Monthly Archives: April 2009

The Huntress

Diana

Last night: a luminous sickle moon suspended in the west above the maple and the willows, like a clipped, discarded thumbnail of God.  I set up the tripod and the binoculars and watched it decline on a northward course from 45 degrees.  The crescent filled the whole lens but was finally lost in the foliage. 

To bathe in silver seas, stand at the division of light and dark, lap celestial milk from the porcelain bowl… The nocturnal and unconverted half of the soul always calls the moon a goddess.

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Marginalia, no.52

By then I had only an hour or so to catch the plane, so I began to curse, which I do well.  The secret of good cursing lies in cadence, emphasis, and antiphony.  The basic themes are always the same.  Conscious striving after variety is not to be encouraged, because it takes your mind off your cursing.

~ A.J. Liebling, The Road Back to Paris

No true master ever failed to respect the rules that govern his art.  It’s the negative space within the frame that gives shape and power to the portrait, damn it.

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On Pets

The trouble with keeping a blog is that you sometimes have to feed it, and pet food costs money, and money is time, and time is scarce if you don’t want to neglect your other time-wasting activities, like working on your novel, which is still a joke but not as much a joke as it was, say, six months ago. 

Still, here it is, the little blog, whimpering in the corner with its feed-me eyes and tent-pole ribs.  Wasn’t pet ownership supposed to be a sunny afternoon pleasure rather than a pulsar of everyday guilt?  But indulgence dresses itself up as obligation in the end.

There are upsides to malnourishment.  Studies show that rats raised on near-starvation diets will ripen into veritable Methuselahs compared to those plumped up on sugarwater and fatty meats.  Even if the little blog isn’t, thanks to the Spartan rations, as round and cuddly as it might be, at least it isn’t completely debauched.

Anyway, I’m still here.  Stick around long enough and you just might get a Scooby Snack.

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Marginalia, no.51

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.

~ Francis Bacon, Of Studies

Still others are best put on ice for future enjoyment.  After all, certain foods are more happily digested by the middle aged than the young, or by the old than the middle aged.  Bacon himself ought to know something about the dangers of improper refrigeration since he died – on Easter Sunday 1626 – of an infection contracted while stuffing a dead chicken full of snow.

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Marginalia, no.50

Of all the animals, man appears to be the only one who enjoys this peculiar pleasure of writing.  This is unfortunate, as it would be interesting to read the written works of the dog, the cat, the fox, the hog, the hippopotamus, and others, did they commit any.

~ Rose Macaulay, Personal Pleasures

The crows that loiter outside my office are writers after a fashion.  Too often I’ve had the pleasure of reading their generous commentaries on the hood of my car.  They must prefer to compose on Japanese rather than German makes, since my coworkers are always spared – or perhaps it’s just that my coworkers actually wash their cars from time to time.  If my cat were to write a book I think it would read something like Mein Kampf.  She’s a wicked, embittered creature that takes easy offense at her human captors and will blithely resort to tooth and claw even with the children.  Thankfully, she’s shown no particular interest in scribbling down her manifesto.

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Camera Obscura

terra-incognita

God’s veil over things makes them all riddles.  If they were not all so particular, detailed, and very rich I might have more rest from them.  But I am a prisoner of perception, a compulsory witness.

~ Saul Bellow, Herzog

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Marginalia, no.49

It is not enough a game, and too serious an amusement.

~ Montaigne, Essays, I, 50

He’s referring to chess.  The sentiment, I think, can be more broadly applied.  But Montaigne goes on to describe the special power of chess to excite the passions and overwhelm us with anger, impatience, even hatred, and the grinding ambition to win a contest which it might be more philosophically educational to lose. “For rare and extraordinary excellence in frivolous things,” he says, “is unbecoming a man of honor.”  One might conclude that he rarely played.  But Montaigne would admit he’s entirely consumed by frivolous things, and he’s too familiar with the pangs and trials of the game to be an unfazed or merely occasional player.  It’s a common condition, really: to be utterly devoted to something one feels honor-bound to disparage.

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