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My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Tuesday, August 26

A Most Wanted Man

We went to see A Most Wanted Man, more because it was Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last movie than because it got good reviews. And to say that we were confused by John Le Carre’s story would be an understatement. Hoffman, wildly (widely?) overweight and scruffy, in a growling monotonal German accent, played Gunther Bachman, head of a secret anti-terrorist group based in Hamburg, Germany. He was a man beset with the weight of his task, to root out terrorist plots similar to the 9/11 attack on the US in 2001. Not to be flip about Hoffman’s death by accident or suicide, I think what may have contributed to his death was that he ran out of cigarettes. In the movie, he smoked constantly, apparently non-stop from beginning to end. Issa Karpov (Grigorly Dobrygin), a young Chechen Muslim has entered Homburg illegally, seeking asylum from the torture he endured in a Russian prison. He wanted to retrieve the fortune his father had accumulated in the European drug trade, wanting to use the money to buy his asylum. He takes temporary refuge with a Muslim family, arranging to contact a lawyer specializing in such matters. Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) meets with him and agrees to help him get the money from Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe), a banker Issa’s father had known, The rest of the plot involves Bachman’s using Issa’s money to be given to Dr. Faisal Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi), a moderate Muslim collecting money for charity. But Bachman is certain that part of that money goes to terrorist groups around the world. They erect an elaborate plan to see if that is true. Whew! I’m confused just trying to write about it, let alone understand the plot. This was a slow-moving movie, the tension building slowly with no action scenes, the viewer more interested in watching Hoffman disintegrate both as Gunther Bachman as well as Hoffman himself. I don’t know whether to recommend this film or to say stay away from it.
If you’re interested in watching a great actor do his great thing, then go see it. If you’re looking for a fun way to spend two hours in a theatre, pass this one by.

Sunday, August 24

The Boys


I seem to have lost nearly all my readers. Just a week ago I was getting traffic of 100 to 150 a day and now I’m down to less than ten. Ah, fickle readers. I guess I should simply ignore the numbers and write things for only myself.

Here’s a short collection of our boys that no one but me and Rosalie cares about.
Tuffy and Tiger have become more individualized than they were when younger. Tuffy walks and runs like a wolf, with head down and shoulders up, while Tiger has head up and shoulders down, and his tail is always straight up and flapping like a propeller. We call him Happy Tail. Tiger has among the white whiskers one black cheek whisker on his right cheek and Tuffy has one on his left. Tuffy is more a loner than Tiger. In early afternoon, we put down three plates with a tiny bit of moist food, more as a treat than a meal, and Tiger and Charlie will eat theirs near the refrigerator. Tuffy eats his at the edge of the dining room.
They have their individual sleeping places, Tuffy on the lower shelf beneath our coffee table and Tiger at the raised edge of carpet between our back room and dining room, usually with left front leg resting on the raised portion like someone bellying up to the bar. What about Charlie? He’s usually found sleeping on one of the dining room chairs or in our bedroom closet, where Tiger sometimes joins him.
We call them the gay guys. Tuffy seems to be looking up most of the time, examining whatever he can get up on to chew on a curtain cord or knock something breakable to the floor. Tiger can jump higher than Tuffy. In fact, we have a house plant that we keep on top of the freezer in the laundry room, thinking it will be safe there. Wrong. Tiger somehow, when we’re not looking, can now leap up there to chew off bits of tasty plant. To do that he has to leap vertically four and a half feet. I want to see him do that someday, just to verify that four and a half foot leap. We love them all dearly, but oh how they can put us on trial.

Wednesday, August 20

Backyard Showers

We’ve been having more rain than usual in the past few days. The local meteorologists keep saying that it came down too fast and too much to do any good, since the ground was already too saturated. Well, where do these dummies think the runoff water goes? It goes into lakes and reservoirs where it will be stored until needed. Then there are the dummies who still think they can drive through water running across the road. We see them all the time, cars or pickups stranded in the rushing water, firemen or policemen having to rescue them before they and their car or pickup go zipping down the waterway. And the temperatures have dropped into the mid-nineties and all our trees and flowers look wonderfully refreshed. I sit on my back patio and admire our soaring arbor vitae trees along the back property line,
our orange and grapefruit trees now dropping last year’s crop for the doves, quail, and grackles to feast on, our neighbor’s violet-flowering bush.
A large yellow butterfly who apparently lives in our arbor vitae keeps flitting back and forth across our yard. She’s not Millie Monarch but she’s the same size. I’ll call her Saffron, or maybe Sunshine. Does she migrate north like the monarchs or does she live out her life here in our backyard? I’d hate to one day find a deceased Saffron or Sunshine lying beneath one of our citrus trees. Our animal friends aren't nearly as numerous as they once were. We're down to only two cottontails who like to cool off by lying in the moist soil under one of our orange trees. We have one cardinal that signals his presence with that unmistakable cardinal whistle. The doves have finally shut off their annoying mating coo-coos, the quail parade through but in far smaller numbers, and the grackles are starting to molt. The grackle has to be one of the ugliest birds in the avian world, and when they molt and lose their tail feathers and most of the feathers around their necks, they look like they should be in hell, cawing and squawking at all the hellish residents. Right now, as I look out the window near my computer, the sun is out, the air is still, the temperature a wonderful 76. And Saffron or Sunshine just did a fly-by. All’s right with the world.

Tuesday, August 19

Concrete Poetry & e. e. cummings

How about a quick examination of concrete/shaped/visual poetry. It seems that not everyone agrees on the differences between these terms. So, I’ll give you a brief explanation as I understand it.

Concrete poems depend almost entirely on the visual aspects as seen on a page and are often paired with drawings or photos that enhance the poet’s meaning. Concrete poems can be a fun exercise, and children are often given this assignment as a way to stretch their imaginations, cute but without much poetic value (their poems, not the children).




Also, concrete poems, when read aloud, lose most of their intended meaning. For example:

Shape poems arrange the words of the poem into a pre-determined shape. Shape poems go back as far as poetry itself. For example, George Herbert in the seventeenth century, wrote “The Altar” in the shape of an altar.

Other traditional shapes are the cross, egg, taper, diamond, lozenge, etc. And then there’s visual poetry, which seems to be a term that incorporates all visual poems.

Some concrete poems simply can’t be read aloud. So far so good? All this is leading up to an examination of one such poem by e. e. cummings, one that depends almost entirely on how the words and punctuation marks are placed on the page.
The poem is a clever use of spacing and punctuation to get across a universal experience, but it doesn’t have much meaningful substance, sort of like most of the poems by the imagists. If you’ve ever been in a grassy field on a warm summer day, you may have seen something in the grass that doesn’t at first register. But then you notice movement as this something gathers itself for a leap, which it does, and then your mind sees it for what it is—a grasshopper. The words are split up by parenthetical marks suggesting blades of grass. The capital letters in the fifth line suggest surprise or alarm. And then the leap, or leaps, during which our surprise or alarm goes down. Then the grasshopper rearranges itself, probably gathering its legs under itself, with the final semicolon suggesting that it will do it again, leap that is. Clever, as are many of cummings’ poems, but no deeper than the grass hiding the grasshopper.

Cummings is such a good example of what modern poets were doing in the last century—breaking with tradition, avoiding poetic diction, using traditional forms but then twisting them into new forms. If you’ve never read any of the poetry of e. e. cummings (his way of saying he’s not important enough for capital letters), you should find him and taste him for yourself.

Monday, August 18

Teaching Poetry

I enjoyed teaching poetry more than any other aspect of the English curriculum. Maybe my students didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, but that was their problem. I taught it anyway. And I made them memorize poetry, another thing they didn’t enjoy as much as I did. I know a lot of them used little cheat sheets when it came time to write out the poems they’d memorized, but that didn’t bother me. They’d had to write the poems out on the cheat sheets so some of it might have sunk in. And the ones who actually did memorize their selections probably can still say them now, even forty years or more later. My high school English teacher made us memorize the prologue to The Canterbury Tales, in Middle English no less, and I can still get through most of it. Frost was always the easiest to memorize, also the easiest to teach. So many memorable lines: (“Mending Wall”) “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down,” (“The Road Not Taken”) “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both,” (“The Death of the Hired Man”) “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, / They have to take you in,” (“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”) “And miles to go before I sleep.” A lot pf the poems I taught have stuck with me and are worth examining again. Archibald MacLeish gave the early twentieth century imagist group their poetic dictum in “Ars Poetica,” giving us three images to make his point and concluding with “A poem should not mean / But be.” The imagists concentrated on images, not meaning, believing that figurative language brought out feelings in the reader instead of pointing out truth or some philosophical doctrine. William Carlos Williams gave us the most famous (or maybe infamous) of the imagist poems, “The Red Wheelbarrow.” “So much depends upon,” he tells us, that image of the rain-glazed wheelbarrow and the white chickens. And he’s driven readers crazy for years. I’m more inclined toward poetry that also has something to say as well as something to show us, such as John Crowe Ransom’s “Blue Girls” in which he warns us about the brevity of life and youth and beauty:

Twirling your blue skirts, travelling the sward
Under the towers of your seminary,
Go listen to your teachers old and contrary
Without believing a word.

Tie the white fillets then about your hair
And think no more of what will come to pass
Than bluebirds that go walking on the grass
And chattering on the air.

Practice your beauty, blue girls, before it fail;
And I will cry with my loud lips and publish
Beauty which all our power shall never establish,
It is so frail.

For I could tell you a story which is true;
I know a woman with a terrible tongue,
Blear eyes fallen from blue,
All her perfections tarnished—yet it is not long
Since she was lovelier than any of you.

Another by Ransom that echoes T. S. Eliot’s warning in “The Hollow Men,” in which the world ends, “not with a bang, but a whimper.” In “The End of the World,” Ransom envisions the world as a circus, with all the meaninglessness of near-comical circus acts, ending with the top being blown off and the frightening image above of an immense bird of prey, black skies, and “nothing, nothing, nothing--nothing at all.”

Quite unexpectedly, as Vasserot
The armless ambidextrian was lighting
A match between his great and second toe,
And Ralph the lion was engaged in biting
The neck of Madame Sossman while the drum
Pointed, and teeny was about to cough
In waltz-time swinging Jocko by the thumb
Quite unexpectedly the top blew off:

And there, there overhead, there, there hung over
Those thousands of white faces, those dazed eyes,
There in the starless dark, the poise, the hover,
There with vast wings across the cancelled skies,
There in the sudden blackness the black pall
Of nothing, nothing, nothing—nothing at all.

The poet uses a combination of the English and Italian sonnet, English by the rhyme pattern and Italian by the octave/sestet split. Two paradoxes stand out: an armless ambidextrian and this huge bird which is really nothing. All the circus images are in the tradition of Theatre of the Absurd, funny but also frightening, saying something about the absurdity of life on earth. The other thing worth mentioning is the unnerving staccato of the sestet, “there” repeated seven times and “nothing” repeated four times. I loved teaching this poem, and most of my students, still babes-in-arms, probably hated its dark pessimism.

I could go on and on, and may just do that further along in this blog. If anyone is interested in any of my other babblings about poetry, you might go to the archive log at the bottom of this page and find Poetic Forms on March 5 & 6, 2010; Poetic Forms (the sonnet) on September 25, 2011; Robert Frost and sonnets on December 19 and 20, 2011; Emily Dickinson on February 13, 2012; e. e. cummings on February 14, 2012; Edna St. Vincent Millay on February 15, 2012; and Longfellow and Ogden Nash on October 23, 2013.

Saturday, August 16

The 100-Foot Journey

I wasn’t sure if I was up to seeing The 100-Foot Journey. It seemed, from the previews, like it would be another The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Helen Mirren sort of reprising Judi Dench. Despite a few misgivings, we went to see it. I was wrong on all counts. It was about an Indian family who make their way to France to start life over after a fire in their Mumbai restaurant destroyed nearly everything they owned and killed the mother. An interesting plot concept, and one that played out without any surprises. This film was more like a fairy tale put out by Disney than an examination of real life. Very charming but not at all surprising. And the food, oh, my, the food. The tastes and aromas almost ooze from screen to audience, making the popcorn seem rather pedestrian. Back to the fairy tale part. Apparently France doesn’t have any rodents or flies or mosquitoes. And the mountainside forests were Disney-like parks, and the village like a pristine Disney set. Very charming but not very realistic. The two restaurants, an award-winning French restaurant one hundred feet across the street from the Indian restaurant that Papa Kadam (Om Puri) opens, are both resplendently pristine. And the fight between Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) and Papa Kadam is amusing as each tries to outwit the other in their fight for customers. Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) wants to become a renowned chef known for more than his skills with Indian foods. Mr. Dayal has to be the handsomest young man since Rudolph Valentino or Douglas Fairbanks. His rival chef from across the street is Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) but it’s Disney-obvious they will end up on the same side of the street. This was a rewarding way, a succulent way, to spend two hours watching gorgeous people in gorgeous settings. I wouldn’t want to see it again, but I’m really glad I saw it once upon a time.

Tuesday, August 12

Lawrence Block & Hit Me

I seem to keep repeating myself, repeating blogs, that is. I know I once wrote about Lawrence Block and his Matt Scudder series, also his Hit Man Keller series. What more can I say other than these two characters are among the very best in the detective/thriller genre. I’m in the middle of the latest Keller, Hit Me. It may be the latest, but it isn’t very late since I first read it more than a year ago. Like all great writing, a second or third reading can do no harm. I’m struck once again by the quiet way he tells the Keller stories, by how quiet and sensible Keller is, this good, sensitive, sensible collector of stamps is. He also has spent most of his life as a contract killer. But somehow Block has created a character that we can side with. Maybe not agree that what he does is all right, but we still like him. It may help that the people he kills are not nice people, usually someone connected with the mob.

Now, about the quiet style with a touch of dry humor. “What do they [monks] do, anyway?” asks Dot, Keller’s contractor of his jobs. “Pray,” Keller guessed. “Bake bread. Make cordials.” [Dot] “Cordials?” [Keller] “Benedictine? Chartreuse?” [Dot] “Monks make those? I thought that was Seagram’s.” [Keller] Monks started it. Maybe they sold the business. I think basically they pray, and maybe work in the garden.” [Dot] “The garden-variety monks work in the garden,” she suggested. “The laundry-variety monks keep themselves occupied with money and kidneys. See, the abbot was in cahoots with all the politicians.” [Keller] “Felonious monks,” Keller said. “Dot? You don’t think that was funny?” [Dot] “I chuckled a little,” she said, “the first time I heard it.” [Keller] “I just made it up.” [Dot] “You and every newscaster in the country.”

Keller’s views on gun control. “Keller wasn’t that crazy about guns. They were noisy, unless you used a suppressor. They left nitrate particles on your hand, unless you wore gloves. Sometimes they jammed, and sometimes they misfired. And, unless you got fairly close to your target, there was always the chance that you would miss. If you were close enough to rule out a miss, well, you were probably close enough to get the job done without a gun.”

An overheard conversation between two of his fellow philatelists: “Some days,” he said “all I want is to move everything in my life from the in-box to the out-box.”

A conversation between Keller and his wife Julia: [Julia] “Do you even know what baptism is?” [Keller] “Isn’t it to make you a Catholic?” [Julia] “No, darling, guilt is what makes you a Catholic. What baptism does is rid you of original sin. Do you suppose our daughter is greatly weighed down by the burden of original sin?” [Keller] “I don’t even know how you could go about finding an original sin these days.”

Block has said that he's retiring after nearly 150 novels, that Hit Me will be his last novel, not just in this series but last of all. What a shame. I'll miss the people of Block's world, especially Matt Scudder and John Keller. But I can always go back and reread them, right? There are five novels in the Keller series. If you’ve never read any, you could do much worse than to begin with the first, Hit Man. You won’t be disappointed.

Monday, August 11

Arizona Sports

Arizona sports seem to be in a good place, despite the Diamondbacks’ more than mediocre season. The WNBA Phoenix Mercury are on their way to a championship; the Arena Football League Phoenix Rattlers will be playing the Cleveland Gladiators for the league championship in two weeks; the Cardinals looked really good last weekend in their preseason shellacking of the Texans; and the Suns will be a true contender next season. All’s nearly right with the world.

And then there’s Roaring Rory winning his third start in a row, last week’s PGA Championship in Soggy Kentucky. And how has he done it? By out-gutting the contenders on the final nine holes on Sunday. Poor Ricky Fowler has gotten close in all four majors but can’t quite make it up that final hill. His time will come, though. And Phil came close, but no cigar. And Tiger simply has to hang it up until next spring, and even then he may not make it even halfway back to his former glory. Meanwhile, Rory may just go on winning tournament after tournament. That would really be something to see. So, golf is back in my life, but only in the watching of the PGA, the up-coming FedEx playoffs and the Tigerless Ryder Cup, but still no playing of golf. That may be in the future or it may not. It all depends on my unreliable body. As William Carlos Williams so aptly and famously said it:

"so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens"

Saturday, August 9

Memory Lane

How odd the way the memory works. I just read a review of the new Helen Mirren movie, The Hundred-Foot Journey, in which the reviewer says that the food preparation and the eating thereof was almost sensual, the tastes and aromas escaping through the screen to the moviegoers. That led me to my remembrance of things past, just as I remembered it from Proust’s novel of that name, that one can be carrying on with the day’s affairs, when suddenly an aroma or a taste will assail him and take him back to a time in his past. He has no choice but to go back. That made me think about all the tastes and smells of my youth. Foods my mother prepared for me: melted American cheese over crackers, creamed tuna on Chinese noodles, bread pudding, lemon meringue pie, milk toast whenever I got sick. My mouth can still taste that dish: two slices of toast in a shallow bowl, generous butter, a bit of pepper, then warm milk poured over all. It almost made getting sick worth it. That takes me to the tastes and aromas of my sick childhood—the Vicks Vaporub on the chest, the mentholated steam enveloping me in the sheet tents she would put up over my bed, the hateful spoonful of Castor Oil, the invariable and delightful spoonful of Castoria. It didn’t seem to matter if I was constipated or not; I still got the Castoria. On to other tastes from my youth. The candy bar I most remember is the Powerhouse bar, chocolate-covered white nougat, huge in my memory, probably twice as big as candy bars today. And the 7-Up bar with its seven different ingredients encased in chocolate—coconut, caramel, buttercream, mint, orange, nougat, and always the best saved for last, the Brazil nut. The Mascot Theater where we’d meet to see the Saturday double feature, and the treats we’d buy—an orange or raspberry or grape pushup, maybe a fudgsicle, a box of popcorn (or if I couldn’t afford popcorn, then a one-cent box of old maids). Tastes from later in my life, the unmistakable pizza burger from Dean’s Drive-in, the hot hot chili after a high school hayride, the stuffed peppers or pigs-in-the-blanket. If you ever want to take a memory tour of your youth, just think about all the tastes and smells from back then. You’ll be transported immediately.

Thursday, August 7

Confusion & Tiger Recant

I’ve been told by a few of my readers that it’s become too complicated to comment on any of my blog posts. I miss the comments. I found out that you can click on the blue comment at the bottom of any posts. A comment box will appear. Just type in the comment, then scroll down the “Comment as” and publish it as anonymous. I look forward to hearing from you, even if anonymously.

I’m still confused by what’s happening between Israel and Gaza. What exactly does Hamas hope to accomplish by bombing Israel and sending troops through tunnels into Israeli territory? If too many Gazan civilians are being killed, why not simply stop the fighting and killing? I’m confused by Vladimir Putin. Why is he willing to sacrifice the Russian economy with his position on the fighting in Ukraine? Is it just for the power? Is it just so he can thumb his nose at the rest of the world? When will we all be willing to stop senselessly killing each other to gain something that’s not really a gain, but only a loss? Why not just live where we live? Why not allow others to believe as the want to believe? See, I’m still confused.

I guess I’ll have to recant my previous recantation about Tiger. He showed up to play in this week’s PGA championship. I was certain he wouldn’t. But after watching him play his first round, I think he’d have been better off skipping it and just waiting till next year to make some sort of return.

Wednesday, August 6

Boyhood

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is a remarkable film, remarkable in its unremarkableness. It shows us a twelve-year span in the characters’ lives, from the time when Mason (Ellar Coltrane) grows from seven to when he’s an eighteen-year-old college freshman. It’s the portrait of a stepfamily much like so many families today, divorced parents amicably agreeing to share responsibilities and visitation time, with minor ups and down, some disappointments and some successes, filled with moments that are the stepping stones of our lives, moving from here to there. Mason’s new college friend says to him at the end of the film, “They keep telling us we’re supposed to seize the moment,” and he says to her, “The moments seize us. We're always in a moment.” Carpe diem in reverse. We watch these people in twelve annual episodes, all the characters aging just as the actors age, all episodes seamlessly blended so that we’re only aware of the passage of time by tiny changes—different hair styles, newer cars, increasing wrinkles around the eyes of Mason and Sam’s mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette), barely noticeable physical growth of Mason and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). It’s an amazing trip we take with them. One of the funniest scenes takes place in a fast-food restaurant, when their father (Ethan Hawke) decides to have a sex talk with his daughter and she can’t believe he’s telling her about condoms and safe sex. It’s a conversation many parents have had with their children, just as awkward for us as for them. I may have to see it again, just to watch how Linklater managed to pull it off. He may want to shoot a sequel called Manhood, but that’s pretty unlikely inasmuch as the actors probably wouldn’t want to go through another twelve years with each other. If he did, though, I’d certainly go see it.

Tuesday, August 5

Old Books & Annie Dillard

Every now and then I look at a print I have on a wall of my workroom and smile because it says exactly what I feel about books: “Books to the ceiling, books to the sky. My piles of books are a mile high. How I love them! How I need them! I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.”

In the past year I’ve either sold or given away most of my mile-high pile of books, but for reasons I can’t explain, I’ve kept some that date back to a time when I was young and foolish enough to think that I still had a lifetime to collect and read books. In 1958 I joined a book club called International Collectors Library and bought seven handsomely bound books of classics, each with an attached ribbon one could use for a bookmark: War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov, Of Human Bondage, Gone with the Wind, Madame Bovary, The Moonstone, and The History of Tom Jones. I’ve read five of them, but not War and Peace or The Brothers Karamazov. Too intimidating for me, I guess. I have the never-read James Joyces, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, both of which were really intimidating. I have one by Stephen King that I bought about ten years ago, Insomnia with its nearly nine hundred pages. King has always intimidated me with the length of his novels, and this one I just know I’ll get around to . . . some day. I have all the Hemingway novels and a collection of his short stories from Scribners, all bound in blue. Did I buy them through a book club or separately? Could have been either since I’ve been in and out of more book clubs than I can keep track of. I have a lovely book by Samuel Eliot Morrison called The European Discovery of America that I bought in 1971. If ever a book deserved the word “tome,” this one does. I think I was always going to improve my knowledge of American history, but I never got around to doing it. But I still have it and can at least pretend I will someday forge through it.

In 1974 I bought Annie Dillard’s delightful Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a sort of philosophical echo of Thoreau’s Walden Pond. I read it, I marked passages that impressed me, and I’ve kept it because of all the marked passages and the way it made me feel forty years ago. I just re-read the opening passage, and now I know why I’ve kept it all these years:

“I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who would jump through the open window by my bed in the middle of the night and land on my chest. I’d half-awaken. He’s stick his skull under my nose and purr, stinking of urine and blood. Some nights he kneaded my bare chest with is front paws, powerfully, arching his back, as if sharpening his claws, or pummeling a mother for milk. And some mornings I’d wake in daylight to find my body covered with paw prints in blood; I looked as though I’d been painted with roses.

It was hot, so hot the mirror felt warm. I washed before the mirror in a daze, my twisted summer sleep still hung about me like sea kelp. What blood was this, and what roses? It could have been the rose of union, the blood of murder, or the rose of beauty bare and the blood of some unspeakable sacrifice or birth. The sign on my body could have been an emblem or a stain, the keys to the kingdom or the mark of Cain. I never knew. I never knew as I washed, and the blood streaked, faded, and finally disappeared, whether I’d purified myself or ruined the blood sign of the Passover. We wake, if we ever wake at all, to mystery, rumors of death, beauty, violence. . . . ‘Seem like we’re just set down here,’ a woman said to me recently, ‘and don’t nobody know why.’ ”

If you’ve never encountered this book by Annie Dillard, you should find it and read it. I’d send you my copy but I don’t want to part with it, part with all my marginal comments. In fact, I’ve kept all the books I’ve ever marked up with marginal comments. I guess I don’t want any other eyes to see my marginal thoughts, for fear they might think them mundane and silly. But then, this blog contains marginal thoughts and I don’t mind sharing them, so why can’t I part with marginally-marked books? I don’t know. I’m odd, books are odd, book lovers are odd, and life is odd. “And don’t nobody know why.”

Monday, August 4

Mercie

Bonjour, mes amis de France. Je tiens à vous remercier de votre intérêt pour mon blog. Je peux toujours utiliser de nouveaux lecteurs. Je souhaite seulement que je pourrais remercier chacun de vous individuellement, mais ce n'est pas possible. Encore une fois, je vous remercie beaucoup.

Tiger

I now have to recant all that I’ve said in the past year about Tiger’s return to golf, that he would not only get back to his winning ways but would surpass Nicklaus’ 18 major wins. After watching what he did in this week’s WGC tournament in Akron, I and the talking heads and all the Tiger haters around the world now agree that he will probably never return to his winning ways, will never win any more majors, will very likely never again play on any Ryder Cup or Presidents cup teams, may, in fact just quietly disappear with Lindsey into one of his mansions or his mansion-like yacht. I guess that wouldn’t be so bad. But I will miss him, and the world of golf will miss him, even the haters. He has almost single-handedly raised the amount of money for which the tour players now compete, has hugely increased the number of spectators at events and the number of people watching golf on tv, has forced the young players who want to be winners to get themselves physically fit. I hope his doctors can fix his back enough that he’ll be able to play again next year. I just wish he’d stop being so infatuated with swing speed and explosiveness. I wish he’d swing at 80% and forget about distance off the tee. I wish he’d take a lesson from Steve Stricker, whose silky swing can go on for years and years. Tiger could win again with an 80% swing and not have to worry about knees and hips and backs. But for now, I guess I’ll have to switch my allegiance to the young, very fit bomber from Northern Ireland, Rory McElroy. I wonder how long Rory can continue to swing as violently as he now does. He needs to take a lesson from Tiger’s book about causing such stress on the body parts.

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