Friday, October 27th, 2006
I felt proud of Sylvia today -- we have been taking a beginning Mandarin class together and making gradual progress -- tonight we went to listen to the Music from China ensemble playing at Seton Hall. We were looking at the program (which was in both Chinese and English) and Sylvia pointed to a 小 and said "Look Dad, 'xiao'!" And she was right. I was surprised, because I had not even been looking at the Chinese characters figuring I would not recognize any of them. So we looked at them for a while and found a number of characters we recognized, mostly numbers.
Saturday, October 21st, 2006
We watched Porco Rosso tonight -- I liked it way better than any other Miyazaki movie I've seen to date, and I have loved every one of them. For one thing the ending is really haunting, where all of the others have finished up pretty tidily. And I just love that sort of inter-war jazz aesthetic, which wasn't in the others -- it had a similar feel to Casablanca, which worked in a really surreal way with the anime/little girl nature of Miyazaki's work.
I have been doing some posting at Coming out of the Cave, the blog I've established to try and unravel Blumenberg's Höhlenausgänge. So go read there if you're interested in it. (I would be putting up another post but Blogger is not cooperating right now.)
Thursday, October 12th, 2006
Blumenberg's Höhlenausgänge was just now brought to mind by something Teofilo said. Now I'm really interested and want to go back and look at it some more.
Update: I got in touch with a philosopher at Texas Women's University who has done some work on Blumenberg. He recommends I look at the first section of The Genesis of the Copernican World and the material on gnosticism in Part II of The Legitimacy of the Modern Age as an already-translated source for Blumenberg's ideas about the city as a recapitulation of the cave.
Update: I have started a new blog: Coming out of the Cave, dedicated to understanding Höhlenausgänge.
Steadman uses as an epigram for The Joke's Over, a bit of advice Thompson gave him: "Ralph, never write. You'll bring shame on your family." And to tell the truth, his writing is a bit uneven. There are bits that seem hackneyed and trite. Other parts however are keenly insightful, and his artistic vision (and the interesting events being described) make up for the uneven prose quality.
Wednesday, October 11th, 2006
I have moved the on-again, off-again READIN Family Album offsite -- You can find it at Flicker, where you will be able to browse around through the photos way more flexibly than you ever could here.
I stopped in at Coliseum Books last night, to savor the short remaining time before it closes. One of the "staff picks" is Ralph Steadman's new book, The Joke's Over: Bruised Memories: Gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson and Me. I picked it up and was immediately blown away by Kurt Vonnegut's brief preface -- I had never realized he was friends with Steadman and Thompson though it makes good sense. I've been reading about Steadman's meeting with Thompson at the Kentucky Derby of 1970. Lots of laughs so far but objectionably little illustration -- I want to see the drawings he is describing. (He says the editor of Scanlan's lost them.)
Monday, October 9th, 2006
David of Blagdaross (who tells me his blog is a bit inspired by READIN) has tagged me with a meme -- how exciting! He asks me to poke through my bookshelves and find 10 books that "I'm really glad I own and will definitely get around to reading". So (in no particular order):
- The Bible. (King James translation). Over the years I have read some portions of it; as my life goes on I look forward to reading more.
- The Koran. (A.J. Arberry translation). I'm fascinated by some things like Rumi's poetry that I think I could understand better if I had more of a passing familiarity with the Koran.
- Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon. I have technically read this book, in the sense of sitting at my desk and moving my eyes over the words on all of its pages. But am at least 2 or 3 readings away from any kind of real comprehension.
- On Beauty by Zadie Smith. If you have been reading my entries much lately you know how much I have admired her other two books. This one is on my list for soon.
- Dombey and Son and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. When I was reading Bleak House this summer, loving it, I picked up these two books at a yard sale meaning to read them soon. Got distracted by other stuff; but they are still on the queue.
- The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil. I'm always starting this book and getting about halfway through before I get distracted. Possibly it does not belong on this list as there is no real guarantee I will one day start it and be interested enough to read it through.
- Inferno. (Robert Pinsky translation). When I turned 35 I started rereading this (having previously read it in a different translation, at the tender age of 18), thinking that age would give me some special insight. As it turned out I grew quickly distracted. But sometime soon I will sit down with it again.
- Lost Highway by Peter Guralnick. Music journalism is kind of a bane for me -- it always seems like it should be really interesting but when push comes to shove, I can't stay with it for more than a few pages. But everybody tells me this book is great.
Some notes: I did not include any foreign-language books -- there are many in my library (mostly in German and Latin) that I hope one day to read; but being able to read the language is an important first step. Also I did not, by and large, include any of the books I am meaning to reread -- I would not know where to start such a list. Looking through my shelves this evening I am reminded of how many books I have read and have only fleeting memories of -- a phenomenon which I founded this web site, in part, to combat. Thanks David, for the opportunity to go through the collection.
Tuesday, September 26th, 2006
I finished The Autograph Man today and found the ending very powerful. And let me just say that based on the two books I've read so far, Ms. Smith is the queen of the loose thread. There are so many bits of unresolved sub-plot as you get to the end, you cannot help but think there's no way these are all going to be wrapped up in any way approaching verisimilitude -- and feel a wave of relief at the end, when many are just left hanging. It does not feel willy-nilly either -- the threads that are left open are the ones best suited to keep the story in your consciousness a while longer, thinking about how it could move forward past the closing scenes.
Friday, September 22nd, 2006
I really like the pacing of The Autograph Man -- the movement can be furiously fast but at the same time you feel a kind of deliberation on the author's part, a conscious movement through the story -- the connections undergirding the text feel like the beams of a building's skeleton.
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