Monday, January 31, 2011

THESE TREES WILL CLAP


These trees will clap their joy toward the brooding sky.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

NECESSARY THINGS

Dear Reader:

As you have probably surmised, Troy's Work Table is taking a short break to refresh and rejuvenate. Making a few short, personal video poems. Reading a few books. Writing some. Visiting the Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. Tasting a couple of new beers. You know, necessary things.

New posts will return in short order.

TWT

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

CHILI PEPPER


Last spring's vegetable garden never came to fruition. It was thwarted by a long spell of cold weather that arrived suddenly after the final frost should have been a memory. The dying vegetable garden was quickly commandeered and instead became a flower garden, but I did manage to keep a pepper plant alive in my office at work.

I toiled diligently to keep the plant healthy. It rewarded my attention and care and pollination of its flowers with a single green pepper. That pepper sat there green and awkward for a number of months, unwilling to mature and ripen. I left for a week of vacation and when I returned the pepper had turned a beautiful orange-red, waiting to be plucked and dried and used to season some as-yet-unknown entree.

The lesson: love and time and the right moment.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

FOUR BOOKS



Clockwise from upper left: (1) H.P. Lovecraft: The Fiction by H.P. Lovecraft; (2) One Hundred Percent Lunar Boy by Stephen Tunney; (3) Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas; and (4) The Passages of H.M. by Jay Parini


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I received four different books for Christmas, either as gifts or as books I purchased with bookstore gift cards. I am in the midst of reading each of them, bouncing from one to the next as my fancy tickles me: a chapter here, one hundred pages there, and back.

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H.P. Lovecraft: The Fiction by H.P. Lovecraft

It is rare that I find myself in a Barnes & Noble bookstore, but this book makes for a lovely exception. This volume collects all of Lovecraft's original short stories and novellas in one place. No longer are they scattered about in a bunch of tattered mass-market paperbacks, with the stray story only available in a special-edition reprint. Barnes & Noble published this complete and unabridged Lovecraft collection as part of their The Library of Essential Writers series.

First, it is nice to see Lovecraft recognized alongside writers such as Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Henry James, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, and H.G. Wells. Second, it is an attractive, well-constructed, sturdy book that presents the stories in chronological order, with commentary by noted Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi. Third, it costs $12.95, which is a steal for a hardcover book with the amount of literature printed on its pages.

I look forward to revisiting some of my favorite Lovecraft tales—"The Call of Cthulu," "The Colour out of Space," "At the Mountains of Madness"—and delving into the weird stories of a great writer.

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One Hundred Percent Lunar Boy by Stephen Tunney

One Hundred Percent Lunar Boy was a book that I picked up off of the shelf because I was drawn to the strange illustration of the moon as the iris of the eye of the face on the cover. I then read the jacket blurb. I then read the opening sentences and was confronted by the lunar white dog-sized hummingbirds that drift over the Sea of Tranquility in large clouds. That was all it took.

I am now halfway through the novel's story of Hieronymus Rexaphin and his struggles as someone "afflicted" with lunarcroptic ocular symbolanosis, as well as extreme academic schizophrenia. His ability to see the fourth primary color (which must not be discussed or entertained, let alone seen) causes all kinds of problems for Hieronymus and those around him.

The descriptions of the neon-drenched and overcrowded cities of the terraformed Moon, two thousand years from now, with their prostitutes and casinos and aging infrastructures and class distinctions and inane laws that strip citizens of their rights remind me of another time and place, closer and easily as familiar. Loopies and Toppers and Earth visitors and gazes that drive one mad or even kill and the existence of a secret cache of paper books much different than the electronic books found in the classroom make this book a quick yet philosophical rollercoaster of a mystery-meets-coming-age-tale.

I haven't had this much fun with a "science fiction" novel since Jeff Noon's Vurt. I am looking forward to the second half.

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Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

I know the basic story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life, but this biography by Eric Metaxas does an excellent job of highlighting Bonhoeffer's faith in the face of governmental and societal evils. I was worried that the book would present a "conservative hero," especially since it is published by Thomas Nelson, which has a more "fundamental" leaning than I am comfortable with. However, I can honestly say that Metaxas does a great job of balancing between the liberal and conservative ends of the theological and cultural spectrum when examining Bonhoeffer, his work, and his life. My guess is that Metaxas is able to do such by focusing on how Bonhoeffer himself was able to do the same—being trained in liberal theology but being much more orthodox and "conservative" than the German churches that allied themselves with the Nazi regime and were eventually completely co-opted.

This biography also helps to provide some good background and context for some of Bonhoeffer's work. For example, it makes Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship resonate more than they would without it.

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The Passages of H.M. by Jay Parini

I'm not very far into this novel of Herman Melville, but I am very intrigued by it. It presents the life of Herman and his wife Elizabeth (H.M. and Lizzie) in chapters that alternate between their two viewpoints. It seems a bit sensational, focusing on all of the "naughty bits" of Melville's life and the elements that are the most sensational, the most likely to sell modern-day tabloid newspapers. Skimming through its pages, I see references to alcoholism, depression, madness, and Melville's purported homosexuality.

I find the latter the most outlandish and influenced by the work of a few recent scholars who seem to be trying too hard to view nineteenth-century mores and cultural practices through a late-twentieth-century lens. (I also feel that the relationship between Melville and Hawthorne is overplayed in much recent biography and scholarship, but I guess that American literature doctoral candidates have to try to promote their theses in a crowded field. No?)

I'm sure I will have much more to say about this novel when I delve deeper into its as-yet-mostly-uncharted seas.

Monday, January 03, 2011

MOBY-DICK REPRESENTS


Christmas gifts (from different individuals) reveal two Moby-Dick shirts.

Left: The classic Rockwell Kent cover of the novel. From Out of Print Clothing, which means that a child in Africa also received a book to read.

Right: The famous first line of the novel.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

WINTER LIGHT


We are taught and told that the shortest day of the year has passed, that the days now become longer, lighter, more vibrant, as we head toward spring and summer. Yet even with this light, the days feel dark, the trees shadows of their former glory.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

GRAUPEL


The ground is littered with a layer of graupel, a type of precipitation also known as soft hail. Five minutes of graupel falling from the sky has become five days of it resting upon the ground where shadows and freezing temperatures conspire.