Sunday, December 31, 2006

Top Ten: The Final Few

Still one short. There are a few more good books I read in 2006, but great? The best? I'm not entirely sure.

8. A Loeb Classical Library Reader, by the Loeb Classical Library

V. Detrahere igitur alteri aliquid et hominem hominis
incommodo suum commodum augere magis est contra naturam
quam mors, quam paupertas, quam dolor, quam cetera,
quae possunt aut corpori accidere aut rebus externis.
Nam principio tollit convictum humanum et societatem.
Si enim sic erimus affecti, ut propter suum quisque emolumentum
spoliet aut violet alterum, disrumpi necesse est,
eam quae maxime est secundum naturam, humani generis
societatem. Ut, si unum quodque membrum sensum hunc
haberet, ut posse putaret se valere, si proximi membri valetudinem
ad se traduxisset, debilitari et interire totum
corpus necesse esset, sic, si unus quisque nostrum ad se rapiat
commoda aliorum detrahatque, quod cuique possit,
emolumenti sui gratia, societas hominum et communitas
evertatur necesse est.

V. Well then, for a man to take something from his
neighbour and to profit by his neighbour’s loss is more contrary
to Nature than is death or poverty or pain or anything
else that can affect either our person or our property. For,
in the first place, injustice is fatal to social life and fellowship
between man and man. For, if we are so disposed that
each, to gain some personal profit, will defraud or injure
his neighbour, then those bonds of human society, which
are most in accord with Nature’s laws, must of necessity be
broken. Suppose, by way of comparison, that each one of
our bodily members should conceive this idea and imagine
that it could be strong and well if it should draw off to itself
the health and strength of its neighbouring member, the
whole body would necessarily be enfeebled and die; so, if
each one of us should seize upon the property of his neighbours
and take from each whatever he could appropriate
to his own use, the bonds of human society must inevitably
be annihilated.

9. Only Revolutions, by Mark Danielewski

A rounding circles with hooks,
shimmying duckily, if
the Bentley Mulliner blasts clouds
now of hotoil seizure. Rusty shrapnel
plincking Picnickers, Fishers, Weary
Laborers failing at leisure
Towards worse
By Bobo to Hushpuckena
By Dinkering Eskimo Chickens.

Allways away with Sam.
Even if I've scraggly hair. Gross
overalls. Have to pick my nose.
He's why September never goes.
Our Subaru SVX releases curves.
I'm a thousand Septembers. And he's
all deserts east when the payloads explode.

Top Ten: the Year-end Rush

I know, I know, the year's almost over, and I'm only 5 in. And unfortunately, I've lent some of the best books I've read this year out, and can't quote directly from them (the hazards of being a best book, I suppose). So I might end up falling a bit short. Regardless: onwards!

6. Number 6 gets included on the list on a bit of a technicality -- the book came out in hardcover in 2005, but the paperback came out in 2006. And the publicity resulting from the publication of the paperback brought me to one of the best readings I went to in 2006. So there.

Magic for Beginners, by Kelly Link

Jeremy runs all the way, slapping his old track shoes against the sidewalk for the pleasure of the jar, for the sweetness of the sting. He likes the rough cottony ache in his lungs. His coach says you have to be part masochist to enjoy something like running. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Its something to exploit.
Talis opens the door. She grins, although he can tell she's been crying, too. She's wearing a T-shirt that says
I'm So Goth I Shit Tiny Vampires.
"Hey," Jeremy says. Talis nods. Talis isn't so Goth, at least not as far as Jeremy or anyone else knows. Talis just has a lot of T-shirts. Shes an enigma wrapped in a mysterious T-shirt. A woman once said to Calvin Coolidge, "Mr. President, I bet my husband that I could get you to say more than two words." Coolidge said, "You lose." Jeremy can imagine Talise as Calvin Coolidge in a former life. Or maybe she was one of those dogs that don't bark. A basenji. Or a rock. A dolmen. There was an episode of 'The Library,' once, with some sinister dancing dolmens in it.

7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
Graphic lifted from Salon's review, as I've lent out my copy

Friday, December 22, 2006

Maeby Baby

Welcome to the world, Georgia Maeby Green Rogalski! . You couldn't have chosen a better set of parents. Way to go, kid!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Home again

It's 3:16 AM here in Boston. That's just after midnight my time. Brian and I actually went to bed hours ago, but I woke up at 2:30, far too awake to be in bed or even think of sleeping.

So now I'm downstairs with the dog, who thinks all rules must be suspended, if I'm home and we're up so late. He keeps trying to climb into my chair with me (instead of staying in his chair, as he's trained to do), and he's sniffing around, convinced that treats are afoot. Oh, poor thing, he's blinking so sleepily.

Anyway. Happy Christmas(ish)! And to all a good night.

Monday, December 18, 2006

More towards the top ten

Light and Shade: New and Selected Poetry, by Tom Clark


Summer night
klang of stars

inner acoustic

water diamonds
the oars

Towards a Top Ten, Take Two

3. The Ladies of Grace Adieu, and other stories, by Suzanna Clarke

There were horned heads, antlered heads, heads carapiced like insects' heads, heads as puckered and soft as a mouldy orange; there were mouths pulled wide by tusks, mouths stretched out into trumpets, mouths that grinned, mouths that gaped, mouths that dribbled; there were bats' ears, cats' ears, rats' whiskers; there were ancient eyes in young faces, large, dewy eyes in old worn faces, there were eyes that winked and blinked in parts of the anatomy where I had never before expected to see any eyes at all. The goblins were lodged in every part of the house; there was scarcely a crack in the wainscotting which did not harbour a staring eye, scarcely a gap in the banisters without a nose or snout poking through it. They prodded us with their horny fingers, they pulled our hair and pinched us black and blue. Dido and I ran out of End-Of-All-Hope House, jumped up upon Quaker's back and rode away into the winter woods.

Snow fell thick and fast from the sea-green sky.

4. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party

A man in a topiary maze cannot judge of the twistings and turnings, and which avenuue might lead him to the heart; while one who stands above, on some pleasant prospect, looking down upon the labyrinth, is reduced to watching the bewildered circumnavigations of the tiny victim through obvious coils -- as the gods, perhaps, looked down on the besieged and blood-sprayed Troy from the saftey of their couches, and thought mortals weak and foolish while they themselves reclined in comfort, and had only to snap to call Ganymede to their side with nectar decanted.

So I, now, with the vantage of years, am sensible to my foolishness, my blindness, as a child. I cannot think of my blunders without a shriveling of the inward parts -- not merely the dessication attendant on shame, but also the aggravation of remorse that I did not demand more explanation, that I did not sooner take my mother by the hand, and --

I do not know what I regret. I sit with my pen, and cannot find an end to that sentence.

I do not know what we may do, to know another better.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Towards a Top Ten

So the year is drawing to a close, and, never one to pass up the opportunity to reccommend books, I thought I'd list my ten favorites. In the interest of imposing rules (so as not to range all over as I am wont to do), I limited myself to books published in the last year.

I do hate ranking things though, so these aren't in any sort of order, just the order that they come to mind. And in the interest of not exhausting you, poor reader, with too much reading material to take in at once, I'll be posting my selections, with excerpts from each, in dribs and drabs over the next few days.

These first two seem like they should go together. I'm often introducing books to one another in this way, placing them side by side on the bookshelf as if I were seating them next to one another at a dinner party (and so this is why Elizabeth Cook's Achilles can be found between the Fagles Illiad and Tom Clark's Light and Shade. I do have a system, after all).

1. What is the What, by Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng.

I was sitting with my mother, helping her boil water. I had found kindling and was feeding the fire, and she was approving of the help I was providing. It was unusual for a boy of any age to be as helpful as I was. There is an intimacy between mother and son, a son of six or seven. At that age a boy can still be a boy, can be weak and melt into his mother's arms. For me, though, this is the last time, for tomorrow I will not be a boy. I will be something else -- an animal desperate only to survive. I know I cannot turn back so I savor these days, these moments when I can be small, can do small favors, can crawl beneath my mother and blow on the dinner fire. I like to think I was luxuriating in the final moment of childhood when the sound came.

2. Grief Lessons:
Four Plays by Euripides, translated by Anne Carson.

Midnight my ruin began.
Supper was over, sweet sleep was drifting down,
after songs and dances and sacrafice
my husband lay in our chamber,
his spear on its peg.
He was not watching
for Greek sailors
to come walking into Troy.

I was doing my hair,
I was binding my hair,
staring down into the bottomless lake of my mirror,
before I fell into bed --
a scream cut the town,
a roar swept the street...

I left my bed in just a robe
like a Spartan girl
to supplicate holy Artemis. Useless! Sorrow!
I saw my husband killed.
They drove me down
to the salt sea.
Then I looked back as the ship set sail,
pulling me further and further from Troy
and I fainted away.

Monday, December 11, 2006

On the killing of darlings

The hardest thing about writing a syllabus is the editing down. Last semester, I had the gall to actually edit the Iliad (and I questioned throughout the course whether I'd done the right thing, though I'm happy I included all the supporting texts I did).

But this time it's even worse. There are stacks of texts I consider essential to a course in Classical Philosophy, and only a finite number of classes in the semester. Must I sacrifice the pre-Socratics in order to include Seneca and Epicurus? But the pre-Socratics are so nutty and fun! And how can we read the Republic in its entirety if it means sacraficing either the Crito or the Apology? And what about the Phaedrus (my absolute favorite)? Aaaaugh!

So, brilliant readers: what texts do you think are absolutely essential readings in Classical philosophy? What shouldn't students be allowed to live without?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle!

It's raining, I have a headache, and I've been listening to nothing but Chrismas music for hours. Is it any wonder I'm in an odd mood?

The last few days have just been dingey. Thursday night, I had a bunch of poet friends for a reading, which was just so much fun, but as soon as everyone was gone, or even before, I got into that funny way of thinking I have, wherin I think everyone's just humoring me, and they couldn't possibly like me, and oh, I should have worn a different shirt. Then Friday I started in with this head cold I'm sporting, and now I'm just sitting pathetically on the couch, worrying about insurance and medical stuff and wishing I'd done everything up til now differently and for God's sake, Nora, what else do you want out of life, that when everythings so nice you've got to sit around and mope about it?

Do you ever have images just pop into your head? I was just sitting here, staring at my desk (note to self: shouldn't that teetering pile of books find their way back to the bookshelf?), when suddenly I saw with three dimensional clarity the little beach near my family's summer place up in Vermont, that twilight wash of red rocks and cedar trees, and the murky depths of weedy water. Hm.

My iTunes Christmas shuffle just popped on "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," and I misheard it as, "Come now, count thy every blessing." Perhaps it's time I did.

Anyway, before this post gets any more schizophrenic, I'm off to count every blessing. And do laundry.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Insert funny, self-depriciating title here

Check out the latest issue of Five Fingers Review! That's my piece on the cover:

Five Fingers Review Cover

And you'll have to buy a copy to see the rest, as my blogger layout goes all screwy when I try and put them in (or if you're really cheap, go to my flickr page. Cheapo). Anyway, it's a collage based on a poem that I *think I posted an early form of up in this here blog (I'll have to poke through the archives a bit and find that). But, yay! I'm published! I feel so excited, and so, so exposed.

I don't think this issues in stores yet, but you can eventually find it at your local Barnes & Noble, or order it online (sometime in the next few weeks) through Small Press Distribution.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Things that were inordinately confusing Sunday morning at 9:00, after having stayed up until 6:00 the night before

1. The line at Starbucks
2. The infinite variety of green tea (3 different kinds? How do I know what I like?)
3. The xerox machine at school
4. Keirkegaard
5. Sunglasses.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Oh dear

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?

You will be smothered under a rug. You're a little anti-social, and may want to start gaining new social skills by making prank phone calls.
Take this quiz!

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| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Friday, December 01, 2006


I know, I know, it's not official until Sunday. But it's advent-calendar season, at least, and that's enough for me. We (finally!) bought our tickets home today, and a good thing, too -- we weren't even able to get seats together on the way out, the flights are so full (and our only options were redeyes or a million different layovers and transfers (we took the redeye)). Hmpf.

Not much to report. A trip to the lumberyard this morning, followed by a very lazy day for me (including a two hour nap -- I was grouchy and decided I needed a time-out). It's December! Hurrah!