larryhammer: a wisp of smoke, label: "it comes in curlicues, spirals as it twirls" (curlicues)
Wednesday, reading, meme, baa:

Finished The Wheel, the Horse, and Language by David W. Anthony, which was as crunchy and chewy as hoped to the end. I'm not competent to evaluate either the linguistics or the archeology, but if Anthony's account of both sets of evidence holds, it's a pretty compelling argument for the prehistory of the Indo-European peoples (especially the Indo-Iranian subfamily, where the archeological evidence is strongest).

Puttering on with The Library of the World's Best Literature ed. by Warner et al. From which, another "—the heck?" moment in poetry: for Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered they use a mix of Fairfax's vigorous Elizabethan translation (previously 1, 2) and minor Romantic poet Jeremiah Holmes Wiffen's into Spenserian stanzas. Yes, this is a real thing (link to scan of the 1858 (6th) reprinting). Reviewers at the time were critical of the choice, at least. But, still—the heck? (Wiffen was, btw, a Quaker, and also translated Garcilasso de la Vega.)

And at odd moments, scattered poetry from anthologies and collections by Edward Thomas and William Ernest Henley.

Amusing library find of the week: A Is for Activism by Innosanto Nagara, as a board-book. All the librarians were like, "Why didn't I know about this? It's awesome!" And yes, X is for Malcolm X.

---L.

Subject quote from "Call and Answer," Barenaked Ladies.
larryhammer: a wisp of smoke, label: "it comes in curlicues, spirals as it twirls" (curlicues)
Reading, wednesday, meme, all that.

Have been reading up on my canon for my Yuletide assignment, while still managing to get ⅔ or so through The Wheel, the Horse, and Language, to the discussion of the Yamnaya horizon and subsequent splitting of PIE into the various branches.

Between that, the in odd moments stuff, still randomwalking through The Library of the World's Best Literature -- the index (such as, say, the poems with title starting with D) and the study guide (for example, Dutch and Belgian literature) are both good ways to reslice the alphabetical arrangement -- or when I want nonfiction, slowmarching through Encyclopedia Britannica 11e. (1911) v11 -- am up to the article on Giuseppe Garibaldi.

---L.

Subject quote from "Won't You Be My Neighbor," Fred Rogers.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (classics)
Reading Wednesday? Oh yeah, that. It's a meme thing.

Lessee -- in the weeks since I last posted, I read some more from Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition (1911) volume 11, but spent far more time on:

The Library of the World's Literature ed. by Warner et al. (1917), which, yes, being from the same period has many of the same blindnesses as EB, but it DOES cover 19th century continental authors in greater detail than I've been familiar with. The alphabetical by author/topic makes a pleasing arrangement, as you never know what you'll be blindsided by served next.

I'm not sure whether the introduction to Japanese literature is from the first (1896) or revised for second (1917) edition, but I suspect from the chronology the latter -- either way, though, it's … interesting. The first part, the historical summary, is surprisingly less wrong than I expected, given the time (and many of the wrongs are omissions by apparent ignorance), but the evaluative second part is a hot mess, even with its appreciation of Japanese poetry. The poetry translations are, btw, pretty dire: tanka into rhyming quatrains. That they selected only seasonal poems from the Kokinshu is probably significant of … something.

Also, I am, to put it mildly, bemused to see that Melville has a handful of selections, all from Typee. That … would not be my first choice of representation.

OTOH, I've found at least one thing worth tracking down more of, the romance dealing with the life and legendary exploits of Antar aka Antarah ibn Shaddad. Especially if I can find a recent translation.

Anyway, this week, between bouts of World Literature, I've also found (hat tip to [livejournal.com profile] thistleingrey) The Wheel, the Horse, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World by David W. Anthony, which is an attempt to synthesize current archaeological and linguistic evidence about the speakers of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) and their homeland. The linguistics stuff is of course fascinating, but the modern steppe archeology (drawing on current Russian and Ukrainian work) even more so. Am about ⅓ in.

(Maybe it's just Yuletide season, but I want fic about anthropomorphic PIE words, like *kʷekʷlo- arguing with
*rotā-.)

---L.

Subject quote from "The Pass of Kirkstone," William Wordsworth.
larryhammer: a wisp of smoke, label: "it comes in curlicues, spirals as it twirls" (curlicues)
Read the Wednesday! Even if it's a little late! Because I have lately been reading, a little:

The Compass Rose by Gail Dayton, a reread -- I have ~50 pages to go, intending to do the whole trilogy at once. For values of "at once" that include "in 15-minute snatches every other night."

The Mister Rogers Parenting Book by Fred Rogers -- This is not the only parenting advice book I've read, of course, but the first I've wanted to mention: humane counsel that rings True in almost everything (the chapters on disabilities and adoption are problematic, though the problems are more from omission than by commission). Overall, many good reminders with nuggets of useful new advice. Why just getting to reading it now? Because I only just learned about it, and anyway its focus is 3-6 year olds.

But the bulk of my reading has been more of Encyclopedia Britannica 11e. (1911), which easily chunks into piecemeal times -- am ~½ through volume 11 (Franciscans to Gibson) after a digression into articles on Dutch history. The number of articles that bury the lede by assuming you already know what the subject of an article is, and are only there for more details, bemuses me.

Plus, sometimes, a little poetry here and there.

---L.

Subject quote from "The Captain’s Drum," Benjamin Franklin Taylor.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (classics)
Reading, meming, meming, reading.

Mostly, more articles from Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition -- right now, working through volume 11 (Franciscans to Gibson), where I am now being edified upon by French Literature.

But I've also started Parnasus edited by Ralph Waldo Emerson, a poetry anthology published late in life based on his commonplace book. As such, it has a lot of extracts not marked as such, supplied with editorial titles -- on the other hand, he includes entire several long poems, including Comus. His taste is, to my surprise, quite palatable. It turns out he was lukewarm on Wordsworth:
Wordsworth has the merit of just moral perception, but not that of deft poetic execution. How would Milton curl his lip at such slipshod newspaper style! … No great poet needs so much a severely critical selection of the noble numbers from the puerile into which he often falls. Leigh Hunt said of him, that “he was a fine lettuce with too many outer leaves.”
Well said, Mr. Hunt, well said indeed. (Emerson devotes several paragraphs to the issue, suggesting a certain defensiveness with this opinion.)

---L.

Subject quote from "To the Virginian Voyage," Michael Drayton.
larryhammer: a wisp of smoke, label: "it comes in curlicues, spirals as it twirls" (curlicues)
Reading? Reading! Well, some. Specifically, aside from finishing Books and Characters, all I've done is grazed selective* articles from a random slices of the 11th edition Encyclopedia Britannica snaffled from Project Gutenberg.**

Which is something to do carefully, of course -- as Wikisource notes: "The point of view held by the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica is roughly the one of the British and American educated classes at the beginning of the twentieth century. Any topic that would be sensitive to this point-of-view (POV) should be considered potentially biased … Changing circumstances and more recent research may have rendered this information obsolete or revealed it to be inaccurate, especially in the areas of science, law, and ethnography."

To give an example, the literature articles were edited by Edmund Gosse, who wrote several himself, and are, let us be diplomatic here, very late Victorian in mindset. Himself on John Donne:
The influence of Donne upon the literature of England was singularly wide and deep, although almost wholly malign. His originality and the fervour of his imaginative passion made him extremely attractive to the younger generation of poets, who saw that he had broken through the old tradition, and were ready to follow him implicitly into new fields…

The first impression of an unbiased reader who dips into the poems of Donne is unfavourable. He is repulsed by the intolerably harsh and crabbed versification, by the recondite choice of theme and expression, and by the oddity of the thought. In time, however, he perceives that behind the fantastic garb of language there is an earnest and vigorous mind, an imagination that harbours fire within its cloudy folds, and an insight into the mysteries of spiritual life which is often startling. Donne excels in brief flashes of wit and beauty, and in sudden daring phrases that have the full perfume of poetry in them.
Needless to say, I disagree with much of this.

OTOH, the math articles were overseen, and many written, by Alfred North Whitehead, so while they are firmly in the Principia Mathematica mindset, they are nicely lucid and readable.

Anyway, articles from a couple eighths of an encyclopedia volume, all either beginning with B and D.


* As in, what looked interesting.

** Pro-tip: to create an ebook TOC, use regex to parse out bolded article titles and stick them in heading tags.


---L.

Subject quote from "Wernher Von Braun," Tom Lehrer.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (classics)
Reading, reading. Not much, but some anyway.

In Tales of a Wayside Inn, in a discussion of whether artists should stick to local material or mine other cultures, which in 19th century America generally meant European subjects, one character says:
Poets—the best of them—are birds
Of passage; where their instinct leads
They range abroad for thoughts and words,
And from all climes bring home the seeds
That germinate in flowers or weeds.
Over his lifetime, Longfellow published five collections (called "flights") of poems under the general title Birds of Passage -- the second of which was tacked onto the end of the first installment of Tales. As suggested by the association, the subjects mostly range widely from the local, both in place and time. They also betray persistent anxiety over the purpose and power of poetry. Overall, the quality is good -- there are, in fact, a few anthology classics here, including "My Lost Youth" (which gave Frost the title for A Boy's Will), "Snow-Flakes," and my favorite, "The Children's Hour." I don't necessarily recommend reading all the collections, as I did, unless you already want to read more Longfellow. But I don't regret doing so.

In fiction, reread Earthlight by Arthur C. Clarke, which I haven't done since I was a teen -- when I read it a couple times a year (it was part of the handful of SF at our usual summer vacation place). It's a very white male future, without any women in sight (though a few are mentioned), and several aspects of how astronomy is done has been overtaken by technological progress. The story proper is sound, though, and I want to see a good writer (one who knows how to represent) to steal the plot revise it as a contemporary skiffy yarn of political intrigue. Possibly, along the way, adding some actual sense of tension to what is ostensibly a thriller.

In nonfiction, finished The Art of Fugue by Joseph Kerman, got only a little way into The Garden of Cyrus, and read ¾ of Books and Characters by Lytton Strachey, which is literary criticism in what I think of as the Woolfean Common Reader mode -- I got sucked into this because I was pointed to the essay on Beddoes. (I confess I end up skimming the French essays, as they include a lot of untranslated quotations.)

---L.

Subject quote from "The Kennebec," Anonymous.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (classics)
Reading, reading, reading. A little bit, anyway:

In poetryland, finished Tales of a Wayside Inn by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Well-handled all around, and I've seen several individual tales in anthologies over the years (and of course "Paul Revere's Ride" is a recitation classic), but the frame story arcs into … nothing. It just kind of shivers away in a burst of farewells. This might be why it's not read as a whole very much any more.

And then read Corilolanus by William Shakespeare, another reread of something last (though only once) read in my teens There is much here relevant to contemporary politics, though presented through the filter of an apparent virulent antidemocrat.

Over in prosestead, finished Hydriotaphia: Urne-Burial and started the other half of the book, The Garden of Cyrus. Also, am ¾ through The Art of Fugue by Joseph Kerman, a set of essays on various Bach fugues.

And in interactive fiction (IFstan), reread the classic, and very short, Pick up the Phone booth and Die by Rob Noyes, and read Bronze by Emily Short, a beautifully written and evocative retelling of Beauty and the Beast, in which you are Belle returning to the castle.

---L.

Subject quote from "Amazing," Beth Sorrentino.
larryhammer: stylized figures of a man and a woman on either side of a shopping cart carrying a heart (romance)
Wednesday, the now-traditional day for reporting on what we've been reading.

In poetry, various anthology things mentioned before, plus Tales of a Wayside Inn to about 2/3.

In fiction, finished Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs. Decent character arcing, not so much on the political arc (or maybe I mean the meta-series arc?). A bit thin, overall, was my general impression.

In nonfiction, I finally admitted to a limitation of learning English history from 1066 and All That: that my understanding of what happened between Henry I and Henry II really was too vague.* Turns out there's only a single reign in the gap, but since it was disputed, there's enough confusion to go around. All by way of prefacing that I did some scattered readings on King Stephen and Empress Matilda/Maude.**

One of which was Holinshed's account in Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, which prose got me jonesing for something a wee bit better in the thinky style department. I failed to find it in Montaigne (who I otherwise like), but succeeded with Sir Thomas Browne: am nearly finished with Hydriotaphia: Urne-Burial and have more lined up after that till I run out of steam. (There's a lot of Browne available, all with those rolling baroque sentences building to a specific effect.)


* Filling in the gap between the first two Richards is for another time, as I already have a little better handle on that, thanks in part to Drayton.

** Alternate forms of the same name: in Anglo-Norman she splits the difference as Mahaut.


---L.

Subject quote from "Mencheres," Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel.
larryhammer: a wisp of smoke, label: "it comes in curlicues, spirals as it twirls" (curlicues)
Reading meme Wednesday has come round again. As it does.

Shortly after my last post, my brain went on a fiction haitus -- just didn't wanna touch it. What I've read instead is, mostly, nonfiction from The New Yorker (I have a large backlog saved to Pocket). Two observations: it's worth reading just about anything by Jill Lepore, and Malcolm Gladwell's glibness initially hooks the reader but soon gets irritating.

This means Sorcerer to the Crown is still a couple chapters from the end, Rondo Allegro is abruptly DNF (I couldn't renew that one -- I should buy it), and I'm a couple chapters into Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope, one of his half-size novels in a more fluffy vein.

Ah, well.

---L.

Subject quote from "Blue Caravan," Vienna Teng.
larryhammer: a wisp of smoke, label: "it comes in curlicues, spirals as it twirls" (curlicues)
From a 1918 guidebook to Arizona and New Mexico:
[O]ne of the most interesting little cities of the Southwest—Tucson. It may be that not all will find this oasis town, lapped in the desert and girt about with low mountains, as much to their liking as I do, but I believe it possesses features worth going back on one’s tracks to see; for it has a decided character of its own. With an out-and-out modern American side, there is the grace of an historic past, whose outward and visible sign is a picturesque Spanish quarter in adobe, pink, blue and glaring white, clustering about a sleepy old plaza and trailing off through a fringe of Indian ranchería to the blazing desert.
The only local sight it then points up is the mission of San Xavier del Bac, which is actually a few miles south of town, on the reservation.

---L.

Subject quote from "Diamond Mountain," Luka Bloom.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Yotsuba runs)
What I've recently finished since my last post:

The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima - The climax was as good as expected, and I finished it really digging the protagonist's counterpart. I hope she shows up in the sequels.

100 Love Sonnets by Pablo Neruda tr. Stephen Tapscott - Yup, that's poetry alright. Tasty, tasty poetry. Excellent for reading to your beloved when you're in separate cities, during the phone call just before going to bed. And other times.

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata tr. Edward Seidensticker - Beautiful, well-written, depressing.

Faith & Practice, Intermountain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery - Hello unexpected first-person narrator, and a male one at that. I am not sure adopting a conceit that so strongly encourages Montgomery's early tendency to episodic novel structures was the best craft choice. Some of the title character's stories are, at least, quite wonderful. Pleasant, but no Blue Castle.

I thought there was something else, but maybe not. Hmm. Lose my head next.

What I'm reading now:

The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima - Second in the trilogy. it's taking me a while to warm up to Seph the way I did Jack from the first book. Plus, no Jack's counterpart yet, though I have reason to suspect she'll show up eventually. I need to finish it soon, though, as this is from the library.

A Tangled Web by L.M. Montgomery - Still working through it, slowly. Ensemble cast is not, of course, a bad thing, but wasn't quite what I was looking for in a Montgomery book.

Spice & Wolf volume 1 by Isuna Hasekura tr. Paul Starr - European-ambient fantasy about a traveling merchant (named Lawrence, hello) who forms an unlikely partnership with a wolf-spirit on the run from being a village's harvest goddess, having tired of the job after a few centuries. Just getting started, really, but liking it so far.

What I might read next:

Pat of Silver Bush, maybe?

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (wanderweg)
Recent interesting read: Unbeaten Tracks in Japan by that indefatigable Victorian traveler Isabella Bird. This records, in letters to her sister, a 1878 journey through Tohoku and Hokkaido. Largely because I've never seen much by way of the conditions in the countryside mid-Meiji period.

Bird is not a completely reliable or unbiased observer (and I wonder just how much she's failing to see that I don't know enough to recognize), and when she reaches Hokkaido, among the Ainu, she becomes an Amateur Victorian Anthropologist, Wince-Worthy Variety. However, comma, she's a curious and generally sympathetic observer, is far less orientalizing than many Western writers of the period (AVAWWV aside), and has a lively and entertaining style.

Also, it's amusing to see her casually press "Dr. Hepburn" into use as an interpreter in Yokohama.

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (wanderweg)
Recent interesting read: Unbeaten Tracks in Japan by that indefatigable Victorian traveler Isabella Bird. This records, in letters to her sister, a 1878 journey through Tohoku and Hokkaido. Largely because I've never seen much by way of the conditions in the countryside mid-Meiji period.

Bird is not a completely reliable or unbiased observer (and I wonder just how much she's failing to see that I don't know enough to recognize), and when she reaches Hokkaido, among the Ainu, she becomes an Amateur Victorian Anthropologist, Wince-Worthy Variety. However, comma, she's a curious and generally sympathetic observer, is far less orientalizing than many Western writers of the period (AVAWWV aside), and has a lively and entertaining style.

Also, it's amusing to see her casually press "Dr. Hepburn" into use as an interpreter in Yokohama.

---L.

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