Saturday, June 29, 2013

vacation reading ii

So for the last 2 weeks, save for a couple days in the City at the outset and a single foray into Queens for a friend's birthday party, we've been in some folks' definition of paradise – Fire Island. It's peaceful, even with several friends coming by to stay for whatever length of time. No cars, very little light pollution; the kids bike down the boardwalks on their way to & from the beach, & I swag back in my Adirondack and read.

Yes, some Ruskin – I'm made a big dent in The Lamp of Beauty, & finished WG Collingwood's very old – well, it was after all the first – life of JR. And some Wyndham Lewis, tho not as much as I'd expected. A bit of contemporary poetry (newish collections by Laura Wetherington and Martha Ronk), a run of master's theses that need final comments and suggestions before they go thru their ranks of signatures. But it's vacation, and I'm reading novels: two steampunk things by James P. Blaylock; Tom McCarthy's Remainder, which I've meant to read ever since Simon Critchley gave an infuriating keynote at Louisville a couple years back (it was supposed to be about something else, but then he punted on writing a new paper & delivered a prepackaged thing he'd written on his bud McCarthy – infuriating, yes, but it made me want to read TM); and Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, one of those books I'd never have gotten around to reading if I hadn't seen it on the beach-house shelf, but surprisingly moving and of course beautifully written.

And then I'm re-reading "A", not perhaps for the uptillionth time, as one friend puts it – but let's say it's got the familiarity of a very old friend.

Friday, June 14, 2013

vacation (reading)

So Saturday we're leaving town for six weeks – to be divided roughly between the NYC area & Europe. Usually I load up with books before the summer "vacation," anticipating a big writing project that'll be ploughed thru. This time I've determined to pack lightly. Two small, mass-market paperback-sized Ruskin anthologies (one of Essays and Selections from the 1930s, the other a recent reprint of the Phaidon Lamp of Beauty: Writings on Art printed on bible paper – really a lovely little thing), and an old paperback selection of Wyndham Lewis. Why WL? I guess he's someone I've meant to tackle seriously for a long time; I've read Tarr, and The Apes of God, and another anthology, but hope this one will tilt me into the beginning of a seriously read-thru.

The difference between this journey and others, I guess, is that I've finally gotten acclimated to reading on-screen. I have the bulk of the Ruskin Library Edition both on my laptop & on my iPad; a King James Bible on the iPad and the phone, in case I get all holy; and stacks and stacks of articles on PDF in case I get the hankering to do some actual academic reading. I have a samizdat PDF of LZ's "A", which I think I might re-read, just for auld lang syne, over the summer. Even the girls are used to the notion that if they want to read something that's fat & will take up lots of suitcase space, it's going to end up on the Kindle.

There's one fat novel I'm regretting not carrying. It's not Michael Moorcock's The Dreamthief's Daughter (2001, just reissued by Gollanz as Daughter of Dreams), which I just finished re-reading. It's John Crowley's incredible Little, Big – perhaps the most beautiful and strange piece of fiction I've picked up in years. I understand Harold Bloom is nuts about Crowley, but I'm willing to overlook that: the guy's a genius. But it's a fat, ungainly volume, and I think I'll end up taking a 6-week pause at the end of the next chapter, only to savor the second half even more when I get back to it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Well, it doesn't yet quite feel like summer break. I spent last week and the week before thrashing out that essay whose progress I alluded to so cryptically in the last few posts. I finished a draft – what feels like a good draft – and have set it aside for a while. This week was to be devoted to a book review. I've done half the work, I guess: I read the book, and even made some notes.

We're leaving for summer travels this Saturday: a couple of weeks divided between Fire Island and NYC, then a jaunt to Paris and Switzerland. It'll be my first time ever in Paris – blush – and the first time in Switzerland since 2000. I'm looking forward to travelling, I guess. As I realize more and more as I grow older, I've inherited all of my mother's worry-genes.

Anyway, what was meant to be a week of casual preparations, with the the girls in their respective camps (D in ballet camp, P in drama camp) turned nasty Sunday night when I blundered into the closet to check on whether or not I had a windbreaker for the trip. The light had burned out, so I started pawing through the jackets hanging on my side of the closet in the dark, seizing a likely candidate; its hanger hung on the crappy wire-frame closet insert (you know the kind), and when I tugged it loose, the entire insert came down, with approximately 250 lbs. of clothes of various shapes, sizes and vintages.

All of today has been devoted to repair work: a whole new set of supports and hooks and binders and other doodads to hang this bad boy back in place, and make sure it doesn't come down again. The best part of the whole thing has been the necessity of actually going thru my wardrobe, piece by piece, as I hung things back up. I estimate I'm throwing out about 30% of the total – things I don't wear anymore, things I don't fit anymore, things I've been hanging onto out of sheer sentimentality. (I have my dad's old Army field jacket, with "Scroggins" on the front and all of his unit insignia; I don't need a collection of khaki shirts with epaulettes, or a windbreaker – damn that windbreaker!)

Tomorrow is a trip to the Goodwill.