My "watch the dance" dream brought to mind another. Many moons ago or about 40 plus years ago, long before I had ever learned of the Library of Alexandria, I had an intriguing dream about the library. I don't have many dreams like this that I can re-member. How many have I had that I don't recall? The dream was mysteriously haunting and its images have faded over the years, much like the scrolls and lecture halls under the waters of the Mediterranean. I do remember a woman guide who showed me the brilliantly colorful display of the wisdom of the ancients emanating in waves from different levels/rooms of the library. The dream of this grand repository of muse inspired knowledge is branded on my memory. Years later, I learned about the existence of the library through reading Carl Jung and from E.M. Forster's book Alexandria: A History and Guide. In the introduction, Lawrence Durell calls this book a small work of art containing some Forster's best prose. For four centuries Alexandria was the center of learning in the Western world. On October 16, 2002, the New Library of Alexandria was opened. Later in the 13th century, Palermo became another great focus of intercultural exchange. The city and Frederick II, Stupor Mundi , were not so distant in time and space from the nexus of Alexandria. However, Frederick's legacy is unjustly tempered by his lack of allegiance to the Pope and interest in Islam. Anti-Papism and pro-Islam was never good for publicity.
Toni Morrison's essay about cooking out:
"The day moved then into its splendid parts: a ham, fried-potatoes, scrambled-egg, breakfast in the morning air; fried fish and pan-cooked biscuits on the hind side of noon, and by the time Mama - who had never heard of Gerber’s – was grinding a piece of supper ham with her own teeth to slip into the baby’s mouth, and the Blue Gums had unveiled their incredible peach cobbler, the first stars were glittering through the blue light of Turkeyfoot Lake.
The Good Grape offers 25 things that he learned while in the wine business. As for #13, when in San Francisco last May we always replied to "where are you from?" with "New York". It was assumed that we were from the City and we never offered further geographical latitudinal clarification. There wasn't enough time. We were there only 5 days. #18 is not a good thing for people like me, i.e. people who would like good QPR wine that they can't obtain anywhere else delivered to their door. To # 21, I would add that most of the restaurants in the major cities of this country would be up the same narrow creek. Napa, Napa, Napa, but #23 says the mojo is elsewhere.
I enjoy reading quotes that mine the motherlode. Papercuts in the NYTimes has a post that to date has generated over 600 comments from people quoting everyone from Groucho to Robert Penn Warren. I have saved it as text file twice already.
Joan Didion's "Slouching Towards Bethlehem", contains an essay about the mansions of Newport, RI. I remember touring most them in the mid- 80's. After one sees all the marble and crystal, something says that the obscene display of wealth had "nothing to do with pleasure and nothing to do with graceful tradition, a sense of how prettily money can be spent but how harshly money is made, an immediate presence of the pits and the rails and the foundries, of turbines and pork belly futures. So insistent is the presence of money in Newport that the mind springs ineluctably to the raw beginnings of it." The kitchen at the Breakers Vanderbilt summer cottage is separate from the main part of the house because of the potential of a damaging fire. The dimensions of the kitchen alone is that of a two story three bedroom family home. One of the guides mentioned to us that a Vanderbilt descendent comes each year and stands in line just like us ordinary folk. Didion's essays are still powerful today. She doesn't come across as dated, even though some of the places and contexts she write of no longer exist. The vanished, like a film dissolve, is part of her style.
"Who could fail to read the sermon in the stones of Newport? Who could think that the building of a railroad could guarantee salvation, when there on the lawns of the men who built the railroad nothing is left but the shadows of migrainous women, and the pony carts waiting for the long- dead children?"
I am always a little behind on the latest books and music, so reading "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" in 2008 was no different. However, just last year 2007 the NY Review of Books named the book Michael Chabon's magnum opus. So, I'm not that out of it culturally speaking. The book is a very good read. It hits on so many cylinders with mercurial humor and pathos. Eloquent, amazing in scope, intertwined magical twists, slight of hand, friendship, romance, love, superheros, what the hand can portray, comic book escapism, everyone searching for a father. Read it and be amazed. Not much more that I can say.
This a picture of a famous writer, blogger, Russian translator, tax lawyer, Mark Twain freak, humorist, electro accompanist, critic and so many other things that I can't possibly begin to list them. The first person who can name this woman gets either a free trip to the Mark Twain House or a trip to Gainsville, Florida. Offer not valid in New York or Gainesville, FL.
Khalil Gibran's book, "The Prophet", sold well prior to the 60's. However, during the 60's sales sometimes reached five thousand copies a week. Blame it on the hippies. I was one of the suckers who walked into a pharmacy-restaurant-bookstore called Vars Brothers in Westerly, RI one summer day looking for it. It was up near the window, not hidden but not in plain sight either. I opened the slim hardbound 150 page book with margins wide enough to drive a truck through. The color of the thick paper was meant to look like an ancient text recently unearthed in Egypt. "It-must-be-a-cult" Knopf made a lot of money on the book. Nine million copies in English alone. Back then, it was not inexpensive. Afterall, I was paying for "The Prophet", a book I thought would bring me some wisdom. One of the things that puzzled me about the text was that The Prophet kindly informed me that many things were their opposite. Freedom was slavery; waking is dreaming; joy is pain. "So, whatever you’re doing, you needn’t worry, because you’re also doing the opposite." Not much is known about Gibran's life because he wanted it that way.
Thanks to the fantastictabulous Lux Lotus, who gave me an autographed copy, I just finished reading "Season of Gene" by Dallas Hudgens. The book is a mercurial romp through baseball, video games, crime, pills, love, mobbed up memorabilia, more pills and extortion. Hudgens' swift stylings are infectious as is his humor. Tenderness alternating with violent bizness make for a pattern that keeps you turning da' pages. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading his "Drive Like Hell". Pick it up or give it to someone for the holidays.