Seven last lines meme

It’s still way too hot. I’m avoiding homework. Hence, the conditions are perfect for starting up a meme. I’d been thinking about literary last lines, and started pulling books off the shelves and scribbling down my favorite final lines, and the result looked too much like an amusing quizzy thing not to share.

So here are seven last sentences, chosen sort of randomly (one is from a novel, three are from short stories, and three are from poems). If you want to guess any of the sources, post them in the comments. If you’ve got favorites of your own, consider yourself tagged to continue the meme elsewhere.

  1. "I had Barbara," she said, and began to move ahead of Mrs. Slade toward the stairway.
  2. They hand in hand with wandering steps and slow
    Through Eden took their solitary way.
  3. Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.
  4. I am not I: pity the tale of me.
  5. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
  6. "Well, I’m back," he said.
  7. Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
    We make a dwelling in the evening air,
    In which being there together is enough.

Have at them! I’ll post identifications after a while.

Met Opera broadcasts question

I don’t suppose anyone knows where the Met’s movie-theater live broadcasts are going to be screened next season? I’d like it if they were coming to a theater near me, but so far, the screening locations seem to be a closely guarded secret. Or maybe they’re still signing movie theaters up.

The lineup looks interesting, anyway. If I can make it to any of the broadcasts, I’ll try to catch Macbeth, Peter Grimes, and La Fille du Regiment (especially because Natalie Dessay is in it). I’m also pondering whether I want to sit through all five hours of Tristan und Isolde in a movie theater, or whether I’d prefer be under the same roof as the performers for such a marathon opera. (I’m not really a Wagnerite, but WNYC’s "Tristan Mysteries" radio series has gotten me interested.)

At any rate, there’ll always be the Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts even if the screenings aren’t an option…

Personal anthology: Charles Simic

Charles Simic was just named Poet Laureate. (For the first time in years, they picked someone whose poems I enjoy reading.) So now seems as good a time as any to point to a couple of his poems:


Green Buddhas
On the fruit stand.
We eat the smile
And spit out the teeth.

Autumn Sky

In my great grandmother’s time,
All one needed was a broom
To get to see places
And give the geese a chase in the sky.

The stars know everything,
So we try to read their minds.
As distant as they are,
We choose to whisper in their presence.

Oh Cynthia,
Take a clock that has lost its hands
For a ride.
Get me a room at Hotel Eternity
Where Time likes to stop now and then.

Come, lovers of dark corners,
The sky says,
And sit in one of my dark corners.
There are tasty little zeroes
In the peanut dish tonight.

Things I’ve learned in cataloging class

  • There exists a Library of Congress subject heading for "roller disco." Unsurprisingly, when I searched WorldCat for it, eight of the ten results were first published between 1979 and 1981.
  • You can also catalog works on roller disco using a combination of the subject headings "Roller skating" and "Disco dancing."
  • There’s an entire MARC fixed field devoted to identifying whether or not the item being cataloged is a festschrift. No doubt that made sense at the time, but even our professor finds it hilarious.
  • If I ever publish a book and put "Ph.D." after my name  (which I’d never do, because it’s obnoxious), the "Ph.D." part wouldn’t appear in the MARC record for the book. But if I move to England, become a British subject, get named Dame Commander or Baroness of Whatsit, and then publish a book, I’d get to be Dame or Baroness in library catalogs ever after. (Why? Well, they don’t call them the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules for nothing.)
  • Steve Lawson at See Also… created an LCSH fiction quiz: guess the novel by its subject headings. I always did wonder how on earth you’d create subject headings for #1. (I didn’t learn this in class, but I thought I’d link it anyway.)
  • I’m still gaping at the fact that people actually wrote entire books about roller disco. Even in 1979.

If you like this kind of thing, I recommend the Wacky and Weird Subject Headings Wiki. Personally, I’m delighted that someone at the Library of Congress decided that "Names carved on trees" merits its very own subject heading.

Apparently I can be productive during a heat wave after all.

Summer-induced mental slump: unblocked.

Conference paper abstract: submitted.

As Austin Powers would say: Yeah, baby, yeah!

Today’s haul from the farmers’ market

  • One loaf of bread
  • One big bunch of Swiss chard
  • One bag of arugula (more than I can eat in salads, so some of it will go into pasta)
  • Five strange little cucumbers with yellowish-green skin, each the size of a lemon
  • Four tomatoes of various colors
  • One bunch of purple basil
  • Three donut peaches
  • Two little green pears
  • Two bitter melons, plus one unidentified hot pepper that the vendor offered me for a nickel because he said bitter melon should always be cooked with some hot pepper

Not bad, eh? I haven’t been cooking much this summer, but I’ve been starting to miss it. Yesterday I tried making carciofi alla romana for the first time ever (not an unqualified success — I’m still an artichoke newbie — but the combination of mint, artichokes, garlic, and white wine was the most interesting taste that’s come out of my kitchen in a while). Next week I plan to scale back my ambitions a bit and try braising some fennel, or maybe frying some squash flowers if they’re still available. I may be on the verge of a foodie renaissance.

The other great thing about the farmers’ market: everyone offers free samples, and you see little kids running around voluntarily munching slices of cucumbers and tomatoes. Plus, some of the farmers have blogs!

Mystery of the abandoned town

How strange: an entire Italian hill town near Genova apparently abandoned and falling to bits. I found the page of photos on popular; it turns out to be part of a larger site of pictures of abandoned places. What’s with the one building with curtains and shutters in the windows? The rusting bicycle and motor scooter? The room with the bits of cloth all over the floor? And, the image I keep coming back to: the door where someone has spray-painted "Torno subito!" ("I’ll be back soon!"). Eerie.

I’m feeling the strongest impulse to write a ghost story.

Small quandary

I’ve been assembling an online portfolio, partly for demonstration
purposes (for a talk I’ll be giving) and partly for future job-hunting.
I’ve got links or citations to a bunch of writing, formal and
informal, library-oriented and literature-oriented. I’ve been thinking of sending potential portfolio-readers to
a handful of posts here, particularly the series I did on
academic research, plus some of the ones on mapping and

But my instincts (and various people’s advice on professional
portfolios) are telling me not to link to what is, after all, a
personal and highly miscellaneous blog on my "professional identity"
site. Not that I don’t expect potential employers to find their way
here when they Google me, but a direct link seems a bit much.

I still want to repackage those posts somehow. So, the quandary: would
it be too weird to just repost them on my non-blog site, remove the original blog context, and call them mini-essays? What do you think?

Mass transit anthropology

Flipping through a book on people’s relationship to space in the library over the weekend, I came across an analysis of seating patterns on British trains, and in particular the unspoken rule that people never sit directly next to or directly opposite someone else unless they have to. I’ve seen this rule in action on pretty much every bus and train I’ve ever ridden. My high school chemistry teacher once described Hund’s Rule as "the empty bus rule," comparing electrons in an atom to passengers who don’t want to sit next to each other. (And I remember it to this day. Thanks, Mr. A.!)

Since moving to Philly, I’ve noticed that the seat-occupation rule doesn’t always seem to apply here; there have been a handful of occasions when someone has taken the seat next to me (or someone else) when there were empty pairs of seats nearby. I can’t see any underlying pattern that would explain why this happens, though, or whether it’s true in other parts of the country and I just didn’t notice it as much when I lived elsewhere. Perhaps it’s time to read some Edward T. Hall.

My other recent mass-transit observation: Not only is the bus stop one of those places where strangers can talk to each other, it’s also sometimes the site of an interesting kind of cooperation. There’s a corner in Center City where two bus routes converge, on opposite sides of the street. The two routes go in the same direction, so people often take the first bus that arrives. But watching for both buses entails looking in two directions and being ready to dash across the street. When multiple people are waiting, they tend to move to opposite sides of the street and divide up the task of watching for the buses. I’ve occasionally seen people at one stop call out to the people at the other stop that the bus was on its way. What interests me is that the agreement to keep a lookout is always tacit, but perceptible. There’s a whole layer of nonverbal communication, until the bus shows up.

(SEPTA: providing opportunities for amateur anthropology every day! It doesn’t make up for the fare hikes, but it keeps my mind occupied, at least.)

Thoughts on HP7

I finished it! It had its plot and pacing flaws, but when the action shifted back to Hogwarts, I was more than willing to forgive them. Interesting conversation going on at Easily Distracted, too — but don’t read it if you haven’t read the book yet.

Spoilery reflections follow in the comments: