Friday, December 29, 2006

Thursday, December 28, 2006

new history of Trees

"Rackham talks often about “storm effects”, and in particular about the ecological benefits of the 1987 hurricane, in its disordering of bland and uniform forestry lots. But I sense a metaphor here, too. A kind of storminess is what real woods and trees live with. They are not human pets or manservants. They are dynamic, autonomous, resilient, different... "

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rec'd (a year after languagehat) the very handsome Lee Valley reprint of Admiral W.H. Smyth's 1867 The Sailor's Word-Book--certainly the best single volume let's-get-lost browsing dictionary I've encountered since the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, enjoyable too on the level of Webster or Johnson in that it is so manifestly the work of one mind, but am sobered (if not discouraged) by magisterial naval historian N.A.M. Rodger's withering entry in the bibliography of his four-masted "The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain 1649-1815"--"An extensive but haphazard, unscientific and often ambiguous posthumous work, heavily used by the editors of the "Oxford English Dictionary" for their forays into nautical vocabulary, in many cases with unfortunate consequences." Ouch! ten points for the double diss, five points for the use of "foray", which made me imagine the hapless land-lubber OED editors bailing like Jumblies in their sieve...

Bruges, Paris and the spectres of Symbolism

"What they were looking for can be seen in the famous portrait of the Belgian Symbolist painted by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer in 1895, three years after the publication of Bruges-la-Morte, which is now in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. It depicts Rodenbach in an open-necked white shirt, with a stylized Bruges behind him. There are gabled housefronts and a beguinhof on his left, a cathedral tower on his right, and, below it, a low stone bridge. His shoulders seem to merge with the canal at his back, and he looks thin and ghostly (he died three years later, in the same year as his friend and master, Mallarmé). Rodenbach appears as the city’s emanation, a pale flower from its watery depths; at the same time, Bruges is like a crepuscular think-bubble, existing only as the writer’s projection. The persistence of that image, or its persistent vagueness, is attested to by the fact that in the Pisan Cantos, meditating on the lost world of European Symbolism, Pound remembers, or half-remembers, “somebody’s portrait of Rodenbach”. If the Symbolist unconscious could be represented as a city, that city was Bruges..."

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas folks! Play Safe!