July 25, 2011

The Readers' Fruit

Cherries are the perfect fruit for reading. Peaches and mangoes are too messy. Apples are fine (though they're better for walking: "Apples for walking, and a pipe for sitting . . ." as Sam Gamgee says). Apricots are excellent. But cherries! The handy little stem! The fun little seed!

I remember one vacation in Platres, up in the highlands of Cyprus (and incidentally the town where King Farouk invented the brandy sour: he needed an alcoholic drink that looked like iced tea, so he could drink while entertaining conservative Muslims!). My wife and I were the only guests at a cute little hotel. It had an enormous, sunny balcony, with a view down over the grapevines and tiled roofs. I bought a bag of cherries and put them in a big bowl, and we sat with our feet up, reading and eating cherries. I was reading Middlemarch, as I recall - my first experience with the extraordinary George Eliot, and somehow the cherries matched her sweet, tart, polished prose . . .

July 19, 2011

"Toto's 'Africa'" . . . by Hemingway

My wife and I get our kicks from reciting the nonsensical lyrics to pop songs. Excellent examples include Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf" and the Bee Gees' "Staying Alive." Our favorite, though, is certainly Toto's "Africa," which sounds like it should mean something, but is just ridiculous:

"It's gonna take a lot to take me away from you
There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never have

The wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless longing for some solitary company . . ."

The video is priceless.

I was therefore delighted to discover that Anthony Sams on McSweeney's has written up "Africa" as a short story by Hemingway. Here's a sample:

"The young man looked at the wristwatch again. His head spun from whiskey and soda. She was a damned nice woman. It would take a lot to drag him away from her. It was unlikely that a hundred men or more could ever do such a thing. The air, now thick and moist, seemed to carry rain again. He blessed the rains of Africa. They were the only thing left to bless in this forsaken place, he thought—at least until she set foot on the continent. They were going to take some time to do the things they never had."

July 17, 2011

Sebald's Last Interview

Here is the last interview by W.G. Sebald, before he died in a car crash at the age of 57. He was author of Vertigo, The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn, and Austerlitz. All four books were published in the last decade of his life.

I liked his comments about writers and walking.