Thursday, 12 April 2018

206 -- Oates/Frost/Leon

Short Story
Joyce Carol Oates: Where are you going, where have you been?
This is a creepy, strange story that gave me the shivers. I can't say that I liked it, but it was good. Very good.

Robert Frost: Nothing gold can stay
Nature’s first green is gold,Her hardest hue to hold.Her early leaf’s a flower;But only so an hour.Then leaf subsides to leaf.So Eden sank to grief,So dawn goes down to day.Nothing gold can stay
There's a detailed analysis of this poem here.

Donna Leon: Tourists
An amusing essay that would be funny if it wasn't so true. Which does more damage to the planet -- terrorists or tourists?

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

205 -- Kafka/Frost/Richardson

Short Story
Franz Kafka: A Hunger Artist
A strange story about an entertainer whose profession is to starve himself. It says a lot about the weird activities that humans view as forms of "entertainment".

Robert Frost: The Telephone
Brilliant. I love this one.
“When I was just as far as I could walk
From here to-day,
There was an hour
All still
When leaning with my head against a flower
I heard you talk.
Don’t say I didn’t, for I heard you say—
You spoke from that flower on the window sill—
Do you remember what it was you said?”
“First tell me what it was you thought you heard.”
“Having found the flower and driven a bee away,
I leaned my head,
And holding by the stalk,
I listened and I thought I caught the word—
What was it? Did you call me by my name?
Or did you say—
Someone said ‘Come’—I heard it as I bowed.”
“I may have thought as much, but not aloud.”
“Well, so I came.”
Robert C. Richardson: Evolutionary Psychology
Nothing particularly exciting or revolutionary here, and once again a nod to the flat-earther types who think evolution doesn't apply to humans.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

204 - Stockton/Frost/Leon

Short Story
Frank Stockton: The woman or the tiger
I found this an unsatisfying story in some ways, but it was well written and an interesting concept. For what it's worth, I think he would open the door on the left, which would be the lady. But of course, it's unsatisfying to a modern audience because we will never know, and we tend to want things cleared up at the end.

Robert Frost: A serious step lightly taken
The serious step is buying a house to live in for life, written at a time when that was the norm, which is unfortunately not the case now. We need to plant roots, I think, and this poem is a reminder of that for me.

Donna Leon: Neighbour
I wonder why Leon (or anyone else for that matter) chooses to live in a flat with a noisy neighbour next door. I lived in flats for years in Sydney, but would hate to do that again, and this essay is a good reminder why.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

203 - Dahl/Frost/Leon

Short Story
Roald Dahl: The Landlady
Dahl is one of my favourite authors, so this one couldn't fail. And it didn't. A riveting storyr. I loved it.

Robert Frost: A Considerable Speck
Frost is well and truly back in my favourites list. I love this poem, and can completely relate to it as the same thing has happened to me when I was writing, and I did the same thing.
A speck that would have been beneath my sightOn any but a paper sheet so whiteSet off across what I had written there.And I so idly poised my pen in airTo stop it with a period of inkWhen something strange about it made me think.This was no dust speck by my breathing blown,But unmistakably a living miteWith inclinations it could call its own.It paused as with suspicion of my pen,And then came racing wildly on againTo where my manuscript was not yet dry;Then paused again and either drank or smelt-With loathing, for again it turned to fly.Plainly with an intelligence I dealt.It seemed too tiny to have room for feet,Yet must have had a set of them completeTo express how much it didn't want to die.It ran with terror and with cunning crept.It faltered: I could see it hesitate;Then in the middle of the open sheetCower down in desperation to acceptWhatever I accorded it of fate.I have none of the tenderer-than-thouCollectivistic regimenting loveWith which the modern world is being swept.But this poor microscopic item now!Since it was nothing I knew evil ofI let it lie there till I hope it slept.I have a mind myself and recognizeMind when I meet with it in any guise.No one can know how glad I am to findOn any sheet the least display of mind.

Donna Leon: Shit
Some of these essays about Italy make me want to pack up and go there, while others don't. This is one of the latter. It seems the Venetians don't like to pick up after their dogs.

Friday, 6 April 2018

202 - Marquez/Frost/Leon

Short Story
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A very old man with enormous wings
This is a fascinating, but rather strange story about a creature people assume is an angel.

I particularly liked this:
The curious came from far away. A traveling carnival arrived with a flying acrobat who buzzed over the crowd several times, but no one paid any attention to him because his wings were not those of an angel but, rather, those of a sidereal bat. The most unfortunate invalids on earth came in search of health: a poor woman who since childhood has been counting her heartbeats and had run out of numbers; a Portuguese man who couldn’t sleep because the noise of the stars disturbed him; a sleepwalker who got up at night to undo the things he had done while awake; and many others with less serious ailments. 
Robert Frost:  On looking up by chance at the constellations
You’ll wait a long, long time for anything muchTo happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloudAnd the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves.The sun and moon get crossed, but they never touch,Nor strike out fire from each other nor crash out loud.The planets seem to interfere in their curvesBut nothing ever happens, no harm is done.We may as well go patiently on with our life,And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sunFor the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane.It is true the longest drought will end in rain,The longest peace in China will end in strife.Still it wouldn’t reward the watcher to stay awakeIn hopes of seeing the calm of heaven breakOn his particular time and personal sight.That calm seems certainly safe to last to-night.
I love this poem! It fits in well with my current LND (Low News Diet) philosophy. Yes, we may as well go patiently on with our life. Life seems chaotic, tragic, and full of carryings on that won't matter a damn to people five or ten years from now, let along five thousand. The peace and tranquillity of nature is all we really need.

Donna Leon:  The house from hell
A warning about the perils of buying an apartment without looking at anything except the view. Buying a lemon can certainly be stressful.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

201 -- Vonnegut/Frost/Leon

Short Story
Kurt Vonnegut Jr.: Harrison Bergeron
An interesting story (as you would expect from Vonnegut), about what it might be like if true equality were to be really achieved.

Robert Frost: Tree at my window
Tree at my window, window tree,
My sash is lowered when night comes on;
But let there never be curtain drawn
Between you and me. 
Vague dream-head lifted out of the ground,
And thing next most diffuse to cloud,
Not all your light tongues talking aloud
Could be profound. 
But tree, I have seen you taken and tossed,
And if you have seen me when I slept,
You have seen me when I was taken and swept
And all but lost. 
That day she put our heads together,
Fate had her imagination about her,
Your head so much concerned with outer,
Mine with inner, weather.

Donna Leon: Donna Leon: Non mangiare, ti fa male
An amusing essay on the essential differences between light and heavy foods -- according to Italians.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

200 -- Wharton/Frost/Leon

Short Story
Edith Wharton: Roman Fever
I tried hard, but I just couldn't get interested in this story at all. The language and the way it was written was brilliant, but the plot just didn't grab me and I didn't care too much about the characters. Perhaps it's the mood I'm in at th moment. Or something.

Robert Frost: November
Well, November here is spring rather than autumn, and we have almost all evergreen trees, and so we don't get the autumn coloured leaves. Still, I had enough autumns in Europe in my childhood to be able to visualise the imagery in this poem. I also understood that autumn as a metaphor for old age, and the last lines are clear, and about waste, not just of leaves, precious resources, and time, but also the waste that is inextricably linked to wars.

Donna Leon:  Dipolomatic incident
I like Donna Leon. I think we are soul mates, or at least on the same plane. In other words, I liked this brief essay and could relate to it completely.