Books for Cross-Country Bus Trips &/or Prison Sentences; Happy 10th, Susie!

Before I address the title, I want to announce that we may not be moving after all.  The reason it looked like a fait accompli is because we are so damn behind on rent, due to medical and other expenses, that the landlord had sent us a certified letter announcing that we had to be out.  But we’re paying him about $800 when I get paid on Friday (not that it’ll leave much afterwards), and that will make a small dent in what we owe him.  After we pay the cell phone bill–and that is a must with Susie taking public transportation to and from school–I’ll be rolling pennies to satisfy my caffeine habit.

Speaking of my caffeine habit, it’s caused something physical in its wake.  (I’ve built up such a tolerance that I can drink a two-litre in one sitting and still doze off right afterwards.  I’m not like Tweek on South Park at all!)  I have had an issue with my right eyelid jittering–not a real symptom, but more of an annoyance.  So I went to an ophthalmologist (am I spelling that right?) in the Arena District, and he diagnosed myokymia.  I was less than truthful about my caffeine intake, and when I told Steph about it later, I "forgot" to mention that excessive caffeination could cause it.

Here’s a definition of it from the Web:

Eyelid myokymia: Fine continuous contractions of the eyelid muscle, typically involving one of the lower eyelids, less often an upper eyelid. The condition occurs spontaneously, sometimes triggered by stress, fatigue, caffeine or alcohol. In most cases, the condition is benign and ceases of its own accord.

The only one on that list that doesn’t apply to me is alcohol.

Susie turned 10 yesterday, precisely at 1:13 p.m.  We’ve told her she could have *big* birthday parties on the multiples-of-five years.  So this year she had 12 girls over (although we mailed out many more invites, and hardly any people picked up the phone to RSVP one way or the other), and they played Blind Portraiture and Win, Lose, or Draw.  I managed to stay above much of the fray, including walking one of the girls home afterwards.  I helped set up and break down, but I would have possessed the only Y chromosome at the party.

One of the advantages of government employment is that I have tomorrow off in honor of Columbus Day.  We’re celebrating the event by meeting with Susie’s speech pathologist at St. Mary Magdalene.  (Her "pathology," to my untrained ear, is nothing more than a rather snaky S when that sound ends a word.)

Anyway…

Here’s my list of books I wouldn’t read except for cross-country train trips or prison sentences.  (I have read some of them already, some I have not)

Raintree County, by Ross F. Lockridge, Jr.  I read this on a train from San Francisco to Cleveland, returning from my honeymoon.  Steph tried to read some of it over my shoulder and gave up after about five pages.  I read it more thoroughly as a Book on Tape, about 36 90-minute cassettes.

The Stones of Summer, by Dow Mossman.  After I saw the movie Stone Reader, I went straight to http://www.abebooks.com and ordered it, thinking such a novel must be phenomenal to so intrigue the director.  Wrong.  Only got about 20 pages into it and gave up.

The Rosy Crucifixion, by Henty Miller.  All three volumes.  I borrowed my copy from the State Library of Ohio (another perk of my job, one that very few of my fellow workers take advantage of), and I have a hard time working up any enthusiasm for it.

The Book of Mormon.  This misspelling is common–the second M doesn’t belong there.  There are parts of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament that are quite dull–even the most devout people I’ve ever known readily agree with this.  The Book of Mormon cannot be divinely inspired, because no Deity could be this boring.

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand.  This is the book that made me decide once and for all that my favorite Marx Brother was Karl.  The paperback is set in a font known in the trade as 8-point eyestrain, and that alone will lull the reader off to dreamland.

My Secret Life, by "Walter."  This is the no-holds-barred memoir of a Victorian man in the 19th century, chronicling every sexual experience he had, from toilet training up to and including middle age.  It was wild and exciting the first few pages–there was never a Classics Illustrated edition, I don’t think–but it gets old.  It was so raunchy that it had to be produced originally in The Netherlands, hiring a Dutch typesetter who didn’t know English.  The first press run was less than 10 copies–one is at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, one is in the Vatican Library, and one is at the British Museum.  Grove Press produced a complete version and an edited one.  The complete one is 14 volumes, all in one large book.  The book’s contents can be summed up as "It moved.  I fucked it.  The end."

The Golden Bough, Sir James George Frazer.  This would be more of a reference book than one you’d sit down and read cover to cover.  There is some very good information about pre-Christian forms of worship, pagan and nature-based religion and rites, etc.  The hard part is seeing past the patronizing attitude in which the book is written.  The implication of "Look what these ignorant savages believed before we Christianized them" hangs over every page.

The Inman Diary: A Public and Private Confession, by Arthur Crew Inman, edited by Daniel Aaron.  This is the diary of a recluse, bad poet, and crank who lived in Boston from 1919 until his suicide in 1963.  He left behind a 155-volume diary, whittled down to two heavy volumes by Dr. Aaron.  (Harvard University Press whittled it down even further, to a single volume called From a Darkened Room.)

Here is Inman’s bio, taken from the Wikipedia.  Would you spend time reading something from this man if you had other choices?  (I do hope to equal or surpass him in diary tonnage, though.)

 

Arthur Crew Inman (18951963) was a reclusive and unsuccessful American poet whose 17-million word diary, extending from 1919 to 1963, is one of the longest English language diaries on record.

Inman grew up in Atlanta and seems to have had some kind of serious breakdown at 21. He moved to Boston, where he became increasingly obsessed with his health. He lived for much of his life in dark, soundproofed apartments. Having inherited wealth meant he was able to afford his hypochondria and other eccentric ways, as well as servants and people hired specially to come and talk to him. His wife, Evelyn, appears to have accepted that he would have sex with some of these so-called ‘talkers’. He attempted suicide on several occasions, and finally succeeded with a revolver in 1963.

Inman was obsessive about his diaries which he hoped would bring him immortality. Following his death, the 155 volumes of the diary remained mostly unpublished. In 1985, Harvard professor of English and American literature Daniel Aaron painstakingly put together and published a two-volume abridged edition.

Inman’s diary is not only considered unique by some but has been called ‘the most remarkable diary ever published by an American’. Through its many volumes, Inman provides a panoramic record of people, events, and observations from more than four decades of the twentieth century.

A play based on the diary and written by Lorenzo DeStefano was produced at Seattle Repertory Theatre and at London’s Almeida Theatre, both productions helmed by Jonathan Miller. A film adaptation, "Visitations", is currently in active development.

In September 2007 an opera based on the diaries and Lorenzo’s script had its world premiere in Boston, Massachusetts. The Inman Diaries, composed by Thomas Oboe Lee on a libretto by Jesse Martin. The opera was commissioned and produced by Intermezzo – The New England Chamber Opera Series. http://www.intermezzo-opera.org

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