"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pages of January

Three books with others underway, have helped warm the days of a cold month, completing my 67th circumnavigation of the sun.

First was completing "Atlantic' by Simon Winchester. http://simonwinchester.com/ I'm more impressed than ever with this author, a journalist who was in an Argentine jail during the Falklands war. He's traveled the length and breadth of The Atlantic and the story is long, but compelling. My kind of book..history, but more than that, the story of people.

Other words I had to look up as I moved from December into the last half of the book: cartouches,  paten, ineluctable, godowns, barbicans, cis-altlantic, scutched, envoi, gibbet, execrable, fettle, furze, invidious, demersel, ablating, eiderdowned.

His tales of the horrors of the slave trade, the romanticism of piracy, the way the Atlantic changed naval warfare, the problems of pollution and global warming, and the science of it all, made the long journey--459 pages--worth the trip.

Second book was 122 pages, Mary Oliver "Blue Pastures," a Pulitizer Prize poet I'd never heard of, as a ignorant journalist I guess, writes of writing and studying Edna St. Vincent Millay. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Oliver It's like she cleaned out her notebook and put a few things together. It stretches the mind.  If I hadn't visited Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma city one Friday, I'd never have found her.http://www.fullcirclebooks.com/

Oh, Blue pastures refers to the ocean. She lives at Provincetown, on Cape Cod. She also teaches at a college in Vermont. But since she doesn't have a degree--dropped our of Vassar--she couldn't teach at UCO. (No doctorate--so inferior). Words I had to look up: squamation, quahog, tautog. Still she had me with the chapter, "My friend Walt Whitman."

And the thoughts from these essays, like snippets from the notebooks she keeps and jots stuff down in:
  • "Look for verbs of muscle, adjectives of exactitude."
  • "Since diction has taken off its fancy dress and gone sauntering through the countryside...."
  • "Don't engage in too much fancy footwork before you strike a blow."
  • "Hasn't the end of the world been coming absolutely forever?"
Third book, read last night, has been around the house a while. It's Susan's copy of "About Alice" , 2006, by Calvin Trillin, about his late wife.  http://www.thenation.com/authors/calvin-trillinThis 70-some old page book by a star writer for The New Yorker, traces his partnership with his wife and her eventual death from cancer.

One quote: "One of the most negative words she could use in describing someone was 'passive.'"

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