Saturday, May 28, 2011



I love a nice walk up the street to Caliente. I get to pronounce the words papa relleno and ropa vieja and tostones, trying to communicate to the smiling owner that I, unlike most of her customers, know a thing or two about Spanish. But I know nothing, nothing, except that I like Cuban sandwiches and that I will read every last article the internet ever makes about drug violence in Mexico.

This issue of the Paris Review starts with a meandering and kind of self-indulgent piece by the late Edouard Leve, but I love it. It is so hard sometimes to know whether or not I should love something I read, and I found myself questioning myself as I read this one. "Should I really be liking this as much as I am," I will ask. And I never answer myself, but instead answer in the imagined voices of friends. I try to imagine whether Catherine would put the book down or read it in two days. If there is a part of me that suspects I'm being taken in, I imagine Joseph bestowing his inimitable "Ugh," Or if it is good in a way I can't describe, I imagine him giving it a gentle, thoughtful nod with his chin as if he's thinking about Pynchon. If I'm trying to decide what it is about the language that attracts me, I think "what would Dawn say"? It's amazing how little I participate in the formation of my own judgment.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

quick update.

5 min. ago, the street outside my office during a sudden hard rain storm during the sunset.

During the day, about to turn the under-used herb garden into more of a cuttings garden.

And the dog, somehow, lives. And is pretty happy, actually.

And meanwhile I am in one of those phases where all I want to do is read a long John McPhee book about anything, just read him telling me about the regular Joes he meets in his travels around, this time, Alaska. It's so relaxing. I finished The Leopard recently, too, and I miss the prince a little bit and his untended gardens with their parallel lives. It's striking to me how much that novel reminds me of Faulkner's Hamlet/Town/Mansion trilogy, with the Snopes family standing in for the classless and conniving and ineluctably rising merchant class of Italy.

It's that nice part of the school year when all of your planning is pretty much done, the day-to-day obsession with the question that never leaves: "what else can I do to avoid boring these poor students to death?" There is a momentum to this part of the year, and we all feel it, students and teachers both. Or, I don't know, maybe I'm the only one who feels that way and everyone else thinks things are dragging on; I've never bothered to ask.

But for me, the summer has started in my head, it's true, because the worrying about planning is what invades the rest of my life the most. Now all I do is ration the grading that needs to be done each day, enjoy these last couple of weeks with students I will never know this way again, and then go home to think about my garden and read. And plan for our awesome trip to Spain that is going to be so awesome.

So that's where things stand.

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