Here’s a trio of literary treats to celebrate today, the birthday of E. E. Cummings.
1. Seems like today is as good a day as any to tackle that old “e. e. cummings” thing. Read this pair of articles by Norman Friedman (here and here) to for the case against lowercasing “E. E. Cummings.”
2. Over at McSweeney’s, check out the brief and amusing “YouTube Comment or e. e. cummings?” You will excuse the impertinent lowercasing of Mr. Cummings’ name (see #1).
3. And finally, please enjoy a musical performance by Michael Hedges of one of my favorite poems (by one of my favorite poets), “I carry your heart with me.”
So you know that whole thing about how the elves in The Lord of the Rings are all, so, we’re getting in our fancy boats and sailing off into the sunset on our exclusive party cruise? Well, they said that’s what they were doing, but I think “west” must be code for “settling down in Cape Cod and opening a paddle shop.” ‘Cause look what I found.
In other news, if you have not yet heard “Weird Al” Yankovic’s clever and word nerd-baiting tune, “Word Crimes,” what in Middle-earth are you waiting for? You’re welcome.
So today, wordies, would have been the 62nd birthday of preeminent word nerd Douglas Adams. How many of us grew up reading all five of the books in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy? Did you make jokes about the number 42? And did you randomly say “So long and thanks for all the fish”? And do you now love to quote Adams’ sage words: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Sure, me, too.
Last summer, on my way to what turned out to be a delightful vacation in Wyoming visiting the Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, there was an unfortunate stop at the Denver airport (I promise this story will turn out to be about Douglas Adams—eventually). I’m not a good flyer to begin with (and yes, my worst-case-flight-disaster scenario involves sharks), and the approach to Denver was as I had been warned it would be: deeply, deeply turbulent. So, wasn’t feeling that great all around but happy to see we were about to hit the ground when the pilot suddenly—in a way that made me understand at a visceral level what the word suddenly really means—pulled the plane up and shot back into the sky. I think we all groaned at once.
Finally arriving on the ground in Denver felt miraculous in a certain way, but I was so sick to my stomach I was starting to doubt I could possibly get on the next plane for the final leg the trip to Jackson Hole (in a tiny plane. Who doesn’t love a tiny plane?). I gather I missed a lot of the things there are to enjoy at the Denver airport in my airsick haze, including some kind of demonic blue horse, but as I sat down at the gate to wait for the next flight, I looked up and saw this window.
I don’t know what inspired Denver airport to have a little fun with their view here, but I loved it. And between this much-needed dose of levity and the fact that I had my towel safely stowed in my bag, I really did feel much less panicked.
I admit it, when I was but a mighty red crayon, I desperately wanted to be Anne of Green Gables (well, after I gave up my dream of being Harriet the Spy or Encyclopedia Brown). I devoured every Anne book (and pretty much any book by L.M. Montgomery I could get my hands on), and they left an indelible imprint. To this day, any reference to Prince Edward Island or the Lady of Shalott or the name Gilbert can transport me right back to that world.
As any good reader of the series will remember, one key moment of the books was Anne’s recitation of “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes. Here’s a clip of Megan Follows recreating that moment:
And, as a bonus, here’s Loreena McKennitt’s version of “The Highwayman”
Added bonus! I just read that they are bringing Anne back to tv!
Yes, I admit it: I read Fifty Shades of Grey. And I’m left with very little to show for my investment other than a renewed appreciation for the deft touch of an editor. Even if nothing could have been done to prevent the relentless repetition (okay, we get it! He’s turned on when she bites her lip! Her breath hitches when something exciting happens! His eyes are grey!) (seriously, his name is Grey and his eyes are grey?), at least perhaps this little typo on page 428 could have been prevented:
Okay, here’s the deal: If you’re talking about strappy summer shoes, you are wearing sandals. If you’re wearing sandles, well, then you are in desperate need of an editor.
If there’s one thing that makes me a somewhat peevish reader these days, it’s the weedlike way some books have grown (Freedom, “Twilight,” and “Dragon Tattoo,” I’m looking at you), seemingly without the careful pruning and nurturing of an editor. Relentlessly repetitive imagery, endless superfluous information, charmless language choices—the content just goes on and on.
Which is why it was such a joy to encounter The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes a few weeks ago, with its beautiful economy of language and loving restraint. Anne Tyler’s The Beginner’s Goodbye is another such book—although it wasn’t as revelatory for me as Barnes’s book, the gentle but insistent tidiness of the text wrapped up a direct and pithy story in under 200 pages. It’s not that I have any problem with a longer book, it’s just that some longer books I’ve read lately (Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you) are such exceedingly lengthy forced marches, they are more to be endured than to be read. Every once in a while, I appreciate a book that shows up, says what it has to say, and then bids a fond farewell.
Having said that, here’s a little tidbit from The Beginner’s Goodbye. It’s a scene that comes after Aaron, who is both a widower and an editor, has just been introduced to Louise, a fellow editor with whom he hoped a spark might ignite. It’s a little wink and a nod to the editorial sensibility (although not an altogether flattering one). Enjoy!
Have you seen “The Joy of Books” yet? You haven’t? Then you must—simply must—take a minute to watch this absolutely and whimsically delightful video of a bookstore coming to life at night.
The video was created by husband and wife Sean Ohlenkamp and Lisa Blonder Ohlenkamp and their team of volunteers, with awesome music by Grayson Matthews. If you enjoyed it, the Ohlenkamps are also responsible for “Organizing the Bookscases,” a similar video done on a much smaller scale with a pair of bookcases. Read an interview with Sean Ohlenkamp.
It’s the Elements of Style rap by Columbia grad students Jake Heller and Ben Teitelbaum. What will they think of next?
Bonus MRP moments
- What’s the most embarrassing typo you can make from “herniated disk”? Yeah, that happened (via Bill Walsh).
- Check out the American Dialect Society’s 2011 Word of the Year nominees, in such categories as “Most Creative,” “Most Unnecessary,” and “Most Euphemistic.” I’m sure it’s not giving anything away to reveal that occupy took the top honors, although I was kind of partial to kardash and mellencamp.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks the notion of a cookbook inspired by The Hunger Games is totally bizarre, regardless of how “unofficial” it might be.
From the Amazon page:
“Here’s some advice. Stay alive.” —Haymitch Abernathy
When it comes to The Hunger Games, staying alive means finding food any way possible. Katniss and Gale hunt live game, Peeta’s family survives on the bread they make, and the inhabitants of the Seam work twelve-hour days for a few handfuls of grain—all while the residents of the Capitol gorge themselves on delicacies and desserts to the heart’s desire.
For the first time, you will be able to create delicious recipes from the humble District 12 to the extravagant Capital, including:
- French Bread from the Mellark Family Bakery
- Katniss’s Favorite Lamb Stew with Dried Plums
- Rue’s Roasted Parsnips
- Gale’s Bone-Pickin’ Big Game Soup
- Capitol-Grade Dark Chocolate Cake
If you’re starving for more from Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, this cookbook is sure to whet your appetite!
Creative? Okay, yeah, sure. The recipes are obviously inspired by a careful read of the books. There are little touches like “Notes from Your Sponsor” that would probably appeal to the diehard fan.
But unbelievably creepy? Hell yeah. This is not Eat, Pray, Love, people, in which a cookbook that ties into the story about a woman who spends a year eating and writing about delicious food might make sense. This is, after all, a cookbook inspired by a series called The Hunger Games, in which the main characters spend the majority of the time starving or trying to figure out how not to starve. It’s a series in which food=power is one of the major themes. The word hunger is a big part of the title. Yes, food is a significant part of the story, but I wouldn’t say that’s in a good way.
I mean, what’s next? The Twilight phlebotomy kit?
A collector’s party pack of “Lord of the Rings” Pez dispensers at my local CVS?
Now I think I’ve seen everything.