In other news...

There is so much oddity that has emerged since last I posted one of my miscellanies that I have had to save some of the links I would like to share for tomorrow's post. Hurrah for oddity in abundance!


I have a very good friend who works on hoaxes in American literature - that is to say she studies and writes about the idea and theory of the hoax; she doesn't generate them herself. At least I think she doesn't. But that is definitely a career path worth considering.

In fact (excuse the digression), many of my academic friends work on fascinating topics. One studies images of violence surrounding children and pregnancy in medieval literature. Another examines antitheatricality in Asian drama. A third works on print culture in situations of contact between Native Americans and (primarily British, I think) colonists - how printed Bibles were used, for instance, not only (by the colonists) to assert cultural control but also (by the tribe members who received them) to resist that control. A fourth studies the figure of the prostitute in theatre. When people at cocktail parties and holiday get-togethers ask her casually what she works on, she says "Whores." The questioner, who has a pretty good idea of what she said, but thinks that there is a not inconsiderable possibility that she said "Horse," says loudly and incredulously (not wanting to be subject to mockery if s/he is wrong), "WHORES??" And everyone in the room turns around to stare. I have (
with my very own ears) heard this happen to her so often that I would be surprised if she ever gets a different response.

At any rate, one of these delightful friends works on the hoax in the works of Poe, Twain, James, etc. So naturally I thought of her when I saw that the famous "Poe toaster" who lays celebratory flowers and cognac on the author's grave every year on Poe's birthday was, in fact, a tourism-minded fabrication. Or is he? (I am assuming here that the Poe toaster can in fact be assigned a gender, which is perhaps incorrect.)

Was that my most longwinded and rambling windup to a link ever?


I haven't made it very far (yet) into Derek A Badman's web comic inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses, Things Change, but it is very intriguing indeed. A new "volume" of the project has just begun.

Also, be sure to check out Badman's blog, Mad Ink Beard, which is filled with book-lust inducing (and thus budget-breaking) reviews of comics and graphic novels of all levels of fame and newness. Mad Ink Beard is particularly concerned with the formal considerations of combining word and images, and his evocative descriptions of some of the more innovative comics he acquires have sent me on frenzied internet searches, to the accompaniment of wild muttering ("must have this must have this MUST HAVE THIS!").


You may have heard this on NPR, or read about it in Vanity Fair: Arthur Miller, the man who is most famous as a playwright of empathy and iconoclastic moral rectitude, the man who wrote the words "
But I think to him they were all my sons. And I guess they were, I guess they were" in one of his early successes, had a child whom he never acknowledged publicly and apparently seldom visited, because his son (Daniel Miller) was born with Down syndrome.

This is a tale of complex moral failure, but I have to feel that we must withhold or modulate our judgment (and I say this from a more specific ethical stance than a general unjudgmentalness, which I can't say I achieve with any consistency). There is much we don't know about this situation, since it comes to light only after the deaths of both Arthur Miller and his wife, and Daniel Miller is not available (and should not be harassed by journalists) for comment. The Vanity Fair article does a fairly good job (I think) of navigating the nuances of the story, acknowledging its lacunae, and placing it in the larger, often ignored context of the syndrome's history and that of its care.


Today's poetry is from a wee, beautiful promotional booklet I acquired at my conference: A Complimentary Specimen of Poetry to Be Published in the Decadian Year of Gaspereau Press Printers and Publishers. The Gaspereau Press, based in Nova Scotia, issues both poetry and prose, and I was utterly charmed to read this in the front matter to the wee Specimen:
Unlike most trade publishers, Gaspereau Press actually edits, designs, prints and binds all of its books on its own premises. In fact, the dedicated staff at Gaspereau Press undertakes every aspect of producing these books short of making the inks and papers.

So I give you excerpts from two poems by Monica Kidd. I like them so well that I am going to look into the volume (her first of poetry) that they come from, Actualities, and her two novels, Beatrice and The Momentum of Red.

The opening lines (which leap right into the fray from the title) from "Merrill's Birthday in Tors Cove":
was a night like any other -
all the stars expletives
and God's underwear
flapping in the breeze.

And the last lines from "First Principles":
Stretch to make room for
one more impossible thing,
and you're left with a hole.
There is also a poem in this collection (one so intricately narrative that I couldn't excerpt it without wreaking havoc on its sense) called "The Well," which has all the complexity and vividness of character of an Alice Munro story. Seek it out!


So I am back from a most frustrating trip to Vancouver, a city famous for its beauty and the ecstasy-inducing quality of its cuisine, having seen almost nothing of the city and feasted almost exclusively on pizza. And let me say, that to a New Haven-style pizza kind of girl, whose partner is a NY/NJ pizza sort of guy, the face of Canadian pizza is very strange indeed. We were staying at the remarkably isolated University of British Columbia main campus, and all its eateries were closed for the summer holidays. There was one brave (and very profitable, thanks to its monopoly on feeding the hundreds of conference-attenders) pizza joint open, but they, oddly, served only three kinds of pizza: veggie (mostly peppers, which I don't eat), meat (which was a little too exuberantly and diversely meaty for my taste, although I have been known to order bacon, sausage and pepperoni pizzas at home. Also, it had peppers on it.), and Hawaiian. So naturally I went for the Hawaiian. In Canada. Ah well.

So I returned home after only two days away (though it felt like two weeks), more conscious than ever that, although I travel constantly, I almost never go anywhere new and anxiety-inducingly unfamiliar. I have lost a lot of my travel mojo, my ability to navigate unexpected situations alone (this last adjective is crucial) and my excitement in the face of the unknown.

But at least, upon arriving home, I was immediately greeted by a new Bookmarks magazine. Although I am sometimes frustrated by copyediting errors in it, I greet each new Bookmarks with a girlish, jumping-up-and-down-and-clapping-my-hands level of enthusiasm. I devoured it last night, and have already added more than a dozen books to my BookMooch "Save for Later" list.

Speaking of BookMooch, for the first time in months I took my account off its "vacation" mode yesterday in preparation for my return to Connecticut next week, and I have already mooched four books and had three mooched from me. I will leave you with a short list of the books I am expecting my rampant mooching to deposit on my doorstep in the next few weeks:

  • Crusader's Cross, the first novel in James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux series. I enjoyed the interviews with him about his most recent, Katrina-inflected book so much, that I had to move this up my "to acquire" list.
  • Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters, because I loved Fingersmith.
  • Terry Pratchett's The Light Fantastic - next in publication order of the Discworld series (an absurd way to approach Discworld for the first time, I know, but one I adhere to with stubborn rebelliousness. Or convention-following unimaginativeness, depending on your perspective.
  • Junot Diaz's Drown. I have heard such a wealth of good buzz - no, buzz on the level of the proselytizing zeal of a new convert - surrounding Junot Diaz, who has a new book coming out next month, that I snapped up Drown as soon as I saw a copy available.