By Stephen Dunn
The room has no choice.
Everything that's spoken in it
it absorbs. And it must put up with
the bad flirt, the overly perfumed,
the many murderers of mood—
with whoever chooses to walk in.
If there's a crowd, one person
is certain to be concealing a sadness,
another will have abandoned a dream,
at least one will be a special agent
for his own cause. And always
there's a functionary,
somberly listing what he does.
The room plays no favorites.
Like its windows, it does nothing
but accommodate shades
of light and dark. After everyone leaves
(its entrance, of course, is an exit),
the room will need to be imagined
by someone, perhaps some me
walking away now, who comes alive
when most removed. He'll know
from experience how deceptive
silence can be. This is when the walls
start to breathe as if reclaiming the air,
when the withheld spills forth,
when even the chairs start to talk.
We took the minivan in to be inspected and have all its fluids changed, since we just got back from an unexpected trip and are going to put thousands of miles on it next month, which meant that I was stuck in the house most of the day. The kids went to the pool in the late morning while the weather was nice and stayed till it turned dark late in the afternoon. I did laundry and sorted stuff we'll need to bring on vacation. Tuesday when we pick up the van, I want to stop in the mall that's next to the car dealership so I can get some solid perfume since that's easiest to use while traveling -- besides Lush's Karma, which I love, and Crazylibellule and the Poppies' Toi Mon Prince, I need suggestions! Anyone have anything vanilla/fruity or Nag Champa/patchouli that's not too strong but doesn't disappear as soon as you put it on?
Here are a series of photos of the red-winged blackbird that we saw attacking a much larger great blue heron who appeared to be completely disinterested in it. I did not realize at the time that they build their nests in marshes and will attack anything that appears to be threatening, though given its movements in the time we were watching, I suspect the heron was looking for fish rather than baby birds.
I keep meaning to post about Thursday Next: First Among Sequels, which took me an insanely long time to finish because my husband borrowed it to read and then it disappeared into a stack of books in the basement, only to reemerge when we got a new bookcase. After the library episodes of Doctor Who, which were clearly written under Jasper Fforde's influence, I sent a couple of the Thursday Next books to a friend whose birthday is this week. Thus inspired, I finally reached the end of the most recent, which I was in no hurry to do as it's a long wait between books and I love them so. Now I wish to quote some of my favorite bits for posterity. Amidst storylines about Thursday's son's various incarnations through time travel and finding out the literary character who bears her name had sex with her husband, plus the fact that the Minotaur is still after her, here are some of my favorite highlights...
10 -- The description of teenage son Friday's room and person, in which all of Friday's dialogue is "grunt" and "mumble." Plus he's in a band and can't decide whether to call it the Wankers or the Gobshites. Mum is reluctantly forced to vote for the latter.
95 -- Isambard Kingdom Bunuel is in charge of book refits. Pride and Prejudice is regularly in for repairs due to its popularity, but "'it's not as bad as the Lord of the Rings trilogy; those things are always in for maintenance. The fantasy readership really gives it a hammering -- and the fan fiction doesn't help neither.'"
129 -- Thursday's argument with her religious brother about Doctor Who: the Daleks are his favorite, while his partner Miles favors the Sontarans, which Joffy says is "what I would expect from someone who thinks Jon Pertwee was the best Doctor." When Joffy insists that it was Tom Baker, Miles calls him a conventionalist.
146 -- T.J. Maxx is Temporal-J Maximum Security prison where people are trapped in line in five-minute loops forever to pay for their transgressions and keep the world safe. "What did you think T.J. Maxx was?" "A place to buy designer-label clothing at reasonable prices?" "The very idea! Next you'll be telling me that IKEA just sells furniture you have to build yourself."
181 -- Thursday5 gets dewy-eyed over the idea that Harry Potter might make an appearance at the Council of Genres meeting on whether they should be supplying characters to video games to give them added depth. "It's particularly relevant, as publishing these days doesn't necessarily restrict books to being just books."
199 -- Thursday5 brings an autograph book to the CofC meeting. "If you even think of asking Harry Potter for an autograph, your day ends right now," warns the real Thursday.
201 -- Announcement: "Sadly, I have to advise you that Mr. Harry Potter is unable to attend due to copyright restrictions, so we're going to leave the 'supplying characters from video games' issue for another time."
185 -- "The problem with pianos...is that there aren't enough to go around. Lots of people in the BookWorld play them, they frequently appear in the narrative, and they're often used as plot devices. Yet for an unfathomable reason that no one can fully explain, there are only fifteen to cover the entire BookWorld."
185 -- Thursday wanders into Very Old Jokes and gets "I keep on thinking I'm a dog...since I was a puppy."
206 -- Fear of dirty bomb from the Racy Novel genre. "Outbreaks of incongruous obscenity from as far away as Drama -- Charles Dickens, no less." They read in Bleak House, "Sir Leicester leans back in his chair, and breathlessly ejaculates." Then in Mayor of Casterbridge, "the Mayor beheld the unattractive exterior of Farfrae's erection." Plus Oliver Twist has a character called Master Bates. Thursday says they used to giggle over that at school and Thursday5 insists these are words whose meanings have drifted over time. Thursday says she will only sanction a war on misplaced words in the classics when a bad sex scene shows up in To the Lighthouse.
221 -- Thursday jumps into her own novel, The Eyre Affair, saying her character had a psychotic personality. "Boy, was this book ever crap."
272 -- Pride and Prejudice to become a reality TV show where the sisters get voted off by viewers who also get to decide what they should do next. The original will be scrapped forever in favor of the one selected by the producers and viewing audience.
273 -- Classics called dreary, overlong and incomprehensible to anyone without a university education. "We have been suffering under the yoke of the Stalinist principle of one-author books...in the modern world we must strive to bring democracy to the writing process." Discussion of whether authors view their writing process as creative totalitarianism. (Only if they're Anne Rice, Anne McCaffrey, Terry Pratchett or one of the other anti-fan fiction egotists, so far as I'm concerned.)
291 -- Thursday finds herself the captain of a ship in a text she doesn't recognize. "Without a Storycode Engine, we were either nonfiction or something in the oral tradition. Those were the upbeat possibilities: I might also be in a forgotten story, a dead writer's unrealized idea or even a handwritten short story stuck in a desk drawer somewhere -- the dark reading matter." Turns out she's in an ethics seminar, and as the captain of the ship in the anecdote, Thursday has to keep choosing between bad options until everyone's dead.
360 -- As someone tries to kill her yet again, Thursday puts it together, what with the attacks on Sherlock Holmes and Temperance Brennan: "Kill us and you kill not just the individual, but the series. It seemed too bizarre to comprehend, but it had to be the truth--there was a serial killer loose in the BookWorld.
I won't quote George Carlin since so many other people have, though he will be missed here, too.