Thursday, January 31, 2008

Reading Journal: "Out Stealing Horses" and "Walking Naked"

I've finished reading two novels during this, my second week of pain. The first was Per Petterson's award-winning Out Stealing Horses, translated from the Norwegian and published by Minnesota's own Graywolf Press. It's a novel about fathers and sons, coming of age, memory, and pain, narrated in mesmerizing prose and set in a beautifully evoked Norwegian landscape. The prose is so quiet and controlled that you can hear the snow falling through it. The story circles back from the present to the narrator's adolescence in post-War Norway as the he gathers up the threads of his father's story and his own, and weaves them together to find a pattern. There's a kind of quiet machismo in the telling of the story, and women come into the story only in a few crucial places, almost as silent markers along the course of the narrator's masculine coming of age.

The second novel was Nina Bawden's 1981 novel Walking Naked, published by Virago Modern Classics. The narrator is Laura, a successful novelist, who in the midst of the events of a single day reaches back to tell the story of her life up to that point—her wartime childhood, her Oxford years, her first and second marriages, motherhood, and friendship. The focus is not simply on the father-son relationship, but on the entire complicated web of relationships that make up a woman's life. Bawden's narrator speaks in an intelligent, witty, conversational voice, and easily gains the reader's confidence and allegiance. But, of course, in telling her own story she's actually telling her own side of a story that's also shared by the other characters. The novel is really about how human relationships are necessarily fractured into different and often irreconcilable points of view.

Near the end of Bawden's novel, Laura and her husband get into an argument on the drive home from her parents' house. Andrew says, "Lucky Laura, loved by all, fussed over. Even the heroine of her own novels. Why the heroine, always, I ask myself. Explaining and justifying, inventing, distorting..." As I read this, I thought back to Petterson's novel, and a scene in which the narrator, Trond, has been visited by his grown daughter. They're discussing his fondness of Dickens, and his daughter quotes the opening line of David Copperfield: "Whether I shall turn out to he the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." The daughter says:

I always thought those opening lines were a bit scary because they indicated we would not necessarily be the leading characters of our own lives. I couldn't imagine how that could come about, something so awful; a sort of ghost-life where I could do nothing but watch that person who had taken my place and maybe hate her deeply and envy her everything, but not be able to do anything about it because at some point in time I had fallen out of my life, as if from an aeroplane...

Bawden's Laura seems to come to a point where she realizes she has fallen out of her life. Maybe she isn't the faultless heroine of her own self-justifying narrative. She's not only the person reflected in her own narrative, she's also the person that other people see through very different eyes. Sometimes, the distance between those two perceptions is a long way to fall.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Every Time

On a rainy evening last July, Clara and I sat in the assembly hall of the Kenilworth School and listened to performances by the school's Year 10 GCSE music students. These were students who had chosen music as one of their major areas of concentration as they entered the final and more specialized years of secondary education in Britain. At the end of this school year, Year 11, those students will take a GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exam in music. Some of the pieces we heard that evening were simply wild and rather formless experiments with the possibilities of GarageBand. Others, like an original piano piece by Will's friend Chloe, showed a real gift. I have to confess that I held my breath through most of Will's piece, a song he wrote called "Every Time." It was another amazing moment in a year full of amazing moments. He's put the song up on MySpace now; click the link and you should find it there (until Will removes it). Just don't tell him you heard about it here. He'll probably kill me for posting about it!

Notes on Reading

My short shelf of Virago Modern Classics and Persephone Books.

Reading is, to a certain extent, a solitary activity. When the boys were younger, I read aloud to them, and after their bedtime I often read aloud to Clara while she knit. I read all of Bleak House aloud to her, and Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White, and two or three Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. But most of my reading is done silently, the words on the page quietly transforming themselves into worlds within my head.

I like to read novels by twentieth-century British women, such as the novels reprinted by Virago Modern Classics and Persephone Books, two important British publishers of women's fiction. It started, I suppose, when a girlfriend in college introduced me to the novels of Virginia Woolf. It was intoxicating to have that feminine stream of consciousness fill my head, giving me at least limited access to an experience very different from my own. But later, as a stay-at-home father and "homemaker," I also came to identify easily with the domestic concerns that are often so prominent in women's novels.

I published an article a few years ago about the popularity of the "girl's book" Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm among male readers in the early twentieth century. Mark Twain and Jack London were both fans of the book, but many other grown men wrote fan letters to the author, Kate Douglas Wiggin, expressing their love for her book and for the character of Rebecca. In the article, I speculated that, in reading about an appealing female protagonist, these men hovered somewhere between identification and desire. They wanted to be Rebecca, but they also wanted to have her.

I suppose, to be honest, there's an element of that tension when I read women's novels. The author's female voice fills my head, and the book becomes the body we share. But there are times when, like the character in Woody Allen's "The Kugelmass Episode," I want to get into the story and rescue the protagonist from awful men who can't understand her as well as I do. I, the reader, am the one who listens to her and knows her heart.

So, reading isn't so solitary after all. There's an intimate relationship between the reader and the characters, between the reader and the author.

At the moment, I'm in the middle of Nina Bawden's novel Walking Naked (1981), which is available in a Virago Modern Classics edition. I came into possession of this novel because another member of the Virago Modern Classics group on LibraryThing had an extra copy that she was willing to give away. I requested it, and a few days ago it arrived in the mail. Somewhere in Texas, Christina is reading her other copy of the novel. We don't know each other, but as we read Bawden's novel, we're sharing the same life. That's the great thing about literature. It provides common ground, even when that ground is foreign to our own experience. It can take us out of ourselves into unfamiliar territory that reading makes our own. It's a solitary way of connecting to other lives, of expanding one's sympathy, of becoming more in tune with all that's human.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

MRI: The Results Show

Dr. Behrens called this afternoon with the results from yesterday's MRI. The images did show a disk herniation pinching the nerve root that leads down my right arm to my thumb. Everything you need to know about the condition can be found here. At left is an MRI scan (not mine) showing a sagittal view of the exact location of my problem, between vertebrae C6 and C7. The next step, if things don't begin to clear up soon, may be to have a neck injection. I was okay with the MRI, but I'm definitely not okay with injections! I'm hoping that the combination of prednisone, muscle relaxants, and painkillers will get me through this. The pain seems to be lessening, and I'm sleeping much more comfortably at night. The numbness in my thumb and wrist is still there, but that often lasts longer than the pain. Thanks to all of you who have expressed concern and sympathy, both in comments and in person!

Monday, January 28, 2008

MRI

I went in at noon today to have an MRI at the Allina clinic in Northfield. For those of you who've never had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), it's quite a simple procedure. Once it's been established that you don't contain any metal parts (e.g., a pacemaker, metal bone clips, shrapnel, etc.), you lie down on a narrow table and are fitted with earplugs. (Fortunately, my scan didn't require "contrast," i.e., an injection of a special dye to make soft tissues show up more clearly on the scan.) The narrow table then slides into a narrow tube, so that you feel like Gulliver in a Lilliputian subway. The tube contains a powerful magnet, which in combination with bursts of radio waves creates an image of the inside of your body. For several minutes (about ten minutes, in my case), you are submitted to bursts of clicking and beeping that sound suspiciously like a Philip Glass composition. The only thing required of the patient is to lie still. I did quite well at that. As medical experiences go, it was not too unpleasant. Now, I await the results. The images should show if there's any disk trouble in my upper spine.

On Saturday at the clinic, I had an x-ray taken of my "cervical spine" (i.e., neck). It was strange to look at the x-rays and see my own skeleton staring back at me, the ghost of myself haunting my interior darkness. I suppose it was inevitable that I start thinking about my own mortality. I'm only forty-three, I've always been generally healthy, and haven't had to deal with a lot of pain in the past. Now I'm wondering what's to come. How far have I waded into the second half of my life? Will the waters become murkier now? How much pain lies ahead?

To cheer myself up, I dragged myself downtown after the MRI was done and bought a chocolate cupcake at Goodbye Blue Monday. Then I spent $25 on five Virago Modern Classics at Monkey See, Monkey Read. I'm hoping my back is feeling better before I get through that stack of books.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Figure Skating

My mother-in-law has been in town this week for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. She's a figure skating fanatic. She and my late father-in-law also came out in 1998 when the World Championships were held at the Target Center. She enjoys the ice dancing and, eccentrically, the compulsory figures, so she gave Clara and me her tickets for the women's finals. Michelle Kwan won that year, and we were there to see it. But my favorite skater that year was a sixteen-year old Hungarian girl named Diana Poth, who came in tenth. This unpublished poem is from my early days as a poet:

Free Skate at Worlds
(Love Poem for Diana Poth, HUN)

Inscribe this poem in ice argot,
the fluent calligraphy of spin and glide,
tongue of cold steel untranslatable
into any frictional language of earth—
there is no word for the breath-held
caesura of your leaps, the smooth
scissor-sound of your cool perfection.
The mirror is ice-opaque which now
proclaims you the fairest—snow-white,
unparalleled flower, blossoming
in the full-skirted climax of your spin.
For these few minutes you are
everything we desire—a transcendence,
star-orb beauty that spins from your center,
centrifugal grace. In our flat-footed
grammar we may parse salchow and axel,
toe-loop, lutz, scan your triple and double—
needing to measure the exact quantity
of your shimmer. But there is no quantifying
the pure ardor of your solitary flame.
Place toe-pick punctuation here at the end,
gather your iced roses, this extravagant moment
when you stop spinning and settle back
into the vernacular of girlhood.

Adam Gurno has a photoset from his visit to the Nationals this week.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Reading Journal: "The Brimming Cup"

Dorothy Canfield's The Brimming Cup (1921) is a coming-of-age novel—or, rather, a coming-of-middle-age novel—about Marise, a wife and mother of three young children, who struggles to come to terms with marriage and motherhood and with the realization that her days of youthful passion are long past. A kind of midlife crisis is precipitated with the arrival in her neighborhood of handsome, passionate Vincent Marsh, who offers Marise a return to the passionate life and deep feeling of her young womanhood. Will Marise leave her children and her solid, sensible husband for a more romantic existence with Vincent? It's a simple story, but Canfield excels at elaborating the inner lives of her characters, and bringing out the drama—often the melodrama—of their moral struggles.

Marise is so sensitive, and she feels everything so deeply, that the writing often has a breathless quality. Here, Marise is standing near the hen house with her little daughter Elly, whose favorite baby chick has just died: "Marise looked down on her with infinite sympathy. Her child, flesh of her flesh, meeting in this uncouth place the revelation of the black gulf!" Everything is enormously momentous. There is a climactic scene involving Marise's neighbors, the Powerses, that, for me, marred the novel with overbearing symbolism. But what I love about Canfield is her belief that life isn't a choice between selfish pleasure and self-sacrifice—that ordinary family and community life, a life lived with others, has great beauty and pleasure and meaningfulness.

In the 1930s, the Yale critic William Lyon Phelps wrote of Canfield: "Her faults are a writer usually arise from a superfluous elaboration of mere language [i.e., her occasional melodramatic overwriting], from a concentration of ideas so intense that manner of presentation suffers, and from an invincible desire to leave the world better than she found it." Phelps, dead white male that he is, adds: "In other words, she is a woman first and an artist second." But he praises the sympathy and realism of her novels, and places her in the same rank as Edith Wharton, Willa Cather and Ellen Glasgow. He says: "Her realism is unlike the gorgeous ironical mimicry of Sinclair Lewis, unlike the unassorted heaps of building material dumped by Theodore Dreiser, unlike the shock-for-shock's-sake style of Ernest Hemingway. She creates real people who act and speak naturally, in a way recognizable by all who live in civilized communities."

The Brimming Cup was not my favorite of her novels. My favorite is The Home-Maker (1924), about the dilemma faced by a wife who wants a career and a husband who wants to be a stay-at-home father. It's a wonderful, semi-tragic novel that was well ahead of its time. Canfield's recurring theme is the struggle of individuals to find fulfillment and meaning in ordinary domestic and community life. It's a theme that remains as relevant today as it was in the 1920s.

Note: on the health front, I returned to the clinic today for a neck x-ray and more meds, and have an MRI scheduled for Monday. My blood pressure and pulse were impressively high, probably because of the pain throbbing through me. Flossing may suffer while the pain lasts. Maybe I should change my resolution to "surviving."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Pain in the Neck

Day four of spending most of my time flat on my back, taking methylpred to reduce the inflammation, and popping pain killers. Yesterday, Clara bought me a "memory foam" pillow, which makes things just a little more comfortable. The pain is a little less, but my right arm is still numb and pretty useless. Keeping up with the flossing has been a real challenge. Most of all, I'm bored and tired of being in constant pain.

I've used the time in bed to read. I quickly devoured Rumer Godden's lovely children's novel The Diddakoi, about a seven-year old gypsy girl who is left orphaned and has to learn to live with non-gypsies. And the non-gypsies, in turn, have to learn to live with her. It's beautifully done, especially because Kizzy, the little girl, is an authentically willful and sometimes naughty seven-year old, but she's also endearing and completely sympathetic. The novel won the Whitbread Award in 1972. Now I'm a little more than half-way through Dorothy Canfield's The Brimming Cup, which was the second bestselling novel of 1921, after Sinclair Lewis's Main Street.

It looks like my pain in the neck will keep me from attending tonight's annual meeting of Northfield.org and officially taking my place on the board, but I hope to pull myself together long enough to read a couple of poems tomorrow night at the "Winter Words" Writers' Night at the Northfield Arts Guild. 7:00 p.m., upstairs at the downtown arts guild building.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The DL

I think I'll be joining Jim on the blogging disabled list for a while. This morning I woke at 4:00 with pain all down my right arm; my arm felt cold and my fingertips were tingling. Clara took me to the ER (these things do happen on Sunday morning), where after describing my symptoms I was told it was as if I had been reading out of a textbook the description of a slipped disc (or, as the take-home sheet called it, "cervical radiculopathy"). Ouch. On top of this, my mother-in-law is coming to visit this afternoon, and our car seems to need an exorcist (going at any speed above about 20 mph, it starts to growl and the speedometer shoots up to 120 mph). My numb fingers don't seem to want to type properly, so I'm taking a little time off. (By the way, Jim seems to be back now and taking visitors at his blog Trout Fishing in Minnesota.) I'll be back as soon as I get the feeling back in my fingertips.

Note: the flossometer may not be updated for a while either.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Let the Baking Begin

A Campaign Stop in Sunnydale

Courtesy of Clara, our resident political blog junkie, here is a brilliant run-down of the GOP Presidential hopefuls (from the Cogitamus blog): The GOP Primary Field in Buffy Villains. Now the question is: Who would the Dems be? Dennis Kucinich as Xander (a good-hearted goofball with a surprisingly hot squeeze)?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Why I Hate Carleton Faculty Meetings

Here's how I spent my time (4:30-6:30 pm) while Clara was the first faculty meeting of the year:

4:30 pm: I go to the Econofoods and buy supplies to make potato pancakes for dinner, and nearly leave my wallet at the check-out. I freeze my hands on the walk home because Will wore my gloves to school (and left them there). I get home and realize I forgot to buy bread (my 50 lb. bag of flour still hasn't arrived).

5:00 pm: Peter calls from the high school, asking for a ride home from Nordic practice. When I arrive at the high school, Will is there, but Peter has gone to the waxing shed to wax his skis. I stop at the Econofoods a second time to buy bread. The express check-out girl is one hour grumpier.

5:30-6:00 pm: I peel and grate potatoes for potato pancakes. I also grate part of my right thumb.

6:00 pm: Peter calls again, asking to be picked up, etc. Peter arrives home and starts ruining his appetite on granola bars, bowls of cereal, and jam sandwiches while I continue to make the potato pancakes.

6:3o pm: Clara finally arrives home in a chipper mood from her faculty meeting. I threaten to walk off the job if anyone asks me when dinner will be ready. I narrate to Clara the events of the past hour and a half. Will says, "Let's all sit and listen to Dad rant." I angrily throw a fork onto the kitchen floor and open another beer. Clara tells me I didn't need to buy bread because there's a loaf in the freezer.

Okay, I feel much better now.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Flossing

As some of you already know, my New Year's Resolution for 2008 is to floss regularly. Before we left for England in August 2006, my dental hygienist, Kay, told me that the best thing I could do for myself in England was to floss regularly. I managed, even without a New Year's Resolution, to floss once a day, every day, for the first seven months of 2007. Then we took our last English road trip to Salisbury, where I unexpectedly ran out of floss. I didn't have an opportunity to stop in at Boots for more floss, so my streak was ended. We'll see how well I do this year. The Flossometer at left will keep track of my current and best streaks of consecutive flossing days. Meanwhile, the rest of you should also try to floss daily for good periodontal health. Here's a link to a helpful guide to proper flossing from the American Dental Hygienists' Association.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

One Hundredth Post

It's this blog's one hundredth post! While the balloons are falling from the ceiling onto your heads, let's take care of some business and provide some updates and random thoughts:

1. Following Christopher's suggestion, I invite you to submit, in the comment section for the 50 Pounds of Flour post, your estimate of how many loaves of bread I can make with 50 lbs. of flour. If you want to get fancy, you can tell me how many loaves, pizza crusts, pie crusts, pancakes, cookies, waffles and bagels it will make. But loaves of bread will do. A loaf of bread (possibly challah) will go to the person with the closest guess. Out of town readers may enter the contest, but the bread won't be fresh when it gets to you in the mail!

2. Lenore Hart's Becky, which I was given as an Advanced Reading Copy as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, was released on Tuesday, January 8, and is now available in bookstores (including the online variety). I've only finished reading about half the novel. One of the problems is that my reading always falls off when things are going well with my own writing. I need to get all the other voices out of my head and concentrate on my own voice. That's what's been happening since about the middle of December. Today, between 9:00 and 10:00 am, I wrote one thousand words.

3. Tomorrow night, Clara and I are joining a bunch of friends for the premiere of Northfield playwright Brendon Etter's series of short plays, collectively and provocatively titled Sex With Seven Women. The event is billed as a benefit for the Northfield Arts Guild. Even before opening night, the play has generated controversy because of the title's orgiastic connotations. Brendon has a wicked sense of humor, a dirty mind, a fondness for good Anglo-Saxon words, and a shitload of talent. I first encountered Brendon's work when he read his great piece about his native place, "I Hate the Iron Range," at a Northfield Arts Guild Writers' Night in 2005. That piece, full of humor and pathos, is available in PDF format here (in the Sense of Place ezine, beginning on page 7). Since 2005, Brendon has been astoundingly prolific, as the series of 365 daily plays on his Play a Day blog bears witness. I'm looking forward to Sex With Seven Women. Yeah, that does sound bad, doesn't it?

4. Over on the left, you'll see my Top of the Pod. That's what's currently getting the most plays on my iPod. Neko Case's Canadian Amp, previously available only at her gigs, is a great CD. Eight songs, all of them great. The second song on the disc is a Neil Young cover: "Dreamin' Man," from his Harvest Moon album (1992). I have to confess that I've never liked Neil Young. My inner redneck was always kind of glad Lynyrd Skynyrd tanned his Northern hide in "Sweet Home Alabama." You can hear Young doing his own live version of "Dreamin' Man" here. It's a good song, sung tenderly by an old man with an annoying voice. Matched to the voice of Neko Case, it sounds like the classic songwriting it is.

5. Two nights ago, we started watching season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I know some people who think that the decline of BtVS began with the introduction, at the end of the first episode of season 5, of Buffy's little sister Dawn. But here's something interesting: Peter, who at thirteen has shown no interest in the show and goes off to practice his trombone whenever we sit down to watch it, thinks Dawn is the only good character. Since she appeared, he's started watching with us. Is it because, as a thirteen-year old boy, he finds the then fourteen-year old Michelle Trachtenberg as cute as a button? Or is it (as Clara thinks) because the incomparable Joss Whedon and Co. captured so uncannily well the plight of a tween younger child with a talented and charismatic older sibling? Any thoughts? Any other Dawn defenders out there?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

50 Pounds of Flour

On my birthday, exactly two months ago, I picked up a 50 lb. bag of Swany White organic unbleached flour at Just Food Co-op. Today, I scraped the bottom of the bag to make one last loaf of bread. I put in an order at the co-op yesterday for another 50 lb. bag. I know that the last bag made many loaves of bread and pizza crusts, pancakes and waffles, pie crusts and bagels and dinner rolls. At Clara's suggestion, this time I'm going to keep track of everything I make using that new bag of flour. What, exactly, can be made with fifty pounds of organic unbleached white flour? How many loaves of bread? How many pancakes? I know you want to know. Stay tuned for the rest of this winter to find out.

Monday, January 7, 2008

More Jane Eyre Debriefing

Ruth Wilson as Jane Eyre.

Penny has asked what I thought of the BBC production. I loved it. I found the stage version of Jane Eyre at the Guthrie Theater disappointing, particularly because of the excruciating accents and the monochromatic Rochester. The BBC's Rochester, Toby Stephens, is a fine actor, and Ruth Wilson as Jane was wonderful. I don't think she's at all "plain," as in the quote in my last post, but she has a marvelously expressive face that was able, I thought, to convey the emotions and the strength of character behind her silences. The BBC's Jane Eyre was, in my opinion, vastly superior to the ITV Jane Austen adaptations about to be thrown at American viewers. Fortunately, they're also reprising the good version of Pride and Prejudice, with the beautiful Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth (oh, and Colin Firth as that wet-shirted Mr. Darcy bloke). The ITV Mansfield Park is a travesty; the Northanger Abbey is sexed up, courtesy of Andrew Davies; and the Persuasion, while benefiting from a fine performance by Sally Hawkins, makes several crucial missteps.

Over the summer, I read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Charlotte Brontë's little sister Anne. I would love to track down, perhaps on Netflix, the 1996 BBC adaptation of that novel. In that adaptation, the hero, Gilbert Markham, is played by Toby Stephens (Rochester in the 2006 Jane Eyre) and the heroine, Helen Graham, is played by Tara Fitzgerald (the vindictive Aunt Reed in the 2006 Jane Eyre). One of my favorite games, while watching British television (or, in America, Masterpiece Theater), is the game of "Where have I seen this British actor before?" Jane Eyre, for example, also features Christina Cole as Blanche Ingram. She was featured on an episode of Dr. Who and will be featured in the film version of Mrs. Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Turning to the ITV Jane Austen adaptations, Northanger Abbey features actresses Carey Mulligan and Mansfield Park features Billie Piper, both of whom have also been on Dr. Who. It would be easy to play "Six Degrees of David Tennant," or some such game, with British actors. I've often thought that appearing in costume dramas must be a form of national service in England.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Jane Eyre

I just finished watching, for the second time, the most recent television adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. I saw it for the first time in October 2006 on BBC One in England, and again last Sunday and this on Masterpiece Theater. In July, Clara and Peter and I visited Haddon Hall, in Derbyshire, where most of the production was filmed, and saw a display of some of the costumes worn in the production. The novel has a famous opening line, and a famous final line, but tonight my eyes filled with tears as Jane (Ruth Wilson) spoke these, my favorite words in the novel:

Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!—I have as much soul as you—and full as much heart!

How good it must have felt to write those words!

January Thaw

The snowmen are growing back
into snow children,
losing their hats and mittens,
slumping into puddles
like wet-diapered infants,
returning to the egg-
shaped snowball in the child’s hand,
to the wishfulness,
to the upturned face, waiting
for the first snowflake to fall.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Self-Googling

According to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 47% of all internet users have self-Googled, that is, performed a Google search for their own name. I have to admit that I am one of those who have self-Googled. It's interesting to monitor one's presence in cyberspace, even if one's cyberfootprint is rather insignificant. As of this evening, a Google search for "Rob Hardy" yields 46,300 results. Most of them have nothing to do with me. Most of them, including an Internet Movie Database entry and a Wikipedia entry (albeit a stub), concern the African-American film director/producer Rob Hardy, whose credits include Trois (2000), Pandora's Box (2002), and The Gospel (2005).

I did discover that my poetry chapbook, The Collecting Jar, is mentioned in the recent issue of the online newsletter Winning Writers, which announces the 2008 Grayson Books Poetry Chapbook Competition and reprints my poem "Cicadas." A Google blog search reveals that the same poem was also quoted on someone's blog back in August.

Have you self-Googled? If so, have you found anything interesting?

Meanwhile, to entertain Jim H. on his blogging hiatus, here's a link to an Mp3 of Lisa Marr singing "My Fascination." Lisa Marr's a Canadian singer best known for writing the song "NYC," popularized by They Might Be Giants (she recorded the original version with her old band, Cub). She also wrote the wonderful song "In California," covered by Neko Case on Canadian Amp.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A New New Year's Tradition

A New Year's tradition is born.

The New Year has begun! We greeted the New Year with champagne, fireworks, and noisemakers at Jeff and Mary's house, after a memorable evening of good food, good drinks, and a Trivial Pursuit game that went right down to the wire. My team, which included the son of my valued fellow blogger Jim H., was graceful in defeat. The evening also included the debut of the new deep-fat fryer, which was used to make delicious onion rings and, best of all, Scotch eggs. Scotch eggs are a traditional staple of British picnic baskets, invented by the venerable firm of Fortum and Mason and now widely available in cheap versions as a quick, cholesterol-intensive, artery-hardening snack. My introduction to the Scotch egg was on a Kenilworth market day in May, when I bought one from the Cotswold Pudding and Pie Company. Hard-boiled egg, encased in sausage, dipped in egg, rolled in bread crumbs, and deep fried. Delicious. In Clara's brother Frank's house, the New Year's Eve tradition is raclette, melted to perfection in front of an open fire. Last night, Jeff and I started a new New Year's Eve tradition: Scotch eggs.

A Scotch egg cooking in the new deep fat fryer.

A Scotch egg, halved.