2017-06-12

sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
I am not sleeping at all. I can't think. I am very tired of it.

1. I was in the middle of a work crunch last week when I read that Helen Dunmore had died. Once again, I hadn't even known she had cancer. I'm not even sure I knew she was a poet as well as a novelist. (The poem quoted at the end of the obituary is excellent.) I had discovered her a few years ago with The Greatcoat (2012), a breathtaking ghost story set in the echoes of World War II; she followed it with the post-WWI The Lie (2014), a messier, equally haunting novel about a young veteran whose shell-shocked eidetic memory matches the way time seems to have crazed and jumbled in the wake of the war, like the mud-caked apparition he keeps seeing of his oldest friend and first love and commanding officer who died on the Western Front. "Things ought to stop once they're finished, but this won't stop. They say the war's over, but they're wrong. It went too deep for that. It opened up a crack in time, a crater maybe. Once you fall into it you can't get out again." I was reminded of Nick Murphy and Stephen Volk's The Awakening (2011). I am not at all surprised to see from her bibliography that one of her early novels was titled Talking to the Dead (1996). I had just been coveting the paperback of what I thought was her latest novel, Exposure (2016); it didn't look supernatural, but it might surprise me. She has one last novel and one last poetry collection. I'm sure I'll track them down. I just didn't want a last anything from her for a long time to come.

2. In the wake of Delta and Bank of America pulling their sponsorship from Shakespeare in the Park's Trump-inflected Julius Caesar, I hope everyone remembers that five years ago the Acting Company staged an Obama-inflected Julius Caesar which nobody seems to have boycotted for proxy-assassinating the President of the United States and the lesson here—aside from double standards as usual—is the multivalence of the play, which is why people keep performing and reperforming it against all kinds of different political backdrops and I trust it will outlast most of them, especially the current administration.

3. How did it take me until tonight to learn that the Ronald Reagan impression on the 12" mix of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Two Tribes" was performed by Chris Barrie? (The civil defense broadcast is Patrick Allen doing an impression of himself.) He also imitates Mike Read as well as Reagan on the 12" mix of "The Power of Love," but that was less weird for me. It wasn't already on my iTunes.
sovay: (Haruspex: Autumn War)
Today the heat was brutal, so we waited until near sunset to leave the house and its marginal shelter of air conditioning; then we walked down to the river, which was new territory for [personal profile] spatch and familiar to me only insofar as I had learned to catch the 95 bus from the stop at the foot of Temple Street. We crossed beneath the overpass with its murals of wildlife and shipbuilding and the old dams of the Mystic River (I had no idea the Amelia Earhart Dam was a thing) and found the Blessing of the Bay Boathouse, where no one seemed to care if I walked out onto the floating dock and watched the rowers sculling on the far side of the river. The water looked black as coffee, the sun lying on it like dust. Frilled rosettes of water chestnut twisted up to the surface—a wildly invasive species that I wish were locally acceptable to harvest in season, since its spiky caltrop nuts are edible, although a different species from the crunchy white slices that come in cans from H Mart. According to the poster on the chain-link, we had just missed National Learn to Row Day. We followed the footpath up to the bridge at Route 16, counting fourteen swans as we went; they glided majestically among the waterweed and tipped forward to root in the silt with the no-warning of physical comedy, up tails all. Either some passerby had tried to feed them hot dog buns (which were now sinking slowly all around them) or they had recently murdered a hot dog vendor. I could see it going either way. Seagulls kept swinging overhead; sometimes they looked exactly the size of the low-flying planes out of Logan. I had not realized how much a little blue heron looks like a great blue heron with the aspect ratio wrong. There was a park on the other side of the river, with a wooden observation tower and a meadow full of rabbits at leisurely silflay. We climbed the tower to watch the rabbits: it looked like it was built of telephone poles and reminded me of the long-vanished climbing structure on the lawn of the Cambridge Public Library that always smelled like a sailing ship after rain, silver-weathered wood and creosote. The sky in the east had turned the light-holding space-blue of summer evening, in the west the sun looked as fiery as Florida. Neither of us counted the rabbits. It was probably unkind to refer to them as Hasenpfeffer, especially since some of them were so small and delicate-eared that we decided they were only a Hasenpf. We only came down from the tower when the midges found out where we were. The rest of the walk was somewhat less amateur naturalist, following the Mystic Valley Parkway past the part-demolished Meadow Glen Mall and the commercial-residential strip that did not exist a dozen years ago when Rob worked for roadside assistance. We came home across the river on the Fellsway. I had a strange moment in Ten Hills when I could have sworn that the sea lay beyond the slant of the houses, the crumbled violet of the after-sunset sky. In the nearly two hours it had taken us to circle back to Temple Street and Mystic Avenue, the City of Somerville had moved in a road work crew that was doing something with jackhammers and floodlights. It was loud. We came upstairs and made sandwiches for dinner, because it is still too hot to cook; Rob went to read about Whitey Bulger and I sat down next to him and wrote this. Autolycus helped by continually trying to interpose himself between my hands and the keyboard. It was a good evening.
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