"I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing." - Herman Melville

October 4, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Structured Reading: Willa Cather

After I finish Isaac Bashevis Singer, next week I'm going to start a highly specialized version of Structured Reading: Willa Cather's "Prairie Trilogy" of novels, O Pioneers!, The Song of the Lark and My Antonia. I've always heard great things about Cather but have never read any of her work. If nothing else, at least the first book in the trilogy might become the first book I've ever read with an exclamation point in the title.

Reading a trilogy is admittedly less creative than I've been in past Structured Reading efforts, which required more thoughtful curation on my part: the Depression, great American satirists, old-school Jewish writers and African-American classics.

October 2, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)


image from http://www.boogaj.com/.a/6a00d83451ce9f69e201b8d1600cc1970c-pi

September 30, 2015 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

"The deader the language, the more alive is the ghost."

Isaac Bashevis Singer, on writing in Yiddish:
"People ask me often: Why do you write in a dying language? And I want to explain it in a few words. Firstly, I like to write ghost stories, and nothing fits a ghost story better than a dying language. The deader the language, the more alive is the ghost. Ghosts love Yiddish, and, as far as I know, they all speak it.

Secondly, I not only believe in ghosts but also in resurrection. I am sure that millions of Yiddish-speaking corpses will rise from their graves one day, and their first question will be: Is there any new book in Yiddish to read? For them Yiddish will not be dead."
Right now I'm reading Singer's 1963 story collection The Spinoza of Market Street, and really enjoying it. His portrayals of the long-vanished Jewish communities of eastern Europe are simply lovely - richly drawn, compassionate and witty.

September 30, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (2)


"When some political or ecclesiastical pamphlet, or novel, or poem is making a great commotion, you should remember that he who writes for fools always finds a large public."
- Schopenhauer

Apparently I already believed this. It would certainly explain why the critical darlings Then We Came to the End and A Visit From the Goon Squad have been sitting on my shelf, unread, for years. And why, after I finally read The Devil in the White City after ten years on the shelf, I wished I hadn't wasted my time.

September 27, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)


“To trust people is a luxury in which only the wealthy can indulge; the poor cannot afford it.” ― E.M. Forster, Howards End

September 26, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reading in Public: Joliet, 2015


It's been a year and a half since I last posted to my Reading in Public series, and have never posted one of my own photographs there, so I am doubly pleased to now share this image that I captured this morning. This was taken at Union Station in Joliet, on the new Rock Island District platform. I love how focused this gentleman was on his book, so much so that not even the gorgeous sunrise could distract him.

September 24, 2015 in Reading in Public | Permalink | Comments (2)


"No sweet deluge will come to wash your worries away." - Graeme Downes, "Stay Gone"

September 24, 2015 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)


"We all have our time machines, don't we. Those that take us back are memories...And those that carry us forward, are dreams." - H.G. Wells (born on this day in 1866)

September 21, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

"...asking us if we knew their names..."

In Matt Bell's story "The Receiving Tower", a group of men, under the iron command of a seemingly maniacal captain, operate a communication tower in the frozen wilderness. With little to occupy their time, each slowly loses his memory (growing "dim") and, with it, the desire to escape and return to a home they are progressively forgetting (and which might no longer exist).
As I remember it — which is not well — young Kerr was the first to grow dim. We’d find him high in the tower’s listening room, swearing at the computers, locking up console after console by failing to enter his password correctly. At night, he wandered the barracks, holding a framed portrait of his son and daughter, asking us if we knew their names, if we remembered how old they were. This is when one of us would remove the photograph from its frame so that he could read the fading scrawl on the back, the inked lines he eventually wore off by tracing them over and over with his fingers, after which there was no proof with which to quiet his queries.

Later, after he had gotten much worse, we’d find him on the roof, half frozen, sleeping beneath the receiving dish, his arms wrapped partway around its thick stem, his mind faded, his body lean and starved and frostbitten.

None of us realized he was missing until we found his body, trapped in the ice just inside the compound’s gate. What pain he must have felt after he threw himself from atop the tower, after he tried to crawl forward on crushed bones, heading in the direction of a coast he must have known he would never live to see.
Great story, one which I could imagine being expanded to book length. The story is collected in How They Were Found, which I just started reading and have enjoyed so far. This month has unexpectedly morphed into Short Story September - this is the third collection I've read this month (the others are by Ben Tanzer and Joe Peterson) and Isaac Bashevis Singer's The Spinoza of Market Street might be next.

September 21, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)