And the words slide into the slots ordained by syntax, and glitter as with atmospheric dust with those impurities which we call meaning. ~ Anthony Burgess
It’s been so long since we’ve posted here that I may have forgotten how — and I have no idea whether anyone is still out there on the reading end. I’ll start with something simple to see if we can get going again. We’re leaving for Alaska tomorrow and I’m excited. I spent time in Fairbanks in 2017 but I didn’t get to go to the cabin. I’m twice as eager to get there this year.
I’ve been sharing my cabin reading list from year to year so that’s what I’m going to do here. It’s a shorter list than usual, but it includes one unusual item that’s likely to keep us occupied and spark some good conversation during our stay.
Cabin Reading 2018
Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style, by Virginia Tufte (This book is not our conversation starter. It is, however, an extraordinary collection of sentences gathered by the author to illustrate her astute points about the many types of sentences and how they do their work.)
The Spell of the Sensuous, by David Abram
Stewart sent ahead many more books than I did this year. Almost all of them are about two subjects he wants to know better: one is artificial intelligence and the other is blockchain technology. It would be difficult for me to describe how much I don’t want to think or talk about these two topics while we are in the wilderness. I’d guess I want to talk about them as much as Stewart wants to discuss syntax.
But here’s one book he chose that I will sneak away from him at some point:
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the last True Hermit, by Michael Finkel
And the piece we’re likely to discuss together in detail is the one pictured above; it’s the fat, carefully handwritten 1930s journal of Stewart’s aunt Elizabeth, when she was traveling to Europe, India, and elsewhere. I got to know Elizabeth this spring when I typed up her 50-page handwritten biography of her mother (Stewart’s grandmother) as a birthday gift for Stewart.
Elizabeth was a schoolteacher, an adventurer, and a fine writer. She feels like a familiar spirit to me and I look forward to spending more time with her.
Bessie had a garden back of the house; she cooked on an old wood burning range in the dark kitchen. She kept hills of vegetables in the cellar in summer and packed in sand in the cold back kitchen in winter. She used to bend over a guitar and sing to me. How well I remember that haunting lullaby from Tennyson, “Wind of the Western Seas.” There was a line in it, “Daddy will come to you soon.”
This makes a beginning. I see that we still have a lot of untouched topics in our Cabin FAQ, which will give us something fun to work on while we’re gone. Also, it sounds like we’ll be staying in a couple of interesting place in Fairbanks this trip so I’ll try to check in from there.