Sunday, January 26, 2014

the week past

Ate: Mushrooms with walnuts and gruyere
Bought: Tickets for Momix Botanica
Received: Joanna Newsom’s Ys from a colleague
Saw: A photo of an angry man that was also funny
Disliked: Poetry rejections
Watched: Raiders of the Lost Ark 
Rolled my eyes at: The short life of Frankfurt snow
Ordered: The Waste Books for my father
Cried over: The melodrama of The Pickwick Papers
Listened to: Le Nozze di Figaro
Drank: Nebbiolo 

Pithiness of the week: “Nothing can contribute more to a soul's peace than the lack of any opinion whatsoever.” - Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Let Us Now Praise Small Apples

As the world knows I’m eating an apple a day in January. I have sought out odd sorts and gone to organic groceries and put aside my prejudice for unbruised beauty.

Alas, despite passing fancies, I have not been swayed into the fan club. The big whoop today was finding some tasty, tight apples that were petite, and it struck me that supermarkets generally carry apples the size of bocce balls. That might impress you, but taste and texture-wise is not always Eden. Anyway, I’m going to make it to month’s end, helped by downsizing. 

Meanwhile, I have been asked the describe varieties, and since I worry about falling short, I include musical equivalents. 

Topaz - Since I was looking to sample apples I hadn’t yet tried, I bought a couple of these. Also, they were small and small apples have less room to fail. This was a wonderful apple. Compact and the opposite of mealy, they kept my attention through the whole feast. High-spirited, crisp and not over-sweet. If it were a song it would be by these boys

Pinova - Wasn’t this one of Columbus’s ships? The Pinova was smooth and tasty, mellower than the Topaz. If I had to compare the mood and experience of this apple to a song it would be this lovely standard, though the song outshines the apple. 

Elstar - I would have stayed away from Elstar because it is ubiquitous, and because the name reminds me of the failed Ford Edsel. But I was in a bad spot and needed an apple to fulfill my resolution. First go-round I did the flick-the-flesh test and got home with a good one. Second time, too. So I changed my mind about Elstar, whose song should this pop tune

Jonagold - Cosmetically this was perfect. It being my first Jonagold in a while I decided to cut it rather than bite into it. The signs were good - it was wet and seemed dense; the knife met resistance and made a crunchy sound slicing through. But, though it wasn’t mealy, the flesh didn’t put up enough resistance. I ate most of it but threw a bit away, lest I choke à la Snow White. It’s like a chanson that sounds and looks good but lacks substance and loses audience interest.

Golden Delicious - A dull, one-dimensional experience, abandoned halfway through. Like this song, who on earth knows why it's so popular. 

Braeburn - Another of the ubiquitous. But from the organic shop, small and obviously not part of some mass industrial harvest, it looked demure and perky, as if it might bounce if I dropped it. It was sweet, crisp and juicy, upbeat as apples should be. Charming, and much appreciated, as this ditty

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Seven-minute hours

I was stuck on trains again last week. With seven minutes between connections in Fulda, my train from Frankfurt left 20 minutes late, and after they closed the doors for good we were informed that construction work meant we would delayed a full hour. On the way back I missed my train, and had to wait an hour in the dark cold for the next one in Middle-of-Nowhere, Germany, where most of the trains slam past without thought of stopping. Don’t listen to those who complain about the country’s low birthrate. The platform was alive with young people and their junk food and their cursing and their bad fashion decisions.
Very reassuring.

The upside was I chomped through a goodly portion of "The Pickwick Papers," and even listened to two New Yorker fiction podcasts: Richard Ford reading John Cheever’s “Reunion” (12 mins), and Joshua Ferris reading George Saunders’ “Adams” (22 mins), both of which involve fathers. The stories are short and have a great punch, and I recommend listening to them (and the discussions that follow) with all my heart. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014


As part of a project I recently looked into positive adjectives often paired with “reader.” 

The most common is “avid,” which clocks in on google with 14.3 million results. “Avid,” of course, means “with eagerness,” suggesting the person reads gladly. It suggests an attitude rather than a quantity or quality.

Next comes “voracious reader,” with 862,000 results. “Voracious” is most often used in the context of food and suggests a big appetite, thus connoting that a person reads in great quantities. 

“Enthusiastic,” a synonym for “avid,” comes in third with 125,000 results. Again it indicates an attitude rather than being necessarily related to taste or quantity. 

Then comes “ravenous reader,” with 37,600 results, an alternative to “voracious.” 

Then comes the slightly oddball “omnivorous reader,” with 37,300 results.

Let me get all schoolmarmy and say an “omnivorous reader” does not necessarily read heaps of books, although that is implied. Rather, s/he reads indiscriminately, devouring everything from pulp fiction to Balkan history to tofu cookbooks to steampunk sci-fi to crime, etc., regardless of genre. In my opinion, one cannot be “an omnivorous reader of social science,” for example, because it already limits the scope.

While “omnivorous” may emphasize curiosity, it demands the reader cease to be discriminating. In the spirit of abandoning books, is that a positive thing? I start to doubt such a reader exists. You’ve got to care little for what you do with your time. 

By the way, last on my list is “prodigious reader,” with 18,700 results. The word “prodigious,” which shares its root with "prodigy," emphasizes accomplishment over appetite, intention or attitude. The first definition in Webster says “wonderful,” and thus this may be the best of all readers.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The pear door was ill

His mother was a French-speaking seamistress - - (seamstress)

Hillary Clinton doubts new haircut, bangs - - (debuts)

Walking the dog in the Aspirin snow - - (Aspen)

Persimmon grows over chances of EU deal - - (pessimism)

Kim Jong Un hails execution of powerful nude - - (uncle)

The pear door was ill - - (poor dear)

Newengland’s suicide exposes women’s plight in India - - (newlywed’s)

Cruise hammered over war mosquitoes - - (misquotes)

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Crepe Paper Body

I hate all of love as if it were a single person.
I’ve watched so much smoke drifting off
like the thoughts of someone extremely sick.

I’ve rented a room to be alone with myself,
not wanting to be glutted
about having been hot, at having felt cold.

What would be the outcome of everything
if I tell you that in the branches of my bed
the smoke of volcanoes attires me in its vapors?

I dread the ruin which is due to me,
the woman with the crepe paper body –

high, low, all the time,
here and there impetuous fires.

Robert Desnos -One Day When It Was Night Out/ Tristan Tzara -Highway Single Sun/ Antonin Artaud -Moon/ Blaise Cendrars -In the World’s Heart/ Pierre Reverdy -Waterfall/ Paul Eluard -Painted Words/ Tristan Tzara -Song V/ Paul Eluard -Poetry Ought To Have a Practical Purpose/ Robert Desnos -The Voice of Robert Desnos/ Jacques Dupin -Waiting/André Breton -A Branch of Nettles Enters Through the Window/ René Daumal -Sad Little Round of Life/ Paul Eluard -From the Depth of the Abyss

Friday, January 03, 2014

From Ariane to Zabergau

For about 5 minutes on New Year’s Day I had the insane idea to eat an apple a day this year in the spirit of the old adage. The biggest obstacle to such a resolution is that I don’t really like apples. They're not altogether unappetizing, but bad experience has turned me off because it is too easy to get a mealy one. There is little worse than taking a bite of an apple and having it go all grainy in your mouth. Horrible.

But I do like a firm apple, and as a word person I’d love if there were more varieties with romantic and evocative names available. This great article mentions the Blue Pearmain, Pound Sweet, Wolf River and Black Oxford. I would try those just for the bragging rights.
If I could get my hands on them. As in the US, in Germany supermarkets offer the same ubiquitous varieties ad nauseam:  Pink Lady, the two Deliciouses, Granny Smith, Fuji, Braeburn, Jonagold, and Royal Gala. If I could drive I could get out to the nearby orchards and get other kinds, but alas, I am not licensed to access unusual apples.
Still, as of today I’m signing up for an apple-a-day January, and will see how it goes. Today I’m doing an Elstar, originally a cross between the Golden Delicious and Ingrid Marie apples. I am not brave enough to bite right into it, but will be using a sharp knife. 

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

How much 14 there has been in existence

César Vallejo cuts a sad and driven figure. He was a Peruvian who lived the last quarter of his life in Europe, mostly poor and in bad straits. His poetry was dark and surreal, original and haunted. His most famous poem is probably Black Stone Lying on a White Stone, a fabulous poem.

With 2014 coming over the past few days I’ve been thinking of Vallejo’s poem “Anniversary.” Like so much of his poetry, “Anniversary” mesmerizes. It comes to me often when I encounter the number 14. I don’t know what 14th anniversary he is immortalizing, but for all its mystery, “Anniversary” seems one of his more affirmative poems, to the detriment of 15! 

I give you below the first stanza. Google “César Vallejo anniversary 14” and Google Books will gift you the whole thing. I will tuck Vallejo in my pocket and keep him with me this year.


How much 14 there has been in existence!
What credits with mist on a corner!
What a synthetic diamond the skull is!
The lengthier 
the sweetness, the deeper the surface,
how much 14 there has been in such a small 1!

Related Posts with Thumbnails