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Reading, reading. Not much, but some anyway.

In Tales of a Wayside Inn, in a discussion of whether artists should stick to local material or mine other cultures, which in 19th century America generally meant European subjects, one character says:
Poets—the best of them—are birds
Of passage; where their instinct leads
They range abroad for thoughts and words,
And from all climes bring home the seeds
That germinate in flowers or weeds.
Over his lifetime, Longfellow published five collections (called "flights") of poems under the general title Birds of Passage -- the second of which was tacked onto the end of the first installment of Tales. As suggested by the association, the subjects mostly range widely from the local, both in place and time. They also betray persistent anxiety over the purpose and power of poetry. Overall, the quality is good -- there are, in fact, a few anthology classics here, including "My Lost Youth" (which gave Frost the title for A Boy's Will), "Snow-Flakes," and my favorite, "The Children's Hour." I don't necessarily recommend reading all the collections, as I did, unless you already want to read more Longfellow. But I don't regret doing so.

In fiction, reread Earthlight by Arthur C. Clarke, which I haven't done since I was a teen -- when I read it a couple times a year (it was part of the handful of SF at our usual summer vacation place). It's a very white male future, without any women in sight (though a few are mentioned), and several aspects of how astronomy is done has been overtaken by technological progress. The story proper is sound, though, and I want to see a good writer (one who knows how to represent) to steal the plot revise it as a contemporary skiffy yarn of political intrigue. Possibly, along the way, adding some actual sense of tension to what is ostensibly a thriller.

In nonfiction, finished The Art of Fugue by Joseph Kerman, got only a little way into The Garden of Cyrus, and read ¾ of Books and Characters by Lytton Strachey, which is literary criticism in what I think of as the Woolfean Common Reader mode -- I got sucked into this because I was pointed to the essay on Beddoes. (I confess I end up skimming the French essays, as they include a lot of untranslated quotations.)


Subject quote from "The Kennebec," Anonymous.

Late June, and after a week of scorchers we've ambiguously moderated to merely very hot but muggy: thunderstorms are flirting with actually, yanno, raining on us, which means we get the heavy air but none of the benefits of storms.

The bugs don't seem to mind, though.
    In the row of oaks
outside an office building,
    cicadas announce
a matinee performance
of the great zerEEEEEE Chorus.
It is startling to realize I'm now working in that building, though it describes just about anyplace in the city.

So it goes.


Subject quote from "The Marshes of Glynn," Sidney Lanier.

Reading, reading, reading. A little bit, anyway:

In poetryland, finished Tales of a Wayside Inn by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Well-handled all around, and I've seen several individual tales in anthologies over the years (and of course "Paul Revere's Ride" is a recitation classic), but the frame story arcs into … nothing. It just kind of shivers away in a burst of farewells. This might be why it's not read as a whole very much any more.

And then read Corilolanus by William Shakespeare, another reread of something last (though only once) read in my teens There is much here relevant to contemporary politics, though presented through the filter of an apparent virulent antidemocrat.

Over in prosestead, finished Hydriotaphia: Urne-Burial and started the other half of the book, The Garden of Cyrus. Also, am ¾ through The Art of Fugue by Joseph Kerman, a set of essays on various Bach fugues.

And in interactive fiction (IFstan), reread the classic, and very short, Pick up the Phone booth and Die by Rob Noyes, and read Bronze by Emily Short, a beautifully written and evocative retelling of Beauty and the Beast, in which you are Belle returning to the castle.


Subject quote from "Amazing," Beth Sorrentino.

Following up on yesterday, a short shameful confession:

Despite all reminders to the contrary, my brain persists in thinking that "King Stephen was a worthy peer" was sung in Timon of Athens rather than Othello.


Subject quote from Henry IV Part 2, I.2, William Shakespeare.


Wednesday, the now-traditional day for reporting on what we've been reading.

In poetry, various anthology things mentioned before, plus Tales of a Wayside Inn to about 2/3.

In fiction, finished Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs. Decent character arcing, not so much on the political arc (or maybe I mean the meta-series arc?). A bit thin, overall, was my general impression.

In nonfiction, I finally admitted to a limitation of learning English history from 1066 and All That: that my understanding of what happened between Henry I and Henry II really was too vague.* Turns out there's only a single reign in the gap, but since it was disputed, there's enough confusion to go around. All by way of prefacing that I did some scattered readings on King Stephen and Empress Matilda/Maude.**

One of which was Holinshed's account in Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, which prose got me jonesing for something a wee bit better in the thinky style department. I failed to find it in Montaigne (who I otherwise like), but succeeded with Sir Thomas Browne: am nearly finished with Hydriotaphia: Urne-Burial and have more lined up after that till I run out of steam. (There's a lot of Browne available, all with those rolling baroque sentences building to a specific effect.)

* Filling in the gap between the first two Richards is for another time, as I already have a little better handle on that, thanks in part to Drayton.

** Alternate forms of the same name: in Anglo-Norman she splits the difference as Mahaut.


Subject quote from "Mencheres," Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel.

Okay, so, you guys who pointed out the aliterative meter of that translation of the Iliad into sonnets? (*cough* rymenhild *cough* swan_tower *cough*)

Behold this explicit attempt at an alliterative verse Iliad by F. W. Newman (brother of the more famous cardinal):
Of Peleus’ son, Achilles, sing,     oh goddess, the resentment
Accursed, which with countless pangs     Achaia’s army wounded,
And forward flung to Aïdes     full many a gallant spirit
Of heroes, and their very selves     did toss to dogs that ravin,
And unto every fowl, (for so     would Jove’s device be compass’d);
From that first day when feud arose     implacable, and parted
The son of Atreus, prince of men     and Achileus the godlike.
It's not the Old English meter, as there's (usually) four-then-three beats per hemistich, rather than two, but the alliteration -- it's there. At least he knew to alliterate on any stressed beat, rather than on initial syllables. Yeah, I know -- small comfort that.

Via same list of Homer translations as the sonnets. This was, btw, compiled by a classicist who has his own version, one that going by the opening is not bad.


Subject quote from "The Iliads of Homer," tr. George Chapman.

TBD is three years and a month old.

I've lost track of some of the milestones, but important achievements unlocked include pulling out and retracting a tape measure, putting together Lego bricks, and petulance. Threenager-grade petulance. (This morning, being told that we were going straight to breakfast after getting dressed, with no book reading, led to a minor meltdown -- which is at least easier to deal with than the very rare tantrum.)

There's some interesting thinking going on in that head, though -- putting known things together to try and explain other things. Such as describing sprinklers crossing streams as "They doing sword fight". One that especially impresses me: "Water melts into the air," in the way that ice melts into water. The spots of water on a napkin spread out on the table were pointed out as people, specifically "flat people."

Nomenclature: Officially I am now both "Daddy" and "Dad," depending on whim and mood, and likewise Janni is "Mommy" or "Mom." Most of the time, $realname(English) is preferred, but sometimes -- especially at bedtime, when reciting the story of adoption day has become part of the ritual -- $realname(Chinese) is wanted, especially in diminutive form. Gender identity is being more firmly asserted. And riding on the back of an adult on all fours is specifically riding a camel, not a horse -- "Thank you, camel!"

Lots of play involving pretend monsters. Also, acting out rules of the road. Only sometimes both together, though.

I thought I'd jotted down more bon mots, but the only thing in my notes file was said by Janni: "I am a cactus, but I'm one who's eating her dinner." Wish I could remember the context ...


Subject quote from "It's Not All Me," Alanis Morissette.


Meme, meme, who's got the Wednesday reading meme? Why, I do. *blinks in surprise*

I'm still reading mostly poetry, mostly from A Victorian Anthology (1837-1895), which I'm not halfway through (there's a lot of hill to climb in this one), but also some grazing in a couple other anthologies. Plus I've started Tales of a Wayside Inn by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who outdoes his model Chaucer by putting his strongest story first ("Paul Revere's Ride") -- or at least, it's the strongest so far.

Prosewise, I'm about ⅔ through A Prison Unsought, being Exordium book 3, and about ⅓ through Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs.

So, um, not much. Yay job?


Subject quote from "Brokedown Palace," Grateful Dead.

Things the world's most and least privileged people say. (via Janni)

An adaptation of Star Wars IV: A New Hope as a very long infographic. (via)

And because I love you for putting the 'trophy' in 'astrophysics', here's a pun generator. (via)


Subject quote from "The Knife," Genesis.

Time to check in on some of our animal friends:

A zookeeper valiantly attempts to prevent pandas from climbing into a basket of leaves while she sweeps their enclosure. As the MetaFilter poster put it, apparently that's the best basket in China.

How the heck did giraffes get such long necks? No, seriously, HOW?

Giant octopus kite. (via)

*goes back to watch the panda video again*


Subject quote from "To Autumn," John Keats.

... a place for posting bits of fluff caught in my filters. Warning: I list "very bad poetry" among my interests.

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