sunday tune: sterolab - peng! 33



Curiosity was far greater than our fear
It felt so simple and so prodigious at the same time 
Incredible things are happening in the world
Magical things are happening in this world 
Across the river there are all kinds of magical instruments
While really we keep on living like monkeys 
Incredible things are happening in the world
Magical things are happening in this world
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what's possible



Manuscript of Emily Dickinson's poem 466:

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

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“This woman who wanted me always to feel possible.”—Jasmine Mans, describing her mother in Broccoli, Issue 11.

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I have been pregnant three times. My first pregnancy ended in abortion at 11 weeks, my second pregnancy resulted in a child, and my third pregnancy miscarried. Each time, I willingly chose to enter that space of uncertain possibilities that surrounds pregnancy. Each time, I did not know what to expect, though after that first time, I knew something more about how little anyone can actually know about what to expect when you are expecting. After the second, I was somewhat wiser about how vast and ongoing the commitment to another life is. And the third revealed just how callous practices of care directed toward pregnant people can be. I will not forget walking past all the cozy delivery rooms to access the grubby little curtained alcove where I got a D & C.

To take away what choice a person can have in such an uncertain undertaking as pregnancy, to say to someone, no, you must do this thing, this thing that will radically reshape your life and body and future, is cruel. I do not understand a “love” that looks past the person in front of you, the person who knows their own life, the person who has made a decision, the person asking for help, to prioritize protecting a pulsing clump of cells. Alive, true. But not a life, not yet. Just a possibility.

I wonder about these people, so enamored of blastocysts, of embryos—“a thing at a rudimentary stage that shows potential for development”—that they will demand its potential take precedence over the actualities of the living person sitting in front of them. Is it easier for them to love something abstract and unknown, something that can still be whatever they imagine it to be? Easier than loving actual humans, who can only be what they are? Such hubris, to know better what someone’s options should be. Of course, the fact of being the sort of human who can get pregnant continues to preclude full personhood in our culture, though a few of us may become CEOs and billionaires and whatever else. Better protect the flickering cells, the ones that could actually become a real person, provided it has the correct chromosomes.

Criminalization does increase the risk of physical harm. But that is basically a consumer protection argument: It’s not safe enough. The fact is that whether anyone ever climbed on an abortion table or not, the message of criminalization to all people who can get pregnant is: You don’t have dominion over your own body, you are always vulnerable, always in danger of being surveilled.

Historian Ricki Solinger, from "You Are Endangered as a Citizen." N+1, 5/5/2022


This is a reality like a massive mountain, maybe too massive to see the scope of until the light hits right, and it’s illuminated in its awful vastness. And whenever that happens, when some of us realize yet again that we still are not really seen as actual people, we start sharing our very real stories to assert our full personhood, something only white men and fetuses are granted here in the United States. My feeds this week are full of people sharing their abortion experiences. There are people who didn’t think twice about having an abortion; others, like me, who grieved but felt relieved; still others who later regretted it. And after these outpourings, the certain circle these stories like vultures, picking for narrative morsels that feed their arguments. It’s exhausting.

No single story ever encapsulates any human experience. And I am increasingly wary of stories, anyway. The ugly power of narrative is evident everywhere in this country. Maybe what we need is to step away from storytelling—the repeated tales of what a mother is, of what a person should be—to dwell in possibility. Why is what we do with our bodies endlessly up for debate, whether that is choosing not to be pregnant or getting the care needed to align an inner and outer self? Why are people so afraid of making space for choice? Of accepting that people do, in fact, know what is best for them, in a way others can’t?

What a tragedy to spend fifty years trying to shut a door rather than change the path that leads to it. (See here: the evident hypocrisies in the anti-child policies of so-called pro-life states). What a tragedy that so many people still feel that what they most want is others to have less, not more. What a tragedy that we still have yet to embrace the full bewildering glory of actual human potential.

What I want most for my child is that whoever he is or wants to be feels possible. But I also want him to realize, in such a foundational way that it shapes everything he understands, is that radical possibility extends to everyone around him—that no one is a story set in stone, that everyone is always changing, always becoming. That choice is freedom, and everyone deserves to be free.

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Other thoughts on choosing motherhood.

books read lately / 5.2.2022


In a very peculiar coincidence, I read two excellent, wildly different books written by women in their 30s from 1936 back to back. Winifred Holtby's South Riding (picked up thanks to Backlisted) is a panoramic account of the happenings of a fictional English place in the 1930s. Holtby based the book on her mother's experiences in local politics, and her mother found it uncomfortably real—she opposed publishing it. But when Holtby died in 1935, her friend Vera Britten edited the manuscript and got it into print. When it was published in 1936, it was an immediate success.

In it, local government officials try to build affordable housing, the new principal of the girls' high school deals with insufficient funds and personnel challenges, a local landowner faces the loss of the family farm, a tubercular socialist struggles with the compromised work of making change, a minister tries to hide his sins, a bright girl is hemmed in by poverty and gender expectations, a retired chauffeur doesn't realize his wife is dying, and a salesman's family struggles to hold on to the semblance of middle-class life. There is also a measles epidemic and various love affairs, some thwarted, some successful, some sad, some hilarious. These events jostle against each other, and Holtby lets them jostle without distracting writerly machinations or interpolations, depicting the turbulent flow of ordinary lives with a capacious, unsentimental generosity. It's similar to the magic of Middlemarch but in a quieter vein and less about the unseen good of individual acts than the imperfect but essential good of community. Reading it made me feel a little bitter and wistful, functioning local governments and communities being relics of a vanished past.

Stevie Smith's Novel on Yellow Paper, also published in 1936, could not be more different. It is electrifying from the first sentence:
Beginning this book (not as they say book in our trade—they mean magazine) beginning this book, I should like if I may, I should like, if I may (that is the way Lord Phoebus writes), I should like then to say: Good-bye to all my friends, all my beautiful and lovely friends. 
And for why? 
Read on, Reader, read on and work it out for yourself. 
The narrator, one Pompey Casmilus, then describes being at a party with her friends:
Suddenly I looked round. I thought: I am the only goy. There was a newspaper man there and a musician and some plain business men. But the Jews. Well all to say about the Jews has been said, so I'll leave it. But then I had a moment of elation at that party. I got shot right up. Hurray to be a goy! A clever goy is cleverer than a clever Jew. And I am a clever goy that knows everything on earth and in heaven. This moment of elation I am telling you about: the only living person in that room, the cleverest person in that room; the cleverest living goy. 
Do all goys among Jews get that way? Yes, perhaps. And the feeling you must pipe down and apologize for being so superior and clever: I can't help it really my dear chap, you see I'm a goy. It just comes with the birth. It's a world of unequal chances, not the way B. Franklin saw things. But perhaps he was piping down in public, and apologizing he was a goy. And there were Jews then too. So he put equality on paper and hoped it would do, and hoped nobody would take it seriously. And nobody did.
My proprieties jolted, I kept reading. Turns out this Pompey is the questing and aware literary love child of Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf, keyed in to the peculiarities, hypocrisies, happinesses, and evils of life for a young white single working woman in 1930s Britain. She is the bolder foremother of lesser autofioctionalists to come (obvious threads from Smith's own life are woven into Pompey's) and the garrulous, erudite, funny, and oblique cousin to the narrator of Anna Burns' Milkman. The novel lopes away with a relentless, singular, off-kilter energy, following Pompey's spiraling thoughts on everything from writing the book (at the office, on yellow notepaper) to work, broken engagements, the problem of marriage, internal hypocrisies, Germany's looming menace, beloved friends, joyous sex, and tigerish aunts. Smith knows who she is writing for:
Reader, I will give you a word of warning. This is a foot-off-the-ground novel that came by the left hand. And the thoughts come and go and sometimes they do not quite come and I do not pursue them to embarrass them with formality to pursue them into harsh captivity. And if you are a foot-off-the-ground person I make no bones to say that is how you will write and only how you will write, And if you are a foot-on-the-ground person, this book will be for you a desert of weariness and exasperation. So put it down. Leave it alone. It was a mistake you made to get this book. You could not know.
If you are a foot-off-the-ground person, I cannot recommend it enough.
Other books read lately:

Barbara Comyns, Our Spoons Came From Woolworths:  Comyns is another foot-off-the-ground writer, though she lulls you into thinking she's not. A young woman's experiences of marriage, work, motherhood, and love in late 1940s London silkily winds the harrowing and the mundane together in one smooth skein, revealing the squalor, sexism, and terrifying precarity beneath the apparent "freedom" of the artistic life. As with all Comyns novels, hilarious and harrowing.

Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad: The Odyssey retold by Penelope, Odysseus' wife. After spending centuries in Hades, she is finally driven to share her side of the story, though it is interrupted by the twelve hanged maids killed by Telemachus, who appear like deranged Zeigfield chorines to comment on the proceedings. Marvelous concept bluntly executed.

Irene Solà, When I Sing, Mountains Dance: A family tragedy set in a small village in the Pyrenees spun and chopped and stretched, with narration from mushrooms and lightning bolts and dogs and the ghosts of seventeenth-century witches. Fun to read, but I had high expectations of glorious deep weirdness and found a trauma plot filigreed with weirdness instead. 

Kate Colby, Fruitlands: The blurb on this slim book of poems reads: "In this collection, cultural work is social innovation, and Kate Colby produces and decomposes identity, history, and narrative through fully engaged aesthetic practice." Reading that description shrivels me like a salted slug. But I bought this book anyway, for the cover and title—a picture of the Alcott's house, a nod to their disastrous utopia. And the poems read to me (like most poems I read) as incomplete clues to another mind and its experiences. I liked these because they make me feel pleasantly drugged, or at least how I imagine pleasant drugginess, given that I cannot partake of substances. Happily perplexing, usefully softening my mind, allowing me to see/feel something different. Plus, they made me laugh.

Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your MotherHartman's profoundly personal exploration of Ghana's role in the Transatlantic slave trade is, in a word, phenomenal, the sort of book that feels as though it is gently but firmly rearranging your mental furniture. There is a critical (marketing?) move breaking complicated books into algorithmic genre keywords—history, memoir, essay, etc. This book is beyond that reductive nonsense. It is a glorious whole—Hartman's whole selfmind and experience and feeling and research—applied to recalling, reimagining, and reanimating a fraught history full of contradictions and pain. Woven in with recollections of her experiences in Ghana are incisive disentanglements of cherished myths and hard-to-face facts and conjurings of the unrecorded realities. The approach struck me as akin to visible mending—a practice of repair that does not make a hole invisible but calls attention to it while giving something torn new life. 

Frog Pond Splash: Collages by Ray Johnson, Texts by William S. Williams: An engrossing love letter from Williams to Johnson, because what is love if not the ability to see who someone else is? Elizabeth Zuba's pairing of text excerpts culled from personal emails and various publications with specific works of art is pure editorial wizardry. One thing I underlined:
One can have the work of art, or one can have its sources. In tracing the work to its sources it is lost, because as analysis disintegrates the whole into parts, the parts lose their meaning, which is the bearing of part upon part in the construction of a unified work of art.
Elizabeth Taylor, Mrs. Palfrey at the ClarmontI have read just one other Elizabeth Taylor novel (Angel), but what wonderful, subtle, surprising pleasures they are. Mrs. Palfrey, widowed and distant from her daughter, moves into the Clarmont, a mid-tier London hotel, to live out the rest of her days in shabby gentility among a tenacious, gossipy little community of older folks. She accidentally meets a young aspiring writer who pretends to be her grandson. Hijinks ensue, but Taylor's marvelous, unshowy writing reveals both the absurdity and bittersweet depth of this characters and their seemingly narrow world.

John le Carré, SilverviewRead this last le Carré about a clueless bookseller and a lovelorn spy in a whirl of bittersweet emotion; slight yet satisfying.

Mick Herron, Slow Horses + Dead Lions: The first two in a series of pacy novels about washed-up MI5 agents; books as television (and better as television).
 
Adania Shibli, Minor Detail: In 1949, an Israeli commander stationed in the desert near the Egyptian border is bitten by a spider. The bite festers dangerously, but he continues with his mission: to patrol the area, to search for guns. When his troops happen upon a group of nomads, they are massacred, except for one girl and her dog. At first, it appears the commander may protect her—why else would he save her?—but he rapes her, and then his troops rape her, and they murder her. Years later, a jittery young Palestinian woman in Ramallah reads a brief mention of this crime. She unexpectedly becomes fixated on the fate of the murdered girl, who died on the day she was born, and decides to try and find where it happened—a tortuous process of crossing checkpoints and entering hostile spaces. The first story is related in dispassionate third-person, while the second shifts into nervy first-person, amplifying their nightmarish twin-ship. Reading it feels like dreaming a terrible dream that has the cold edge of truth.

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Drawing by Stevie Smith.

Photo of marbleized books by Addyman Books

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flowers for mothers




















Flowers for mothers is a stereotype my childfree and early-mother self would have raged or rolled her eyes at, but that's because my thinking was (is, sigh) deeply polluted by the anti-mother feeling that pervades U.S. culture—the sense that all mothers, good or bad, are essentially a joke (hi, mom jeans) and that to be one is to be something less than. (An assessment women, childfree or not, cannot escape whatever lives they choose.) Mother's Day is a cultural sop, a day of genuflection to a myth that pretends to elevate mothers while keeping them in their place, barricaded by bathrobes and brunches and greeting cards, making them a smooth, featureless monolith instead of a craggy and vast collection of individual humans practicing that most valuable and complicated human task in idiosyncratic and adaptive ways: caring for others. 

I hate calling motherhood "work" because it pulls this wild and unpredictable and ever-evolving life-reshaping commitment down to the level of the time-wasting nonsense people get paid to do in cubicles, making it sound like it can be measured in dollars. And my life is not some sort of value-generating variable waiting to be quantified. But I do like the idea of taking a day to mark this experience, imperfect and individual as it is. Flowers, individual and imperfect themselves, subject to weather and climate and care and chance, don't feel like a limiting stereotype anymore. More like the movement of like toward like.

(P.S. Yes, I am aware of the irony of paring this micro rant with a list of buyable things. What can I say: I'm a product of my times.)

Pansies for thoughts: Livia Cetti paper pansy.
Nothing But Flowers exhibition catalog from Karma.
Springtime chocolates by Shane Confectionery.
A béo bergamot soap colored with butterfly pea flower.
Trompe-l'œil daisy painting by Helen Betrand, ca. 1969.

odds and ends / 3.30.2022



I hate the term in her own right—as in “artist in her own right”—because it suggests that we are still bound to our overshadowed lives, like freed slaves. I hate the word muse, too, for the same limiting reason. We are both referred to as muses, and you have repeatedly been described as “a painter in her own right,” as I have. Why are some women artists seen for what they are uniquely? What is it about us that keeps us tethered? Both of our talents are entirely separate from those of the men we have been attached to—we are neither of us derivative in any way. Do you think that, without fully understanding why, we are both of us culpable?

Celia Paul, "Against any Intrusion: Writing to Gwen John." The Paris Review, 3/2/2022.

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I sometimes wonder, though, how many times “rediscovery” can happen before we begin to grow tired of being constantly reacquainted with the figure of the neglected woman artist. But the narrative seems unlikely to wear itself out: it is already ubiquitous, continuing to find purchase across social media, newspaper columns, essays, and blogs, as well as a home in the mouths of well-meaning individuals. As Sara Ahmed writes, “the more a path is used the more a path is used.” The more we repeat the same narratives, the more they solidify into the only ways of thinking and speaking about particular issues—issues that lose their complexity as a result. ... The central problem with this narrative is its very clear limitations. As Cooper’s sarcasm suggests, the language in which rediscovery is couched is often about reorienting the individual artist, assimilating her into the canon of greatness, rather than actually dismantling the structures of power that have led to such women being ignored in the first place.

Katie da Cunha Lewin, "The Politics of Rediscovery." LARB, 8/17/2020.

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Americans have powerful fantasies about what work can provide: happiness, esteem, identity, community. The reality is much shoddier. Across many sectors of the economy, labor conditions have only worsened since the 1970s. As our economy grows steadily more unequal and unforgiving, many of us have doubled down on our fantasies, hoping that in ceaseless toil, we will find whatever it is we are looking for, become whoever we yearn to become. This, Malesic says, is a false promise. While the book rarely veers into polemic, it has a strong moral-religious bent. It is an attack on the cruel idea that work confers dignity and therefore that people who don’t work—the old, the disabled—lack value. On the contrary, dignity is intrinsic to all human beings, and in designing a work regime rigged for the profit of the few and the exhaustion of the many, we have failed to honor one another’s humanity.


Charlie Tyson, "The New Neurasthenia." The Baffler, 3/25/2022. 

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I have a confession to make: I do not work. I am on SSI. I have very little work value (if any), and I am a drain on our country’s welfare system. I have another confession to make: I do not think this is wrong, and to be honest, I am very happy not working.


Sunny Taylor, "The Right Not to Work: Power and Disability." Monthly Review, 3/1/2004. 

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Throughout this period, Glass supported himself as a New York cabbie and as a plumber, occupations that often led to unusual encounters. "I had gone to install a dishwasher in a loft in SoHo," he says. "While working, I suddenly heard a noise and looked up to find Robert Hughes, the art critic of Time magazine, staring at me in disbelief. 'But you're Philip Glass! What are you doing here?' It was obvious that I was installing his dishwasher and I told him I would soon be finished. 'But you are an artist,' he protested. I explained that I was an artist but that I was sometimes a plumber as well and that he should go away and let me finish."

John O' Mahoney, "When Less Means More.The Guardian, 11/23/2001.

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Apart from this despair about money, there was a worse despair; the fact that having to devote so much energy and time to obtaining the very basic monies for living, there was little strength (let alone peace of mind) left for working on the books whose non-completion was daily haunting and tearing away at my mind. I was, for a period, reduced to a total feeling of inferiority, hating myself, placing no value on myself, lacking all confidence.

Kay Dick, Friends and Friendship, quoted by Jennifer Hodgson, "Dreadful Present." New Left Review, March 11, 2022.

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She would hold down this unremarkable job for the next 30 years, her employer a 'lodestar in a disordered existence.' ... Her work was dull, but it did not capture her mind–'I did not want a job where I had to use up my whole energy'–leaving her free to read, something she did omnivorously.

Rachel Cooke, "Stevie Smith, steel soul of the suburbs." The Guardian, 4/6/2015.

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How can you explain that a cultural phenomenon people know and love is really a cartoon version? And at what point do you give up and accept that the cartoon now has its own separate life?


Bee Wilson, "Too Specific and Too Vague." The London Review of Books, Vol. 44, No. 6, March 24, 2022. 

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There’s an anecdote I’ve heard about Herbert Marcuse being interviewed at his home in La Jolla, California. The interviewer says something challenging, like, “Herbert Marcuse, you’re a Marxist thinker, but I’m looking at all this luxury. We’re lounging around your swimming pool. What do you say to that?” And Marcuse supposedly replies, “Nothing is too good for the people.”


Jude Stewart, "How to Choose Your Perfume: A Conversation with Sianne Ngai and Anna Kornbluh." The Paris Review, 3/23/2022.

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imaginary outfit: friday night dance party

 



It started in the fall with turning on some music after dinner on Friday nights and dancing around a little bit before the kid's bath time. Then, some curtain lights went up for Christmas in November and never got taken down; those get turned to flash mode (sometimes they sync with the beat: magic). Next, play silks and a flip-sequin snake came on the scene, and now every Friday night, for a half-hour or so, we go wild. A small kid with a glitter snake wrapped around his neck takes flying leaps off the couch while his parents twirl scarves through the air and bust moves last seen several vibe shifts ago.

I have no idea how long this kid will want to dance like a fool with us (six is a golden, golden age!), so I am making the most of it. I'm stalking resale sites for sparkly accessories that can be tossed on top of PJs and sweats (plus of the at-home dance-party: comfort rules). My search history now includes "eco-conscious body glitter" and "used disco mirror ball" and "Lurex." Color-change lightbulbs are being contemplated. 

I wasn't expecting to spend my 43rd year dressing for/throwing at-home child-friendly nano raves, but sometimes life turns out so much better than you expect in these weird small ways. Now, I have to go think up tonight's playlist ... 

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books read lately / 3.7.2022




God is in everything I'm reading these days. Sean gave me a subscription to a virtual class called “Among the Ancients,” and I've been trying to get my brain ready to reread The Iliad and The Odyssey (I find Achilles and Odysseus fairly loathsome company; give me Aeneas schlepping his father out of the ruin of Troy, holding his young son by the hand any day). To increase my tolerance for classical tales of toxic men, I have been reading riffs on Ovid’s Metamorphosis as a gentle way to reacquaint myself with various ancient divinities and stories. And it is funny—though it has been twenty years since I last sat in a classics classroom, and longer still since I spent afterschool hours sprawled on my stomach reading D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, as I read, I find my brain is like the shadowy crowded place on the edge of classical hell. The turned pages summon the shades of tales once-known and half-forgotten, full of characters eager to speak to me.



But back to our friend Publius Ovidius Naso, doomed to die in exile because “of a poem and a mistake.” His Metamorphosis is a cannily selected and eternally beguiling compendium of Greek and Roman tales about passion-sparked transformations. Zachary Mason’s Metamorphica reimagines some of its best-known selections, in brief stories lightly seasoned with antiquity and organized into literal constellations (there are star maps!) oriented toward emotions sparked by Aphrodite, Athena, Zeus, Nemesis, Dionysus, Apollo, and Death. (Mason did something similar in The Lost Books of the Odyssey, an enjoyable read recasting some parts of that epic and filling in some beguiling gaps) Metamorphica is clever and fun, but because it is clearly a single mind/sensibility playfully inhabiting many characters, the voices and stories blur into each other a bit. These stars are a little fuzzy.



Mark Prins’ The Latinist turns a single myth—Apollo’s attempted rape of Daphne, which she escapes by painfully transforming into a tree—into a modern-day academic thriller, hinging on the power imbalance between a toxic male advisor and a female PhD candidate, poisonous recommendation letters, archaeological digs, and the attribution of ancient Roman poetry fragments. It was captivating—I found myself holding my breath and muttering “Oh, NO” at a section involving an academic conference and PowerPoint presentations, of all things—until a wild swerve at the end broke the spell with a sex scene that struck me as a manifestation of unbelievable/depressingly standard male wish-fulfillment over character integrity/plausibility. 

I am partway through rereading Ted Hughes’ Tales From Ovid, an adroit and particularly beautiful rendition of 24 myths, conjuring the mesmeric shapes of stories twisted and refined through a thousand years of telling and thinking. This bit, from “The Rape of Proserpina,” tells of how the Sirens came to be—Proserpina/Persephone’s friends, who looked for her after Pluto/Hades stole her away to be his bride in hell:
... they too had gone searching for her
All over the world. In the end
They prayed for wings to cross the sea
And tell the ocean depths of their trouble.
The gods consented, and the amazed girls

Saw their bodies equipped with golden plumage
And the wings and feet of birds. But their singing,
So loved by the gods, escaped this mutation,
Their tongues, their throats, their voices remained
       unaltered—
Live shrines of unearthly human voices.
Theirs are the unearthly human voices Odysseus will strap himself to the mast to hear as his crew frantically rows on, their ears stuffed with wax.



Anna Della Subin’s engrossing and brain-bending Accidental Gods investigates another form of “live shrine” that has shaped the world as we know it. Della Subin’s "accidental gods" are humans venerated as deities, usually in their lifetimes and often under protest, and they include everyone from Christopher Columbus to James Cook, Douglas MacArthur, Haile Selassie, Gandhi, various petty colonial administrators whose insatiable spirits crave whisky and cigars, and Donald Trump:
The accidental god haunts modernity. He, always he, walks bewildered into the twenty-first century, striving for a secular authority yet finding himself sacred instead. He appears on every continent on the map, at times of colonial invasion, nationalist struggle, and political unrest. To speak of men unwittingly turned divine is to sing a history of how the modern world came to be.

Possession by modernity in the form of a chugging locomotive also makes an appearance. 


Many astute reviews have been written about this unexpectedly thrilling book (see: NYT, LRB, NYRB) and it is a true unicorn, the rare academic work that is actually pleasurable and illuminating to read as a non-credentialed person, stuffed with enough fascinating detail to inspire a half-dozen popular histories and story collections. (Someone needs to pitch a page-turner biography of the absolutely wild life of Annie Besant—radical labor organizer turned entrepreneurial mystic and agitator for Indian independence. The mix of activism, spiritualism, idealism, white savior-ism, and motherhood is absolutely tuned to the now.) 

Like spaghetti strands twining around a twirled fork, Della Subin's tales of happenstance gods wind into one big bite: the story of how whiteness became divine, the ultimate false idol to overthrow. Two other  things I took from it (probably obvious to others but one of my joys in reading is stumbling across reminders of big obvious things that I too easily forget): that situating events more broadly in time changes how you understand them (a man acclaimed as the son of God is not so very radical or miraculous in a culture where emperors and famous people were regularly deified) and how translation, even careful translation, inevitably shifts meanings and confers power, often in perilous ways. So much of what we think we know/take as "true" is the garbled message at the end of a long, long game of telephone.

Hugh and I also read Alice in Wonderland; flamingo croquet and a classics master that teaches "Laughing and Grief"—an eternal delight.


Hew Locke, The Wine Dark Sea, DD. 2016. 

Allessandro Allori, Odysseus questions the seer Tiresias, 1580. Florence, Palazzo Salviati (Banca Toscana).

Stefano della Bella, Apollon et Daphné. Etching, 1644. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Terracotta statuette of a siren, ca. 550-500 B.C.E. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I. Hall and I. Thornthwaite and S. Smith after G. Carter, The Death of Captain James Cook. Engraving, 1794. Wellcome Collection

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