Archive for the 'bookmaggot' Category

history of violence, by édouard louis

You’ve also stayed away because you’ve discovered how easy it is to cut her loose, how little you actually miss her

prelude to bruise, by saeed jones

I am done. Your grief will be useful some day, says no one.

speak no evil, by uzodinma iweala

All you people do, wherever you are in this world, is just bring death and destruction, you bring nothing good, nothing good

the invention of horses

Last night I read and enjoyed Wynne Davies’ The Welsh Cob, described in Amazon reviews as “for cob enthusiasts only”. (I feel seen.) While there have been horses in Wales since pre-Roman times, the purebred cob, an absolute unit, is a surprisingly late invention. The first Welsh stud book was published in 1902, following a busy late 19th century of outcrossing native Welsh ponies with Thoroughbreds, Arabs, Hackneys, Norfolk Roadsters, and Yorkshire Coach Horses.


King Flyer, b1894

At almost exactly the same time, my old friend Lady Anne Blunt was importing Arabian horses to England. The modern Arabian and the Welsh Cob were modeled on the English Thoroughbred, itself a literary fiction. Horses, obviously, exist, but purebred horses exist only in books, beginning with the General Stud Book of 1793. The GSB represents a cartel of Thoroughbred breeders and owners. Only horses registered in the GSB can race on the flat in Britain. A closed stud book raises prices by creating artificial scarcity. (Because of the risk of fraud, Thoroughbreds can only be registered if they are conceived by “live cover”, rather than artificial insemination, a quirk of history that keeps a lot of Thoroughbred stallions very busy.)

The GSB is almost exactly contemporaneous with the United States of America, and both of them pre-date Burke’s Peerage, the stud book for British humans. Nations are also literary fictions. Different rules apply to those whose names are written down in the right books. The white colonists needed a reason to argue that while they deserved liberty from oppression, their slaves did not. They found it in the invention of race. White people, like Thoroughbred horses, counted. They were counted. Black people, like half-bred horses, counted for less. Purebred horses were invented in part as a way to make this appear to be a law of nature: but it isn’t.

prairie fires, by caroline fraser

She demeaned her own constant reading as “little more than a drug habit.”

the great mortality, by john kelly

“I . . . am waiting among the dead for death to come.”

the dead do not die, by sven lindqvist

He took the Parisians to the limestone quarry, where they could see that their city was an immense mass grave of long-since annihilated creatures. As they had gone under, so would we ourselves, their descendants, go under.

nothing is true and everything is possible, by peter pomerantsev

We used to have this self-centered idea that Western democracies were the end point of evolution, and we’re dealing from a position of strength, and people are becoming like us. It’s not that way. Because if you think this thing we have here isn’t fragile you are kidding yourself.

by the sea shore

We spent the weekend in Point Reyes, which is so beautiful it almost defies photography. The California Field Atlas describes it as an authentic Pleistocene-era prairie by the sea. Philip K. Dick was also moved by:

this wild moor-like plateau that dropped off at the ocean’s edge, one of the most desolate parts of the United States, with weather unlike that of any other part of California.

The giant camels and mastodon that roamed here in the Ice Age are gone, but if you look closely, there’s a herd of not-quite-extinct tule elk grazing out on this headland.

Jeremy was enchanted by the Marconi RCA wireless station, the first and last of its kind. Now that we are home, he’s in his office playing with software-defined radios and emitting atmospheric bursts and Morse code. For my part, I loved the dairy ranches, and imagined myself quitting tech to become a simple farmer, a man of the people, at one with the land.

Of course I am not the first to indulge this fantasy. It forms the substance of Dick’s Confessions of a Crap Artist, Daniel Gumbiner’s The Boatbuilder, and even Summer Brennan’s The Oyster War. All three are at pains to point out that no matter how lovely the place is, it can’t help you escape who you are.

West Marin has dangled before the white mind like a lure for almost five hundred years. In 1579, the pirate Francis Drake in his galleon full of stolen Spanish treasure christened it Nova Albion and claimed it for Queen Elizabeth I. The visitor center on Drakes Beach notes that people in South America used his name to frighten their children, so that’s nice.

The Coast Miwok survive and now form part of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. Still, anthropologist Betty Goerke calculates that between genocide, epidemic, and aggressive zoning laws designed to maintain high property values, there are fewer people living in Point Reyes today than there were in Drake’s time. It’s a pretend wilderness, like Yosemite and Kur-ring-gai. I’m indebted to its original custodians for how it heals my sore heart.

the boatbuilder, by daniel gumbiner

“It’s okay,” Alejandro said. “You’re not trying to show who you are, you’re just trying to make the thing.”

army of none, by paul scharre

The gun can’t handle its own power.

holding silvan, by monica wesolowska

It’s easy at first to respond to crisis, but this crisis is dragging on and on.

the collected schizophrenias, by esme weijun wang

Produce! Get results! Make money! Make friends! Make changes! Or you will die of despair.

where am i now? by mara wilson

Why, then, did I feel so bitter? Partly because bitter was my default state of being

the oyster war, by summer brennan

California is just a made-up word, like Rivendell, Narnia or Oz.

light and shadow, by mark colvin

At eleven, I still had the wooden toy sailing boat, named after Captain Cook’s Endeavour, that I’d been given when I was six, and I’d go to Kensington Gardens to sail it on the Round Pond and admire the vast radio-controlled sloops and motor-torpedo-boats that adult nerds raced across the waters.

Sydney itself was, physically and socially, very different then: a much-lower-slung, less-skyscraper-dotted city with a far busier harbour. Parts of it could feel provincial, with the emphasis on mowing the nature strip and using the incinerator for the weekly backyard burn-off—a social backwater almost unchanged from the 1950s. But because property prices were so low, there was also a Bohemian side to Sydney, a side which is gone now.

they can’t kill us until they kill us, by hanif abdurraqib

If this year was bad, next year might be even worse, or at the very least it might be harder.

horses in company, by lucy rees

Grazing and browsing animals have not evolved social systems that curb aggression in competitive situations, because these situations do not arise in their natural lives. Their social relations go awry when faced with this unnatural, imposed challenge. Bucket tests do not ‘reveal the hierarchy’ as is claimed: they create one.

celine dion’s let’s talk about love, by carl wilson

Taste is a means of distinguishing ourselves from others, the pursuit of distinction. And its end product is to perpetuate and reproduce the class structure.

witches of america, by alex mar

I imagine a near future in which all my parts might align.