Sunday, August 31, 2014

August, Adieu

Watched: The bouncing lamb
Saw: Uriah Heep on the plane from London to Frankfurt, decidedly wizened. One vaping on the plane - once a rebel, ever a rebel.

Ate: Beets, broccoli, raspberries, spinach, Stilton
Drank: Rosebud tea

ReadStill Life on a Matchbook Lid by Charles Wright
Listened to: Anita O'Day's Two for Tea 

Failed: After chatting happily with several colleagues, discovered broccoli between my front teeth in the ladies’ room mirror. 
Triumphed: Ate lunch on the steps outside St. Paul’s, defying all reluctance, self-consciousness, uptight Protestant work-ethic. 

Forgot: After 22 years without a dryer, how pleasurable it is to peel the delicate lint from the lint filter.
Learned: “sturmfrei,” the German word for the fun of having the house to yourself (for adolescents).

Missed: Luisa, my Italian daughter, who left for Sardinia for a month to take language classes. 
Observed: A tour guide on the streets of London foolishly shouting: “You are history! You are London!”

Realized: I love a few nights alone in a clean hotel. Own bed. Own bathroom. Own desk & chair.  Own nakedness. 
Decided: To sign up for some kind of salubrious movement course. 

Discarded: Old, unloved potholders.
Received: Moleskine bookshrine, compliments of husband.

Word of the week: Candescent, too much in the shadow of incandescent.
Pithiness of the week: “There is a species of bird which pecks holes in the thickest hollow trees, and it credits its beak with such strength that after each peck it is said to go to the other side of the tree to see whether or not the blow has gone right through it.” - Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Friday, August 29, 2014


After work Wednesday I headed to the traffic-tangled intersection of Ludgate Hill & Fleet St. to visit Waterstone’s, only to find it had closed. What a let-down. It was a convenient and close to my hotel, not really inspired as bookstores go but serviceable for a poor ex-pat like me.

Thursday my colleagues directed me to Daunt on Cheapside, up behind St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was a stroke of luck that Waterstone’s closed, because Daunt was rich and gorgeous and peppered with fabulous books. 

Near the entrance was a display including NYRB novels and novellas from the Melville House series. And the different thing about Daunt is it organizes much of the store by country. I was skeptical, but it worked. In the France section, for example, they had all the de rigueur French writers, plus novels set in France, plus history and diaries, etc. Ditto Canada, India, Eastern Europe, etc. 

I sat a spell beside Italy browsing the Leonardo Sciascia titles. I’d heard of Sciascia with his tactile last name, but was never drawn to him. Daunt had five of his books, three from both NYRB and Granta. The translations were identical, only the packaging differed. I shelled out the two extra pounds NYRB wanted for The Day of the Owl just to acquire that odd, hot/cool cover. 

(I’ve obviously become a slave to beauty. I almost don’t care if the book is any good. While in London I also bought a dainty glass teapot and loose rosebud tea so I can watch the pale pink buds floating, and smell the heady flowers. The drink is secondary.)

At Daunt, I also bought Penelope Lively’s Heat Wave, JG Ballard’s Crash, Upamanyu Chatterjee’s English, August, and The Everything Store by Brad Stone, a book about Amazon. The cashier told me he and his colleague had been discussing how much they liked the cover of Crash, and I had to shove The Day of the Owl up in his sweet young face.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


The Wiggle Room
The Panic Room
The Soap Bar
Hell's Kitchen
The Room to Maneuver
The Breathing Space
The Flowerbedroom
Master Bath
The Elbow Room 
The Room for Improvement

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Roll up, or the week that was

Ate: Ossobuco
Drank: German red wine

Reading: The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst
Listened to: The Magical Mystery Tour

Watched: Tootsie, for the umpteenth time
Saw: A thin spot on my husband’s head of rich dark hair 

Discarded: Underwear neither my daughter nor I could claim with confidence
Acquired: New wine glasses, which I did not need

Failed: Draft #17
Triumphed: The dog, hopelessly lugged along on a visit, made friends with our friends’ cat, Madame Curie, then wolfed down all her food

Found: A gorgeous stick stripped of its bark
Received: Half a bar of soap from Ursula (mistress of Madame Curie)

Visited: Arithmeum museum of calculating machines, Bonn
Observed: I really need a driver’s license if I expect to go anywhere. 

Word of the week: Resplendent (“Sitting outside at the End of Autumn,” Charles Wright) 
Pithiness of the week: “The US dumbing-down that is seizing Germany more and more is one of the gravest consequences of the war.” - Albert Schweizer (seen on the wall of one of my husband’s Italian students, an 80-year old former nun who lives in the woods)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The only order the day had was chronological order

In the afternoon, the hour of five falls like quintuplets from the clock.

To live in the moment is a frightful thing. In all the past I never lived in the moment. I was saving those moments for now.

The future is no better place. The future is coming with the sole purpose that I might regret it.

I once loved someone who said things like, “when we’re older and you write my biography…” What a presumptuous jerk. But more pathetic was how I adored him, and how he still crosses my mind every day, at least the person he was, not our failure.

Nothing nourishes suffering like nostalgia.

At dusk, while the stars sort out their sleep patterns,

I don’t pretend to know anything, including the French word for hell. I don’t even know if the English word for hell is quite correct.

After feasting, mint restores coherence.

Although anyone who looks can see it, and even explain it, the daytime moon always seems something secret and subversive.

It is good to put an hour aside for thinking. Slow down. Behold your horses.

Weltschmerz. I wash mine down with coffee.

Monday, August 18, 2014

My martini shook in my hand

Fed up with sleeping teenagers, I visited the cemetery Sunday with my cemetery kit: three books, two pens and paper. I read some of all the books - The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje, a book of Benjamin Peret poems, and Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte.

The Peret poems wearied me with their crazy energy. Billy the Kid, which I’ve read many times, was good, but chilled me - also because the day was cold - and made me tired. I closed my eyes, I felt cold. I’d chosen a bench in the sun but there was no sun. My eyelids drooped; more than anything I longed to lie down, but it seemed disgraceful. Still, I had nothing anyone could steal while I slept, and it was unlikely anyone would accost me, there were so few people there. As an experiment, I put my legs up on the bench. I couldn’t go through with it. 

The last thing I wanted to do was go home and start innerly burning about my lazy do-nothing-all-day teenagers. So I moved on to Kaputt, with its slightly sleazy, sympathetic narrator:

“I had just returned to Italy a few days before after having lain in a Helsinki hospital where I had undergone a serious operation that had exhausted my strength. I still walked with a cane and was pale and emaciated. (...) My martini shook in my hand I was still so weak.”

Sunday, August 10, 2014

All week ignominy

Reading: Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte
Listened to: God Must Be a Boogie Man 

Watched: ‘Team America’ videos, incl. ‘Aids
Saw: The new Planet of the Apes

Discarded: Odd socks
Acquired: Hiking shoes

Failed: draft #15 
Triumphed: After 20 years of complaining, I finally hung a screen in my window to keep the goddamned bugs out.

Forgot: Which continents horses are native to. 
Learned: Horses became extinct in N. America thousands of years ago. They were reintroduced to the continent in the 1500s by Spanish Conquistadors. 

Decided, sort of: It is not such an ignominy not to have read The Iliad.

Ate: Meatballs & tomato sauce
Drank: Tonic water with lime

Realized: So many areas hit by war - Ukraine, Iraq, Israel - I will stop cursing the too-frequent sound of construction in the city. 
Dreamed: I was watching a housetop swell and glow green and explode itself of its whirling shingles, only to grow them back and start again, and again.

Word of the week: “Dinnertime,” a word like a small bell tingling. 
Pithiness of the week: 'A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That's why they don' t get what they want.' - Madonna

Thursday, August 07, 2014

I think I could turn and live in the Vitra display window

On the ground floor of my office building there’s an upscale furniture store that sells cool, elegant pieces like the Eames chair and its splendid ottoman. I pass by daily and never see a customer inside. I assume they need sell only a single sofa every month to pay the overhead.

I said to a colleague today my wish is to get a position inhabiting that display window tucked beside the entrance. I could sit beneath the lights there, showing the deep-pocketed how stylish solitude is. 

As you see in the picture, the current display is all black & white - a little bit of pine ringing the stools and trolley, a Tapiovaara chair poised attentively in the corner like a fragile animal.

I think I could abandon all I possess and sit there with a book, tapping the ash of a cigarette onto a black saucer. 

I wouldn’t brood or fret about the future. I wouldn’t obsess about sins I committed half my life ago. I could turn my back on Israel and Palestine. I’d be glad to drink a glass of sparkling water with lime to jolt the color scheme, or import some black-eyed susans from what until then I’d called my backyard. 

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Anatomy and Cleopatra, or recent misreadings

Customers have been abandoning physical sores at an increasing pace. 

You can’t argue with fire ant.
(fine art)

A school sheltering distracted people was hit by what appeared to be an airstrike. 

After reading the passage, students were asked to put their convulsions in writing. 

British Museum’s Boob Wheel gets attention

Haworth's weather is generally windy, rainy, and cough.

Sounds injuring.

Police find cannibals growing on the highway.

The 'local midwife' can refer to more than just exotic native fauna.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

A Note on the Text: Duchat

The text of this book is set in Duchat, an angular typeface based on the handwriting of Emmanuel Duchat, royal scrivener to Nicolas II. Duchat expressed his intelligence in a barbed tongue, his wit evinced in the reams of correspondence he left behind. Duchat the man was an epicure: his spacing provided ample separation, inviting readers to savor every shape and word.

Duchat wrote in an quick hand, his bowls evoking eyes that squint at the heavens in inquiry, be it daytime, midnight, or eclipse. The typeface that bears his name bristles with loops and tails; its ascenders emerge like figures leaping up on tiptoe. 

The letterforms are a lean creation, sparingly adorned, marked by acute curvature. Steep swoops dictate the pace, while the capitals are not overlarge, like an emperor who is respected, but not given too wide a berth.
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