Last book of 2010 and Happy New Year

I finished reading How To Live: Or a Biography of Montaigne this afternoon. I see why it has a devoted following and good reviews.

Next, biographies of Raymond Carver and Alfred Tarski.

Why am I reading so many biographies lately?  I’ve done Newton and Einstein recently too.

Anyway, Happy New Year, you pretty butt motherfuckers. I love you.

Published in: on December 31, 2010 at 9:04 pm  Comments (1)  

Far away

In a way, I spent the day watching Euclid prove a math theorem and Montaigne write an essay.

Worse things could happen.

Published in: on December 30, 2010 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Book sale

I went to the Border’s going out of business sale this
afternoon. I bought a history of the Beat writers, a tract on the
moralism of Camus, Skepticism by Grayling, and lucky me, the highly
praised biography of Ray Carver. It was located across the steet
from Water Tower. When it came into the neighborhood it ran the
beautiful Waterstone’s bookstore out of business, plus all the
Indie bookstores within a mile radius. I spent many happy hours
there and a good share of my wallet too. I won’t cry. Books are
everywhere these days.

Published in: on December 29, 2010 at 9:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

One more year?

I’ve decided to be a writer for one more year, probably from sheer stubborn persistence than anything else. Plus, I kind of dig it.

Published in: on December 29, 2010 at 9:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Booklist 1

In the spirit of my last post, here is a partial list of the books I’ve read this past year.  I reconstructed it from the eBooks I’ve read.  It does not include the books of mathematics, philosophy, or poetry I’ve dipped into.  It does not include the hardcopy books I read before I bought the iPad.

I’ll keep the list up to date with the latest book read appearing first on the list.

Dec, 2010 – Paris 1919, Margaret MacMillan
Dec, 2010 – The Museum of Innocence, Orhan Pamuk
Dec, 2010 – The Aeneid, Virgil, Stanley Lombardo translator
Nov, 2010 – Life, Keith Richards
Unk, 2010 – Sin Killer, Larry McMurtry
Unk, 2010 – The Wandering Hill, Larry McMurty
Unk, 2010 – By Sorrow’s River, Larry McMurtry
Unk, 2010 – Folly and Glory, Larry McMurtry
Unk, 2010 – The Fabric of the Cosmos, Brian Greene
Unk, 2010 – Hitch 22, Christopher Hitchens
Unk, 2010 – Memory Wall, Anthony Doerr
Unk, 2010 – The Big Short, Michael Lewis
Unk, 2010 – The Equation That Couldn’t Be Solved, Mario Livio
Unk, 2010 – Shakespeare’s Philosophy, Colin McGinn
Unk, 2010 – War and Peace, Tolstoy, Constance Garnett tranlator
Unk, 2010 – Einstein, Walter Isaacson
Unk, 2010 – The Portable Atheist, Christopher Hitchens editor
Unk, 2010 – Decarte’s Bones, Russell Shorto
Unk, 2010 – Isaac Newton, James Gleick
Unk, 2010 – Three Stations, Martin Cruz Smith
Unk, 2010 – The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo, Stieg Larsson
Unk, 2010 – The Girl Who Played with Fire, Stieg Larsson
Unk, 2010 – The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson
Unk, 2010 – C, Tom McCarthy
Unk, 2010 – Yearning For the Impossible, John Sitwell
Unk, 2010 – Symmetry, Marcus Du Sautoy
Unk, 2010 – The Archimedes Codex, Reviel Netz, William Noel
Unk, 2010 – Symmetry and the Monster, Mark Ronan
Unk, 2010 – Godel’s Proof, Ernest Nagel, James R. Newman
Unk, 2010 – From Zero to Infinity, Constance Reid
Unk, 2010 – The Whole Five Feet, Christopher R. Beha
Unk, 2010 – Chess Fundamentals, Jose R. Capablanca

Published in: on December 29, 2010 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

The list that didn’t happen

I would like a simple list of all the books I have read during my life.  I’ll start one now.

Dec, 2010 – The Museum of Innocence, Orhan Pamuk

Dec, 2010 – Paris 1919, Margaret MacMillan

I shudder at the thousands missing from the list.  Maybe, in the next life, I’ll get it right.  Or maybe not.

Published in: on December 29, 2010 at 2:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Trees

The trees were spectacularly shagged and crusted with snow on the drive this morning from Iowa to Chicago. I felt as though I belonged in the world

Published in: on December 27, 2010 at 3:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Merry Christmas

I made it to Iowa for Christmas.  The snow made the drive slower and more tedious than expected.

OK, time to celebrate.  I hope you and yours are having a wonderful holiday season.

Published in: on December 25, 2010 at 11:15 am  Comments (1)  

I can see clearly now

Just washed my laptop computer screen.  Things are already looking brighter and clearer.  And now it is December 22–a day when the sunlight lingers just a tad longer than yesterday.

Merry Christmas, you pretty butt motherfuckers.

Published in: on December 22, 2010 at 1:58 am  Comments (2)  

May, 1919 in Paris

It was May, 1919 in Paris–all manner of things happened–a collage of the old and new.  When you stepped outside your apartment, you did not know what the future would bring.  The warmth and sunlight made you forget you cared.

Not just the map of the world was being reshaped, but all of science and art too.  Reading a good book at a table outside a bistro seemed the only terra firma.

Published in: on December 21, 2010 at 2:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

A provocative question

After all isn’t the purpose of a novel, or a museum, for that matter, to relate our memories with such sincerity as to transform individual happiness into a happiness all can share?

The Museum of Innocence, Orhan Pamuk

Published in: on December 15, 2010 at 12:07 am  Comments (4)  

A tip of the hat

I spend a lot of time watching top level chess tournaments, live commentary on the games, and following the attendant computer analysis.    I can remember back in the old days of Fischer vs. Spassky in 1972 I had to wait until the next day’s paper to see the moves in their games.  The event was so highly reported that at least I knew who won each day.  Now, we have all the stuff I mentioned live on the Internet.  It’s a chess player’s dream actually.

This a guess.  Most chess players who play a lot each week are looking for ways to improve whether from harsh experience or assistance from other sources.  I’ve played or studied chess for at least 2,000 hours over the past three years.  I’ve plateaued in my rating, etc., but what keeps my interest is the chance I may improve.

That being said, I sometimes look at the game statistics of the weakest players on the Internet.  Surprisingly, many have played thousands of games with no improvement.  Some of the games are excellent examples of how not to play chess.  It mystifies me as to how they persevere.

It must be sheer love of the game.  And I admire those players the most.

Published in: on December 13, 2010 at 12:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

The human touch

You are watching and listening to the grandmaster commentary of the London Chess Classic being played right now.  Who would have thought that chess, in its infancy, would grow up to be infinitely interesting?

But when you meditate on the question and think about Anand, Carlsen, and Kramnik playing in the tournament, the answer is not so hard to come up with.

The human touch.

Published in: on December 10, 2010 at 10:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Annals of reading: part whatever

Lots of awful songs play upon the jukebox. I have my Lombardo translation of The Aeneid to get me through the night, so fuck the jukebox. (Sorry, Orla, I just had to work that in there somewhere.)

Published in: on December 7, 2010 at 11:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Pope on Homer and Virgil

In the preface of his translation of Homer’s Iliad, Pope mentions that Virgil is not Homer’s equal.

I, in all my temerity, wonder.

Published in: on December 6, 2010 at 11:29 pm  Comments (2)  

Getting in; getting out

OK, I am totally sucked in by Stanley Lombardo’s highly readable and elegant translation of Virgil’s Aeneid. (Pamuk, I know you’ll understand why I am delayed, once again, finishing your latest novel.)

The Sybil tells Aeneas that it will be easy to get into the underworld and hard getting out, but just the opposite turns out to be true.

What’s that all about? Some kind of literary faux pas by Virgil or some subtle thing the author intended the people who were truly following his narrative ought to understand?

Published in: on December 6, 2010 at 10:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Annals of desire: part whatever

You are reading The Museum of Innocence. You read Book IV of The Aeneid at the same time–you know the part about the marriage of Aeneas and Dido.

Serious desire–the emotion that consumes you and won’t let you go until it kills you or at least makes you want to die–has no peer except the shock of combat and war.

Yet where would we be without it? Pretty much nowhere I expect.

Published in: on December 5, 2010 at 7:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Vortex

I was reading Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence when the new Keith Richards book so rudely interrupted me. But as rude interruptions go it was a pretty damned good one. Now, I’m back to Pamuk.

I’ve read My Name Is Red, and Snow, two books that blew me away. The Museum of Innocence hasn’t blown me away, yet slowly it sucks me in as if I’m holding a vortex in my hand.

I doubt if a time will come when I won’t read the latest Pamuk novel.

Published in: on December 5, 2010 at 6:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Shut in

It got cold and snowed and I spent the weekend as a shut in with nothing to do but read, read, read.

Lynn, you poor thing.

Published in: on December 5, 2010 at 6:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Annals of the self

I think my first real appreciation of American poetry came from the TV series Voices and Visions.  The series describes the lives and works of 13 American poets from Whitman to Plath.  There is also a beautiful companion book to the series.

I can honestly say I have purchased and read the works of those poets.  The works have a pride of place in my library equal to the classics.  The poems are something I always return to with delight and wonder.  It’s as if they are an encyclopedia of desire.

“Who are you?” is the most important question.  “I am many,” is the short answer Whitman gave.  One can prove it by Reason and from Experience, but Reason and Experience do not detract from that other way of knowing–Revelation.

Published in: on December 4, 2010 at 3:55 pm  Comments (4)  

Annals of dawdling, part whatever

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m dawdling over the collected poems of Wallace Stevens.  When I’m in a dawdling mood, no better dawdling is.

Published in: on December 4, 2010 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

A new one?

What if you looked into your shoebox and found out it was full with scraps of paper and cocktail napkins with shit written on them? Would you think those scraps contained enough stuff to make a novel out of them?

You might. But would you actually do it–write the novel, that is?

What if you swore, without equivocation, you’d never write another novel again, would you write another one just because you had a shoebox full of sheer unadulterated shit?

Published in: on December 3, 2010 at 11:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

A new one?

What if you looked into your shoebox and found out it was full with scraps of paper and cocktail napkins with shit written on them? Would you think those scraps contained enough stuff to make a novel out of them?

You might. But would you actually do it–write the novel, that is?

What if you swore, without equivocation, you’d never write another novel again, would you write another one just because you had a shoebox full of sheer unadulterated shit?

Published in: on December 3, 2010 at 11:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Euphoria

I wrote about depression the other day. Why did I do that? Never mind, that’s not what I want to talk about, at least as far as depression goes.

The nice thing about long core meltdown depressions is that inexplicable euphoric feeling that’s worth the price of admission when you come out of it.

OK, what I really wanted to talk about is whether I should find a good dominatrix to give me spankings. But we’ll leave that to later.

Published in: on December 3, 2010 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sitting with The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens

When you write enough words, you come to realize that each new set of words is an act by the writer and that writer is not the same person you knew only yesterday, for she seems wild and untamed even though you thought you had put her safely in her cage.

Published in: on December 3, 2010 at 3:48 pm  Leave a Comment