Saturday, November 30, 2019
From Frederick the Great, by Nancy Mitford
"He was so fond of fruit, hitherto unknown in Brandenburg, that speculators built glasshouses in order to supply him with it at enormous prices."
From Chapter 13, Sans Souci
Friday, November 29, 2019
Thursday, November 28, 2019
From Things Past Redress, by Augustine Birrell
"Being a ruddy, healthy child, a young Bacchus among the Baptists, and coming at the fag-end of a large family when all theories of education and of tremendous parental responsibility were either exploded or forgotten, I had an easy, perhaps too easy time."
From Chapter Two, Boyhood
Wednesday, November 27, 2019
"'... Why did I get this lot? This sex, this body, this awareness, this geographic setting, this fate, this language, this history, this rented room?' I wrote."
From page 50
Tuesday, November 26, 2019
From Complete Novels, by Jean Stafford
"He had never seen her drink in the middle of the day before. He wondered if, all of a sudden, she was going to become fast and cut her hair and even dye it."
From The Catherine Wheel, Chapter III, The Sea's Souvenirs
Monday, November 25, 2019
From The Library Book, by Susan Orlean
"'Sometimes I'm amazed by what people call about,' she said, tapping her desk with a pencil. 'Once, a patron called to ask if it was okay for her to eat a can of beans that didn't have an expiration date. I mean, there is a website called Still Tasty that I use to check expiration dates on things, but I'm not going to take responsibility for a lady eating a can of beans!'
I said they all seemed to know a lot."
From Chapter 22
Sunday, November 24, 2019
From Joy in the Morning, by P. G. Wodehouse
"There is something about the mere sight of this number-nine-size-hatted man that seldom fails to jerk the beholder from despondency's depths in times of travail."
From Chapter 25
Saturday, November 23, 2019
From The Anti-Slavery Crusade in America, by Harriet Martineau
"The cause of an extraordinary violence of this year is to be found in the old maxim that men hate those whom they have injured."
From page 71.
Friday, November 22, 2019
Thursday, November 21, 2019
There are things easier to write than to read, certainly to read out loud. Which isn’t to say that what I’ll be reading tonight was altogether easy to write. Leonard Bernstein, of all people, said that “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Well, by that definition, if no other, I am then a writer. For me it’s always been easy to talk. I do entirely too much of it, talk, chat, chatter. To a certain extent it is what I do for a living. I read. I talk about what I read. I talk about what you should read, or what you might buy, at least. I’ve written about that, a bit. And other than talking, I draw. Done that all my life. I don’t know why. I just do. Unlike talking, drawing has earned me praise, attention, time away from talk. Drawing I think I understand, or at least understand better the more of it I do. Writing I do, have done, nearly as long if not nearly so well.
In an essay I read recently by the great Marguerite Duras, writing about writing about her mother, she describes her mother as “a great character,” tells a bit of her mother’s biography to explain why, but then closes the paragraph in a rather startling way by saying that ultimately the person about whom the writer writes is always herself. She, Marguerite, not her mother, is her true subject.
Well! And -- yes.
The pieces collected in this little book are about my father, and they aren’t, or rather they are to the extent that he was my father, not my sister’s or my brother’s father, not my mother’s husband, or his mother’s son. Really, these little essays then are about me.
How very embarrassing that is to admit.
I made this book for my mother, in memory of my father, and that seems to me an honorable thing to have done, but it occurs to me only now that what I’ve written about here is me.
Another discovery only recently made, when choosing what to read tonight, was selfish as well; I’ve written things about my father I will have to leave for others to read because somehow, now, come the moment, I can’t, at least not aloud.
There are things that are easier to write than to read. Forgive me for what I might not tonight read to you. I will do as best I can.
This is a little book not about memory, but my memories. It is not about nostalgia. I despise nostalgia. Nostalgia, after racism, genocide, slavery, etc., is the original sin of this country. The moment white men set foot on this continent they were already looking back: to the places they left, to their Bibles, their new Jerusalem to be made from an almost entirely false ideal of the old. To be nostalgic is to willfully misremember the past so as not to address the present, and Hell take the hind most for the future. Nostalgia is, by its very nature vulgar, insipid, grubby, mean. Wasn’t yesterday better? Well, no. To be honest, the past is a place it may be harder to go than anywhere else of which I can think. To be honest is the problem.
I’ve tried to honest here, I’m trying still. The past, mine anyway, is something I’ve had to forgive, and me in it, not because my life has been hard, it hasn’t, but because that is what remembering is; the means by which we might seek, and offer forgiveness.
My father was a good man, not always an easy one. I’m trying to be easier myself. Writing is hard, but it’s a way. I hope you’ll like what I’ve written. My Mum does. She told me so. All that matters, or mostly.
From A History of the Thirty Years Peace, Volume 1, by Harriet Martineau
"The fever-fit of triumph had not yet been followed by the cold torpor of exhaustion."
From Chapter 1
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
From Essays One, by Lydia Davis
"The letters spoke, at the time that he wrote them, from out of his absence when he was no more than geographically remote, and by habit invisible; they speak as distinctly now that he is truly gone, though what is also gone now, as it was not then, is the possibility of replying to him, except in one's thoughts."
From Maurice Blanchot Absent
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Monday, November 18, 2019
SEASON THE THIRD
Reviewing this round
Of our favorite, The Crown,
Where to begin?
Well, the Queen’s lost her chin.
And Margaret gets shorter,
The more that they thwart her.
Surprisingly Anne has a man in her bed,
And not so surprising, Sir Winston is dead.
Mountbatten’s flirted with fascists and been told he ought not,
And Philip’s played by that sadist who raped the hot Scot.
Charles tries hard to be a true Prince of Wales
And win Mummy’s affection, at which he fails.
All in all I must say the third season’s been funThough not quite so urgent as things seemed in one.
From The Movie Musical!, by Jeanine Basinger
"The production was lavish (you know that when the credits say 'Furs by...')"
From page 493, on the film, Funny Girl
Sunday, November 17, 2019
"'There's a few westerns yet you haven't seen of them films I got. Stick one on and throw yourself on the bed,' I say.
'Aye, aye, I might do that,' he says."
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Friday, November 15, 2019
From The Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine
AS IT IS
"But it is with Prophecy as it is with Miracle. It could not answer the purpose even if it were real."
From Chapter XVII
Thursday, November 14, 2019
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
From The Poems of Walter Savage Landor
HOW TO READ ME
TO turn my volumes o’er nor find
(Sweet unsuspicious friend!)
Some vestige of an erring mind
To chide or discommend,
Believe that all were lov’d like you
With love from blame exempt,
Believe that all my griefs were true
And all my joys but dreamt.
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
From Berlin Stories, edited by Philip Hensher
"Our previous governess was fat as a frog. She always seemed to be about to burst. She was English. She's still English today, of course, but the moment she took liberties, she was no longer our concern."
From The Little Berliner, by Robert Walser, translated by Harriet Watts
Monday, November 11, 2019
"The man said, 'So, black and white they burn the same, eh?'
'They do,' she said. 'Here and hereafter, as you will find out. Very shortly.'"
From Part One
Sunday, November 10, 2019
From Iza's Ballad, by Magda Szabo, translated by George Szirtes
"Now he was preparing things. He had always liked this kind of mindless activity, opening tins, laying the table, doing this and that, the kind of things Iza dismissed but which were the joys of everyday living for him, something that assured him he had food to eat and that what he was eating was something he had himself bought, not what others gave him."
From Book III, Water, Chapter 1
Saturday, November 9, 2019
Friday, November 8, 2019
Thursday, November 7, 2019
"Her fancies seemed real, and reality seemed fanciful. Her white fingers holding the pen could not hold the truth, which trickled through them like water."
From page 100, this edition