“I’ve a new waltz I want Mamma to hear. She talks so often of the great Strauss. Here is a piece as good as any of his and it is also by a Viennese.”
He began to play.
The opening phrases were short and artless. They sounded like a rocking horse. But the swing began to grow longer, the rhythm stronger. The waltz began to ask questions, wistful, poignant. It took on a dreamier sweep.
Then a gayer theme sent Uncle Rudy’s fingers rippling over the keys. The melody wove in and out. It circled, swayed, as though it were music and dancer in on. It was irresistible.
—from Betsy in Spite of Herself
by Maud Hart Lovelace
It just freaked me out a little to realize that the Happy Birthday song on Tom Chapin’s Moonboat CD—Wonderboy’s favorite CD, hands down—is set to the tune of the Merry Widow waltz.
Celebrating its 400th anniversary this year. New to me this morning.
“It’s just one of the great pieces because it represents the epitome of the best of Renaissance music and the most incredible part of all the great changes that came in with Baroque music, all in one package.”
—Gwendolyn Toth, founder and artistic director of ARTEK early music ensemble in NYC
“From 1600 to 1760, the vogue was Baroque
and the folks who composed were Monteverdi,
Lully, Schütz, and Purcell,
Scarlatti and Handel and Bach.”
• Design Your Own Coat of Arms (has been a big hit)
• Life in a Medieval Castle and Village Coloring Book
• Medieval Fashions Coloring Book (there’s a paper dolls version too—these are some of those gorgeous books by Tom Tierney).
“The received wisdom is that novels too much of the moment won’t last: but what else do we have that delves so deeply into what we were thinking and feeling at any given period? In fifty or one hundred years’ times, we are, I suspect, unlikely to want to know what someone writing in 2010 had to say about the American Civil War. I don’t want to put you off, if you’re just writing the last paragraph of a seven-hundred-page epic about Gettysburg—I’m sure you’ll win loads of prizes and so on. But after that, you’ve had it.”
—excerpt from Nick Hornby’s “Stuff I’m Reading” column in the May 2010 issue of The Believer, which you can begin reading here but have to track down a hard copy to finish.
“…in November the University of California, Berkeley, where the manuscript is in a vault, will release the first volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography. The eventual trilogy will run to half a million words, and shed new light on the quintessentially American novelist.”
“Because the Internet is so new we still don’t really understand what it is. We mistake it for a type of publishing or broadcasting, because that’s what we’re used to. So people complain that there’s a lot of rubbish online, or that it’s dominated by Americans, or that you can’t necessarily trust what you read on the web. Imagine trying to apply any of those criticisms to what you hear on the telephone. Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do. For some batty reason we turn off this natural scepticism when we see things in any medium which require a lot of work or resources to work in, or in which we can’t easily answer back – like newspapers, television or granite. Hence ‘carved in stone.’ What should concern us is not that we can’t take what we read on the internet on trust – of course you can’t, it’s just people talking – but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV – a mistake that no one who has met an actual journalist would ever make. One of the most important things you learn from the internet is that there is no ‘them’ out there. It’s just an awful lot of ‘us’.”
Attempting to catch up on notes about things I’ve recently read and enjoyed…
Of all the curiosities that had been pitched out of Fooley’s balloon, the painting was the only one to fall into the Watercress River. When it had been fished out, nobody knew what it was, but fortunately Fooley had listed in his book the names of the curiosities, and when everthing else was checked off—like the family tree, the poem, the hourglass—it was obvious that the remaining item was a painting. The bath in the Watercress had done it no good. Though the colors of the squares, triangles, circles, and shields were clear enough, and the interconnecting black lines intact, the piece of parchment looked as though inky fingers had daubed it. But daubs or no daubs, the Periods (and therefore the ordinary villagers) adopted the painting for their own. Ever since Fooley’s time, a painting was a pattern of colored shaped connected by black lines, following the classical example.
The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall. Kendall is one of those writers whose voice I just plain enjoy. She’s a quirky storyteller with a taste for misfits. This novel is about the Minnipins, a tradition-loving people who live in small villages in an isolated mountain valley. Their distant ancestors settled here after escaping from terrible enemies about whom little is known, now, except their names: The Mushrooms. A few centuries ago, one of the Minnipins journeyed over the mountains and back via hot air balloon. Most of Fooley’s souvenirs—and memories—were scattered when he crash-landed back at home, but the remaining fragments have been carefully enshrined in a village museum and in the customs of his descendants. (You can tell them apart from the rest of the villagers by their names, which are taken from a scrap of paper that survived the crash and is now presumed to be a list of the friends Fooley made on his journey: Ave., Co., Wm., Eng., etc. “The Periods,” as these folk are reverently called, run the village.)
Folks in the village like things to be done just so, and they have little tolerance for eccentrics like Gummy the poet or lively Curley Green, who recklessly paints images of things from real life, in disregard of the proper classical style. (My kids love Kendall’s work, but her character names drive them up a wall.) When Muggles, the reluctant heroine, and her misfit friends begin to suspect the terrible Mushrooms are preparing for another attack, they have to persuade the rest of the villagers that the danger is real. Instead, they get kicked out of the village.
This is a fun read, somewhat formulaic but Kendall’s unusual voice makes the formula feel new. Beneath the storybook action is a quiet exploration of intellectual honesty; the villagers—especially The Periods—tend to do things just because that’s the way they’ve always been done, without pondering the origins of the customs. Muggles, though fearful of the social consequences of coloring outside the lines, can’t help but ask questions.