Sunday, August 31st, 2003
Speaking of "firsts", here is Sylvia's first knock-knock joke (Composed this morning after Ellen told her the knock-knock joke whose punch-line is, "Can't elope without a boy!"):
Watermelon... Watermelon... Boy!
Thursday, August 28th, 2003
This is Sylvia's first composition:
One little one goes in the room and turn, turn, turn The melody is about what you'd expect it to be, sort of a take-off on "Ten little monkeys jumpin' on the bed".
Two little ones go in the room and turn, turn, turn
Three little ones go in the room and turn, turn, turn
Four little ones go in the room and turn, turn, turn
Five little ones go in the room and turn, turn, turn
I finished The Life of Pi this afternoon (pity me, for I must return to work tomorrow...), it is a lot of fun to read. Different degrees of truth and fiction are woven together seamlessly, and you move with the narrators in and out of dream and fantasy. But Martel never loses himself in the book, I never got rid of the conscious apprehension that I was being told a story. In a way this seems a little picky; Martel went to some lengths after all to say that everything in the book is a story being told -- so why should I complain about him successfully communicating his point? But that seems like kind of a cheap way out for Martel -- the best thing that can happen in fiction (I think) and maybe also the most difficult, is for the story to emerge as a separate reality, seemingly independant of the narrative voice.
That might have happened briefly in the middle of this book, in the early days of Pi's ordeal at sea -- but it was not sustained. If Martel is saying, as I think he might be, that he is trying to demonstrate that any authorial absense must be illusory -- well, that seems to me like an easy way out. It's a pretty obvious point that has been made by writers going back at least two or three hundred years; but the best of them have been able to make the point without destroying the illusion locally. (I'm not exactly sure who I'm thinking of here but I don't think it would be too hard to find examples. Some bits of Gravity's Rainbow would qualify.)
Anyways... That's my only real criticism of this book and it is not a big problem. I'd recommend it highly.
Last night we made a bit of progress in our quest to get Sylvia listening to real music (as opposed to the weak, silly jingles on the "children's music" CD's people give us...)
Sylvia asked to listen to one of these; but I sought to redirect her attention to the "Janis's band music" mix discs that Doug recorded for us. She was pretty interested by the fact that each disc had a different color box, and asked to listen to "the green one" (disc 4). So we listened to a couple of Animals tunes before she lost interest in that and asked for "the blue one" (disc 5) -- which is alright by me, it is my favorite of them. And wow! I popped it in the stereo, skipped past "Moondance" and "Wild Thing" and started right in with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Sylvia went wild! She started dancing right away, with a big grin.
The mood lasted for nearly half an hour, about six songs or so. She started to fade on "The Wait", song #3, but Ellen brought her back by clapping to the rhythm, and then she heard the chorus -- "Take a load off, Annie" -- and started singing along. We all danced together in a circle for a couple of tunes, and then hit "Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor" which was the high point of the evening for jumping around and laughing. "Ugly and Slouchy", which came on next, was apparently a riding song; after a few bars Sylvia got on her rocking horse and stayed there through the song -- nice because it gave Mom and Dad an opportunity to retire to the armchair and rocking chair.
By then it was about time for bed and Sylvia's energy level began to fade, so we headed upstairs for the night. I'm looking forward to playing that disc some more, and maybe find some more rockabilly to listen to together. We had some luck with Buddy Holly a few months ago until Sylvia lost interest -- I think if we have several records to listen to she will not get bored as fast though.
Monday, August 25th, 2003
Today was spent digging. My back is sore, so are my legs, and my arms have very little energy left in them. I dug up the entire path in my front yard, about 25' X 1' X 8", and filled it with sand and started laying the stones in it. I had been planning to cut the stones to shape; but that turns out to be very difficult, so I am instead just hunting for stones of roughly the shape I need and using them as is. The beginning of the path looks pretty good, after several tries with different stones.
Saturday, August 23rd, 2003
We're back in town -- the week was a flurry of fun activity. I would like to write a long post about it but I don't know whether I will or not -- I have other stuff to do this week like building a path in my yard and finishing the window seat. If you are dying to know about it send me a note and I will give that a higher priority.
Thursday, August 14th, 2003
I'm off to Vermont -- we'll be in Burlington for a week, visiting Liling and family -- so no updates til I get back next Sunday. Read the sites linked on the left hand side of this page for information and opinion.
Tuesday, August 12th, 2003
I'm backpedalling from my assertion that the author of whose voice Martel's reminds me might be Rushdie -- I think the only reason I seized on Rushdie is the India connection, well and maybe also the accident-while-traveling-from-Asia-to-North-America* connection. Now the echo I'm hearing is of Vonnegut; equally likely is that Martel has simply an individual, unique voice, one with echoes in it of many authorial influences.
Thinking of Vonnegut leads me into a distinction I wanted to draw between The Life of Pi and Nuns and Soldiers -- Murdoch was annoying me more and more as the book drew on with her absolute refusal to leave anything to my imagination; she insisted on following every germ of description up through its fullness of flower and keep going until it was a withered husk -- I wanted her beautiful descriptions a little less baroque, wanted some hasty sketch in with the luxuriant detail. Martel (from my reading thus far) tends a bit toward the Baroque but reins himself in, lets me figure some of it out.
And I'm going on a hunch here but I think -- if I were to sit down and catalog the books I have loved -- that I would find some inverse correlation between how much detailed description is in the book, and how much I like it -- and I realize as I am writing this that I am phrasing it wrong, I'm not sure just how to put what I'm trying to get at -- if you have a better idea for phrasing let me know.
Vonnegut would be an exception to this rule in a funny way. "Baroque" I guess is not at all a good description for his writing -- but I think he leaves very little to the imagination in his description of his characters' motivations and the consequences of their actions. And yet he was for a long time my very favorite author and is still up there on my (vague) list. I'm not sure quite why -- I have some ideas which I'll try to develop for a post on Vonnegut sometime.
*Update: And now I realize how long it's been since I read The Satanic Verses; I don't think Rushdie's accident even occurred en route from India to America. I'm pretty sure one of the countries involved was Great Britain. Oh well, disregard the whole Rushdie thing.
I found an essay by Martel: How I Wrote The Life of Pi.
Monday, August 11th, 2003
This morning I started reading The Life of Pi by Yann Martel -- my initial impression is that it is going to be a very good read, but probably not something to put on my list of "great books". I like all the characters I've met so far, I like the author's voice (though I think it seems a little derivative, of what I'm not quite sure but maybe Rushdie), the rhythm of syllables, the flow of words.
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