Daily Office:


Matins: When Kathleen read the Op-Ed piece in this morning’s paper, “How Words Could End a War,” her impatience boiled over. “They had to do a study to prove this?”

“This” being the possibility that words to the effect of “we’re sorry” could induce Israelis and Palestinians to consider peaceful coexistence.

Lauds: Can serious actresses have “big bosoms”? Helen Mirren wants to know — in a Michael Parkinson inverview from 1975. That’s so long ago that — is her bust the smaller figure? (via The Wronger Box)

Prime: You may recall that the State of West Virginia seceded from Virginia in 1861, when Virginia seceded from the United States. You may be surprised to learn that the Federal government proposed a truly radical redrafting of Virginia’s borders, effectively confining it to the Shenandoah Valley.

Tierce: Big Brother as cruise director: Pesky tenant’s lease is not renewed at community-oriented rental in Long Island City. And he’s surprised!

Sext: Here is a list of recent books that have changed the world. Sorry! They’re about world-changing people, inventions, and whatnot. Or so their publishers want us to believe. (via kottke.org

Nones: This isn’t funny, I know, but still: Geir Haarde, who has just stepped down as Iceland’s Prime Minister —  “the first world leader to leave office as a direct result of the financial crisis” — wasn’t going to seek re-election anyway, owing to throat cancer. The leader of rival Social Democrat party, Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, has ruled herself out as Haarde’s successor; she is being treated for brain cancer.

Vespers: Here’s a book that I will buy the moment I see it in a shop: To The Life of the Silver Harbor: Edmund Wilson and Mary McCarthy on Cape Cod, by Reuel K. Wilson.

Compline: Now that the children have gone to bed, it’s safe to read about bonobos, or, if you prefer, about what bonobos have taught Meredith Chivers, “a creator of bonobo pornography.”


§ Matins. We, in any case, were not surprised by Scott Atran’s and Jeremy Ginges’s findings.

Absolutists who violently rejected offers of money or peace for sacred land were considerably more inclined to accept deals that involved their enemies making symbolic but difficult gestures. For example, Palestinian hard-liners were more willing to consider recognizing the right of Israel to exist if the Israelis simply offered an official apology for Palestinian suffering in the 1948 war. Similarly, Israeli respondents said they could live with a partition of Jerusalem and borders very close to those that existed before the 1967 war if Hamas and the other major Palestinian groups explicitly recognized Israel’s right to exist.

Apologizing is never easy, and the urge to denature the need for apologies — “It wasn’t my fault!” — is part of healthy self-respect. Why is it, though, that the most stubborn resisters so often make their way to the top of the political, military, or economy tree? Why do we let them make life so difficult for the rest of us?

§ Lauds. Those of us who have forgotten The Mosquito Coast in order to accommodate the no-nonsense Jane Tennison (not to mention HM the Queen) will find the younger actress’s somewhat breathy voice extremely disconcerting.

§ Prime. Rectifying the meaninglessness of state lines is regrettably expensive.

§ Tierce. One of the sloppier bad habits in Received Wisdom is the refusal to see the downside of “community.”

What most irks some EastCoast tenants is that Rockrose markets its luxury apartments as part of a community — but then seems to limit open debate in that community.

But that’s exactly what communities do: they expel the marginal.

New York City is a metropolis that contains many communities (including all those snooty co-ops on Park and Fifth), but there is ample opportunity, thank heaven, to live in the metropolis without living in any community. The word for the non-community part of a big city is “society.”

§ Sext. “Sorry!” again! There are at least two titles promoting books that changed the world. My favorite title: Molecules That Changed the World, by K. C. Nicolaou and Tamsyn Montagnon. Here’s an irresistible blurb at Amazon:

The lay person and the dedicated student alike will take pleasure in reading the fascinating stories about legendary molecules … Enriching and highly rewarding.

§ Nones. Meanwhile, Iceland has wallet cancer.

§ Vespers. About four or five years ago, I went on a Mary McCarthy kick and read all of her novels, advancing to friends the claim that she is/was the best 20th Century American novelist. Along the way, I developed a curiosity about the McCarthy’s only child, the author of this memoir. What must have been like to grow up between two such ferocious egos? Such admirable egos!

§ Compline. Sounds like the bonobo informercial is — over.

One Response to “Daily Office:

  1. Nom de Plume says:

    I remember joining you on that kick, and have been dismayed not to have many compadres in her fan club. Her memoir on the basic unreliable of memory should have been the poster illustration for all the shaky recent recollections and more nuanced discussions thereof. Hers is one solution (make your own unreliability a part of the memoir). The other is to write thinly-disguised fiction and let your audience guess what’s really true.