Friday, January 31, 2020

Mallard Dressed

Daily Dose

From All My Sons, by Arthur Miller


"On the telephone you can't take responsibility."

From  Act Two

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Bustier Bird

Daily Dose

From Heart of Junk, by Luke Geddes


"'So what's the rub? There is none. No rub whatsoever.'
'Please stop using that word: rub.'"

From Chapter 10, Margaret

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Neutral Chicken

Daily Dose

From Weather: A Novel, by Jenny Offill


"Saturday and my plan is to do a bunch of errands. I'm at the supermarket before the doors are even open yet. It's just me and one other woman in a caftan. She looks focused. An extreme couponer possibly."

From Four

Tuesday, January 28, 2020


Daily Dose

From The Stranger, by Albert Camus, translated by Matthew Ward


"Fumbling a little with my words and realizing how ridiculous I sounded, I blurted out that it was because of the sun. People laughed."

From Chapter 4

Monday, January 27, 2020

Sunday, January 26, 2020

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain, by Bill Bryson


"On the whole, people are rewarded just for being themselves, which in a lot of cases frankly is quite enough already."

From Chapter 16, Oxford and About

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Swan Wrap

Daily Dose

From The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations, by Toni Morrison


"The imaginative and historical terrain upon which early American writers journey is in very large measure shaped and determined by the presence of the racial Other. Statements to the contrary insisting upon the meaninglessness of race to American identity are themselves full of meaning. The world does not become raceless or will not become unracialized by assertion."

From Black Matter(s)

Friday, January 24, 2020

Crazy Chicken

Daily Dose

From Middle England, by Jonathan Coe


"'Everything about this is ridiculous. Even the name of the student who's complained. I mean, who calls their daughter Coriander, for God's sake?'"

From Chapter 26

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The View from an Unmade Bed

I have a proposal, a business proposal, you know, for work. I think that when the Human Resources Department is explaining the dress-code to new employees, they should make a chart or a pamphlet. On one side would be a picture of, say, Gigi Hadid in the prohibited outfit: short-shorts, a tank-top, flowered flip-flops, a MAGA hat, and then, facing that, me in the same clothes. The Gigi side could say, "What you think you look like." And then over my picture something like, "What we think you look like." or "What the public sees." That's something right there you would not be able to shake. Lesson learned. Done.

Before I'm accused of self-body-shaming -- a phrase I can not imagine saying aloud -- let me clarify. I am not ashamed of my body. My body is a temple -- a filthy ruin unfit for Baal, but a temple none the less. That's not fair. I'm clean. I can say that. Soap and water, sometimes more than once a day, just like city-folk. Try to keep the beard tidy. Always say, "yes, please" when my barber asks me if I want him to address my eyebrows and ears. I wear mostly clean, loose clothing more for comfort than fashion. I usually describe my style as an unmade bed. I am then for my age presentable in undemanding circumstances. In fancy bib and tucker I look like a headwaiter in an operetta, out-of-doors, like the village elder sent to plead for more winter-corn for the serfs, and naked? Naked I look like an unsurprisingly pink Rubens putti in a pantomime beard. See? Shameless. Calm down.

I mean that about being shameless. It was not always so. Weirdly, when I was young and fleetingly thin, I was convinced of my own hideousness and so shocked that anyone might express sexual interest in my person, I'm afraid I married the first handsome guy who didn't ask me to leave in the morning. (I got lucky, thirty-five years lucky. Fingers crossed.) Meanwhile, last year I posed nude but for my work-apron in a promotional campaign for the bookstore where I work. Fuck it. You want me?  Help me get these compression-socks off.

Beyond being loved by a good man, how I got to this careless state has a good deal to do with the Internet. I will explain. It's nothing to do with self-confidence, empowerment, or discovering niche porn. Forget all that blather about loving myself before I can love anybody else. Nonsense. I loved Henry James before I was twenty. That was real. That's lasted. Myself? Him I've learned to live in. Resignation, children, is the adult version of acceptance. What am I going to do about it in my fifties? Get taller? Eat sensibly? Take up cross-fit? I don't even know what that is and please don't explain it to me. I can't drink soda anymore because it gives me heartburn, not because I worry about aspartame  or my sugar intake. Gravy has tried to kill me more than once lately but it's still a risk I am obviously willing to take. It isn't studying WebMD that's made the Intertubes important in my life, it's this, doing this, writing a blog, posting drawings and quotations and writing the occasional occasional essay. Doing this for eleven years as of today has cured me, perhaps ironically? of my constant need for approval, affirmation, praise, attention.

See? Simple. I did something. I got better at it. Sometimes some people noticed and said nice things, sometimes not, but that, the repetition as much or more than the stray compliment, made me less self-conscious. I wanted to do something, sorta in public, and I did it consistently for more than a decade. Imagine that.

The fact is I couldn't have imagined this more than a decade ago. I'd done things. I've always drawn. I wrote. But doing those things here felt finished in a way nothing I'd done before ever did. Now I do a podcast about books and a few people listen. I gathered up some doodles and made a book. I did a few more. Not long ago I published a book of essays from here. Again, imagine that.

And I got older. Older and fatter and balder, and who cares, darling?

A friend recently wrote some very kind things about that little book of essays. He mentioned my struggle, back in the day, to find my voice. I did that here. Strangers at the cash register admire my sketching between customers and tell me I'm marvelous. That's nice. I don't do it for that reason. I do it because it's bloody boring standing at a cash register and so I'll have something amusing to post here when I don't feel like writing, or more likely, finishing something I started writing a month ago.

I can't say I had no idea who I was until I started doing this, whatever this is, because people who say things like that about their blogs, or their home-canning, or their "grief-work", or on their weird instructional videos about packing suitcases properly, those people sound like idiots. I try not to be an idiot, still. No. I had a pretty good idea who I was by the time my mid-forties had rolled around. What I did here was in a humbler way what Montaigne did when he went up into his tower to read and scribble for a bit. I know myself better for writing here, for writing something other than the novel no one needed from me. I'm better at drawing birds now. And people. I'm better at reading aloud. I'm better, thanks for asking.

Which isn't to say I mean to inspire anyone else to do this. You want inspiration, darling, watch Greta  Thunberg at the UN, write to prisoners, read more -- and better --books. Short of murder or voting Republican, do just as you like, just do it with some consistency and see if you don't get better at it and care less if anyone notices. That's my advice. No one's asked, by the way, and I'm good with that.

Now I've started, what else?

Oh, and don't be stupid. Dress like a grown-up, specially at work. Nobody thinks those coochie cutters look "cute" in broad daylight. Wash your damned neck, son, maybe shampoo that hair now and again. Stop reading baby-books. Our heroes should not be our imaginary children, people. Maybe learn French. It's not like my life is sans regrets.

And get naked if someone asks you to. It's not all so serious as that, you know. Don't be afraid to show your ass.

Here endeth the lesson.

Tomorrow is another day and probably another drawing of a chicken in a dress.


Today We Are Eleven

Daily Dose

From The Letters of Charles Lamb to which are added those of his sister Mary Lamb, Volume Two, Edited by E. V. Lucas


"Dear Wordsworth,

Thank you for the books you have given me and for all the Books you mean to give me. I will bind up the Political Sonnets and Ode according to your Suggestion. I have not bound the poems yet. I wait till People have done borrowing them. I think I shall get a chain, and chain them to my shelves More Bodleiano, and people may come and read them at chain's length.  For of those who borrow, some read slow, some mean to read but don't read, and some neither read nor mean to read, but borrow to leave you an opinion of their sagacity. I must do my money borrowing friends the justice to say that there is nothing of this caprice or wantonness of alienation in them. When they borrow my money, they never fail to make use of it. Coleridge has been here about a fortnight..."

From #286, to William Wordsworth, dated at end: 9th April 1816.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Mod Pigeon

Daily Dose

From Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles, by Jeanette Winterson


"Now his life had no demarcations, no boundaries. There was nothing, and wasn't nothing what he had wanted?
But why was nothing as heavy as nothing?"

From No Way Out...

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Ribboned Chicken

Daily Dose

From Voyage in the Dark, by Jean Rhys


"She was like all women whom you look at and don't notice except that she had short legs and that her hair was dusty."

From Part Two

Monday, January 20, 2020

BB Pigeon

Daily Dose

From A Week at the Airport, by Alain de Botton


"British Airways did, it was true, maintain a desk manned by some unusually personable employees and adorned with the message: ' We are here to help'. But the staff shied away from existential issues, seeming to restrict their insights to matters relating to the transit time to adjacent satellites and the location of the nearest toilets."

From II Departures 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Cluck Cluck

Daily Dose

From The Gathering, by Anne Enright


"I thought about this, as I sat in the Shelbourne bar -- that I was living my life in inverted commas. I could pick up my keys and go 'home' where I could 'have sex' with my 'husband' just like lots of other people did. This is what I had been doing for years. And I didn't seem to mind the inverted commas, or even notice that I was living in them, until my brother died."

From Chapter 27.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Chicken Wang

Daily Dose

From Essays One, by Lydia Davis


"My mother's was probably the hand I held most often, during certain years of my life, first when my hand was small and hers was larger, and last when she was often lying on her bed and I was sitting beside her, her hand softer and weaker and more crooked than mine."

From Meeting Abraham Lincoln

Friday, January 17, 2020


Daily Dose

From Poems, by Oliver Goldsmith


"Every absurdity has now a champion to defend it; and as he is generally much in the wrong, so he has always much to say -- for the error is always talkative."

From Dedication to The Traveller

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Paloma con flores

Daily Dose

From The Farming of Bones, by Edwidge Danticat


"She seemed to be the only one who could laugh out of sadness, a sadness that made laughter deeper and louder still, like the echo of a scream from the bottom of a well."

From Chapter 31

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Big Bird, Darling

Daily Dose

From Look at the Birdie, by Kurt Vonnegut

"'This is quite a hole you have here,' said Josef Broznik enthusiastically, gripping the rail and peering into the echoing blackness below."

From The Petrified Ants

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Empress of Fashion Bird

Daily Dose

From The Household Spirit, by Tod Wodicka


"Emily thought: If only I could see the tattoos. Then I would know.
She turned on the TV. She thought: But know what, exactly? You'd know shit. Indulgently, Emily imagined that the tattoos might be back at her house somewhere, in a drawer, pressed inside of one of Peppy's books, folded in one of his jacket pockets or in a shoe box under his bed."

From Chapter 20

Monday, January 13, 2020

Halo There Burberry

Daily Dose

From The Nice and the Good, by Iris Murdoch


"He loves innocently and he is loved innocently. It is simple for him, for him and his gods. Whereas I have tied myself up in this cat's cradle of treachery and falsehood."

From Chapter Twenty-Two

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Chou Bird

Daily Dose

From The British Essayists, with Prefaces Biographical, Historical, and Critical, by Robert Lynam


"Should he be introduced into the society of nobles and legislators, he will still find dogs and horses, with all their concomitant sports and amusements, the favourite topics of discourse. Literature would be voted dulness; morality, preaching; philosophy, nonsense; and religion, hypocrisy."

From Volume 23, Knox's Essays, # 102, On the Present State of Conversation

Saturday, January 11, 2020


Daily Dose

From Essays of Joseph Addison, chosen and edited by John Richard Green


"Such as had fine necks and bosoms, were wonderfully curious to look over the heads of the multitude, and observe the most distant parts of the assembly."

From The Vision of Justice

Friday, January 10, 2020

Shoe Hen

Daily Dose

From Essays of Joseph Addison, chosen and edited by John Richard Green


"Some years ago I was at the tragedy of Macbeth, and unfortunately placed myself under a woman of quality that is since dead; who, as I found by the noise she made, newly returned from France. A little before the rising of the curtain, she broke out into a loud soliloquy, 'When will the dear witches enter?' and immediately upon their first appearance, asked a lady who sat three boxes from her, on her right hand, if those witches were not charming creatures."

From Fashions from France

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Eating Out

Daily Dose

From Who Says You're Dead? Medical and Ethical Dilemmas for the Curious and Concerned, by Jacob M. Appel, MD


"If we cut off care to Edith, we must watch a visible victim suffer and die. This is highly unpalatable to most physicians and much of the public."

From Chapter 59, A Most Expensive Patient

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Golden Globes Bird

Daily Dose

From Human Hours: Poems, by Catherine Barnett


Turns out my inner clown is full of hope.
She wants a gavel.
She wants to stencil her name on a wooden gavel:
Esperanza's Gavel.
Clowns are clichés and they aren't afraid of clichés.
Mine just sleeps when she's tired.
But she can't shake the hopes.
She's got a bad case of it, something congenital perhaps.
Maybe it was sexually transmitted,
something to do with oxytocin or contractions or nipple stimulation,
maybe that's it, a little goes a long way.
Hope is also the name of a bakery in Queens.
And there's a lake in Ohio called Hope Lake where you can get nachos.
I'm so stuffed with it the comedians in the Cellar never call on me,
even when I'm sitting right there in the front row with a dumb look of hope on my face.
Look at these books: hope.
Look at this face: hope.
When I was young I studied with Richard Rorty, that was lucky,
I stared out the window and couldn't understand a word he said,
he drew a long flat line after the C he gave me,
the class was called metaphysics and epistemology,
that's eleven syllables, that's
hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope.
Just before he died, Rorty said his sense of the holy was bound up with the hope
that some day our remote descendants will live in a global civilization
in which love is pretty much the only law.