Skip to main content


Showing posts from August, 2010

On Throwing a Dinner Party

"What will happen at this party? Anything may happen. A man has just come in who stands charmingly on his head at parties. Perhaps he will stand on his head tonight. I hope that he will stand on his head. That is what people should do at parties of pleasure; it gives parties of pleasure the right note." - Rose Macaulay

Sadly, no one stood on their head at this dinner party. (I watched Patrick very hopefully.) And yet -

I think my desire to throw a dinner party must be linked to my predictable childhood preoccupation with tea parties. But once I saw Babette's Feast (and also Chocolat) I found the urge to feed dear friends at a table with good food, prepared with patience and intention. And Thursday was the perfect day to do it.

I stayed indoors all day, chopping and mixing, slicing, arranging, and setting everything in place. The menu was supposed to be light and vibrant summer food, to mirror the weather. But the day was morbid and grey. We had to create the atmosphere ours…

Poetry in the Early Morning

What is Born With Me - Pablo Neruda

I sing to the grass that is born with me
in this free moment, to the fermentations
of cheese, of vinegar, to the secret
spurt of the first semen, i sing
to the song of milk which now comes
in rising whiteness to the nipples,
I sing to the fertility of the stable,
to the fresh dung of great cows
from whose aroma fly multitudes
of blue wings, I speak
without any shift of what is happening now
to the bumblebee with its honey, to the lichen
in its soundless germination.
Like an everlasting drum
sounds the flow of succession, the course
from being to being, and I'm born, I'm born, I'm born,
with all that is being born, I'm one
with growing, with the spread silence
of everything that surrounds me, teeming,
propagating itself in the dense damp,
in threads, in tigers, in jelly.

I belong to fruitfulness
and I'll grow while lives grow.
I'm young with the youthfulness of water,
I'm slow with the slowness of time,
I'm pure with the purity of air,
dark with…

A Question of Taste?

During a heated discussion over drinks with friends last week at Ballard's wonderful Noble Fir, we stumbled into inevitable discussions about the reading tastes of men and women (and how true the relevant stereotypes are), and the overwhelming popularity of lighter fiction (at best "book club books"; at worst racy genre reads from material that will quickly date and be pulped) and the difficulty of sharing the impressive lesser-known books we're passionate about with our customers.

It's less about personal pleasures, delightful periods of escape with perennial favorites, than it is about the difficulty of weaning anybody from the place where their heels are planted. Seeing a pile of books with turquoise and light pink covers featuring Manolo Blahniks or embossed Prada bags make me feel queasy. As does the steady stream of paranormal romances with Dead/Death/Dying in the title and scantily clad young women in the arms of some Eternal Fabio. There is no doubt about…

Book Spotting

Seen on the #15:

Short, middle-aged man in faded jeans, old shoes, and baseball cap worn low over his face. A construction worker? Worker at the Ballard locks? Deckhand? In his rough fist an old Vintage Scribner library copy of Gibbons' History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

A Tip on Pronouncing the Names of Foreign Writers

Perhaps you know this already. If you didn't - allow me to educate.

Czeslaw Milosz is not pronounced "Coleslaw Milosovich" as I previously thought but "Chess-wov Mee-woash." Who knew? I am putting this into everyday use along with Simone Weil (which I now know is pronounced "Vey" not "While.")

(This is a picture of the poet himself.)
As I feared, my faith in a future at Oxford dwindles everyday. The irony is that I have a place waiting for me but just can't afford it. I didn't contemplate the possibility of not being approved a loan. So much work. For this.

"That which is lasting we share with the future, we defer the consideration of till tomorrow: that which belongs to the moment we drink up in all its bitterness." - William Hazlitt, On Great and Little Things.

Cassandra at the Wedding - Dorothy Baker

The perfect airplane read for a person en route to a wedding, this tautly written 1962 novel about a woman falling apart, coming home to her family’s ranch to derail her twin sister’s wedding. That’s the summary – but obviously it’s about so much more: about the nature of love and obsession, about identity and the self.

Cassandra Edwards, named for the doomed wailer at the gates of Troy, is a student at Berkley, an “Existentialist-Zen-Marxist, Freudian branch. Deviation, rather.” The reader is fully aware from the beginning that Cassandra feels antagonistically about the wedding – she anticipates duties of “tak[ing] over the bouquet while [Judith] received the ring, through the nose or on the finger, wherever she chose to receive it…” She purposefully gets the groom’s name wrong. She plans to stage a “last-minute rescue.”

The isolated family ranch the Edwards family as a self-sufficient unit – emotionally and intellectually. Her alcoholic father, a retired skeptical philosopher who act…

Harping On

There is something so ironically aggressive about the harp. The playing - plucking and hammering and coaxing - looks incredibly violent, but its icy sounds are sweet and precise.

I saw Joanna Newsom at the Moore Wednesday night. It was my first trip to the Moore, a much narrower theatre than the Paramount, close to Pike Place Market and the docks. From where we sat on the steep balcony, the inside, blue-lit, looked like an underwater opera house. I have never seen so many hipsters in one place. They were all there: any Seattleite with skinny jeans, large-rimmed glasses, overgrown muttonchops or pencil mustaches (Eric called the style Goddard-esque after the 60’s French director), mussed and braided hair, and floral dresses, standing with the awkward, graceful stork posture so beloved by earnest Wes Anderson-watching, Jack Kerouac-reading, cigarette-smoking hipsters everywhere.

And they flocked for good reason. It was exquisite. Robin Pecknold from the Fleet Foxes opened for Newsom, a…

On Vocation

I read this on the way to the wedding. It comes closest to a personal manifesto for what I want to do When I Grow Up. (Substitute literature for music.)

“It had more to do with belonging to a tradition in music and staying in it and working at it in any capacity you can fit into – playing what’s been written, and what’s been written, composing too if you want to and can, but mostly trying to keep it alive and separate the chaff from the grain and keep them separate. Know which is which, and care, and that’s a life work.” – Cassandra at the Wedding, Dorothy Baker

Flying South for the Wedding

Just over two years from the day we graduated, yearning for more than a one-horse town, we returned. Kristin and Patrick, the nuptial couple, met at Greenville and it was only appropriate that they would choose Greenville for their wedding.

I’d had forgotten how southern this town in Southern Illinois is until I return from Seattle to see the confederate flags, the Gretchen Wilson music, the biscuits and gravy, the thick accent. Driving east from St. Louis to Greenville is a dream in Americana: the corn high and ripe, hawks circling, grasses glistening from thunderstorms and downpours, a large wide sky above the plains and the sprawling roads.

We pass power lines, traversing and perpendicular, large billboards for country cooking and homestyle restaurants large and gaudy and offering oversized lardy portions at a minimal charge, and all the fields lush with the harvest.

Greenville, that dear town of seven thousand (including the federal prison outside of the city limits) is still it…