Friday, fortunately/unfortunately

Fortunately I could sleep till I woke up.

Unfortunately, that was later than I hoped I’d be up.

Fortunately, I have finished writing the final exam I will give next week.

Unfortunately, I have still not finished the R&R I hoped to be done with last month.

Fortunately, now I have some time to work on it.

Unfortunately, if I work on the R&R, I will not get the undergrad papers graded today. Or maybe that’s a “fortunately.”

Fortunately, I can also grade papers tomorrow or Monday.

Unfortunately, I may have to go to campus Monday for one single meeting.

Fortunately, since it is now noon and no agenda has been posted, there is a good chance that that meeting may not happen.

Unfortunately, needing to finish writing the final exam, combined with late rising, means I didn’t go to the yoga class I hoped to attend this morning.

Fortunately, the same teacher gives another class tomorrow.

Mehr ändert es

Concerning Marburg, I could tell endless anecdotes, but it is impossible to write them down—and this not only has to do with external reasons. All over, there was not much wisdom required . . . , only a certain amount of composure (which was not always easily available). Besides, there was more foolishness than wisdom. At Marburg, I am living among people who are not of our origin, and whose conditions are very different—but who, nevertheless, think exactly as we do. This is wonderful, but it implies a temptation for foolishness; the temptation consists in the illusion that there is a ground to build upon—although individual opinions (however numerous they may be) simply do not count. Only this voyage liberated me from my error.

Erich Auerbach, writing to Walter Benjamin from Florence, 6 October 1935.

Quoted in Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, “ ‘Pathos of the Earthly Progress’: Erich Auerbach’s Everydays,” in Literary History and the Challenge of Philology: The Legacy of Erich Auerbach, ed. Seth Lerer (Stanford UP, 1996), 13–35 (p. 16).

Cats who encourage tidiness

I complained about Glendower awhile back. Now Reina has developed the chewing-on-paper tendency. She used only to chew post-its left sticking out of books that had been re-shelved. She loves to hide on bookshelves, behind the books; we have open-frame shelves that make it easy for the cats to tunnel behind the books, since if we push books to the wall, (a) they fall down since the walls aren’t necessarily plumb, and (b) enormous amounts of clutter accumulate on the space in front of books. I didn’t so much mind the post-its getting chewed. I do mind having to clear my desk every time I leave the room, because now she’ll attack a whole stack of paper and chew all the corners off and fling confetti around the room. I need more drawers or cupboards, closed storage.

She is curled in her bed looking like butter wouldn’t melt, but I need to go do other things, so the current batch of print-outs must be hidden lest they be shredded before my return.

The War of the Emerald Ash Borer

One chilly autumn afternoon, Sir John and I set out to walk in a bit of urban greenbelt which we haven’t visited in some time. The sky was grey, the trees were bare, the path was covered in dull brown leaves. Since this is an urban area, even when we appeared to be deep in the woods, we could still hear the roar of traffic at a distance, and since even the vines had lost their leaves, we could see houses and their back gardens through a fence. It was all very drab, chilly, and ordinary.

We walked about five miles, looping out on a paved path shared with runners and cyclists, and back on a once-gravelled trail used only by walkers and the occasional horse. When we were about half a mile from the parking lot we’d started from, the trail began to slant downhill, toward a branch of the river, and suddenly the undergrowth was bright green again. We saw a deer grazing, her tail a white flag. We walked on toward a gently arched bridge, passing a white deer skull balanced at the edge of the stream. I said, “You know if we cross that bridge, we’ve had enough signs that we shouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves in the middle of the War for the Oaks or the War of the Emerald Ash Borer or something.”

We crossed. We reached a liminal space, where woods, prairie, and houses came together. We met only a mountain biker in a fluorescent vest, accompanied by two black Labradors each wearing a glowing collar, one green, one blue. And then when we were nearly back to our car, another group approached us: a silver-muzzled blond Lab leashed by a silver-haired man, and by his side a woman with an owl’s head . . . .

“My, how things have changed . . .

. . . for the worse since I was young.” (To be chanted, with eye-rolling.)

It seems to me that it used to be possible, or perhaps I just mean easier, to alter elements of one’s blog’s appearance. I would like to dump the all-caps format of the first line in this “theme” but I can’t work out how to do that. But the layout is simpler (again), though not so simple as the one I used for many years, and the header image is similar to the old (larger hunk of the same manuscript page), so I’m hoping this will satisfy my wish for something new, without sparking a “we fear change” response in myself or my readers.

It does look like a nice format for doing Quotes About Writing and that sort of thing. Maybe I should run another writing group with Inspirational Quotations.

It’s not like I have anything else to do in the spring, just teach three classes plus a pair of independent studies, and get back to writing my book, assuming I can get out from under the two R&Rs I’ve been struggling with during the fall term. One is, I think, very close to done: that is, I’m in the stage where it seems hopelessly messy and impossible to finish, which probably means that with a few more days’ working sessions it will be suddenly done. That quantum leap always surprises me, even when I surmise that it’s coming. I’d like to be better at gauging how long it will take to write, or re-write, an essay. The writing isn’t so bad. It’s the thinking that is unpredictable.

I don’t know . . .

I’ve been thinking about a new template for awhile. I like the two-column format. But I miss the stripped-down minimalism of my old template already. I may have to keep experimenting. Any thoughts or recommendations?

Lawrence Durrell, morning writer

Watching The Durrells in Corfu prompted me to return to the novels of Lawrence Durrell, which I enjoyed when I was in my teens (I moved on to them after devouring Gerald’s memoirs, and was surprised to find them so different; but I loved the lyricism). It was very strange to re-read books that I once knew so well, and to have a completely different perspective on them now. When I was young, I was definitely an immasculated reader: able to read in sympathy with a male narrator. Now, not so much. And now I am not only older than most of the characters but also older than the author of the Alexandria Quartet. That also changes my perspective, as does being trained as a literary critic. As a teenager, I was completely uninterested in the political intrigue of the Quartet, which distorted my understanding of the work. Now I see better what Durrell was doing, and while I admire his female characters less, I see why, as a writer, he needed them to behave in certain ways.

I am particularly skeptical about Leila, the older woman whose vanity, after smallpox ravaged her once-beautiful face, kept her veiled on her Egyptian country estates rather than moving from Alexandria to Paris or London. I think she would have said “the hell with what people think,” moved anyway, dressed exquisitely and been accepted as a jolie laide. But then, I am the product of ’70s feminism, and in my London and Paris, there are women who veil. And the novelist needed her on the scene, as both mother and former lover; she wouldn’t have been effective as an emotional force in the novel if she were in Europe living her own life.

I moved on from Durrell’s own work to biographies and to Michael Haag‘s study of literary Alexandria during/between the World Wars, where I found this quotation about the way Larry worked while living on Cyprus in the late ’40s:

“With his teaching day beginning at seven in the morning, Durrell would rise at four-thirty and over a mug of black coffee add a few more lines to his novel, writing in longhand in his ‘Caballi’ notebook so as not to disturb his sleeping household, before driving thirty miles round the shoulder of the coastal range and onto the plain of Nicosia. In those dawns and in the lengthening shadows of his return drive to Bellapaix he was composing his novel in his head; these were the passages he set down by candlelight the following morning in ‘The Caballi’. At weekends he would type out the fifteen hundred words he had written there; it was a slow process of distillation. ‘Never have I worked under such adverse conditions’, Durrell wrote to Miller in October, but also ‘I have never felt in better writing form’.”   Michael Haag, Alexandria: City of Memory, pp. 319-320.

 

Now that’s a blow

Leonard Cohen has died.

If Nobels were going to be given to singer/songwriters, I think he should have won one before Dylan.

So long . . . I stand in ruins behind you . . . And who shall I say is calling?

Orderly transitions

Using “Trump” along with “President” in the same sentence, never mind the same noun clause, makes me want to hurl.

Just so we’re clear on that.

However: the Electoral College exists for a reason. It keeps the more populous states from dominating the more sparsely populated ones. The principle is that the states are just as important as where the population resides. Any individual state can decide how it wants to distribute its electoral votes. Maine and Nebraska distribute them in proportion to the popular vote. That’s their decision. Other states go by the winner-take-all method. They get to decide that.

We have a rule book. We need to follow it. Dictatorships and banana republics change the rules when the game doesn’t come out the way they want it. That’s not how we do things in the USA. Think what your reaction would be, if the vote had gone the other way and Trump supporters were petitioning the Electoral College to cast its votes differently from the way they were pledged.

If you don’t like the Electoral College system, try working in your state to get your electors’ votes cast proportionately to the popular vote rather than as winner-take-all. Work to get Democrats elected in mid-term elections. Let your voice be heard in the new administration. Speak. Write. Register voters. Talk to people. Act. Contribute time, money, ideas, energy to the people and organizations who matter to you.

But let’s do things right. Democratically. By the rules. It’s true, rules can change, and sometimes they need to. Make sure, though, that the rules you ask for are fair to everyone, because next time the shoe may be on the other foot. Do as you would be done by. Do it by the book.