Sunday, October 31, 2004

The Turn of the Screw ~ Henry James

I can see Douglas there before the fire, to which he had got up to present his back, looking down at his interlocutor with his hands in his pockets. "Nobody but me, till now, has ever heard. It's quite too horrible." This, naturally, was declared by several voices to give the thing the utmost price, and our friend, with quiet art, prepared his triumph by turning his eyes over the rest of us and going on: "It's beyond everything. Nothing at all that I know touches it."
"For sheer terror?" I remember asking.
He seemed to say it was not so simple as that; to be really at a loss how to qualify it. He passed his hand over his eyes, made a little wincing grimace. "For dreadful -- dreadfulness!"
"Oh, how delicious!" cried one of the women.
He took no notice of her; he looked at me, but as if, instead of me, he saw what he spoke of. "For general uncanny ugliness and horror and pain."

It's amazing how much James does with so little. Even though The Turn of the Screw is more straightforward and more active than most of his other work (stuff actually happens in this story) it's still full of his characteristic psychological subtlety. You can imagine how a tale of besieged governesses, menacing ghosts and posessed children would work out in the hands of another writer, but James sticks you inside the head of this harassed young woman and you don't know if she's extraordinarily insightful and courageous or completely crazy. That's where the horror is. I love how James takes the Victorian ideal of children as angelic innocents and turns them into terrifying monsters. And I always forget how much I love his prose. It's difficult but it's worth the effort. He'll have pages of complex, rambling paragraphs, and then finish with a short, sharp sentence that's like a punch in the gut. The whole thing's like that really, a slow build-up of foreboding and paranoia that just stops, suddenly, with a jolt. One of those books that should be read in the dead of winter before a roaring fire.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Raven

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door-
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door-
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

the rest of the poem

It wouldn't be Halloween without a little Poe. In high school my friends and I made a video of "The Tell-Tale Heart," complete with heart-beat sound effects. I got to play the murderer, slicked my hair back and really chewed the scenery, pounding on the floor and shrieking:"Villains! Dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! here, here! --It is the beating of his hideous heart!" Great fun.

*Edited to add: Check out this book trailer for Coraline, made by some Italian film students.

Friday, October 29, 2004

The Indigestion of the Vampire

Look at this red pear
Hanging from a good family

Where the butcher hung the rag on the tree.

The bat's bloated again,
Hooked on his dark nimbus
Getting over it.
Here is the cure of pity
Upside down.

Elsewhere the laundry
Is buried,
The deer tracks left by his teeth
Look for the cross-roads,
The veins that are still good
Hold out their hands.

Here's his story.

His bridges are not burned only folded.
In a while the swollen life
He calls his own
Will shrink back till it fits the mirrors,
No worse for no wear;
The eyes will come
To conceal movement again;
He will find his voice to fly by.

That's how he does it: rock-a-bye,
Hanging there with his silence all wool
And others at heart,
Two pounds in his pound bag,

Shaped like a tear but
Not falling for anyone.

--W.S. Merwin

There's a whole page of bat poetry here, everything from Roethke and Dickinson and Tennyson and Plath to poems sent in by grade school kids. Link found via Choriamb, a kick-ass poetry blog that I shall be linking to forthwith.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

creepy folklore

From ghoulies and ghosties
and long leggety beasties,
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us—Cornish prayer

Under earth I go,
On the oak-leaf I stand,
I ride on the filly that never was foaled,
And I carry the dead in my hand.—Scots traditional

For the moon’s shining high
And the dew is wet;
And on the mossy moor,
they’re dancing yet.—Cornish rhyme

--as found in Charles DeLint's The Little Country

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


The old black key felt colder than any of the others. She pushed it into the keyhole. It turned smoothly, with a satisfying clunk.
Coraline stopped and listened. She knew she was doing something wrong, and she was trying to listen for her mother coming back, but she heard nothing. Then Coraline put her hand on the doorknob and turned it; and, finally, she opened the door.
It opened on to a dark hallway. The bricks had gone as if they'd never been there. There was a cold, musty smell coming through the open doorway: it smelled like something very old and very slow.
Coraline went through the door.
She wondered what the empty flat would be like--if that was where the corridor led. Coraline walked down the corridor uneasily. There was something very familiar about it.
The carpet beneath her feet was the same carpet they had in her flat. The wallpaper was the same wallpaper they had. The picture hanging in the hall was the same that they had hanging in their hallway at home.
She knew where she was: she was in her own home. She hadn't left.
She shook her head, confused.
She stared at the picture hanging on the wall: no, it wasn't exactly the same. The picture they had in their own hallway showed a boy in old-fashioned clothes staring at some bubbles. But now the expression on his face was different--he was looking at the bubbles as if he was planning to do something very nasty indeed to them. And there was something peculiar about his eyes.
Coraline stared at his eyes, trying to figure out what exactly was different.
She almost had it when somebody said, "Coraline?"
It sounded like her mother. Coraline went into the kitchen, where the voice had come from. A woman stood in the kitchen with her back to Coraline. She looked a little like Coraline's mother. Only...
Only her skin was white as paper.
Only she was taller and thinner.
Only her fingers were too long, and they never stopped moving, and her dark red fingernails were curved and sharp.
"Coraline?" the woman said. "Is that you?"
And then she turned around. Her eyes were big black buttons.
"Lunchtime, Coraline," said the woman.
"Who are you?" asked Coraline.
"I'm your other mother," said the woman. "Go and tell your other father that lunch is ready."

The moral of the story: unlocking doors that usually open onto brick walls is always a bad idea. Don't miss this MPR interview with Gaiman where he reads this excerpt and others. I mean, if you like getting the heebie-jeebies, that is.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron. Thunder.
Enter the three Witches.

FIRST WITCH: Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.
SECOND WITCH: Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.
THIRD WITCH: Harpier cries, "'Tis time, 'tis time."
FIRST WITCH: Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.
ALL: Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
SECOND WITCH: Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
ALL: Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
THIRD WITCH: Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witch's mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat and slips of yew
Sliver'd in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab.
Add thereto a tiger's chawdron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.
ALL: Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
SECOND WITCH: Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

Enter Hecate to the other three Witches.

HECATE: O, well done! I commend your pains,
And everyone shall share i' the gains.
And now about the cauldron sing,
Like elves and fairies in a ring,
Enchanting all that you put in.

Music and a song, "Black spirits."
Hecate retires.

SECOND WITCH: By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.

--Act IV, Scene I.

Hope I haven't just cursed my blog...

Monday, October 25, 2004

countdown to Halloween

Halloween. My most favorite night in all the year, to paraphrase Ray Bradbury (I'm kicking myself for leaving From the Dust Returned at home). So I'm posting spooky bits and whatnot all week. Just finished Beowulf for class:

A few miles from here
a frost-stiffened wood waits and keeps watch
above a mere; the overhanging bank
is a maze of tree-roots mirrored in its surface.
At night there, something uncanny happens:
the water burns. And the mere bottom
has never been sounded by the sons of men.
On its bank, the heather-stepper halts:
the hart in flight from pursuing hounds
will turn to face them with firm-set horns
and die in the wood rather than dive
beneath its surface. That is no good place.


On a height they kindled the hugest of all
funeral fires; fumes of woodsmoke
billowed darkly up, the blaze roared
and drowned out their weeping, wind died down
and flames wrought havoc in the hot bone-house,
burning it to the core. They were disconsolate
and wailed aloud for their lord's decease.
A Geat woman too sang out in grief;
with hair bound up, she unburdened herself
of her worst fears, a wild litany
of nightmare and lament: her nation invaded,
enemies on the rampage, bodies in piles,
slavery and abasement. Heaven swallowed the smoke.

Seamus Heaney's translation, of course!

Sunday, October 24, 2004

I thank God I wore my corset because I think my sides have split.*

For some mysterious reason, the university library has the Complete Blackadder DVD box set. So I've been spending the weekend with Darling and Melchett and Baldrick and trying to figure out what course could possibly require you to watch old Britcoms (is there an English Humor 101 or something?) If I had 100 bucks I'd buy the set; it's worth it just for the scene in Blackadder Back and Forth, where our antihero hops in his time machine and has a run-in with Will Shakespeare (Colin Firth, in a cameo where pretty much all he does is wear tights and get smacked around by Rowan Atkinson):

Blackadder : [punches Shakespeare] That is for every schoolboy and schoolgirl for the next 400 years! Have you any idea how much suffering you're going to cause? Hours spent at school desks trying to find ONE joke in "A Midsummer's Night Dream". Wearing stupid tights in school plays saying things like, "What ho, my Lord," and, "Oh, look, here comes Othello talking total crap as usual." And THAT [kicks Shakespeare] is for Ken Branagh's endless, four-hour version of Hamlet!
William Shakespeare : Who's Ken Branagh?
Blackadder : I'll tell him you said that, and I think he'll be rather hurt...

Just starting on the DVD for Blackadder III, where all the episode titles are spoofs of Jane Austen: Dish & Dishonesty, Ink & Incapability, Sense & Senility, etc.

god I wish I had BBC America.

*it's funnier when Rowan Atkinson says it in a voice dripping with sarcasm, but I couldn't think of a better title...

Saturday, October 23, 2004

It's official

Once you've marched in the Rural Small Town's Homecoming Parade with the local chapter of NOW, holding a LESBIAN RIGHTS NOW sign, you've earned the title of Big Dyke on Campus. I should make a super-hero cape or something. I intend to use my powers only for good! Got a few cheers from friends, and was otherwise met with a sea of stony glares, so it went well. The parade organizers had NOW marching behind the truck for our Republican congresswoman's re-election campaign, and I can't decide if it was intentionally ironic or not.

I ought to be working on a paper about Anne Bradstreet. She's actually a pretty interesting anomaly, a Puritan proto-feminist poet, quite an "azoological beast" as Graves put it. And what's more, she's actually good:

I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
Who says my hand a needle better fits,
A poet's pen all scorn I should thus wrong,
For such despite they cast on female wits:
If what I do prove well, it won't advance,
They'll say it's stol'n, or else it was by chance.

--The Prologue

Which is more than you can say for her male collegues (seriously, if you can slog through Michael Wigglesworth's "Day of Doom" with out passing out you're a better student than I). I'll either write on "The Author to Her Book" or "Before the Birth of One of Her Children", both of which are pretty unusual. Especially the latter; I was expecting it to be all motherhood romanticism and warm fuzzies, but it's actually a striking death letter to her husband.
But I'll probably spend the day reading Evelina and finishing The Turn of the Screw, which is getting really good. The governess has just had her midnight show-down with the ghost of Peter Quint and it's all very ominous and portentious.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


via FrogBlog
Hardback or Paperback I have a thing for hardbacks, but I can't usually afford them.
Highlight or Underline underline
Lewis or Tolkien Tolkein. He doesn't hit you over the head with his religious themes.
E.B. White or A.A. Milne Milne
T.S. Eliot or e.e. cummings Oooh gosh...I'm gonna go with Eliot right now. I'm quite in love with "La Figlia Che Piange" at the moment.
Stephen King or Dean Koontz mm. King, if I must.
Barnes & Noble or Borders B&N. fuckin' Borders. they've got nothing in stock and their employees are obviously hired for their coffee-brewing skills and nothing else.
Waldenbooks or B. Dalton B. Dalton, but they both suck.
Fantasy or Science Fiction fantasy
Horror or Suspense suspense. I can't handle straight-up horror.
Bookmark or Dogear both.
Large Print or Fine Print fine print
Hemingway or Faulkner Ugh. Hemingway, but only because I haven't read Faulkner.
Fitzgerald or Steinbeck Steinbeck, no question.
Homer or Plato Homer. Give me a poet over a philosopher any day (sorry L).
Geoffrey Chaucer or Edmund Spenser Chaucer
Pen or Pencil Pencil.
Looseleaf or Notepad looseleaf
Alphabetize: By Author or By Title by author
Shelve: By Genre/Subject or All Books Together throw 'em all together
Dustjacket: Leave it On or Take it Off take it off when I'm reading, otherwise it gets all messed up
Novella or Epic well it depends on the epic, I think. But at the moment I only have time for novellas, really.
John Grisham or Scott Turow bleh.
J.K. Rowling or Lemony Snicket J.K. Rowling, though I'd love to try out Snicket
John Irving or John Updike again, bleh.
Salman Rushdie or Don Delillo excuse me, but where are the female authors? neither.
Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte Oh here they are! Good thing I added them in, huh? Both, of course!
Dorothy L. Sayers or Agatha Christie Sayers. I have a soft spot for M. Poirot, but there's just no comparison with Lord Peter Wimsey
George Eliot or Edith Wharton Eliot, she's less depressing.
Toni Morrison or Alice Walker Morrison, because Beloved is astounding and unfortunately I haven't read any Alice Walker.
Fiction or Non-fiction fiction
Historical Biography or Historical Romance biography, if by "romance" you mean Harlequin bodice-rippers. But I'm a huge historical fiction geek.
Reading Pace: A Few Pages per Sitting or Finish at Least a Chapter wait, you mean I ought to put it down once in a while...?
Short Story or Creative Non-fiction Essay short story, especially if they're written by Byatt.
Blah Blah Blah or Yada Yada Yada blah.
"It was a dark and stormy night..." or "Once upon a time..." Oh, Bulwer-Lytton all the way! "It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets..."
Books: Buy or Borrow Borrow, out of financial necessity. Sending me into a bookstore is like sending an alcoholic into a bar.
Book Reviews or Word of Mouth Reviews, actually, but only from folks like Bookslut or Green Man.

The highlight of my day was not my birthday itself, though that was nice, but finding this screensaver of critical theorists. I don't know about you but I know that as a kid I always wished I had Lego versions of literary critics; it would have made playing Make-Believe Conference of Post-Modern Academics so much easier!
I bought Melissa Etheridge's new CD today; I like it, it's good driving music. But I feel a little cliche all the same.

Happy Birthday to me!

Who wants to buy me stuff? Anything with the words "Austen" or "Neil Gaiman" involved will do.


Friday, October 15, 2004

Friday Cat Blogging

My Cats

I like to toss him up and down
A heavy cat weighs half a Crown
With a hey ho diddle my cat Brown

I like to pinch him on the sly
When nobody is passing by
With a hey ho diddle my cat Fry

I like to ruffle up his pride
And watch him skip and turn aside
With a hey ho diddle my cat Hyde

Hey Brown and Fry and Hyde my cats
That sit on tombstone for your mats.

Stevie Smith

I wish I had cats, but they make me sneeze something awful. I always wanted a black cat named Crookshanks and a gray cat named Grimalkin.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

24 questions

That's right! The Very Special Coming Out Week Post is a big gay meme!

1. At what age did you realize you were gay? 13. I was crushing madly on a friend of mine, Annie. I was actually in the hallway of my Catholic grade school when it dawned on me that what I felt for her, I was supposed to be feeling for boys. I didn't have any words to describe or understand my situation, so I didn't think, "Oh god, I'm gay!" but "Uh oh. Something's wrong with me. This is very very bad."
2. What did you do when you first came to this realization? The usual. Denial, Repression, Self-loathing, Bargaining with God. I figured if I ignored it long enough it would just go away, and of course it didn't. So I became an overachieving superkid, the perfect student, perfect daughter, perfect Catholic, hoping that if I was perfect enough God would be willing to overlook my little secret.
3. Who was the first person you told? A university counselor.
4. How did they react? Well, like a counselor, which was good. Very supportive and reassuring.
5. Did you go through a period of time thinking that you were bisexual? Yep, for about two months or so. Long enough to come out as such to a few people before I realized "Wait, this isn't me. It doesn't fit."
6. Did you ever date/get intimate with someone of the opposite sex? I had three comically disastrous dates with two very nice boys. I remember being on the second date and willing myself to work up some enthusiasm for him.
7. Does your mother know? Yep. Mom actually confronted me; and now all my friends and my immediate family know. And except for Shithead who thinks I'm "immoral" and doesn't want his children "exposed to that kind of thing", the reactions have mostly been positive. Not looking forward to telling my big fat Catholic extended family though, but there's no way I can avoid it.
8. Now that you define yourself as gay, would you date someone who is bisexual? Sure.
9. Would you ever date a drag king?
Drag kings are sexy!
10. Would you date a transexual? Maybe; depends how strongly I felt about them.
11. Would you date someone who was HIV positive? See above.
12. Who’s your favorite queer female musician/band? Hm. I'd have to go with Tegan and Sara.
13. If there was a pill that could make you straight, would you take it? Why or why not? No. I like girls, and I like liking them. I'm happy and comfortable with myself, which is a novel experience. I would however like to take a vacation now and then from being a point of controversy. Identity politics suck.
14. Hairy legs? Vegetarian? Yes, and Sorta. The food here is kinda scary so I figure I'm better off if I stay away from the mystery meat. Plus I like organic food.
15. Crunchy dyke or lipstick lesbian? I guess I'm turning out pretty crunchy. I'll be taking up acoustic guitar before you know it.
16. Butch or femme? Andro/genderqueer? Well I have accidently passed for a boy more than once, but I'm comfortable with androgyny. So I'm butch as I wanna be and femme when I feel like it.
17. Who’s your favorite queer female author? Oh gosh, I guess I'd have to say Sarah Waters, if only because Tipping the Velvet has had such a big place in my life. But then I adore Emma Donoghue, and Rubyfruit Jungle, and Virginia Woolf, and Adrienne Rich...
18. Ever been to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival? Alas, no. Someday.
19. Do you use the words "fag" and "dyke" but then get upset when someone straight uses them? Yes. Well I don't actually use "fag" hardly at all, but I like "dyke." Reclaiming words is very important, blah blah, so if you're not a fag or a dyke, you don't get to use them.
20. Are you sure it isn't just a phase, like Anne Heche? Yes. For christ's sake, has nobody heard of BISEXUALITY???
21. If someone saw you walking down the street, would they know right off the bat that you are gay? Maybe. L. said she guessed I was gay when she saw me the first day of class last semester, so there you go. I'm certainly setting off the gaydar today, what with my purple flannel shirt (seriously) and my big-ass black doc martens, I pretty much scream "dyke."
22. Have you ever been to a rave? No. There really is no place to rave here, and I wouldn't go anyway if there was. Not my thing.
23. The BEST part about being gay? Actually liking myself. Liking my life. Not being depressed.
24. The WORST part? Dealing with family members. It's no fun going from "daughter" to "one of Them."

Via FrogBlog. Modified by me, because IMHO whoever wrote it orignally was a straight person talking to gay guys (middle-aged gay guys at that. "Have you ever seen Cher in concert?" WTF?). I wanted to post something about Coming Out Day, because as of last Monday I've officially been out a year, but I didn't want to be all melodramatic and tragic, but I wanted to say something important, etc. Indecisive me. So I figured a meme was a good way to go, seeing as this is a blog and all. So. There you are. Now don't be a shithead and go vote Democrat.

Monday, October 11, 2004

this is not a Very Special Post


I'm Joshua Abraham Norton, the first and only Emperor of the United States of America!
Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
From the fecund loins of Rum and Monkey.

You are Joshua Abraham Norton, first and only Emperor of the United States of America!
Born in England sometime in the second decade of the nineteenth century, you carved a notable business career, in South Africa and later San Francisco, until an entry into the rice market wiped out your fortune in 1854. After this, you became quite different. The first sign of this came on September 17, 1859, when you expressed your dissatisfaction with the political situation in America by declaring yourself Norton I, Emperor of the USA. You remained as such, unchallenged, for twenty-one years.
Within a month you had decreed the dissolution of Congress. When this was largely ignored, you summoned all interested parties to discuss the matter in a music hall, and then summoned the army to quell the rebellious leaders in Washington. This did not work. Magnanimously, you decreed (eventually) that Congress could remain for the time being. However, you disbanded both major political parties in 1869, as well as instituting a fine of $25 for using the abominable nickname "Frisco" for your home city.
Your days consisted of parading around your domain - the San Francisco streets - in a uniform of royal blue with gold epaulettes. This was set off by a beaver hat and umbrella. You dispensed philosophy and inspected the state of sidewalks and the police with equal aplomb. You were a great ally of the maligned Chinese of the city, and once dispersed a riot by standing between the Chinese and their would-be assailants and reciting the Lord's Prayer quietly, head bowed.
Once arrested, you were swiftly pardoned by the Police Chief with all apologies, after which all policemen were ordered to salute you on the street. Your renown grew. Proprietors of respectable establishments fixed brass plaques to their walls proclaiming your patronage; musical and theatrical performances invariably reserved seats for you and your two dogs. (As an aside, you were a good friend of Mark Twain, who wrote an epitaph for one of your faithful hounds, Bummer.) The Census of 1870 listed your occupation as "Emperor".
The Board of Supervisors of San Francisco, upon noticing the slightly delapidated state of your attire, replaced it at their own expense. You responded graciously by granting a patent of nobility to each member. Your death, collapsing on the street on January 8, 1880, made front page news under the headline "Le Roi est Mort". Aside from what you had on your person, your possessions amounted to a single sovereign, a collection of walking sticks, an old sabre, your correspondence with Queen Victoria and 1,098,235 shares of stock in a worthless gold mine. Your funeral cortege was of 30,000 people and over two miles long.
The burial was marked by a total eclipse of the sun.

...AND Neil Gaiman wrote about me in the "Fables and Reflections" volume of the The Sandman. I am officially cooler than everyone.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Serious Concerns ~ Wendy Cope

I'm posting this August 13 entry from my book journal because I want something fun. I spent the weekend at home in Suburban Wasteland with my parents, which would have been enjoyable if it wasn't for the constant presence of Shithead. He just won't go fucking away. And this week is Coming Out Week, and I may end up writing a Very Special Post, and I have mixed feelings about it. So. Wendy Cope it is.

I really want to steal this book. I really don't think the public library appreciates it. It's all battered and faded and it's only a matter of time before the spine breaks and the pages fall out. And I can't help feeling it's destiny. Wendy Cope and I were meant for each other. She's that rare beast, a poet with a sense of humor. Serious Concerns is, on the one hand, not very serious at all. It's barely 90 pages of witty light verse about dating, drinking, just ordinary 9-5 life, with a large measure of literary satire.

"An Unusual Cat Poem"
My cat is dead.
But I have decided not to make a big
tragedy out of it.

She writes about holiday angst,

Bloody Christmas, here again.
Let us raise a loving cup.
Peace on earth, goodwill to men,
And let them do the washing-up.

royalty statements and publishers, recycling beer bottles, "Men and Their Boring Arguments," the existential musings of her teddy bear,

My arms will not bend--
Sometimes life is a bore.

and re-imagines Hamlet as a cricket match. She makes me laugh out loud, something I thought only Ogden Nash could do.

"Variation on a Lennon and McCarthy Song"
Love, love, love,
Love, love, love,
Love, love, love,
Dooby do dooby doo,
All you need is love,
Dooby dooby doo,
All you need is love,
Dooby dooby doo,
All you need is love, love
Or, failing that, alcohol.

It's like the poetry Bridget Jones would write if she weren't "verbally incontinent." The poem "Serious Concerns" is answer to critics who say she's too light-hearted

Now should I work at being less witty? Or more pretentious?
Or both?

And the collection ends with a few quiet poems reflecting on her sister and grandmother. She skewers the sexist literary establishment in "Tumps" ("typically useless male poets") and "Poem Composed in Santa Barbara":

The poets talk. They talk a lot.
They talk of T.S. Eliot.
One is anti. One is pro.
How hard they think! How much they know!
They're happy. A cicada sings.
We women talk of other things.

So on the other hand her poetry, which is about these "other things", unimportant or silly, is serious as well. My favorite is "The Orange":

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave
They got quarters and I had a half.
And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It's new.
The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I'm glad I exist.

It's about nothing particularly earth-shattering or typically poetic, just simple and straight-forward and says what it means to say. "Fun" and "serious" are not mutually exclusive terms in Cope's work, like they are in so much "real" poetry. I like her. She seems like someone you would like to have a drink with and just hang out.
I'm sorely tempted to just not give it back. It's just one little book. They won't miss it, right?

I did give it back. And by the way, Ms. Cope if you--or your publishers--are reading this, please don't sue me. I know I'm probably violating all sorts of copyright by quoting your stuff in full, but how can I not? Think of it as free advertising. Besides, I haven't got anything but a bunch of books anyway. Oh, and I've decided to read The Turn of the Screw after all.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Tom Stoppard is totally my boyfriend

I was front row for the theatre dept.'s production of The Real Inspector Hound tonight, and it was free too! Another perk of living in Podunk. I'm so in love with Mr. Stoppard. Anyone who can perform such playful acrobatics with words should be deified immediately and have a cult formed around him. They did Arcadia last semester, and I'm eternally grateful to the casting director, because the same girl played the female leads in both plays, and she is GORGEOUS. Her costume tonight was this incredibly sexy red satin dress and, well, let's just say I shamelessly objectified her all evening (I was in the front row! I had a very nice view! Can you blame me?) Yum--oh god I just realized she's in two of my classes! christ! well at least she'll (hopefully) distract me from TeacherCrush. Anyway I wish they would do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead; I've read it but the movie is bizarrely crappy and doesn't do it justice at all. I'd give my eyeteeth to have seen the original production of Arcadia though; Samuel West as Valentine AND Rufus Sewell as Septimus! That must have been a hell of a show.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

if it's not scottish, it's crap!

I bought a t-shirt that said that for Shithead last year at the annual Highland Games ("Shithead" being the name I have since chosen to refer to my homophobic brother). There are some positives about living here in Podunk, the Highland Games being high up on the list. Nothing better, in my book, than listening to bagpipes and watching large men in skirts toss telephone poles. And this time I got to see Navan perform! They were amazing, of course; I love how they sing in Manx and Cornish and Breton as well as the surviving Gaelic languages. I enjoyed myself immensly and spent far too much money at the vendors. Rampant Lion had a booth and I spent a good hour or so agonizing over their music selection; they've got all my favorite artists, just about everybody you're likely to hear on the Mists of Avalon radio program (although I think they're calling it Celtic Sunday Brunch now, or something). I picked up Dervish's album Midsummer's Night, just for their rendition of "There was a Maid in her Father's Garden". Cathy Jordan has one of the most distinctive, beautiful, and downright eerie voices I've ever heard, and the whole album is excellent straight-up Irish trad. I also bought The Witches of Elswick, even though I had never heard of them before, because a) they have a cool name; b) they consist of four very cute girls; and c) they sing a version of "Two Sisters". I have a fascination with the Cruel Sister ballads, probably because they're so unabashadly fantastic and gruesome, what with all the drowned maidens turing into swans and magical instruments made out of her corpse. Loreena McKennitt of course has a gorgeous version, and Clannad has the miller boiled in lead as punishment for robbing the youngest sister. Gillian Welch's version stands out because it's so mournful; all the European renditions are bizarrely upbeat in tempo and melody. The Witches of Elswick have the most gothic version I've heard yet; not only does the fiddler make tuning pegs from the maiden's finger bones, he strings the fiddle with her blue veins! Ick! But anyway, the whole album's great; it's "acappella with attitude", lots of sex and death going on.

So. I'm debating whether or not to read The Turn of the Screw. I really, really don't have time to pick up another book; I'd have to put down either Tom Jones or Passions for the time being, and I hate doing that. But it's October! I have to read something creepy and gothic and fun! It's one of the immutable laws of the reading universe! Besides, fall's just no fun without a decent ghost story or two. It's finally cool out; it's just not 18th century satire weather, you know? I should be reading Bradbury's From the Dust Returned again, or maybe I'll finally get around to H.P. Lovecraft. Bah, humbug. All this education is really inconvenient.

Friday, October 01, 2004

a completely unrandom ten

Because it's Friday, and I'm brain dead from a shit load of papers followed by exams, with a little mooning over my prof thrown in to make me completely incoherent. So, as always, I'm going to copy the cool kids, and list my Friday Random Ten:

1. Whip out your IPOD or MP3 player. 2. Set to random play. 3. List the first ten songs.

1. "Newry Highwayman"--Boiled in Lead--Antler Dance
2. "Hard Times"--Boiled in Lead--Orb
3. "Stowaway"--The Coming Grass--transient
4. "Angeles"--Enya--Shepherd Moons
5. "Johnny Jump Up/Morrison's Jig"--Gaelic Storm--Gaelic Storm
6. "McCloud's Reel/Whup Jamboree"--Gaelic Storm--Gaelic Storm
7. "Hills of Connemara"--Gaelic Storm--Gaelic Storm
8. "Brothen"--Ffynnon--Pais Dinogad
9. "I Want to Row on the Crew/Sailor's Chantey"--Cole Porter--Anything Goes
10. "Big Yellow Taxi"--Joni Mitchell--Ladies of the Canyon

...and further prove what a big geek I am. I don't really make a habit of downloading music, mainly because I'm paranoid about fucking up my computer. Could this list get any less random? With the exception of Cole Porter, The Coming Grass, and Joni, it's all celtic-influenced folky stuff. Just another hard core Irish trad geek, who's gonna spend her Friday night listening to acappella Gaelic singing, because Navan is playing here, in Podunk USA of all places, TONIGHT!!