Things I’m reading and thoughts occasioned thereby

1. Cole Swensen’s Oh, a very short book that does for opera what her later books of poems did for the Tres Riches Heures and the history of illumination. A fellow LibraryThing user recommended it, and I snapped it up, because I dug Goest big time, and there are so few poets who write about opera.

2. Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, which got bumped up on my reading list after all the rapturous reviews that noted its close ties to E. M. Forster’s Howards End. And the parallels are indeed fun to spot, but the characters are all Smith’s own, and I’ve reached the stage of reading in gulps to find out what happens to them next, even though I sort of know what happens next given the plot parallels.

3. At work I’m reading up on topic maps, and am enthralled: such an ingenious way of representing, not just ideas, but the relationships and associations between ideas, the kinds of connections of which knowledge is made. Also, I love the fact that the folks at Ontopia picked Italian opera as the subject of their demonstration topic map.

4. Come to think of it, David Lodge’s Nice Work riffs on Howards End too (as well as on Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South). There’s an intellectual and a practical businessman, who happens to be named Wilcox. They fall in love, after a fashion. There’s even a Leonard Bast character who shows up in a subplot.

5. Something I’d like to do with a topic map: define an "adaptation of" topic association that would allow a user to browse from, e.g., Howards End to On Beauty and Nice Work. Literature is aswarm with works that revise earlier works. It occurs to me that it would be really, really interesting to represent these chains of associations in XML.

6. As Forster would say: "Only connect." Everything does, after a while.

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