Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A new book to love

For Father's Day I sent my Dad a copy of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I know that as a (part-time) denizen of the Ivory Tower I am supposed to avoid "Oprah books," but she's been picking some really fine books. And I've wanted to read some McCarthy for a while and never got around to it. So, I also got a copy for myself. (Plus, I have a lot of trouble resisting post-apocalyptic fiction.) Dad'd finished it already, I just started.

I already wish I were teaching it in the fall.

I love the writing! I mean, yeah, it is a dark and weighty tale (and I'm only on page 35), but who can resist writing like:

In the dream from which he'd wakened he had wandered in a cave where the child led him by the hand. Their light playing over the wet flowstone walls. Like pilgrims in a fable swallowed up and lost among the inward parts of some granitic beast. Deep stone flues where the water dripped and sang. Tolling in the silence the minutes of the earth and the hours and the days of it and the years without cease. (3)


By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp. (32)

Which is first of all a beautiful and moving simile, of course. But it also pulls up echoes of the Demeter/Persephone myth. Now, in a book about a father and son, to call on this mother/daughter myth is very interesting. But also, clearly this story takes place in the aftermath of nuclear war (or worse, I suppose) and the world is sunk deep into the worst kind of winter - it is literal winter in the opening of the story, but it is also nuclear winter. And winter, mythologically, is when the daughter, Persephone, must remain in the Underworld and the mother, Demeter, grieves and has no love to spare for the earth to let things grow. One more dimension of this allusion that interests me - the book, at least in the beginning and I suspect throughout, is full of the father's flickering faith, the suspicion that God has gone to ground (underground?) in the wake of the cataclysm.

Here is the point where, were I speaking out loud in a classroom, the students would start to look at me askance and finally some brave soul would ask if I really thought the author meant that (or, the usually unspoken corollary, am I just making that all that up)? And yes, yes, oh yes. Maybe not at first, maybe the metaphor came first, and then the echoes and then other things get built up to support it. But McCarthy does not for a minute seem to me like a sloppy writer or a thoughtless writer. I think he carefully considered every word and phrase and sentence that made it to the final draft. I think this is a book with no filler. This is a book as lean and worn to essentials as the lives it gives us.

In short, I don't just love the story, gripping from that first section of the man's dream, but I also love the writing, the way it so quickly communicates what is urgent and what the situation is, what the stakes are, and still, somehow, so sparsely, gives a reader what you often only get from poetry.

Books I would teach with The Road:
Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man (not really post-apocalyptic, but similarities, and unnamed narrators)
Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake
Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower
Jose Saramago's Blindness

Friday, June 22, 2007

Midsummer's Update

Two pictures of recent happiness, one sitting outside at lunch time in a hand-me-down swimsuit (thank you AuntE!) and one inside in the corral, with only a slightly less goofy smile.

And here's one of Cora in one of those bow headbands I swore my baby would never wear - if people want to know her gender they can just ask! - but, it is kind of cute, and she did ask to wear it and wear it for a long time this day. Every once in a while she really likes to have something on her head.

One of the best things about summer is standing at the screen door, poking your fingers in the holes the cats started, making them bigger so all the really interesting bugs can get in.

And, yes, that is a big trash bag full of yard clippings out there in the yard at the edge of the Scary Garden. Nice view, huh? :) What you can't see, or one of the things, is the raspberry patch just to the far left of the Scary Garden next to the driveway. Today after lunch Cora and I wandered down the path to the patch and ate sweet ripe raspberries right off the canes. Yum! Cora loved them and the sign for "more" got quite a workout.

This is Cora's first fortune from a Chinese to-go dinner. It is hard to get a good photo of a little slip of paper with our camera, and we don't have the graphic wherewithal to clarify it much. It says:


Mine from the same dinner said:

Who knew a cookie could be so cynical?

Yesterday evening my poetry group met in the evening, so the daddies could babysit, and it was a great way to celebrate midsummer - out in Oakdale on a deck overlooking a pond, with swallows dipping overhead, perfect weather, champagne and berries and cheese. We did a lot of writing, which is good, because otherwise I'd never get anything written. Here is one little silly snippet I wrote:

What is the baby doing?
Going to bed?
Hearing her stories? Watching
Daddy do dishes?
Sleep well, sweetest girl,
and don't be sad. All
is well. Momma's with
the aunties and they
are writing poems.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hurricane Cora victims demand federal aid

State of the Baby Speech...with pictures!

(Because I know you people are all about the pictures.)

Cora has found some new ways to amuse herself lately. Perhaps the most unusual (to us) is that she now loves to crawl under the seat of the saucer and make it rock while she squirms around. She also likes to crawl under there with her cuppy and just kind of hang out for a while.

People who mainly see Cora at other locations frequently remark on how much energy she has. Yes, it is true. Here is what a small part of the house looks like after a few minutes with Hurricane Cora.

While my parents were here after Cora's baptism, Mom and I made some new dresses for the baby, and a matching hat for one dress. And I finally finished the baby bloomers to go with it. It has been so hot lately (six days in a row hitting 90+!) that Cora has pared the outfit down considerably.

Given this heat wave, we also finally bought a little wading pool. Chris blew it up this evening, we suited Cora up in her bathing suit for the first time, slathered her in sunscreen, and introduced her to the joys of a pool filled with freezing cold water from the hose. She was game for playing in the water, and tried to sit down a few times, but it was just too cold. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day for really getting the full experience!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sadly, no pictures

The batteries completely died in the digital camera - it looks like someone left it on. Probably a jealous cat, cause that's just the kind of thing she would do. So, we didn't get any photos of the historic moment when, in Lee and Bryan's backyard (the same backyard where, upon arriving for dinner, I had twisted my ankle and totally wiped out just minutes before), Cora decided to stand all the way up with no help, nothing to pull up on, she just stood up and stood there, grinning, for quite a while.

She hasn't repeated the feat, but she does now do this funny monkey walk-crawl thing that might somehow, someday morph into walking.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Wednesday 6/6/07 8:43am-10:39am

Good morning! No pictures, please.

I wait and wait and wait and WHERE ARE THE PANCAKES ALREADY?!

Yum...blueberry pancakes! And Sesame Street!

This is a really good part. You've got to pay close attention to get all the jokes, though.

See, it's "Man of La Muncha" - get it? Munch-a? Cause it's about eating?
OK, time for books!
And puzzles, too. Don't forget the puzzles! Another two hours of this and I'll be ready for a nap. Now, what was I going to do next?