Category Archives: Words

Elementary Logic

One of the first people to influence my love of books was my elementary school librarian, Mrs. Oliver.

(I’m not sure if that’s her real name, it was certainly something that sounded like “Oliver.”)

Tall, straw-haired, soft-spoken Mrs. Oliver. Quick to help you find the books you’re looking for and to suggest other books you might enjoy, sometimes very much and often for different reasons. Knowledgable and stalwart, friendly yet adamant, Mrs. Oliver.

She was very good at her job. She was, in every way that counted, perfection.

Our library was small but serviceable, the books arranged according to grade level as well as alphabetically. Lower grades (kindergarten to grade 3) on the lower shelves. Higher grades (4 to 6) on the higher shelves. Easy peasy. A very workable, easy-to-understand system.

I read widely and largely ignored this system. The “fact books” (i.e. “Facts on Dogs,” “Facts on Trucks,” “Facts on Trees,” “Facts on The Breeze”… your basic all-purpose non-fiction for beginners) located on the fourth shelf from the bottom – the shelf meant for the older students and not second-graders like me – were a particular favourite. I read them often, even checked a few out using our self-check-out system (back then, a sign-out sheet with matching card placed in an envelope glued to the inside jacket of the books).

I did this for weeks. I did it for months and months.

***

This is a true story:

One day, as I reached for the fourth level self, Mrs. Oliver appeared and, gently but firmly, stopped me.

“You can’t take those books out, I’m afraid. They’re for the older students only.” She pulled the book from my hands and put it back in its place on its shelf. From then on, she watched me whenever I was in the library, making sure I would not access books above my grade. Making sure the system, the whole system, in its entirely, worked, and was therefore perfect.

She was always still and in every other respect, the one and only Mrs. Oliver.

By the time I reached the fifth grade, and was therefore able to take out almost any book I wished, Mrs. Oliver was gone, replaced by someone whose name and face I definitely do not remember.

But I do remember thinking, the day she took the book away from my small hands: “Oh, Mrs. Oliver. You just did it, didn’t you?

You made an enemy for life.”

Let me repeat.

For life, Mrs. Oliver.

 

 

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Filed under Books, Childhood, Education, People, School, THE PAST, Words

Open Secrets, Vol. 15

  • Descent into: chaos, madness, despair.
  • Everything eventually possible.
  • Skin deep is still deep.
  • Normal vs. New Normal.
  • Quietly: plotting, dreaming, lusting.
  • Go. Ahead.
  • Take out/Eat in.
  • Lovely vs. Delightful
  • Enough is already enough.
  • Augmented: reality, fourths, butts.
  • Profanity is life.
  • Over the moon/Under the sun.
  • Please Me vs. Excuse YOU.
  • That was the deal?

 

 

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Filed under Communications, THE FUTURE, Words

Titles for the Upcoming Novel I Will Never Actually Write

  1. The Endgame Affair
  2. CRASH TEST
  3. Fool Me Once
  4. Blue Cryptic
  5. The Ensembles
  6. Just Swell
  7. Missy Disembarks: A Dame’s Night Out Mystery
  8. BLAMO!
  9. Only Ugly
  10. Flapjack’s Cafe for Lost Dogs
  11. Fluid Motions
  12. Turgid Boulevards of the Defeated Heart
  13. Turn Away
  14. DELAWARE
  15. Best Not Lived
  16. Silver & Gold
  17. Chafe
  18. Forgone Conclusion
  19. I Eat You Face
  20. EVERYTHING ACES
  21. Crab Logistics
  22. Pie In The Sky
  23. On, Wayward
  24. Half-Life Falling
  25. Clubfoot Jones: The Reckoning (Part II)
  26. THE JUNCTURE
  27. Aghast
  28. 100 Reasons, 10,000 Excuses
  29. Poke The Bear
  30. Not For Dummies

 

 

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Filed under Books, Characters, Words

Things I Never Said

1. That you were annoying (not in that capacity).
2. That I didn’t like X (rather, that I’m allergic to it).
3. That that, now that, was a cute kid.
4. That I’d love to (I would not).
5. That it was a good idea (it wasn’t, but we only knew that in retrospect, didn’t we?).
6. That it couldn’t be there (only that it was unlikely that it could have been there).
7. That it was more, or less, than that.
8. That I got this (I do not…or god, do I do not).
9. That didn’t know (I mean, not exactly).
10. That is was the correct thing to do (what is correct that it can’t be amended?).

BONUS ROUND:

That that was that (that being what it’s always been, or always will be, or always has been).

Curious, that.

 

 

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Filed under Communications, Language, Words

Seasonings

Season’s Greetings!

Happy Holidays!

Etc.

Lots of thoughts and sentiments this time of year. Most of it well-meaning, if prescriptive and stale.

(Or maybe not. But I don’t think so.)

Be thankful.

Best wishes.

Warm regards.

Do onto others.

Lots of people going to see family this time of year or, one way or another, family’s coming to see them. Which is better, or worse? For whatever it’s worth, who’s to say?

Lots of people staying put where they are, people coming to them or no, it’s time to relax, slow down a bit and recharge. Why. The. Hell. Not?

Lots places are open until midnight or beyond up until the big day. It may seem fun, or at least exciting, or at most necessary, to wander a Walmart at 2:00AM.

It probably isn’t. But ‘tis the season.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Holiday, Ritual, Words

Good Intentions

What are these actually worth, especially when what they amount to is hurt and pain and misery…or inconvenience or humiliation or shame?

No one says, “Well, at least I had good intentions” when everything turns out OK and no one is upset or offended or otherwise injured. When the shit doesn’t hit the fan.

You can’t take credit and admit guilt. Absolve and take responsibility.

But you can try, and probably get away with most of what you’re after. Eat that cake, and have it too. Big bites, anyway. Juicy ones.

If that’s what you intend.

If that’s the best you’ve got.

If you know what I mean.

 

 

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Filed under Ceremony, Communications, Language, Words

Q&A

Asking questions to which the answer is known is one thing.

Asking leading questions in search of an answer is another.

Questions are said to be more important than answers.

Because there are no stupid questions.

There are no stupid questions?

How about ridiculous inquiries? Pointless inquires? Abject probes?

Yes and yes and oh, hell Honey, yes.

But I guess that depends on who’s asking, never minding why.

 

 

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Filed under Communications, Interruptions, Language, Ritual, Words

The Loving Huntsman

A minor triumph recently: I finally secured a nice copy (an excellent edition) of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes; or The Loving Huntsman.

It’s taken about a year to achieve this. Over a year, actually, plus a month or two.

I was, and remain, committed.

***

Lolly Willowes is a story of struggle, privilege, humiliation and personal retribution (which looks very much like vengeance, though it is not). There is a cool intelligence in the writing, a wry and discerning mind behind the prose. A rarity, even now. Even today. Possibly always.

***

Lolly Willowes (or The Loving Huntsman) also has the best narrative portrait of the Devil I’ve ever come across:

 

To be this – a character truly integral, a perpetual flowing of power and cunning from an undivided will – was enough to constitute the charm and majesty of the Devil. No cloak of terrors was necessary to enlarge that stature, and to suppose him capable of speculation or metaphysic would be like offering to crown hi with a few casual straws. Very probably he was quite stupid. When she had asked him about death he had got up and gone away, which looked as if he did not know much more about it then she did herself: indeed, being immortal, it was unlikely that he would know as much. Instead, his mind brooded immovably over the landscape and over the natures of men, an unforgetting and unchoosing mind. That, of course – and she jumped up in her excitement and began to wave her arms – was why he was the Devil, the enemy of souls. His memory was too long, too retentive; there was no appeasing its witness, no hoodwinking it with the present; and that was why at one stage of civilization people said he was the embodiment of all evil, and then a little later on that he didn’t exist (1999: 220-221).

 

Forgive and forget. Who doesn’t need that, once in a while?

Who doesn’t crave it, the reprieve of disremembering just the right thing, at just the right moment, so that everything (present, future and past) will be alright. Will just turn out that way?

Pick and choose, overlook. Exonerate.

That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Speaking especially of the Devil himself.

 

________________________________________________

Warner, Sylvia Townsend. (1999). Lolly Willowes or The Loving Huntsmen. NYRB: New York.

 

 

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Filed under Books, Language, Philosophy, THE FUTURE, THE PAST, Words

Dead & Deader Till We Get to Deadest

Books are dead.”

I keep coming back to this, not because of any apparent (or is that obvious?) absurdity of the statement itself, but the mean-spirited intent behind it. It is one of the funniest things (intentional or not) that I’ve had another person say to my face in a good long while. It has become my dead horse. A true gift.

But anyway, it is Friday – week’s end! And with that in mind, here is a list of the books I’ve been reading over the past couple of weeks and months.

There is no order to the list, no rankings or ratings or reviews. I just like to keep a tally so that I know what I’m reading after having read it. I also know that this list will tell you less about me than it will ultimately reveal.

That’s good for both of us.

That’s what’s best for everyone:

  1. Vi – Kim Thuy
  2. Barracoon – Zora Neale Hurston
  3. Trail of Lightening – Rebecca Roanhorse
  4. Pachinko – Min Jin Lee
  5. The Red Threads of Fortune – Jy Yang
  6. Marriage of a Thousand Lies – S.J. Sindu
  7. Eloquent Rage – Brittney Cooper
  8. Kilkenny – Louis L’amour
  9. Chicken With Plums – Marjane Satrapi
  10. Mr. Fortune’s Maggot – Sylvia Townsend Warner

These are books that I will say that I recommend – or don’t, depending on what you’re looking for in a book, depending on what your particular whims or needs or desires are.

In any case, if it is indeed true that books are dead, they can’t possibly get any deader, can they? They’re the deadest they’ve ever been!

And how could you argue with that?

 

 

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Filed under Books, Death, Language, Words

Nothing/Everything

The thing I won’t buy at the grocery store because it’s “too expensive” I’ll buy at the gas station because “whatever.”

I’ve largely forgotten how to do long division but actually wouldn’t mind a few remainders.

I doughnut care.

If it’s distasteful, chances are it’s also delicious.

(Can I do this in one hundred words or less?)

I like the pomp and appreciate the pageantry, but wonder sometimes about the spectacle.

Idle worship, and then I’m out.

(Eighteen words to go – no, thirteen)

I’d like to think I’m a good person. I’d like that very much.

Nothing’s funny; everything’s hilarious.

 

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Filed under Downtime, Food, Interruptions, Language, Words