Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mules, True Grit and Things

Listening to the lies coming out of the mouths of windy politicians in the U.S. House of Representatives these days is simply too much. For relief, I need to write of happy memories and some good news of the day or I’ll bust.

by Charlie Leck

Right up front here, let me apologize for all the errors -- typos and grammatical -- that were in yesterday's blog. That's embarrassing! I should have a proof reader. I'll try to be more careful in the future.

Then let me say that I've started an extraordinary book called DEADLY SPIN by Wendell Potter. It is why I am so convinced that the Republicans are currently just acting as factotum lackeys for the health and health insurance industries in their attempt to repeal the health care plan that was passed last year by the Congress. I'll write more about this in the next couple of days, but if you are curious now, listen to this conversation with Mr. Potter in an interview with Kerri Miller.
Now, let's get to some more enjoyable topics. You know, there's nothing more pleasurable for solid people than watching others who are enjoying themselves enormously. I know, I'm happiest in life when I see my wife or our children really having fun to the hilt -- as my wife did so completely when she was at the Bishop Mule Days in 1979...

The slide restoration project continues.
The photograph above is one of the restored slides I've been telling you about. We were out in the Sierra Mountains of California -- Mammoth Mountains-- west of Reno, Nevada, in 1979. Anne, of all things immaginable, wanted to go to the Bishop Mule Days in the small town of Bishop. We flew to Reno, rented an awfully nice sports car (it was wonderful being young) and took the spectacular drive through the mountains to the small town of Bishop. Driving a daring and breathtaking car through these mountains, as a young man, is really enjoyable. There seem to be mountain lakes everywhere and the small towns through which you pass are precious and filled with small art and craft shops and terrific places to have lunch. I purchased a wonderful photograph during this trip that I've always had hanging in our bedroom area -- and I think of this very nice excursion every time I look at it.

Bishop Mule Days
Once we got to Bishop, down in a valley, surrounded by the mountains, I took photographs and Anne had a ball. She's been a mule woman from a time before I met her. She owned, when I came into her life, a wonderful mule named Molly. I'm sure I'll come across photographs of Molly during this slide project and I'll be proud to publish them here. These days, Reba, is Anne's current mule and I have posted photographs of her on this blog in the past.

A full dose of Mule Days is really only for mule lovers. I hung on as best I could just by observing the happiness in Anne's eyes and the way she was enjoying it all -- the parade, wandering through the stabling area and then watching the various classes and exhibits in the arena. When we meandered around back there, in the stabling and grooming area, once those mule guys realized Anne was a mule woman, why those fellas just couldn't stop talking to her.

I guess the biggest kick I got out of Mule Days was watching a twenty-mule-team in action, having heard so often about such a team in Borax commercials when I was a kid. Ever try hunting down Borax Soap products in modern groceries store? I have; and with some eventual success, but it took some doing.

True Grit -- the novel!
Probably because of the current Cohen Brothers movie, I've been hearing a lot of raving about True Grit, the novel by Charles Portis, on Minnesota Public Radio lately, so I decided to pick up an audio version of it at the book store. I knew I was to spend a lot of time this week in the car, so it seemed a perfect idea. Turns out it was!

The unabridged novel, published in 1968, was read in a spectacular way by Donna Tartt who, it turns out, had grown up as a child with a grandmother and mother who both adored the novel. She explains that in a very good essay at the conclusion of the novel itself.

I had no idea the book was so highly regarded by literary scholars and that many people rate it way up on the list of America's best all-time works of fiction. If you like to do audio-books, I highly recommend this one to you. As a matter of fact, I'll send it along, at no charge, to the first person who sends me an email that says they'd like to have it (my email address is at the end of this blog).

I wrote here some time ago that I had picked up a copy of an old Tom Robbins book at a neighborhood book sale in Minneapolis for a buck or so. I read it months ago but I've never written here about it. Robbins is an extraordinary writer and I think of him as a more fathomable James Joyce.

In that book by Robbins, Switters, the book’s protagonist, commented in the fictional account that he once wrote a long (hours long) essay just on the first sentence from FINNEGANS WAKE. It was months ago that I read that comment, but it’s stuck with me and so, this morning, I pulled down my unread copy of the Joyce book and began…

One could consider it quite mysterious that James Joyce begins the story in the middle of a sentence; that is, unless once knows about Joyce and his idiosyncratic nature. It’s quite characteristic of this “stream of consciousness” writer to do something like this...

riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.”
[James Joyce; Finnegans Wake (opening sentence)

I guess we also need to remember that James Joyce was an Irishman; and that explains a few things as well.

How I remember the pain and agony of getting through ULYSSES – and remembering that causes me not to want to read this book any further than the 18 pages I got through this morning. I’ve a big stack of other books – both fiction and nonfiction – that I want to read through and that I'll enjoy.

In the meantime, though, here are some notes that Switters might have included in his fictional lecture about this opening sentence.

  • First, it’s not really an opening sentence at all; for it is a continuation of the very last sentence of the book
  • Riverrun could be either a noun and/or a verb phrase
  • Adam and Eve is a church, or a Franciscan Abbey, in Dublin
  • Is James talking about Adam and Eve’s Church? Or is he referring to Adam and Eve past?
  • Commodius vicus of recirculation is an interesting phrase! Remember that a commode, when flushed circulates the water (in a circular fashion) as it disposes of it! Or is he referring to the scholarly notation CV, or curriculum vitae and therefore possibly to “the course of life and/or history?”

So, the mysterious first sentence is no more understandable when it is read as a complete sentence by appending it to the last sentence of the book….

“A way a lone a last a loved a long the / riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs."

Perhaps now you understand why I have no intention to waste an extraordinary number of hours of the brief number I’ve probably got left in life on reading FINNEGANS WAKE. Thank you very much!

This blog is as close as I am ever going to come to Joycian writing!


Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it, send me an email if you’d like.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, great photos. Thanks for alerting me to your problems in accessing my blog. I think the problem may have been my addiction to making changes. I think I've got it under controlnow. - Tony