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.

 

Again, a Shift

Did not finish The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. With only one or two exceptions, the case studies were elderly people. Everyone knows growing old SUCKS. Oliver Sacks is masterful in telling all the different ways. Next!

Diving into Tim Dee’s Landfill: Notes on Gull Watching and Trash Picking in the Anthropocene, a book self began reading a while back, which got pushed back because when traveling, she finds novels easier to digest.

Tim Dee did not always have a fascination for gulls, just as gulls are no longer necessarily seagulls.

pp. 17 – 18:

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 new. Over the past hundred years, human modernity has brought gulls ashore. They have lived in our slipstream, following trawlers, ploughs, dust-carts . . . They live as we do, walking the built-up world and grabbing a bite where they can.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Dobu Islanders: FLOW, p. 79

. . . the culture of the Dobu islanders, as described by the anthropologist Reo Fortune, is one that encouraged constant fear of sorcery, mistrust among even the closest relatives, and vindictive behavior. Just going to the bathroom was a major problem, because it involved stepping out into the bush, where everybody expected to be attacked by bad magic when alone among the trees.


Strange how self can relate to this mode of feeling, which is a form of “magical thinking” — the idea that one can actively seek to prevent future bad things, by taking inordinately neurotic precautions.

Stay tuned.

Adolescents in the System: HINDSIGHT, p. 30

If there’s one thing Hindsight: Coming of Age in the Streets of Hollywood, by former student Sheryl Recinos, is making self angry about, it’s about the way children are treated as pawns by the juvenile system.

Recinos was one of five siblings. One of her brothers was given to foster care when he was 13 (Why? Because the parents needed money and took a German exchange student in his place). Recinos never saw her brother again.

She was sent to an adolescent psych ward at 11. The timing is suspicious: it was the start of summer vacation, when she’d be home all the time. She and her new stepmother did not get along.

The other patients in the psych ward were teenagers. A boy named Keith was kind to her.

p. 30:

Keith left. He was sent away to a boys’ group home a few hours away. For boys with anger issues. I’d never seen him angry. He probably had a fake diagnosis, too. After all, we were in the land of TV commercials showing how you could “fix” your difficult teens by shipping them off to a hospital.

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.

 

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.

 

This Is War

Arnhem, the Battle for the Bridges, 1944: pp. 129 – 130

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Illustration 45: American paratroopers under artillery fire during Operation Market Garden

  • A unit of Reichsarbeitsdienst teenagers from a heavy flak detachment had been waiting in Arnhem station to return to Germany. Late that afternoon, on learning of the airborne landings, their commander, Hauptmann Rudolph Mayer, had gone to the town commandant’s office to find out what they should do. He returned to announce that they would be armed and that they would be coming under SS command. The boys were marched to a nearby barracks where they were issued with old carbines. The bolts did not work properly and the only way to open the chamber was to knock them against something hard. “Their morale was not high, but it really hit the bottom when they saw these old guns,” one of their officers recorded. That evening they had still received no orders and no food. In fact they had not eaten for nearly forty-eight hours, because of the delay at the station.

Best writing in the book (so far): Chapter 12, Night and Day Arnhem, 17-18 September

Absolutely gripping.

That night, there is an absolutely murderous battle between the boys and British paratroopers, in pitch dark. “At close quarters, British Sten guns killed more efficiently than the antiquated bolt-action rifles issued to the teenagers. Almost half” of the boys were killed.

Stay tuned.

Bicycles, the Netherlands

Arnhem, the Battle for the Bridges, by Antony Beevor, p. 10

There had been 4 million bicycles in the Netherlands at the beginning of the war, half as many as the total population. The Wehrmacht had commandeered 50,000 at the beginning of July 1942, and now thousands more were headed for Germany, most of them loaded with soldiers’ equipment and booty as they pushed them along the roads. With no rubber for tyres, pedaling them on wooden wheels was heavy work. But their loss hit hard.

 

Books, Sunday Observer, 21 April 2019 (Easter Sunday)

Self is interested in reading the books on the list below:

  • Small Days and Nights, by Tishani Doshi (novel)
  • Don’t Touch My Hair, by Emma Dabiri (nonfiction)
  • The Road to Grantchester, by James Runcie (mystery)
  • Hey! Listen! by Steve McNeil (a journey through the golden age of video games)
  • The Price of Paradise: How the Suicide Bomber Shaped the Modern Age, by Iain Overton (history)
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton, by Sara Collins (debut novel)

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