Dawn Reader

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

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Sundries, 97

This will be a quickie this week: I'm scrambling around trying to get ready for some presentations I have to do next week--on Jack London and The Call of the Wild. I'll be better next week, but there are a few things I wanted to mention.

1. At the coffee shop the other day, I heard the manager tell a customer that one particular brew would "warm the cockles of your heart." Now that's an expression I've heard pretty much my entire life--have employed it myself on occasion--but what does it mean? Here's what the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins has to say:

  • cockles of the heart have nothing to do with the cockles and mussels Sweet Molly Malone used to sell. The cockles of the old ballad are what the dictionaries call "edible bivalve mollusks"--shellfish. In appearance they are not unlike our scallops, having a somewhat heart-shaped ribbed shell. The cockles of your heart, on the other hand, are its ventricles and thus, by extension, the innermost depths of one's heart or emotions. The word comes from the Latin phrase cochleae cordis, meaning "ventricles of the heart," while the shellfish cockle comes from the Latin conchylium, meaning "conch shell" (140).
2. I finished two books this week ...
  • Edward O. Wilson's newest (published just last month), Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for
    . Wilson, now 87, has twice won the Pulitzer Prize and has retired from Harvard University, where he taught biology for decades. His thesis here: We are messing up the planet/the biosphere, and it's nearly too late to do anything about it. Here's a sentence from early in the book, a sentence I quoted in my speech at WRA the other day:
    • Meanwhile, we thrash about, appallingly led, with no particular goal in mind other than economic growth, unfettered consumption, good health, and personal happiness. The impact on the rest of the biosphere is everywhere negative ... (2). His solution? To set aside half the earth and leave it alone. He does not mean an entire hemisphere, of course, but just a total of half. Think that'll happen?
  • Yet another novel by my latest happy discovery, John A. Williams (1925-2015), whose novels and nonfiction I'd been unaware of until I saw his obit in the New York Times last summer. Since then, I've been reading my way through his work, chronologically (for the most part).
    • Mothersill and the Foxes (1975) is his sixth novel and deals with Odell Mothersill, an African American who earns his Ph.D. and spends much of his time working for various
      Federal projects to help others--including a stint in the Peace Corps. But Mothersill has another consuming passion: sex. And he has one affair after another, some of which end horribly, one of which (near the end) would make Sophocles smile ('nuff said). So the novel is about both social and racial progress (slow, slow) and Mothersill's own slow-moving maturity. I enjoyed it. Lots of stuff about the Great Society programs, about the profound threat to personal safety that many workers in those programs--especially black workers--endured. And about the changing sexual and racial roles emerging in America in the 1960s and 70s.

3. My iPad II died this week (I've had it for quite a long time), so off I went to the Apple Store out in Summit Mall last night to see about a "fix." Instead, it was Plastic Time and a new one--with detachable keyboard. Movin' on up! (Don't wanna think about my credit-card balance now!)

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