Not so new addiction VII

“Life is painful, nasty and short – in my case it has only been painful and nasty,”  Djuna Barnes 1978-1981 by Hank O’Neal

The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith

All the Lives We Ever Lived by Katherine Smyth

Normandy Stories by Guy de Maupassant

Molloy by Samuel Beckett

Herman Melville by Elizabeth Hardwick

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker

Anne Frank, The Untold Story by Jeroen De Bruyn and Joop van Wijk

The Dawn Watch by Maya Jasanoff

Packing my library by  Alberto Manguel

England, Their England by A.G. Macdonell

The Shadow-Line by Joseph Conrad

South Sea Tales by Jack London by Nathan Englander

The Bughouse: The Madness of Ezra Pound by Daniel Swift

Flights by Olga Tokarchzuk

The World Broke in Two by Bill Goldstein

Matters of Vital Interest by Eric Lerner

The Belly of Paris by Émile Zola

Old Goriot by Honoré de Balzac

Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy

The Potato Hack by Tim Steele



Not so new addiction VI

– continued –

A Way in the World by V.S. Naipaul

Burmese Days by George Orwell

Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

At the Edge of the World by Jean-Vincent Blanchard

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

The Ordeal of Gilbert Finfold by Evelyn Waugh

Convenience Store by Sayaka Murata

Swann’s Way (Part I Remembrance of Things Past) by Marcel Proust

The Guermantes Way (Part III Remembrance of Things Past) by Marcel Proust

Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know (the father’s of Joyce, Yates, and Wilde) by Colm Toibin

Within a Budding Grove (Part II Remembrance of Things Past) by Marcel Proust

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

The Mueller Report

Sodom and Gomorrah (Part IV Remembrance of Things Past) by Marcel Proust

The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell

Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

The Fugitive (Part V Remembrance of Things Past) by Marcel Proust

The Forest Unseen by David George Haskell

The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien

Here in New York by E.B. White

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

Normandy Stories by Guy de Maupassant

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Not so new addiction V

– continued –

Staying On by Paul Scott

The Longest Journey by E.M. Forster

Where Angels fear to Tread by E.M.Forster

Mother’s and Sons by Colm Tóibín

A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren

New Ways to Kill your Mother by Colm Tóibín

The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Royal Highness by Thomas Mann

Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter

White on White – selections from the Letters of E.B.White

Quest in Capricorn by David Attenborough

Quest in Paradise by David Attenborough

The Man Who Would be King by Rudyard Kippling

The Painted Veil by W. Sumerset Maugham

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Sour Heart by Jenny Zheng

Call me Burroughs by Barry Miles

I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing by Maya Angelou

Queer by William Burroughs

Scenes from a Village by Amos Oz

The Magician by W. Somerset Maugham

Almayer’s Folly by Joseph Conrad

Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar

Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time by Hillary Spurling


Not so new addiction IV

Not so new addiction IV

– continued –


The life and times of the thunderbolt kid by Bill Bryson

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

Going where by Olga Medvedkova

Honeymoon by Patrick Modiano

The Door by Magda Szabo

The Master by Colm Toibin

Watch me: a memoir by Anjelica Huston

The Cossacks by Leo Tolstoy

Heart of the Matter by Graham Green

Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham

The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann

Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse

Flush by Virginia Woolf

The Trembling of a Leaf  short stories by W. Somerset Maugham

A Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta

Paris Stories by Mavis Gallant

The Mountain by Paul Yoon

Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood

No Room in the Ark by Alan Moorhead

One’s Company by Peter Fleming

My Twentieth Century Evening and Other Small Breakthroughs: The Nobel Lecture by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Immeasurable: Journeys in Desert Places by William Atkins

Travels with a Donkey by Robert Louis Stevenson

Plain tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling



What was left behind

Twelve days after the death of Gustave Flaubert in May 1880, the official death seals were removed from his door and an inventory of the contents of his rooms was made. Here are a few of his possessions left behind:

In the bedroom on the first floor,

panama hat

top hat

red silk cravat

5 pairs of gloves

19 shirts

2 dressing gowns

5 waistcoats

7 walking sticks

tobacco jar

two pair of boots

In the dining room,

35 champagne glasses

48 porcelain dinner plates

a painting representing Napoleon 1

a pocket watch in a gold case engraved with initials ‘GF’

a gold watch chain

a gold signet ring with square stone

a silver spoon and two forks marked ‘N Flaubert’

5 oyster-knives with black handles and silver blades

In the study on the first floor,

Large round table in mahogany

Green woolen tablecloth

One tiger skin, one lynx skin, one bear skin, white

Bronze ink well

Three paperknives, one with initials ‘GF’

Unfinished manuscript of work entitled Bouvard et Pecuchet

Works of Walter Scott in 32 vols.

Photographic reproduction of painting entitled Visions

Aray consisting of lances, javelins, arrows, mandolin, basque drum, axe, oriental pipe, cardboard Chinesse statuette

Marble clock with bronze figurine

Works of Saint Teresa in Migne edition

In a bookcase drawer – 2515 francs to cover funeral expenses, burial charges and other debts. (from Flaubert: A Life by Geoffrey Wall)

Left behind: Scientists, studying a massive accumulation of 20-million-year-old amber found in the Dominican Republic more than 50 years ago, have discovered a tiny fossilized grasshopper that is believed to have existed 18 million to 20 million years ago. (from 7/31/2014 – Int’l Business Times)

Homeland left behind: Today, in 1881, … five years after General George A. Custer’s infamous defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn, Hunkpapa Teton Sioux leader Sitting Bull surrendered to the U.S. Army, which promises amnesty for him and his followers. Sitting Bull had been a major leader in the 1876 Sioux uprising that resulted in the death of Custer and 264 of his men at Little Bighorn. Pursued by the U.S. Army after the Indian victory, he escaped to Canada with his followers (https://www.

“Can I … Help!”

Next time a magnanimous impulse impels me to ask – “Can I help in any way?” – I should probably think twice. Here’s the situation: My niece (a personal as well as a world treasure) would be getting married to another (glinting) treasure on June 9th in upstate New York. Of course I wanted to offer my support, assistance, a helping hand, and had already started collecting rose petals in baggies which were (I hoped) maintaining their freshness on a shelf in my refrigerator. These pink and red petals were to be sprinkled in the path of the wedding party by their flower girl. Thus, as our violinist played “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,” the procession could make their way across the lawn, past us teary unlookers to the peony covered arch or arbor. (Do listen by clicking on the attached link … it’ll put you in the mood.) Underneath these nectar filled, perfumed flowers the official solemnization would transpire. Here’s what I was asked to do ten days before the event, and when, and with whom,and how it registered to my pre-geriatric, addled mind.

Hi auntie,

 Wanted to quickly check in about a wedding weekend task I have assigned to you (with Auntie M.).
As guests arrive we will have a table with a few liquid refreshments for guests to grab as they wait for the ceremony to start. The table will have three big jugs with spigots. Two are 2-gallon jugs and they will be filled with store bought lemonade along with slide citrus and rosemary to make it look pretty. The other is 4.75 gallons and it will have iced water with mint.
Slide citrus?
Grab refreshments?
Large jug?
Small jug?
Our immediate families are taking pictures from 2:45-3:45 outside the S. House B&B so I’m hoping that you (with Auntie M.) can prepare the jugs for the guests’ arrival at 4:30 on your own.
This will involve the following:
1) slicing the citrus into thin rounds (10 oranges, 10 limes, 15 lemons)
2) rinsing the rosemary
3) rinsing the mint
(Oranges and lemons – the Bells of St. Clement’s.
Lemons and limes – the Chimes of St. Grimes.
Limes and oranges – the Fern of Sporangiums.)
These first three steps can be done anytime on Saturday and we have gallon sized baggies you can put the materials in and chill in the garage fridge. I think you can take care of these first steps on your own as M. will helping with the flowers.
4) placing half the citrus and half the rosemary in each of the 2 2-gallon jugs
5) placing the mint in the 4.75 gallon jug
6) scooping a small amount of ice to each jug to stay cool (located in the freezer in the garage) but not so much that it will water the lemonade down when it melts
7) filling the 2 2-gallon jugs with the store-bought lemonade which will be chilling in 1/2 gallon containers in the refrigerator in the garage
8) filling the 4.75 gallon jug with cold water
9) placing the jugs on the lemonade table (we’ll point this out to you on saturday) –  perhaps T. can carry them out to the table for you or, alternatively, you can leave the jugs on the lemonade stand and bring pitchers of water and lemonade in the 1/2 gallon containers out to the stand to fill
10) scooping ice (located in the freezer in the garage) into a small blue cooler which will be placed under the lemonade stand for guests to use





 These latter steps need to be done shortly before guests arrive (maybe around 4:00 pm) so that the drinks are cool. I’ll ask M. to help here as this involves a time crunch/hauling shit. 
So, does this sound doable to you? I’ll point out all of the supplies sometime Friday or Saturday.
Let me know if you have any questions and thank you in advance for your help!
Should my mental capacity for instruction-following strain under the citrus knife, I knew M. would be there. But – as it turned out –  the catering crew decided to sort, slice, assemble rosemary, mint, fruit, coolers, jugs by themselves. Hence: unruffled, I was able sit in the third row next to my (beloved) cousin A. inhaling the aroma of peony while awaiting the flower girl with her basket full of my (also aromatic) collected petals.
To celebrate these nuptials, have a listen to The Bells of St. Clement’s.

Aboard the QMII

It began at Ocean Terminal/Berth 46/47/Dock gate 4/Southampton, UK. Once the gangway was withdrawn, it became a universe, and – carelessly – a metaphor for …. well …. the circle of one’s entire life in seven nights and days. Stateroom 6066 rose and fell into the Celtic Sea.

“Waves, large and florid as the tail of a peacock, waves with snow white crests heaved under the impulse of the tramontane wind, and came merrily, madly rushing towards the ship, in the bright lustre of a perfectly clear sky.”[***]

Aroused by force 7 winds, we traversed the Porcupine Abyssal Plain into International Waters. The ship sailed without cunning at 14.5 knots. The sea became rough.

“Like all Americans, he [she] was very liberal with his money when travelling. And like all of them, he believed in the full sincerity and good-will of those who brought his food and drinks, served him from morn till night, anticipated his smallest desire, watched over his cleanliness and rest, carried his things … So it was everywhere, so it was during the voyage, so it ought to be…”

Into the West European Bain, decks 7, 11 and 14 forbidden due to roughening seas.

“At five o’clock, tea in the … smart salon where it was so warm, with the deep carpets and blazing fires. After which the thought of dinner and again the powerful commanding voice of the gong heard over all the floors, and again strings of bare-shouldered ladies rustling with their silks on the staircases and reflecting themselves in the mirrors, again the wide-flung, hospitable, palatial dining room, the red jackets of musicians on the platform, the black flock of waiters around the maitre d’hdtel, who with extraordinary skill was pouring out a thick, roseate soup into soup-plates. The dinners, as usual, were the crowning event of the day. Everyone dressed as if for a wedding, and so abundant were the dishes, the wines, the table-waters, sweetmeats, and fruit, that at about eleven o’clock in the evening the chamber-maids would take to every room rubber hot-water bottles, to warm the stomachs of those who had dined.”

All night were foghorns. High winds, force 7 untiring winds.

“At last, in the twilight … the wind grew softer, warmer, more sweet-smelling. Over the tamed waves, undulating like black oil, there came flowing golden boa-constrictors of light . . . . The electric light of the cabin shone brighter, and a desire to eat, drink, smoke, move once more made itself felt. . . .

Nearing Grand Banks of Newfoundland, force 6 winds, interrupted by force 7. Wet wooden decks closed to walkers. Visiting fog in many forms including rolling, banking, sea fog too obscuring Sable Island where 400 wild horses made their home. 20 knots, overcast, restricted visibility. All day, ship’s whistle sounded every five minutes. One deep. One slightly higher. One ordinary. Sea temperature: 45° F.

“Yet the ship travelled well, even without much rolling. The passengers on board were many, and all people of some importance. The boat, the famous Atlantis resembled a most expensive European hotel with all modern equipments: a night refreshment bar, Turkish baths, a newspaper printed on board; so that the days aboard the liner passed in the most select manner. The passengers rose early, to the sound of bugles sounding shrilly through the corridors in that grey twilit hour, when day was breaking slowly and sullenly over the grey-green, watery desert, which rolled heavily in the fog. Clad in their flannel pyjamas, the gentlemen took coffee, chocolate, or cocoa, then seated themselves in marble baths, did exercises, thereby whetting their appetite and their sense of well-being, made their toilet for the day, and proceeded to breakfast. Till eleven o’clock they were supposed to stroll cheerfully on deck, breathing the cold freshness of the ocean; or they played table-tennis or other games, that they might have an appetite for their eleven o’clock refreshment of sandwiches and bouillon; after which they read their newspaper with pleasure, and calmly awaited luncheon which was a still more varied and nourishing meal than breakfast. The two hours which followed luncheon were devoted to rest. All the decks were crowded with lounge chairs on which lay passengers wrapped in plaids, looking at the mist-heavy sky … and dozing sweetly. Till five o’clock, when, refreshed and lively, they were treated to strong, fragrant tea and sweet cakes. At seven bugle-calls announced a dinner of nine courses. And now the Gentleman from San Francisco, rubbing his hands in a rising flush of vital forces, hastened to his state cabin to dress.”

Reached the Fundian Channel, Browns’ Bank, 20 knots, course – 256 ° with force 6 winds, clouds.

“But huger still was the liner, many storeyed, many funnelled, created by the presumption of the New Man with the old heart.”

Suspended under the mist, the arched spine of Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, at 5:15 a.m, just as a buttered muffin of sun brought daylight and soft rain began to fall. After a while, wrapped in soggy mist, emerged a dot of golden Maple Syrup that was Liberty’s torch

It ended (6:30 a.m.) at Cunard Terminal/Pier 12/Red Hook, Brooklyn/Buttermilk Channel across from Governors Island where handfuls of rain were tossed. And flew. Spared none of us.


[***All quotes are excerpts from “The Gentleman from San Francisco”

written in 1915 by I.A. Bunin,

translated by D.H. Lawrence and S. S. Koteliansky,

published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at E Hogarth Press, Richmond, UK, 1922.

This story is one of the great indictments of capitalism/capitalists. And there, for seven nights

and seven days, among 2500 mostly white-skinned passengers

being serviced by 1500 mostly brown-skinned staff,

sailed I, irrespective of small sharp teeth gnawing at the inseam of my conscience.]


Once the freshly washed laundry has been pulled from the washer and carried across the laundry room, it gets stuffed into a dryer. No big deal. Just now, though, as I loaded wet teal-blue sheets, underwear, dishtowels, socks, cloth table napkins and more, hand-over-fist, I gripped what felt like a scissors buried inside a twisted fitted sheet. On unwinding the laundered cloth, I realized the object was not a scissors but a magnifying glass that has just been washed, rinsed, spun, not in a delicate cycle, either.

I  don’t want to intensify, exaggerate, make the incident seem larger than it was. But:

 “I can see clearly now”

[listen now on youtube]

Johnny Nash

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

I think I can make it now, the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I’ve been prayin’ for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

Look all around, there’s nothin’ but blue skies
Look straight ahead, nothin’ but blue skies

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)

[Sun-Shiny day.By Johnny Nash and Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff, 1972]

With Micah on Christmas

Your downy head against my cheek, your toasty bottom resting in the palm of my hand while your miniature fist surrounds my index finger all morning, all afternoon, until night falls face down across Los Angeles. Then, into evening. Awake. Asleep. Sometimes in between. A choo-choo train of gas toots, a tremulous sigh, your grip firm, unchanged as you’re introduced to an American baseball to which you show less than no interest.

Los Angeles seems unchanged, the evocative smell of dry Eucalyptus at dusk sparks memories of the twenty-one years here during the prime of my life where I daily inhaled, savored that smell, this landscape, the ever-blue sky.  Am in California to meet Micah, am so much older, an Uber-user rather than car-renter. Have been giving Micah my undivided at the expense of old (and much missed) friends. I’ve strayed quite far from my prime onto a narrowing road, perhaps into a cul-de-sac, coffee cup in hand. For a while I could tap that “prime” on the shoulder but now it has grown out-of-reach.

Gelson’s lot is jammed, there’s Christmas Eve gridlock on the 405 as well as the 10. I’m hoping there’s such a thing as a savings account to hold these accumulated hours with Micah-in-Arms to draw on when I’m far away; also as he grows and changes.

Waiting at LAX for my red-eye, I overhear a pale red head (wearing reindeer antlers) speaking on a cell phone, explaining why she’s missed the earlier flight, blaming (I’m not kidding) Marc Calder and Alexander Chagall for a meeting that went on “way too long”. She says, “Tell Ali Vomit to bring my coat to Newark. Marc told me it’s 17° there.” Then she hangs up. A large family carrying CVS bag filled with wrapped boxes, squeeze in next to me. Their little girl – perhaps five years old – looks at me, says, “Hi Grandma.” and walks right over. Her mother starts to apologize, but I stop her before she starts, and let the little girl do a jigsaw puzzle on my iPad until the flight begins to load

Again I’m on a 777-300, packed in like a sad sardine. I make a withdrawal from my full Micah-in-Arms account and close my eyes. As soon as we’re at 37,000 feet the lights dim. It turns out to be the quickest flight west-to-east I’ve ever taken – under four hours – due to strong tailwinds. And how, the wind must have been strong because we land at 5:50 am in the dark instead of 6:50. A short while later, luggage in hand, wool scarf around my neck, wool watch cap pulled down over my ears, am seated on a bare-bones NJT train. It piddles toward Penn Station. Through the train’s dirty window, streaks of lemon-merangue have begun to peal through the night sky. Had my arm been long enough to touch the streaks with my fingertips, I’ve no doubt it would remind me of Micah’s sweet, thriving, alabaster cheek.




Meeting Micah

Dear Micah,

I’m leaving tomorrow morning at dawn to fly to LA to (finally) meet you. You’re one month and seven days old. I’m … eight hundred sixty-eight months and three days old. In case we don’t find much that we have in common, we surely will find a few strong links to each other. One will be your father. Yes, that gentle, sweet, sure-footed, sure-handed, capable set of hands who protects, feeds, cuddles you, lets you curl up and sleep as long as you like on his shoulder while cradling your heat-emitting fetal form with his manly, steady hand. Your father is my son. You are his son. Yes … stepping stones of sons.

If you wonder why my wardrobe is so limited during my visit with you, it’s because my suitcase is filled with gifts; all for you. From your great aunt Nancy, your friends Kristina, Dan and Ivaylo in Paris, me, and others. (see  photo below) There’s no space left for clothes.

I hope you like what’s been chosen. One of my gifts is a baseball – a real, major league hard ball. (see second photo)

The next morning, very early: The night passed. I hardly slept, being wide awake to the amazement of you, Micah. Yes you. I showered at 5, left at 6. After I’d locked my front door and elevator’d twelve floors down with my gift-laden luggage, I saw it was still nighttime. Snow had fallen, was falling. There were no cabs so I walked in the untrammeled, fresh snowfall. At 8th avenue, a cab silently stood, invited me into its leathery warmth.

Those boarding the Boeing 777-300  had on watch caps, scarfs, winter coats but … somehow – after landing in Los Angeles (six hours later plus two hours of waiting, getting de-iced, etc) – these same folks de-planed in shorts, tank tops, their naked arms revealing dramatic tattoos. How this happened is a mystery to me, as much of a mystery as how such a massive, metalic-plastic vehicle is able to fly up and through the sky. I never get used to it, especially at the instant when tires are no longer touching tarmac.

In the not to distant future I imagine you’ll see what I mean. We’ll see if you agree. Personally: I removed my wool hat while flying over Pittsburgh, my cashmere scarf over Ohio, the wool turtleneck sweater over New Mexico, was left with a seasonally appropriate light jacket and shirt on touchdown.

Two days later: The photos say it all. (see photos)

Post Script: Your mommy and daddy took you to your second appointment with your pediatrician in Santa Monica this afternoon. You’ve gained almost two pounds in two weeks; grown an inch. The doctor’s final evaluation:



In the Thriving Season


Now as she catches fistfuls of sun

riding down dust and air to her crib,

my first child in her first spring

stretches bare hands back to your darkness

and heals your silence, the vast hurt

of your deaf ear and mute tongue

with doves hatched in her young throat.

Now ghost-begotten infancies

are the marrow of trees and pools

and blue uprisings in the woods

spread revolution to the mind,

I can believe birth is fathered

by death, believe that she was quick

when you forgave pain and terror

and shook the fever from your blood.


Now is the thriving season of love

When the bud relents into flower,

your love turned absence has turned once more,

and if my comforts fall soft as rain

on her flutters, it is because

love grows by what it remembers of love.

  • <> Lisel Mueller <>