Sunday, March 30, 2008


I needed a surfeit of such after Saturday's Gehenna. Upon waking and the morning's ritual, I returned to the Moorehead and read another hundred pages. I then crabwalked to some essays that Plumb wrote about African exploration and I followed a thread concerning Mungo Park. My interest in such obliged me to ignore the televised NBA rout and I did repair the front door which gave me an excuse to linger in our library. I decided to leap into Powys' Owen Glendower and am presently pleased with that decision.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Times of Disquiet

This evening was such. We recovered at the Rover but I have thought of hibernation with Burton's Anatomy and a rereading of Celine's Journey To The End Of The Night.

In Need of Restraint

All this posturing, this stress, it weighs and weighs and I don't like when this blog assumes these contours, saturated with this flow of time and helpless emoting, floundering actually.

The house issue and the work scale have taken their toll. Hefty wages both.

Taking some need I smoked a cigar and began Alan Moorehead's The White Nile -- what a fascinating book. None of the principals are unknown but the narrative remains compelling all its own.I need to continue to relax and read. The monkey itch of other books is never absent. There is a note after the joint expedition of Burton and Speke where RFB is recovering from malaria and he cools his heels for a few weeks reading french novels. The nerd in me is curious as to what novels, that may not prove that elusive as i may consult the Burton bio I continually neglect to read, but the whining martyr within laments that I don't ever had weeks on end to read and ponder.

I can't say for certain that I'll return to the Cancer Ward, the appeal of the Moorehead is that strong and it, in turn, is already leading to similar searches -- not in Africa, mind you, but then samizdat is showing signs of life and I did buy a few novels to strip the order of that sting of shipping. sigh.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Together, Now

I finished the Rudolf II Monday night, slashed with burning eyes and a simmering resentment towards Mr. Marshall.

Since then I have occupied my mornings with The Cancer Ward and flittering thoughts elsewhere.

Monday, March 24, 2008


The Marshall has improved, specifically with regards to the descriptions of the Jewish quarter in Praha and its applicability to the scholarly vein. Doctor Dee then makes a lengthy appearance, allusions are made to his likely involvement in espionage, which also allows a circular nod to the intransigent Philip II, Rudolf's uncle.

I may appear picky, but, do we really need three reminders that Paracelsus was an early figure in medicine?

That said, I am holding out hope concerning the section on Giordano Bruno. There is a strong temptation to simply abandon the book and devote some future time with a rereading of John Banville's novels about Kepler, Copernicus and Newton. I know The Newton Letter isn't really about him, given the relative biographical nature of the other two tomes.

I will finish this, however, this evening and the return to The Cancer Ward.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Questions of Sect

Since that last flurry of postings, I have been absorbed (well, largely involved, I had to break to watch the Spurs pull out the stops against the hated Mavericks) with The Magic Circle of Rudolf II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague by Peter Marshall. The first four chapters are rather linear, patching a biography amidst the contentious atmosphere of late 16th Century Europe. This has melded into an exploration of Prague as crossroads of the West, how its tolerance, affluence and centers of learning fostered a corresponding reputation as the antechamber of the occult in those enlightened times.

The subject matter is remarkably fascinating but Marshall's delineation has been mediocre at best so far.

Rudolf II

I may read my book on him, interest being sown by recent novels by Mulisch and Crowley which have crept through those channels of engagement.


Thanks to that marvel, I have since learned that Mr. Ward escaped his inconsiderate stance on Judaism by taking his three sport brilliance and tempered theology to a job as high school basketball coach at some private academy in Texas.


There exists but one animal. The Creator used only one pattern for all organized beings. An animal is an entity taking its shape, or rather its different shapes, from the environment in which it develops. Zoological species are the result. . .

-- Balzac

Many sweating, ploughing, threshing, and then the chaff for payment receiving.

A few idly owning, and they the wheat continually claiming.

-- Whitman

Under the Orthodox aegis, I am keeping the lower profile, no grain harvests on my watch. I am well towards my day's quota of 100 pages in the Cancer Ward and then, perhaps, a shift to something historical. Speaking of the above -- what happened to Charlie Ward?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

5 Years

I didn't have a blog when the bombs first fell on Baghdad, I recall being sickened by the televised nightmare but i am not sure what I was reading, I am guessing I was rereading White Teeth in tandem with my sweetie.

As Noted

Many of my favorite experiences with literature have been of a Russian nature. It is no surprise that I think longingly of reading Dostoevsky while at my grandmother's house or with her at Spring Mill. Perhaps my timing and sequence have been sprained by circumstance and opportunity. It appears to have originated with Fyodor and then proceeded, later, to Turgenev, Nabokov and, only then, Tolstoy, followed by Solzhenitsyn and Vasily Grossman.

Of course this is generalized, but is a beacon, a warm hearth to return to in uncertain times, hence samizdat's delightful reading of Fathers and Sons two years ago. I am presently reading Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward after picking it up a few times in the last 4 years or so.

Monday, March 17, 2008


It was less curiosity than inertia which led me to finish The Pest House Saturday evening. Jim Crace's grim but not nihilistic portrait of an America which "used to be the safest place on Earth," was more of a peripatetic than the bleak collapse of the grid that we have gripped so steadily. There isn't much else to say, my opinion of Crace remains high, though the execution of this endeavor did leave much to be desired.

I then read Dreamers, a short novel by Knut Hamsun. I liked the wit and the allure of the rural Norwegians and the chemistry of spring.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Finishing Great Expectations last night I was struck by not its immensity -- I am not sure i would've read it presently without the benefit of last weekend's foot of snow -- but, rather, its arduous exploration of the themes of compunction and charity. Whereas the mirror atonements of Ruchard Ford's Sportswriter were too uncomfortable to sustain a current reading, Dickens' Pip was sufficiently distant to bruise.

I don't look to novels for rectitude, nor to novelists.

It has proved to be an endearing sequence, from Darkmans to Great Expectations. I don't doubt that.

There is a fatigue in certain conventions, formulas and genres with limited horizons. It wasn't expected, but perhaps the post-apocalyptic has its own shelf-life, no puns are intended. I read 50 pages of The Pest House last night. I may switch to All The King's Men. I also picked up Terry Teachout's bio of Mencken this a.m. at the library book sale. I am not sure I need to read multiple biographies of the great pen of Baltimore. Aside from Robert Penn Warren and Main Street, I have thought of reading Scandanavian literature, perhaps a return to Hamsun's Hunger and I do think I should (always) read more Russians. If I sound like a weedy parody of The Namesake then so be it and well. . .

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Nearing the end of Great Expectations (where's Richard Ford, some may inquire) and I was greeted with a pair of books from my friends Ed and Frank. I look forward to reading both Main Street by Sinclair Lewis and the unedited All the King's Men next week. To round out this one, however, I am going with Jim Crace's The Pest House.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


I read an essay Friday afternoon by Peter Bailey in The Guardian about how Great Expectations represents not only the pinnacle of Dickens' output but perhaps fiction as we understand it. Rather strong endorsement, I gathered and thus as the roads became impassable, I dove in.

Thinking Pip

No Lloyd Jones, mind you.

There is a foot of snow outside of our house. I have been reading Dickens, all the day.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Upon Summit

Darkmans has been completed after ten days. I finished it last night and its contrived convergences couldn't detract from such a delightful scheme of characters and development. While it didn't meet the criteria of the uncanny, it was odd to see Kane, the thoughtful dealer, pushed towards propriety by an encounter with the Dressing Station. I had heard a review of the book years ago on NPR and then saw copy at Day's Espresso on the borrowing shelf. I considered taking the book with me but didn't and I hadn't thought of the book in what may be nine or ten years now.

Speaking of 1999, I started The Sportswriter this a.m. and as it transpired, I first read Richard Ford on Easter of that eventful year at a cafe in Indianapolis. This present text has an assured rhythm about it and it has unfolded with panache.There are no present plans per samizdat, to a certain regret. We shall see.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Nearly There

There may be something about Darkmans and Saturday. I read another 250 pages yesterday and while I have problems with iss dearth of editing, its predilection towards the minute -- I have to establish that I love the characters and implicit theme of understanding traditions and the virtues of conservation.