Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009


Well this is the sort of thing I would have previously sent to my father. So now you get to play proxy: just enjoy the answers from the fine folks over at the Chicago Manual of Style Online. I'd like to get them and the desk jockeys who write the headlines at The Atlantic together for a cruel proofing tea party.

Hyphens, En Dashes, Em Dashes

Q. In a scholarly book about popular culture, the author has used several -esque word endings, usually hyphenated. According to CMOS instructions for the similar constructions of -wide, -like, and -borne, I would be inclined to remove the hyphen. But the result is unsavory. Also, in the case of open compounds, should the -esque ending acquire an en dash? See the following: Tarantinoesque, Skeeteresque, Gandalfesque, Billy Idolesque, Sid Vicious–like, John Paul–esque, The Parallax View–esque.

A. Unsavory indeed. (Your list should appear on the book jacket—who wouldn’t want to know what the pope is doing in the middle of all the carnage?) The rule is that unless the usage is self-consciously playful, you may have two -esques per book (no hyphens), but only if they are at least a hundred pages apart. If they involve en dashes, however, you get none.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Now that my father has died, I reside however briefly in that clich├ęd place, shocked that the world has not stopped, that strangers continue to smile and celebrate, that my dog barks at birds, that people mean well and have faith.

I have never once felt old, but I am struck with a realization that I feel older by immeasurable measure than the same people I encountered just a week ago. We share in my mind a more significant humanity, one that exists somewhere deep and dangerous, yet I have so much less to say to anyone. Small things: the Week in Review feels laughably irrelevant this time around. The nod from a neighbor who recently gave me peaches means everything. My dog's bark stops my heart. And then the miracle: it starts beating again.

High Windows

by Philip Larkin

When I see a couple of kids
And guess he's fucking her and she's
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
I know this is paradise

Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives--
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide

To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,
And thought, That'll be the life;
No God any more, or sweating in the dark

About hell and that, or having to hide
What you think of the priest. He
And his lot will all go down the long slide
Like free bloody birds.
And immediately

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

Monday, August 03, 2009

going home, and cannot wait to get to that kitchen table

Love Like Salt

by Lisel Mueller

It lies in our hands in crystals
too intricate to decipher

It goes into the skillet
without being given a second thought

It spills on the floor so fine
we step all over it

We carry a pinch behind each eyeball

It breaks out on our foreheads

We store it inside our bodies
in secret wineskins

At supper, we pass it around the table
talking of holidays and the sea.