No Thanks

e.e. cummings serves us a master class in petty retribution with this, his sixth book of poems, self-published in 1935 and dedicated (with “no thanks”) to the 15 publishers who rejected his manuscript. His mom ponied up the $300 to privately publish this; his previous publisher had only sold 11 copies of Is 5 that year (sales down also due to the Depression). From the introduction, a few random bits of trivia: a reminder that cummings was pals with Joe Gould (immortalized by Joseph Mitchell), and he always referred to Samuel Goldwyn of MGM as Samuel Goldfish, which was his earlier name. cummings also thought about getting rid of the word “poem” to substitute “fait,” French for “the thing made,” thinking of himself as a faiteur.

Many delicious poems in here, including 21:

all those who got
athlete’s mouth jumping
on&off bandwagons

23 is also great, containing bits that are apt today:

he does not have to feel because he thinks
(the thoughts of others,be it understood)
he does not have to think because he knows
(that anything is bad which you think good)

I’m now eyeing my copy of Is 5 for a re-read.

Girl With Curious Hair: Stories

I tried to read this again, only realizing that I’d made the attempt once before when the first story seemed so familiar, the mother-daughter team who work behind the scenes at Jeopardy! and the daughter’s relationship with the woman who’s been a reigning champion for too many weeks to count (Little Expressionless Animals). One detail in that story was eerily similar to something I just learned about Richard Brautigan this week, his mom left him and his sister alone in Great Falls, ID, abandoning them in a hotel room when he was 9 and sister was 4. In this story, the Jeopardy! champion is abandoned by her mother with her brother, left by the side of the road and told not to take their hands of a fence post until she returned, which she never did.

The other story that I admit to enjoying was Luckily the Account Representative Knew CPR, a dreary basement garage life saving attempt by one executive of another. Other than that, his stories are wild flights of fancies that demand you to buckle up and get seasick for the ride through DFW’s dancing mind. I prefer his non-fiction.

The Edna Webster Collection of Undiscovered Writings

Well, I can’t help myself. Even though I ended my last post about Brautigan wondering if we really need to listen to jerks, I can’t resist the work. This is a collection of his writing that surfaced in the late 1990s from a woman he knew growing up in Oregon. “When I am rich and famous, Edna, this will be your social security.” And it was, Edna Webster sitting on a treasure trove of his earliest work. Lucky for me, this is a tightly edited selection, dropping out the crap and keeping the good bits, like “all the cities at once:”

a city
than New York,
all the cities
at once.

You can almost forgive the misogynist as long as the writing holds up. These stories and poems were from a simpler time before his head swole up with fame and turned him into a huge asshole.

Revenge of the Lawn, The Abortion, So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away

Walking past the Presidio branch library on a recent weekend stroll, I dipped in and spotted a display case with letters written from people to the library, asking if it really existed. These were readers of Brautigan’s The Abortion, where the narrator works as a librarian at the 3150 Sacramento Street location. A copy of this book was on the shelves upstairs, soon to be in my possession.

The book was bundled with two others, which went from Bad to Better to Best. I was disappointed in Revenge of the Lawn, a collection of his stories from the 1960s that seemed to have as much talent as you’d expect from a team of monkeys pounding away at typewriters, albeit with occasional glimpses of greatness, like The Gathering of a Californian:

Like most Californians, I come from someplace else and was gathered to the purpose of California like a metal-eating flower gathers the sunshine, the rain, and then to the freeway beckons its petals and lets the cars drive in, millions of cars into but a single flower, the scent choked with congestion and room for millions more.

California needs us, so it gathers us from other places. I’ll take you, you, you, and I from the Pacific Northwest: a haunted land where nature dances the minuet with people and danced with me in those old bygone days.

I brought everything I knew from there to California: years and years of a different life to which I can never return nor want to and seems at times almost to have occurred to another body somehow vaguely in my shape and recognition.

It’s strange that California likes to get her people from every place else and leave what we knew behind and here to California we are gathered as if energy itself, the shadow of that metal-eating flower, had summoned us away from other lives and now to do the California until the very end like the Taj Mahal in the shape of a parking meter.

He has a great description of my credit union, which used to be the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, on the site of one of California’s most famous cemeteries before they shipped the dead off to Colma, but still some tall cypress trees linger. “Perhaps these questions are too poetic. Maybe it would be best just to say: There are four trees standing beside an insurance company out in California.”

I was fully prepared to not like The Abortion, and yet it was simply good. The librarian accepts random books 24 hours a day, has been locked inside the library for three years until he gets his girlfriend pregnant and they head to Tijuana for an abortion. There is, of course, that terrible streak of misogyny that seems to taint all the Beats, but if you hold your nose or just sigh and skim through those parts, it’s almost worth it.

But best of all was So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away, an intriguing look back to his Oregon childhood with dramatic flashes (the decision to buy bullets for his gun instead of a hamburger, then the accidental shooting of his friend) and theatrical descriptions of the pond he’d fish in and watch a fat couple drive up to and unload their living room furniture night after night so they’d be comfortable while doing their own fishing from the overstuffed sofa.

I guess I’m on a Brautigan quest now, an irresistible blend of decent writing mixed with San Francisco history.


Hmm. I’m having second thoughts after reading the Rolling Stone writeup after he suicided, with choice quotes like:

  • “A lot of Richard’s male friends blamed women for his death, but they admitted that he was impossible to live with.”
  • “Although he hated feminists, Richard understood women’s frailties and fears.”
  • “he became frighteningly violent” to one of his wives.
  • “Richard bought a house in Bolinas, upsetting many people in the community when he dispossessed poets David and Tina Meltzer and their children.” Michael McClure elsewhere noted “It was Richard buying the house that David and Tina [Meltzer] lived in right out from under them and their two children that was the straw that broke my camel’s back. I thought he should have bought it and let them live in it for nothing. Or even have given it to them.”

Does the world need to continue to read the works of jerks?

Inside the Painter’s Studio

I enjoyed Joe Fig’s interviews and photographs of 24 visual artists (in NYC and Long Island) mostly for the descriptions of their typical day and advice to people just starting out—it reminded me of the Paris Review series that asks writers about their writing process (who writes standing up, etc.). The questions posed to each artist: when did you first consider yourself a professional artist and dedicate yourself to that full time? How long have you been in this studio location? Does it have any effect on your work? What’s your typical day? Do you listen to music or TV while you work? Do you have any special tools you use? Do you work on one thing at a time or several pieces? How often do you clean your space? How do you come up with titles? (I loved the artist who mentioned that she enlisted the help of a Title Muse) Do you work with assistants and have you ever worked for other artists? Do you have a motto or a creed? (No one had a good answer to that one) Advice to artists just starting out? (Mostly it was around sticking together with your peers, seeing their shows, creating noise and vibration from your group, and working always working)

Actually, Chuck Close’s answer to the motto question was best: “Inspiration is for amateurs—the rest of us just show up and get to work.” Barnaby Furnas‘s advice resonated with me, as I tend to immerse myself in 19th and 20th century literature: “Stay in your time. You need to participate in what’s going on now.”

As for the daily routine, it was eerily similar (although a few outliers liked to sleep late): up by 7 or 8, a bit of puttering, some breakfast, then to work until lunch, work four more hours then break. All preferred no interruptions and didn’t want telephones nearby (the interviews were in 2006 before cellphones were absolutely ubiquitous).

April Gornik had some great things to say about photography. When people tell her that her paintings look just like photographs she thinks how revolting a comment that is, “Don’t you see how different this is?” And she thinks it’s hard for people to see art now, because photography has become the “common visual denominator in all the arts. And people tend to see things as images, and they don’t understand or even experience the somatic import of the art. They’re seeing it only with one of their senses—they just see the image. They don’t know how to read into it…. people are accustomed to seeing things as kind of a quick fix. So when they see representational, figurative painting, they tend to reduce it to an art historical past or they see it in terms of simply being an image. I don’t know of any so-called realist painters that, in fact, aren’t riddled with abstract notions about what they are doing. Even plein-air painters that I have known will talk about painting in the same way I will, which is about an investment in time, a building up of surface—that’s an entirely abstract activity that then arrives at something that looks recognizable, but it’s as much of a surprise to you as anybody. I think we are on the brink of visual illiteracy even though we have so much visual information culturally.”

I loved Bill Jensen‘s story, how he stayed in Minneapolis after graduating, working as a mason to make money to come to NYC in 1971. He describes showing at a big gallery but feeling terrible about it because his work was purchased by the people who had financed the Vietnam War, so he dropped out of the art world for five years, working as a carpenter and mason (painting at night in the Williamsburg studio). “To support myself I could ride my bicycle from Williamsburg with my mason tools on the handlebars and do jobs on the Upper East Side. I could do a job for three weeks and take off six weeks to two months to just work on my painting.

Matthew Richie called art grad schools a scam, “the professionalization of something that is not a profession… I always got the feeling that a successful person would have done just as well having not gone to grad school and the other 80 percent of that group have no reason to go and will go nowhere afterwards.”

Dana Schutz’s work looks incredible (and I just realized that I know her controversial “Open Casket” shown at the Whitney) and she’s so young in this book! She has been making art since she was 15 and comes across as a nice, fun spirit. I liked the story she related about de Kooning supposedly asking Gorky how he could afford such great paint during the height of the Depression and Gorky saying, “Priorities.”


Book of poems from the British poet Kayo Chingonyi in 2017; the name means “initiation,” the rites boys from tribes in NW Zambia must pass through before considered men. Most deal with trying to understand identity in a place where his roots seemed stripped away, plus a jab or two at Eminem (who gets to be dubbed a poet because of his white skin and blue eyes) instead of just a brother who can rhyme.

My favorite of the bunch has to be Guide to Proper Mixtape Assembly:

Whale Nation

Heathcote Williams’ poem celebrating whales was one of the sources of text in John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea (2015) but I didn’t hold that against the poem. (Most of the texts referenced in Akomfrah’s video installation—e.g. Moby-Dick, To The Lighthouse—seemed a sort of lip service that was supposed to grant the work intellectual rigor by association.)

This 1988 poem is presented swimming in a pod of photos of whales and dolphins, then jammed up against a dusty compendium of notes and amendments about whales—of course from Moby-Dick, from which it gets this idea of Extracts, but also from Fichtelius and Sjolander’s 1973 Intelligence in Whales, Dolphins, and Humans (most often referenced it seems), Montaigne, Pliny the Elder, etc. Aristotle’s quote: “The voice of the dolphin in air is like that of the human in that they can pronounce vowels and combinations of vowels, but have difficulties with the consonants.” (trans D’Arcy Thomson 1910).

The poem was informed by the facts presented in the end section, which by themselves are impressive. Apparently whales can call to each other over the entire breadth of the Pacific Ocean by emitting sound at a depth where two sound-reflecting layers are close to each other. The photos are not terrific, and fair warning there are several beastly ones of captured and flayed bodies.

On Reading Ruskin (Prefaces to La Bible D’Amiens and Sesame et les Lys)

Proust was influenced by Ruskin early in his writing career, as seen in these prefaces to the two translations Proust did of Ruskin’s work, La Bible d’Amiens in 1900 and Sésame et les Lys in 1906, including the long prefaces and extended notes that are included in this. My favorite, of course, is his preface to Sesame and Lilies, On Reading. This is the essay in which he called the moments of unity between reader and writer “that fruitful miracle of communication in the midst of solitude.”

Books “are the only calendars we have kept of days that have vanished….” Proust loosely quotes Descartes in that “the reading of all good books is like a conversation with the most cultivated men of past centuries who have been their authors.” Fetishistic respect for books is dangerous, maybe even unhealthy, and the “taste for books grows with intelligence.” He points out Schopenhauer as an example of a mind “whose vitality bears lightly the most enormous reading, each new idea being immediately reduced to its share of reality, to the living portion it contains.”

“No doubt friendship, friendship for individuals, is a frivolous thing, and reading is a friendship. But at least it is a sincere friendship, and the fact that it is directed to one who is dead, who is absent, gives it something disinterested, almost moving… In reading, friendship is suddenly brought back to its first purity. With books, no amiability. These friends, if we spend an evening with them, it is truly because we desire them. In their case, at least, we often leave only with regret.”

So why do writers most often seek the classics for mental solace? Proust thinks it’s “doubtless because contemporary thought, which original writers and artists make accessible and desirable to the public, is to a certain extent so much a part of themselves that a different type of thought entertains them more. It requires, in order form them to proceed to it, more effort, and also gives them more pleasure; we always like to escape a bit from ourselves, to travel, when reading.”

Translated and edited by Jean Autret, William Burford, Phillip J. Wolfe

Imponderable: The Archives of Tony Oursler

This is a collection of bits from Oursler’s archive of magic and occult. His huge personal archive contains objects about  paranormal, ghosts, pseudoscience, and technology. Oursler (born 1957) is a NYC-based artist and he uses these objects as a visual resource and inspiration. His grandfather figures significantly in the collection; Charles Fulton Oursler was an   author and publisher in addition to being a magician and pals with Harry Houdini. Grandfather Oursler was instrumental in helping to debunk the myth of spiritualism, including interactions with Arthur Conan Doyle, who believed in the paranormal. The book features a dazzling array of objects from grandson Oursler’s collection: letters, objects, photos, rare books, etc.

Beside ghosts and UFOs, there’s info on cults and demons and Ouija boards and the moon landing and nudists. Amazing collection and a few good essays at the end by art historians who try to make sense of it all.

Solitude: A Return to the Self

Much good in this 1988 book by psychiatrist Anthony Storr, but slightly marred by some unscientific leaps. But for someone who prefers to spend time alone, this is a goldmine of quotes about solitude if nothing else— some of my favorites are at the end of this post.

Storr’s argument is that society currently places way too much emphasis on having several close personal relationships as the key to happiness, completely disregarding the joy and fulfillment people get from their own work/art. Many of the world’s greatest thinkers didn’t raise families or have close personal ties (e.g. Descartes, Newton, Locke, Pascal, Spinoza, Kant, Leibniz, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein). Overlooking the fact that his focus was entirely on white males, I appreciated the callout that none married and most lived alone for most of their lives. Storr works in several quotes from writers who left us evidence of their happy thinking, like Gibbon’s rejoicing in escaping marriage, thankful to still be “in possession of [his] natural freedom.”

Storr explains something that I’ve been unable to understand about my own life, how happy my superficial relationships make me with various people I see each week, like doormen, librarians, etc. “In the course of daily life, we habitually encounter many people with whom we are not intimate, but who nevertheless contribute to our sense of self. Neighbours, postmen, bank clerks, shop assistants, and many others may all be familiar figures with whom we daily exchange friendly greetings, but are generally persons about whose lives we know very little.” From these people we get “mutual recognition, acknowledgement of each other’s existence, and thus some affirmation, however slight, that each reciprocally contributes something to life’s pattern.” And even more comforting: “many people can and do lead equable and satisfying lives by basing them upon a mixture of work and more superficial relationships.”

Being alone encourages your imagination, but “the price of flexibility, of being released from the tyranny of rigid, inbuilt patterns of behaviour, is that ‘happiness’, in the sense of perfect adaptation to the environment or complete fulfilment of needs, is only briefly experienced.” This achievement of joy is fleeting, and Storr has a previous book where he suggests that dissatisfaction with life, or ‘divine discontent’, is an inescapable part of the human condition.

Some people’s dispositions are more suited to finding the meaning of their life in “interests, beliefs, or patterns of thought” instead of interpersonal relationships.

A few quotes about solitude:

  • “Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius; and the uniformity of a work denotes the hand of a single artist.” – Edward Gibbon; History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, volume 5.
  • “No man ever will unfold the capacities of his own intellect who does not at least checker his life with solitude.” – De Quincey, from his collected writings
  • “When from our better selves we have too long / Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop, / Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired, / How gracious, how benign, is Solitude.” – Wordsworth, from The Prelude

What men don’t like about women (1945)

I heard about this ridiculous book when the Table of Contents was making the rounds online, listing out all the things men don’t like about women. This is basically a field guide for misogynists. I’m not sure what went wrong in Thomas D. Horton’s life to make him hate women so much, but he’s clearly got an inferiority complex. Most of the gripes come from encountering women at work, either as bosses or secretaries. “Women bosses take unusual pleasure in humiliating the men who must take orders from them. They will make them work after hours, completely redo certain jobs, pick up pieces of paper under and about their desks, run petty errands, itemize an office expenditure of twenty-eight cents, explain why they were four minutes late five days before and so on.”

He complains that women are either too serious or not serious at all, a vein he continues throughout the book. His ideal woman seems to be one that sits prettily with her mouth shut and never asks for anything.

Apparently he encountered some women bosses that demanded sex in return for doing business with her. Horton says that the salesman “has to go to bed with them, but he is not allowed to pay for sex. He is the one who is being paid in the form of orders. He resents his humiliation, but he can’t do anything about it.” Of course he finds female prostitutes to be quite charming, and can’t wrap his head around how this would look from their angle.  His love of prostitutes (of the female variety) is quite clear and there’s a whole chapter on how great they are, how fair, giving a man what he pays for, sometimes with a little extra thrown in. “A prostitute above the twenty-five cents level… will never pry into a man’s private affairs…”

He hated the bosses but said it was “a miracle that employers do not murder more secretaries” due to their incompetence and ill manners. For god’s sake, women, what are you doing keeping sanitary pads in your desks? “Have they no sense of decency? Imagine what a howl women would raise if men kept their jock-straps in the upper drawers of their desks for all to see or in the community medicine chest.”

Women are always nattering on about this and that, but god forbid they have an opinion about a book, a theater production, or an article they’ve read. “Who in recorded human history ever heard a woman say anything intelligent about a theatrical performance? If anyone has, the probabilities are that the woman in the case stole her remarks from a man or a press release.” Don’t get him started on women writers, either. “There is a profound justice in the fact that the fountainhead of all the literary unintelligibilities of the last forty years is a woman, Gertrude Stein.”

Well what about fun-loving women, then? Women drunks, perhaps? “Women drunkards are far more disgusting physically than men drunkards. Their mascara runs, their lipstick cakes or becomes too moist, their eyes glisten with pitiful timidity, their waists become splotched with liquor and food stains, their hair runs over their foreheads, and so on. They use language that even a drunken man hesitates to use. They become, in short, mere animals. And on top of it all they steal all your handkerchiefs, seldom returning them.”

First he complains about women wasting money on fancy restaurants, etc., but once they are engaged, women become too miserly. Ah, but what does she dream about? “As any man will tell you, she dreams about the following: oil burners, refrigerators, lawns, fountains in the garden, town cars, charge accounts in fifty expensive stores, a box in the diamond horseshoe of the Metropolitan Opera House, diamond tiaras, ruby and emerald bracelets, Miami in the winter, the Pocono Mountains in the summer, ocean cruises, Hollywood, eating on side-walk cafes in the summer in New York (even when the air is dusty), a dozen maids, two dozen butlers, a French telephone in every room (especially the bathroom), five dollar handkerchiefs, Kolinsky coats….” He is inexhaustible in his list of petty things women dream of.

The Thousand-Mile Summer: In Desert and High Sierra

One final Colin Fletcher book, I couldn’t help myself. The walking Brit who tackled some of America’s greatest hits in the 1960s, including this walk the entire length of California, from the Mexican border to the Oregon state line. Along the way he meets several characters: desert rats, wizened dried up old men, generous ladies throwing birthday parties for their 80-year-old dad, cautious rangers, tall-tale-tellers. Of course he walks naked whenever possible, per usual. Seems dreamy, he just up and took off for 6 months, leaving his San Francisco job as a hospital janitor behind and setting off into the wilderness.

In Memoriam

More accurately, this is In Memoriam A.H.H., a tribute to Tennyson’s beloved friend Arthur Hallam, met as fellow poets in the Apostles group at Cambridge. It’s a grief-soaked 100-ish pages spanning three years after Hallam’s untimely death of a cerebral aneurysm in his hotel room in Vienna in 1833, the fall after he graduated.

The ABBA rhyme was used occasionally in earlier poetry, but this is the longest and best-known to use it (so much so that the ABBA stanza is known as the In Memoriam stanza). The editor of this edition, Matthew Rowlinson, notes that it’s an unusual choice for a long poem, “the symmetrical eight-syllable line is far more apt to become monotonous than the longer ten-syllable one of iambic pentameter that from the 16th to the 20th centuries was the norm for long English poems on elevated topics.” It lends itself to seem repetitious, which to me seems to perfectly fit with grief. Henry James called the poem’s style “poised and stationary” where the phrase seems to “pause and slowly pivot upon itself, or at most to move backwards.”

Compared with other poetic elegies, it’s extremely long and doesn’t offer any divine solace like Shelley’s “Peace, peace! He is not dead, he doth not sleep—/He hath awakened from the dream of life.”

The most recognizable part is in XXVII, “I hold it true, whate’er befall;/ I feel it, when I sorrow most;/ ‘Tis better to have loved and lost/ Than never to have loved at all.”

So why am I reading this? Virginia Woolf’s letter to Violet Dickinson (Vol 1, p 217) mention that she’s reading it: “I went to a dance last night, and found a dim corner where I sat and read In Memoriam. While Nessa danced every dance till 2.30. I had one argument about the Roman Empire—you see I am not successful.” It also influenced her first book, The Voyage Out, according to Jane Wheare’s introduction.

Travels of William Bartram

Reading this book alongside a book about fracking provides a jarring juxtaposition—compare the gloriously clear waters and abundant nature of 1770’s Florida with the contaminated wells and airborne chemicals of 2010’s Pennsylvania. We have lost so much in so short a time.

William Bartram traveled around Georgia, the Carolinas, and Florida between 1773 and 1778, resulting in this delightful book of his reminisces in 1791. The book influenced Coleridge and it’s said to have given him many of the gorgeous images that were later woven into Kubla Khan and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It was a source for Wordsworth as well, “likewise an enthusiastic reader of travel literature; ‘She was a phantom of delight’ and ‘Ruth’ both distinctly show its influence…” Bartram was a trained naturalist and goes into ecstatic shock over the varieties of flora and fauna around him, listing the trees and shrubs and flowers and insects in long breathless paragraphs.

He hitches onto a surveying party of whites who have wrested land from the native Creek and Cherokee after tense negotiations in Augusta (GA): “the merchants of Georgia demanding at least two million of acres of land from the Indians, as a discharge of their debts, due, and of long standing…” Naturally the natives wanted to do no such thing, but eventually the chiefs gave in after lavish presents were given. Of the whites, everyone is described as exceedingly “polite”—I must have counted 10 uses of the word in a few paragraphs. Manners appear to be of utmost importance, as well as letters of introduction from important people.

The text is littered with occasional gems, like “I accidentally discovered a new species of caryophyllata (geum odoratissimum); on reaching to a shrub my foot slipped, and, in recovering myself, I tore up some of the plants, whose roots filled the air with animated scents of cloves and spicy perfumes.” I’m extremely jealous of the unspoiled vista he was taking in, describing huge trees, woods thick with birds, untouched swamplands.

Amazing descriptions of alligators swarming him, the river choked with fish and alligators “in such incredible numbers, and so close together from shore to shore, that it would have been easy to have walked across on their heads.” The prose is intense:

During this attempt, thousands, I may say hundreds of thousands, of [fish] were caught and swallowed by the devouring alligators. I have seen an alligator take up out of the water several great fish at a time, and just squeeze them betwixt his jaws, while the tails of the great trout flapped about his eyes and lips, ere he had swallowed them. The horrid noise of their closing jaws, their plunging amidst the broken banks of fish, and rising with their prey some feet upright above the water, the floods of water and blood rushing out of their mouths, and the clouds of vapor issuing from their wide nostrils, were truly frightful. This scene continued at intervals during the night, as the fish came to the pass.

He’s attacked several times by the gators:

As I passed by Battle lagoon, I began to tremble and keep a good lookout; when suddenly a huge alligator rushed out of the reeds, and with a tremendous roar came up, and darted as swift as an arrow under my boat, emerging upright on my lee quarter, with open jaws, and belching water and smoke that fell upon me like rain in a hurricane. I laid soundly about his head with my club and beat him off; and after plunging and darting about my boat, he went off on a straight line through the water, seemingly with the rapidity of lightning, and entered the cape of the lagoon.

Snakes, mosquitoes, gators, orange groves, pine forests, old Indian roads, frogs, lizards, turtles, turkeys, manatees, fish, squirrels, stinging flies, hurricanes and more. Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Seminole Indians sneak in and out of his pages. Bartram mentions the “temporary husbands” of the Indian women sleeping with white men, along with the women’s trick of obtaining rum:

They had the fortitude and subtilty by dissimulation and artifice to save their share of the liquor during the frolick, and that by a very singular strategem; for, at these riots, every fellow who joins in the club has his own quart bottle of rum in his hand, holding it by the neck so sure, that he never looses hold of it day or night, drunk or sober, as long as the frolick continues; and with this, his beloved friend, he roves about continually, singing, roaring, and reeling to and fro, either alone or arm in arm with a brother toper, presenting his bottle to every one, offering a drink; and is sure to meet his beloved female if he can, whom he complaisantly begs to drink with him. But the modest fair, veiling her face in a mantle, refuses, at the beginning of the frolick; but he presses and at last insists. She being furnished with an empty bottle, concealed in her mantle, at last consents, and taking a good long draught, blushes, drops her pretty face on her bosom, and artfully discharges the rum into her bottle, and by repeating this artifice soon fills it: this she privately conveys to her secret store, and then returns to the jovial game, and so on during the festival; and when the comic farce is over, the wench retails this precious cordial to them at her own price.

I do like their supposed custom of marriage, marrying only for a year’s time and then renewing the marriage after a year if desired.

He notes that “the Cherokees are extremely jealous of white people travelling about their mountains, especially if they should be seen peeping in amongst the rocks, or digging up their earth.”

Lovely description of the Cherokee language: “very loud, somewhat rough and very sonorous, sounding the letter R frequently, yet very agreeable and pleasant to the ear.”

Includes lists upon lists of birds seen, towns and villages of the Cherokee nation, towns and their corresponding Indian language spoken, and of course all the flowers/shrubs/trees/insects/wildlife seen.

Mentioned in Lauren Groff’s Florida

The Man Who Walked Through Time

I enjoyed Colin Fletcher’s Complete Walker, so figured I’d give this a whirl. By now I’m used to the faint whiffs of sexist writing (also on display here) but I’m a sucker for books about wandering on foot.

The journey takes place in the spring of 1964 over a two month period with snow storms, boiling temperatures, obsessive planning about water sources, contemplating nature, dissolving into the silence and solitude. He’s obsessed with the idea of being the first person to walk the length of the canyon (completely disregarding native people and previous explorers). The idea comes to him after he reads an article by Harvey Butchart who had spent the previous 17 years on a series of 3 and 4-day trips making his way around the National Park. There was one section that Butchart had not yet accomplished and Colin pouts that Butchart tackles that remaining bit while Colin’s on the trail, beating him to the punch. Colin gets his revenge by describing him as a happy and devoted schizophrenic who teaches math. But there are several whiny passages where he bemoans being the second person to pass through a certain passageway, or boasts about being the first without evidence.

I shuddered to read about him tossing his trash into the river as he progressed, especially one passage where he devotes a page and a half to describing the arc of the bottle as it crested over the water, how it exploded on the water. And what did he do with all those empty food canisters and parachutes from food drops? Yet he gives us a grim tsk-tsk when he spots a half eaten orange bobbing near civilization.

Once again, he’s tromping along naked as a jaybird, “freed from the pressure of haste, the tyranny of film, and now the restraint of clothes…” He does seem to slip back into his togs when he dips into society at the Phantom Ranch, where he sneers at the “urbane and attractive blonde from New York” who said in a hushed voice that ‘This is really the end of the line, isn’t it?” whereas for him, he’d been living weeks without any modern comforts.

I didn’t realize there were two commercial airplanes that collided over the Canyon in 1956. The wreckage was there when he clomped through, but he was angry to see helicopters of tourists checking them out.

“If the dream you have dreamed can survive untarnished through a year of doubt and discouragement and frustration and all the drawn-out detail of research and planning and preparation, then you can safely assume that you want to go through with the project.”