Reading

A few new books.

And from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea:

p. 13
He was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride.

p. 39
He did not remember when he had first started to talk aloud when he was by himself. He had sung when he was by himself in the old days and he had sung at night sometimes when he was alone steering on his watch in the smacks or in the turtle boats. He had probably started to talk aloud, when alone, when the boy had left. But he did not remember.

p. 48
No one should be alone in their old age, he thought. But it is unavoidable. I must remember to eat the tuna before he spoils in order to keep strong. Remember, no matter how little you want to, that you must eat him in the morning. Remember, he said to himself.

p. 103
“But man is not made for defeat,“ he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” I am sorry that I killed the fish though, he thought. Now the bad time is coming and I do not even have the harpoon. The dentuso is cruel and able and strong and intelligent. But I was more intelligent than he was. Perhaps not, he thought. Perhaps I was only better armed. 

“Don’t think, old man,“ he said aloud. “Sail on this course and take it when it comes.“

Study

The Catherine Project‘s Hemingway reading group has decided to meet during the two break days scheduled for this summer, adding five short stories and the non-fiction work A Moveable Feast to our three-novel roster (The Sun Also Rises, The Old Man and the Sea, and A Farewell to Arms). I’m complementing the reading with the three-part documentary series Hemingway. Similarly, I’m making my way through The Great Courses program The Theory of Evolution: A History of Controversy for the On the Origin of Species reading group. 

For this session of Night School Bar, I’m in the Mark Fisher’s Capital Realism reading group (previous reading groups: David Graeber’s Debt and Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch).

For this season of The Readers Karamazov, I chose to read The Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco), A Canticle for Leibowitz (Walter M. Miller), The Sign of Four (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), The Third Policeman (Flann O’Brien), and A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy O’Toole); next up, then, is Sign for the June 27 episode. (Again, if you’re not listening to this podcast, you must stop what you’re doing and subscribe. Witty and erudite.)

The number of #infinitejesttogether participants seems to be dwindling, which, according to several David Foster Wallace fans, is to be expected. I cannot, however, see a reason to give up now, nearly four hundred pages in, although, yes, I have likened the experience to attempting to assemble a 1,079-piece jigsaw puzzle without having seen the image on the front of the box.

I will resume my bible-in-a-year reading next month; but given how my participation in assorted groups / classes has reshaped my reading list, I have revised my other goals for this year: Read no fewer than 100 books from my personal library (i.e., books acquired before the end of 2021), including 25 or more non-fiction titles; at least one book from each of the following categories: Shakespeare (about and/or retold; the plays will not satisfy this category), poetry, NYRB, Kurt Vonnegut (by or about), Joyce Carol Oates, philosophy, art, and children’s / YA; and at least one book about my bird of the year (American Crow). 

Currently reading

For the commonplace book, from Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises:

Chapter I
I mistrust all frank and simple people, especially when their stories hold together….

Chapter II
“Listen, Jake,” he leaned forward on the bar. “Don’t you ever get the feeling that all your life is going by and you’re not taking advantage of it? Do you realize you’ve lived nearly half the time you have to live already?”

Chapter IV
It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.

Chapter XII
“Good. Coffee is good for you. It’s the caffeine in it. Caffeine, we are here. Caffeine puts a man on her horse and a woman in his grave. You know what’s the trouble with you? You’re an expatriate. One of the worst type. Haven’t you heard that? Nobody that ever left their own country ever wrote anything worth printing. Not even in the newspapers.”

Chapter XIII
It was like certain dinners I remember from the war. There was such wine, an ignored tension, and a feeling of things coming that you could not prevent from happening. Under the wine I lost the disgusted feeling and was happy. It seemed they were all such nice people.

Chapter XIV
Perhaps that wasn’t true, though. Perhaps as you went along you did learn something. I did not care what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how to live in it. Maybe if you found out how to live in it you learned from that what it was all about.

Chapter XVI
“Everybody behaves badly,” I said. “Give them the proper chance.”

Chapter XVIII
He was not sure that there were any great moments. Things were not the same and now life only came in flashes.

Chapter XIX
“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

It’s been a while.

Recent acquisitions.

In the two weeks since my last post…

The band my husband and I joined earlier this year performed its spring concert. What a lot of fun! The flute section recently decided to form a small performance group, so in addition to the weekly rehearsals for band, I’m now practicing with the flute choir.

Our “pollinator pockets,” which we finished planting over Mother’s Day weekend, suffered a bit in last week’s heat wave, but we were able to protect them with a canopy and extra watering.

The bird feeders remain down until May 31 — or longer, if that’s what advised.

Spring

Seen on our walk yesterday.

All of the plants for the “pollinator pockets” I’m planning for the two raised beds we prepared last month are crowded into three-season room. It’s a beautiful mess — and hell on my allergies. “They” say that the last frost is behind us, and the warming trend begins this weekend, so I hope to plant early Sunday morning. In the meantime, I’ve mulched the other beds, repaired the borders, tidied the patio, readied the containers for perennials, repaired a few bare-ish lawn patches, removed all the feeders, and, yes, already mowed. Twice. (Hey, when you keep the grass a little longer, it’s critical to keep it tidy.)

And now that I’ve typed this, I realize I’ve procrastinated long enough. It’s time to practice my music. Our concert date approaches, as do this semester’s final three private lessons.

Candid

When I was in high school, yearbook was a course, not an extracurricular activity. Ostensibly, we were supposed to learn layout and design, editing, basic photography, project management, etc. A few of us did; the rest enjoyed a forty-minute free period. Anyway. When selecting photos for each spread, we differentiated between posed shots and “candids.” Because so few of us were experienced photographers, “candids” became shorthand for “kinda crappy photos.” Candid photography is, of course, about capturing life as it really is — the shot before or after the team is exhorted to look at the camera, for example; or the shot of your lab partner grimacing at a dissection. In other words, the photo that isn’t “staged.” For our tiny team, that sort of shot was often a hot mess of graininess, over- or under-exposure, and blur.

Today’s picture embraces both of those definitions of candid, then. It’s a kinda crappy photo that definitely wasn’t staged. (After all, who can tell a cat what to do?)

Reading notes

A few new books.

A number of my reading projects have recently concluded. 100 Days of Dante wrapped up over Easter weekend; Moby-Dick (with a A Public Space and with the Catherine Project), earlier this week. (Earlier this month, I also participated in the Catherine Project’s spring seminar on Plato’s Apology.) The course I took with Night School Bar on Caliban and the Witch finished while I was in Michigan; and the W.G. Sebald seminar I am taking through the Newberry will end this coming Wednesday. The Readers Karamazov‘s third season began this month, but I’ve already devoured their key selection, The Name of the Rose.

p. 183
The day before, Benno had said he would be prepared to sin in order to procure a rare book. He was not lying and not joking. A monk should surely love his books with humility, wishing their good and not the glory of his own curiosity; but what the temptation of adultery is for laymen and the yearning for riches is for secular ecclesiastics, the seduction of knowledge is for monks.

Each of these programs has expanded my TBR list by many volumes, but right now I’m focusing on When We Cease to Understand the World (Benjamín Labatut), which I had begun before I learning how much Sebald influenced Labatut. (What a neat bit of readerly synchronicity / serendipity / synthesis!)

Earlier this month, I set aside the bible-in-a-year endeavor to ensure I was keeping pace with my other projects. Because I was one month ahead of the daily schedule, I’m still positioned to finish in a year when I return to it on May 1.  I’ve identified a few resources, too, including two from The Great Courses.

I’m also thinking about tackling some of my personal challenges next month, which include reading from my shelves at least two books from each of the following categories: Shakespeare (about and/or retold; the plays will not satisfy this category), poetry, NYRB, Kurt Vonnegut (by or about), Joyce Carol Oates, philosophy, art, and children’s / YA; and at least one book about my bird of the year (American Crow).

With Dante’s Purgatorio and Paradiso, I have already covered poetry, but I also just finished Margaret Atwood’s Morning in the Burned House. “A Sad Child” is my favorite poem in the volume, but “Bored” will stick with me, too:

I could hardly wait to get
the hell out of there to
anywhere else. Perhaps though
boredom is happier. It is for dogs or
groundhogs. Now I wouldn’t be bored.
Now I would know too much.
Now I would know.

What have you been reading?