Wednesday, October 26, 2022

speak, business

I received a system-generated message in my work email this morning that read, in part:

Since the end of September, the Business Network has been in an extended state of instability with functional disruptions reported almost daily.

This is news to no one, but "an extended state of instability" is an attractive phrase. I'm going to use that in my email auto-response from now on:

Since the end of September, I have been in an extended state of instability with functional disruptions reported almost daily. I will respond to your message during my next period of stability and functionality.

Friday, October 21, 2022

"Iphigenia in Aulis" by Euripides

This is what I think--Greece, like yourself,
Some god has driven you mad.

But perhaps this is a fable
From the book of the Muses
Borne to me out of season,
A senseless tale.

A terrible passion has seized all Greece
To make this expedition--not without
Heaven's contrivance.

But you, lady, suffer things savage and cruel
Even from those you love, so with my compassion
Which I put around you like a shield
I shall make right these wrongs abominable
As far as a young man can.

Reason can wrestle and overthrow terror.

My hopes are cold on that.

If there are gods, you, being righteous,
Will win reward in heaven; if there are none,
All our toil is without meaning.

Men are mad, I say, who pray for death;
It is better that we live ever so
Miserably than die in glory.

Oh, the mob--what a terror
And an evil thing!

But I will defend you!

All Greece turns
Her eyes to me, to me only, great Greece
In her might--

Never will your glory pass away.

O dayspring
Torch of God
And glorious light!
To another world I go
Out of this place
Out of time
To dwell.
And now, and now,
Beloved light

And the army too awaits you,
The mighty host of Greeks
Awaits eagerly for your death

And for the king,
O touch his head
With a glory everlasting.

(translation by Charles R. Walker)

Thursday, October 20, 2022

all my friends, current and future

Lately I find myself avoiding novels, in terms of reading. Just now I'm reading a book of Irish poetry, a scholarly study of capitalism, a play by Euripides, a book of literary criticism examining changes in technique/style in the final works of "important" novelists, and a few other odds and ends. I am not reading a novel. When Mighty Reader and I go to bookstores, which is often enough, I tend to buy story collections or books of poetry. Just this morning, I ordered two books of Sudanese poetry from those plucky folks at the University of Nebraska Press. At home, in our living room beside the sofa is a table (actually a wheeled tea cart, very faux Victorian) with probably sixty books piled atop it (our "to be read" stack, mostly, if one ignores the twenty or twenty-five books lined along the top of the bookshelf just to the right of the tea cart, another "to be read" staging area), most of them novels, most of them books I studiously avoid looking at when I'm "between books" and am searching the house for something to read. I will tend to pick up a story collection, a book of essays, a play, poems, more of the leftist economics I like, etc, and will not pick up a novel these days.

I'm not sure why that is. Is it the feeling that I've no real time to read anything of length, the fact that I no longer read on the bus or the train during my commute, or that I no longer leave my office during my lunch so I don't make time in the middle of my workday to read, the way I used to do? Is it that I have somehow lost faith in the novel, no longer see the form as relevant to life? No, it's not that; that's the crazy talk. I bought an edition of Anna Karenina a couple of weeks ago (because all we had at home was the P&V translation and I will have nothing to do with them) and it sits at the top of one stack on the tea cart, giving me the eye whenever I walk past. Someday, certainly, but not today and not tomorrow either. I don't know why not today, why not tomorrow.

Certainly it's difficult to take up any task that looks like it will require the remotest amount of concentration on my part (which is, I realize, an insulting thing to imply about what I am reading, as if poems and plays and short stories and essays and literary studies take no brain power to read), but I might blame the air pollution, the toxic smoke filling every nook and cranny of my fair city these days, giving the light rail tunnel a Victorian London aspect today, a haze of smog that's made its way into the immense building where I work, down into my own office on the ground floor. There isn't enough oxygen in the air, and the oxygen has been replaced by ash, and I am not thinking clearly. All I can taste, all I can smell, is burning. I am sure this has an effect on my thinking.

It's depressing, though, is what it is, to avoid all of these novels I bought in fits of excitement. Like I've become a hermit and abandoned all my friends, current and future. I do not know what this abandonment means, or how long it will last. Perhaps it's just a pre-apocalypse ennui that will pass once the actual apocalypse arrives, and I can get back to reading Tolstoy while the world burns down around us.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

all the possible greatness before him


Our neighborhood bookstore, Paper Boat Booksellers, is having a sale as long as the Mariners stay in the post season. We stopped by yesterday during the first couple of innings of game two against the Bluejays and while I did not benefit from the sale (30% off your second hardback book if you buy two), I found new things by authors I don't know (except for James Kelman; Mighty Reader has all of his books on the shelf so she was happy to see he's got a new novel out).  The non-Kelman books are story collections. Who can resist an author named Pancake? He died young, all the possible greatness before him coming to nothing. The chocolate bar at the top of the stack is something for emergencies; it went into the toolkit in one of the panniers.