Tuesday, 23 January 2018

155 - Casanova/Shakespeare/James

Short Story
Pablo Gonzalez Casanova: The Lion and the Cricket
When it comes to fights between a mammal and an insect, the insects win. A good story but a terrible translation, as are all the stories in this book.

William Shakespeare: Who is Sylvia
This is a song from Two Gentlemen from Verona, Act IV, scene 2. Sylvia is often spelled Silvia. Here's my favourite version, set to music by Schubert and sung by the King's Singers:

Clive James:  Fanfare for a Big Yin
A funny but slightly strange "essay" about Billy Connolly. I love the first sentence, which is so true:
Billy Connolly is a man loved even by those who hate him.

Monday, 22 January 2018

154 - Pentecost/Emerson/Joosten

Short Story
Hugh Pentecost: The Day the Children Vanished
I believe they call this a "closed room" mystery. A bus full of children is seen driving onto a "dugway" at one end, but never comes out the other side. The only places it could go are a frozen lake on one side or a mountain on the other, and it hasn't gone either way. It's simply vanished? How? Why? What's happened to the kids?  I enjoyed this one and didn't guess the ending.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: Concord Hymn (and Brahma revisited)
The Concord Hymn was written for the 1837 commemoration of the Battle of Concord and talks about the first shot fired in that battle in April. I know that the votive stone in the 3rd stanza refers to the obelisk they erected to commemorate the battle, but for some reason it made me think of the pile of stones visitors to Thoreau's cabin have made. I've added to the pile twice.
Here's a picture of the replica of the Old North Bridge (from Wikipedia).

I read Brahma before (on Day 16) but had no idea what it meant. I knew of Emerson only via Thoreau. (I've visited the latter's cabin--or reconstruction of it--at Walden Pond on a couple of occasions, and I knew Emerson visited him there.) They were both transcendentalists, and this poem is written when Emerson was fascinated by Hinduism and Brahma.

Melanie Joosten:  Too Hard, These Days
Joosten went to Bathurst Island (one of the Tiwi islands, off the coast of Darwin) to interview residents of a nursing home there. The differences between the philosophy of looking after aging Indigenous people on the island and the over-regulated, profit-driven nursing homes for Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people on the mainland are striking. The Tiwi islander people have it right. (This is another place I've been to, so I'm having a bit of a reminiscing evening.)

Sunday, 21 January 2018

153 - Derleth/Longfellow/Joosten

Short Story
August Derleth (1909-71): Adventure of the Grice-Paterson Curse
This story seems like a conventional whodunnit right to the end, when it has a rather bizarre twist. I'd never heard of Derleth, but he was apparently responsible for getting the writings of HP Lovecraft into print and is famous for little else.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:  The Wreck of the Hesperus (1842)
Inspired by events during a blizzard in 1839 in which several ships were lost, including the Hesperus near Boston, and another at Norman's Woe, after which a woman's body was found floating in the sea and tied to the mast. A beautifully written ballad.

Melanie Joosten: As Long as Life Endures
A very sad essay about loneliness in nursing homes, particularly that of a lady named Betty. It actually makes me feel like I'd rather do myself in if the only future I had was going into a nursing home to endure what life remains until I died. I have a friend who works in a nursing home, and the stories she tells are similar to those Joosten tells. We shouldn't have to end this way. The patriarchal capitalist system is an evil thing, if you ask me. Not that anyone does ask me.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

152 - Christie/Browning/Joosten

Short Story
Agatha Christie: The Disappearance of  Mr Davenheim
A fun Poirot story. It's been a long time since I've read an Agatha Christie story, and I enjoyed this one very much.

Robert Browning (1812-89): Song (from Pippa Passes)

THE YEAR’S at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;
The lark’s on the wing;        5
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world.

This seems a very simple poem and a far cry from the complexity I'm growing used to with Emily Dickinson, but apparently it's from a play, and I think the girl Pippa is a young, and perhaps innocent girl. I'll just have to find and read the play.

Melanie Joosten: Reading into Dementia
Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia have to be among the most frightening diseases of old age, simply because we tie so much of the meaning of ourselves with the mind and our memories. Joosten suggests we read novels to help us to understand the condition, especially those where the person with dementia is the protagonist. The ones she recommends are:
  • Emma Healey: Elizabeth is Missing
  • Fiona McFarlane: The Night Guest
  • Samantha Harvey: The Wilderness
  • Lisa Genova: Still Alive 

Friday, 19 January 2018

151 - Queen/Dickinson/Joosten

Short Story
Ellery Queen: The Adventure of the Seven Black Cats (1934)
This story was hard to resist from the first sentence on:
The tinkley bell quavered over the door of Miss Curleigh's Pet Shoppe on Amsterdam Avenue, and Mr Ellery Queen wrinkled his nose and went in.
He goes on to solve the dastardly crime, of course. A fun story, and I think it's the first I've ever read of Ellery Queen, which seems ridiculous, but there it is. I'm woefully ignorant of Ellery Queen so I just looked him up, and apparently the stories were jointly written by two cousins who used Ellery Queen as both the nom-de-plume and the name of the main character. I'm sure everyone else already knew this, but I didn't. It was a great idea.

Emily Dickinson: The Soul Selects Her Own Society (about 1862)

The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —

Melanie Joosten: Notes on Writing and Doing Good
This was an interesting and well-written essay about Joosten's thoughts on her own writings. I'm not sure what it has to do with the subject of the book (old age), but it was worth reading.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

150 - Ferry/Dickinson/Joosten

Short Story
Jean Ferry: The Fashionable Tiger (Le Tigre Mondain)
This is a story about animal abuse that occurred in vaudeville shows in the name of entertainment between the two world wars. Like the author, I hate this sort of thing. I'm glad it doesn't happen in shows today, but there are, unfortunately, plenty of animals in circuses and used in 'sport' -- abused for human amusement.

Emily Dickinson: My Life Closed Twice Before Its Close
My life closed twice before its close –
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me
So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.
The first line had me puzzled, although the poem is obviously about death and immortality. What does the first line mean? The consensus is that it's referring to deaths of those close to her, and this makes sense. Is the third event her coming death? Or the death of another  loved one? Another poem you can go back to over and over again. I really like Emily D.

Melanie Joosten: Big Sisters
An essay by the young feminist lamenting the divide between women like her and those who have gone before and are now old women. She speaks powerfully for young feminists to support and defend those who are still 'invisible' and still suffering after a lifetime of being treated as 2nd class citizens.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

149 - Bradbury/Poe/Joosten

Short Story
Ray Bradbury: The Happiness Machine
The happiness machine made me think of the Internet and sites like YouTube and Facebook. We're so busy engaging with cyber-life and vicarious happiness, we tend to forget the real life, and the real happiness around us.

Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven
A strange supernatural poem about a man lamenting the death of his lover Lenore. He's visited by a strange raven who sits on the door repeating the word Nevermore. Very rhythmical with lots of internal rhymes and alliteration.

Melanie Joosten: Home at Last
This is a sobering look at the housing problems of many older Australians, particularly long-term renters and those who lose their homes for one reason or another. Government policies are directly responsible for much of the suffering of homeless elderly people in this country. Home at Last is a scheme to try to find accommodation for such people.