Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Sundries, 136

1. AOTW: Okay, this is a close call for the award ... but perhaps my judgment is fading? Last night, arriving at the movies, we realized another film was letting out. People were exiting, entering--a little bit of confusion. As we approached the entrance, a man held the door for us (as he'd held it for a few others); I thought he was waiting to go in, so I stopped to let him go in. But he barked at me (barked!): "Hold it yourself--I'm not the doorman," and he strode away in a huff toward the parking lot. So ... he was leaving, not coming in; I'd misinterpreted; he'd freaked. AOTW.

2. Last night we saw at the Chagrin Cinema (see above!) a very fine film, The Sense of an Ending, based on a 2011 novel, eponymous, by Julian Barnes. (I like Barnes' work--have not read all of it--ordered this one as soon as we got home.)

It's the story of an older man, played by the sterling Jim Broadbent, who is drawn back into thinking about a relationship he'd had in college. He and the girl (her older version is the wonderful Charlotte Rampling) break up because she now prefers his best friend (!). Anyway, at first he recalls writing a kind note to them--and then, later, remembers something more cruel he'd done.

Coming to terms with your own cruelties--your own failures--your own, well, humanity--is what this film is about. The past can bite--and hard--and you can still bleed, decades later.

Wonderful directing and editing, too. Loved the scene where he, as an older man, wanders through a setting and circumstance we'd seen earlier in a flashback; now, we repeat it, but he is older while everyone else is the same as before. A dazzler. (Link to film trailer.)

I wasn't crazy about everything in the film (too many ... resolutions), but ... so much better that most films these days.

3. I finished three books this week--two of them from my read-a-little-every-night pile. A coincidence.

     a. Jay Winik's 1944 (2015) is a fat history of, well, 1944, the year of my birth (which, of course, is why I bought and read it). The book (duh!) is principally about World War II--but with a sharp focus on FDR, on his leadership, his successes, his failures (most egregiously--his slow, slow reaction to the ever-darker news about the Holocaust). We get a good look at his closest advisers, at his struggles with his health (he died, recall, before the war ended), at his interactions with Churchill and Stalin. We also get a sharp portrait of Hitler and his "team." But the Holocaust dominates the tale ... the horrors were unspeakable, and even though I've read a lot about the Holocaust, I was, again, dumbfounded by what the Germans (and their many, sometimes eager, collaborators) did--and about what the West did not do until millions had already died.

     b. The 2nd book I finished (like 1944, one I read over a period of months) was Wilkie Collins' 1861 novel The Dead Secret, the tale of a servant, who, early in the novel, promises not to reveal a secret of her dying mistress, a secret only these two women know; she swears. And then ... the rest of the novel is about the revelation of that secret--and its consequences on those who remain alive. I could tell that  this had been a serialized novel--for there is some "padding" Collins included to "fill out" his quota, I'm guessing. But it also has passages like this one: "Time may claim many victories, but not the victory over grief. The great consolation for the loss of the dead who are gone is to be found in the great necessity of thinking of the living who remain" (Oxford World's Classics edition, 351). The Dead Secret features a crumbling house, a strange relative, a bitter relative, a blind man (!), a devoted wife, and lots more!

As I've written here before, I'm slowly working my way through all of Collins' novels, and tonight I'll start No Name (1862)!

     c. The third book I finished is Faulkner's Flags in the Dust, which is an expanded version of his 1929 novel, Sartoris. He could not find a publisher for the full-length Flags, so he acquiesced and published the shorter version he called Sartoris, and it wasn't until 1973 that the full-meal-deal novel appeared--1973, eleven years after the author's death. The Library of America editions of his novels (we own them all) is what I read, so I got the full-meal-deal experience.

And loved it.

It's the story of the decline of a Southern aristocratic family--the Sartorises. One son lost in WW I, the remaining one with a death wish. But we also meet some characters who will come to dominate some of Faulkner's subsequent fiction--the Snopeses. Creepy from the git-go. And we get yet another instance of a creepy guy stalking a not-creepy young woman with some bizarre encounters (he likes to get on the garage roof at night and spy on her in her room!).

Some uncomfortable things about race in the South--no surprise, of course, but still ...

the Library of America
edition I read
4. A final word--from one of my online word-of-the-day providers ...

     - from dictionary.com

orogeny noun [aw-ROJ-uh-nee, oh-ROJ-]
1. Geology. the process of mountain making or upheaval. Also called orogenesis.
Ogden Tweto, the foremost expert on the Laramide orogeny believes the New Rockies began to emerge 72,000,000 years ago, with the process terminating about 43,000,000 years ago.
-- James A. Michener, Centennial, 1974

The -geny of orogeny is easy to recognize and common, meaning “production, formation,” related to genesis, another Greek noun. The oro- part is not as common or its meaning so obvious. It comes from the Greek noun óros (stem ore-) “mountain, hill,” from a complicated Proto-Indo-European root er-, or-, r- (with other variants) "to move, rise, excite." This root is the source of English are (of the verb to be), and the Latin verb orīrī “to arise, be born,” which has the present participle stem orient- “rising, rising sun, east.” Orogeny entered English in the 19th century.

Hmmm ... is there a word mole-hill-orogeny?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Going Haywire ...

I've really got to stop saying things out loud. Too many questions ensue.

Yesterday, for example, talking with Joyce, I used the term haywire. I stopped. Wondered. Said aloud, "I wonder where that comes from?!?"

Now I know. And now--if you're doughty enough to read on--you will know, also.

According to Merriam-Webster, the term (which, of course, refers to the wire used to bale hay) came to mean fouled up, etc. because of this: so called from the frequent use of baling wire to make makeshift repairs.  So, yeah, something's messed up--let's get some haywire. Not hard to see that evolution/connection.

Let's see what the OED says--dated back to 1905:

1. Poorly equipped, roughly contrived, inefficient, esp. hay-wire outfit (from the practice of using hay-wire for makeshift repairs). orig. U.S.

1905   Terms Forestry & Logging (Bull. U.S. Dept. Agric., Bureau Forestry, No. 61) 39   Hay wire outfit, a contemptuous term for loggers with poor logging equipment.
1931   ‘D. Stiff’ Milk & Honey Route 207   A haywire outfit is something that is all tied and patched together.
1934   Notes & Queries 166 13/1,   I first heard ‘hay~wire’ in the summer of 1929, when I was living in northern New York State. There is also the expression ‘haywire outfit’, a job on which poor living accommodations are provided for the workers. Also an inefficient factory or shop.
1959   Listener 26 Feb. 388/2   A haywire, unpredictable, one-man business.

1968   R. M. Patterson Finlay's River 145   The..irritating, because man-made, chaos attendant on the intrusion of a haywire railroad into the ordered life of the frontier now lay behind them.

But when applied to a person ... the OED has some examples of great interest to me.

a. Of a person, circumstances, etc.: in an emotional state, tangled, involved, confused, crazy. colloq. (orig. U.S.).

1934   J. O'Hara Appointment in Samarra vii. 226   A married man..and absolutely haywire on the subject of another woman.
1939   W. Faulkner Wild Palms 223   Now you can eat something. Or do you think that will send you haywire again?
1942   D. Powell Time to be Born (1943) xiv. 330   Everything seems so haywire, lately.
1955   ‘E. C. R. Lorac’ Ask Policeman viii. 89   The time element's all haywire.

The first three examples are from writers I know a bit about! Appointment in Samarra was the first novel by John O'Hara; I've been reading the lesser-known Faulkner novels in recent weeks; and Dawn Powell, whose girlhood home in Mt. Gilead, OH, Joyce and I visited a couple of years ago--and whose novels I'm heading into after Faulkner's, novels available through the Library of America, novels edited by a FB friend Tim Page!

One more: I checked the authoritative Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang--and found that it confirms all of the above--but lists many other sources, including Sinclair Lewis and Raymond Chandler.

Finally, searching for an image to perch atop this page, I was reminded that Haywire is also the title of a film (2011) directed by Steven Soederbergh. (Link to trailer for the film.)

Enough ... all of this is driving me haywire!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Frankenstein Sundae, 295

Back in England, it’s not long before Lodore gets into an argument with an American, a Mr. Hatfield, who's saying unpleasant things about Englishmen. A duel ensues. The men fire pistols at each other, and Lodore takes a bullet in the heart and dies instantly.  Ethel grieves horribly for the loss of her beloved father. She goes to live with Elizabeth, her aunt. There, she meets and begin to socialize with a young man named Villiers—the young man who had served as Lodore’s second in his fatal duel.

One night at the opera, Ethel and Villiers accidentally run into Lady Lodore, Ethel’s mother, who does not recognize them. Next day, Villiers calls on her, and then we learn about Villiers’ history—and about what Lady Lodore has been doing all these years that Lodore and Ethel were in America.
The relationship between Ethel and Villiers fluctuates, but eventually they marry and travel to Naples, Italy; when they arrive, Mt. Vesuvius greets them with a blood-red flash.[i]

They travel to Rome before heading back to England, where they begin to experience financial difficulties: Villiers’ father has been spending all the money the family has.  Villiers cannot pay even the lowest of his debts, and he and Ethel must hide from the bill-collectors (just as Shelley and Mary had once had to do).

Lady Lodore learns of Ethel’s financial problems and wants to help.  he decides to visit her daughter, with whom she has not spoken for many years. Edith is thrilled to see her—but she will not leave her struggling husband to live with Lady Lodore. But Lady Lodore has made a decision: She was resolved to sacrifice every thing to her daughter—to liberate Villiers, and to establish her in ease and comfort.[i] She decides to surrender all her fortune to Villiers (anonymously) and then move to Wales and live in poverty. She makes the arrangements, and Villiers and Ethel move into the fine Lodore house while Lady Lodore disappears into the Welsh countryside.

But Elizabeth (Lord Lodore’s sister) finds Lady Lodore, who is sick.  Ethel, who has learned that her mother has surrendered everything to her, finds her, and they reconcile.  ary ends the novel by observing that human beings need two things in life: a love of truth in ourselves, and a sincere sympathy with our fellow-creatures.[i]

[i] Ed. Lisa Vargo, (Orchard Park, NY: Broadview Literary Texts, 1997), 257. 
[i] Ibid., 367. 
[i] Ibid., 448.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dripping Along

I remember thinking it was funny to hear "older" people (i.e., in their forties or so) using the slang of MY generation! When words like groovy and man (that pervasive noun of address at one point) and hip, etc. came from the lips of my elders, I remember thinking it was, well, pathetic.

And, of course, I used to smirk (in all my adolescent sophistication) at the outdated slang my "elders" would use.

Now, I'm, oh, about twice as old as the people I used to think were OLD, and this morning I got a little reminder of the evanescence of slang.

At the coffee shop ...

DAN: Time for a refill ...
BARISTA: The kind you like is almost through dripping.
DAN: Drips for a drip.

She had never heard drip employed to mean, you know, dork. I promptly showed her the dictionary.com meaning of drip--it's now the 7th meaning under drip as a noun:

Slang. an unattractive, boring, or colorless person.

It is also definition #7 in my old Random House College Dictionary  (1975), as it is in my Webster's Third

But where does this expression come from? How old is it?

I checked my Dictionary of American Slang (2nd edition) and found the date of 1948 (appropriate: I was four years old then, well on my way to becoming a drip). I loved the definition in full
Any person, usu. a male teenager or student, who is disliked or who is objectionable, usu. because he is a bore, introverted, overly solicitous or is not hip [!!!] to the fads, fashions, and typical behaviour patterns of his age group.

The Random House Dictionary of Historical Slang traces it to 1932 (an obnoxious, esp. a tedious person), to a novel called Men Are like Streetcars, by Graeme and Sarah Lorimer; "I was just thinking over the drips she goes with." I had a hard time finding a copy of the book--but there's one for sale on Amazon. A bit much to satisfy a curiosity! ($65 for a 1932 edition.)

Last look for a source for this--the OED. But ... no luck. Just some other sources ...

c. A stupid, feeble, or dull person; a fool; a bore. slang.

1932   G. Lorimer & S. Lorimer Men are like Street Cars v. 114   He's no drip... Ted's a darn good egg.
1936   N. Marsh Death in Ecstasy xviii. 215   What about that little drip Claude?
1938   J. Cary Castle Corner 279   Ah, ye dirty devil, and what sort of a drip are ye to be dropped in a medical hall.
1951   I. J. C. Brown I break my Word 123   We now more often call a feeble, foolish creature a drip.
1951   J. Cannan And All I Learned xi. 197   Of all the wet drips!
1959   I. Opie & P. Opie Lore & Lang. Schoolchildren xv. 326   Someone considered over-affectionate is said to be soppy, sloppy, gormless, a drip, or a clot.

Last look: Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Slang, and he suggests it could have come from drivel.

Okay. I didn't really check any online sources (except the OED), and I bet there's a site out there that has the answer.

But ... anyone who pursues this more than I already have risks becoming, you know, a drip.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Frankenstein Sundae, 294

It’s probably time to return to our subject, eh? Mary’s 1835 novel, Lodore, which features a scene at Niagara Falls, a place she’d never visited? As I look back through this text, I see that I started a sub-section on Lodore on page 430; on page 449 I finally started writing about the plot of the text (earlier pages had dealt with her preparations and with some things that were going on in her life at the time she was thinking about and writing the novel); on page 450 I began dealing with Mary’s use of Niagara Falls—and with the role of the Falls in the lives of some others she knew (and some she didn’t). Now I’m on page 460 in the total manuscript, and I guess there’s no better evidence of my tendency to wander into the wilds of this story than this: a thirty-page series of digressions from the plot.
I’m betting not many of you remember any of the plot at this point—so a quick refresher: The grieving widower, Lord Lodore, takes his small daughter, from England to Illinois, where they live, pretty much away from society, for a dozen years. He decides to return to England—and it’s on their return trip that they visit Niagara Falls—and that he once again encounters a young woman, the daughter of an old school friend. Her name is Fanny Derham. She sees Lodore at the Falls and gives him a letter from her father, who wants to see Lodore. Who is delighted.
Okay … now we’re back on track (probably not—knowing me). But we’ll pick it up again in a few days and continue the story of Mary Shelley’s penultimate novel.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"School Days"

Yesterday, on Facebook, Joyce posted two pictures I'd posted a couple of years ago (see above). They showed Joyce and me in fourth grade. She was living in Akron's Firestone Park at the time; I, in Enid, Oklahoma. (I am three years older.) We both have laughed that it's  a good thing we didn't know each other then!

So perhaps it was that post that, later on yesterday, got me to thinking of this old school song I remember from boyhood:

School days, school days
Dear old Golden Rule days
'Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hick'ry stick
You were my queen in calico
I was your bashful, barefoot beau,
And you wrote on my slate, "I Love You, Joe"
When we were a couple o' kids.

Trusty Wikipedia tells me the song was written in 1907 by Will Cobb and Gus Edwards. Doing a bit more Wikipediaing, I discovered that this was only the chorus. Here's a link to the sheet music for the entire song; it contains all the lyrics. And here's a link to an old, old recording.

I have no memory of when/how I learned the song; it's just one of those things from childhood that, later, you seem just to have always known. Like how to eat. Or breathe.

I do have one (uncomfortable) memory of the song. When I was in elementary school, I had a strong soprano voice (!!), and, as a result, teachers sometimes picked me to sing things. In public. And one year (3rd grade, I think--Mrs. Ziegler's class!) the teacher decided it would be cute (I guess) to have me and some girl (whose name I cannot recover) dress up like Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher and sing the song at an open house in our Adams School classroom.

I do remember I didn't want to do what the teacher insisted we do: hold hands and swing them while we sang. At that age, I had no desire to hold a girl's hand--and certainly NOT in public! But I did, wishing and praying that Time would accelerate to warp speed (though at the time I'd never heard of that term--Star Trek lay in the future). Time didn't cooperate. It d-r-a-g-g-e-d. But the parents all smiled and swayed in their seats while I blushed as red as an ashamed sunrise.

As I look at the lyrics, I don't believe we sang the verses to the song. (They don't look/sound at all familiar.) But ... anything's possible. All this happened sixty-four years ago.

So ... perhaps it was those FB pictures--and thinking about 4th grade--that popped those lyrics into my head once again. Joyce and I were driving back from an evening visit to the Starbucks drive-thru in Aurora when I started singing--my soprano long gone.

And what a dark coincidence that barely a half-day later I got the horrible news that Mike Lenzo, one of the first principals I worked for early in my middle school teaching career--beginning in 1968--passed away this morning. He was a profound influence on me--educationally, personally--and his loss is a mighty blow to the stability of the heart of the world.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Frankenstein Sundae, 293

In her diary entry for July 17, 1833, Fanny Kemble wrote about her increasing excitement as they slowly approached the vicinity of the Falls. A perfect frenzy of impatience seized upon me, she wrote. I could have set off and run the whole way. When the carriage stopped at their hotel, she raced for a view. I stood upon Table Rock. Trelawny seized me by the arm, and without speaking a word, dragged me to the edge of the rapids, to the brink of the abyss. I saw Niagara—Oh God! Who can describe that sight!!![1]
Appropriately, she did not even try. Her journal—at least in its published version (1990)—ends there.

I can’t leave these passages about Niagara Falls without mentioning the story of a previous literary passion of mine. Jack London. In late June 1894, Johnny London (he did not alter this to “Jack” until he began writing and publishing stories) was near Buffalo, New York. He’d been off on quite an adventure—hopping trains (illegally) all across the country from his home in Oakland. He was eighteen years old. A school dropout.
He’d come to the area because he wanted to see Niagara Falls. On June 28, he viewed the Falls in late afternoon and evening, then decided to sleep in a nearby field so that he could get a better look at them in the morning.
In his 1907 account of his tramping around (The Road), London wrote his first impression of the Falls: Once my eyes were filled with that wonder-vision of down-rushing water, I was lost. I could not tear myself away …. There was a good moon that night, and he says that he stayed until after eleven.[2]
The following morning, he rose, early, and walked into town. Where he was promptly nabbed by John Law.[3] Arrested for vagrancy. Off he went to court for a quick conviction. Then … thirty days in the Erie County Penitentiary (he could not pay the fine), a grim place with cells stacked atop one another like animal cages, a grim place full of grim experiences he writes about at length in the book. He would not see the Falls again. Released, he headed home (indirectly!), where he returned to school and began to prepare himself to be a writer.
photo included in London's THE ROAD (1907)

[1] Ibid., 195–6.
[2] (New York: Macmillan), 74.
[3] Ibid., 75.