still wrestling with nabokov and joyce


Church went fine yesterday. My plan of spending more time reading and playing music at home seems to be working out okay.  It still needs some tweaking.

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I am struggling with Bryan Boyd’s Nabokov’s Pale Fire. I am almost fifty pages from the end and have learned a lot from this book. But I find myself disagreeing with some of his conclusion even while trying to keep an open mind.

One of the characters in the book is named Gradus. Boyd mentions the concept of Gradus ad Parnassum. The phrase means “steps to Parnassus” and is used in various ways historically. It caught my attention because of Debussy’s piano piece, “Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum.’ Boyd doesn’t make the connection but some others do.

Using the interwebs I discovered that Nabokov had a Golliwog doll when he was a kid. You know. Golliwog of “Golliwog’s Cakewalk” which is in the same collection as “Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum,” The Children’s Corner.

I think this is significant for Pale Fire because the novel revolves around a father/daughter relationship and Debussy wrote The Children’s Corner for his daughter. This cannot have been entirely lost on Nabokov. I’m still poking around to find the connection.

I did find a very interesting take on using Golliwog’s Cakewalk when teaching piano these days. Ionarts: Golliwog’s Cakewalk Essentially the dude approaches a bit like Mark Twain’s n-word books. Teach it and grab the moment to learn stuff from students as well as being as honest as possible about it. I like that.

I listened to James Carville’s June 17th Oxford Union talk. Here’s a link but I’m not necessarily recommending it since he does his usual stream of consciousness rambling. I like Carville. I was happy to hear he thinks that the Democrats will win the presidency bakc in 2020. I wonder what he thinks now that we are in the throes of impeachment.

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I was surprised that my newest edition of Finnegans Wake has an extensive intro, synopsis, biblio, and list of online links. This is one. I have already found it but this inspired me to go back and check it out again. I am working hard on slowly rereading  Finnegans Wake. I’m having lots of fun with it.

And then there’s this.

Don’t Panic: It’s only Finnegans Wake. Great little video on how to pronounce the first thunderword. I didn’t know that the thunder words in the book are made up of words for thunder in languages. Very very cool.

in a Schubert mood


I went over to church before lunch today and prepped for tomorrow. i am playing a couple of organ pieces by English composers, John Bennett and Charles Burney. They both served St. Dionis, Backchurch London.


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Wikipedia tells me that this was a Christopher Wren building that went up after the Great Fire of London and then was demolished in 1878.

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Volume 35 of the Tallis to Wesley organ music is entitled Three Organists of St. Dionis, Backchurch, London. It contains the pieces I have learned.

I love these small volumes. The music in them is usually quite good.

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They seem very appropriate to perform at an Episcopal church since it’s the English tradition.. I like the two that I am doing tomorrow.

It seems that my attempt to devote a bit less time to preparing for church work is working. I skipped rehearsal of these two pieces and the choral anthem yesterday. We are singing an arrangement I did of In Paradisum from the Durufle Requiem. Lovely stuff, but not all that hard.

I have been using my spare time to play piano and do some reading and, of course, Greek.

Schubert has been my passion this week. At our Thursday rehearsal , the piano trio read through a piece by him I purchased recently. It is a bit more difficult than most of the music we play through, but Dawn and Amy seemed to enjoy it as much as I did.

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I have been playing through other piano pieces by Schubert this week and listening to him while I clean the kitchen and so on.

It’s odd but I just get in the mood for a composer and there you are.

NYTimes: Overlooked No More: Robert Johnson, Bluesman Whose Life Was a Riddle

NYT has been doing this thing of rectifying omissions of obits over the years. This is one.

“The Climate,” by Annelyse Gelman | The New Yorker

Nice poem this week in the New Yorker.

Review: Edward Snowden and the Rise of Whistle-Blower Culture in “Permanent Record” | The New Yorker

After watching Trevor Noah interview Snowden on the Daily Show, I’m thinking of reading his book sometime. This link to Lepore’s review.

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Will Hunter Biden Jeopardize His Father’s Campaign? | The New Yorker

I admit it. I didn’t read this article when it was in my actual copy of this issue. But after listening to the author on this week’s On The Media and Trump’s phone call, I’m glad it’s online so I can read it.