Tuesday, January 05, 2010

2010, Day Four

I didn't pick up a book Monday until the evening. That's unusual for me. On most days I have completed 80 percent of my pages for the day by 1 p.m. I have an hour commute, one way, which allows me to read 30 to 50 pages in the morning, and I typically close the door for lunch and read another 20 to 30 pages.

Not Monday. I left for work before the sun was up and that cut into my morning read time. The return to work, after two weeks away, was busy and three "meetings," starting at noon, eliminated any additional chance to read.

I'm almost finished with My Father Is A Book and still enjoying it.

Janna Malamud Smith writes that her father, while in New York, awaiting the publication of his first book, The Natural, went on a shopping spree:

"He anticipates her (Malamud's wife) resistance to the consequences of his book buying: 'I have sent out to my office three 35 pound boxes of books. We will need a new bookcase -- without complaints, please.'"

She also shares a letter from her father in which he expresses excitement about the cover of The Natural:

"Giroux showed me the book jacket: it's a very nice job in green and bold black. In the center a powerful, black, almost-hawk-nosed Roy, with a bat on his shoulders -- an abstract, as I wanted it. Around him, well composed, an interesting group of Daumier life figures -- fans and other characters in the book. On top, my name; on the book "The Natural." A strong imposing cover, in good taste."

Smith's chapter on Corvallis, Oregon, where she was born and the family lived for many years provides a rare glimpse into the daily life of a famous author.

+ + +

In Little Dorrit, Dickens introduces Mr. Tite Barnacle and the Circumlocution Office. The parallels to Chancery, the English court system, as described in Bleak House, are unmistakable. Both the Circumlocution Office and Chancery are imposing bureaucracies; impenetrable and uncaring, with their own internal logic. For example, Dickens tells the reader, "How the Circumlocution Office . . . 'saw no reason to reverse the decision at which my lords had arrived.' How the Circumlocution Office, being reminded that my lords had arrived at no decision, shelved the business."

The Circumlocution Office is notable "in the art of perceiving -- HOW NOT TO DO IT."

In a wonderful passage, Dickens writes:

"It is true that How not to do it was the great study and object of all public departments and professional politicians all round the Circumlocution Office. It is true that every new premier and every new government, coming in because they had upheld a certain thing as necessary to be done, were no sooner come in than they applied their utmost faculties to discovering How not to do it. It is true that from the moment when a general election was over, every returned man who had been raving on hustings because it hadn't been done, and who had been asking for friends of the honourable gentleman in the opposite interest on pain of impeachment to tell him why it hadn't been done, and who had been asserting that it must be done, and who had been pledging himself that it should be done, began to devise, How it was not to be done. . . . All this is true, but the Circumlocution office went beyond it."

It is perfectly understandable if the modern reader draws parallels between the Circumlocution Office and a certain political party's actions -- or the withholding of action -- regarding health care reform.

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