Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Maxims (July 2016)

If you're not part of the problem, you're not part of the solution.

Preening one's moral feathers at the expense of others is not a morally defensible position.

There's no net.

Few things are more evident than someone else's illusions.

Those who have the least have the most to lose.

Nothing is more perishable than meaning.

Everything is a prism.

The unavoidable and the unacceptable are like a snake swallowing its own tail.

See it for what it is.

The world's indifference is the precondition of our responsibility.

Beware of neat rhetorical tropes. Beware of maxims. Beware of consistency.

Truth hovers. It does not alight.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


This is not their time, our present world, but who is to say if that time is ages behind them or merely still to come? What may awaken when we, in turn, have had our day?

Friday, July 01, 2016


Scenes from the woods, spring and summer 2016.

Many of these specimens seemed to appear overnight (or maybe I just didn't notice them), and many were gone or wasted away to nothing in a day or two. All are fungi except the second, which is Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora), and the last, which seems to be a slime mold. The brightly-colored insect in the third-to-last shot is one of the aptly-named Pleasing Fungus Beetles.

Update: Further rot below:

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Door

He climbs the wooden stairway, his advancing shadow traced by sparse incandescent bulbs that emit, out of their little prisons of wire mesh, a faint whiff of singed insects. The banister is damp to his touch and he lets go. At each landing a hallway branches off; he pauses for breath but barely raises his eyes. He reaches the top storey. At the end of a long corridor there is a single door with a panel of unlettered frosted glass, diffidently backlit from within. He walks along the worn floorboards until he is within reach of the knob. As he lifts his hand to turn it he feels fingers grasp his shoulder from behind.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Clearing

One of the paths I often walk is bordered on one side by inpenetrable swamp, but today I spotted a place where I could cross easily onto an island of slightly higher ground. No one goes there. For whatever combination of reasons — light, water, chance — the understory that covers much of the edge of the swamp is absent here, nor is the spot as barren and brown as the deepest and oldest woods just a few yards away. Instead, there are nearly pure stands of ferns, a few patches of wispy grass, and here and there a fallen trunk.

At the base of a tree I found the sole remnant of some creature's successful hunt.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Gregory Rabassa (1922-2016)

The translator Gregory Rabassa has died, according to a notice from the Associated Press.

Rabassa was a professor for many years at Queens College, but it was his work as a peerless translator of modern Latin American literature that secured his place in the literary firmament. Beginning in 1966 with an English-language version of Cortázar's Hopscotch (itself a daunting feat, given that novel's linguistic fireworks), he produced dozens of translations, including more than a few that, taken individually, would have been sufficient to secure his reputation: José Lezama Lima's Paradiso, Mario Vargas Llosa's Conversation in the Cathedral, Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, and on and on and on. That he not only managed to translate such challenging, verbally sophisticated works at all but did so with scrupulous care and endless creativity is simply astounding. We owe him a very great debt.

Translator Susan Bernofsky has a nice appreciation.

Update: The New York Times now has a full obituary.

(Photo of Gregory Rabassa from the jacket of Rabassa's memoir If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents, published by New Directions.)