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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Eileen - Ottessa Moshfegh

 Eileen, shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, is a story narrated by an elderly woman about how, as a young woman, she came to escape her sad life in a grim New England town. Twenty-four year old Eileen Dunlop lives in squalor with her alcoholic father after her mother passed away. She has no friends and no close extended family. She works in a correctional facility for boys; she despises her workmates and has no social life. She is filled with self-loathing, she drinks, survives on junk food and wears her dead mother's too-large clothes to hide her body. She spends her spare time running to the liquor store to buy gin for her abusive drunken father. She drives her car with the the window open in December because she will be asphyxiated by exhaust fumes if she closes it. She is lonely; she is crazy. She dreams of the day she will escape her unbearable existence.
When the gorgeous Rebecca St. John is hired as a teacher at the correctional facility Eileen believes she has found a soulmate, one she would do anything for. From there things move along rather too quickly and the story suddenly wraps up. 
It's not the sort of novel one expects to see on the Man Booker shortlist but it is a good story and held my interest. Eileen is a fascinating character who evokes both sympathy and repulsion. After reading it I felt dirty because Moshfegh's descriptions of the squalor and smells were ultra realistic. I could also feel the biting, dark cold of the New England winter. If you liked Girl On A Train you'll probably enjoy this. I did.

12 Things You Might Not Know About T.S. Eliot

Born September 26, 1888, modernist poet and playwright Thomas Stearns (T.S.) Eliot is best known for writing "The Waste Land." Mental Floss has posted a few things you might not know about him.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Re: LSD, psylocibin, etc

Via Ordinary Finds

Which Banned Book Are You?

I know these games are silly but it's Banned Books Week so I'm posting this to promote the freedom to read. Take the quiz to find out which banned book you are, and exhibit the right to read!
I am evidently Tropic of Cancer though I am not a Henry Miller fan.

For you, Paris is definitely the city of love. You have the talent for the written word,
but often suffer from writer’s block. You spend too much time partying and hooking up.
Deep down inside, you know that a great artist is always alone.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Writer in 29th year of solitary confinement barred from reading his own book

William “Billy” Blake is serving a 77-to-life sentence, and has been in solitary for 29 years, since he killed a guard in a failed escape attempt. He is one of the contributors to 2016's Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement, a book he's never seen, held or read; he's never seen his widely read essay "A Sentence Worse Than Death," which won Honorable Mention in the Yale Law Journal’s Prison Law Writing Contest, in print.

You can write to Blake at: William Blake #87-A-5771, Great Meadow Correctional Facility, 11739 State Route 22, PO Box 51, Comstock, New York 12821-0051.

More: Boing Boing

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Birding While Black

It’s only 9:06 a.m. and I think I might get hanged today.
* * * *
The job I volunteered for was to record every bird I could see or hear in a three-minute interval. I am supposed to do that fifty times. Look, listen, and list for three minutes. Get in the car. Drive a half mile. Stop. Get out. Look, listen, and list again. It’s a routine thousands of volunteers have followed during springs and summers all across North America since 1966. The data is critical for ornithologists to understand how breeding birds are faring across the continent.
Up until now the going has been fun and easy, more leisurely than almost any “work” anyone could imagine. But here I am, on stop number thirty-two of the Laurel Falls Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) route: a large black man in one of the whitest places in the state, sitting on the side of the road with binoculars pointed toward a house with the Confederate flag proudly displayed. Rumbling trucks passing by, a honking horn or two, and curious double takes are infrequent but still distract me from the task at hand. Maybe there’s some special posthumous award given for dying in the line of duty on a BBS route—perhaps a roadside plaque honoring my bird-censusing skills.
My mind plays horrific scenes of an old black-and-white photograph I’ve seen before—gleeful throngs at a lynching party. Pale faces glow grimly in evil light. A little girl smiles broadly. The pendulant, black-skinned guest of dishonor swings anonymously, grotesquely, lifelessly. I can hear Billie Holiday’s voice. More here 
Excerpt from THE HOME PLACE: MEMOIRS OF A COLORED MAN’S LOVE AFFAIR WITH NATURE. Used with permission of Milkweed Editions. Copyright 2016 by J. Drew Lanham.

Books Ride The Rails At NY Public Library

A fleet of 24 cars will be delivering material from the stacks of the New York Public Library (NYPL)along the tracks of itsnew “book train.” Each gray and red car, adorned with NYPL’s lion logo, can travel the 11 levels of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in just five minutes, from the subterranean Milstein Research Stacks to the Rose Main Reading Room.

more here 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

One of the Earliest Science Fiction Books Was Written in the 1600s

In her lifetime, Lady Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, published 20 books. But amid her poetry and essays, she also published one of the earliest examples of science fiction in 1666. She named it The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World.

"Change some of the wording around, and The Blazing World resembles a modern science fiction story. While the Empress enters a “portal” in the book, today’s sci-fi tales might say she enters another dimension. The people of the Blazing World, as her universe was called, came in colors ranging from green to scarlet, and had what we might now call alien technology. Cavendish writes that “though they had no knowledge of the Load-stone, or Needle or pendulous Watches,” Blazing World inhabitants were able to measure the depth of the sea from afar, technology that wouldn’t be invented until nearly 250 years after the book came out."

Read More 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Penguin Arrives At The Hundred Acre Wood

"Winter: In Which Penguin Arrives in the Forest" by Brian Sibley is one of four new adventures commissioned by the Trustees of the Pooh Properties for the 90th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh. Sibley was inspired by an archival photograph of Pooh creator A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin Milne. The photo shows Milne and his son playing with a teddy bear - which they called Winnie-the-Pooh after a Canadian black bear that lived in the London Zoo - and a stuffed toy penguin.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Outline - Rachel Cusk

Faye goes to Athens to teach a summer writing course. On her flight to Athens the neighbouring passenger tells her about himself - his failed marriages and businesses, his boats and his children. When she arrives in Athens the people she meets also provide her with the personal details of their daily lives. These exchanges are one-sided and from them we learn next to nothing about the narrator. It is as if this is an outline consisting of individual stories that will later be fleshed out and strung together as a novel. It's an interesting concept but I found the book hard to read. About a third of the way through I began to get impatient and wanted something - anything - to happen. In the end I don't know whether I liked it or loathed it.

I had a similar reaction after reading Cusk's first novel Saving Agnes. I said "Agnes couldn't engage with others and I found I couldn't engage with her." I feel much the same about Faye.

30 Facts about Jane Austen

John Green presents trivia about the fascinating author of the 18th-19th centuries.

Via Neatorama

Friday, September 16, 2016

Finding the Unsayable in Translation

I did not want to know but I have since come to know that one of the girls, when she wasn’t a girl anymore and hadn’t long been back from her honeymoon, went into the bathroom, stood in front of the mirror, unbuttoned her blouse, took off her bra and aimed her own father’s gun at her heart, her father at the time was in the dining room with other members of the family and three guests. 
 So opens Javier Marías’s A Heart So White. Any first sentence in Spanish with multiple time periods and a gun alludes to the first sentence of One Hundred Years of Solitude: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

Continue reading

How to Meditate

Are you on of those who are resistant to meditation?

In his book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works — A True Story  journalist Dan Harris  explores how to overcome that  resistance and reap the benefits of meditation.

This video by Harris, animated by Katy Davis walks you through the basics.

Meditation 101: A Beginner's Guide from Gobblynne on Vimeo.

More: Brain Pickings

Thursday, September 15, 2016