I had occasion to visit an Elementary School in St Louis for admin purposes. It is old and empty right now, the limestone balusters outside weathered and failing. But bright and clean inside as if the building hoped to teach given the opportunity. I saw only two people when I was there, a security guard and the woman I had business with. I asked how the school year was going during this pandemic and regretted doing so. She was bothered by the question, grief tinged with a little anger. She was clearly stretched emotionally. It is a strange time.
There were not schools as these in the town where I grew up, great grand things built to a giant scale with marvelous carved stone decoration. When I first came to St Louis schools like these were what I always imagined a New York PS was like, or a school in Boston or Philadelphia. Old America with roots to another time. They were certainly not like the single story flat-roofed school built in 1957 that I attended. First viewed I recall thinking what an education could have been had there in one of those buildings. Funny to think I was susceptible to the idea of “Halls of Learning” making a difference and not the school system. I am not sure if I do now. Maybe the grandeur of a place of learning can inspire. It is certainly something to consider.
Girding the front door there were two statues, one with a book and another with the demeanor of a dullard. I imagined teachers in times past requiring the children to make a decision which type of student they would be. I laughed. That little lecture would have worked on the child I was.
I started reading The Grapes of Wrath again. I like to reach a level of forgetfulness about the book before I re-read it but I wanted to look closely at the POV Steinbeck used. I guess you would have to call it 3rd person omniscient, but he never completely lives in the characters’ heads, rather letting their actions and words relate their feelings.
“The driver, getting slowly into the truck, considered the parts of this answer. If he refused now, not only was he not a good guy, but he was forced to carry a sticker, was not allowed to have company. If he took in the hitch-hiker he was automatically a good guy and also he was not one whom any rich bastard could kick around. He knew he was being trapped, but he couldn’t see a way out.”
That is about as deep as he gets in a character’s head and he doesn’t do it often. It is powerful the way he tells the story, lets the reader make most of the decisions.
The alternating chapters, describing a situation, the failure of the land, the people being driven off etc, and then relating how the Joads fit into it all, it is just so well done. He sets up the situations and places the characters into the situation. I just can’t recall it being done so well, so smoothly.
Another thing I like is how the parts with the characters are filled with little stories, little asides.
“An’ Ma ain’t nobody you can push aroun’ neither. I seen her beat the hell out of a tin peddler with a live chicken one time ’cause he give her a argument. She had the chicken in one han’, an’ the ax in the other, about to cut its head off. She aimed to go for that peddler with the ax, but she forgot which hand was which, an’ she takes after him with the chicken. Couldn’ even eat that chicken when she got done. They wasn’t nothing but a pair a legs in her han’. Grampa throwed his hip outa joint laughin’.”
So much richer than “You couldn’t push Ma around.”
This guy Steinbeck is a hell of a writer. He was my favorite before I was my own man, he had a part in making me.
Jim Casey quotes;
Casy chuckled. “Fella can get so he misses the noise of a saw mill.”
“There ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do. It’s all part of the same thing. And some of the things folks do is nice, and some ain’t nice, but that’s as far as any man got a right to say.'”
I haven’t gotten to the eulogy for Grandpa yet. It is still one of my favorite pieces of literature.
I took the Goodreads Reading Challenge and set my goal as 100 books this year. I may or not reach my goal but it has been a very interesting thing to do. I am up to 70 books so far. The collection is mostly fiction with some classics, some popular contemporary stuff, some kid’s books, one graphic novel, and some real crap as well. I don’t care for mysteries or romance or thrillers so much. Most of the stuff I like is categorized as literature, whatever that is supposed to mean. I write reviews with no details whatsoever and make ratings on how I feet about the book. I don’t pretend to know how to describe why one book is better than another. I do know a well written book when I read it though. I also like a believable story. As it turns out, there are many good books out there, but at times they are very hard to come by. (I don’t care as much for writers who might have used the word “paradoxically” in that last sentence, it is a style thing.)
I tried to read more living authors this year. I send them emails sometimes with questions and comments. I get responses too, and am always grateful. I owe a letter to Chrisry Lefteri for “The Beekeeper of Aleppo,” and Chris Cleave for “Everyone Brave Is Forgiven.” I sent Kim Edwards a nice email about “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter,” but have heard nothing back. I should write something to Glendy Vanderah for “Where the Forest Meets the Stars.” It is not the greatest book but it has some good moments and I hope she writes more.
Something odd has happened though. As a youth and a younger man, if I liked a book by an author I would have run out to the local used bookstore and bought copies of other books by the same author. At this point in my life I don’t do that. I can’t explain why. I think the only authors I have repeated this year are Vonnegut and Gaiman, though Gaiman doesn’t count because the book he co-authored with Pratchett is nothing like his individual work. Also some of the classics I have re-read have changed significantly with the passage of time. Or rather, as the words on the page are the same, I feel differently about the books as I have changed since I first read them. It is as if the books are a mirror that shows me how my mind and sensibilities have aged.
I might not finish this 100 book challenge. I haven’t enjoyed everything I have read and at times felt needing to read was a burden. Next year I think I will do another challenge and pare it back to 50. That would be one a week and if the books were of sufficient quality that would make opportunities to really enjoy a good book again. Choosing books becomes important.
I got to thinking about the painting at the St Louis Art Museum the other day, “Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion.” When I was a kid, when posters were a big deal, I had the poster. I didn’t have a Farrah Fawcett like the other boys, or Walter Peyton, but for some reason I had a poster of that painting. I wasn’t one of the kids who got stoned and had a black light and a lava lamp or anything. I would read without stopping, the reality in the books more palatable than my actual reality and after literally hours in one position, usually laying flat somewhere, bed or couch, I would rise not certain of my surroundings or what narrative was the real one. The theme of the painting fit well in the fantasy world I was a part of. Strange memories I have, with light slanting in from a window while I read.
So, many many years later, when I first visited the Art Museum in St Louis and actually saw the painting, the event had a mystical feel to it. The Art Museum has a smell that you don’t find anywhere else, not mildew, not old exactly, or catholic church-like, but other than ordinary with the humidity strictly controlled to a not quite natural level. Sounds die in the air in a museum, there is an unnatural quiet at times, especially if there are not a lot of patrons. All things lend themselves to an idea of the supernatural, not the fearful kind, but the bigger than mankind sort of thing, not so unlike a church, or being deep in a forest in the quiet and the cool. There were moments during that visit that my brain perceived as transcendent. It was not an average day.
I recall walking through the museum amazed at the collection. It happened that the unfinished portrait of Washington by Gilbert Stuart that was in my high school history book was there on loan from The Boston Art Museum. There was an exhibit of Sandy Skoglund’s photos that included the original of “Radioactive Cats,” and a couple of the huge canvases by Chuck Close.
It was a memorable visit. But when I stood in front of the Sadak painting the first time I was confused because the colors seemed wrong. The sheer size of the painting amazed me and it seemed unrealistic that I could be there looking at it. It brought to mind some mythical life that I was not at that then leading, one with purpose and meaning that I felt was unattainable to me at that time. From then till now I always spend time in front of it when I go to the museum and feel just a little of the wonder I felt the first time I saw it. Life can be amazing. My visit that day was one of those times, feeling as if I were watching myself in a movie. How fortunate we are to live moments like that.
“Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion” was by a 19th century painter named John Martin. Wiki says “For many years the painting was known only in a reduced version in the Southhampton City Art Gallery. The full-size original was discovered in Sweden and acquired by the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1983.” That is why the colors seemed off to me when I first saw the large painting, my poster was a copy of the smaller version. The bigger is much more red in color without the same bright contrasts in the smaller version. I like the large version much better, and the man is not as prominent in the painting.
John Martin painted “Sadak” from a story in a “The Tales of the Genii: or, the Delightful Lessons of Horam, The Son of Asmar” by an 18th English author James Ridley. It is available online and I took a look at it but it uses f for s and is hard to read. The blurb on the Museum website says, “Sadak is a Persian nobleman whose wife is abducted by the Sultan. In exchange for her safe return, Sadak undertakes a perilous journey to get a sample of the Waters of Oblivion.” Popular serialized fiction where a hero must fulfill a quest for his love. Yawn.
The names of these painting and the artists I had to look up. I know the work the same way I know a number of chess openings. I recognize them when I see them but don’t know what they are called. The “Waters of Oblivion” is an excellent phrase as well.
I intend an action narrative entry soon with dialogue. That is my intent, anyway.
The security guard was watching Joe and his granddaughter carefully. She had approached some art too closely, leaned against the wires rebuffing the visitors, stood on the lines on the floor that were not supposed to be crossed. Joe looked him full in the face and held Harper’s arm and told him, “I got her.” Joe thought him a jerk, but conceded the man was just doing his job. If he had seen Joe allowing Harper to feel how cold the stone girl’s feet were earlier he would have had to approach them with that serious voice, “excuse me sir, she’s not allowed to touch the art.” He only came into that room of the museum when Joe and Harper had gotten loud while discussing the look on the stone girl’s face. “I don’t know why she sad Papa.”
Joe thought maybe Harper had reached her limit anyway, he told her they had to head back home, “Puppy is waiting for you,” he said. Harper accepted that idea and they headed to the elevator past Thomas Hart Benton’s “Cradling Wheat.” Joe made certain Harper saw that, the Picasso, and “Sadak In Search of the Waters of Oblivion” every time they came. They also had to go by the great Rainbow Mural as well. “There it is Papa,” Harper would say of the mural. Joe wanted to make reasons for Harper to like the museum, he felt as if giving her good artwork to consider at her age could only help appreciate this life somehow. He felt it important.
On the way out they passed through the ancient sculpture collection. There stood a marble bust of a young man on a tall pedestal, a head and torso of some long dead youth whose name was lost to time though his likeness not. Joe and Harper paused in front of the bust and Joe asked, “what do you think his name is?”
“He looks like Uncle B.” Joe laughed. The statue did bear a resemblance to Harper’s uncle, a good-looking confident man with little worries. “Two thousand years and things haven’t changed,” Joe thought. The headed for the exit and waved goodbye to several of the museum staff they recognized from previous visits. Joe waited while Harper tried to pump the hand sanitizer, finally having to assist her. They sanitized and the staff member opened the giant exit doors for them.
They crossed the street to the parking lot, “Look left, look right, any cars coming?” and on the sidewalk Harper decided to walk backwards, holding Joe’s hand for support and guidance.
“Why are you walking backwards, you can’t see where you are going, only where you have been.” Harper laughed and stumbled as she went. “Look forward Harper, there is so much more for you to see.” He lead her around the bike racks and they stepped off the sidewalk into the parking lot, Harper still laughing.
Ahead Joe saw an shiny late model SUV parked with the back door opened to the cargo area. A young couple sat in the shade of the door. A man, slim but well muscled, ballcap backwards, a polo and topsiders, sat with a very attractive woman in a light, off white summer dress, her long blond hair parted in the middle, she a bit more formally dressed than he. Joe thought them not well acquainted with each other somehow, there was a certain separation between them and an energy as well. The young man was pouring the last of bottle of champagne into two flutes and Joe imagined them on a first date, a quiet trek through the Art Museum, an accepted neutral venue, the champagne a nice touch early on a Friday afternoon.
Harper turned about finally and saw the couple just as they saw her. The couple laughed at the happy toddler and Harper laughed back at them, waving on the way to the truck. The woman had a radiance as she waved and the young man seemed cheerful at her happiness. Harper asked loudly enough that they could hear, “What their names Papa?”
Joe said “I think the boy is Romeo and the girl’s name is Juliet.” Harper repeated the names, the words a strange shape in her mouth, but repeating them recognizably. The couple laughed at Joe and Harper’s conversation and sipped champagne from their flutes.
At the convergence of life experiences there is a turmoil that has a familiar feel to it. Many bloggers have problems and troubles in their life, chronic and crisis both. I am able to relate to most who write here, we are fellow travelers here in this reality, more the same than different. I recall a conversation from many years ago with a very old man whose life had stabilized into a dreary existence with hope and happiness victims after the passing of his wife. “It feels like I am a long way from home,” he said quietly. Many feel this way now and again. Man is born for trouble, as the sparks fly upward.
Oft repeated in tough times is the phrase “and this too shall pass away.” Searching the phrase it was said a pronouncement of Solomon to some King of a thing true in all times, good or bad. As a sentiment given in times of trouble I always found it unsatisfying, not a hopeful thing to say. And of course, who wishes the end of good times?
I heard a twist on the saying recently. I exchange emails once in a while with one of my favorite college professors, a man fluent in Old English. He is my age and we discuss many things. As an educator he is equaled by others but not surpassed. To pick him as the best from many great educators would be hard, it would be like trying to say Eric Clapton is a better guitarist than B.B. King. The comparison is nonsensical, they are both transcendent, but different. Maybe Les Paul would be better in that comparison, Clapton and B.B. have similar roots and play a lot of blues. That is fodder for a different post. The professor I reference though, to a motivated student, is as good an educator as one could want, skilled and dedicated with a great deal of experience.
Anyway, we were writing about the changes Covid has brought to education, specifically this calendar year. He was not happy with nature of his classes in the virtual world, having to learn the new methods and finding ways to apply his body of work, his skill set, to the new medium. His physical classroom created a tempest of ideas and stimulated a thirst for knowledge. I mourned at the end of the semester and then graduated and was unable to take more of his classes. Oddly, I got a B. That grade is a long story. But talking about his transition to a virtual classroom he wrote “Þaes ofereode; Þisses swa mæg.” I wondered if he had stickers on his keyboard with Old English letters like the one I have for Cyrillic. The translation of the strangely curled letters was given as “This too shall pass.”
Of course I looked it up and it was from a 10th century poem by a man remembered as Deor. It is Old English or Anglo Saxon, one of the two. Remember, I got a B. The poem was a lament recalling the suffering and sorrows of a strong man and “Þaes ofereode; Þisses swa mæg” is translated variously as “that went away, this also may,” or “that was overcome, so may this be.” This is a sentiment I can get behind. Instead of the static and fatalistic “everything ends” Solomon edict, this feels more like encouragement, that things can change for the good or that one can make a way out of troubles.
We choose little of what happens to us, more about how we deal with it. I think it is important to continue to try to be a member of humanity and think less of ourselves as individuals and more as a part of something bigger. Sure, each of us has an ending coming, but to dwell on that is a defeat. I am sticking with Deor and hope.
A google search for “anglo saxons net deor” will yield that poem. It is pretty heavy stuff.
This post is actually a re-write of a comment I made on Ann Coleman’s blog, https://muddlingthroughmymiddleage.com/ I enjoy her blog quite a bit. She is a good writer and tries to be a good person.
A fellow wordpress blogger, Leah Kristin, wrote a little entry about angst. It got me to thinking and I wrote a comment on the entry about how I try to deal with things by keeping busy. In that vein I was reading a little of Brian Greens’s “Until the End of Time.” I borrowed a digital copy from the library yesterday. Greene’s book promises to delve deeply into the matter of human existence and the finite nature of man and mankind. In the first chapter he is discussing entropy and laying the foundation to address the purpose of existence, and he seems to be of an intellect that he may have some important things to say on the matter. People used to look to holy men for answers about things like this. Scientists have taken up the struggle now.
I dunno. I am reminded of the Dwarves of Moria, who dug too deep and woke a Balrog. Early on Greene quoted Nabokov, when he said human life is “a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.” These are not fun subjects. I think that is all most angst is, in the end, a realization of the finite aspect of life. As I age the issue becomes less philosophical and more visceral somehow. When I was in my 20s somebody told me I was so full of life. I replied “I am just dying at a faster rate than you are.” That is somehow connected to Greene’s discussion of entropy. I used to laugh when I said that then. It doesn’t seem as funny now.
But life is good. It is important to remember that. I don’t think in the grand scheme of things that much is important at all, or that anything is supposed to mean anything. Except for love and laughing and family and happy moments. Blake said, “Everything that lives is holy, life delights in life.” Lots of other ideas Blake had were sort of nuts, but he was right about that.
The Step-son turned me on to Joe Rogan podcasts. I know who Joe Rogan is, I enjoy combat sports and I liked “News Radio,” when it was on the air. I watched his last standup special and all I can really recall about it was that he looked as if he had botoxed his forehead. He seems a bright enough guy, yet I have never understood the motivation to permanently mark your arms from shoulder to wrist.
Still, I have been watching a number of personalities he has had on his podcast, the youtube clips on his channel. There are a couple of guys I have never heard of before, scientists, and that seems very strange to me that I am unaware of them. In years past I had read and watched on youtube quite a few cosmologists and scientists expound on the nature of the universe. I am a bit behind in the genre it seems. I don’t know if I really understand anything, but I like to think about it.
My favorite scientist had been Neil deGrasse Tyson. I liked how he reveled in intellectual endeavors without being dismissive of religious claims. He just sort of sidestepped things. He said,
“I want somebody to put electrodes on my head, and when I reflect on our kinship with the cosmos, when I do the calculation that shows that a 15-ton meteorite that we have in the Rose Center for Earth and Space… that if you take all of the iron from the hemoglobin of the people in the tri-state area of New York City, you can recover that much iron out of their blood. And realize that the iron from that meteorite and the iron from your blood has common origin in the core of a star. Tell me what part of my brain is lighting up, because that excites me. That makes me want to grab people on the street and say ‘have you heard this?!’.”
I liked that quote so much and videos from presentations he had made posted on youtube that I sent him a letter with $5 and told him I wanted to buy him a beer for the way his words had touched me. He wrote on the letter itself that his next beer would be on me and sent it back along with a promotional photo that somehow reminded me of a preacher in prayer. I was thrilled. I still mean to get that picture framed.
I had gotten away from that sort of stuff with the college studies and the chess and the writing. The Stepson remarked on something he had seen on Rogan so I went to youtube to take a look. Immediately I came across two very intriguing characters, two Brians, Brian Greene a theoretical physicist , a sort of not crazy real-life Sheldon Cooper and Brian Cox and English physicist. Why one is a theoretical physicist and the other not is a distinction I have not determined. Both are engaged in presenting scientific ideas to the non-scientific community, the rest of us. As such, both are so very well spoken that after watching them for a while I began to realize I am a bit of a blithering idiot in spoken english, though that is a topic for another day. They have an amazing ability to explain things in a way that a guy as simple as I can understand.
I was quite impressed, and it seems Brian Greene has quite a few books out on various and sundry scientific concepts. I will take a look. Several decades ago I read Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time,” and it changed the way I thought of the world around me. More recently I read Alan Burdick’s “Why Time Flies.” Alan writes for “the New Yorker,” a column that distills different science ideas for the posh readers there. I sent a message about the arbitrary nature of the human concept of time to Burdick’s twitter feed. He was kind enough to reply. I thought Hawking’s book more about the nature of time and Burdick’s about the relationship of humans to linear time.
Writing anything for the general public is exceedingly hard to do well. Trying to explain simple scientific principles in everyday language is even harder. Hawking addressed that in his book when he said his publisher said every equation he included would limit sales. It is quite a challenge to present mathematical concepts with language, we non-science folk see through a glass darkly.
Time is a strange thing, that is the biggest thing I take away from material. That it is connected to gravity some way or another is hard to wrap my head around. Time slows down in the presence of gravitational force, the stronger the force the slower time moves. Scientists have empirically demonstrated this with measurements between synchronized clocks. To me that is a strange idea. Stranger still, if I understand things correctly, is that human’s linear understanding of time is not supported by the math. I may misunderstand, but time does not seem to be a river so much as a pond, if that means anything. Vonnegut made that a part of his book “Slaughterhouse 5,” with the Tralfamadorians experiencing all of time all at once, taking the linear concept away. I think within the confines of our finite species we will never understand time to any satisfaction until we are no longer a part of it. That observationaly all we have is a linear understanding of time is also affected by the way we perceive time. What we are limits our potential understanding. I do know that my perceptions are finite and that in some place in the future I will not exist, just as I did not exist in my finite understanding of the past. It puts all things in a certain perspective.
Joe looked at the list as he went in. Bananas, cat food and milk dictated an end to end course of action. Bananas were on the wall all the way to the right of the entrance, milk on the left and cat food almost directly in the middle. He wiped a cart down and headed to produce. Schnucks wasn’t so busy and everyone was wearing a mask. Keeping his distance was not difficult.
He chose a bunch with four bananas that had a little green to it and no bruises. His route went past the fried chicken and wing bar. Before the pandemic he would have gotten a small container and two baked wings but now everything was prepacked and he had no need for $9.99 of chicken fried in canola oil. It smelled good though.
At the deli counter an attractive middle aged woman was telling the plump young guy behind the counter with the mask that didn’t cover his voluminous red beard that she wanted the bologna sliced even thicker. “Not a half an inch, but like this,” she told him, holding her thumb and finger spread the thickness she wanted. Joe thought she was probably going to fry the bologna and his mouth watered.
He went on. At the pet food section near the middle of the store he came to the selection of canned cat food. His wife opened a new can every day, fed half to the cat along with her dry food and then wrapped the can in a baggie and stuck it in the fridge. Instead of giving the cat the rest of the food the next day, she would open another can. Sometimes Joe would exclaim that the cat could eat day old food like any other cat but his wife dismissed him without reservation. “She turns her nose up to the food from the open can, 50¢ for a can of catfood is not too much for our cat.” Joe always fed the cat from the opened cans and had never noticed her not eating it. He would tell himself, “pick your battles,” and sometimes he gave the food in the open cans to the dogs. They never complained.
He selected 5 cans from the shelf there, not reading the labels but making certain they were different colors. He did think the cat could get bored with the same flavor all the time. As he put them in the cart, ahead a distance in the aisle, he caught a glimpse of a female form in a slinky black shirt with a deep valley in front showing cleavage. The shirt was untucked and covered any shorts she might have been wearing. Her mask covered her face, a splotch of pastel blue that didn’t go with the black shirt, and he couldn’t immediately guess her age. As she walked towards him it was obvious she was youthful enough that while her breasts swayed as she walked there was no sag to them and they defied gravity in that way that stops all other thoughts in a man’s mind. Clearly braless, she stopped some distance from him and turned to the shelves in the aisle. She reached up to take something, Joe couldn’t have said what, and as she did the shirt rode up to reveal black mesh shorts that were a mere suggestion of clothing over a black thong.
She turned and walked toward the checkout without looking his way but not before he saw the smooth feminine curve of her rump under the black mesh. Joe grinned and laughed at the idea of following her just to ogle. “She is getting all the attention she wants,” he said to himself. He continued on to the other side of the store for the milk, the grin undiminished. “Cool Hand Luke,” he thought.
I was reading a book by Ron Rash the other day and one of the characters mentioned The Big Rock Candy Mountain, from the song. The book was set in the early part of the depression and I wondered if it was old enough for the setting of the book, I thought the song came out of the depression. This is the kind of crap in my head. I wondered if Ron had made a little mistake. So I did a little searching and it seems “Big Rock Candy Mountain” has a much greater history than I could have guessed.
Wiki said it was “first recorded by Harry McClintock in 1928, and is a folk song about a hobo’s idea of paradise, a modern version of the medieval concept of Cockaigne.” McClintock said he wrote it in 1895, based not on experiences in the depression, but on his youth hoboing around America. So Ron putting it in the book was perfectly legit. I shouldn’t have doubted him.
I heard the song as a kid, but it is known nowadays mostly from the Cohen Brothers’ movie “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?” and other film scores. It has wonderful imagery of things a destitute hobo might want, sunny everyday, food and cigarettes and alcohol just laying about the place and freedom from danger with those in power obliged to be nice or blind enforcers, jails that can’t hold you. A paradise, or one guy’s thoughts of one.
And Wiki says the idea isn’t new at all. This “cockaigne” (pronounced ca-kane with the first syllable stressed) is an idea of a “land of plenty” in many European countries with different names in different languages. The idea has similarities in all the cultures, good weather, food and alcohol as desired, sex, and freedom from oppression. It seems as if a population is miserable and poor and hungry and oppressed, they all yearn for the same sort of stuff.
But I think it is less like some eternal paradise but somehow akin to the Garden of Eden story. Not the one from the bible, in the Bible all it says about the garden is “The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.” That Garden has increased from when that was written in Genesis to be something other than those words. No, more like the Garden of Eden in Milton’s “Paradise Lost” where Adam and Eve worked part time and then enjoyed the place, and dined and talked with angels and had fun innocent sex. Add in alcohol and it sounds a lot like this “Cockaigne” or the place by the crystal fountains.
Tell you what though, I think the idea of a place like that would be better than the place. If they aren’t broken humans like to keep moderately busy, at least I do. I wouldn’t mind visiting for a while but life is a journey, not simple existence.
Another thing in the Rash Book was the word “fantod.” Used in plural one definition is “a state or attack of uneasiness or unreasonableness.” It was never widespread and now rare.
“He had an attack of the fantods.”
I have a decent vocabulary and can mostly figure out words from context. This one I had to look up. I liked another definition quite a bit – “your skin is so tight you can’t shut your eyes without opening your mouth.”
The Garden was planted in Eden. East of Eden was the land of Nod. That is where Cain was banished.
I will return with a narrative entry tomorrow or the next day. The Ron Rash book was “Serena.” I recommend it.