Mueller's Indictment, 13 July 2018

This makes for utterly fascinating reading. I downloaded it, amazed at the amount of detail and the clarity of its 30 pages. It's a quick read and as a good a read--even for a person not interested in the problem of the hacking into the 2016 American election (and the possibility that something similar occurred in the UK)--as a thriller. And it gives a glimpse into how the folks behind the scenes in the Mueller investigation work. Hats off to them.

Here is a link via the New York Times story on the indictment in today's paper:

Biker's High

I think I have at last understood the expression 'runner's high.' Getting most of my exercise in the gym or walking, it was a mystery to me. But lately, biking, I've got it. Nothing fancy, you understand. In my husband's book of Bay Area bike rides, the one I do rates a 2 (out of 5). It climbs, but fairly easily, and then it goes up and down for a while, and then it's a straight downhill shoot back home. On the uphill part I feel like The Little Engine That Could: 'I think I can, I think I can, I think I can'; then when I reach the highest point, if I've got enough wind left in my lungs, I say, 'I knew I could, I knew I could, I knew I could!'

If I left home thinking 'why am I doing this? Why don't I just stretch out in the hammock on the deck with a book?' by the time I get back home, usually about 2 hours later, I am exhilarated. And that's my 'biker's high.'

I don't have a cell phone

Don't plan to get one either. In fact, I'm sort of phone-phobic. It might be one of those genes your parents hand down to you, in my case, my father, who never answered the phone if he could avoid it, and if he did have to pick it up, he'd say, pretty quickly, 'I hear your mother on the other line, so I'll hang up.'

Once I asked him about this. His answer: 'I'm always afraid when I pick up that there'll be someone there.'

Not only I don't have a cell phone, but I don't have an answering machine either, or if I do, I mean, if it's built in somehow, then I don't know how to consult it. I hate the idea of coming home and having to listen to a bunch of messages. Also, I don't answer the phone even if I home, if it's in the morning, because that's my writing time, and if I get interrupted I might never go back to work. Ever. (I have the same sort of anxieties about other things, like going to the gym, or letting stuff pile up. Stop one day and I might never go again. Let stuff pile up where it's not supposed to and I might never find it again.)

Of course, there are inconveniences, like when someone needs to get in touch with you, but family and friends know about my quirks, and others, well, I say, use email.

My parents were of a generation when the phone was not something you spent time on, especially if it was long distance. When I grew up and moved away, I was amazed when I insulted my French mother-in-law by offering to pay for a phone call I made. My own mother expected me to pay, or at least offer to pay. I used to think that was her, but I now think it was a whole culture.

Birds etc

There's a dead branch shooting up from a tree--a citrus?--in a neighbour's garden, and I used to wonder why they didn't cut it off. However, I've discovered that all kinds of small birds--or maybe it is always the same small bird?--a finch, I think--use it as a perch, and now I'd be sad if they cut it down.

Really hot today. I can feel it's going to be a scorcher, though since we face north and west, it won't really blaze in until the end of the day. It always amazes me how, right after sunset, the temperature drops, and the nights are always cool. Growing up in Vancouver, it was never very hot or very cold. In France when it gets hot it stay impossible-to-sleep hot all night--no cooling breezes like here. 

When I was a student I went as part of a Canadian study group to Algeria one July, We travelled by bus into the Sahara and stayed in guest houses on oases. One particularly hot night I remember a lot of us soaked our sheets in cold water and then wrapped ourselves in them on the flat roof of the house. The stars were amazing--did we sleep? I doubt it.



Yesterday, late afternoon, we went for a bike ride, 'the Stanford Loop,' up Alpine Drive, around Portola Valley and back home down Sandhill Road. It's about 25 km, and we set out at 6 pm because it would have been too hot earlier. But a great blanket (more like a duvet) of fog was sitting on the top of the range of mountains between us and the coast, and by the time we got to Portola Valley (it takes me quite a bit longer than my husband to climb the Alpine hill) the sun had disappeared, the wind was blowing and the fog was spreading the way it tends to do in the Bay Area. Little cat feet? No, I wouldn't say so--more like big lion paws--still it is uncanny the way it rolls down the hills, first seeping into valleys (or in San Francisco, under the Golden Gate to the Bay, then rolling down the Bay to St Jose), then spreading over the flat lands. There were stars and a new moon (holding the old one in its arms) last night when I went to bed; this morning we too were in the fog, which hasn't yet completely lifted. 

Bread and Burtonport (NW Ireland)

A few weeks ago French friends served us some great local bread. It is a cottage industry bread, made by a woman in the next town north, an attorney, Tian Mayimin, who has converted to baking bread according to this story, bread that she delivers herself to one's doorstep in time for dinner.

So eventually we ordered some, and sure enough, around 7 pm Tian buzzed and knocked and when we opened the door she handed us two still-warm loaves of bread, of which we made a meal, along with olive oil (to dip it in) and a bit of cheese. It's just as good as the bread we get in Paris from Poilane or the Serge Kayser boulangerie. And still good the next day.

At Poilane in Paris, on the Rue du Cherche Midi, people line up along the sidewalk late afternoon  to buy bread (and a few other bakery products like apple turnovers) for supper or maybe for a schoolchild's after-school snack or goûter. Schools get out late in France, and most children have a snack then, to hold them over till supper, which is even later.

Which makes me think of a not-so-funny-at-the-time but funny now (strange, amusing) story connected with how people think of time. In France 'afternoon' goes on till supper or dinnertime, and dinnertime, at least in cities, is more or less 8 pm. 'Evening' therefore begins at dinnertime. And 'late afternoon' might be 6 o'clockish. (Does afternoon in Madrid go on till people eat--at more like 10pm?)


So one summer, when we borrowed a friend's cottage on an island off Burtonport in Donegal in north-western Ireland, and its owner, who lived in Belfast, asked us to meet their friend Bernard in the Burtonport harbour to get the key and a boat ride to the island (tiny, with perhaps 4 or 5 other cottages) and we turned up 'late afternoon' our time, he had been waiting for two hours and it was very embarrassing.  

There was no bread (no groceries at all, except if one caught some fish) on the island, so for bread and other supplies Bernard would come and take us over to the mainland--but that's another story.

The picture is of downtown Burtonport, as it is known in English, or Ailt an Chorráin, in the Gaeltacht. 

The Hotel Eden


after a Joseph Cornell box, is the title of my new collection of poems, which will be published by Carcanet Press (UK) at the end of August. It is in press right now, but here is a picture of the cover (designed by Luke Allan) with a painting by the artist Hope Gangloff, who had a show at Stanford's Cantor Museum last summer. Here also is a link to Carcanet's website for the book, where the collection can be pre-ordered.

C.K. Stead, The Necessary Angel

I tipped this novel off the 'new books' shelf in the Lane Reading Room at the library a few days ago. Why? Nothing else tempted me, I thought I'd heard Stead was an interesting writer, though I'd never read anything of his. Also I thought he was a she, because it is, or used to be, often women who hide behind two initials, hoping not to give away their gender and be overlooked as 'women'.


Stead is a New Zealander (I thought British), but the novel is set in Paris, in the 5th and 6th arrondissements, also mine. The year 2014-15 (it ends with Houellebecq's Submission and the Charlie Hebdo attacks). He must live in Paris I thought, after a while; he certainly seemed to know all the obvious places to eat, walk and have coffee around St Sulpice, though he did get a few details wrong, such as a paid gardener raking/blowing leaves on the first of November, La Toussaint, one of those sacrosanct French holidays on which nobody works. This is not Anglosaxonia and its post-puritan work ethic. Holidays are holidays. There is more to life than work.

The characters: a 50-ish New Zealand professor of literature at the Sorbonne (already a stretch: it is hard for outsiders to get a foot in the highly protectionist academic door in France, especially in an old Paris institution); his French wife, Louise, a formidable academic (she's writing a book on Flaubert) from a formidable French family; a younger academic, Sylvie, with whom he has an affair while they are co-organising a colloquium to celebrate WW I poets; Helen, a charmingly worrisome, bipolar, recent Oxford graduate trying to understand Derrida ('We are dispossessed of the longed-for presence in the gesture of language by which we attempt to seize it'), who may or may not have stolen an heirloom Cezanne from over the mantel in Louise's living room. On the other hand maybe Louise's cousins stole and stashed it in a bank vault, out of spite that Louise inherited it, and they only got the castle which has depreciated, while the painting has increased x-fold in value. (Spoiler? Ok, no spoiler.) 

It's tremendously readable, very well written, and, I think, very good, as long as one likes cool, well-written books. It would be a good movie, but it would have to be a French movie, because it's much too low-key to be an American movie. For example: on the subject of the revelations of American torture in Iraq: 'But either way, a short shrug or a lingering wince, what then? ...[Y]ou knew where yearning ended and reality began.'

Stead, it seems, lives in New Zealand. He was born in 1934. He has written a great deal: poetry collections, criticism, novels, an autobiography. I plan to read more.