Ring it in: I'm ready

2010 was asteroid-gazing in Oahu and startling mooselings in Cape Breton, metatheatre and Mt. Grademore, becoming a Reformist and eavesdropping on the Monster Raving Loonies, seaside Bollywood dancing and snorkeling with cylons, It was reuniting with lost friends, and it was lobsters and trashy novels and shocking my students equally with Aristophanes and Racine and Genet. And lobsters, lobsters in every ocean.

Now I'm ringing it out with cassoulet and sturgeon and my mother's edition of The Wild Duck, filled with scribblings from her turn as Hedvig when she was a dozen years younger than I am now.

"If I had known then what I can see now in front of me," she says wonderingly to me, "would I have believed it?"

Happy New Year, all.  Tidings of comfort and joy:  remember that it's all longer days from here on out.

2010 in Film

Sycorax Pine's 2010 in film:
[Films from my 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Project are in bold]

Week 1 (January 1-7)
1)  Vicky Christina Barcelona, dir. Woody Allen (USA/Spain, 2008)  **

Week 2 (January 8-14)
2)  If..., dir. Lindsay Anderson (UK, 1968) ***1/2
3) Cat Dancers, dir. Harris Fishman (USA, 2008) ***
[In Treatment Season 1]

Week 3 (January 15-21)
None! (For shame...)

Week 4 (January 22-28)
4) Kinsey, dir. Bill Condon (USA, 2004) **1/2

Week 5 (January 29-February 4)
5) The Warrior, dir. Asif Kapadia (UK/India, 2001) ***1/2
6) Spartacus, dir. Stanley Kubrick (USA, 1960) ***1/2
[True Blood Season 1]

Week 6 (February 5-11)
None! (Deepening shame...)

Week 7 (February 12-18)
None! (Into the abyss of regret...)

Week 8 (February 19-25)
8) Shoot the Piano Player, dir. François Truffaut (France, 1960) ***1/2
9) Inglourious Basterds, dir. Quentin Tarantino (USA, 2009) ***1/2

Week 9 (February 26-March 4)
10) Street Fight, dir. Marshall Curry (USA, 2005) ***1/2
12) The Hurt Locker, dir. Kathryn Bigelow (USA, 2008) ***
13) Avatar, dir. James Cameron (USA, 2009) ***

Week 10 (March 5-March 11)
14) Shakespeare in Love, dir. John Madden (USA, 1998) ****1/2

Week 11 (March 12-18)
15) Rescue Dawn, dir. Werner Herzog (Germany/USA, 2006) **1/2
16) Mondo Cane, dir. Paolo Cavara, Gualtiero Jacopetti, and Franco Prosperi(Italy, 1962) ***1/2

Week 12 (March 19-25)
17) New Moon, dir. Chris Weitz (USA, 2009) **1/2

Week 13 (March 26- April 1)
18) Fantastic Mr. Fox, dir. Wes Anderson (USA/UK, 2009) ****
19) Molière, dir. Laurent Tirard (France, 2007) **1/2

Week 14 (April 2-April 8)
20) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, dir. David Fincher (USA, 2008) ***
21)  If..., dir. Lindsay Anderson (UK, 1968) ****
22) Into the Wild, dir. Sean Penn (USA, 2007) ***1/2

Week 15 (April 9-15)
23) Seven Up!, dir. Paul Almond (UK, 1964) ***1/2
24) Seven plus Seven, dir. Michael Apted (UK, 1970) ***1/2
25) Aparajito, dir. Satyajit Ray (India, 1956) ****
26) Jules et Jim, dir. François Truffaut (France, 1962) **** 
27) Sunshine Cleaning, dir. Christine Jeffs (USA, 2008) ***

Week 16 (April 16-22)
28) Surrogates, dir. Jonathan Mostow (USA, 2009) **
29) Up in the Air, dir. Jason Reitman (USA, 2009) ****
30) Precious, dir. Lee Daniels (USA, 2009) ***
31) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, dir. David Yates (USA/UK, 2009) ***1/2
32) A collection of 2009/10 Oscar-nominated shorts, including Logorama (France, dir. François Alaux and Hervé de Crécy), French Roast (France, dir. Fabrice O. Joubert), and Miracle Fish (Australia, dir. Luke Doolan)

Week 17 (April 23-29)
33) Pather Panchali, dir. Satyajit Ray (India, 1955) ****

Week 18 (April 30-May 6)
None! (But let it be said that I did see lots of plays in these filmless weeks in London....)

Week 19 (May 7-13)

Week 20 (May 14-20)

Week 21 (May 21-27)
34) Shutter Island, dir. Martin Scorsese (USA, 2009) ***
35) The Last Station, dir. Michael Hoffman (USA/Germany, 2009) ***1/2
36) Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, dir. Nick Park and Steve Box (UK, 2005) ****

Week 22 (May 28-June 3)
37) Iron Man, dir. Jon Favreau (USA, 2008) **
38) District 9, dir. Neill Blomkamp (South Africa, 2009) ****

Week 23 (June 4-10)
39) Up, dir. Pete Docter (USA, 2009) ****

Week 24 (June 11-17)
40) The Raiders of the Lost Ark, dir. Steven Spielberg (USA, 1981) ***
41) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, dir. Steven Spielberg (USA, 1984) **

Week 25 (June 18-24)
42) Cleo de 5 à 7 / Cleo from 5 to 7, dir. Agnès Varda (France, 1961) ****
43) Ponyo, dir. Hayao Miyazaki (Japan, 2008) **

Week 26 (June 25- July 1)
None! (I am just racking up a bigger and bigger film debt here.)

Week 27 (July 2-8)

Week 28 (July 9-15)

Week 29 (July 16-22)
46) The Work of Director Anton Corbijn (Netherlands, various years) **

Week 30 (July 23-29)
47) Bigger than Life, dir. Nicholas Ray (USA, 1956) ****
48) The 400 Blows (Les 400 Coups), dir. François Truffaut (France, 1959) ***1/2
49) Dead Like Me: Life After Death, dir. Stephen Harek (USA, 2009) **
50) 9, dir. Shane Acker (USA, 2009) ***1/2

Week 31 (July 30-August 5)
51) Man on Wire, dir. James Marsh (UK, 2008) ****1/2

Week 32 (August 6-12)
52) Super Size Me, dir. Morgan Spurlock (USA, 2004) ***
53) Kiss me, Kate, dir. George Sidney (USA, 1953) ***

Week 33 (August 13-19)
54) It Happened One Night, dir. Frank Capra (USA, 1934) ***
55) Floating Weeds, dir. Yasujiro Ozu (Japan, 1958) ***1/2
[Avatar: The Last Airbender - Complete Series]

Week 34 (August 20-26)
56) The Virgin Spring, dir. Ingmar Bergman (Sweden, 1960) ****
57) From Here to Eternity, dir. Fred Zinneman (USA, 1953) *** 
58) The Queen, dir. Stephen Frears (UK, 2006) **** 

Week 35 (August 27-Sept 2)
59)  Where the Wild Things Are, dir. Spike Jonze (USA, 2009) **1/2
60) Coco avant Chanel, dir. Anne Fontaine (France, 2009) ***1/2

Week 36 (Sept 3-9)
None. (Boo.)

Week 37 (Sept 10-16)
61) Fame, dir. Alan Parker (USA, 1980) ****
62) Julie and Julia, dir. Nora Ephron (USA, 2009) **1/2
63) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, dir. John Ford (USA, 1962) ***1/2

Week 38 (Sept 17-23)
64) A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop, dir. Yimou Zhang (China, 2010) ***1/2
65) Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand, 2010) ***1/2
66) The Illusionist, dir. Sylvain Chomet (France, 2010) ****
67) Centurion, dir. Neil Marshall (UK, 2010) **1/2
68) A Screaming Man / Un Homme qui Cri, dir. Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (Chad, 2010) ***
69) Another Year, dir. Mike Leigh (UK, 2010) ***1/2

Week 39 (Sept 24-30)
70) Noises Off, dir. Peter Bogdanovich (USA, 1992) ****
71) Howl, dir. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (USA, 2010) ***1/2

Week 40 (Oct 1-7)
72) In Bruges, dir. Martin McDonagh (UK, 2008) ***1/2
73) Man of the West, dir. Anthony Mann (USA, 1958) ***1/2
74) Horror of Dracula, dir. Terence Fisher (UK, 1958) ***
75) Synecdoche, New York, dir. Charlie Kaufman (USA, 2008) ****

Week 41 (Oct 8-14)
None. (Birthday shenanigans = no time for movie-watching.)

Week 42 (Oct 15-21)
None. (Catching up on work that I ignored during birthday shenanigans = no time for movie-watching)

Week 43 (Oct 22-28)
76) The Social Network, dir. David Fincher (USA, 2010) ****

Week 44 (Oct 29-Nov 4)
77) Monkey Warfare, dir. Reginald Harkema (Canada, 2006) ***1/2
78) Zodiac, dir. David Fincher (USA, 2007) ***
79) Heaven can Wait, dir. Ernst Lubitsch (USA, 1943) ***

Week 45 (Nov 5-11)
80) 3-Iron, dir. Ki-duk Kim (Korea, 2004) ****
81) Hobson's Choice, dir. David Lean (UK, 1954) ****
82) The Browning Version, dir. Anthony Asquith (UK, 1951) ****1/2

Week 46 (Nov 12-18)
83) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, dir. Tom Stoppard (UK, 1990) ***1/2

Week I'm not entirely sure, such was my end of semester befuddlement
84) Step Up 3D, dir. Jon Chu (USA, 2010) **
85) Yankee Doodle Dandy, dir. Michael Curtiz (USA, 1942) ** (These last two films of the year formed quite the pair.)

Alas, I fell 15 films short of my goal this year.  Maybe because I read 78 books more than I thought I would....

2010 in Books

My reading in 2010 (links are to my all too rare reviews):
  1. Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden (1996, Australia) ***1/2, finished January 4. 
  2. Reckless by Amanda Quick (1992, USA) **, finished January 4.
  3. More than a Mistress by Mary Balogh (2000, Canada) **1/2, finished January 6.
  4. The Indiscretion by Judith Ivory (2001, USA) ***1/2, finished January 9.
  5. Untie my Heart by Judith Ivory (2002, USA) ***1/2, finished January 10. 
  6. Look Back in Anger by John Osborne (1956, UK) ***1/2, finished January 11.
  7. Lady Elizabeth's Comet by Sheila Simonson (2008, USA) ***1/2, finished January 11.
  8. Agamemnon by Aeschylus (458 BCE, Athens) ****1/2, finished January 12.
  9. Angel in a Red Dress by Judith Ivory (1988, USA) ***, finished January 13.
  10. Lord Ruin by Carolyn Jewel (2002, USA) *1/2, finished January 17.
  11. Oedipus the King by Sophocles (c. 428 BCE, Athens) ****, finished January 18.
  12. The Caretaker by Harold Pinter (1959, UK) ***1/2, finished January 18.
  13. Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer (USA) **1/2, finished January 18.
  14. The Wild Child by Mary Jo Putney (1999, USA) ***, finished January 21.
  15. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard (1967, UK) *****, finished January 25.
  16. The Bacchae by Euripides (406 BCE, Athens) ****, finished January 25.
  17. The Winter Queen by Amanda McCabe (2009, USA) **1/2 , finished January 25.
  18. The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost (2004, USA/Holland) ***, finished February 1.
  19. What the Butler Saw by Joe Orton (1967, UK) ***1/2, finished February 1.
  20. Lysistrata by Aristophanes (411 BCE, Athens) ***1/2, finished February 2.
  21. The Proposition by Judith Ivory (1999, USA) ***1/2, finished February 6.
  22. Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale (2010, USA) ****, finished February 7.
  23. Equus by Peter Shaffer (1973, UK) ***, finished February 8.
  24. Sleeping Beauty by Judith Ivory (1998, USA) ***1/2, finished February 10.
  25. Eyton by Lynne Connolly (2010, USA) *, finished February 12.
  26. Ember by Bettie Sharpe (2008, USA) ****, finished February 13.
  27. 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick (2007, USA) ****, finished February 13.
  28. Everyman (15th C, England) ***1/2, finished February 15.
  29. Top Girls by Caryl Churchill (1982, UK) ****, finished February 16.
  30. Black Ice by Anne Stuart (2005, USA) **1/2, finished February 16.
  31. Dark Needs at Night's Edge by Kresley Cole (2008, USA) **, finished February 17.
  32. The Rebellious Ward by Joan Wolf (1984, USA) ***1/2, finished February 17.
  33. The Double Deception by Joan Wolf (1983, USA) **1/2, finished February 19.
  34. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811, UK) ****, finished February 22.  
  35. To Have and to Hold by Patricia Gaffney (1995, USA) ***, finished February 23.
  36. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie (2004, USA) ***, finished February 23.
  37. Our Country's Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker (1988, UK) ***1/2, finished March 1.
  38. The Slightest Provocation by Pam Rosenthal (2006, USA) **1/2, finished March 1.
  39. Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe (1590-1593, England) ***, finished March 3. 
  40. Pentecost by David Edgar (1995, UK) ****, finished March 10. 
  41. A London Season by Joan Wolf (1980, USA) **1/2, finished March 10. 
  42. Sabriel by Garth Nix (1995, Australia) ***, finished March 12. 
  43. A Gypsy at Almack's by Chloe Cheshire (1993, USA) ***1/2, finished March 12. 
  44. What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (2008, USA) ***, finished March 13.  
  45. Like a Thief in the Night by Bettie Sharpe (2008, USA) **1/2, finished March 14. 
  46. Fuenteovejuna by Lope de Vega (~1614, Spain) ***, finished March 15.
  47. Copenhagen by Michael Frayn (1998, UK) ****1/2, finished March 15.
  48. Celia's Secret by Michael Frayn and David Burke (2001, UK) ***1/2, finished March 17.
  49. Dark Angel by Mary Balogh (1994, Canada) ***, finished March 19.
  50. Lord Carew's Bride by Mary Balogh (1995, Canada) **1/2, finished March 20. 
  51. 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane (1999, UK) ****1/2, finished March 22. 
  52. Bliss by Judith Ivory/Judy Cuevas (1995, USA) ****, finished March 23.
  53. House by Alan Ayckbourn (2000, UK) ***1/2, finished March 25.
  54. Tartuffe by Molière (1664-9, France) ***1/2, finished March 29.
  55. Garden by Alan Ayckbourn (2000, UK) ***1/2, finished March 29. 
  56. The Scottish Lord by Joan Wolf (1981, USA) **1/2, finished April 3. 
  57. Incredible Change-Bots by Jeffrey Brown (2007, USA) ***, finished April 3.
  58. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (2008, UK) ****, finished April 3.
  59. Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth (2009, UK) ****, finished April 5.
  60. Phaedra by Jean Racine (1677, France) ****, finished April 5.
  61. Another Faust by Daniel and Dina Nayeri (2009, USA) ***, finished April 12.
  62. Mind Games by Carolyn Crane (2010, USA) ***1/2, finished April 14.
  63. Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare (2009, USA) ***, finished April 15.
  64. Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs (2008, USA) ***, finished April 16.
  65. The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin (2008, UK) ***1/2, finished April 20. 
  66. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (2008, Australia) ****, finished April 21.
  67. Wicked all Day by Liz Carlyle (2009) **1/2, finished May 5.
  68. The Gilded Web by Mary Balogh (Wales/Canada, 1989) **1/2, finished Mary 8.
  69. Naked in Death by J.D. Robb (1995, USA) ***, finished May 16.
  70. The Best of Saki by Saki (1904/1910/1911/1914/1923, UK) ****, finished May 24.
  71. Wicked Becomes You by Meredith Duran (2010, USA) ***1/2, finished May 27.
  72. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (2008, UK/USA) ***1/2, finished May 30.
  73. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1991, USA) **1/12, finished June 9.
  74. Pyongyang by Guy Delisle (2003, Canada) ***1/2, finished June 16.
  75. Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris (2010, USA) **, finished June 16.
  76. Improper Relations by Janet Mullany (2010, UK) ***, finished June 20.
  77. His at Night by Sherry Thomas (2010, USA) ***1/2, finished June 27.
  78. Jim the Boy by Tony Earley (2000, USA) ****, finished June 29.
  79. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams (1987, USA) ***, finished July 1
  80. Dungeon: Twilight, Vol. 3: The New Centurions by Sfar, Trondheim, Kerascoet and Obion (2006, France) ***1/2, finished July 2.
  81. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (2005, USA) ***1/2, finished July 4.
  82. Ooku: The Inner Chambers, vol. 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga (2005, Japan)***1/2, finished July 6.
  83. A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro (1982, UK) ****, finished July 8.
  84. The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig (2005, USA), ***, finished July 9.
  85. Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley (2010, USA) ***, finished July 9.
  86. The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison (2007, USA) ***, finished July 10. 
  87. Bangkok 8 by John Burdett (2003, USA) ***1/2, finished July 13.
  88. Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder (2006, USA) ***, finished July 14.
  89. Scandal by Carolyn Jewel (2009, USA) ****, finished July 15.
  90. If his Kiss is Wicked by Jo Goodman (2007, USA) ***1/2, finished July 16.
  91. Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie (2000, USA) ****, finished July 17.
  92. House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (2002, USA) ***1/2, finished July 21.
  93. Whisper of Warning by Laura Griffin (2009, USA) **1/2, finished July 23.
  94. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto (1988, Japan) ***, finished July 24. 
  95. The Rules of Gentility by Janet Mullany (2007, USA) **1/2, finished July 24.
  96. Heaven's Fire by Patricia Ryan (1996, USA) ***, finished July 28.
  97. Lily by Patricia Gaffney (1996, USA) ***, finished July 28.
  98. Still Life with Murder by P.B. Ryan (2003, USA) ****, finished July 29.
  99. Murder in a Mill Town by P.B. Ryan (2004, USA) ***1/2, finished July 29.
  100. Death on Beacon Hill by P.B. Ryan (2005, USA) ***, finished July 30.
  101. Murder on Black Friday by P.B. Ryan (2005, USA) ***, finished July 30.
  102. Memories of my Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Colombia, 2005) ***1/2, finished July 31.
  103. Web of Love by Mary Balogh (1990, Canada) ***1/2, finished August 1.
  104. The Devil's Web by Mary Balogh (1990, Canada) ***, finished August 2.
  105. The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt (2007, USA) ***, finished August 4.
  106. Silken Threads by Patricia Ryan (1999, USA) ***1/2, finished August 6.
  107. Flat Out Sexy by Erin McCarthy (2008, USA) **, finished August 7.
  108. Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett (1987, UK) ***, finished August 8.
  109. My Lord and Spymaster by Joanna Bourne (2008, USA) **1/2, finished August 9.
  110. The Village Spinster by Laura Matthews (1993, USA) ***, finished August 10. 
  111. The Devil's Waltz by Anne Stuart (2006, USA) **1/2, finished August 11.
  112. Suddenly Last Summer by Tennessee Williams (1958, USA) ****, finished August 11.
  113. Mouth to Mouth by Erin McCarthy (2005, USA) **1/2, finished August 11.
  114. Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty (2000, Australia) ***, finished August 12.
  115. Master of Desire by Kinley MacGregor (2001, USA) **, finished August 15.
  116. The China Garden by Liz Berry (1996, UK) ***1/2, finished August 17.
  117. Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany (2005, Australia) ****, finished August 18.
  118. Everything and the Moon by Julia Quinn (1997, USA) **, finished August 19.
  119. The War against Miss Winter by Kathryn Miller Haines (2007, USA) ***1/2, finished August 24.
  120. Dead of Night by John Marsden (1994, Australia) ***1/2, finished August 25.
  121. Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin (2009, UK) ****,  finished August 26.
  122. Ooku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 2 by Fumi Yoshinaga (2006, Japan) ***1/2, finished August 27.
  123. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (2010, USA) ****, finished September 3.
  124. The Sun and the Moon by Patricia Ryan (2000, USA) *** 1/2, finished September 5.
  125. The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig (2006, USA) ***, finished September 7.
  126. The Marriage Bed by Laura Lee Guhrke (2005, USA) ***, finished September 10.
  127. Loving a Lost Lord by Mary Jo Putney (2009, USA) ***, finished September 12.
  128. The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard (1983, UK) ****1/2, finished September 15.
  129. Agamemnon by Aeschylus (458 BCE, Athens) ****1/2, finished September 15.
  130. Ransom by Julie Garwood (1999, USA) ***, finished September 18.
  131. The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (2009, UK) ****, finished September 22.
  132. Cold as Ice by Anne Stuart (2006, USA) **1/2, finished September 26.
  133. Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello (1921, Italy) ****, finished September 28.
  134. Double Cross by Carolyn Crane (USA, 2010) ****, finished September 30.
  135. Proof by Seduction by Courtney Milan (USA, 2010) ****, finished October 4.
  136. Trial by Desire by Courtney Milan (2010, USA) ***1/2, finished October 5.
  137. The Blacks: A Clown Show by Jean Genet (France, 1958) ***1/2, finished October 10.
  138. Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas (2001, USA) **1/2, finished Oct 15.
  139. The Frogs by Aristophanes (205 BCE, Athens) ****, finished October 17.
  140. Stranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas (1998, USA)***, finished October 17.
  141. Mine till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas (2007, USA) ***, finished ~ October 19.
  142. The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook (2010, USA) ***1/2, finished ~ October 21.
  143. Offending the Audience by Peter Handke (1966, Austria) ****, finished October 24.
  144. Seduce me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas (2008, USA) ***1/2, finished October 28.
  145. Faking It by Jennifer Crusie (2002, USA) ****1/2, finished October 29. 
  146. The Heir and the Spare by Maya Rodale (2007, USA) **1/2, finished November 1.
  147. Pantomime by Derek Walcott (1978, Saint Lucia) ****, finished November 2.
  148. Tempt Me At Twilight by Lisa Kleypas (2009, USA) ****, finished November 4.
  149. Married by Morning by Lisa Kleypas (2010, USA) ***1/2, finished November 5.
  150. Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas (2010, USA) ***1/2, finished November 6.
  151. The Island by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona (1973, South Africa) ****, finished November 9.
  152. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (1980, USA) ****, finished  November 9.
  153. Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas (2002, USA) **1/2, finished November 10.
  154. Manhunting by Jennifer Crusie (1993, USA) ***, finished November 11.
  155. The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd (?) (1582-1592, England) ***1/2, finished November 15.
  156. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (2009, USA) ***, finished November 17. 
  157. Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie (1994, USA) **, finished November 18.
  158. Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin (2010, USA) ***, finished November 20.
  159. The Native Star by M.K. Hobson (2010, USA) ***1/2, finished November 26.
  160. Maybe this Time by Jennifer Crusie (2010, USA) ***, finished November 27.
  161. Glory in Death by J.D. Robb (1995, USA) ***, finished December 2.
  162. Blue by George Eliot Clarke (2001, Canada) ****1/2, finished December 3.
  163. Silver Lining by Maggie Osborne (2000, USA) ***, finished December 4.
  164. Life as we Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (2006, USA) ***1/2, finished December 4.
  165. Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James (2009, USA) ***, finished December 6.
  166. Trust Me on This by Jennifer Crusie (1997, USA) ***, finished December 8.
  167. By Design by Madeline Hunter (2001, USA) ***, finished December 9.
  168. Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Banks (1999, USA) ****, finished December 9.
  169. The Author by Tim Crouch (2009, UK) ***1/2, finished December 11. 
  170. Enchanting the Lady by Kathryne Kennedy (2008, USA) *1/2, finished December 13.
  171. Women at the Thesmophoria by Aristophanes (Athens) ***, finished December 15.
  172. Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James (USA) ***, finished December 17.
  173. Hoops by Patricia McLinn (USA) **1/2, finished December 22.
  174. The Luneburg Variation by Paolo Maurensig (Italy, 1993) ***, finished December 24.
  175. And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander (USA, 2005) ***1/2, finished December 24.
  176. A Poisoned Season by Tasha Alexander (USA, 2007) ***1/2, finished December 25.
  177. Point Omega by Don Delillo (USA, 2010) ***, finished December 26.
  178. The Summer of You by Kate Noble (USA, 2010) ***1/2, finished December 27.
  179. Body Check by Deirdre Martin (USA, 2003) **1/2, finished December 30.

Mele Kalikimaka

Christmas in Oahu, as it turns out, is even more surreal than Christmas in Los Angeles.

Santa really enjoys the occasional tropical sunset.

Reindeer can appreciate the spirit of Aloha too.

Not captured on film (by me) are the giant Hawaiian Santa and Mrs. Klaus that grace downtown Honolulu.  They're wearing shorts.

Of course, it is possible to get away from it all...

...on Kauai, at least.

An Enthusiasm of Links

Christmas Day, 2010
You know what I haven't done in forever?  Posted an enthusiasm of links.

(You might also have answered "Reviewed a book or film," and right you'd be.  Mt. Grademore behind me and Mt. Courseprep looming, let's see whether I can't remedy that one as well in the near future.)

Via the Smart Bitches, a monkishly silent Hallelujah chorus:

It makes me think of the creepier seasons of Buffy.

*     *     *

A piece of Onion brilliance reposted in honor of recent legislation: "Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell Paves Way for Gay Sex Right on Battlefield, Opponents Fantasize."  And, just like that, a million romance novel plots are hatched in the fevered brains of gay rights opponents....

*     *     *

Mere days after finishing the grading on my metatheatre course, the AV Club's annual TV awards supplied me with this piece of sublime oddity made possible by knowing that not a soul is watching your show: a metasitcom.

*     *     *

An old link, but an intriguing one: nearly a year ago, the Believer reversed the blind review structure, asking the reviewer to evaluate a book about which he had no background information.  The cover was stripped, as was the title page, and the title and author's name were blacked out on the spine. Here's what happened.

*     *     *

In the excellent Guardian Theatre Blog, Alexis Soloski ponders why America doesn't have a richer tradition of historical drama, and concludes that it is (at least in part) due to the lack of formative canonical precedents like Shakespeare's history plays.  I don't know.  America has always easily claimed the British literary tradition whenever it suited.  It seems more likely to me that this is a combination of 1) early religious antitheatricalism which slowed the development of new dramas in general and commercially risky theatre in particular, 2) a later dearth of the sort of established and extensive new theatre funding models that exist in Europe, with a particular emphasis on the lack of a central national theatre in this country that might take history as one of its natural subjects.  I'd love to hear more on this subject, as I'm certainly no Americanist in my dramatic scholarship.

But I wonder - are there really (proportional to the total theatrical output) fewer American history plays than other nations produce? How many history plays does Britain produce in an average year?  If the subject were political theatre, I would certainly agree - the American theatre system is considerably more profit-driven than its British counterpart, and its audience in general more conservative.  Moreover, there isn't as much of a sense that theatre (which is inevitably slow in its responses to current events, because of production costs and time) is the best forum for discussing politics, which change in the mercurial fashion of national obsession here.  We are unlike our great Athenian predecessors in democracy in this way; for them, the theatre was the perfect place to engage with the civic questions that each citizen would directly influence through votes, juries, and debates.  In fact, the theatrical model of conflict (the agon between two ethical forces equally convinced of their own rightness - think Creon and Antigone) is exactly the same model of debate that we have inherited from Athenian democratic and legal practices.

Please, all ye who know more about these topics, enter into this agon with me.  Educate me; I'm interested.

In every Nook and cranny

Christmas Day, 2010

Happy Christmas and Merry Solstice, all.  I'm with my family in Washington, DC now, eating heartily and basking in the company of old friends.  We've given up holiday gift-giving in my family (to the very great reduction in our wintertime stress and expenditure), but my antimaterialism isn't so ardent that I didn't get myself a bit of a Mt. Grademore-completion present:  a NOOK!

Ever since I've been madly reading away on it.  Despite my steadfast commitment to the experience of reading paper books, the ereader has its distinctive pleasures, not least of which is the ability to take hundreds of books with me when I travel.  (I thought this had been a light year for travel for me.  Then I totted up the list of places I've been in 2010: Halifax, Cape Breton, Washington, Los Angeles, London, Dublin, Oahu, Kauai, North Carolina.  Guess I need a memory adjustment.)  Three things that would improve the excellent Nook experience for me: 1) Better screensavers (the Kindle has such lovely ones - pages from medieval manuscripts and the like - while the Nook has cartoon portraits of authors looking oddly like Hollywood actors), 2) easier library navigation, and 3) more font choices for a cleaner aesthetic experience.

The long and the short of it is that reading a paper book is a more satisfyingly sensual experience: the design of print books is better because it is fully within the control of the designer (in other words, the more control you give to the reader, the less coherent the design will become, and the less books will appear as art objects in their own right) and the tactile experience of paper is richer.  And, of course, until the Nook and Kindle come with little Smell-o-vision atomizer attachments, the olfactory experience of reading won't be the same with ebooks.  But the ereader is, to my very great shock, profoundly comfortable. I'm loving mine.

96 und 23,000 Luftbaeren

December  23,  2010

"Seriously: what's wrong with the country you live in?"

Sycorax Pine:     
"Canada? Nothing's wrong with Canada!"  [Pause.]  "Well, except for that oil sands thing in Alberta.  And, you know, the seal clubbing...."

D:     [interrupting impatiently, and in outraged tones] 
"A Calgary Hitmen hockey game had to be stopped when fans threw 23,096 teddy bears on the ice."

"D, if your idea of the greatest degradation a nation can face is that they toss stuffed animals at the things they love, I think something's wrong with YOU."

Mt. Grademore does Kauai (and I come along for companionship)

December  22,  2010

Shower me with congratulations, for Mt. Grademore is at last behind me.  But not, I regret to tell you, before it had kept me indoors for nearly two weeks in Oahu and accompanied me on "vacation" to Kauai:

D and Mt. Grademore:
Cunningly arranged to represent the amount of time I have spent with each on this trip

I read papers on the beach in the rain while surfers cavorted spectacularly before me.  Tunnels Beach, where this photo was taken, boasts some of the most famous waves in the Pacific, or so I hear. (Not to mention the odd shark attack, but let's not focus on that now.)  I was mostly absorbed in student accounts of the metatheatricality of Shakespeare.

Kauai is my favorite of the three Hawaiian Islands I have seen so far (the deserts and volcanoes of the Big Island a few years ago; crowded, urban Oahu perhaps to excess this summer and winter; and now a brief weekend in Kauai, which really set about earning its status as the wettest place on Earth.  We are hoping to do Maui when I am back in February for my school's "Winter Break.").  I hope to be back for more than a couple of a days next time, and this time without my papery albatross of argumentative despair.  What really impressed me was how good an impression Kauai does of Nova Scotia:

Kilauea Lighthouse, northernmost point of Hawai'i
Windswept Sycorax Pine at Peggy's Cove,
southern shore of Nova Scotia,
where injury and death have rewarded careless sightseers.
Really, that's what the plaque says.

It must have sensed that I'm homesick.

We were only on the island for a couple of days, but we managed a long, misty canyon hike made all that much longer when we fell in with two jolly, bickering older guys on the trail who claimed to know of a really great shortcut that would enable us to avoid the slippery, muddy, steep climb back to the parking lot.  Next thing we knew we were on a dirt road ten miles from our cars.  The only living creature we had seen for an hour and half was a lost, semi-feral dog who gave us a very, very wide berth before trotting off into the marshy distance of the highest swamp on Earth.  (The lesson here?  D: "Never listen to Waldorf and Statler.")  Eventually we stumbled upon some locals who (Solstice miracle!) agreed to take us ten miles back up the mountain in the back of their pickup.  Bouncing along at top speed in the hot mist on that uncushioned metal may have been the happiest part of my day.  And it was a pretty happy day.

The westernmost bookstore in the United States.
Sadly, it was closed, so I didn't have a chance to purchase the westernmost book in my library.
It did occur to me, however, that Kauai is the farthest west I've ever been.

Now it's our last day in Oahu before we head to our respective families for the holidays, and I am writing this from the set of the show where D works. As I typed along, mere moments ago, gleefully free of the burdens of Mt. Grademore, my computer began acting a little strangely.  The mouse moved without my direction.  Then letters began appearing on my screen - letters I hadn't typed.  Finally, Ouija-like, the letters spelled out, very slowly: "STINKAPOTAMUS...."  I shrieked.  Just as one of the show's very famous, breaktakingly handsome stars walked by.   That's dignity for you.  But, I mean, my computer was possessed.

So it turns out that D has the ability to seize control of my laptop from afar.  This is one of the things the show pays him for, I guess.  But I don't know.  My confidence in free will has been shaken.... 

The Last of the Boxlers

Monday, December 13, 2010 

Yesterday on the way to the beach, we pulled up behind a car with four separate (but identical) Ultimate Fighting bumper stickers.  (My friends and I like to call all the mixed martial arts varietals "boxling" - a little bit wrestling, a little bit boxing - the word seems suffused with an ineffable wriggliness. It can't be pinned down.)

Sycorax, from the passenger seat: "Whatever you do, don't get into an accident with that guy."


D: "I don't really understand Ultimate Fighters. Clearly they aren't the last, if there are so many of them."

Sunday Salon: Mt. Grademore on the Grand Tour

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Papers on Parade

A week ago Friday I gave a final exam to my Intro to Drama students (my last on-site teacherly duty of the term) at 7 p.m.  (Worst. Exam. Time. Ever.)  At 10 p.m. I headed back to my house for some quick reorganization.  And at 3 a.m. I was out the door for the airport.  I've taken Mt. Grademore on a field-trip, you see.  To the beaches of Oahu.

The glass-half-full perspective is that I am grading in PARADISE.  The glass-half-empty attitude, however, primly reminds me that I am in Paradise and all I do is GRADE.

To be honest, the only idyllic sunning Mt. Grademore and I have done in Paradise to date was on last Sunday (hence the lack of a post then, fellow Saloners).  Since then I have been locked up in the apartment, enjoying the heat but barely registering the sunshine while I slog through the endless trails and crags of papers and exams while D is at work.

My only consolation is in the (sometimes unintentional) wit that blazes a comic streak through these assignments.  "Agamemnon," one of my exam essays reflected yesterday, "is more stapled to religion, while Oedipus is hung on it."  Oh, Mt. Grademore, I thought.  Will your delights never cease?

Then I turned the page on an exam booklet to find an essay titled, "How to Sacrifice a Goat."

Me [aloud, alone in the apartment]:   "I don't know whether I can face this tonight."

After hearing the epic saga of the Journey up Mt. Grademore, my friends start sending me comforting links that pose grading as an old-school epic computer game:


You are in a maze of twisty little paragraphs, all alike. The path ahead of you is littered with sentence fragments, left broken and twitching at your feet as their pathetic spaniel eyes implore you to put them out of their misery. Dangling modifiers loop happily through the branches overhead. In the distance, that sound of undergraduate feet has turned into a heavy, erratic thwump - swoop - THWUMP you recognise immediately - it's a badly-indented long quotation, and it's coming closer.

You wish.

A flock of commas scampers past, squeaking in a high-pitched, giggly way. 
>get commas
Tricksy little things, commas. These ones have embedded themselves in the comforting thicket of a nearby sentence.

>search for commas
Where do you want to search for the commas?

>search for commas around subordinate clauses
Surely you jest.

>search for commas prefacing speech
You spy a clutch of young semi-colons here, looking slightly confused.

>get semi-colons
You have the clutch of young semi-colons.

>throw semi-colons in direction of my own writing
I don't think you need any more of those, young lady.

>but I'm a Victorianist!
That's no excuse.

Seriously, though: I could do with a good long vacation in the rolling plains of Good Grammar and Sound Argument.  Or the beaches of Total Frivolity. If I could just get over this last craggy range....

Have I accidentally wandered into the academic version of Pilgrim's Progress?  How grim. I'll be over here by the Slough of Despond.


Dogs Barking, People Screaming, and Groping the Widow Kennedy: Thanksgiving Traditions

Last year, my first as an emigrée, was also the first year I had ever been apart from my family on Thanksgiving.  It hit me hard.  I spent the whole day wandering about in a ravenous daze, compulsively eating and never feeling satisfied.  It was like something out of Dante's Inferno.

Never again, I vowed.  So this summer I arranged my entire teaching schedule for the year around this one week, making it possible for me to go home on the day before Thanksgiving without missing any class.  Here's what happened:

November 24, 2010

Rapid exit from my last class of the day, while the students are doing their end-of-term evaluations of me.  (My students are very excited to hear about my travels; one even writes me an email the next day, hoping that I have a good time in Detroit, a city I have no connection to and would not be visiting.  I don't know.) Panicked exodus to airport, where I have arrived absurdly early for a flight I had forgotten was domestic and not international (I'm connecting to my hometown of Washington, DC through Montreal).

Halifax doesn't want to let me go.  Freezing fog.  45 minute delay while we de-ice.

Result?  Panicked run in high heels (still dressed for lecturing, you see) through the Montreal airport.  They have been holding the plane for me, and are just closing it as I hobble up to the gate.  I collapse exhaustedly into my seat with a sigh of triumph, and we begin to taxi to the runway.

An hour later: still taxiing. Right back to the gate.  Unnamed technical trouble.  We disembark into the now-empty airport.

"Mesdames et messieurs, we apologize for the problem that has brought your plane back to Montreal.  Your replacement plane will arrive from New York in an hour; we will groom and then board you.

"The terminal is closed, but you are free to use the restrooms if accompanied by a uniformed escort.

"There is an exercise occurring in the terminal: if you hear dogs barking and people screaming, don't be alarmed."

But the only person screaming was a fellow American passenger who (surrounded by Quebecois travelers who received the news of the delay with Gallic shrugs and jokes about how there was undoubtedly a woman at the root of it) roundly and screechingly cursed the gate agent first in English and then in salty, fluent French.

I just sat there, working my way through Mt. Grademore, thinking, "The closest thing the modern experience has to the ancient Athenian feeling of total subjection to fate is traveling on Thanksgiving weekend.  Well, and the DMV."

November 25, 2010

Nineteen at our Thanksgiving tables.  Many of them people I haven't seen in a couple of years, because of the Thanksgiving manqué last year.  Documented for the ages (and in Dutch!) by one of our friends, who brought two visitors from Iceland for their first Thanksgiving.  Because the best Thanksgivings are the ones involving strangers as well as friends.

I realize that it really isn't Thanksgiving until the tale of my father's groping Jackie Kennedy is told. 

"Was she wearing a corset?", our friends asked.

"Yes.  She was heavily girdled," my father replied, and got a faraway expression in his eyes that indicated that this - this moment in his early twenties - might be the most vivid single memory of his whole life.

"How did it happen?", the Thanksgiving collective nudged.

"I was standing in the hallway backstage at Carnegie Hall after a concert, holding my viola above my head to protect it from the crush, when I noticed huge men standing on either side of me, with hearing aids in their ears and huge bulges under their arms.  Then I realized that there was a small woman with big hair standing in front of me, and I thought, 'This is the opportunity of a lifetime.'"

The rest is history, and Thanksgiving legend.  As my Canadian friend said, "It's important to have traditions." Don't you all remember learning about the first Thanksgiving, when the pilgrims regaled their new friends with tales of their pre-conversion encounters with Anne of Denmark in the hallways of Greenwich?  I do.

We heard the tale that night, and again two days later at the traditional post-Thanksgiving dim sum with all the same people.  What say you, Père Sycorax?  Did I do it justice here?

November 26, 2010

Some people watch football on Thanksgiving.  I can't get into a sport that is a battle of tactics instead of a drama of character.  So instead I spent Thanksgiving addicting my parents to Friday Night Lights.  It's a hard sell: Texas, sports dramas, beautiful people, American productions, and high school narratives all rank high on the list of things my parents are NOT intrigued by.  All I could do to counteract these demerits was assert that it is really, really good.

I only realized upon my third viewing of the opening season of FNL how exceedingly Canadian Tim Riggins's Texan accent is.  I keep waiting (giddily) for him to be drawn into more conversations aboat Texas, and how he never wants to get oat of his beloved home town.  Texas forever!

I think I am beginning to miss Canada.

From the slopes of Mt. Grademore to the Groves of Academe

Continuing tales from Mt. Grademore:

November 22, 2010

Best student slip from today's Mt. Grademore?
Agamemnon was blind to his fat, and was only truly able to see his flaws in death.

Best response from a friend to my exclamations over the brilliant Freudianism of this slip?
Well, I don't think they had very good mirrors back then.

December 1, 2010

My Metatheatre class ended with an extra credit viewing of the brilliant Slings and Arrows (if you haven't seen it, go get your hands on it RIGHT NOW).  My students' response?
Students:     That was better than it had any right to be.
I:     What do you mean?
Students:     Well, I mean: it's Canadian.  And old.

Let's be clear: we're talking about a 2003 show here.  I can feel myself getting desiccated and crotchety even as I listen to them.

I:     Come on.  It's not that old.
Students:     Please.  Did you see those cell phones?  They weren't Will Smith Fresh Prince big, but they were pretty big.
I: [defensively]      OK, well: it's not that old.  But it is Canadian.  Does anything strike you as quintessentially Canadian about the theatricalism here?  Anything that reflects the particular status of theatre in Canada?
     [The air between us fills with the awkward awareness of our generational and national differences.]
Students:      Um, I don't think people our age really think there is a difference between Canadian and American theatre.

And with that cheering assertion of ahistorical universalism, the term drew to a close.

December 3, 2010

Today's gem mined from Mt. Grademore (from a quiz on Racine's Phèdre):
I am not always in agreeance when people say something is phallic, but, ooh boy, is this phallic.  There is quite obviously a sexual subtext, but I think she'd find being stabbed a lot less satisfying than her rather breathy words make it seem.

Let's hear what Phaedra has to say for herself, shall we?
Here is my heart.  Your blade must pierce me there.
In haste to expiate its wicked lust
My heart already leaps to meet your thrust.

(When my students performed this scene on extra credit performance day, Hippolytus couldn't stop blushing and grinning.  And Phaedra couldn't help but put a, well, textually rich emphasis on the lines, "If you'll not stain your hand with my abhorred / and tainted blood, lend me at least your sword," accompanying the final words with an ambiguous hand gesture.)

The student was rightfully struck by this scene.  A week later, on his exam, he said this while defining the neoclassical concept of "decorum" (a type of propriety that governs the behavior - amorous and otherwise - of characters based on their class, gender, age, and profession):
Phaedra never actually does anything to Hippolytus sexually, but she eyes his sword more than the average passerby.

December 7, 2010

One of my students just sent me an email that ended with an order:
Marry Christmas!
Wow, I thought, I think I'll decline.  Based on about four different political principles.

And Come the Revolution: Royal Anxieties and Republican Rage

November 18, 2010

I think it might now be time to come to terms with the fact that I will never be the Queen of England.

In younger days, this possibility inspired me with romantic unease.  Today it just fills me with republican rage.

Here in Anglophile, Loyalist Halifax, the newsstands are filled with tabloids reveling in the princely engagement and "Tales of the Royal Women." There is something strangely delightful, I have to say, about the fact that these gossip mags intersperse official portraits of Queen Elizabeth the First among youthful glamor shots of the current queen, her sister, the young princess-to-be, and Princess Di.  Nothing says glamor like Queen Bess, all done up in a Juno gown (covered in peacock feathers to show that she always - ALWAYS - has her eye on you) and standing on a map of subjugated Europe.

Notice that I said "might now be time."  I'm not discounting the possibility that, come the revolution, I could be elected (or chosen by virtue of my merits) to live in a palace and wave in a dignified fashion.

Come the Zombie Apocalypse: On Love, Revenge, and Standing-In

November 17, 2010

I may very well have experienced a new zenith in my professorial dignity on Monday when, comparing Bel-Imperia's attitude towards romance in The Spanish Tragedy to the TV series The Walking Dead, I found myself uttering these words:

I guess the take-home message of today's class is that, come the zombie apocalypse, love becomes a matter of standing-in, of substitution, of surrogation.

My students somehow felt it was perfectly natural for the noble Bel-Imperia to slot Horatio into his dead best friend's role as her lover immediately upon hearing of the former beloved's death.

"Doesn't that strike you as a very ... utilitarian attitude towards love?", I asked.

"No!", they replied.  "Who else would you want your lover to end up with after you died but your best friend?"

"Hmm," I said.  "So in The Walking Dead we feel perfectly sympathetic with the cop protagonist's wife taking up with his partner when she thinks her husband is either in a permanent coma or zombified?"

"No," some shot back, instantly.  "That's awful.  How could she betray him like that?  And so soon after the zombie mayhem started!!"

"But ZOMBIES have taken over the earth!," others cried.  "We all need to band together however we can! Who can blame her for seeking solace an assistance, someone to replace her husband?  She's just trying to SURVIVE."

"Well, that's how Bel-Imperia feels," I said.  "The disintegration of the system of aristocratic justice is her zombie apocalypse.  But it is still utilitarian - she is just as interested in the role to be filled as she is in who fills it.  Love becomes a tool for revenge, and both love and revenge are entirely based on structures of standing-in."


"It was better in the comic," said my students.  "The TV show totally ruined it."

Absence makes the blog grow fonder

I write to you from the pale crags and papery drifts of Mt. Grademore because it has been too long - far, far too long - an absence.  Let me see whether I can't cobble together some brief accounts of what I have been up to in the past month in stolen moments between grading papers on the York Crucifixion play and exams on the commodification of leisure in the Renaissance.

Meanwhile: what do you think of the new blog aesthetic?  I've been toying with the idea of moving to Wordpress or Tumblr for some time, lured in by their cleaner themes, but I like the level of control I have over minutia in Blogger, so I finally settled on this.  The only glitch I haven't been able to fix yet concerns the indentation of bullet lists in my posts.  I'm afraid that will have to wait for another day, when Mt. Grademore no longer looms.

(Also, in order to comment on posts in my new theme, you now have to click on the post title and go to the post's individual page.  Sorry about that.  I will look into fixing it so that you can comment on Sycorax Pine's main page as well.)

Sunday Salon: The Climb up Mt. Grademore

It's hard to illustrate "I've been sunk in grading all week," so I've given you instead this object lesson in why proofreading is important, from the lovely Lunenburg, NS.  Also, check out those amazing seamen top right.

This time of year, the hills are alive with the sound of academics bitching about the tedium of grading. With songs they have sung for a thousand years.  In all seriousness, I am willing to bet that medieval monks rolled their eyes exhaustedly every time a student brought a scratched-over piece of vellum to them for appraisal, and muttered in Latin to each other about the lack of proofreading and cavalier attitude to original texts.  I'm sure that's why Socrates developed his method - to elicit student involvement in such a way that he wouldn't be burdened by huge drifts of scrolls demanding response and correction.

Who am I to buck the trend?  I've been in the throes of grading torment all week, and I only emerged on the other side of my mountainous pile after two solid days of barely sleeping, barely eating, and timing my encounter with each paper to prevent pigritudinous slow-down or obsessive micromanaging in the margins of these essays.

But, frankly, there are always moments, both of brilliance and of inspired error, that conspire to delight and entertain me on the slog up Mt. Grademore.  Here are some of the best from this round:
  • A glancing mention of the importance of "the suspense of disbelief" to the theatre.  
    • I am fascinated by this slip: it seems to imply that disbelief is always waiting to be proved wrong, the element of hope transforming it into belief (the doubt of doubt, the skepticism of skepticism).  Should I believe?  Should I? Can I?  The suspense is killing me!  
    • A colleague hastened to say that perhaps the phrase implies that doubt is more dramatic or suspenseful than belief, rather than that doubt always ends in belief.  I agree.  
    • What is most intriguing about it, however, is the fact that suspense is, in essence, a hybrid endeavor, lingering somewhere between belief (I know what is coming next...) and disbelief (...will it actually happen?)
  • "Through their melodic vices, the Chorus played the role of an average citizen who would observe and comment."
    • I wish my vices were more melodic. Maybe if I got together with some vicious friends they could even be harmonic?
  • Just delightful: "In the everyday world, were Oedipus a friend or worse, a relation, you might not find his reactions justified."
  • Or: "The Chorus [of Bacchantes] is not content with shrieking about past events or with the simple information dump and dime store piety offered by other Greek Choruses."
    • I love how so many of these papers are filled with a wry, teasing affection for the texts we are studying.  Like the average Greek Chorus is their eccentric aunt.
  • Earlier in the week I intervened when a student spent a whole paper talking about his intention to "analize" certain aspects of a play.  Finally I wrote in the margin, "Alas, this word (even if it existed) wouldn't mean what you think it means...."
    • But maybe I was just underestimating the profound Freudianism of his argument.
    • Or maybe, just maybe, I was overlooking his desire to become a chronicler (annalist) of the play for all posterity. That's right - posterity.
    • "Alas" is a word that shows up frequently in my marginal comments - more than perhaps in should in contemporary conversation.  It isn't conscious, but when I turn my mind to it, I think it gives corrections a more sympathetic, if wilting, air.  But it does seem to fill my responses with a tone of melancholy lament.
 So today, like most Sundays, will mostly be taken up by class prep and marking a few stragglers that tumbled off Mt. Grademore as I was making my descent.  But what news do I have from the week that's past?  Well:

We had the first meeting of my new book club this week - the first for which we had actually read a book, that is, rather than just chatting, planning, and getting to know each other.  It is an extraordinarily good group; if only my classes had conversations this lively.  Our first choice was my suggestion (although voted on by the whole group): Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping.

This was the first Robinson I had ever read, and forty-eight hours before the meeting (which I was supposed to lead) I was only on page 25.  "This is not a novel to be hurried through," Doris Lessing says on my cover, "for every sentence is a delight."  Sorry, Doris: I slammed through it over the next three days, and although that wasn't the ideal method of consuming the novel, which is rich with slow, subtle, elegiac poetry, it did prevent me from bogging down in the marshy liquidity of the prose.  Some of my fellow book-groupers did, and were profoundly turned off by the narrative, which they felt you couldn't get any purchase on.  It slips through your fingers.

Interestingly, I had gone into the meeting with a very strong set of sympathies (for the narrator Ruthie and her eccentric aunt Sylvie, and against her pragmatic and conventional sister Lucille), and prepared to talk about how Robinson manipulates you irrevocably into this sympathetic stance.  But the majority of the group had quite the opposite reaction: they felt that Lucille's harshness about the unconventional ways in which Ruthe and Sylvie "keep house" was a desperate bid for survival, and a necessary attempt to escape the horrors of her upbringing.  I was shocked, and then impressed by the novel's ability to evoke such disparate responses.  "It's like a prism," said one of my friends in the group, "You turn it this way and it produces one reading, and you twist it that way and it produces another."  But it can never produce both at once.

I also finished the Miltonic first season of Justified, and am filled with antsiness about how long I have to wait until the second season airs.  Luckily I have the three final discs of Deadwood sitting in front of my tv, or I might go into Timothy Olyphant withdrawal.  And no one wants to see what that would look like.  Messy.

Lastly, I'm a hair's breadth from finishing George Elliott Clarke's Nova Scotian cycle Blue, and frankly I have been putting off reading the last two poems because I am not yet ready to be done with it.  Perhaps I should pin a copy of his "Marginalia" (a model of pithy advising) up on the wall while I hike up Mt. Grademore, strewing "alases" like wildflowers here and there in my students' margins:

Grace is excellence performed casually.


Virtue is like bootleg liquor:
Don't claim you got any unless you got a lot.


Ugly don't age
and it don't wear out.

Ugly be thoroughly dependable. (152, excerpt)

If only I had advice this good to give.

Happy Sunday, Saloners....