Summer recap

It’s certainly not that there hasn’t been anything happening, or that I haven’t been reading. But it’s been a busy summer–full, fun, difficult, challenging, all over the map.

I’ve kept intending to sit down and write catch‐up posts. Perhaps the best way to get started is just to summarize:

  • One of my best and oldest friends, BH, has pancreatic cancer. I’ve been to Philadelphia, oh, five times since June.
  • I went to the annual Gathering of Friends General Conference, where I saw many old friends; took a splendid workshop (five days, 2 1/2 hours a day) on Sacred Harp; discovered that while I like Boston better than Philadelphia, I’m not as happy; and decided that perhaps I should address my now going‐on‐two‐years spiritual malaise by trying out programmed Friends meeting and/or local liberal Christian churches and/or trying Buddhist practice. And I saw Mt. Ranier every day for nine days. Woot!
  • I got an aquarium, which is a return to a favorite hobby of childhood and some parts of adulthood.
  • I went to Provincetown overnight for my birthday, taking the ferry and also going out on a late‐afternoon whale‐watch. We saw many, many whales, very, very close. It was also the hottest day of the summer, and I spent the night in an air‐conditioned room at a nice b&b. What a great decision to go!
  • I attended a convention of typography enthusiasts (or rather, geeks). It was fun, I learned some useful things for work, and I took a letterpress workshop. Which leads to...
  • I’ve started a letterpress/book arts course at MassArt, which will go through mid‐December.
  • And I’ve read various and sundry books that I do hope to list eventually.

Catching up

I’ve been intending to post about a whole raft of books, a trip to Seattle, spiritual rumblings, and a birthday adventure, but the summer heat and humidity sap most of my initiative. Soon!

Dawn French interview

If you can wade through the absolute twaddle inside the interviewer’s mind, Dawn French has some interesting things to say in this Guardian Observer interview

‘You mustn’t lie to yourself or have any shame about anything to do with your body. I really don’t know why I don’t. I have attributed it in the past to my dad, because of his cherishing of me. I might have done that because he died quite early, because I hero‐worshipped him a bit. Possibly there’s that, but also I always moved away from people who made me feel bad and slightly swum towards people who are unafraid of it, who want me to be who I feel happy to be.’

Polyglot dreams

Ten languages I’ve at times thought I’d like to be able to make myself understood in (or to understand, in the case of dead languages):

  1. English (not, unfortunately, always a given)
  2. French
  3. Dutch
  4. Yiddish
  5. Swahili
  6. Mandarin
  7. Icelandic
  8. Old English
  9. Latin
  10. Hebrew

See, I’ve always had this vague, unrealized dream of being a polyglot. Unfortunately, it has remained a dream, as even my six years of instruction in French (lo these many years ago) have come to naught.

Brought to you by Doc Smartypants’ Friday Tenâ„¢.

Local color

The weekend before the one just past, we went to the Edward Gorey House in Yarmouthport to see the exhibit of the original artwork for the Gashleycrumb Tinies. It was delightful to visit the house a second time, and the Tinies are truly amazing to see. The exhibit has been extended into December, and I highly recommend taking it in if you’re anywhere near the Cape. His house has a magnificent magnolia tree growing beside it.

Goreymagnolia

And this past Sunday we were showing around a new two‐stepping friend, so we went to two favorite spots, Walden Pond in Concord and Halibut Point on Cape Ann.

Waldenpond

Waldenstump

Halibutpointquarry

Halibutpointrocks

August2005

A Reading Diary: A Passionate Reader’s Reflections on a Year of Books

Alberto Manguel. I loved his A History of Reading, so this was a must‐read for me. Manguel re‐reads twelve favorite books over the course of a year, keeping a commonplace book as he goes.

I don’t like people summing up books for me. Tempt me with a title, a scene, a quotation, yes, but not with the whole story. Fellow enthusiasts, jacket blurbs, teachers and histories of literature destroy much of our reading pleasure by ratting on the plot. And as one grows older, memory, too, can spoil much of the pleasure of being ignorant of what will happen next. I can barely recall what it was like not to know that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were one and the same person, or that Crusoe would meet his man Friday. [Argh, there, you’ve ruined those books for me, Alberto!]

Questions that in themselves delight: Why and how has this happened? Who is responsbile? What plan lies behind this confusion of facts? The reader assumes the role of a detached Job, in which sentiment is a mere adornment or distraction.

The rain has stopped. For several weeks now I’ve followed a certain routine: working on one book in the morning, on another in the afternoon. This is easier now that the days are getting colder. Two different voices or tones: the first tries to be coherent and follows the thread of a narrative or an argument; the second (this diary) is fragmented, haphazard. The second allows me to think without an established direction.

The reader contradicts the writer’s method, whatever that may be. As a reader, I’ll follow a carefully plotted story carelessly, allowing myself to be distracted by details and aleatory thoughts; on the other hand, I’ll read a fragmentary work (Valéry, for instance, or Pío Baroja) as if I were connecting the dots, in search of order. In both cases, however, I look for (or imagine) a link between beginning and end, as if all reading were, in its very nature, circular.