Friday, April 30, 2010

I love eggs benedict of all varieties. But the most frustrating part of ordering eggs benedict is the fact that you can't just get all of the choices together--I mean, I love canadian bacon, but I also love spinach, as well as avocado. The problem is, of course, making decisions. Which is the best part of my new ability to make hollandaise sauce. Now I can (and do) make eggs benedict with pesto, cheese, avocado, turkey, spinach and tomatoes.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Postcards and Paperbacks

I finally saw An Education. It contained far too much awkwardness for my taste. It's hard enough to live with my own mistakes, not to mention watching Carrie Mulligan making them and then discovering them. Plus two separate meeting-the-father scenes?! Goodness.

Of course, Carrie's character herself is intelligent (far beyond her years) and interesting and thoughtful (and well dressed, as the movie progresses). Watching her find out what it is that she wants, as well as how it is that she can get there is painful, but real. Life itself is Carrie's most important education. Her life deals with lots of feminist concerns--does Carrie want to ride a boy's arm to comfort or want to earn it herself? Is education a means to meeting a man or is it something that is its own end? Are feminine wiles or hard work the way to go?

Carrie is far wiser than her father, but because she's also immature, she deceives her father, and this later backfires. However, in the end, her father and mother stand beside her--bringing her tea and biscuit when times are tough, and letting a bit of romance into their own lives by the end.

Monday, April 26, 2010

On Rhode Island

Shockingly, Rhode Island is gorgeous! I had only heard of Rhode Island in the same sentence with armpit, so I was really surprised.

I love bridges. I love lighthouses. I do not love the movie that I watched till all hours in my hotel about a guy with 8 kids marrying a woman with 10 in which they live in a lighthouse that is computer animated. I do love the idea, however, of living in a lighthouse.

There is something in Newport called the Cliff Walk, which is a walk along the water on some low stone cliffs. On the other side of the walk are enormous old mansions. It is breathtaking, really. Plus, I saw the church in which Jackie married JFK. I need an enormous summer mansion on the water where all of my friends can visit me all summer.

Anyway, Rhode Island is a wonderful surprise of a place--Newport has the whimiscal beach town feel, mixed with lovely, old New England architecture. And the scallops! They sell only seafood that was caught that day at the restaurant that I ate at with JBL and Mrs. JBL.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In Praise of Good Audiences

Given the absurdly small number of people in the audience at political science conferences, audience members who pretend to look interested, make eye contact with the presenter, and sometimes even nod and smile are worth applauding.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Hmm...I don't know that Rhode Island will be this pretty, but maybe!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore

I was just looking for a picture of Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop together to accompany the poem below, but I could only find this one, which, delightfully, has lots of other interesting people in it, as well:

The Gotham Book Mart was famous for its literary eminences. A December 1948 party for Osbert and Edith Sitwell (seated, center) drew a roomful of bright lights to the Gotham Book Mart: clockwise from W. H. Auden, on the ladder at top right, were Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell, Charles Henri Ford (cross-legged, on the floor), William Rose Benét, Stephen Spender, Marya Zaturenska, Horace Gregory, Tennessee Williams, Richard Eberhart, Gore Vidal and José Garcia Villa. (Photo: Gotham Book Mart)

From Brooklyn, over the Brooklyn Bridge, on this fine morning,
please come flying.
In a cloud of fiery pale chemicals,
please come flying,
to the rapid rolling of thousands of small blue drums
descending out of the mackerel sky
over the glittering grandstand of harbor-water,
please come flying.

Whistles, pennants and smoke are blowing. The ships
are signaling cordially with multitudes of flags
rising and falling like birds all over the harbor.
Enter: two rivers, gracefully bearing
countless little pellucid jellies
in cut-glass
epergnes dragging with silver chains.
The flight is safe; the weather is all arranged.
The waves are running in verses this fine morning.
Please come flying.

Come with the pointed toe of each black shoe
trailing a sapphire highlight,
with a black
capeful of butterfly wings and bon-mots,
with heaven knows how many angels all riding
on the broad black brim of your hat,
please come flying.

Bearing a musical inaudible abacus,

a slight censorious frown, and blue ribbons,
please come flying.
Facts and skyscrapers glint in the tide; Manhattan
is all awash with morals this fine morning,
so please come flying.

Mounting the sky with natural heroism,
above the accidents, above the malignant movies,
the taxicabs and injustices at large,
while horns are resounding in your beautiful ears
that simultaneously listen to
a soft uninvented music, fit for the musk deer,
please come flying.

For whom the grim museums will behave
like courteous male bower-birds,
for whom the agreeable lions lie in wait
on the steps of the Public Library,
eager to rise and follow through the doors
up into the reading rooms,
please come flying.
We can sit down and weep; we can go shopping,
or play at a game of constantly being wrong
with a priceless set of vocabularies,
or we can bravely deplore, but please

please come flying.

With dynasties of negative constructions
darkening and dying around you,
with grammar that suddenly turns and shines
like flocks of sandpipers flying,
please come flying.

Come like a light in the white mackerel sky,
come like a daytime comet
with a long
unnebulous train of words,
from Brooklyn, over the Brooklyn Bridge, on this fine morning,
please come flying.

I love this poem, and I've loved it for a long time. It reminds
me of the time that Whigwham and Wystan and a group of
other people had to run over the Brooklyn Bridge in order to
make it on time to a performance of water music on a barge.
If I remember correctly, it was the golden hour and we were
following a funny professor who could jog better t
han you'd
expect. And boy, that bridge is lovely.

"The weather is all arranged. / The waves are running in
verses this fine morning." I know just Bishop's feeling--the

delight of having your kindred spirit close to you. The
delight of a spur of the moment meeting. The desire to
share with someone times that are lovely. And the refrain!
It is so free and repeated that it makes you believe in
flying. Plus, Bishop is so impatient in the poem--
something I can identify with. Sometimes you just get a
craving for a particular person and you need to see them.

I love the reference to Moore's cape and hat. I get a picture
of Moore that's somewhere in the middle of a good and a
bad supernatural being--is she a witch or a fairy? Probably
most like Mary Poppins.

I made sure to see "the agreeable lions" that "lie in wait /
on the steps of the Public Library / eager to rise and follow
through the doors / up into the reading rooms" on Saturday.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Cocktail Party

Hopkins, Stearns and I just got back from a lovely weekend in New York City. We went to see T. S. Eliot's play, The Cocktail Party, and stay with Hopkins' friends, Curry and Boy Wonder (I think that's what their blog nicknames are). Well, the play is all about cocktails and hospitality, which Curry and Boy Wonder provided in droves. And about olives, which Hopkins provided.

The last time this play was shown in New York was more than 40 years ago. Basically, I've never heard of Eliot plays actually being performed, and so when I heard about this, I had to go. What I'd heard about Eliot's plays is that (since he's primarily a poet) they're fine to read, but not much better to watch being performed. Oh my goodness, was my informant ever wrong! To see this play performed was absolute bliss.

The play was brilliant--we were all close to tears by the end (the only thing that was holding me back is that I think that Eliot gets a little overt about the meaning toward the end, and I felt like crying would be a bit like crying during a sermon, which, while I do have over-active tear ducts, is something I normally don't do).

Jack "The Jaw" Koenig, who plays Edward in the play, was marvelous. I mostly watched him, no matter who was speaking. His response to every comment was worth taking in.

I liked many of the details added by the actors--Edward's pat to Lavinia's stomach, implying that she was pregnant; the fact that Edward never actually pours the Unidentified Guest a drink (who finally takes the cup from Edward and pours a drink for himself); Edward's fall to the floor in anguish; and Lavinia smashing a record, which nearly made me jump. There was something interesting that they did with the set--in the first scene, it was a normal room; in the second scene, some panels were open, revealing lights shining in, making it more obvious that the audience was watching a play; in the third scene all of the panels were open, and many lights (some shining, some not) could be seen. I think that this was commentary on the free will/fate theme in the play: the characters in the play were nothing more than actors, acting in ways that they didn't (entirely) choose. As Hopkins pointed out, the use of music was very rarely a benefit to the play.

The play itself is partially hilarious--Eliot identifies it as a comedy, and it's full of tigers and monkeys and a "harmless man" who can hear bats and, of course Julia, who knows everything and pretends to be a harmless old woman herself. Plus, Edward and Lavinia are happy at the end. On the other hand, Celia is dead (of course, even her death is happy, in a way)--crucified near an ant hill (how odd for the playbill to notice and emphasize the ant's presence in the play--couldn't they have used a monkey?). The play deals with weighty matters, such as salvation. It certainly isn't a tragedy, but I don't think comedy's quite right, either.

What struck me in this time through were two things: the role of the stranger in the play and the continued exhortion to recognize one's failings. The psychologist, Sir Henry Harcourt-Reilly shows up as the Unidentified Guest (his identity is not made clear until Act II). He says,

to approach the stranger
Is to invite the unexpected, to release a new
Or let the genie out of the bottle.
It is to start a train of events
Beyond your control.

The Unidentified Guest explains that Edward and his wife Lavinia must treat each other as strangers--it is this way that they treat each other as subjects rather than objects. Each of them can change, and the other must recognize this. The Unidentified Guest says,

Ah, but we die to each other daily.
What we know of other people
Is only our memory of the moments
During which we knew them. And they have changed since then.
To pretend that they and we are the same
Is a useful and convenient social convention
Which must sometimes be broken. We must also remember
That at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.

In fact, the Unidentified Guest tells Edward that he must even be a stranger to himself. But the point of the dark is not to stay in darkness, "Except long enough to clear from the mind / The illusion of having ever been in the light."

The Unidentified Guest is clearly a type of priest, giving spiritual direction to Edward, Lavinia and Celia. His role as a stranger reminds me of Christ so many times after he died--He was a stranger to the men on the way to Emmaus until He broke bread with them; He was a stranger to Mary Magdalen until He spoke her name. The Unidentified Guest also reminds me of when the three men appeared to Abraham in Genesis.

On recognizing one's failings (which is part of realizing that we are strangers even to ourselves): In the play, Edward realizes that things are not as they had seemed when Lavinia leaves. The Unidentified Guest tells Edward: "It will do you no harm to find yourself ridiculous. / Resign yourself to be the fool you are. ... You will find that you survive humiliation. / And that's an experience of incalculable value." He explains that this is necessary in order to realize that you don't know yourself as well as you thought. Edward realizes that he is afraid that he can't love; Lavinia, that she is afraid that she can't be loved. After recognizing this, they understand that "we must make the best of a bad job."

Peter, who loved Celia, only to find out toward the end of the play that she is dead, realizes that he didn't know her as he thought he did: "I suppose I didn't know her, / I didn't understand her. I understand nothing." This is the point of beginning for Peter--"You've only just begun. I mean, this only brings you to the point / At which you must begin." This is the point when he stops treating Celia as an object, which can only happen when he realizes that he doesn't know her and that he doesn't know himself--that he understands nothing. Earlier, he didn't even know that he wasn't knowing Celia--he thought that he was profoundly knowing her.

And I love the ending of the play (how true--one cannot compliment a dress too much):

[Edward has complimented Lavinia's dress some time ago. Later, she asks him how she's looking, and he says that she's looking her best, and that she always looks her best, which of course is just logically impossible.]

Lavinia: "What you should have done was to admire my dress."
Edward: "But I've already told you how much I like it."
Lavinia: "But so much has happened since then. And besides,
One sometimes likes to hear the same compliment twice."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Theater and Politics

"[T]he specific revelatory quality of action and speech, the implicit manifestation of the agent and speaker, is so indissolubly tied to the living flux of acting and speaking that it can be represented and 'reified' only through a kind of repetition, the imitation or mimesis, which according to Aristotle prevails in all arts but is actually appropriate only to the drama, whose very name (from the Greek verb dran, 'to act') indicates that play-acting actually is an imitation of acting. ... the intangible identities of the agents in the story, since they escape all generalization and therefore all reification, can be conveyed only through an imitation of their acting. This is also why the theater is the political art par excellence; only there is the political sphere of human life transposed into art. By the same token, it is the only art whose sole subject is man in his relationship to others."

--Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I Wish I Were at That Party

Hannah Arendt, standing, left
Robert Lowell, sitting, far right

(Lowell clearly needed a date; okay, okay, so she was probably taking the picture...)
Dear Myrrh,

I respectfully request a visit right around May 27th. We can be the only people in the theater who are dressed up, again!


Little Gidding Fridge

For a long time, I've wanted to have a fridge photogallery of all the people who have lived or close to lived at Little Gidding. I think that's most everyone (thus far). The stained glass is from the original Little Gidding that says, "It is the right, good, old way you are in; keep in it."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sister Easter Post!
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

--TSE, The Waste Land

Monday, April 12, 2010


I rent an apartment in Virginia, go to school in DC, and am a resident of Pennsylvania. My mother "owns" the car that I paid for, my insurance is under my parents' policy, I have PA plates and my car is registered in Arlington County. Imagine what a horrible mess this is with taxes and with sorting out Virginia's occasional, but persistent dissatisfaction with being able to collect less money than they would like from me. Oh the confusion and disconnection of modernity! Oh the hours I spend sorting it all out!

Easter Celebration!

After the Easter vigil, in honor of Stearns' confirmation, we invited people to join us back at Little Gidding to celebrate. We had a lovely time, and certainly couldn't have done it without Hopkins.

The Easter vigil runs quite late (the party started sometime before midnight, I think). And so, of course, the party ran quite late.

Hopkins can really put together a cheese platter!

And a chocolate mousse!

Stearns and I forgot the artichoke dip in the oven on two separate occasions (it still came out just fine).

People brought loads and loads of champagne!

Hopkins and Stearns made paper flowers to hang on branches the night before.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

I'd only read Far from the Madding Crowd of Thomas Hardy before this. I can't remember much of that book, but I vaguely remember it as happy (and about a strong woman, which I always like); Tess of the D'Urbervilles surprised me in how depressing it was (although it, too, has a strong woman).

Tess is seduced/raped (it doesn't really matter--she was a very young girl who was taken advantage of). When an honorable(-ish) man falls in love with her later, she confesses this to him (after he confesses a short affair of his own). He leaves her and can't forgive her. Of course, this double standard made me furious and rankled all of my feminist feathers (this is a combination of raising my hackles and ruffling my feathers).

It reminded me a bit of Romeo and Juliet--Tess wants to confess to her husband-to-be a thousand times before she marries him, but for various reasons, she waits. Ill omens abound. Everything bad that happens (and loads of things do) is foreshadowed dozens of times.

Plus, the book is sort of overly romantic--Tess is found asleep on one of the stones at Stonehenge when she is finally captured--a sacrifice on the altar of male self-conceived superiority?

Hardy is repeatedly ironic--calling Tess's death for murdering Alec justice, when he's subtitled the book something about "a pure woman."

I'm not sure if it's a tragedy, exactly--I think it's more of a critique of a society that can't recognize a good woman when it sees one, and a critique of one bad man who Tess unfortunately encounters.

One of my favorite parts (from a conversation between Tess and Angel):

T: "Londoners will drink it [the milk they are bringing to town] at their breakfasts tomorrow, won't they?" she asked. "Strange people that we have never seen."

A: "Yes--I suppose they will. Though not as we send it. When its strength has been lowered, so that it may not get up into their heads."

T: "Noble men and noble women, ambassadors and centurions, ladies and tradeswomen, and babies who have never seen a cow."

A: "Well, yes; perhaps; particularly centurions."

T: "Who don't know anything of us, and where it comes from; or think how we two drove miles across the moor tonight in the rain that it might reach 'em in time?"

(Of course I love the agrarian sentiment, but I especially love Angel's "particularly centurions.")

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Arendt on Poetry.2

I apologize for my obsession with Arendt and poetry. I'm working on a paper on Arendt and women, which is, of course, interesting, but not as interesting as Arendt (and anyone else) on poetry.

Arendt writes about poetry in the midst of her discussion of work, which she distinguishes from labor (which deals with the necessities of life and occurs/should occur in the private sphere) and action (which occurs when men/women interact directly with each other):

"Poetry, whose material is language, is perhaps the most human and least worldly of the arts, the one in which the end product remains closest to the thought that inspired it. The durability of a poem is produced through condensation, so that it is as though language spoken in utmost density and concentration were poetic itself. Here, remembrance, Mnemosyne, the mother of the muses, is directly transformed into memory, and the poet's means to achieve the transformation is rhythm, through which the poem becomes fixed in the recollection almost by itself. It is this closeness to living recollection that enables the poem to remain, to retain its durability, outside the printed or the written page, and though the 'quality' of a poem may be subject to a variety of standards, its 'memorability' will inevitably determine its durability, that is, its chance to be permanently fixed in the recollection of humanity. Of all things of thought, poetry is closest to thought, and a poem is less a thing than any other work of art; yet even a poem, no matter how long it existed as a living spoken word in the recollection of the bard and those who listened to him, will eventually by 'made,' that is, written down and transformed into a tangible thing among things, because remembrance and the gift of recollection, from which all desire for imperishability springs, need tangible things to remind them, lest they perish themselves."

--The Human Condition, 169-170

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Poetry, that is, converts the individual matters of which it speaks into generalities because it not only employs language as a means for communicating a specific content, but converts language back into its original substance. The function of language is preservation; what it embodies is meant to remain, to remain longer than is possible for ephemeral human beings. Thus from the start the representation, being destined for permanence, is stripped of its singularity, becomes an essence. ... Only in the wholly liberated purity of the poetic, in which all words are, as it were, spoken for the first time, can language become her friend, one to whom she is willing to entrust herself and her unprecedented life. ... Again and again his [Goethe's] words freed her from the mute spell of mere happening."

--Hannah Arendt, Rahel Varnhagen

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I'm so proud today, and not just of Duke's National Championship.

Congrats on passing your dissertation defense, Wystan!

--Love, the "Well-Acknowledged"

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Congratulations Stearns!

Here's to your best Easter ever!

Friday, April 2, 2010

"I don't blog. I have friends." --Me (purportedly), August 2006

Overly opinionated, as always...
The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.