Thursday, April 26, 2012

another enormous reading list

This afternoon, it rains and it positively gusts. I am working my way through the last pages of the last book on this list. It took me a year--instead of a summer--to complete it, but it was a good, rigorous way to structure my reading, and I am ready to plunge in to another. Without a deadline, and without further ado:

A Time of Gifts - Patrick Leigh Fermor
The Chocolate Connoisseur - Chloe Doutre-Roussel
Fashionable Nonsense - Alan Sokal
The Maytrees - Annie Dillard
The Overcoat - Nikolai Gogol
The Poetics of Translation - Willis Barnstone
The Idiot - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
A Transition to Advanced Mathematics
Poor Things - Alasdair Gray
Darwin's Dangerous Idea - Daniel Dennet
The Better Angels of Our Nature - Steven Pinker
In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
Relativity - Albert Einstein
Dakota - Kathleen Norris
The Basic Writings of John Stuart Mill
The Tempest - William Shakespeare
Breaking the Spell - Daniel Dennet
The Great Crash--1929 - Kenneth Galbraith
Last Orders - Graham Swift
Anatomy of Criticism - Northrop Frye
The Habit of Being - Flannery O'Connor
A Good Man is Hard to Find - Flannery O'Connor
How the Mind Works - Steven Pinker
The Blank Slate - Steven Pinker
The Journals of L. M. Montgomery
What Einstein Told His Cook - Robert Wolke
Pegeen and the Pilgrim - Lyn Cook
Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life - Nick Lane
The Time Quartet - Madeleine L'Engle
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
Six Easy Pieces - Richard Feynman
Six Not-So-Easy Pieces - Richard Feynman
Guns, Germs, and Steel - Jared Diamond
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - Annie Dillard

Any suggestions?

Oh Anglo-Saxon

Thus, after the eradication of Latin and Greek derivatives:

"For most of its being, mankind did not know what things are made of, but could only guess. With the growth of worldken, we began to learn, and today we have a beholding of stuff and work that watching bears out, both in the workstead and in daily life.

The underlying kinds of stuff are the firststuffs, which link together in sundry ways to give rise to the rest. Formerly we knew of ninety-two firststuffs, from waterstuff, the lightest and barest, to ymirstuff, the heaviest. Now we have made more, such as aegirstuff and helstuff.

The firststuffs have their being as motes called unclefts. These are mighty small: one seedweight of waterstuff holds a tale of them like unto two followed by twenty-two naughts. Most unclefts link together to make what are called bulkbits. Thus, the waterstuff bulkbit bestands of two waterstuff unclefts, the sourstuff bulkbit of two sourstuff unclefts, and so on. (Some kinds, such as sunstuff, keep alone; others, such as iron cling together in chills when in the fast standing; and there are yet more yokeways.) When unlike unclefts link in a bulkbit, they make bindings. Thus, water is a binding of two waterstuff unclefts with one sourstuff uncleft, while a bulkbit of one of the forestuffs making up flesh may have a thousand or more unclefts of these two firststuffs together with coalstuff and chokestuff.

At first it was thought that the uncleft was a hard thing that could be split no further; hence the name. Now we know it is made up of lesser motes. There is a heavy kernel with a forward bernstonish lading, and around it one or more light motes with backward ladings. The least uncleft is that of everyday waterstuff. Its kernel is a lone forwardladen mote called a firstbit. Outside it is a backwardladen mote called a bernstonebit. The firstbit has a heaviness about 1840-fold that of the bernstonebit. Early worldken folk thought berstonebits swing around the kernel like the Earth around the Sun, but now we understand they are more like waves or clouds."

- Poul Anderson, from "Uncleftish Beholding"

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

two things

(the pussy willows were a gift from my Opa)

(this is a late birthday present for my dad)

(this is a thousand-message-long facebook thread, from when Tim and I were dating)

(the ribbon is to keep it closed while the bindings loosen up)

(Tim made the covers)

(I've been trying to finish this for almost two years)

Monday, April 23, 2012

9 to 1

Come September:

English 205 - Traditions in English Rhetoric
English 240 - The Bible in Literature
English 294 - Introduction to Writing Poetry (I may regret this)
English 496 - Intersections: Theory/Culture (Prosody)
History 205 - Medieval Europe

Come January:

English 242 - Augustan Prose and Poetry
English 296 - Reading Creative Nonfiction
English 322 - Medieval Drama
English 365 - Early 20th Century British Novels
English 401 - Studies in Genres

Friday, April 20, 2012


Up early, dishes, vitamins, kettle, thermos, pear cream tea, purple fingerless gloves. I went to the graveyard this morning determined to know it, then love it. If you spend enough time in one place, you begin to love it, if only to stop from hurting yourself, hating it. But the graveyard ten metres from my door is easy to love, and I don't know it at all yet--I got lost this morning, and had to scan around in a full circle to find the section of regulation military graves that points me back home. It's the most peaceful quadrant, furthest away from the freeway that most of the other graves overlook. In between the rows of identical grey headstones, there are a few flat stones, for the wives. The oldest graves are from the 30s, their stones heaved up by tree roots. Almost shocking: a time capsule in the city. And grass under my feet, rain, not a living soul in sight. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

that's an odd expression

"When I get up in the morning, also a very unpleasant process, I jump out of bed thinking to myself: "You'll be back in a second," go to the window, take down the blackout, sniff at the crack of the window until I feel a bit of fresh air, and I'm awake. The bed is turned down as quickly as possible and then the temptation is removed. Do you know what Mummy calls this sort of thing? "The Art of Living"--that's an odd expression."

- The Diary of Anne Frank, 92

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On happiness

'I don't want to'
is always
'I cannot'.
In me there is no arbitrariness.
'I cannot'--and meek eyes."

- Marina Tsvetaeva

Monday, April 16, 2012

The magpies of Garneau

Saturday, in a spring blizzard, on the way to Justina's livingroom wedding, I could not have been happier to be back on my old stomping grounds.

Friday, April 13, 2012

what to do

The old mantra is making appearances. It still works.

Drink a litre of cold water.
Brush and floss.
Practice violin.
Do the dishes.
Make a list.
Start over. And over and over.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What to do

In our own true way, Tim and I spent the past 20 hours in bed. We were reading. Cereal, journal (mine), laptop (his), sleepytime tea, Carnation hot chocolate, Atonement by Ian McEwan, Le Ton beau de Marot by Douglas Hofstadter, a beastly math assignment, and a final essay for Philosophy of Language crept in with us. And I left dishes, laundry, post office errand, and flossing. And a swampy state of malaise was the order of our day.

These are the dead days of spring. Roads filthy with dust and gravel, greenery yet to appear. At least once a week, a surprise snow fall that disappears the next day. Exams. Wind. Because Tim is rightfully consumed with school for the next two weeks, all settling-in and home-improvement plans are on hold, and we keep saying that as soon as he's finished there will be restaurant shelving for the kitchen, simple transportation, raised beds built, general supplies purchased, tampers sold, weight lost, grow lights for the plants, lamps for the hobbit hole, knives sharpened, bikes cleaned, picnics taken, manuscripts started, still more daunting projects initiated, order reigning. To be honest, I feel crushed under the weight of our summer plans. I am not taking classes, and won't be until September. Why should I favor plans over action?

Monday, April 2, 2012

shades of snow and toast

"If only something would change," I overheard myself thinking this morning, and I was rather indignant. Hasn't enough up-heaved itself over the past three months? (I still dream of nothing but home and routine. I can't get enough.)

But my thoughts had obviously not translated well into words, because on closer examination two mortally opposed definitions of 'change' emerged and differentiated themselves in my mind. Yes, in my mind there is a great difference between change (in a person, in a life) that is the result of exposure to the elements--change wrought by outside circumstances, beating on the individual, making her conform (or deform), and change that is actually healthy growth--springing from deep desires and making the individual more of whoever she wants to be. To use a shrubbery metaphor, it is the difference between hail damage and swelling buds.

What qualify as "outside circumstances" depends of course partly on attitude. The elements which I feel have whipped me raw are elements to which I willingly, if not happily, submitted myself. It was my own decision to change jobs, switch neighborhoods, become a candidate for an internship, and enter into a business relationship with my in-laws, and yet these experiences have quickly become alien, forced me into unexpected compromises, made me unhappy and guilty in my unhappiness, and so distanced me from myself.

The craving for change is really a craving for growth. It's as if I'm Pa Ingalls, and it is high time to move even further West. I long to finally start work on my manuscript. To tear down the ugly lean-to in the backyard, cut down the moldering pine tree, scrape up the trash, plant apple trees, build raised beds. To begin my own venture--some sort of business, or a magazine. To make more complicated things: tables, socks, sweaters with inset sleeves. To pull of fabulous "gourmet" meals, like my Dad's Julia Child meals. To get a hell of a haircut and once again recognize myself. To speak my mind as truly as I know how. To romance my husband and strengthen my friendships.

I feel that I am growing so slowly, and "changing" so quickly. I keep harping on the same string--even my writing twiddles its thumbs. But, to record a specific example, last year I wrote that nature and the body were my only, overworked, and inappropriate motifs. I knew hardly anything of either. Why could I write about nothing else? I still know hardly anything, but there is a new theme running through the recent poems. (I'll give you a clue: it's the title of the felt books.)

What a blatant case of an inner-April. What about you, friends? I'm reading her poetry and writing letters and trying to make bagels and reaching out as much as I can.