Thursday, January 28, 2010

_ _ _

J.D. Salinger has died.

Like everybody else, I will be glad to see (in due time) if he's left behind any new writing.

Probably unlike everybody else, I will be very angry if people make a movie of That Book. And, of course, if anybody tries to make a movie of That Other Book, I will also be angry. Salinger's has a right to his work as he conceived and produced it, and a right to his characters as embodied in their typographical universe.

I suppose it's possible he left behind permission to make movies of his work, but this would be bizarre in the extreme.

Have you ever performed the Franny and Zooey litmus test? A little like the Gramercy Park one.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Passed today in ye olde thesaurus.


It's a funny word. In dog terminology, it means "short, compact; well ribbed up."

Mystery sentence from unidentified book:

In appearance, the bouvier is a rugged, powerfully built dog, cobby in body, with a rough and somewhat tousled coat.

The book tells that the word bouvier means cowherd or ox drover.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Paris Review-y

Word people will say anything.

Philip Gourevitch: To ask a Paris Review-y first question--[parenthetical digression regarding the nature of such questions, and one I did not write down]--what made you want be a writer?

This he asked of Richard Price, at a Barnes & Noble live interview this evening. Price is so seasoned, and, I wager, so good with dialogue, that he dropped one memorable sentence after another. He spoke the way many writers write people speaking (Jersey City is a "total throw-and-go city," "I just wanted to eat the whole world," "They let you into the house of their life"). He spoke the way one entering the world of letters would imagine that people in that world speak--which, in the main, they do not. What might have come off as fey or potted from a man with less street cred came off simply as sexy.

I have never actually read Richard Price's work, by the way (though I've made the attempt). Just not my thing. He did laud Last Exit to Brooklyn, which is a book I liked a very long time ago, difficult as it was. (I believe James Purdy was also a fan of Selby's novel.)

At any rate: It was striking that Gourevitch used the locution. It is not one I would have guessed he would use.

I will only add that The Paris Review--or, rather, a party in the 1980s at George Plimpton's apartments--showed me firsthand what kinds of freedom could be found in the world of letters. New York appeared downright beautiful in a way I had never seen. Of course, I was a tourist to that world, not an inhabitant, and the view changes once you move in. (There are some people still here who embody that party, and that place, and that time.) I don't even know if I would call that party a Paris Review-y party, but it was certainly a party at George Plimpton's.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


At a recent sourdough bread baking class offered by (the marvelous) Brooklyn Kitchen, baker Nathan L. explained the use of a lame (a curved razor blade mounted on a plastic wand). One uses it to score the top of a dough boule in order to give the ball room to expand properly, generally allowing gas to escape and steam to rise. A swipe of the lame also serves as a baker's signature.

Nathan L. said, It's a snotty thing to have but it's fun.

I thought, "It's snotty?" Gadget-y, yes. But snotty?

I emailed Nathan L., telling him that I was trying to figure out what he meant by snotty.

He responded: "The comment was off the cuff, but what I was likely trying to get at is a personal opposition to having single use tools in the kitchen - especially things that can easily be replaced by another multiple-use tool. The lame is no better than a simple straight razor and is only nominally more flexible than a sharp knife. If you're making bread commercially, it makes sense to use one, but for the home cook it shouldn't be a high priority investment - unless of course you want to be snotty and show off to your friends that you have a French razorblade-on-a-stick."

It seems to me that if you are an aspiring artisan baker, the chosen tools of your trade are simply your tools. A master baker in Cavaillon uses a "sliver of tin clipped from a can" (Peter Mayle described it thus). A first-time non-baker in New York City can make do with a training razor-blade.

Nathan L. might have said snooty, or snobbish, or snobby. Snotty, though, is most current, isn't it?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Could mean lucky, could be doubtful.

In written prose: So far, his knack for fatherhood seems iffy at best.

Planning commissioner: That adaptive resuse plan looks iffy to me.
Consultant: I have no idea what you mean.

There was a young lamp shade from Liffey,
Whose golden cheek blushes were iffy,
She met a half-sconce and
They lived for the nonce
On dust motes and Tolstoy and Jiffy


Striking because a guide word on page 203 of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary Tenth Edition, and yet: missing, as I was reminded today when passing the page.

Some time ago, I had crossed out Christmassy and replaced it with Christmas rose, since that is the last entry on the page. How Christmassy came to be dropped from the book--during the shifting of text? after an editorial meeting?--is a question for those people in Springfield, Mass.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Am I sorry to leave Ireland. (I have long hoped to paddle that island by bike de luxe, though a standing in a river would be quite nice, too. All that moving water.)

On to the post at hand, which is stroppy, from the June 2007 post "All at sea with maritime metaphors," by one Victor Mallet, on TranslatorsCafé.com.

Whenever you are taken aback, holding your course, continuing to the bitter end, giving someone stroppy a wide berth, waiting for something to blow over or simply three sheets to the wind, you are – by and large (there's another one) – inadvertently harking back to the days of sail.

Note the hark (instead of harken). Phew.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Ireland has plenty of rivers with names ending in y (Agivey, Ballymoney, Moy, and Easky among them), but there is something pleasing about the Clady (or what is now called the Clady). This is the river in County Donegal, not the Claddy (Claodach) in County Cork.