Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's raining, I'm poring....

I'm going over some quick edits for a short article.

I wrote:
I tremble at the thought of other textual editors poring over my work for errors and misjudgments.
The editor changed poring to pouring. No! I'm not transferring liquid from one vessel to another, nor are the other editors. They're staring, concentrating. So, with some trepidation, I change pouring back to poring and add a comment:
NO. Not pour like liquid, but pore (verb): OED 1 cTo think intently about something; to meditate, muse; to ponder. With on, upon, over. Also occas. trans. with clause as object.
These moments do fill me with trepidation--and irritation. I see the change and have a little panic. Did I err?

I look it up and have a little exaltation. I was right.

I fix it back, keenly aware that it's just this kind of mood that hovers over the last page of my book. For, in the very, very last stages of copy-editing, one of my evil and incompetent copyeditors queried my use of the word "graft." Don't you mean "grant"? No! STET! OED n.1 and the definition... which, I'm sorry to say, they printed in a parentheses in the margins in my book. So it goes.

(The links take you to the nightmare as I lived through it, but I see that I never did post about that final humilation....)

Monday, October 27, 2008


For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.--Luke 12:48.

When Obama talks about tax reform and tax breaks on the middle class (those making annual salaries less than Sarah Palin's wardrobe & make-up allowance for early October, say), it's not so much Marx as it is a revisitation of JFK's modernisation of a verse from the Bible.

I'm just saying.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

HOW party Thursday

My friends have started a literary magazine that is also a charity.

H.O.W. publishes literature & art and also sends money to an orphanage for children affected by the AIDs pandemic.

Tomorrow night, for a $10 cover, you can do good and feed your literary soul. The festivities are at Housing Works, the source of much goodness, and kick of at 6:30. It's a launch party for issue #3 which is a beauty.

Jonathan Lethem and Barry Youngrau are reading.

See you there?

(Housing Works is at 126 Crosby St., btw. Prince & Houston. email info@howjournal.com for more info.)

Etexts and other editions of Mrs. Dalloway

A reader from Iran writes:
i … was searching to find out which version is correct-the etexts of mrs dalloway or the printed one regarding this passage and if there are other instances that you have knowledge of.

She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble. She must find Sally and Peter. And she came in from the little room.
...thrown it away while they went on living. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. But she must...

i'd really appreciate it if you tell me about it. i am writing from iran!

The e-text includes the phrase “he made her feel the beauty, made her feel the fun,” which is also included in most American editions of Mrs. Dalloway. The printed version that my reader quotes must be a British edition. Woolf’s addition of this phrase to the American proofs, but not the British ones, is probably the most striking difference between the American and English editions of Mrs. Dalloway. It’s a huge difference. This is the kind of sentence that one might pin a reading on. Susan Gubar and Sandra Gilbert did.

What does it mean? The “he” is Septimus Smith, of whose death Clarissa has just learned. So, Clarissa thinks that learning about Septimus’ death—or, rather, about the death of a shell-shocked soldier—makes her enjoy the party all the more.

It’s a shocking thought. And a very human one, I think. Sometimes, when we hear of a death during a celebration, we do feel a little electric jolt, an animal response that, in words would be something like “I’m alive, anyway!” It is a callous statement of the connection between Clarissa and Septimus, one that fuels readings of him as a scapegoat.

But why isn’t that thought in the British edition? There are a couple possibilities, so let me reason my way to the most plausible guess. We know that Woolf corrected three sets of proofs simultaneously. Her diary accounts of this process, regarding Mrs. Dalloway and other novels, indicate that she found the task tedious. This suggests that the inconsistencies between editions are likely as much an indicator of fatigue and error as anything. This makes it unlikely, in my opinion, that Woolf meant a change for her American audience. Thus, though the thought is hard to shake, I do not think we can read the change as evidence of Woolf’s pandering to an American readership.

I do think, however, that her failure to make this correction on either her personal proofs or the British proofs, indicates that some ambivalence about it as a correction.

This is a aesthetically consistent. Woolf typically revised explicit statements of meaning and intent out of her drafts as they approached publication, so this addition seems like a hiccup, a momentary lapse of confidence and judgment.

What do you think?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Yes we can! Nothing naive about that.

So, Obama is up in the polls. My fingers and toes are all crossed. But I’m missing a little of that joy that occasionally flooded over me in the primaries. I can see it from here, but I’m too deep in the muck of the bailout and my plummeting 401K (not to mention my daughters’ 527 plans—why did I look?), I needed a jolt of joy.

Luckily for me, a friend passed along this link to an essay in The Brooklyn Rail. The author, Alex Gallo-Brown, writes about his continuing optimism and admiration for Obama. It’s a stirring testimony from a young writer eager to move into a new era of race relations, one that keeps its main focus more on the promise of the future, that seeks to emerge from what Obama calls a 40-year stalemate, not by forgetting, but by looking to the hope and power of youth, of the future.

In a week when the Republican ticket has been so despicable in its invocation of past hatred and fear, it’s quite stirring to remind ourselves that we can know about racism, current and past, without succumbing to it. We might, maybe, even be able to push ourselves forward into a future that looked brighter for all.

He writes about the effect of his time at Garfield High School on his perceptions of race, too. I’m a lot older, but I’m a Garfield alum, too. I’ve written about Garfield a couple of times here, but I’ve never captured the feeling of a Garfield assembly as well as he did in these paragraphs:
In February of my freshman year, we had an assembly to honor Martin Luther King Day. It wasn’t very much different from previous assemblies held at my middle school: A black girl performed a soulful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner; a white boy gave a platitudinous speech about leadership or hard work, I can’t remember which. (There was one novelty, a troupe of Ethiopian girls who shook their asses so fast they managed to titillate the audience and inspire a sense of cultural appreciation all at once.) Then there was more singing, more dancing, more speeches.

I don’t remember exactly what it was about that day; but I do remember the feeling as I stood in the bleachers of the Garfield gym, this surge of emotion. It said—and we said back!—we are here, and we are different than what came before.

It said that we weren’t like our parents, or our parents’ parents—we weren’t subject to their prejudices or preconceptions. We weren’t connected to the America that practiced slavery and put people in internment camps, slaughtered Native Americans and tolerated the laws of Jim Crow.

It said that we have this power—awesome power—to make something new.

Such were my feelings in high school. Then I went to college, the first of three I would attend, and quickly received a remedial education in small-mindedness and unconscious bigotry.
I don’t quite know how to explain it any better. I am amazed and moved to think that the ethos of my Garfield persists. But he is utterly right: Barack’s Yes We Can! seems deeply, deeply familiar to me, and I think it comes out of those assemblies in that old gym. A willful, intense sense of power: aggressive, occasionally even a little angry, a little naive, but full of hope. And that, for me, is the best argument I know for strong, diverse public schools: they help a diverse world full of difference feel like home. They can show young people that their job is to know our history and change our world for the better.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Youme Landowne & Anthony Horton

I am busy. Beyond busy. Busy like never before in my life. Two more weeks of this and then things should settle back into the regular level of chaos. But for now, I'm at a stage where I have unopened emails from a week ago.

Still, once in a while, I do open and read. And then I look on in wonder.

My little local independent bookstore, the Imagine Atrium, is hosting Youme Landowne on Friday, 10/17 and I'm so excited. I hope I can go. If you're in Jersey City, do go.

Landowne writes children's books and her Selavi, about Haiti's restaveks is really beautiful. The restaveks are the poorest of the poor children in Haiti, children whose parents farm them out to "reste-avec," or stay with, less poor families who promise to feed, clothe and educate them. In reality, the restaveks are often little better than slaves. Landowne's picture book, which she wrote and illustrated, tells the true story of some restaveks who made a little family which then turned into a real home. It's the kind of children's book I love: it tells are hopeful story about a really, really dark, real thing. I can share it with my children and they learn about the bad things in the world without learning too much about evil (a delicate balance, but I lean toward realistic pollyannism, the audacity of hope, and all that).

This new book is a collaboration with Anthony Horton, a homeless subway artist. The challenge? Here's what the Imagine Atrium post says:
How do you tell the story of a life that starts something like this?
I was born to people who didn’t want me and so they gave me away. But I guess the people they gave me to didn’t want me either. No one wanted me. That’s why I ended up on the streets alone and uneducated. I couldn’t read or write. I didn’t know anything and the whole world knew it.
This is the voice of Anthony Horton. Born in 1968, Anthony is a homeless artist who lived underneath New York City. If you want to see his work, you’ll have to walk along the tunnel walls in the darkest parts of the transit system.

The drawings look lovely and I already know that Youme's work is cool, so I have high hopes for this one. Check it out.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


I'm writing and trying to keep the children occupied. Without much success. The little one, 2 1/2, after great effort, finally got her tiny foot into one of her father's shoes, great, handsome black pilgrim loafers. She looks up at me and makes the pronouncement of the day:

"I not Daddy. I Is-bel."