four for the price of one

  • How many reviews/pieces of lit crit/essays/books/&c. begin by quoting my darling Keats’ maxim about Beauty=Truth/Truth=Beauty? If I were at all statistically minded, this is exactly the sort of question I would set out to answer, but I don’t really need the numbers to reach my conclusion: too goddamn many. Despite this annoyance, I am intrigued by the NYT review of George Johnson’s The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, a book, as the title suggests, about particularly transcendent instances of beauty in the search for scientific truth. I do love a pop-science book every now and again, so long as it is well-written. I should go iron out my library fines and see if anyone’s got it. If the author is appealing, it’s possible that he could be a gem of amusement for weeks to come.
  • Robert Falcon Scott’s journals of the lost Scott Expedition are online and free at Gutenberg! I am very excited to have discovered this, can’t wait to read them, & must remember to look for Shackleton as well, as I have been flirting the edges of an obsession with polar exploration ever since January, when I began to have dreams of wandering through Antarctic landscapes. In my dream my fingers fell off every time I removed my mittens, but always seemed to regenerate. I refused to throw them away, and carried them with me in my pack. The dreams were pervaded by a great sense of looking for something, though I didn’t know what, and would spend days after I had one pondering, trying to remember, eventually resorting to playing unsuccessful divination with Freud in hopes of interpretation. I gave up after a bit, accepted them, and decided that rather than it being any very significant subconscious event it was probably just Annie Dillard saturating my mind. I was deeply affected by her essay “An Expedition to the Pole” in Teaching a Stone to Talk. Religion! the Absolute! Antarctica! history! poetry! all in one gorgeous essay! O, she is a sublime synthesis:

“I have a taste for solitude, and silence, and for what Plotinus called ‘the flight of the alone to the Alone.’ I have a taste for solitude. Sir John Franklin had, apparently, a taste for backgammon. Is either of these appropriate conditions?

You quit your house and country, quit your ship, and quit your companions in the tent, saying, ‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’ The light on the far side of the blizzard lures you. You walk, and one day you enter the spread heart of silence, where lands dissolve and seas become vapor and ices sublime under unknown stars. This is the end of the Via Negativa, the lightless edge where the slopes of knowledge dwindle, and love for its own sake, lacking an object, begins.” –Annie Dillard, “An Expedition to the Pole”

  • Sometimes I like to perambulate the entire circumference of my school’s library with the posture of a monarch surveying her domain: head up, spine straight, arms crossed loosely behind the back. I often pause to kiss the books like babies — Nabokov, 100-year-old copies of Keats and Shelley, misshelved french philosophers. At other times, when I have been studying for hours and just want to weep, I lie on my back in the poetry section and cover my face with an open book, not even someone who I love, just a pretty book with a pungent comforting library smell.
  • I dream of living nearer to the lake so as to become well acquainted with the ducks and the geese. Observing them has been my central delight this week, though I have to be careful about my propensity to make meaningful eye contact with the geese, as it makes them react with aggression. It’s just that I want to approach the world from now on with a strict policy of meaningful eye contact in all interactions. But geese are not people even if their yoga poses might fool you into thinking they are!

yoga goose

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~ by Not Alice on April 13, 2008.

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