Friday, March 20, 2020

Clerihew for Rabbit Angstrom


When first he made his Rabbit run,
He'd decades left before he'd done.
Just like

Daily Dose

From Days Without End, by Sebastian Barry


"We learn to listen to the house and take our tack from the humours and rapids of particular nights."

From Chapter 11

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Clerihew for a Gourmand


Pietro Arentino
Loved a maraschino
And or any kind of ripe red cherry.
His appetites were legendary.

Daily Dose

From No Exit and Three Other Plays, by Jean-Paul Sartre, translated by Stuart Gilbert


"I'll sit on your sofa and wait for you to take some notice of me. I'll promise not to bother you at all."

From No Exit, Estelle

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, By Elif Batuman


"Warm at last, I spent the rest of the evening sitting on my cot, sipping the icy beer and reading Anna Ioannovna: Evgeny Anisimov's definitive biography of the empress who decided to marry her jesters in a house made of ice."

From The House of Ice

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A Caricature

Clerihew for a Heart in Missolonghi


Seems Byron's
Didn't suit in the least,
So off to Greece, (may he rest in peace.)

Daily Dose

From The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton


"He would not, in other words, yield to the growth of an affection which might appeal to pity yet leave the understanding untouched: sympathy should no more delude him than a trick of the eyes, the grace of helplessness than a curve of the cheek."

From Book I, Chapter XIV

Monday, March 16, 2020

Clerihew for a Most Eminent Junky


Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
Seeking to console a smidge
The loss of hope,
Took to dope.

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope


"Even here there was many an unauthorized claimant for a place, of whom it was impossible to get quit without more commotion than the place and food were worth."

From Volume III, Chapter 2, Ullathorne Sorts - Act I

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Breakfast at the Bookstore with Brad and Nick #189

Daily Dose

From The Ambassadors, by Henry James


"He was letting himself at present, go; there was no denying it; it might be desperation, it might be confidence; he should offer himself to the arriving travellers bristling with all the lucidity he had cultivated."

From Book Eight, Chapter 1

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Clerihew on a Stormy Night


Mary Shelley
Reduced to jelly
Many a stout-hearted male
With her horrible tale.

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From South Riding, by Winifred Holtby


"'I'm thinking of killing my own meat,' said the young farmer."

From Book Five, Public Assistance, Chapter 2, Mrs. Beddows Has Three Men to Think of

Friday, March 13, 2020

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Notre-Dame de Paris, by Victor Hugo, translation by John Sturrock


"Meanwhile the dismal cavalcade had passed through the crowd, amidst cries of delight and craning necks. Though, as a faithful historian, we have to say that some, even among the hardest, seeing her so beautiful and so downcast, were moved to pity. The tumbril had entered the parvis."

From Book Eight, Chapter Six, Three Men's Hearts Differently Formed

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Clerihew for a Tubercular Beauty


Looks John Keats,
Between the sheets,
Lacked the virility
For much beyond a negative capability.

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Complete Poems, by John Keats


UNFELT unheard, unseen,
I've left my little queen,
Her languid arms in silver slumber lying:
Ah! through their nestling touch,
Who---who could tell how much
There is for madness---cruel, or complying?

Those faery lids how sleek!
Those lips how moist!---they speak,
In ripest quiet, shadows of sweet sounds:
Into my fancy's ear
Melting a burden dear,
How "Love doth know no fulness, nor no bounds."

True!---tender monitors!
I bend unto your laws:
This sweetest day for dalliance was born!
So, without more ado,
I'll feel my heaven anew,
For all the blushing of the hasty morn.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Clerihew Up in the Old Hotel


Joseph Mitchell
Without a hitch'll
Still be read
When The New Yorker's dead.

Daily Dose

From The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales, by Oliver Sacks


"So it would happen, with variations, every time -- with improvisations, always prompt, often funny, sometimes brilliant, and ultimately tragic."

From Chapter 12, A Matter of Identity

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Clerihew for a Canonical Brute


Less Everyman
Than Tarzan
sans loincloth,
Philip Roth.

Daily Dose

From Catch-22, by Joseph Heller


"They were all gone, and he walked right out and moved in wistful dejection through the dark, emptying streets."

From Chapter 16, Luciana

Monday, March 9, 2020

Clerihew for a Rock Star Romantic


P. B. Shelley,
On his belly,
Wrote out Ozymandias
and drank a pint of brandy thus.

Daily Dose

From The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel


"Usually he is the soul of courtesy. But if you can't speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it?"

From Part One

Sunday, March 8, 2020

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American History, by Gail Collins


"Writing was an acceptable calling, since it could be done within the confines of the home, but the number of writers who made money was tiny. There weren't really any nonliterary professions for women. Even in1870, almost all the women who worked for wages outside the farm were either domestic servants or laborers in factories. We can presume that most of them weren't looking forward to continuing their employment into old age."

From Chapter 4, The Mid- 1800s, "Travel Cheerfully Toward the Sunset!"

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Breakfast at the Bookstore #188

Daily Dose

From Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History, by Richard J. Evans


"After reading twelve pages of Lenin he noted: 'Astonishing how that cheers me up and clears my mind. I was in a total good mood afterwards.' This is not the feeling that most people have after ploughing through Lenin's theoretical works."

From Chapter 2, 'Ugly as Sin, but a Mind', 1933-1936, II

Friday, March 6, 2020

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Medieval Bodies: Life and Death in the Middle Ages, by Jack Hartnell


"These modern hoaxes are useful, not because they reveal some sort of scientific truth that we can impose onto the past, but because they remind us that although observant medieval people attached great importance to bleeding things, they did not necessarily accept such happenings without skepticism."

From Blood 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens


"He was prepared to miss her very much, but not so much."

From Chapter VIII

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Night, Sister.

She was my sister's friend. They were girls together, part of a tight circle of silly, sometimes reckless innocents. They went out and got into trouble. They dated boys and went to bars and parties, did each other's hair and critiqued each other's outfits. They drove each other home, and giggled in classrooms, gossiped and bickered, and laughed, and laughed. They raced into adulthood, hell-bent for love, and they were in each other's weddings. They had babies, the girls, some of them, and helped each other through. They cried together when bad things happened and supported each other, good and bad. In time they were sisters.

And then she was my mother's friend, when my sister moved away. The girls stayed in touch, stayed close, well after the time most of us have left behind the friends we made as children. My parents became part of her life, and she became part of our family as well. She talked to my mother every week for many years. She fought for her children, just as my sister had to fight for hers. My mother listened and she listened to my mother. Of different generations, she and my mother nonetheless became close. She stayed. It mattered.

Though I rather idealized those girls when I was little and envied them their fun, I was only a little brother -- an ignoble thing to be among teenagers. I was fond of them and they tolerated me and that was just as it usually is. They snuck me in with them to see The Exorcist, which I don't remember any of them actually watching, or if they did, only through their fingers. They tolerated me when I sat on the bed and watched them curl their hair and talk about boyfriends. I worried for them when they got in late, or drank too much, or had their hearts broken. I watched them as they became beautiful and was glad when they were happy. And then I had friends of my own.

Later when my sister and I came home from the homes we'd made elsewhere with other people, that was when I started to see these women as my friends as well. May not have been how they saw me -- and why should they? -- but I looked forward to seeing them, together again, just as some people love to see a favorite band come out of retirement for yet another farewell tour.

And there she was, my sister's friend, maybe the shyest of them all, the least worldly, but reliable and true, and in her way never changing, always the first one back through the door. Of all of my sister's friends she became the one I knew best. Through my mother's weekly or more than weekly conversations with her, I knew the events of her life and the lives of her two sons.  I knew something of her work; driving a school bus, working as a nurse's aid, selling retail. I knew something of her worries and her pains; the sister she lost, the brother, her father. I came to know and sympathize with the physical pain she suffered for years from bones old before she was, and ailments never properly understood, and disappointments just as all of us face if we live long enough to appreciate the good we get.

Hell, I knew her cat, Spartan, and I never so much as met the beloved and troublesome creature.

And she, bless her, came to know me. Can't know my sister, my mother, and not know something about me.

When my parents grew old, she was there. When my sister came home, she was there. When I came home, she was there. She cooked for us, baked for us, went out to eat with us, stayed in with us. When we went to the hospital she came with us. When my sister had another grand baby, she was there. She was present. How many of us are, or can be? She was. When my father came home to die, she was with us even then. He was her friend by then as well. Called her "daughter" by then too.

And by then, she was my friend as well. She and I had conversations neither of us might ever had imagined we would. We talked sometimes when my sister -- a woman who never walks but she runs -- would run out of gas at last and fall asleep on the sofa. We talked about my sister, my parents, her family and mine. We talked about life and love and all the things adults might talk about if the hour's late enough and the room's otherwise quiet, and everyone we love is accounted safe for the day. She was always the last one to leave. We'd turn the porch-light on so she could see to her car, and wave as she left.

She was nobody's fool, that woman, about most things. Like the rest of us though she could be pettish, and stubborn, too easily hurt and too quick to retreat to opinion as if it was an argument to be made or any kind of an answer to an uncomfortable question. We avoided God, in whom she believed, and politics in which we could not have disagreed more strongly. In the end, in touch more regularly because of social media, I came close to not wanting to be her friend because of her politics, and mine. Irreconcilable is where we were on that. I think that it is entirely possible that we stayed friends on social media almost as a penance or a test, just to see if we could. On rare occasions we would comment on each other's less than civil postings, but we were quick thereafter to follow with a kindness. She was my sister's friend, and my mother's. There were times I had to keep that in mind.

Whatever all that meant, she was still present in our lives, in mine. Whoever we were now, whatever we believed, that simply did not change. I called her sister and she called me brother and while there was always a smile in there, in time we meant it and it meant something to us both.

Just a few weeks ago she finally had the knee-surgery I'd been hearing about since forever. It seemed to go well and she was recovering and felt good about it. I sent flowers and wished her a quick recovery. Last time I checked in, she was doing well. And then, quite suddenly she wasn't. And then to the shock and irreparable loss to her husband, sons, and family, she died, at 59.

Karen Montgomery Morrow was her name. My sister's friend of more than forty years. My mother's friend. Mine.  I cannot imagine what it will mean to so many now she's gone.

I took a picture one trip home. It's a stupid snapshot, taken too quick with a shaking hand because we were sitting again on my mother's couch and laughing. It's not a "good" picture of either of us, as my mother said at the time. (But then my mother's definition of a "good" picture is usually a photograph taken a good two yards from the subject when everyone's had the time to pose and do their hair and smile without showing too many teeth.) My mother's right, of course, she always is. (Didn't raise no fools, anyway.) But that fuzzy picture I took of Karen laughing on the couch beside me? That is the picture of mother's "other" daughter, my sister's friend, and mine that I choose to put here, with this. That's the Karen I'll remember. Always there, always present, always laughing, always loving, appearances be damned. She said when she saw it, "Well, that's how we are."

Well, that's how we were then. That's who I'll remember. That's the friend I loved.

May she rest in the peace she earned, none more so.

Night, sister. Home safe.

Daily Dose

From Remembered, by Yvonne Battle-Felton


"He holds her like it's forever. I believe it."

From Chapter 16

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Marble Faun, by Nathaniel Hawthorne


"It was a strange place for song and mirth."

From Chapter XVII, Miriam's Trouble

Monday, March 2, 2020

Too Many Cooks

Daily Dose

From Summer, by Edith Wharton


"Almost without conscious thought her decision had been reached; as her eyes had followed the circle of the hills her mind had also travelled the old road. She supposed it was something in her blood that made the Mountain the only answer to her questioning, the inevitable escape from all that hemmed her in and beset her. At any rate it began to loom against the rainy dawn; and the longer she looked at it the more clearly she understood that now at last she was really going there."

From Chapter XV

Sunday, March 1, 2020

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen


"And as she could now have nothing more painful to hear on the subject than had already been told, she did not mistrust her own ability of going through a repetition of particulars with composure."

From Volume II, Chapter 1