victorious Communists. Night after night Walter Cronkite and the others showed the boat people in their desperation, waiting for rescue, salvation, waiting for their old allies and employers the Americans to save them from the sea. We all saw them. TV showed the living and the dead. That was new. Shocking and heartbreaking. I remember the efforts to save them. I remember the kindness and generosity of some Americans who would eventually welcome the refugees into their communities. I remember too the racism and the hatred with which some of us rejected the effort.

In response to a negative editorial in the newspaper, I wrote a letter. What was I? Thirteen? The newspaper printed my letter. I don't have a copy anymore. Can't tell you what I said, or how badly I might have said it. Still, they ran it.

It wasn't that my parents weren't proud of me, but they were embarrassed. It wasn't my place to tell off newspaper editorial writers. It wasn't my place to talk politics in public or to lecture my elders on their moral shortcomings.

They weren't wrong.

But then, neither, as I remember it, was I.

And there the matter ended.

I thought of this not long ago when refugees became news for Americans again. What place do these people have? What place do we make for them? Whose place is it to say?

The essayist Rebecca Solnit says that places are more reliable than human beings. Seems true, but only if and when a place is allowed us, no? My sense of place is in the people I love. That's where I've found home. Hasn't so much mattered where I was so long as I was with the family I have and the friends I've made.

The place where I grew up is not a place where I would choose to live. For all the security I had in my family, the place I knew as a child was hostile to the person I was to become. I sensed it early on, long before I knew who I might actually be. Nothing I've seen there since has told me I was wrong.

The places where I've lived since have been better suited to me, and I to them, but even where I am now I don't entirely trust to be safe hereafter. I recognize where we are now. I remember. I have seen these angry faces before. I've heard hate. I know the sound, even when the words aren't the ones I remember.

My discomfort in the place we are isn't personal anymore. Can't be. I know who and where I am. I am lucky in this. Others aren't.

This isn't about winning.

Can't blame anyone else for the place we are, who we might become, to what horrors we seem eager to revert. Here we are. What shall we do about it?

I must make a place at my table, just as I was taught.

This is the place I've got.

This is the place we've got to.

Say so.

“This is the place of places and and it is here," said Gertrude Stein. That seems worth fighting for.

Daily Dose

From Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding


"As there is no wholesomer, so perhaps there are few stronger sleeping potions than fatigue."

From Book XII, Chapter 8

Friday, January 18, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues, by Pamela Paul


"This is every reader's catch-22: the more you read, the more you realize you haven't read: the more you yearn to read more, the more you understand that you have, in fact, read nothing."

From Chapter 4, Catch-22, Never Enough

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury


"And they were all, when their souls grew warm, poets."

From How to Keep and Feed a Muse

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Forever Words: The Unknown Poems, by Johnny Cash


"If I had you at my mercy
There's no tellin' what I'd do
But I'd make you sit and listen
For an hour, maybe two"

From Gold All Over the Ground

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Clerihew for a Black March


The substance and pith
Of Stevie Smith
Is that she had a friend
At the end.

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


"'Morality, as well as the sense of taste, is relative,' Obiora said."

From page 156

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Last Kind Words Saloon, by Larry McMurtry


"'I need gamblers and whores and plenty of drunks to keep me perking, ' Jesse once said to Doc."

From Chapter 47

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Clerihew for Ancient Romantic


Among the estimable codgers
Banker/poet Samuel Rogers
By rights should be,
As he went right on 'til 93.

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Poems, by Samuel Rogers


Radice in Tartara tendit. ~ Virg.

Trunk of a Giant now no more!
Once did thy limbs to heaven aspire;
Once, by a track untried before, 
Strike as resolving to explore 
Realms of infernal fire.

Round thee, alas, no shadows move!
From thee no sacred murmurs breathe!
Yet within thee, thyself a grove,
Once did the eagle scream above,
And the wolf howl beneath.

There once the steel-clad knight reclin'd,
His sable plumage tempest-toss'd;
And, as the death-bell smote the wind,
From towers long fled by human kind,
His brow the hero cross'd!

Then Culture came, and days serene,
And village-sports, and garlands gay.
Full many a pathway cross'd the green;
And maids and shepherd-youths were seen,
To celebrate the May.

Father of many a forest deep,
(Whence many a navy thunder-fraught)
Erst in their acorn-cells asleep,
Soon destin'd o'er the world to sweep,
Opening new spheres of thought!

Wont in the night of woods to dwell,
The holy druid saw thee rise;
And, planting there the guardian-spell,
Sung forth, the dreadful pomp to swell
Of human sacrifice!

Thy singed top and branches bare
Now straggle in the evening sky;
And the wan moon wheels round to glare
On the long corse that shivers there
Of him who came to die!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Breakfast at the Bookstore with Brad and Nick # 147

Daily Dose

From Thinking Without a Banister: Essays in Understanding 1953 - 1975, by Hannah Arendt


"All this to explain, after some toing and froing, I will not discuss the book."

From Politics and Crime: An Exchange of Letters

Friday, January 11, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, by Audre Lorde


"What does it mean when the tools of a racist patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy? It means that only the most narrow perimeters of change are possible and allowable."

From The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Revised Bunyan

Daily Dose

From Domestic Manners of the Americans, by Frances Trollope


"If it was a female, she took off her hat; if a male, he kept it on, and then taking possession of the first chair in their way, they would retain it for an hour together, without uttering another word; at length, rising abruptly, they would again shake hands, with 'Well, now I must be going, I guess,' and so take themselves off, apparently well contented with their reception."

From Chapter X

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From I Wrote This Book Because I Love You, by Tom Kreider


"It's impossible to live and move through the world without killing something."

From On Smushing

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer


"This was really the only thing I discovered in him after his return: a deep and unending solitude, as if he had been granted a gift that he didn't know what to do with. A gift that was poison to him and eventually killed him. But would it have killed me?"

From page 82

Monday, January 7, 2019

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Intuitionist, by Colson Whitehead


"Aspirants to luxury often opt for red and gold, hues long-soaked into their mentalities as the spectra of royalty. There are no kings these days, in these cities. Just moles."

From Part One