Category Archives: Miscellany


So today is kind of a big deal day. Milestones and all. Yesterday, I finished Middlemarch. And then today, I turned thirty. I’m not actually sure which of these was a bigger deal.

I’ll be honest: I had some ups and downs approaching this birthday. One thing I can say with certainty that I learned in my twenties is that sometimes, you just need to have the meltdown so you can move on. Maybe that means you just need to watch the movie that never fails to make you cry, so you can cry about all the other things you really need to cry about too. (I can’t be the only one who does this.) So that happened this month.

But I did a lot of other things, too, in addition to finishing Middlemarch; good things, happy things (dare I say, happier than reading Middlemarch).

I went hiking with friends, and oh! the wildflowers! Tiger lilies, columbine, shooting stars, and glacier lilies!

columbine, glacier lily

columbine, glacier lily

There was ice cream and conversation.

Six flavors of rainbow sherbet, one cup.

Six flavors of rainbow sherbet, one cup.

I made Momofuku Milk Bar birthday cake with my mom. It was delicious.


And then this weekend, I’m headed down to Ashland, Oregon, for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be awesome. Like this brand new decade.

It's high time for big wishes.

It’s high time for big wishes.

I Should Have Been A Journalist

I should have been a journalist. Because after watching this weekend’s football (and the U.S. premiere of season three of Downton Abbey), there is one interview I’d very much like to conduct.

“Who might that be? And why are you talking about football, a subject about which you know so little and so far afield from the purported purpose of your blog?” you might be thinking. And these are all good questions. While I confess to knowing only a little about the game of football, I’ve kind of learned to enjoy watching it. It’s given me something to talk about at work, where few and far between are the people who have any interest whatsoever in books and reading.

The number one person I would like to interview in the world of football? Aaron Rodgers, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. He comes across as being very humble, which I really appreciate in any person, and we’re roughly the same age. And then he sometimes wears what looks like a turtleneck under his jersey when he’s playing in the cold, and I think it’s kind of adorable.

So without further ado, and entirely the product of this weekend’s television consumption and of conversations with my sister (I did read a book, too – stayed up far too late finishing it in the wee small hours of Sunday morning), my three questions for Aaron Rodgers:

  • Are you familiar with the public television phenomenon Downton Abbey?
  • Has anyone ever told you that there is a striking resemblance between yourself and Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey? Because it’s almost like he could play you in the movie version of your life.

Kind courtesy E. Buchanan

Kind courtesy E. Buchanan

  • Is that really a turtleneck you wear under your jersey when it’s cold outside? Maybe more of a mock-turtleneck?

And then, because I’m not actually a journalist, and because I probably couldn’t speak to anyone famous without blushing, and because I would never presume to talk about football like I actually know about football with a professional like Aaron Rodgers, I would want to hand the interview over to a real sports journalist, like Bob Costas, before I could really embarrass myself. If I hadn’t already.

I love presents. And Jane Austen.

With only twenty-three shopping days left until my birthday, I thought I would just make the world aware that the (quite beautiful) turquoise and gold ring which belonged to Jane Austen is going up for auction at Sotheby’s (guide price between 20 and 30 thousand pounds). Upon discovering this last Friday, I did the natural thing: I called my mother to tell her about it.

Seeing this ring and reading about it reminded me of something that Barbara Pym is quoted as saying, after a visit to Jane Austen’s family home.

I put my hand down on Jane’s desk and bring it up covered with dust. Oh that some of her genius might rub off on me! One would have imagined the devoted female custodian going round with her duster at least every other day.

And also Harper Lee:

…in other words, all I want to be is the Jane Austen of South Alabama…


In lieu of the real thing, plagued as I am with inherited ancestral practicality, exact reproductions would be perfectly acceptable to me, just in case anyone was wondering.

Words. I love them. That is all.

Last week, The New Yorker‘s Culture Desk launched a game show via social media, called Questioningly. The first question asked was:

“If you could eliminate a single word from the English language, what would it be? Reasons can vary—overuse, etymological confusion, aesthetic ugliness—and need not be explained. Simply propose a word…” (Read more here.)

I was a little disappointed that the first I’d heard of this contest was via my facebook feed today, when they announced the results. I thought Mr. Greenman’s post describing the contest results was quite funny, so I hope you’ll pop over and read it. And I didn’t love it only because he used the abbreviation “cf.” Or because of his defense of the word “actually”. Or because the “runaway un-favorite” was “moist”, a word that I and my friends have discussed at length for its grossness. I loved those parts, but I also loved it because people participated! People cared! People voted for their most-hated words!

I love words. I wanted to study literature and linguistics in college, but for a variety of too-boring-to-tell reasons, I didn’t even explore it once I got there. Still, I feel little thrills of joy when I’m reading and someone surprises me with their words.

But while I love words, I guess I don’t love all of them, because I definitely agreed with a number of the nominations. Fecund, phlegm and all forms thereof. Irregardless, which, when I discovered the article at work today, sparked much discussion and inspired a coworker’s vow to use the term as much as possible in the foreseeable future. It’s not a word. And to all people who use it as a word, I would just like to say, once and for all, that because it’s a double negative, I don’t think it means what you’re thinking it means.

Here are some words I would have nominated:

  1. puss: Every time I read this word in one of Barbara Pym’s novels, I consciously replace it in my head with kitty.
  2. remediate: Because people use this word with me all the time at work, when what they really mean is “remedy.”
  3. chuckle and any variations thereof: The New Yorker says I don’t need a reason.
  4. nugget: State Spelling Bee, circa 1993-ish. Plus, I just don’t like it.

What words would you have nominated?