Sunday, April 8, 2018

Gertrude's ashes

"Gertrude's ashes rather weighed on my mind, lightly, but they weighed." So begins chapter 16 of Barbara Comyns's The Juniper Tree. Much has happened to get us to this point, and much more is to come. Just read it... We'll compare notes after. Exceptional.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Cecil Taylor, RIP

A giant, right up there with Coltrane and Coleman in leading the jazz avant-garde. I never heard him in person, but my jazz-loving father did once years ago, in Hartford. He was unfamiliar with the musician, but drove in with Mom, probably because it was part of the Hartford Jazz Festival. The solo performance was in a crowded church, and my parents had to sit up near the front. There was no escape, as this fellow assaulted a defenseless piano during a single piece that went on for a couple hours of aural agony... or at least that's how Dad recounted it. "Cecil something?" "You heard Cecil Taylor, Dad?!" Still fresh.

Report from the meadow, front yard edition

The nemophila are being displaced by poppies and Chinese houses (Collinsia heterophylla). Hoping that something yellow comes out soon. Over on the other side of the driveway, the grasses (Stipa and Festuca) are in ascendance...

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A Legacy of Spies

If, like me, you count The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy as two of your very favorite novels, well, run don't walk to your neighborhood library or book merchant and get yourself a copy of John Le Carré's latest. A retelling and a reckoning of the central plots and themes of those two earlier books, A Legacy of Spies is one-half epistolary novel built from notes and reports in the secret files of those operations and one-half first-person narrative of master spy Peter Guillam, flashing back and forth between the present day and the depths of the Cold War. The offspring of Guillam's–and George Smiley's–past sins (and triumphs) have quite literally come back to haunt them. All of it is woven together seamlessly: the story simply flies along– it's the Le Carré thriller we loved, missed, and craved.

Of course, it is Le Carré, so a dose of serious moral and political philosophy comes with the thrill. We'd have it no other way. "If I had a mission– if I was ever aware of one beyond our business with the enemy, it was to Europe. If I was heartless, I was heartless for Europe." I'm not sure the character who speaks these words near the novel's end would have uttered them in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. In the age of Brexit, Putin, and Trump, the character's literary creator is being sadly ironic, a tone consistent with the sadness and bitterness that pervade this late masterpiece by an old master.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Sundstrom meadows

Thanks to the folks at Larner seeds, you too can have some mighty attractive California native flowers blooming in your own personal springtime meadow. Instructions: Open package, mix with compost, scatter. Wait for rain.

The lupine in the first photo is accompanied by the charming (and tall!) purple tansy (Phacelia tanacetifolia). The Nemophila (baby blue-eyes and five-spots) are easy and cheerful. The needle grass (Stipa) is already going to seed in its spectacular fashion.