Saturday, August 24, 2019


Tonight is the 40th anniversary party for Square Books, so it is highly appropriate that even though I do not "blog" anymore, a chance occurrence yesterday, related to that august institution previously named, brings me here to confirm, by compulsive necessity, my controversial theory that every book has an owl in it. So it happened that Bill Boyle and Megan Abbott and I were crowding up the landing on the stairs at Square Books, huddled as we were over a volume that Megan had plucked from a display for our delectation. "I am in this book, telling the story of a ghostly encounter," Megan said, or words to that effect. Naturally, Bill and I were startled and delighted! "Quickly, quickly, let us move in all haste up the stairs, retaining this book in our possession for further study," I exclaimed. My cheerful plan was accepted by all. For you see, I had spied Richard Howorth entering his benevolent domain, and I did not wish for him to glance upward and conceive of me as a person who would in any manner impede the traffic that wends its merry way up and down the hallowed stairs of Square Books, the establishment of which we celebrate, yea, this very eve. Megan, Bill, and I settled ourselves, therefore, in the conveniently situated coffee section of the shop and in just such a spot it was confirmed, as might well be expected, that indeed Megan, a person of notable honesty already, was telling the truth, as is her wont. Yes, yes, there she was, appearing as a character in someone else's book! And on the same page, "a spooky owl in midflight." (See also.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Gee Your Owl Smells Terrific

As you know (ha ha! sure you do) I don't "blog" anymore. But I remain psychically compelled to "blog" every time I read a book with an owl in it, because I keep a big, long list of every book I read with an owl in it. So I was reading a Clarice Lispector book called AGUA VIVA, and what sentence should I run across but "It would never occur to me to have an owl, though I have painted them in caves"? And I thought, gee, that sounds familiar. (Parenthetically, the title of this "post" derives from the fact that I was originally going to call it "Gee Your Owl Seems Familiar," which reminded me of a shampoo of my youth called "Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific.") So I searched the "blog" and sure enough, I found ANOTHER Clarice Lispector book in which she claims "it would never occur to me to keep an owl" (note the subtle variation in the verb, which may be nothing more than a matter of translation). I wondered... did she have the same thought twice? If so, despite her protestations, it seems that very often it occurred to her to keep an owl, or at least that the possibility of having or keeping an owl was not out of the range of her imagination. In fact, one could argue that it ALWAYS occurred to her to have an owl or to keep an owl, to such an extent that she eventually had to make a decisive decision against it. Now, was AGUA VIVA simply quoted in the other book, or perhaps the other way around? Did one contain fragments of the other? Well! As you know (sure you do!) we bought a house not long ago and I threw the books onto the shelves in a willy-nilly order, as quickly as I could get them out of the boxes. And I don't feel like nosing around until I find the other book, just for the sake of comparing the two passages and drawing the sort of the ignorant conclusion that is my specialty. In parting, I will note that a wet washcloth was accidentally deposited on top of AGUA VIVA, and, as it is a thin book, it has been water-damaged through and through. Ironically? (Because of the title!) And it still hasn't dried out! Life is a constant adventure.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Faithful Apple

"Remember the apple tree from the blog?" writes McNeil. "Well, I had to cut it down. It was half dead and the squirrels were using it to get into the attic." I don't "blog" anymore, as you well know, but I had to come back this one last time to say goodbye to the faithful old apple tree from the "blog." Please enjoy this old photo of the blossoms on the old apple tree in the gentler times of old.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

He Said Captain

I don't "blog" anymore but sometimes I have something in my head and nowhere else to put it. For example, I finally watched THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, which I put off for a long time, because who wants to watch a movie about unpleasant people? And last night or the night before, I thought, well, haven't I watched lots of movies about unpleasant people? And also, maybe isn't everyone unpleasant now? And at one point Leonardo DiCaprio tells his sales team he is giving them "the tools to be Captain Ahab." And someone on the sales team says, "Captain who?" What Leonardo DiCaprio means is that he is going to help his sales team target "whales," by which, in turn, he means potential customers with a lot of money. Now! I have a column on the website POPULA, in which I read MOBY-DICK and talk about each chapter into a digital recorder, transcribing the dubious results in weekly installments. And certainly, under ordinary circumstances, "Leo's" riff on Captain Ahab would have gone into one of my "columns," as I do generously call them. But, having completed my reading of the novel on July 4th, and subsequently turning in my final dispatches, I knew that this passing allusion to MOBY-DICK in popular culture would remain forever unremarked upon, at least by me, unlike the time Elvis picked up his mic stand and brandished it like a harpoon during his famous 1968 comeback special, and said, "Captain Ahab!" I saw it with my own eyes when I was staying at that Elvis-themed hotel one time, and I do believe the sighting made it into a yet-to-appear edition of the so-called column about which I continue to yammer. "Captain who?" reminds me of the song Dr. Theresa and I used to sing quite a bit early in our courtship for reasons that fade from memory as time goes on: "He said captain/ I said what/ he said captain/ I said what/ He said captain/ I said whatcha want?" I know the title of that song is "Wot," not "What," but I can't bring myself to type it that way lyrically, though I seemingly harbor no similar misgivings about "whatcha." Anyway, when you think about it, it is funny to give someone the tools to be Captain Ahab.