July 28, 2006

the fate you’ve carved on me

Posted in books tagged , at 12:27 pm by placeinthestars

I stayed up way too late last night reading The Privilege of the Sword. I’m not done yet, but click for spoilers


July 25, 2006

mr. adams, dear mr. adams

Posted in books tagged , at 3:05 pm by placeinthestars

At lunchtime the past couple weeks, I’ve been reading Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis – it’s the book my niece has to read this summer for her AP American History class. It’s pretty interesting, and I say this as someone who’s never really had much interest in American history.

I think I’ve developed a bit of a crush on George Washington. I’m sure that surprises no one. (John Adams is still my favorite founding father, though, mainly due to 1776.)


July 21, 2006

these two lanes can take us anywhere

Posted in books, music tagged , , , at 4:14 pm by placeinthestars

I went to B&N so I could finally pick up a copy of Nick Hornby’s Songbook, which K. recommended.

As I was leaving the building, the pianist was playing “Hungry Heart.” I found that wonderfully amusing and appropriate.

Then I came back to my desk, paid bills (on time, even, for most of them!), and read this interview where Nick Hornby interviews Bruce Springsteen (from last summer, the Devils and Dust tour). I loved this line from Bruce: “I realised I wasn’t one of my heroes, I was something else and I had to take that into consideration.” I think that is one reason his music works so well, and speaks so truly to so many people. Also, Hornby’s footnote number 5 really really resonates for me.

While I ate my lunch, I read Hornby’s essay on “Thunder Road”, and while it doesn’t exactly capture my feelings about the song (I read it in a much more metaphorical way, I guess. I mean, I never ever thought “I’m pulling out of here to win” was about money or success so much as it was about breaking free from the place that told you you could never win, never succeed, so why even bother trying? and so the very act of “pulling out of here to win” is, in fact, winning), I did enjoy it, and especially his preface about how it’s not necessarily about memories, and how it’s not that the song – or any song – reminds me of one thing or another, it’s that it speaks directly to me, and what it says may change as I get older, but it’s always speaking, a low murmur in my ear and in my heart and in my soul, this is who I am, who I was, who I’d like to someday be…

And now Q-104 is playing “Tenth Avenue Freezeout.”

I am so amused by synchronicity of this nature.


July 18, 2006

the finest funerary urn in existence

Posted in books tagged , at 3:43 pm by placeinthestars

I wanted to share this, because it knocks me dead every time I read it. Admittedly, she had one of the greatest stories ever to work with, but still, it’s all kinds of awesome:

When he has gone over it all and the remains of the pyre lie spread out like a field, Thetis walks in. She sets to work like a gleaner, her bare feet paddling in the soft dust, winnowing the ashes with her hands, gathering bones in the tunic which she holds in an apron before her. Some pieces are thin and dry as sycamore keys or the husk of a chrysalis when the winged creature has gone. She finds the long bones first: femur and tibia, the graceful fibula. The joints are still intact, cartilage shrunk like knobs of resin. Then she picks out the bones of the arms — humerus, radius, ulna. Not hard to find; they are so large, the bones which could move faster than a stag.

She holds the twelve long bones of his body across her arms like wands of peeled wood. They are curiously light now the fire has sucked out their moisture. Light as charcoal and as fragile. It will not take much to break them into dust. She sets down her load on a clean cloth before returning.

Next she finds the beautiful scapulae. So fine, they are almost transparent. She runs a finger along the delicate shelf of one, clearing it of powdery dust. This could be the beginning of a wing. The column of vertebrae, the spinal cord that threaded this necklace of armour now melted away. The circuit of the pelvis is intact. It makes a strange cincture with its buckle at the pubis. Now she collects the ribs like a precious bundle of kindling. The clavicles — first bones that formed in her womb — her womb now aching as it remembers how it was to carry him. She winnows the grey dust from the small bones that gave form to the spear-wielding hands, the swift and steady feet. She gathers them all and cradles them. They are hardly as heavy as the baby she once held. Much lighter than the armour she collected from heaven to protect him.

But the great helmet of his skull she does not take yet.


She remembers that her son wanted his bones to be mixed with the bones of Patroclus. Automedon has remembered this too and has been at work exhuming Patroclus’ urn. It is an earthenware pot and breaks open easily when struck. The desiccated bones have turned to porous fragments and it is hard to distinguish them from the other fragments — dust and bits of urn — which he carries to Thetis in a bronze bowl. With Thetis he feeds these fragments in through the mouth of the golden urn, then pours in the sediment of clinker.

Now it is Achilles’ turn. Thetis handles these bones on her own, knowing how soon they will break up and be indistinguishable from Patroclus’. She feels what each one is and was before she lets it go.

Lastly, she removes the skull from her bodice. She cradles it in her hands and then, as Automedon watches in wonder, seems in a moment to unmake it. For as she takes her hands away the skull tumbles into pieces, its separate bones revealed.

There is one bone, shaped like a bird in flight.

~pages 67-70, Achilles, Elizabeth Cook


I talked about the book here, and I think my assessment stands. It’s beautifully written, but the last section is a misstep. Still, I’d recommend it.