Last night at 1 a.m. (yes, 1 a.m. - that is the sort of mad schedule we adhere to around here, thanks to D's rather, let's say, temporally expansive job), as D was just closing his eyes to go to sleep and I was attempting to finish One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, our apartment suddenly moved about an inch to the right. Then it hopped ever so slightly up and down for about 3 seconds. Since I had been reading about delusion-laced asylum life, and at the best of times have only a tenuous hold on reality, I looked over at D, just to make sure that someone else had actually witnessed this little building-dance.

And that was how we experienced our first honest-to-goodness earthquake - a 4.6.

D ran around yelling about how the earth shouldn't move, it just wasn't right, hurricanes he could handle, he was used to hurricanes, and we needed to go to the Army Surplus Store as soon as possible to get an earthquake preparedness kit (I couldn't really get him to expand on what this would entail beyond our normal emergency preparedness kit, which - among other things - has gotten him through a snowstorm in the desert coming back from Vegas). I got online and found
this very useful site, which updates every hour in seismically calm periods and five minutes after every quake.

Then, after standing dutifully in two adjacent doorways for a few minutes saying things like "Are aftershocks ever, you know, bigger than the original quake?," we went back to bed, but D still jerked awake every few minutes (whenever I shifted my position, adjusted the covers, or took a particularly deep breath) to declare with alarm that he had just felt an aftershock.


I think we all know that the harder we try not to talk about something (sex!), the more everything we say and do becomes a commentary on the forbidden topic. So, although the Victorians have a reputation for rigid prudery, their literature is in fact quite consistently sex-obsessed. The Little Professor provides a handy guide to the code that obscures and communicates Victorian sex, complete with highly amusing examples.


At the Wilson Center's website, and in the Wilson Quarterly, Richard Schickel reconsiders the sociology of film noir's cynical obsession with the past and the city in a post-war era that was, in many other ways, increasingly optimistic and suburban. In the article, "Rerunning Film Noir," Schickel makes one of my favorite connections (one which I have taught to theatre history students in the past), drawing out the links between expressionism, medieval dramaturgy, and film noir:

More colorfully, in a more ­self-­consciously “artistic” way, the noir city was sometimes seen as something like the hellmouth in medieval mystery plays, yawning, fiery, ever ready to swallow sinner or innocent.
I do love a good hellmouth. And not just because it gives me a chance to bring up Buffy the Vampire Slayer in classes devoted to religious drama.


Today's poem is "An Old-Fashioned Song" by John Hollander, who I have met ever-so-briefly through department functions, and whose lovely work I should attend to more keenly. In fact, I don't believe I have read any work of his (this is true of so many poets) since my introductory literature course in college. I am especially filled with shame (shame this daily verse project is meant to dispel) about the lack of poetry in my reading rotation for the last half decade because my blogging user name is in fact a reference to poetry (whereas my blog title, which I often also go by, is a dramatic allusion. Extra credit will be granted to those who can figure out the connection between the two.). Shame!

Ok, back to "An Old Fashioned Song," which you can find in its entirety at poets.org, one of my new favorite resources for this project (There are so many aspects of the site to explore. What, I wonder, do they mean by offering you the option to "Adopt a Poet?" Will s/he come live on my couch?).

The heart of the poem, which expands between two ballad-like choruses:
This is the aftermath
Of afternoons in the clover
Fields where we once made love
Then wandered home together
Where the trees arched above,
Where we made our own weather
When branches were the sky.
Now they are gone for good,
And you, for ill, and I
Am only a passer-by.

The perfect insular amorousness of "we made our own weather"! And then, the lilting complexity of "Now they are gone for good, / And you, for ill, and I / Am only a passer-by," which takes advantage of these very short lines to sandwich that crucial "for ill," between the now defunct pair - "you" and "I." I got a wonderful sense of confusion as I read the lines, unsure how to allign the terms with one another - "for good"/"and you" and "for ill/and I" was my first, meaningful, but not best instinct.

The word "passer-by" is as perfect an ending for this section as the elegant pairing of "aftermath" and "afternoons" was a beginning, both because it evokes such a perfect sense of separation from a scene that was once defined by your presence in it, and because it is one of those fascinating words than maintains its verbal duality in unity (think of its plural - passersby).


I am quite behind in my reviewing, in part because I am speeding through books and movies, and in part because my other work is so pressing that any dutiful blogging feels like a betrayal of other academic duties. Last night and this morning I finished off not one, but TWO books from the "1001 Books you must read before you die" list: Robinson Crusoe and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. And, in the throes of a Netflix crisis (how, oh how, was I going to receive the film I wanted to watch with D this weekend if I didn't send off a DVD in today's mail?) I watched the excellent Nights of Cabiria this afternoon. How refreshing, after the thankless drudgery of The Ten Commandments.

In culinary news, I spent a surprisingly large part of the afternoon making a lovely orzo salad (with organic red and yellow cherry tomatoes, chickpeas and fresh herbs) and a Shredded beet salad which, thanks to my inferior beet-grating skills, looks more like a particularly vivid pudding. It is quite tasty though, and I congratulate myself on having completed my first encounter with fresh-beet-cooking while leaving the kitchen looking like only a very small violent murder had been committed there. In fact, the only thing to get really beety and red were my hands (I am restraining myself vigorously from making a joke right now about being "caught red-handed" at something).

But, oh! The biggest news of the day was the long awaited arrival of my ARC of Ana Castillo's The Guardians, which I received from Random House as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. Since it finally made its way to my hands just as I finished two other books, I hopped right into the opening chapter. I will let you know how it goes.

And, as if that wasn't enough of an ARC bounty, I heard from HarperCollins today that I will be receiving my first ever book from their (apologies for this repetitive rhyme) First Look program: Empire Rising by Sam Barrone, which promises to be a fortifying change from some of the more earnest reading I am doing this month. Hurrah for ARCs and other book gifts! They couldn't possibly give me more delight.

4 Responses so far.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations on surviving your first earthquake! I agree with D: the earth shouldn't move, but as I'm married to a geologist, I suppose I should be glad that it does, or he wouldn't have a job and he wouldn't be able to keep me in the manner to which I am accustomed (ha!). And I laughed out loud at the beet salad. Great post!

  2. Thanks, Sarah! The odd thing was that the earthquake felt roughly the same as the way my house in CT shakes whenever a truck drives by. I think the conclusion to draw might be that I normally live in a perilously poorly constructed house.

  3. jenclair says:

    What an occasion, your first earthquake! A night to remember...

    I think one of my enduring interests in the Victorian period is that very dichotomy. Dracula is an extreme example, but a fascinating one, which is why I hated the movie that made the sexual aspect so graphic. It is the teasing out the undertones that provides real interest.

  4. I totally agree about "Dracula" and the fascinating, complex relationship between sexuality and the gothic genre more generally, jenclair. I think I might have to reread "Dracula" sometime soon - it has been at least a decade!

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