One of the most pleasant aspects of the Baltic Sea cruise was the chance it gave me to read; I've managed to hold to my resolution regarding Proust. In fact, I've progressed down Swann's Way with so much more alacrity than I expected that I've been dropping into various Norwegian bookstores (all of which well-stocked with English-language novels, in which might lie my problem, considering) looking for In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower. I've only found one English copy of any volume of In Search Of Lost Time, and that was the redundant Swann's Way, moreover in the icky unhip Moncrieff translation, though I did see the whole set in Norwegian. And while sometimes while reading variously informative signs I get the impression that Norwegian is just English not even badly spelled but only badly typed, with the occasional manual typewriter strike-through on the o's, I don't think I'll get the full flavor of the Proustian language reading it in a language I only comprehend through bull-headedness and an inflated ego.

But while English-readers in Norway don't seem to be driving up the demand for Proust, I cannot say they are without taste. If popularity can be calculated by the sheer footage of shelf space, then two of the most popular authors in Norway are Paul Auster (ex-husband of Swann's Way translator Lydia Davis, apophenetically) and Haruki Murakami. Apparently there is a Norwegian appetite for existential, pulpish, experimental novels. Hoping to pass off synchronicity as miscomprehension, I bought Norwegian Wood.
I suppose I'm not going to write that substantial update I'd been planning before I leave for Tahoe. Oh, well, I had something planned about nostalgia. Speaking of which, I wonder if Jane Austen wasn't the correct high-toned author to whom to turn in my current mood of happy self-recrimination. And since I'm looking for dense doorstops to carry on the great Northern Europe expedition, the question arises: which translation of Proust should I favor? I'll get to ask [livejournal.com profile] atpotch that in person, won't I, in just twelve or so hours. And other people, of course, some of who might even have opinions on the subject.

And speaking of the great Northern Europe expedition, if you would like a postcard from the top of the world, or at least 79° North Latitude, send your address to dherblay at livejournal.com!
Today, Google honors Joan Miro.

In 12th grade AP Art History, I wrote my term paper on Miro's Nocturne. The paper was pretentious bullshit, as I recall, tying together pretty much every pre-war, Continental, semi-existentialist book I had read, skimmed, or glanced at the cover of. All six of them.
Today, I ran ) for 28 minutes, being in the middle of the eighth week of the Couch-To-5K nine-week plan. Of course, as I've been following the designated times rather than the designated distances, and as I've been "pacing myself," I'm not quite on track for five kilometers next week, as, according to the Gmap Pedometer, I ran only 2.38 miles. All of it, I might add, was uphill. It amazes me, but until I started running I had no idea that I could leave my house and travel a complete circuit through the neighborhood without ever descending. Apparently I live on a moebius strip. Today's more linear route was my attempt to limit the amount of climbing I would have to do: I spent much of it following the watershed of one of the ancient creeks. And yet still my body sends the message: "THIS IS UPHILL" while my brain divides the route into treacherous hills, steep climbs, steady uphill grades, and the occasional short stretch of almost, but not quite, sheer cliff face.

One thing that running has taught me is that my brain, much as I have trusted it over the years, doesn't always have my best interests at heart. Given half an hour of leisure time while my body and I are off jogging, it does nothing but concoct reasons why we should just go back to bed. For example, on Thursday, after about nine minutes of running and the hill out of the creekbed that I'm now sure is, if not K2, then at least K-twenty or twenty-five, my right Achilles' tendon issued a sensation. Not pain, not even discomfort, just a sensation. My body relays this to me as, "Uh, your Achilles' tendon would like you to know that it's here, and, on the whole, it would rather be sitting in a jacuzzi." Well, my brain overhears this, and it starts screaming, "It's going to SNAP and you'll be CRIPPLED and in a WHEELCHAIR and they better find a DOUBLE-WIDE WHEELCHAIR 'cause you'll be FAT ANYWAY so you should GO HOME and read the internet but DON'T POST or COMMENT because NO ONE WANTS TO READ YOU . . . " Meanwhile, my Achilles' tendon has long ago messaged "kthxbye!" and my body is wrapped up in trying to get over what we had previously believed to be a nice rolling lane but which evidence now suggests is a seriously disoriented Himalaya.

So my interest was piqued . . .  )
In passing, [livejournal.com profile] hermionesviolin mentions Songs Inspired By Literature, by "Artists For Literacy." This reminds me that I had once thought that if I got nothing else out of the Lit Hum syllabus, at least it ought to be good for a mix tape. However, after Led Zeppelin's "Achilles' Last Stand," "Tales Of Brave Ulysses" by Cream, and Tom Lehrer's "Oedipus Rex," the idea sort of petered out.

(As a preemptive strike in my defense, I'd like to point out that I merely used the site that came up first in my Google search on "lit hum syllabus.")
Persuasion or Mansfield Park?
Having just last night finished Pride And Prejudice, and having invested a not inconsiderable effort learning to unweave Austen's triple negatives and ironic switchbacks (which somehow transform to switchforwards), I today decided that delay would mean only later repeating struggles already hard-won and called upon my local Border's to buy Emma. There I faced that bedevilment of public-domain publishing, the anxiety that arises from an overabundance of options. Choosing my edition of Pride And Prejudice had been simple: I found my Signet Classic in the Simply Books at Cleveland Hopkins International, where it was certainly not nestled among a bounty of versions from other publishers. (In fact I purchased it as much in response to the slight tickle of finding something so high-brow in an airport as out of any felt obligation to actually read it.) Though the demerits of the Signet Classic are obvious: cheap paper besplotched with a crabbed and murky typeface; its single virtue shines forth brightly: it is completely and utterly unspoiled by footnotes.

My new Penguin Classic Emma, it is shameful to say, lacks this chastity. And so, on page ten, I encounter:
"No, papa, nobody thought of your walking. We must go in the carriage2 to be sure."
As I am of an obsequious and obedient nature, I turn to the back of the book, where it is revealed:
2. carriage: Four-wheeled private vehicle drawn by two or more horses. Ownership indicated a considerable degree of wealth and social standing.
Well (if I may be allowed to turn an Austenian phrase myself) no shit.

This would not have been even just half as vexatious had I not, a page before, floundered upon the word valetudinarian unexplicated by any footnote. The etymology suggested by my small Latin provided a definition along the lines of "someone with? acting in? the capacity of being? wishing? well." The context suggested that wellness was not at all what Austen was invoking. And so I spent the drive from Caribou to my home and dictionary obsessively wondering if Mr. Woodhouse was of a manner to say goodbye a lot -- all because Penguin is inconsiderate with its footnotes, stingy where they would be a charity, and generous where they are neither required or desired.
[livejournal.com profile] anadamous points out the Hamlet text adventure. I'm a bit disappointed that I ventured into the basement without a light source and was not instantly killed by a Grue.
Sunday: 22:26/15:32 (acrostic); Monday: 4:02; Tuesday: 4:41; Wednesday: 7:47; Thursday: 11:14. I'm quite backed up on these things, being pleasantly diverted.

My birthday has been very successful; my thanks to all those who extended their best wishes, with a special thank you going out to [livejournal.com profile] aliera9916 for the gift. It is greatly appreciated! I was well-gifted this February 14th: [livejournal.com profile] rahael gave me the third season of Homicide (I may force her to watch the Steve Buscemi episode before she goes). My mother presented me with Angel Season Three, the Vh1 (Inside)Out documentary on Warren Zevon, and Rashomon. I thought I'd seen Rashomon before, but I read the description on the back of the DVD and it sounds nothing like what I remember! (Rim shot.) My father got me the new Elmore Leonard novel and, proving that if he reads my friends list, he doesn't delve into the comments, The Da Vinci Code. I'm looking forward to indulging myself with all of these -- I have the feeling that Dan Brown's novel is going to be a guilty pleasure (or at least guilty).

But before I get to those, I have to finish Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I just reached December 7, 1941, on which a ton of stuff happens, the least of it being the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Is that a spoiler?) Chabon seems to have a better grasp of the comics world than I do (check out his treatment for the X-Men movie); there are lots of little in-jokes capable of producing chuckles in people who can recognize that twenty years after the novel takes place, there would be a comics character named "Wolverine," etc. There are probably in-jokes too obscure for the likes of me, too; I'm rather desperately seeking a site with annotations. I'd start in on it myself (I picked up rather quickly that Sammy Clay's extremely goyishe friend would introduce him to rather more forbidden foods from the fact that his name is "Tracy Bacon"), but as the only portrait of the obsessive annotating fan Chabon presents is of a Nazi sympathizer, I'm not sure the job would do me credit! I'm quite enjoying the novel, but I am reminded of [livejournal.com profile] ajhalluk's theory of the spatchcocked woman. I never really got the impression that Sammy would be homosexual, but being that the novel contains two young male protagonists with healthy sexual desires, and only one female character of any personality whatsoever, it seems like simple supply and demand. It's like all those hobbits running around with no sexual outlet other than each other and occasionally Boromir.

Speaking of perpetual bachelor hobbits and their "nephews," [livejournal.com profile] ajhalluk also recently asked about movies that change public consciousness. I've been wondering of late whether or not the recent rise in support for allowing gays to serve openly in the military can be attributed to the success of the Lord of the Rings movies: it's hard to deny to homosexuals the right to defend their country when they've been shown to do so well carrying rings to Mt. Doom. I wonder if The Return of the King, in which Pippin catches a bouquet, for christ's sake, will have a similar effect on support for gay marriage.

Of course, not every viewing of The Lord of the Rings will produce more progressive politics; [livejournal.com profile] londonkds points to John Rhys-Davies's thoughts on the effects on Britain of the prodigious reproduction of Muslim immigrants. I wonder, though, whether I cannot blame this all on Steven Spielberg. Rhys-Davies did make his name in Raiders of the Lost Ark playing Sallah, the best digger in Egypt, whose fourteen children save Indiana Jones from the massed submachine guns of Belloq's German handlers. How different his prejudices might be had Spielberg bothered to rewrite his script to include lines such as:

JONES:
We're going to need shovels, pry-bars and ropes.
SALLAH:
And condoms, Indy. One should never be without a condom!
From [livejournal.com profile] shadowkat67, a meme.

1. Name 10 favorite actors you'd see in anything:(Of course, this list is suspect, because for all actors other than Cary Grant there pretty much exist a whole ton of movies I haven't/wouldn't see them in. Of course, I should point out that I am doing this meme more in the spirit of posting something rather than giving it the benefit of too much serious introspection.)

2. Name 10 favorite actresses you'd see in anything:
  • Katherine Hepburn 9 more )
(Of course, this list is suspect, because especially near the end where I get into the sexy brunettes I may not be listing based on actual talent.)

3. Name 10 TV shows you'd love to have the complete episodes on DVD:
  • Hill Street Blues 9 more )
(The amount of television I have watched seems to have affected my ability to count.)

4. Name 10 Films you'd love to have on DVD:5. Name 10 books that you love and are your favorites at this moment in time:
  • Crosstown Traffic, by Charles Shaar Murray 9 more )
8. Name 10 songs that you love to listen to and can think of off the top of your head that you'd want a CD compiled of:
  • "Que Sera, Sera," Sly and the Family Stone 9 more )
9. Name 10 Musical Artists whose music you love and would take with you if you could only pick ten:10. Name 10 favorite examples of Islamic architecture (this is not actually s'kat's suggestion):
I don't usually gakk stuff -- but then, when you come right down to it, I don't usually post -- but this bit of [livejournal.com profile] ponygirl2000's is too good to pass up. Though I tend to denigrate the conspiratorial mindset, I have to admit that the possibilities of historical figures having met under strange circumstances sends my mind to some interesting spaces. The fact that Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and Sly Stone were all in London soon after the 1970 Isle of Wight festival makes me wonder about secret recordings of late-night jam sessions. (In fact, Jimi had made tentative plans to jam with Sly on the night of September 17, but he didn't feel like going and instead died.) That the Unabomber studied math at Harvard at around the same time as Tom Lehrer was teaching there makes me reflect on the different manners in which one can release one's cynical and anti-social impulses.

Indeed, I'm not sure that Alan Moore has done anything that exotic in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld series takes a similar idea of a group of figures from history and literature banding together for adventures. From various television cartoons, I remember Al Gore's Action Rangers and Leonardo Da Vinci's Fightin' Genius Time Commandos (all good things ultimately spring from The Tick). In any case, this game of Moore and ponygirl is one I have played before. I remember wandering among the tombs in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence thinking to myself, "Those interred here would, should the resurrection occur, make a kick-ass A-Team." Galileo would be the MacGuyver of the team; Michaelangelo (whom all the women go crazy for but he has his eyes squarely on the mission) would be the artful one; Dante (admittedly buried in Ravenna despite having one of the largest tombs in the church) would have the inside track to the post-apocalyptic landscape; and the conniving Macchiavelli (who has a bit of a complex over everyone else having such wonderful monuments while he got chucked into the floor) would be the team's wheeler and dealer. But this is not the team I want to outline today.

I once had the idea of writing a novel based on the idea that Francis Bacon, still seeking a return to royal favor, faked his death in 1626 so to be available to serve on missions for the British Crown, which he undertook with the assistance of his recent secretary, Thomas Hobbes. This would be its sequel, sort of its Forty Years After. I have decided to eschew the parameter that I can choose figures from anywhere along the space-time continuum and have focussed on Restoration Britain, though I have fudged some ages. In any case, I present the Order of the Squared Circle, Defenders of the Crown and Anti-Papist League!

The Leader: Thomas Hobbes, philosopher, traveller, garrulous arguer, suspected atheist, possibly the worst mathematician ever known. His loyalties to both the crown and to the Cromwellians were suspect; his loyalties to himself never needed any such scrutiny.

The Team: Aphra Behn, playwright and actual spy in the service of Charles II. In another age, one might say that anything a man could do she could do better, but considering the men with which I've surrounded her, one can see that that is faint praise indeed.

Peter Blood, physician and swordsman. A fictional creation of Rafael Sabatini's, made famous as the debut starring role of Errol Flynn. Might be, technically, a little young for inclusion. He distrusts the Catholic tendencies of Charles II, but is willing to defend the rights of free Englishmen up to slavery and death.

John Wilmot, The Earl of Rochester, poet, nobleman, favorite of the King. Famously dissolute. Not afraid to wield his blade, but is more cutting with his verse. Might be considered a little young for inclusion, but Dumas includes a young but clearly adult Rochester in Charles's court in 1660 in Le Vicomte.

The Recruiter: Oh, I don't know, Monk or Clarendon or someone.

Minor Villain: Christopher Wren, whose dastardly and insane plan to put London to the torch so that he can have the space to erect large buildings must be averted at great peril to our heroes.

Subsidiary Villain: Marco da Cola, from An Instance of the Fingerpost, an Italian gentleman and adventurer, curious about all things scientific. Or, just maybe, a Jesuit agent secretly trying to suborn Charles into the Catholic faith. Not easily disposed of, but really just a front for the true villain of the age, the General of the Jesuits, a man with the determination and the resources to rechart the course of history itself.

Major Villain: do I really have to say?

Hmmm. I'd have to read Pepys to really pull this off. Is it any wonder that I started dating someone whose speciality is 17th-Century English History? Saves me all that research.

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April 2009

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