Thursday, September 22, 2016

George Plimpton's T-Shirt

You know two things about me. 1. I love John Aubrey. 2. Every book I read has an owl in it. So it will not alarm you to discover that I am reading JOHN AUBREY: MY OWN LIFE, the wonderful biographical reconstruction - mostly in his own words - by Ruth Scurr, and it has an owl in it. We have had owls from Aubrey before. But in this case he makes friends with Francis Potter, who is "haunted" by Ovid's "barbarous Medea, mixing her witch's brew: roots, juices, flowers, seeds, stones, the screech owl's flesh and its ill-boding wings. He sees her, hair all unbound and blown about as she dances round..." (See also.) All of which gives Potter the idea of inventing the blood transfusion with chickens. Naturally! Aubrey helps out. Hey, as long as I've got you here, I was at Off Square Books a few nights ago, listening to a guy talk about his memoir. Once he and George Plimpton were out looking for what I believe this fellow called "the elusive burrowing owls of New Mexico." George Plimpton whipped off his t-shirt and tossed it into the air, where it attracted a large gathering of curious bats. Plimpton conjectured that the bats believed his t-shirt to be a delicious giant moth. I assume all this is in the book, or why did he bring it up? So I am putting his book on my list of books with owls in them.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Fcritching Loud

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM got in my head last night and I swear I can't remember why. But I lugged out a big old facsimile of Shakespeare's first folio, which I bought so Lee Durkee and I could compare our folio facsimiles - we know how to have a good time! And I looked at Puck's last speech... "If we shadows have offended"... or "fhadowes," ha ha! You know how that old-timey printing makes some s's look like f's. Good times! And then I saw that previous speech of Puck's, which I didn't quite remember, even though I remember tons of lines from A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM because I was in it when I was a teenager! That didn't deserve an exclamation point. I played the pivotal role of Snug the Joiner. Anyway, I saw the line, "And the Wolfe beholds the Moone," and thought, "Oh no! There is going to be an owl in this speech!" And there was: "the fcritch-owle, fcritching loud." And then I was like, I want to hear someone saying these lines. So I found a free streaming video of an old BBC (?) production and boy could you tell why it was free! It was copied from a terrible print. There were scratches and slashes and blotches all over the film, and the color was grotesquely faded. It was so washed-out that you couldn't read the white credits over the white sky. And I thought, "I'm not going to watch this!" But then came along the young David Warner, the young Diana Rigg, and the young Helen Mirren as three of the young lovers, all so captivating! And then some lump playing Demetrius. It's not his fault! I'm sure the actor is fine. Demetrius is just a big dud. He's no Snug the Joiner! Everyone knows if you ranked all the lovers Demetrius would come in last in every poll. But everyone else was so good that the blotches and slashes and missing frames and washed-out atmosphere started to seem like plusses... like... in fact... a line that was quoted to me from A MIDSUMMER'S DREAM one night in City Grocery Bar: "Trust me, sweet, out of this silence yet I pick'd a welcome." I couldn't stop watching it! It's a truly bewitching play! And then here was young Judi Dench, telling her fairies about "the clamorous Owle that nightly hoots," and I was like, okay, I definitely have to "blog" again, just this once, and you know why.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Or Maybe It's Genius

As you know, I'm not "blogging" anymore, but someone on twitter called McNeil a "filthy troglodyte" for not enjoying the works of Robert Sheckley, whoever he is. And it's all my fault. See? I told you "blogging" was useless. I should have included the final, qualifying line of McNeil's email: "Or maybe it's genius, but it sure seems like it sucks." Is everybody happy now? In the old days I would have looked up Robert Sheckley on wikipedia and probably found out he saved a baby from a fire or something and then I'd have to "blog" again about how sorry I was for besmirching Robert Sheckley via McNeil but now that I'm not "blogging" anymore I never have to learn how unfairly I've maligned Robert Sheckley and it's a huge relief.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

It Sucks

McNeil found this book in his parents' attic. "I read the first four pages, and it sucks," he reports.

Something Else I'm Not Going to Read

I can guarantee I am not going to read an Ian McEwan novel from the point of view of a fetus. But it has an owl in it, as I learned from the New York Times review of it. The New York Times also thinks it "cleverly takes its title from a line in HAMLET," but I'm fairly certain that can't be clever anymore. Nothing against Ian McEwan or fetuses!

Sunday, September 04, 2016


Lee Durkee emailed me a recent newspaper article about the ghosts of the Bee Gees! And in return I emailed him some stuff about HAMLET. I'm sure I am not the first to observe that Ophelia does all the stuff Hamlet only talks about, like going mad and committing suicide. Or she kind of falls out of a tree, doesn't she? It's not clear she meant to do it. But forget that! Here's my idea I told Lee: what if Ophelia feigns madness too, and fakes her own death, then disguises herself as her brother (who's really still in France) and kills Hamlet herself? That would be cool. Then she'd be doing EVERYTHING that Hamlet REALLY wanted to do (avenge father; kill Hamlet). And then you'd have a play called OPHELIA. I'm sure I'm not the first to have this idea. But even though I'm not "blogging" anymore I thought I'd stick it here like a post-it note.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Fortunate Descent Into Gibberish

I know for a fact I'm never going to read the new Tom Wolfe book but I also know it has owls in it thanks to a review by Dwight Garner. Mr. Garner marks this passage as one of Wolfe's unfortunate descents into gibberish but all I know is that if the whole book were like this maybe I WOULD read it: