Appointments to keep in the past

It seems to me then as if all of the moments of our life occupy the same space, as if future events already existed and were only waiting for us to find our way to them at last, just as when we have accepted an invitation we duly arrive in a certain house at a given time. And might it not be, continued Austerlitz, that we also have appointments to keep in the past, in what has gone before and is for the most part extinguished, and must go there in search of places and people who have some connection with us on the far side of time, so to speak?

For the Newberry course, “Under the Sign of Saturn: The Enigmatic Work of W.G. Sebald,” I’ve read The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn, and Austerlitz, as well as Carole Angier’s biography of Sebald. (The Readers Karamazov hosted a terrific episode on The Rings of Saturn.) Next up is After Nature.

 

The flip side of ignorance

Image captured last week at the Conservatory at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

Since my last post, I’ve read:

■ Macbeth (William Shakespeare; 1606. Drama.)
In advance of watching Joel Coen’s film. Related story/review here

■ Six Characters in Search of an Author (Luigi Pirandello (Trans. Edward Storer; 1921. Drama.)
Cannot recall the precise path that led me to Scallydandling about the books, but I can say that I enjoy poking about in her video lists. Six Characters was her January drama selection.

■ Late Migrations: A Memoir of Love and Loss (Margaret Renkl; 2019. Non-fiction.)
For the commonplace book:

p. 7
But the shadow side of love is always loss, and grief is only love’s twin.

p.17
Holding a useless camera, I suddenly realize that something extraordinary is happening right before me, a great serpent slowly on the move and all the songbirds aware of its presence and calling to each other and telling each other to beware. The miracle isn’t happening in the sky at all. It’s happening in the damp weeds of an ordinary backyard, among last year’s moldering leaves and the fragrant soil turned up by moles.

p. 73
[…B]ut the flip side of ignorance is astonishment, and I am good at astonishment.

p. 155
When I didn’t die, however, and then didn’t die some more, I came one day to understand: I wasn’t dying; I was grieving. I wasn’t dying. Not yet.

p. 186
Human beings are creatures made for joy. Against all evidence, we tell ourselves that grief and loneliness and despair are tragedies, unwelcome variations from the pleasure and calm and safety that in the right way of the world would form the firm ground of our being. In the fairy tale we tell ourselves, darkness holds nothing resembling a gift.

What we feel always contains its own truth, but it is not the only truth, and darkness almost always harbors some bit of goodness tucked out of sight, waiting for an unexpected light to shine, to reveal it in its deepest hiding place.

With the month closing and only nine books on my list, I’d say this year has begun at a far more leisurely pace than last year (twenty-five books). That said, I’m reading quite a bit. With 100 Days of Dante, I’ve nearly climbed Mount Purgatory. With book groups, I’m reading Anna Karenina, Moby-Dick, and Debt (see sidebar). I’ve just begun A Clockwork Orange, the February Cardiff BookTalk selection. And my husband and I have embarked on a read-the-bible-in-a-year schedule. (It pains me to confess that I haven’t read the complete bible. Do you have a recommendation for a “bible as literature” resource? We’ll take it.)

I began listening to State of Terror (Louise Penny and Hillary Rodham Clinton) on the drive to and from  Michigan last week — not Chief Inspector Gamache but certainly entertaining. While away, I also tried to finish Noah Hawley’s latest novel, Anthem (review here), but no luck. Unlike S. Kirk Walsh, I’m finding it a bit… tedious.

Before heading out on my mini-vacation, I gave a Zoom* performance for an audience of one, playing the Rondeau, Polonaise, and Badinerie from Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067. Was it flawless? Nope. But while I was away, my teacher wrote, in part, “Really, really excellent work on the Bach! So pleased and proud that you put your all into it and did such a great job.” Yes, I’m still grinning. My new solo piece is Howard Ferguson’s Three Sketches for Flute and Piano. I’m also working on the ninth of 18 Studies for Flute by Joachim Anderson, Op. 41, in Robert Cavally’s Melodious and Progressive Studies from Andersen, Gariboldi, Koehler, and Terschak for Flute, Book 1, and “From Duetto No. IV” (W.F. Bach) in Selected Duets for Flute, Volume II (Advanced). My practice schedule remains much as it was in the fall.

Our walking schedule, however, does not: The snow and ice (to say nothing of the extreme cold of days like yesterday) make early morning walks in the neighborhood untenable, so we’ve been using workouts on DVDs, after which, I hop on the exercise bike while my husband gets ready for work. We have the equipment needed to walk the conservation district paths, though, so we head there on the weekends during which the weather cooperates.

* Given the continuing uncertainty surrounding the virus, I requested that we return to the virtual format until at least February.

Reading

In September, I made a note to read Murder in the Cathedral (T.S. Eliot; 1935) following this from Louise Penny’s A Beautiful Mystery:

“Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest,” Gamache repeated. “It’s what Henry the Second said about Thomas à Becket.”

“Is that supposed to mean something to me?”

Gamache grinned. “Hang in there, young man. This story ends in murder.”

“Better.”

“This was almost nine hundred years ago,” the Chief continued. “In England.”

“I’m already asleep.”

“King Henry promoted his good friend Thomas to be archbishop, thinking that would give him control of the Church. But it backfired.”

Despite himself, Beauvoir leaned forward.

(By the way, if pressed, I’d say Bury Your Dead and A Beautiful Mystery are my favorite books in the Chief Inspector Gamache series.) I finally read Eliot’s play last week, at which point, I also toggled two novels, The Suicide of Claire Bishop (Carmiel Banasky; 2015) and Anthem (Noah Hawley), which was just released. A couple of unexpected intersections emerged, including two Claires (titular and Simon Oliver’s sister in Anthem) and discussions / plot points concerning mental health (including suicide), political activism, and religion.

Here’s another intersection:

In Part I of Murder in the Cathedral, the Fourth Tempter asks Thomas, “What can compare with the glory of the Saints,” coaxing him to “Seek the way of martyrdom,” to which Thomas responds, “Others offered real goods, worthless / But real. You only offer / Dreams to damnation.” Although the archbishop knows that to aspire to sainthood is sinful, unsaintly, he cannot help himself; he has thought about it.

Then, this from pages 149-150 of Anthem:

“Martyrs believe their suffering makes them holy. That sacrifices made in this life will gain them reward in the afterlife. They get romantic when they talk about dying for a cause. His name was Duncan. Her name was Ashli. His name was Tim McVeigh. This is the difference between the martyr and the saint. Sainthood requires selflessness. One cannot aspire to sainthood, because the very desire to be a saint is in and of itself unsaintly….”

Tonight I plan to finish Banasky’s novel before settling in to watch the Season 2 premiere of All Creatures Great and Small, and tomorrow I hope to finish The Prince (Machiavelli; 1532). (I began reading this to prepare for a “First Friday Lecture.”) The year began with Summerwater (Sarah Moss; 2020) and Lost Everything (Brian Francis Slattery; 2012), both of which are bleak but worthwhile.

Reading notes

Image captured today at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

“Looks like Ruth,” said my husband, who recently finished the fifth in Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series. I could only laugh in agreement. If the fictional poet, my favorite character in the series, were a siamang, she’d look like the one above. Speaking of Three Pines, since my last annotated list, I finished All the Devils Are Here (2020) and am partly through the most recent book, The Madness of Crowds (2021). I accept the repetition, the improbabilities, the continuity errors, the repetition, etc. because I appreciate the world Penny built, in spite of its (many) flaws.

I also finished two books I mentioned earlier this monthIn a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love (Joseph Luzzi; 2015) and Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman; 2011), which means that I have exceeded one of my challenges: at least 24 non-fiction titles read from shelves. The twenty-sixth was Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked (James Lasdun; 2013). I began reading it eight years ago and was engaged but set it aside for some reason. A slim volume, it was easy to reread the first forty pages and continue. A fan of those neat moments of synthesis / synchronicity / serendipity, I appreciated Lasdun’s discussion of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which I also mentioned reading earlier this month, and Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Library of Babel,” which I read to prepare for last week’s The Readers Karamazov podcast. From Lasdun, for the commonplace book:

A person crosses your path; briefly their story intersects with yours and diverges again, leaving something of itself with you and maybe taking something of yours in return, and they’re gone. These days I have to remind myself that encounters with other people can be both interesting and inconsequential.

For a Chicago Humanities Festival “Between the Lines” event earlier this month, I read On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint (Maggie Nelson; 2021). Reviews here and here.

When I closed Our Country Friends (Gary Shteyngart; 2021), I turned to what appears to have been one of its inspirations, Uncle Vanya (Anton Chekhov; 1898. (Trans. Peter Carson; 2002)), which I much preferred. (Later in the winter break, I’m planning to watch the production filmed in August 2020 from the Harold Pinter Theatre in London.)

Tonight I plan to read Canto 12 of Dante’s Purgatorio for 100 Days of Dante and to finish Brown Girl Dreaming (Jacqueline Woodson; 2014) for a program in February.

Briefly

Before I head to bed tonight, I will have reshelved Louis Menand’s The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War (2021) — review here. It moved up in my TBR stack when I registered for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Book Breaks event featuring the author. What an education — the book, of course, and the lecture. I am nearly through another Chief Inspector Gamache title (Louise Penny) and am keeping pace with the Tolstoy Together and 100 Days of Dante groups.

Other books I’ve recently read:

The Complete Tales (Beatrix Potter; 2002 edition. Fiction.)
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (Kurt Vonnegut; 1965. Fiction.)
Two of my reading challenges were unmet in August: art and Vonnegut. Now only the Potter biography remains to complete the art category.

The Two Noble Kinsmen
Henry VIII
Pericles
Only five remain in my quest to reread all Shakespeare’s plays this year.

The Ravine: A Family, a Photograph, a Holocaust Massacre Revealed (Wendy Lower; 2021. Non-fiction.)
Read prior to attending a virtual event at the Gross Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies.

The Long Way Home (Louise Penny; 2014. Fiction.)
The Nature of the Beast (Louise Penny; 2015. Fiction.)
The Great Reckoning (Louise Penny; 2016. Fiction.)
These are not perfect books, but the world Penny has created and the people with whom she has populated it both interest and engage me.

The Push (Ashley Audrain; 2021. Fiction.)
Selected on a whim. Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011) covers the same territory far more compellingly.

The Optician of Lampedusa (Emma-Jane Kirby; 2016. Fiction.)
For a Cardiff Book Talk program.

Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert; 1857 (trans. Lydia Davis; 2010). Fiction.)
With my daughter prior to listening to the terrific podcast by The Readers Karamazov.

p. 77
But a woman is continually thwarted. Inert and pliant at the same time, she will struggle against both the softness of her flesh and subjection to the law. Her will, like the veil tied to her hat by a string, flutters with every breeze; there is always some desire luring her on, some convention holding her back.

“In the long run, we’re all dead.”

I have always been drawn to tomb figures.

Last week, I had an opportunity to revisit the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and the University of Michigan Museum of Art. The book I chose for the drive there and back was The Beautiful Mystery (Louise Penny; 2012). When I returned home, I finished Migrations (Charlotte McConaghy; 2020), which I loved and particularly recommend to fans of Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel; 2014). Related review here.

Since my last annotated list I’ve finished both Othello (1603) and Timon of Athens (1606) as part of my goal to reread all of Shakespeare’s plays this year.

For a recent Chicago Humanities Festival program, I devoured The Taste of Sugar (Marisel Vega; 2020) in two sittings; and for The Readers Karamazov lineup of Middlemarch related texts, I read Clouds (Aristophanes (trans. I. Johnston); 423 B.C.), again relying on the wonderful Reading Greek Tragedy Online resource.

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (Oliver Burkeman; 2021) yielded a number of passages for my commonplace book. (The title of this entry is taken from the introduction.) The premise? If we make it to eighty, we live for about four thousand weeks. How will we spend them? This book, writes Burkeman, “is an attempt […] to see if we can’t discover, or recover, some ways of thinking about time that do justice to our real situation: to the outrageous brevity and shimmering possibilities of our four thousand weeks.”

p. 64
In case this needs saying, it isn’t that a diagnosis of terminal illness, or a bereavement, or any other encounter with death is somehow good, or desirable, or “worth it.“ But such experiences, however wholly unwelcome, often appear to leave those who undergo them in a new and more honest relationship with time. The question is whether we might attain at least a little of that same outlook in the absence of the experience of agonizing loss.

p. 115
The trouble with being so emotionally invested in planning for the future, though, is that while it may occasionally prevent a catastrophe, the rest of the time it tends to exacerbate the very anxiety it was supposed to allay. The obsessive planner, essentially, is demanding certain reassurances from the future — but the future isn’t the sort of thing that can ever provide the reassurance he craves, for the obvious reason that it’s still in the future.

p. 116
[T]his underlying longing to turn the future into something dependable isn’t confined to compulsive planners. It’s present in anyone who worries about anything, whether or not they respond by devising elaborate timetables or hypercautious travel plans. Worry, at its core, is the repetitious experience of a mind attempting to generate a feeling of security about the future, failing, then trying again and again and again — as if the very effort of worrying might somehow help forestall disaster. The fuel behind worry, in other words, is the internal demand to know, in advance, that things will turn out fine….

p. 158
The derision we heap upon the avid stamp collector or train spotter might really be a kind of defense mechanism, to spare us from confronting the possibility that they are truly happy in a way that the rest of us — pursuing our telic lives, ceaselessly in search of future fulfillment — are not.

p. 159
There’s a second sense in which hobbies pose a challenge to our reigning culture of productivity and performance: it’s fine, and perhaps preferable, to be mediocre at them.

This particular web

Image captured at the conservation district on Labor Day.

From Book II, Chapter 15, of Middlemarch:

I at least have so much to do in unraveling certain human lots, and seeing how they were woven and interwoven, that all the light I can command must be concentrated on this particular web, and not dispersed over that tempting range of relevancies called the universe.

Although I missed the August meetings of book group, I did finish (re)reading Middlemarch and have returned in time for our three remaining meetings this month.

Book Five, Chapter 44
He distrusted her affection; and what loneliness is more lonely than distrust?

Book Five, Chapter 46
Our sense of duty must often wait for some work which shall take the place of dilettanteism and make us feel that the quality of our action is not a matter of indifference.

Book Five, Chapter 50
“… [T]here are always people who can’t forgive a man for differing from them.”

I also finished reading Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch.

p. 41
Coming to languages too late for effortless fluency, she set about achieving what she could through resolution and determination. She found an outlet for her hungry ambition by reshaping herself into an intellectual. She turned her yearning into learning.

p. 145
Books — or texts, as they were called by those versed in theory — weren’t supposed merely to be read, but to be interrogated, as if they had committed some criminal malfeasance.

p. 172
Such an approach to fiction — where do I see myself in here? — is not how a scholar reads, and it can be limiting and its solipsism. It’s hardly an enlarging experience to read a novel as if it were a mirror of oneself. One of the useful functions of literary criticism and scholarship is to suggest alternative lenses through which a book might be read.

A book group member recommended The Readers Karamazov podcast, which began its second season with a four-episode discussion of Middlemarch. (And, yes, I must go back and listen to their The Brothers Karamazov episodes.) What a terrific resource! I enjoyed their insights so much that I plan to read along for the rest of this season. Candide (Voltaire; 1759. (Trans. John Butt; 1947.), their next selection, was a reread for me.

In my quest to reread all of Shakespeare’s plays, I have finished Twelfth Night and Troilus and Cressida since my last annotated list.

Under the heading “beach reads” (although I spent no time at the beach this summer), file the following:

The House in the Cerulean Sea (TJ Klune; 2020. Fiction.)
p. 188
It struck him, then, just who this house belonged to, and how much of an honor this would be. For an adult sprite, their dwelling was their most important possession. It was their home where all their secrets were kept. Sprites were notorious for their privacy, and he had no doubt that Phee would one day be the same, though he hoped she would remember the time spent at Marsyas in her youth. She wouldn’t have to be so alone.

The Turnout (Megan Abbott; 2021. Fiction.)
Review here.

The Plot (Jean Hanff Korelitz; 2021. Fiction.)
Review here.

A Trick of the Light (Louise Penny; 2011. Fiction.)
The Inspector Gamache series is actually a number of steps up from “beach read.” As always, many thanks to Robin for recommending these books.

My recent graphic work selections include:
Odessa (Jonathan Hill; 2020. Graphic fiction.)
The Hard Tomorrow (Eleanor Davis; 2019. Graphic fiction.)
Sweet Tooth: The Return (Jeff Lemire; 2021. Graphic non-fiction.)
It’s Not What You Thought It Would Be (Lizzy Stewart; 2021. Graphic non-fiction.)
Seek You: A Journey through American Loneliness (Kristen Radtke; 2021. Graphic non-fiction.)

Radtke’s Seek You is a gorgeous read. Highly recommended.

Gilead (Marilynne Robinson; 2004. Fiction.)
Speaking of gorgeous reads, how did this languish on my shelves for seventeen years? Beautiful, beautiful.

p. 7
Well, see and see but do not perceive, hear and hear but do not understand, as the Lord says. I can’t claim to understand that saying, as many times as I’ve heard it, and even preached on it. It simply states a deeply mysterious fact. You can know a thing to death and be for all purposes completely ignorant of it. A man can know his father, or his son, and there might still be nothing between them but loyalty and love and mutual incomprehension.

p. 39
But I’ve developed a great reputation for wisdom by ordering more books than I ever had time to read, and reading more books, by far, than I learned anything useful from, except, of course that some very tedious gentleman have written books. This is not a new insight, but the truth of it is something you have to experience to fully grasp.

p. 197
We take fortuitous resemblances among us to be actual likeness, because those around us have also fallen heir to the same customs, trade in the same coin, acknowledge, more or less, the same notions of decency and sanity. But all that really just allows us to coexist with the inviolable, untraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us.

p. 233
I was thinking about the things that had happened here just in my lifetime — the droughts and the influenza and the Depression and three terrible wars. It seems to me now we never looked up from the trouble we had just getting by to put the obvious question, that is, to ask what it was the Lord was trying to make us understand.

p. 246
I love the prairie! So often I have seen the dawn come and the light flood over the land and everything turned radiant at once, that word “good” so profoundly affirmed my soul that I am amazed I should be allowed to witness such a thing.

Recent non-fiction selections included:

Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America (Alec MacGillis; 2021)
Review here.

Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials (Marc Aronson; 2003)

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives (Dashka Slater; 2017)
Original article here.

Other books:

Green Shadows, White Whale (Ray Bradbury; 1992. Fiction.)
I read Bradbury’s fictionalized account of his travels to Ireland to write the script of Moby Dick for an upcoming Newberry Library program.

Medea (Euripides (trans. D. Raynor); 431 B.C. Drama.)
Read before seeing the excellent 2014 production streaming on National Theatre at Home. I also enjoyed the related Reading Greek Tragedy Online episode, which can be found here.

Tuesday morning

I love the prairie! So often I have seen the dawn come and the light flood over the land and everything turned radiant at once, that word “good” so profoundly affirmed my soul that I am amazed I should be allowed to witness such a thing.

— from Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead

This view. Our reward for rising at five, finishing the daily chores, and donning our walking shoes before 6 a.m.

The month in books

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Some recent acquisitions.

Since 1989, I’ve been promising myself I’d return to Middlemarch (George Eliot; 1871). Thirty-two years later, nearly to the month, I’ve (finally) kept my word: Members of the reading group that attempted to penetrate the mysteries of The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoevsky; 1880) earlier this year are now working their way through Eliot’s wise novel. Although one of our core principles is to avoid secondary sources, I must confess to (quietly) enjoying the companionship of Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch (2014), as well as the most recent episodes of The Readers Karamazov podcast.

Book One, Chapter 1
Women were expected to have weak opinions; but the safeguard of society and of domestic life was, that opinions were not acted on. Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.

Book One, Chapter 6
We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, “Oh, nothing!” Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our own hurts — not hurt others.

Book Two, Chapter 16
This was one of the difficulties of moving in good Middlemarch society: it was dangerous to insist on knowledge as a qualification for any salaried office.

Book Four, Chapter 42
Here was a man who now for the first time found himself looking into the eyes of death — who was passing through one of those rare moments of experience when we feel the truth of a commonplace, which is as different from what we called knowing it, as the vision of waters upon the earth is different from the delirious vision of the water which cannot be had to cool the burning tongue. When the commonplace “We must all die“ transforms itself suddenly into the acute consciousness “I must die — and soon,” then death grapples us, and his fingers are cruel; afterwards, he may come to fold us in his arms as our mother did, and our last moment of dim earthly discerning may be like the first. […] In such an hour the mind does not change its lifelong bias, but carries it onward in imagination to the other side of death, gazing backward — perhaps with the divine calm of beneficence, perhaps with the petty anxieties of self assertion.

Other books I’m reading are listed in the sidebar.

As we head into August, I realize that I’ve read 128 books so far this year (eighteen since my last annotated list), but I still need to sort through the list to see which of my annual goals / reading challenges remain unmet. Note that in this annotated list, I’ve moved away from presenting the books in the order in which I read them, opting instead to cluster related titles.

As You Like It (William Shakespeare; 1599. Drama.)
Hamlet (William Shakespeare; 1601. Drama.)
By my count, thirteen works remain in my quest to reread all of Shakespeare’s plays this year.

Act I, Scene V
HORATIO
O day and night but this is wondrous strange!

HAMLET
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy….

Hamnet (Maggie O’Farrell; 2020. Fiction.)
The Dead Fathers Club (Matt Haig; 2006. Fiction.)
I appreciated both of these books, the former less than most readers, though, and the latter (commonplace book passage follows), more.

p. 113
Its like how in War soldiers are told to kill other men and then they are Heroes but if they killed the same men when they were not in War they are Murderers. But they are still killing the same men who have the same dreams and who chew the same food and hum the same songs when they are happy but if it is called War it is all right because that is the rules of War.

How to Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education (Scott Newstok; 2020. Non-fiction.)
What a delight to read John Warner’s recommendation of this and Zena Hitz’s Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life (which I read earlier this year).

p. 3
[W]e claim to know thinking when we see it, despite the difficulty of definition. And if we believe cultivating it is a good thing, then we are often perverse. We’ve imposed educational programs that kill the capacity to think independently, or even the desire to do so. While we point to thinkers — Leonardo, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Curie — who modeled the disciplined, independent, questing intellect we claim to revere, we reinforce systems ensuring that our own young people could never emulate them.

Hawking (Ottaviani and Myrick; 2019. Graphic non-fiction.)
The Trojan Women (Euripides): A Comic (Anne Carson; 2021. Graphic fiction.)
Family Tree, Vol. 3: Forest (Jeff Lemire; 2021. Graphic fiction.)
Feynman (Ottaviani and Myrick; 2011) was a stronger work, but Hawking certainly engaged me, as did the offbeat graphic interpretation of The Trojan Women. The conclusion to Family Tree, however, was a disappointing jumble.

Trojan Women (Euripides (trans. E. P. Coleridge); 415 B.C. Drama.)
After reading Carson’s graphic adaptation, I turned to the play itself. Once again, Harvard’s Reading Greek Tragedy Online was a fabulous companion. (Related episode here.)

Home Fire (Kamila Shamsie; 2017. Fiction.)
Review here.
p. 10
She felt, as she did most mornings, the deep pleasure of daily life distilled to the essentials: books, walks, spaces in which to think and work.

Antigone (Sophocles (trans. Don Taylor); 441 B.C. Drama.)
Partway through Shamsie’s gorgeous retelling of Antigone, I decided to reread Sophocles’ play and watch the 2012 production on National Theatre at Home, the latter of which is first-rate.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (J.K. Rowling; 2001. Fiction.)
Yes. Again.

Fox 8 (George Saunders; 2015. Fiction.)
If George Saunders wrote it, I want to read it.

Bury Your Dead (Louise Penny; 2010. Fiction.)
Penny’s sixth Gamache novel kept me company on the most recent long drive to see my daughters. (Ralph Cosham is the perfect narrator for these mysteries.) I finally had an opportunity to finish reading it mid-month.

The Hummingbirds’ Gift: Wonder, Beauty, and Renewal on Wings (Sy Montgomery; 2021. Non-fiction.)
This seemed rather slight, which made sense when I realized it is a repackage of a chapter from Montgomery’s longer book, Birdology (2010).

Postcard Poems (Jeanne Griggs; 2021. Poetry.)
See this entry.

Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic (Sam Quinones; 2015. Non-fiction.)
In 2019, I read Beth Macy’s Dopesick (2018), which put Dreamland on my readerly radar. Both will inform my upcoming appointment with the tome that is Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty (Patrick Radden Keefe; 2021).

Breaking and Entering: The Extraordinary Story of a Hacker Called “Alien” (Jeremy N. Smith; 2019. Non-fiction.)
What a quick and engaging, if imperfect, read. More information here.

Books

Recent acquisitions.

It has been a week, nearly to the hour since the painters rolled up the last of their dropcloths and headed to their next site. As it turns out, my assertion that the project would result in rain was correct: Last Thursday night, our area was lashed with thunderstorms. Fortunately, the painters had finished for the day about ten hours beforehand, so all was well. Despite a few showers since then, though, this area remains in severe drought conditions.

Since my last annotated list, I’ve finished eleven books, including four plays:

■ Much Ado about Nothing (William Shakespeare; 1599. Drama.)
■ The Merchant of Venice (William Shakespeare; 1599. Drama.)
■ King John (William Shakespeare; 1595. Drama.)
Part of my quest to reread all of his plays this year.

■ Titanic: Scenes from the British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry, 1912 (Owen McCafferty; 2012. Drama.)
In advance of watching Court Theatre’s streaming production.

The other books:

■ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling; 2007. Fiction.)
As I’ve addressed in previous entries, a comfortable and comforting reread.

■ The Jungle (Upton Sinclair; 1906. Fiction.)
This was the first of two books my younger daughter and I chose for a two-person summer book club.

From Chapter III:
One could not stand and watch very long without becoming philosophical, without beginning to deal in symbols and similes, and to hear the hog-squeal of the universe. Was it permitted to believe that there was nowhere upon the earth, or above the earth, a heaven for hogs, where they were requited for all this suffering? Each one of these hogs was a separate creature. Some were white hogs, some were black; some were brown, some were spotted; some were old, some young; some were long and lean, some were monstrous. And each of them had an individuality of his own, a will of his own, a hope and a heart’s desire; each was full of self-confidence, of self-importance, and a sense of dignity. And trusting and strong in faith he had gone about his business, the while a black shadow hung over him and a horrid Fate waited in his pathway. Now suddenly it had swooped upon him, and had seized him by the leg. Relentless, remorseless, it was; all his protests, his screams, were nothing to it—it did its cruel will with him, as if his wishes, his feelings, had simply no existence at all; it cut his throat and watched him gasp out his life. And now was one to believe that there was nowhere a god of hogs, to whom this hog personality was precious, to whom these hog squeals and agonies had a meaning? Who would take this hog into his arms and comfort him, reward him for his work well done, and show him the meaning of his sacrifice? Perhaps some glimpse of all this was in the thoughts of our humble-minded Jurgis, as he turned to go on with the rest of the party, and muttered: “Dieve—but I’m glad I’m not a hog!”

■ Chicago Poems (Carl Sandburg; 1916. Poetry.)
■ The Jungle (Kristina Gehrmann; 2019. Graphic fiction.)
Several of the poems in Sandburg’s collection eloquently address the same issues Sinclair raises. The graphic adaptation, however, was pointless.

■ Outcast, Vol. 8: The Merged (Kirkman and Azaceta; 2021. Fiction.)
The conclusion of the series did not work for me. At. All.

■ Saint X (Alexis Schaitkin; 2020. Fiction.)
A satisfying summer read. Review here.

■ The Secret to Superhuman Strength (Alison Bechdel; 2021. Graphic non-fiction.)
Excellent. Related links here and here.