July 14th, 2002


(no subject)

My leg is bothering me still. I had some trouble getting comfortable, sleeping, and woke up too early. I think I'm okay, think I had enough sleep or rest, though.


The biography of Erskine Caldwell is very well-written. So far I am forming a picture of this young man that I don't particularly like. He was socially not adept, was stiff and seemed incapable of having real fun, was humiliated in college because of his poor background and lack of social sophistication, and he tried dressing and acting the part of someone more sophisticated, even lied about his background. Yet in his later years he made himself out to be courageous, fun-loving, well-liked. His later tales often presented himself inaccurately, made himself out to be better than he actually was at the time. This tendency to distort his own truth bothers me.

I also note that he did poorly in school, was forever failing subjects, and would blame the schools later for his lack of attention. He did not learn grammar or spelling easily.

Yet he did absorb his father's passion for the correcting of social injustices and for treating blacks equally, certainly an unusual attitude in the south at the time. He became an atheist while his father was a pastor in a rigid religion (yet his father gave him the freedom to decide for himself).

I have not read Tobacco Road or anything else of Caldwell's but now I want to. I should prowl around Leon's to see what is there, as well as to see what of Iris Murdoch I can find.

unschooled genius

This is where we are in the bio of Caldwell. His stories are starting to be published and he's getting noticed. Others like his rough realism, hope he stays intact, does not get affected by the esoteric nature of others' writing. Not much chance of that, because Caldwell doesn't put any of it on. He is what he is. At least in writing.

I am liking him even less as a person. He beats his small boys, expecting the impossible from them, ignores the efforts of his wife to keep the family together, starts having open affairs. But when she has an affair he about loses his head. Selfish, thoughtless, inconsiderate. Yet charming, apparently, when he wants to be. Feels deeply for the sharecroppers yet doesn't see the pain and humiliation in his own family, that he himself causes.

limited availability: out of print

That's what Amazon says of this biography by Miller. Reviewers rate it highly, and note their agreement with Miller's concern about the current lack of interest in Caldwell.

Mendelsohn raised Bach out of obscurity. Miller tried to raise Caldwell but has apparently failed. And yet others continue to climb, like Heinlein, whose value I find questionable.

well, yeah, I'm lonely

I have been home all afternoon. I feel like I should get out sometimes but when I do I don't necessarily meet anyone or see anyone I know. I have been watching television and checking email (no email except ads). I don't feel any desire to do anything else. Although there is plenty I could be doing. I guess it's a low-grade depression.

touches of life

I sat outside Uptown Espresso with my iced Americano. I don't understand why coffee places charge more for iced drinks when they usually consist of less of the product and more ice. I can't imagine it costs them more to make an iced Americano than a hot Americano. Certainly it doesn't cost more to make an iced latte,which seems to have about half as much milk in it as a hot one.

So there I was, watching people come and go and stay. There was a group of student-aged people, Goth-inspired, unnaturally black hair, some striped Ts under black Ts, high-top sneakers, gathered around one table. Maybe eight or ten of them, talking about "characters". I finally realized they were talking about creating characters for a game. I don't know if it was Dungeons and Dragons or a computer game or what but they were talking about it like it was some kind of mission. Later, most of them took off, leaving three, one of which was a young woman who was actually knitting something.

Their voices took my attention until I noticed the birds again. One lighted on top of the barrel-tile roof and raised his little head (I am sure it was a male because he was a nicely-colored little sparrow, and the females are usually drab) to cheep to his friends. The usual din of sparrows and other birds then came to me in a rush and I wondered if anyone else noticed the sound. The trees on the downtown streets (I think some are carob, I am not sure what else, but they are large now) are dense and provide good cover for a large number of cheeping birds. It's a wonderful sound.

I read more, engrossed by Caldwell's life, increasingly disenchanted with the man and his fixation on blaming others for what goes wrong in his life, even when it is clearly his own fault. I'd love to talk about this biography with others, but want to read Tobacco Road first. It sounds like it's going to be a hell of a hard read but it's short.

I went from there to Scolari's to get some milk and a few other things, including some wild bird seed. The seed I filled the feeders with just yesterday - wasn't it yesterday? - is almost all gone. I can see how these little guys go through so much, with the manic way they fly all over the place, driven by a force I don't understand. In the market I met a guy from my dance class. I am pretty sure his name is Tom. He joined just a few weeks ago, is in his forties and quite shy and very new to ballroom dance, really quite a sweet guy. I told him about my knee and he said I had better stay off it until it's well and then come back, and I said it was nice seeing him. And it was.