Go to previous post:
Killing time.

Go to Electrolite's front page.

Go to next post:
Come in, White Hart.

Our Admirable Sponsors

October 13, 2003

De vermis. Blogger and journalist Andrew Brown published a book about worms and subsequently awoke to discover that he had, instead, collaborated with John Updike on a history of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Elsewhere and not long ago, Brown published some observations about the slow and terrible death of a friend’s wife:

When I last saw her, in the observation ward next door, she was completely immobile, vegetal, in her wheelchair. Now, when she lies in bed there are fragments of sudden movement, none of which seem to be connected to anything. It is like watching an ocean liner go down, as the water floods the different switchboxes: lights go on and off in the ballroom; in the cargo hold a crane rattles across the ceiling, chains swinging. The master’s wheel suddenly twirls decisively. But the master and all the crew fled long ago.
If I were a better writer I’d conclude by yoking the trivial to the tragic, relating the twin inevitabilities of death and database error by means of a rhetorical figure involving worms. Meanwhile, Andrew Brown is a good writer. [09:50 AM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on De vermis.:

John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2003, 05:41 PM:

The worm drives helically through the wood
And does not know the dust left in the bore
Once made the table integral and good;
And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days --
Perhaps you will not miss them. That's the joke.
The universe winds down. That's how it's made.
But memory is everything to lose;
Although some of the colors have to fade,
Do not believe you'll get the chance to choose.
Regret, by definition, comes too late;
Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.

adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2003, 07:10 PM:

You do send these out to the journals, right?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2003, 09:10 PM:

You never know where verse from John M. Ford will pop up. This is, after all, the man who won a World Fantasy Award for a poem he wrote for his own self-published Christmas card.

davey ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2003, 10:38 PM:

so, is the new collection really, really closed at this point?

Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2003, 05:59 AM:

That's lovely. May I put it on helmintholog?

janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2003, 07:44 AM:

Awed silence.


Beth ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2003, 10:48 AM:

Oh. my. God.

I read just read it to Tappan. At least we're both now speechless.

John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2003, 11:39 AM:

Andrew -- yes, you may. And thank you. Thank you all.

Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2003, 03:42 PM:

Thank you.

Here's another one, by Harry Martinsson; I translated it from Swedish, years ago.

The stone carving

The words that rang around the sacrificial victims
have flown: we'll never hear them, can't imagine
the words for harvest weather, showers of hail:
They're dead, along with words for man and woman.
The sounds which they called their long boats &mdash
carved here with all their naked ribs exposed —
we'll never hear: what milk was, or the sun's name,
their love songs, words for senses, or the sound
of eye, nose, mouth and ear. How did they sound?
The summer words that lived in speech through winter
and their words for snow; the word for autumn apples.
We can't quite catch their name for weighty death:
though here we see that word, we'll never hear it.

Claire ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2003, 10:20 PM:

Hopefully Mike will read this here. Thank you. I have a twelve year old who has just turned to the teen "But _I'm_ going to die someday" phase. I gave this to him tonight and he got it.

More elegant than Mother could ever be.