Saturday, November 29, 2008


From James Wood’s review of Patrick French’s biography of V.S. Naipaul in the December 1, 2008 issue of The New Yorker. “She” refers to Naipaul’s first wife, Patricia Hale.

“Unassertive, Englishly reticent, a little milky and bland, she became steadily obsessed with his writing—even as she would half-mockingly call him ‘the Genius’ in private—and enjoyed being his spur and amanuensis.”

Friday, November 21, 2008


Its spelling goes a little way toward expressing its meaning.

From a short piece by one Beth Kracklauer in the December 2008 issue of Saveur:

“The russet is what is known as a floury or mealy potato—which is to say it’s high in starch and low in moisture.”

N.B. The OED dates the earliest use of the word to 1591.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Not sure if today’s found y word would be appealing were it not followed by clean (laying a serviceable rhyme corridor), but especially in light of Barack Obama’s vetting of potential employees, and also in light of ongoing marvels at the number of telephone conversations people hold in public—conversations that we once went home or to the office to have (Remember the winning phrase “Call you when I get home”?), it stands out.

From the article “What Was Privacy?,” by one Lew McCreary, in the October 2008 issue of Harvard Business Review. One of the best points in the article, about ARPAnet, appears in the timeline sidebar. Below is from the body of the piece.

“ ‘We’re so used to accepting a squeaky-clean, self-constructed résumé as a representation of a person, but that has little resemblance to the flawed, messy selves that we all in fact are.’ . . .”

Sunday, November 9, 2008


From a review of Unpacking the Boxes: A Memoir of a Life in Poetry, in the Book Review section of the Times (November 9, 2008). The memoir is by the poet Donald Hall; the review of the memoir is by Peter Stevenson.

"In 1969 he met Jane Kenyon, then a young poetry student; they married three years later and soon moved to Eagle Pond, where well-received verses and essays about rural life continued to pour out of Hall as he grew a beard and paunch appropriate to America's image of a rascally farmer-poet."

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Not that I meant to return to Franny and Zooey, but what can I say? I am re-reading the novel.

So, from Franny and Zooey.

"Use my handkerchief, for God's sake. What the hell's the difference?"

"No--I love that handkerchief and I'm not going to get it all perspiry," Franny said. . . .

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


The fact is, I didn't come across chanty in any particular work of prose or poetry. It squinched in on the same mind pew with plainte and plain song and Delphi (which I like to pronounce "Delphy," to rhyme with pelfy).

Somewhere in tonight's pew is also the line from A.R. Gurney's 1995 play Sylvia, which I read a couple of nights ago. (Sylvia was the play in which Sarah Jessica Parker played a dog named Sylvia. Reading the play made me realize how much I regret not having seen it, and it would have been entertaining to see SJP in the role.) Greg is Sylvia's owner; Kate is his wife.

GREG: Look, Kate. I liked manufacturing -- starting off in product development. I liked that. I could see what we were making, I could touch it, I could tinker. And I liked selling, too, when they bumped me up to sales. I still knew the product. I could still picture it in my mind. O.K. So then they acquire an investment company and tell me to trade. I try. I study up. I learn about oil, soybeans, corn. I read the forecasts, I figure the trends. I trade. And I do O.K. Not great, but I get by. But now they want me to trade currencies, Kate. Money markets. Derivatives. I can't do that, sweetheart. What's behind currencies? Other currencies. What's behind them? Who knows? Nothing to touch, to see, to get a purchase on. And that's what I mean when I say it's too abstract.

Monday, November 3, 2008


One of my favorite playwrights is A(lbert).R(amsdell). Gurney, known to many as "Pete" Gurney. His plays, in the words of a teacher I once knew, (and tip of the hat to Salinger), are, for me, very "happy making."

From his play Ancestral Voices: A Family Story.

EDDIE: (Reading) "Queen City of the Great Lakes . . . located at the mouth of the Niagara River . . . Named after a Seneca Chief named Buffalo, or possibly for the bison herds who originally roamed the area." (To GRANDFATHER) I thought Buffalo came from the French. Beau Fleuve, beautiful river.

GRANDFATHER: Where'd you get that?

EDDIE: Gram said it, actually.

GRANDFATHER: Some people like to gussy things up. Read on.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


From Anthony Lane's review of the film "Synecdoche, New York," in the November 3, 2008 issue of The New Yorker.

"One longs for the Hoffman of 'The Talented Mr. Ripley,' all crowing tones and carroty crew cut."

Perhaps the Y-est of Them All

syntaxy, from Franny and Zooey.

" . . . It may just be some kind of terribly fascinating, syntaxy droppings—excuse the expression. . . ."