Still Summer, Still Reading

from p. 118 of Landfill: Gull Watching and Trash Picking in the Anthropocene, “Needs”:

I’d read my Henry Mayhew on London’s waste workers and had been out at night on the Thames with the body-salvagers of Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend. I stayed away from Milton. My telescope wouldn’t have been welcomed by anyone and I don’t think I could have used it. The hunt for the body resumed in the late autumn of 2017 in a part of the landfill adjacent to the area already examined. After seven fruitless weeks the search was called off.

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Redwood City, July 2019

Love Dee’s book. So much.

Stay tuned.

 

LANDFILL, by Tim Dee: Henry Mayhew and the Anthropology of Dust

Landfill: Gull Watching and Trash Picking in the Anthropocene is a great book. Lord how self parses every paragraph.

Late last night, self got to Essay # 7: “The Birds,” about the iconic Daphne du Maurier short story and Hitchcock’s film adaptation of it. This morning she began the next piece: “London Labour and London Poor,” the title of a “work of epic taxonomical ethnography” by Henry Mayhew.

p. 82:

Dust is everywhere in Mayhew’s city . . . He knows there is no such thing as dirt. It exists — just as Mary Douglas spelled out a hundred years later — only in the eye of a beholder. “No single item,” she said, “is dirty apart from a particular system of classification in which it does not fit.” But, for Mayhew, dirt is the one thing he most wants to define.

Yet he can never fix it. How do you count dust? How do you hold it? What is it? The powdered world? The fundamental raw material? Sediment or suspension? A cast of everything that has lived? That which we tread on — or breathe? That which we are? Hamlet’s quintessence?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Her 2019 Reading Year

Top reading year, this is turning out to be.

Her Favorites, by Month:

  • February: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry and November Road by Lou Berney.
  • March: Becky Chambers’ Record of a Spaceborn Few.
  • April: Milkman by Anna Burns; Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday; and Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush.
  • May: Arnhem: The Battle for the Bridges by Antony Beevor and Northanger Abbey.
  • June: Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Tim Dee

Landfill: Notes on Gull Watching and Trash Picking in the Anthropocene, p. 21:

  • Early morning Bristol. The bars, along the street where I live, recycle their glass empties of last night.

She knew nothing about Tim Dee before she began this book.

His writing is SO beautiful.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Gulls and Humans: LANDFILL, pp. 17 – 18

This is a gorgeous book. Stunning. A learning to see.

Self heard about it at last year’s Cambridge Literary Festival (which featured a number of panels on the environment)

pp. 17 – 18:

In my lifetime gulls have come toward us. Most other birds have gone in the opposite direction, but the gulls have bucked the trend. In part we made them do so; in part the birds elected to fly that way. And they continue to tell something of how the once-wild can share our present world. Calling them seagulls is wrong — that was one of the first things I learned as a novice bird-boy. They are as much inland among us as they are far out over the waves. Yet, in fact, this state of life for them is far from new. Over the past hundred years, human modernity has brought gulls ashore.

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This gull took off from the balcony of self’s room in Fowey Hall.

Stay tuned, dear blog reader. Stay tuned.

 

 

Motto For Life

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Beginning a new book deserves some kind of pause, a marker.

The new book would have been Diane Setterfield’s Once Upon a River if she had managed to snag a copy in Prague (Self has always got to be reading something; she feels bereft if she lets a day go by without having a book she can say she is “currently reading”).

Instead, she’s reading Tim Dee’s Landfill: Notes on Gull Watching and Trash Picking in the Anthropocene. So far, she’s only on p. 1 but she keeps getting distracted (last afternoon tea with Irene! A walk to the Spanish Synagogue for a concert).

She also likes the drawings that start each new chapter. The bookmark she’s using is a quote she copied from a restaurant in Fowey (Dear Fowey: What a special thing it is that she was able to attend this year’s Festival of Art and Literature!). It’s by, of all people, Ernest Hemingway, who she hasn’t read in AGES. But it is written like a prose poem. Don’t dear blog readers agree?

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Rising, p. 160 (in which #metoo meets #climatechange)

On p. 160 is — big surprise — not some genuinely hair-rising fact about how we’re all going to be wiped off the face of the planet by rapidly rising ocean levels, but an account of how Rush was sexually harassed by a senior colleague.

This is really brave of Rush. Because her whole message about climate change comes dangerously close to never seeing the light of day — not that the harasser was necessarily *that* powerful, but she was assailed with self-doubt (Did I invite his advances? Is this all my fault?)

Eventually I tell Samuel that I cannot continue our professional relationship and I tell him why. First he says, “Oh my god.” Then he says, “I had no idea.” Followed by, “I don’t remember.” And then, “I had no further intentions.” He says, “I love my family.” And, “let me know when you get over it.” The words spill out of him fast like floodwater.

Nice parallel, words with floodwater.

Samuel and the author are about to take a swim somewhere near Pensacola, Florida when he stops her by putting both hands on his shoulders, turns her around, and presses his lips to a tattoo on her back (The tattoo is a quote by e. e. cummings)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

RISING, p. 50

It used to be that we thought earth’s climate and its underlying geology changed slowly and steadily over time, like the tortoise who beat the hare. But now we know the opposite to be mostly true. The earth’s geophysical make-up doesn’t tend to incrementally evolve; it jerks back and forth between different equilibriums. Ice age, then greenhouse. Glaciers covering the island of Manhattan in a thousand-foot-thick sheet of ice, then a city of eight million people in that same spot.

RISING, DISPATCHES FROM THE NEW AMERICAN SHORE, p. 45

Lately my feeling is that I need time to just be here before I can decide whether to stay or not. My guess is that I will tap into so much gratitude for my life alongside this marsh that I may just become an old lady who drowns right here.

— Laura Sewell, resident of Small Point, Maine

Rising, p. 34

In the photo Chris shows me, his father stands surrounded by pastures. You can even make out a black cow in the upper right corner. In the sixty years since, the meadows where the cattle used to graze have all slipped beneath the surface of the sea.

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