Saturday, January 12, 2008

Drifty Doesn't Do Titles

I can't shake the feeling that the cute quote on the page header is lifted- in part, or in its entirety- from someone like Mae West or W.C. Fields. I don't know why this impression persists with such vigor; maybe it's because the maxim - or dictum, if you will- has a vintage sassy bite to it, as though it had first been uttered in a gas-lit saloon by a raffish bon-vivant. (Drifty, old fruit- people know these words or can find them in a dictionary if they don't. -Ed) Yeah, thanks, Ed. Not that I believe it for a second. Is the word maxim used anywhere outside a literary dictionary these days, except in reference to a glossy magazine or the inventor of a machine gun? What was I saying... Oh, right- the knife and the corkscrew. Could this be from the lips of Nick or Nora Charles? I don't know whether I truly originated the saying or not- if you do, please drop me a note. Speaking of notes, the editor doesn't read for spelling, grammar or style- that's my job, and I don't do it either, at least not very carefully. You can, and if you see something you don't like, drop me a note about that too.

If you like sock monkeys, you may get a kick out of this. I did, and I'm not even all that wild about sock monkeys. The first picture, even though the label clearly states the height as six feet, doesn't quite give the full impact- it isn't easy to get the scale right without reference points, and I was distracted by the chair, which I really like. The next picture, with the artist holding the monkey is the one that knocked me down. Of course, having a very dirty mind, I immediately began to harbor impure thoughts inspired by her sexy hair and glasses- you don't even want to know the things I imagined her doing with the monkey. Some of them involved the chair, which I maintain is a very attractive piece of furniture. If she reads this, I'll be probably see myself mercilessly lampooned in some future work. The rest of the artist's stuff, while not at all bad and pretty interesting, doesn't really grab me in a strong way. But don't let that stop you from looking around her neat and easy-to-navigate website, you may see something that really gets you going. (Drifty- please don't do this sort of thing. -Mgmt) Yeah, thanks, Mgmt. Don't count on it. You know what I wish? I wish I was six feet tall and hung like that. I wouldn't even mind being a sock monkey, if it came to that.

I've just read Imperium- the first book by Ryszard Kapuscinski I've tried. It's a history book, what you might call an extended essay- part social biography and part retrospective travelogue- about the far-flung elements of the Soviet Union, particularly in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Central Asia (the -stans), and Siberia, and concerned mostly with its ultimate exhaustion from over-reach, moral chaos and socio-economic suicide. While it is a thoughtful and provocative critical work with quite a lot to say about what didn't work in the USSR, it is perhaps more notable for the light it sheds upon the ongoing post-Soviet struggle between the morphing (and fading?) authority of the CIS and the resurgent nationalist bandit governments over natural resources, a shadowy puppet-play in which almost everyone is an ex-communist claiming to be a reformer and yet no one is willing to let go the inherited reins of totalitarianism. Just before beginning Imperium I had read Robert Conquest's Reflections on a Ravaged Century, and noted the similar view both books take not only of Stalin's purges and the starvation of the Ukraine, but of the inevitability of serious conflict between and within former republics in the post-Soviet period. I found Kapuscinski quite readable, and credible overall though I had some minor reservations about his style, which occasionally veered into the kind of irresponsibly delirious lyricism that I feel mars otherwise sound political history; for another example, try Claudio Magris in Danube. Let's just say I don't care to hear the sound of waving hands in a serious book- it makes me wonder whether I can believe what I'm reading.

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