Tidbits: Diary, 5/13/21

DC’s Harley Quinn animated series on DVD

{5/13/21}  Weight 212.8 at 4:15 am.

Another miserable, short night of sleep, I was awake around 1:10, again about 2:15, and have been mostly awake since, eventually reading Percy Dovetonsils, er, Lubbock, until I got up.

The discussion of Thackeray and Vanity Fair was of little interest, moving along to Maupassant.

Looking through my unused and partially used notebooks for one to start the new novel, I came across a page titled “Tidbits.”  Here is all of it (dated 8/12 to 8/17/19):

  • Last words of Jan Hus (1372-1415), to an old woman thrusting another faggot on the pile to burn him:  “Sancta simplicitas!” [5/14/21:  “Faggot” is offensive, which I knew at the time; why did I use it?  Where did I get the factoid about Hus, which might have used the word?  Could be from Chris Harman’s People’s History of the World, maybe.]
  • Voltaire:  “Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position, but certainty is an absurd one.”
  • “Allow me to be frank at the commencement.  You will not like me.  The gentlemen will be envious and the ladies will be repelled.  You will not like me now, and you will like me a good deal less as we go on…I am John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester, and I do not want you to like me.”  The Libertine, directed by Laurence Dunmore, screenplay by Stephen Jeffreys based on his play, spoken by Johnny Depp.  My ellipsis.
  • The Panicky Monkey’s Guide to Life—a book I might write.
  • “By three methods we may learn wisdom:  First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”  Confucius, Analects
  • To be, not to be, sorta to be and not be—so many questions!
  • A line from Emily Dickinson:  “Night is the morning’s Canvas.”  #7.

At the top I had written, “Tidbit:  a pleasing or choice bit of food, news, gossip, etc.”

The Harley Quinn animated series, first season, which I watch during meals, started off rather poorly, but the third and subsequent episodes have been a lot of fun.

Not much fun is Stendhal:  The Charterhouse of Parma.  I have abandoned it, having removed it from my bedside some weeks ago because I stopped reading at p. 99 (of 500).  It just wasn’t very interesting, I had trouble telling apart some of the women, the hero was insipid, and the style was not amusing.  Just now I read the back cover and saw no reason to attempt picking up the thread again.  Why this novel should have been a particular favorite of Walter Kaufmann (an idol of mine) shall remain forever a mystery, and not a very compelling one at that.

I want to get into Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund, which promises to be a philosophical novel—not the love story (I guess) which the title had suggested to me.  And of course I’m also interested because I’m interested now in “the structure of novels.”  It starts with the description of an arch—entrance to a school, I think, or actually a cloister—and a chestnut tree beside it.  A cloister, which I just looked up because it’s a word uncommon in my experience, is either a monastery or a nunnery.  No characters appear in the first page of text.  Actually, there is a “Prior Gregory” who roasts chestnuts, and schoolboys who gather them, but these are incidental to Hesse’s description of the tree.

I rather prefer Tolstoy’s approach, plunging one right into—in War and Peace—a group discussion of the doings of Napoleon.  Dialogue and characters from the first line.  People, activity, bustle even.

I also took a look at Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, available online.  There it starts with a narrator reminiscent of Goethe’s “Stage Manager” in Faustif I remember correctly.  It’s a description of the Vanity Fair, which apparently is a fair with unnamed teeming population of pickpockets, vendors, and such, named as much by what they’re doing as by who they are.  Also a bustle, but with a very different feel—all summary, no scene, and filtered through an Olympian character.

It would be useful to give the first paragraph or so of each of these, but I’m not inclined to do the work, since these things are easily gotten online (with the exception of the Hesse, I presume).

Dozing after a light breakfast; think I’ll go back to bed.

So I napped for a while and got up and did the dishes.  Yay!  Almost all my dishes were dirty, making about half a sinkful—I learned long ago that too many dishes in my household is too much, the dirty ones end up stuck in cupboards and eventually thrown away.

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