Dawn Reader

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

Friday, March 22, 2019

Singing at the Health Club

the evil sort of stationary bike I ride

At the health club (where I drag my unwilling behind most every day) I've noticed lately that there are a couple of fellow-sufferers who sing when they work out. (Both wear earbuds, so perhaps they're not aware that they're performing in public?)

One sometimes rides the exercise bike next to me (or, if she's living dangerously, she rides the other bike, the one I prefer--which is borderline madness and damn close to suicidal--not that I'm territorial, mind you).

Another (also a woman--just a coincidence?) sometimes walks laps at the same time I do (though she's, of course, nowhere near capable of maintaining the Olympic-quality brisk pace I am). She's not as loud as the Biker-Singer, but loud enough that I can hear her, oh, a dozen feet ahead of me or so--before, of course, I zoom by her with male disdain.

I don't know the songs they're singing. I quit listening to popular music back in the early 1970s when our son arrived (1972), and I suddenly discovered I had no extra time for anything; even my ears needed to be focused on what this Mysterious Stranger--this wordless Mysterious Stranger--wanted of me, 24/7. Demanded of me (and, of course, Joyce.)

And then I just never got back into the habit. I've got some earbuds. I've used them maybe once or twice, listening to things on my iPad in the coffee shop, not wanting to annoy those nearby.

I imagine there are other people around the club who are singing along with their iWhatevers as they exercise, but, so far, I've noticed just these two. I hope they go away. Soon. I've heard better voices in my own shower.

That sounds unkind, I know, but Honesty Is the Best Policy--except, of course, when it applies to one's self.

As I've written here before, I do mutter (inaudibly?) when I bike and walk at the club. Discreetly, I work my way each day through that day's set of poems I've memorized. I have in my head (to various degrees of stability) some 225 poems now, and I have certain sets I rehearse on certain days so that they don't wing away more quickly than they want to. Some are very short (William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow"); some, very long (Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Renascence").

But--I don't think?!!?--my Fellow Bikers and Walkers can hear me. Oh, they may see my lips moving (a sign of dotage? they no doubt think), but I don't let them hear the glories of "Dover Beach" or "Ulysses" or "Mending Wall" or "To be or not to be" or ...

 I do not smudge the glory of their bike rides and walks with ill-pitched versions of popular songs.

On the other hand, I need to lighten up. Riding a stationary bike sucks, and if it helps to sing audibly (or even very audibly), well, hell, just go for it! Anything that speeds up that damn ride ...

Thursday, March 21, 2019

It's Not Even Possible, You Know?

Yesterday, I re-posted on Facebook the two images you see--they show Joyce and me in fourth grade. (We were not in the same school system, as you will read below.)

As I looked at the post yesterday, it hit me--again--how improbable--no, impossible--it was that we should ever even meet--much less fall in love and marry.

When I was in fourth grade (1953-54), we were living in Enid, Oklahoma, in the north central part of the state. I had not the faintest wisp of a cloud of an idea that we would ever live anywhere else. Mom and Dad were both teaching there (Dad at Phillips University, Mom at Emerson Junior High School); my maternal grandparents lived only a few blocks away; we, as far as I could imagine, were set.

When she was in fourth grade (ain't gonna tell you the years), Joyce was living with her mother and father in Firestone Park (Akron, Ohio). Her dad worked for Firestone; her mom, for the Akron City Schools. She had uncles and aunts and cousins living nearby. She, I'm sure, could imagine no other life.

And yet ...

We moved to Ohio ... I graduated from Hiram College ... I started teaching middle school in Aurora, Ohio ... I decided in the summer of 1969 to take a grad-school class at Kent State ...

Joyce stayed in Firestone Park ... graduated from Wittenberg ... was home that summer ... decided to take a grad-school class at Kent State ...

We were both "closed out" of the classes we'd wanted (not the same class, by the way) and ended up in a course--American Transcendentalism (Emerson, Thoreau, et al.)-- a class in Satterfield Hall.

Where we met.

Now that seems improbable enough, doesn't it?

But don't even think about the larger improbabilities.  We each had two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents, thirty-two great-great-great grandparents, sixty-four ... you do the math: It gets very numbery, very soon.

All those hundreds of people--thousands, really ... tens of thousands, if you keep going back)--had to meet, hook up, have children who lived long enough to meet another of our direct ancestors, hook up, have children who lived long enough ...

So, what I'm saying is: It's impossible that Joyce and I met and married forty-nine years ago.

And then ... a coincidence.

I've been reading my way through the novels of Wilkie Collins (1824-99), generally in the order that he wrote them, and the past few days I've started his 1876 novel, The Two Destinies, which tells the story of two children--a boy, a girl--who are great friends in childhood and eventually realize they want to be more than that. They believe they are destined for each other.

The problem: He is the son of a prosperous landowner; she, the daughter of one of his employees. So ... anything more than a childhood friendship is ... impossible.

His father discovers the increasing seriousness of the relationship, fires his employee, who quickly moves away with the daughter. The grieving son cannot find her--though he still dreams of her, still considers her his future.

I've reached the part where they're now in their twenties. I don't know what's going to happen, though I have hopes, of course.

We'll see.

But that novel has been making me think more and more about the improbability/impossibility of human encounters--and of any of those encounters ever turning into something ... more.

Yet they do, don't they? Sometimes for good--sometimes for ill. But all ... impossible ...

Monday, March 18, 2019

What's in a Name?

I have just uploaded to Kindle Direct my latest collection of doggerel and wolferel (lines that are not quite poetry, not quite doggerel). It's What's in a Name? and Other Doggerel and Wolferel and costs $2.99--the lowest price I can use on Kindle Direct. It's worth every penny. (!) It should be available for purchase later today (after lunch? a verbal dessert? or purgative?).

Below, I've pasted some of the front matter + the Preface ...

What’s in a Name?

And Other Doggerel and Wolferel

(October 10, 2018–March 3, 2019)


Daniel Dyer

Copyright © 2019 by Daniel Dyer

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

To Joyce

Who has always understood … always cared … my breath … my life …

“What’s in a name?”
—Juliet in Romeo and Juliet,  2.2

(balcony scene—just before she knows Romeo is even present, listening to her.)


I have no memory of how this idea arrived—the idea of writing a doggerel series about eponyms[i] (words derived from the names of people—or, in some cases (like sirenic, protean), from mythological characters and creatures). One day the idea was invisible; the next, glowing in my face. (Was this “false fire,”[ii] as Hamlet cries in that, uh, eponymous play? You’ll have to be the judges.)
I should quickly say that although this series may be exhausting, it is in no way exhaustive. There are myriads of eponyms in the sciences, for example, and although I did include some of them, there was no way to use them all. If I had tried it, readers would have disappeared more quickly—far more quickly—than they normally do. Also, I plead ignorance. I had no idea what some of those terms even meant or referred to (e.g., gauss = “a unit of magnetic flux density equal to 1 maxwell per square centimeter”).
So you will find no gauss doggerel here. (Are those sighs of relief—or disappointment—I hear?) Gauss does rhyme with house and mouse and louse and douse, etc. Maybe I should have included it?
A few other things to get out of the way. First of all, I owe a tremendous debt to two websites from which I took virtually all of these words:
            • englishclub.com
• alphadictionary.com
You can go to their sites and see all the ones I did not include. (Most of my choices, by the way, came from the latter.)
I usually used the definitions/sources provided on the sites, but I double-checked them all  for accuracy and other factors (at least, I hope I did!). I employed Merriam-Webster for the “first known use” of the word, a date I included with each one.
Next—the question of categories. As you can tell from the Table of Contents, there is a section of doggerel based on eponyms, then a section called Desultory Doggerel, followed by a final section called Wolferel. A word about the final two …
• Desultory Doggerel: Almost all of these are pieces I wrote now and then about quotidian events (usually), then posted on Facebook to give my friends an excuse to unfriend me. I have made some very mild adjustments to a few of them, Time allowing me to see the Error that had somehow crept into those lines after I published them. (Doggerel, of course, refers to light, inferior verse, as my efforts here verify.)
• Wolferel: This is a word I invented—a word I’m waiting for the Oxford English Dictionary to include. (Those of you who arrive in the Netherworld after I do must be sure to tell me if it ever happened.) It’s a word I use to refer to lines that are something more than doggerel, something less than poetry. Think, for instance, of baseball: We have the amateur leagues and the minor leagues and the majors. Those three categories align pretty well, I think, with doggerel, wolferel, and poetry.
So the journey begins … I hope you find these lines amusing, sometimes informative, always intended in good fun.
Whatever the case, I’ve had a great time composing them (I realize that word—composing—seems a bit uppity for such an enterprise as mine). And having a great time, for a scribbler, is really what it’s all about.

   Daniel Dyer
March 3, 2019

[i] EP-uh-nimz
[ii] “What, frighted with false fire?” Hamlet cries during the murder-of-a-king play he has staged for his mother and step-father, King Claudius, who is, naturally, alarmed to see a version of the murder he committed performed on a stage right in front of him (3.2).

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday Sundries, 222

1. AOTW: Okay, Ohio drivers--many of you, it seems, don't know the right-of-way laws out on the road. So ... here's a link to them ... review them ... then laugh at me the next time you (illegally) cut me off.

2. I finished two books this week.

     - The first was really not a book, though it was published in its own volume. It's a short story that Sylvia Plath wrote in 1952 when she was a student at Smith College. She sent it to Mademoiselle--got a rejection--fussed with it some more--gave up. Now her estate has arranged the publication of Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom.

It's a surreal kind of tale--an unwilling young woman put on a train by her parents, and pretty soon we (and she) realize this is not any ordinary train but one that appears to be heading for a very terminal destination.  Mary wants off that train before the final stop--the eponymous Ninth Kingdom--and she ends up in a conversation with another passenger, an older woman, who just may help her ...

Fun to read--and an early reminder just how talented Plath was. She committed suicide at the age of 30--what a loss to the world, to literature.

     - The second was The New Magdalen, an 1873 novel by Wilkie Collins, whose novels I've been reading, generally in the order that he published them. I read a chapter at night (most nights) before Morpheus swoops me up, up, and away.

This one takes place during and after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). It begins on a battlefield in France. Two young women are in a cottage with some wounded French soldiers; one of the women is "fallen"--she is now a nurse; the other, a higher-class Englishwoman, who, traveling, was caught in the battle and has found refuge in the cottage.

This second woman (Grace), about to come into a comfortable life with a relative she has never seen, is killed by a shell, and the second woman (named, appropriately, Mercy) impulsively trades places with her--takes her things and prepares to pass herself off in London.

Which she does. She even has a wedding planned ...

Until, one day, Grace--who did not die in the cottage (an army surgeon saved her)--shows up in London to claim her inheritance.

Collins is a wonder. And he makes things very difficult for us. Mercy loves the older "relative" she's with--and vice versa. She has been transformed by her experience. Grace turns out to be, well, not so nice. So ... what happens?

Collins' novels often treat women with profound respect and understanding--not usual, I think, among male writers in the 1870s!

3. No movies this week--but we're still streaming, nightly, bits of shows we like: Wire in the Blood, True Detective, Fargo, After Life (which is alternately funny and wrenching, touching and disturbing).

4. Will upload this week to Kindle Direct my latest volume of doggerel--What's in a Name?--a collection I did about eponyms (words derived from the names of people--e.g., watt, atlas, etc.). More info when I've actually done it!

5. I recently realized that I published my first book review for Kirkus Reviews twenty years ago--on March 1, 1999; in about a month, if all goes as it has, I will submit review #1500 to them--at which time I will do a post here about the wonderful experiences I've had with Kirkus.
6. Last Word--a word I liked this week from one of my online word-of-the-day providers:

     - from the Oxford English Dictionary--a word that's now apparently obsolete, a word I'd like to see come back, a word that fits me in all its meanings (I'm forced to admit)

scripturiency, n.  Passion for writing; an urge to write. In early use esp.: the tendency to produce an abundance of trivial or inferior writing.
Origin: Formed within English, by derivation. Etymons: scripturient adj., -ency suffix.
1652  T. Urquhart Εκσκυβαλαυρον  196 Though scripturiency be a fault in feeble pens [etc.].
1685  H. More Cursory Refl.  1 The Disease of Scripturiency in R. B. taken notice of.
1717 Entertainer  No. 3. 18 This Bladder of Scripturiency.
?1751  J. Markland Let.  in  J. B. Nichols Illustr. Lit. Hist. 18th Cent.(1858) VIII. 537 Whenever..a scripturiency comes upon me, you shall hear more from [me].

1881 Manch. Guardian  15 Aug. 5/3 ‘Scripturiency’ appears to vary greatly in different nations. The United States claim 2,800 of these medical authors; France and her colonies, 2,600 [etc.].

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Spaghetti and J. K. Rowling

We had a spaghetti dinner last night with our son and his family at our house, and--as always after they've been over--I felt as if I'd been worked over by a mobster.

Oh, don't get the wrong idea ... it was tremendous fun, and no one really worked anyone else over. It's just that at my age, well, things can be ... more difficult.

Our older grandson (in 8th grade) has been making a difficult decision about high school. And our younger grandson (about to turn 10) is reading his way through the Rowling novels about Harry Potter. He's well into the fourth one now (The Goblet of Fire), and he is reading copies of the books that I had read back in 2007.

I've written about this before--but just a quick reminder: I had not read any of the Potter novels when the final one came out in 2007. But when we saw the enormous queue at the local bookshop, when we saw little kids carrying fat books as if they were precious gems (which, of course, they are), and when the cultural imperative to read them became, well, overwhelming, I read them.

Rowling published the first one in 1997, the year I retired from middle school teaching, and if I had still been teaching when this new star rose in the sky, I would have read it, right along with the kids. I often did that: saw what kids were reading, then read it myself.

Anyway, in the summer of 2007, Joyce was away for a week-long conference somewhere, and I decided to read one Potter a day while she was gone--quite a commitment, I know, because (as I've alluded above--and as you surely know), they are l-o-n-g books.

I loved them. Consumed them like Snickers bars. Cried when it was over.

And so--seeing my younger grandson similarly obsessed, I felt like weeping again. Restrained myself.

He was quizzing me last night--asking me about Potterian names and events that I haven't really thought about in a dozen years. I made him give me clues; then I did pretty well (C or C+).

An odd coincidence ... Chris, a friend, told me I should read the novels Rowling wrote under the name "Robert Galbraith")--detective novels about a P.I. named Cormoran Strike. So ... I downloaded one to my Kindle (the first--The Cuckoo's Calling, 2013), and now I have to confess to Chris that he was ... right. I'm loving it. Loving how she's shaped the genre to accommodate her story.

And ... maybe ... one of these days ... our grandson will wander into those books, too, and find himself, once again, deliriously, delightfully lost.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

"Who ARE Those Guys?"

Remember in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when the two are are being pursued by the relentless posse? And Butch (I think), amazed at their persistence, says, "Who are those guys?" (Just checked some video: Both Butch and Sundance say the words--link to video.)

Anyway--and this is a weird segue--some (many?) of you know that Joyce and I are slowly selling our library via abebooks.com (our bookstore on the site is DJ Doodlebug Books). And we sell a few each month (unfortunately, we are still buying more than we're selling!).

But what has surprised me is not so much what sells--but what doesn't. What's not selling? Most of the books written by the literary eminences of my youth and young adulthood.

When I was in college (and in a couple of decades afterward), the following names were very prominent in American literature:
  • John Updike
  • John Barth
  • Thomas Berger
  • Saul Bellow
  • Norman Mailer
  • Gore Vidal
  • William Styron
  • Truman Capote
There are more--but these will give you the idea (lotta guys in the list, eh?). Although we have first printings of many of their works (and some signed copies), I don't believe we've sold any. We have, for example, all of Updike's "Rabbit" novels--1st printings in dust jackets. We have all of Berger's novels (ditto). And the others. But here's the thing ...

Today, I don't read too many allusions or references to the many works of these guys. Most of them are dead now (Barth, 88, is still alive). And it seems as if their prominence has died with them. Although they once graced the covers of magazines and appeared on the TV talk shows, now there is, at least in the popular culture, just the sounds of silence.

And if you mention their names, the reply is often a quizzical look--or that question from Butch & Sundance: "Who are those guys?"

I'm sure that in the (ever-shrinking) circle of American lit specialists, the names are still there--if, perhaps, not so prominently as they were in my youth. (These writers, of course, fail one current test of relevance: They are all white males.)

Do we even teach these guys anymore? I don't know--I'm no longer really in that world. It's too bad if we don't teach them, though, for their works helped me--and countless other readers--to understand American life in the 50s, 60s, 70s.

Anyway, if you're looking for some good copies ... !

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Blood on the Tube

We are streaming some sanguinary shows at night before we drift into Dream Time, and I have to say that they don't make me all that sanguine about our species.

Here's a list of the things we're streaming (about 10 min or so of each one each night):

  • Fargo (season 2)
  • Wire in the Blood (season 5)
  • True Detective (season 3)
  • The Inspector Lynley Mysteries (season 1*)
The last few nights we have seen: a butcher kill a would-be assassin with a cleaver (Fargo), an 11-year-old girl on the street, grabbed and dragged screaming into a car (Wire in the Blood), a former police detective losing his mind to dementia--continually troubled by the disappearance of a young girl years earlier (True Detective), a young boy murdered at an exclusive boys' school (Lynley). 

Now--the principal reason I watch only about ten minutes of each one? I just can't take much more of it. My heart rate accelerates, my BP elevates, my terror escalates. And none of this is good before Dream Time commences.

Joyce would probably watch more, but guess who grips the remote while we are watching? I think she's used to this Purely Male Prerogative with the streaming devices; I mean, she hasn't left me ... yet. Right?

And I am ashamed of what I do--but not sufficiently so to alter my behavior. I just can't take the tension.

So ... a very logical question is surely occurring to you right now: Why do you even watch those shows?

Good question.

But let's move on.

Besides revealing the sorry state of my manhood (chickening out after 10 minutes, commanding the remote), these shows also depress me for what they show us about Homo sapiens. Not all of us, it seems, are very nice.

We lie, we murder, we dismember, we rape, we cheat, we steal, we ... well, we will do just about anything, it seems--at least in TV shows. Surely, we don't do these things in Real Life ... do we?

Yeah, of course we do. In spades.

As I suggested above, watching such things in bed at night is not all that wise, for we are providing some ... unpleasantness ... for the scriptwriters who are crafting our dreams.

But to answer an earlier question: I think we watch them because the writing is generally excellent, the actors wonderful. And--best of all (and very unlike the Real World)--the Bad Guys get caught in the end. Always.

So--in a way--they are fairy tales--fully as grim (Grimm!), fully as cautionary.

And besides--we try to end each viewing session with something more ... pleasant. A genial comedian (John Mulaney, Sebastian Maniscalo, Mike Birbiglia). Right now, we're streaming--at the end of the bloodbaths--the latest Netflix series by Ricky Gervais, After Life, which makes us both laugh and grimace and laugh at the grimaces.

And as we turn off the lights, I try to fill my brain with ... with ... with, well, what one of my old children's records tried to teach me--"the pleasant things that we have seen and done!"

The record was called Manners Can Be Fun. (The audio is available here.) The book, 1936, was written by Munro Leaf, author of The Story of Ferdinand, also 1936.

A flower-sniffing bull? Not a bad image to take me to sleep!

* For some reason we've been watching Lynley backwards--starting with its final season; we've now reached season 1.