About Me

My Photo
Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Looking for Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland in today’s Oxford

The three-tiered tray was piled high with smoked-salmon sandwiches and marzipan mushrooms, clotted-cream scones and cookies iced “EAT ME.” Playing cards, a red-soaked paintbrush and a miniature top hat were strewn about my place setting. All I was missing to make the Wonderland-themed tea complete was a dozing dormouse – although my napkin had been folded neatly into the shape of a white rabbit.
More: The Globe and Mail

Sunday, June 28, 2015

On James Wright’s “Lying in a Hammock...”

The narrator of “Yancey,” Ann Beattie’s story, is an aging poet; she tells of her encounter with an IRS agent who shows up to audit her. Toward the end, she recites a poem to him—James Wright’s famous “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota”

More: Paris Review

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Tsundoku” is the Japanese word for the new books that we accumulate but don't read. It perfectly  describes the state of my numerous overflowing bookshelves.

More:  Open Culture

How Moby Dick Sunk Herman Melville

"Herman Melville had everything a young author could dream of. By the age of 30, he’d traveled the world and written five books, including two bestsellers. He’d married the daughter of a prominent judge, and he owned a beautiful farmhouse. He hobnobbed with the literati. Strangers asked for autographs.

Then he wrote Moby-Dick and ruined everything."

More: Neatorama

Monday, June 22, 2015

Blake's Poetry Set To Music

British independent music project The Wraiths has set twelve of William Blake’s poems to song.

This is Blake’s “Song First by a Shepherd,” found in his Collected Poems:

Welcome, Stranger, to this Place from Mog Fry on Vimeo.

More: Brain Pickings

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Allen Ginsberg Wrote a Poem for Bernie Sanders in 1986

Allen Ginsberg wrote a poem for Bernie Sanders in 1986.

It goes like this: 

Socialist snow on the streets

Socialist talk in the Maverick bookstore

Socialist kids sucking socialist lollipops

Socialist poetry in socialist mouths

—aren't the birds frozen socialists?

Aren't the snowclouds blocking the airfield

Social Democratic Appeasement?

Isn't the socialist sky owned by

the socialist sun?

Earth itself socialist, forests, rivers,


furry mountains, socialist salt

in oceans?

Isn't this poem socialist? It doesn't

belong to me anymore.

More: Mother Jones

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Bukowski Poems Animated

Los Angeles-based underground poet Charles Bukowski published a huge collection of uncompromising poetry and prose that spoke about and to society's downtrodden. Open Culture has posted animated versions of four of his poems.

Here's Bluebird:

Charles Bukowski

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pur whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
in there.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

All The Light We Cannot See

American author, Anthony Doerr, explains why he titled his Pulitzer Prize winning book All The Light We Cannot See:  
"The title is a reference first and foremost to all the light we literally cannot see: that is, the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that are beyond the ability of human eyes to detect (radio waves, of course, being the most relevant). It’s also a metaphorical suggestion that there are countless invisible stories still buried within World War II — that stories of ordinary children, for example, are a kind of light we do not typically see. Ultimately, the title is intended as a suggestion that we spend too much time focused on only a small slice of the spectrum of possibility."

It takes place before and during World War II in Germany and occupied France and tells the parallel stories of Marie-Laure, a young, blind French girl and Werner, an orphaned German boy with great skill in science and fixing radios. When he fixes a radio for a Nazi official Werner is sent to a national school that trains boys for an elite unit that will serve the Third Reich. The school is a brutal experience.
Marie-Laure lives with her father, a locksmith at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris. It is there that Marie-Laure hears the story of a precious stone in the museum's collection that has a curse attached to it. Marie-Laure's loving father makes puzzles for her of the streets and houses of Paris meant to teach her how to navigate the city. She also learns to read braille and books provide a great deal of solace to her during soul-destroying times.
The stories of Marie-Laure and Werner zigzag back and forth between past and future, bringing their lives closer together.
Eventually both Werner and Marie-Laure end up in the French coastal town of St. Malo. Werner is a Nazi soldier whose unit was sent there to trace the sender of intelligence radio broadcasts. He becomes trapped in a bombed out building. Marie-Laure and her father fled to St. Malo during the fall of Paris. They carry the cursed jewel with them.  When her father is taken prisoner she stays on with her reclusive great uncle Etienne who is sending illicit radio broadcasts for the resistance. 
There is another storyline that has an evil Nazi searching for the jewel. I found this thread unnecessary and distracting.
I listened to the audio version of this book on the treadmill. I found it easy to follow the story despite the frequent shifts in time and place. It's a good work of historical fiction that would appeal to a wide spectrum of readers.


Galore, published in 2009, is the first book I've read by Newfoundland's Michael Crummey. What took me so long? The saga spans two centuries of generations of settlers in the Newfoundland outport of Paradise Deep and draws on the school of magic realism. The families of Paradise Deep lead hard lives of deprivation, starvation and brutal labour tinged with superstition. The story opens with the discovery of a beached whale. When the locals begin to butcher the beast they find a foul smelling albino inside. At first thought to be dead, he is alive but mute. How he came to be in the whale's belly remains a mystery. They call him Judah.
Two families are prominent in this story: the well-to-do English Protestant Sellers and the Irish Catholic Devines.  Their stories are bound together when Devine's widow refuses King-me Sellers' proposal of marriage and King-me, feeling the sting of rejection, accuses her of being a witch who has cast a curse on his family. In the end the tale comes full circle.
 There is an abundance of characters and I found myself forgetting which son or daughter belonged to which set of parents. I read this on my ancient iPad that crashed every time I tried to flip back to the family trees at the beginning of the book. That problem aside, Crummey is a wonderful storyteller and Galore is a fabulous book. If you liked it you would also like Random Passage another great big Newfoundland historical novel by Bernice Morgan.

Vladimir Nabokov's Map of James Joyce's Ulysses

Many people have tried their hand at mapping the paths Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom took through Dublin on June 16, 1904 in James Joyce's Ulysses. This particular Ulysses fan map comes from the hand of a very special reader indeed: Vladimir Nabokov.

Via Open Culture

Happy Bloomsday!

The ending of James Joyce's "Ulysses,"  read by Marcella Riordan.

Monday, June 15, 2015



by: W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

The cat went here and there

And the moon spun round like a top,

And the nearest kin of the moon,

The creeping cat, looked up.

Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon,

For, wander and wail as he would,

The pure cold light in the sky

Troubled his animal blood.

Minnaloushe runs in the grass

Lifting his delicate feet.

Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?

When two close kindred meet,

What better than call a dance?

Maybe the moon may learn,

Tired of that courtly fashion,

A new dance turn.

Minnaloushe creeps through the grass

From moonlit place to place,

The sacred moon overhead

Has taken a new phase.

Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils

Will pass from change to change,

And that from round to crescent,

From crescent to round they range?

Minnaloushe creeps through the grass

Alone, important and wise,

And lifts to the changing moon

His changing eyes.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Tipu Sultan’s Dream Book

 "One of the most intriguing items in the British Library Persian manuscripts collection is a small unexceptional looking volume which contains a personal record, written in his own hand, of 37 dreams of Tipu Sultan, Sultan of Mysore (r. 1782-1799)."
More here


Saturday, June 13, 2015

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” Turns 100

"This month marks the 100th anniversary of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” published when Eliot was just 26 years old. Had it not been for the intervention of Ezra Pound and Harriet Monroe, the seminal poem that helped usher in American Modernism might not have been published at all.

Eliot originally wrote parts of the monologue of a troubled, middle-aged man in 1910 and soon combined these pieces to form the long, complicated poem readers know now. Then he put it in a drawer for four years and focused on his graduate study in philosophy."
Complete article and slideshow

Book Spine Design

Clever design of book spine, for Decline of the Roman Empire.