On Read


Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

But the real mystery and magic lies in those quasi-mystical moments, portraits of extreme focus and total relinquishment. We might feel more comfortable calling this “meditation,” but I believe the right word is in fact prayer. […] unmoored, without its usual object, God, but it is still focused, self-forgetful, and moving in an outward direction toward the […]

I ate the day / Deliberately

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

“I don’t know if it’s a function of age or temperament, but I’m no longer seeking those major exclamatory notes of pleasure. I want a life that has pleasure contained within it.”                                               […]

tigerish waters

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

If we could get the hang of it entirely It would take too long; All we know is the splash of words in passing And falling twigs of song, And when we try to eavesdrop on the great Presences it is rarely That by a stroke of luck we can appropriate Even a phrase entirely. […]

Other Voices, Other Rooms

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

I was referred to as one of the “ladies” during a meeting at work last week. Better than “gals,” better than “girls,” I guess, but still obnoxious. And the more I sit here thinking about it, the more sentences I type and delete while I dig into why this word choice irritated me so much, […]

long enough.

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

…‘Your obligation Is not discharged by any common rite. What you must do must be done on your own So get back in harness. The main thing is to write For the joy of it. Cultivate a work-lust That imagines its haven like your hands at night Dreaming the sun in the sunspot of a […]

reminded, again.

Monday, August 19th, 2013

In the midst of uncertainty and many kinds of fear, threatened by loss, change, and the welling of pain within and without for which one can offer no comfort, readers know that there are, here and there, a few safe places, as real as paper and as bracing as ink, to grant us roof and […]

I loved this one Archibald MacLeish poem in high school, “Speech to Those Who Say Comrade.” It’s from 1936, when MacLeish was writing about the depression and war and communism and just beginning to look harder at modernism and there’s a lot more to say about him but not here and not by me… I’ll […]

variations on a theme

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

…But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about […]

lights I might have lit

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

These days my usual steady intake of media-of-all-kinds has slowed dramatically. I’m forgetting to check in with my lit blogs, I’ve ignored the Times for days at a time, facebook isn’t tempting me with its time-suck ways, and I don’t even think I have library books checked out at the moment*.  I’m making more, I’m reading […]

the facebook final

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

(with thanks to my BC cohort. one of the reasons I loved grad school was the chance to write things like the what’s below. I followed it up with insightful and beautifully academic commentary, I swear.) I’ll just say things in Agamben. Then not even Google can help you. why does no one outside BC […]

Abject failure to keep up with this small corner of the internetz. I had visions of tracking my first year of grad school, sharing the delights and stresses therein and, well, I’ve managed to regurgitate only one post forgotten from july. Perhaps a different tack is in order. this week: *Mary Karr’s Lit. My first […]

if God looks like us…what’s the point?

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

The Booksmith will be the death of me, or at least of my groaning bookshelves. Most recent reads: Penelope Lively’s Family Album and Jane Gardam’s God on the Rocks. Both excellent, both deal very differently with coming of age in a specific kind of family. In Lively’s book, it’s the English-countryside-Edwardian-manor-house family. Six kids, vast […]

Alberto Manguel is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers thanks especially to The Library at Night and his most recent book, A Reader on Reading. Writing about reading is not unusual. Many scholars write about the importance of canonical literature, as if to convince modern readers that there IS value in their old high school reading […]

Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it–don’t cheat with it. Thanks, Hemingway.

…a sacred reference point, no matter how abstract. The above was quoted to me as a definition of home: summing the idea up better than any of my more recent mental gymnastics have.* See, I went back to Denver last week, to the place that was home to me for the first 18 years of […]

while reading you grow sober, lucid, kind.

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

I was flipping through an old moleskine yesterday and came across something I wrote during a trip back to pdx: …the desire to hold and the desire to enjoy are mutually destructive. …I possess this now, therefore I am happy. I cannot possess this forever, and therefore I am sad. (from fowles’ the french lieutenant’s […]

Decide what to be and go be it.

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

Yessssss…correctly identified Lady Wishfort and petals on a wet black bough. I keep remembering questions I agonized over–not because I didn’t know the answer, but because there were two answers for which my gut made a case–and looking them up. So far so good. Though may yesterday be the last time I ever fill in […]

I fail to understand the appeal of pumpkin as a flavor. Pumpkin as a vegetable, great. As a pie filling, better. As a flavor though? People really want their coffee to taste like squash? Except it’s not squash, it’s a nice spicy warmth followed by the most disgusting palate-busting, slimy-saccharine-overload possible. I apologize to you, […]

Or, in my case, all the books on my shelves I have not yet read. Instead, I’m reading in Field Work tonight, Seamus Heaney’s 1979 collection of poems. So many lines I love. Such attention to the senses, to the unglamorous realities of daily life, death, the cruelty of the natural world; nonetheless so beautiful. […]

Hedgehog moment.

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

…the conceit that what we can know of reality is an imagination made of language–all this finds its material manifestation in that self-portrait we call a library. And our love for it, and our lust to see more of it, and our pride in its accomplishments as we wander through shelves full of books that […]

My Obi-Wan, or, Tennyson

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Tonight is an In Memoriam night. Among my favorites… … Behold, ye speak an idle thing:                                                                               […]

Lately: My Cousin Rachel, Daphne duMaurier. Love her. Did not so much love the neuroses of her narrator, and dammit, Rachel was not that  interesting. How to Read and Why, Harold Bloom. Fust loves him and Asher hates him–I’m not sure where I stand. I am a little frightened by Bloom’s brain and the sheer […]

It’s like the literature gods have my number and are determined to stuff my brain with wonder until it explodes. So many recent books written Just For Me. Today at the Coop (supposedly looking for a math workbook, and while I was at it the Perec that may or may not be out of print, […]

To set the darkness echoing.

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Young Adult fiction–which, naturally, I try to stay on top of, what?–has shifted toward some pretty edgy, dramatic stuff in the last couple of years. It’s a fascinating genre, and I think an important one since some of my most vivid memories are the things I read as an adolescent–when I read constantly, impressionably, and […]

Golden sunsets and shit like that.

Monday, May 18th, 2009

So  Dorothy Parker over there is saying that wild, cruel and reckless waves are the way to live. Over here, Paloma pauses for the simplicity of Satie on the piano wafting through an open window. Waves, well, I’m finding those okay, and I’ve never had trouble enjoying simple pleasures. But What Does It All Mean […]

Perhaps it was being in Portland, not thinking of work or inhaling coffee for the first time in months, the smell of Powell’s, the warm rain or some other mystic combination of good vibes, but I was primed to devour a good book and Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog fit the bill. I […]

I like to think that if I had been alive in New York circa 1920-30 Dorothy Parker and I would have been a great friends. In reality, she’d have scared the crap out of me with her cleverness and very sharp tongue. In her poetry in particular, beneath some stellar wordplay, lurks irritation, rage,  frustration, […]

(I’ve intended to write about The Elegance of the Hedgehog for days now, but as it is one of the best things I’ve read in a long while I’m nervous about doing it justice. Perhaps when I’m finished with my third read-through I’ll have some better-formulated thoughts…) …’Til then,  to take a break from small […]

…the courses most alive.

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

In thinking about where to even begin to begin the first steps of a new journey, I’m taking some comfort in knowing that what is new and strange to me has been glaringly obvious for years to those who know me best. Case in point: the letter excerpted below, written to me upon my graduation […]