Archive for literature

Favorites, 2016

Posted in Rant/ Rave with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2016 by sethdellinger

Back in the old days of the Notes, I used to write a lot more about music, movies, and books, and I would every so often post updated lists of my absolute favorites of things.  Not due to any pressing interest from the public, of course–mostly just because it’s fun for me, and also because having such a blog post can be quite handy during discussions online; I can just link someone to the entry to aid in a discussion of favorites.

Of course this is not to be confused with my annual “Favorite Music” list, where I detail my favorite music released in the previous calendar year; these lists detail my current all-time favorites, which are (like yours, of course) constantly changing.

Looking back at my entries, it appears as though I haven’t done a big posting of lists since 2012, so I’ll make this one fairly comprehensive.  All of these lists have changed since 2012–some very little, some quite dramatically:

My top ten favorite poets

10.  Jane Kenyon
9.   Robert Creeley
8.  William Carlos Williams
7.   Sylvia Plath
6.  Billy Collins
5.  Denise Levertov
4.  E.E. Cummings
3.  Philip Levine
2.  John Updike
1.  Philip Larkin

My top 10 favorite film directors

10.  Federico Fellini
9.  Sidney Lumet
8.  Alejandro Inarritu
7.  Christopher Nolan
6.  Paul Thomas Anderson
5.  Alfonso Cuaron
4.  Stanley Kubrick
3.  Werner Herzog
2.  Alfred Hitchcock
1.  Terrence Malick

My top ten bands

10. This Will Destroy You
9.  My Morning Jacket
8.  Godspeed You! Black Emperor
7.  Radiohead
6.  Seven Mary Three
5.  Hey Rosetta!
4.   The National
3.  Band of Horses
2.  Modest Mouse
1.  Arcade Fire


My top ten music solo artists

10.  Tracy Chapman
9.  Ray LaMontagne
8.  Father John Misty
7.  Leonard Cohen
6.  Jim James
5.  Nina Simone
4.  Willis Earl Beal
3.  Emily Wells
2.  Paul Simon
1.  Neil Young

My top ten favorite (non-documentary) movies

10.  Citizen Kane
9.  Night of the Hunter
8.  Fitzcarraldo
7.  Magnolia
6.  The Trouble with Harry
5.  Children of Men
4.  Where the Wild Things Are
3.  The Thin Red Line
2.  I’m Still Here
1.  The Tree of Life

My ten favorite novelists

10.  Malcolm Lowry
9.  John Steinbeck
8.  Isaac Asimov
7.  Ernest Hemingway
6. Oscar Wilde
5.  Kurt Vonnegut
4.  Mark Twain
3.  David Mitchell
2.  Don DeLillo
1.  Dave Eggers

My top twenty favorite books (any genre, fiction or nonfiction)

20.  “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole
19.  “Slade House” by David Mitchell
18.  “The Terror” by Dan Simmons
17.  “You Shall Know Our Velocity” by Dave Eggers
16.  “Point Omega” by Don DeLillo
15.  “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell
14.  “Fallen Founder” by Nancy Isenberg
13.  “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde
12.  “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
11.  “Under the Volcano” by Malcolm Lowry
10.  “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” by Dave Eggers
9.  “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway
8.  “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut
7.  “Dubliners” by James Joyce
6.  “Letters From the Earth” by Mark Twain
5.  “White Noise” by Don DeLillo
4.  “Endurance” by Alfred Lansing
3.  “Your Fathers, Where Are They?  And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?” by Dave Eggers
2.  “Into the Wild” by John Krakauer
1.  “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck

My top twenty favorite albums

20.  “Funeral” by Arcade Fire
19.  “Nobody Knows” by Willis Earl Beal
18.  “High Violet” by The National
17.  “The Battle of Los Angeles” by Rage Against the Machine
16.  “Swamp Ophelia” by Indigo Girls
15.  “Mirrorball” by Neil Young
14.  “Dis/Location” by Seven Mary Three
13.  “Abbey Road” by The Beatles
12.  “Graceland” by Paul Simon
11.  “Bitches Brew” by Miles Davis
10.  “‘Allelujah!  Don’t Bend!  Ascend!” by Godspeed You! Black Emperor
9.    “Kid A” by Radiohead
8.   “Strangers to Ourselves” by Modest Mouse
7.   “This Will Destroy You” by This Will Destroy You
6.   “Time Out” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet
5.   “Secret Samadhi” by LIVE
4.   “Infinite Arms” by Band of Horses
3.   “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire
2.   “RockCrown” by Seven Mary Three
1.  “Into Your Lungs (and Around in Your Heart and On Through Your Blood)” by Hey Rosetta!


My top five composers

5.  Philip Glass
4.  Cliff Martinez
3.  Hans Zimmer
2.  Felix Mendelssohn
1.  Carl Nielsen

My top ten painters

10.  Edgar Degas
9.  George Bellows
8.  Mark Rothko
7.  Johannes Vermeer
6.  Mary Cassatt
5.  Maurice Prendergast
4.  Thomas Eakins
3.  Henri Rousseau
2.  Andrew Wyeth
1.  John Sloan








Badass Harrisburg, Media vs. Trump, Eraser, Alexander Supertramp

Posted in Prose, Rant/ Rave, real life, Snippet with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2016 by sethdellinger

It has now been over a year and a half since we moved to Harrisburg. Like every time I’ve made a large move, it’s been interesting how at first there is a large amount of culture shock, and then just a few weeks or months later, it’s almost like you’ve always lived there. It’s hard to imagine there was a time that I lived in Philadelphia, or Erie,  or Carlisle.  It’s hard to imagine there was a time when I actually could not imagine moving back to Central Pennsylvania. Did I ever actually move away from here? But also, the first time I lived here, I couldn’t have imagined living in Harrisburg, but now it seems the natural center of this area. Harrisburg gets a bad rap from many people, for those are people who are afraid of it, or have never spent much time in it. Granted, it is a city with its troubles, both financial and otherwise. There are plenty of areas that are downtrodden, poor, and wanting of many of the services that the surrounding areas take for granted. But there is a lot to love here, and plenty of neighborhoods that you can feel safe in, and with nice modern housing. There’s more than enough to do, more than enough beautiful views, and a vibrant arts scene. In fact, there are more things that we have not been able to do than those we have been able to do. And it seems clear to me that the city is still on the move. I know there have been lots of stories over the decades about the revitalization of Harrisburg, but this time it does seem legitimate. The independent music scene, hipster coffee shops, art galleries opening all over the place. Even a vegan coffee shop close to the state capitol building! There’s a lot to love here, and although there are certainly times when I’m riding my bike down a side street here that I miss being right in the middle of traffic on Broad Street in Philadelphia, there’s also something to be said for walking out of my job every night, looking to my right, and seeing the beautiful Capitol Dome less than a mile away, or walking my dog six blocks and being along the Susquehanna River Trail, almost always as the sun sets.




The fact is, the system IS rigged against Trump, in the sense that the media (hold up; did I say the MEDIA?? You hate the media, don’t you? [I’m probably not talking to YOU here, but to about 30 people on my Facebook who bitch more about the media than the atrocities they report on}  But what is it you are talking about, when you say “the media”? It’s an institution with hundreds of thousands of outlets, platforms, and systems, and it’s actually one of the best things about our country–one of the things that really DOES keep us free. But see, you gotta do some work, too. You have to sift through some things, figure out what sources you trust, the nuances of how to best receive information from the media, and where and when you receive it. You have to READ things. Hey, quick–who’s your favorite columnist? Don’t have one? How do you HATE the media when you’ve never really consumed it to begin with? Stop being lazy. The American freedom of press truly does set us apart–and I’m not one for “American Exceptionalism”. But yeah–most of the media operates by making a profit, so be careful, and above all READ things. And it does make a difference if it’s printed on paper; it’s harder to trick your eye into only reading the “interesting” stuff or items you already agree with. Just read the news. Hating and callously dismissing “the media” is just active laziness. And memes are not the media. FYI) are not obligated to report on an aspiring despot who would end the American experiment like it was no big deal. The “media”–contrary to what many seem to think–are not obligated to be neutral observers of facts only at all times. They are to report facts, yes–but also interpret them (again, this is where understanding media nuance will serve you well: there ARE places you can go for just fact, and places you can go for opinion, and places you can go for analysis. If you go to one place expecting it to be something it isn’t, you might think it’s corrupt, when in fact you’re just a novice). So yes, the media are biased against Trump because they are reporting on a man who would destroy our nation–and harm the world. And it is not their DUTY to remain neutral. The media IS biased–but not against Trump; they’re biased against evil.



I wasn’t ready for Thom Yorke’s solo album, The Eraser, when it came out in 2006.  I was baffled by it, listened to it twice, and put it away–not knowing if it was bad or I was daft.  I put it in on a whim today and it turns out I am ready for it.




Two nights ago, I got to meet Jon Krakauer, an author who is currently among America’s top 3 or 4 nonfiction authors.  I’ve admittedly only read two of Jon’s books–“Into the Wild” being his most famous book and a work that has touched my life very deeply.  In it, Krakauer tells the story of Christopher McCandless, who left a very comfprtable and promising life, wandered the country with little to no money and no contact with anyone for over a year, eventually hiking into the Alaskan wilderness where he would eventually die.  Chris’s story is complex and multi-layered–it can’t be reduced to one single element.  When I was at very low points in my life–still drinking and in deep depressions–Chris’s decision to disappear and walk into the wild until he died appealed to me.  Later, sober and happy, other elements of Chris’s philosophy and his journey resonated with me.  Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote to a man he met on his sojourn across the country.  The man–who had been deeply affected by a month or so he spent with Chris–received the postcard after Chris died:

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” –Christopher McCandless

While it was McCandless whose story has so impacted me, Krakauer’s decision to tell it, and the respect he gave the story, resonated.  In the many years since “Into the Wild” was published, Chris’s story has become of major import to a growing legion of people who find something inspiring about him, and Krakauer does not shy away from his role as a steward of the story.  It was an intense honor to meet him.



The sun goes up, the sun goes down. The wind begins to whistle through branches now bare with late months.  The sky grays, the wind grays, everywhere color mutes, curls into itself.  Even the insects look at you with worry.




The Scent of Bitter Almonds, and etc, etc.

Posted in Rant/ Rave, Snippet with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2014 by sethdellinger

1.  Nothing says “I’m a boring person” quite like posting pictures of your alcoholic beverage to Facebook.  Seriously.  You went out to a bar or club and you think the interesting thing that is supposed to happen is the drink itself?  Uninteresting, repetitive pictures of the person you’re with, or even another selfie, are more interesting than a beverage in a glass.  We’ve got the whole internet, and you want us to look at a beverage.

2.  I’ve brought this up before, but I just have to keep digging at this one.  Why are there two kinds of screws and screw drivers, ie flat head and Philips head?  I’m not over here like, meh, there should only be one kind! I am confident there are very good reasons for there being multiple kinds of screws, but I just for the life of me can’t figure out what those reasons are.  Anyone with any insight, please comment!

3.  War is terrible, but man, for a nation so young, we’ve had two very interesting wars!  I’ll be damned if the Revolution and the Civil War aren’t two of the most amazing stories ever told.

4.  With Philip Seymour Hoffman dead, the greatest actor of this generation (ie the generation currently the correct age to play the most interesting parts in the kind of films that get made the majority of the time) is James Franco.  Discuss.

5.  I get pretty tired of taking the trash out.  I mean, we really just have to keep doing this?

6.  Look at this picture of my dad and sister on vacation in Brigantine, NJ in 1980.  What’s not to love about this picture?  I want to sit on a porch listening to that radio, wearing those socks, next to a child dressed like that:


7.  I recently asked a few friends of mine which baseball team they would like, if they had only to consider the teams uniforms/ colors and logo.  Where you grew up and your previous loyalty should be not considered.  I got a few interesting answers—Billhanna said the Astros, which was a damned good answer.  My answer?  The Marlins or Blue Jays.

8.  Gabriel Garcia Marquez died this week.  He is one of my (and many others’) favorite novelists.  His most famous book is “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, which I love, but my favorite book of his is “Love in the Time of Cholera”, a book about a man who is obsessed/in love with one woman for his whole life, and dedicates his whole life to being with her.  It sounds creepy, and at times, it is, but what I love so much about it is that it is the only work of art in any medium that I have ever encountered that treats the obsessive side of love with the tender and insightful kind of care that most people reserve for “romantic” love.  It is a game-changer of a book.  Here is the first sentence from that book: “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”

9.  I understand you didn’t ask for my postcard or letter in the mail, and I understand, in this day and age, you’re not really sure how to respond to such antiquities.  I really don’t care too much.  Ideally you’d send a letter back, but I’m not expecting that.  You can ignore it.  That’s fine, you didn’t ask for it.  You can text me a response, which is the main thing people do, and that’s fine, if a bit gaudy.  But please, please…don’t post a picture of it on Facebook.

10.  What about this?


Application to be my girlfriend

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2013 by sethdellinger

Copy the application, and paste in an e-mail, along with your answers, to  You will receive a reply within two shakes of a lamb’s tail.


1.  What is your favorite season, and why?

2.  Rank the following authors in order of their academic relevance:

–Barbara Kingsolver
–Wally Lamb
–Thomas Pynchon
–Dave Eggers
–Stephen King

3.  Do you think gay people should have the right to marry each other?

4.  Say you and I go out to dinner at a diner.  Not a fancy place, just a straight-forward diner.  The waitress is not a bitch, but she isn’t very nice.  The food comes out on time and is of an acceptable nature.  The bill totals $18.  How much do you tip?

5.  On a scale of 1-10, to what degree would you say you have a “badonk a donk”?

6.  Without using the internet, can you name a poem by Robert Frost? Nevermind, I have no way of knowing if you used the internet.

7.  If you could move anywhere in the world, where would it be?

8.  You can have a full bedroom set made out of walnut or cherry.  Which do you choose?

9.  What is the best shape of pasta?

10.  Do you own any white denim pants?

11.  What is the ideal amount of band members to be in a rock band?

12.  I need lots of my own space and am frequently grumpy and sensitive.  There’s not a question here, I’m just letting you know.

13.  What is the farthest you would drive to see a Revolutionary or Civil War battlefield?  Don’t lie to me about this, I’ll know.

14.  Salt or pepper?

15.  Discuss the last time you thought the Academy Awards got the Best Picture award correct.

16.  If you could choose one animal to represent you, what would it be, and why?

17.  What did you score on the SATs?  I didn’t do that great, I’m just wondering.

18.  Favorite Ninja Turtle?

19.  Can you “do the Carlton”?

20.  Will you shave my neck?


My 100 Favorite Books, In Order

Posted in Rant/ Rave, Uncategorized with tags , , on May 9, 2012 by sethdellinger

Well, I don’t know about you, but I saw this entry coming a mile away.  Over the last few years, I just sort of got this bug in me to get definitive all-time favorite lists out in the public sphere.  Thankfully, there aren’t many left to do!

I did my 100 favorite movies a few years ago on my old MySpace blog, which MySpace recently and inexplicably deleted—but that’s a good thing, as that list has now pretty much changed entirely, and I doubt I’ll be trying that one again anytime soon.  More recently, here on this blog, I’ve done my 100 favorite bands, viewable here, although that was 2 and a half years ago, and that list would also look considerably diferent today.  Also, there is my list of 100 favorite albums, which can be seen here–that list is a little more slow to change.  Then there’s the list of my 50 favorite directors, right here, which would look the same right now.  And of course there’s the ongoing favorite song list—entries to date can be seen by clicking here.

OK, if you’re new to my lists and have even the slightest interest how I do them, here’s my method:  I imagine I’m on a desert island and compile a list of the 100 books (or whatever I’m doing for that list) I’d want on the island.  That’s the list I start with.  Then I imagine, once on the island, I have to get rid of one book.  The first one to go is number 100.  Then I do the process all over again until I get to number one.  If any of you have a truly staggering amount of free time, I highly suggest doing this, as it always surprises me.  I honestly found myself surprised by my top 10 books.

Now, for the obligatory ground rules I gave myself.  I didn’t use any poetry, just because that complicated the whole process too much.  I could use collections of short stories, but not “Collected Short Stories” (short story readers understand the difference here).  I also disallowed graphic novels, but I’m not sure why.  “Maus” really should be on this list.  Maybe I’ll do a 50 Favorite Graphic Novels list sometime.  I also didn’t include any plays, even though I actually do enjoy reading plays quite a bit; it just seemed odd to compare plays to other forms of literature.

I’ve tried as best as possible to represent my favorite books from all eras of my reading life, and what is interesting is how it has made apparent to me that I’ve gone through, essentially, three distinct phases: my first days as an avid reader were spent mostly with soft science fiction (which still makes up about ten percent of my current reading.  Seriously, it’s really cheap), followed by a period of contemporary or recent classic literature, followed by my current taste for history and sociology.  Of course, there are plenty of exceptions throughout.  It’s been an incredibly interestng experience making the list; I actually hadn’t realized the different stages I had gone through in my reading life.

I have actually linked every entry here in case anyone sees a title that strikes their fancy or are reminded of something they once read or wanted to read.  Also, clicking back and forth will increase my view count, upon which I hang a disproportionate amount of my self-esteem.  Peace out!

100.  “Travels With Charley” by John Steinbeck
99.  “Sometimes a Great Notion” by Ken Kesey
98.  “Devil’s Gate” by David Roberts
97.  “Treason” by Orson Scott Card
96.  “Stones of Summer” by Dow Mossman
95.  “The Postman” by David Brin
94.  “What is the What” by Dave Eggers
93.  “Five Against One” by Kim Neely
92.  “Dream Park” by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes
91.  “Watership Down” by Richard Adams
90.  “Lake Wobegon Days” by Garrison Keillor
89.  “In a Sunburned Country” by Bill Bryson
88.  “Winesburg, Ohio” by Sherwood Anderson
87.  “Flowers in the Attic” by VC Andrews
86.  “Downtown Owl” by Chuck Klosterman
85.  “The Lost City of Z” by David Grann
84.  “The Man-Kzin Wars” by Larry Niven
83.  “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk
82.  “A Million Little Pieces” by James Frey
81.  “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes
80.  “Swamplandia!” by Karen Russell
79.  “Four Hats in the Ring” by Lewis L. Gould
78.  “Time’s Arrow” by Martin Amis
77.  “Columbine” by Dave Cullen
76.  “Rabbit, Run” by John Updike
75.  “Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt
74.  “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick
73.  “Bluebeard” by Kurt Vonnegut
72.  “Rising Sun” by Michael Crichton
71.  “The Long Walk” by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)
70.  “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner
69.  “Seventh Son” by Orson Scott Card
68.  “Hyperion” by Dan Simmons
67.  “You Shall Know Our Velocity” by Dave Eggers
66.  “The Shining” by Stephen King
65.  “Mars” by Ben Bova
64.  “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer
63.  “The Subterraneans” by Jack Kerouac
62.  “The Illustrated Man” by Ray Bradbury
61.  “O Pioneers!” by Willa Cather
60.  “Polk” by Walter Borneman
59.  “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer
58.  “Desperate Passage” by Ethan Rarick
57.  “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
56.  “The Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison
55.  “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy
54.  “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
53.  “This Side of Paradise” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
52.  “Black Like Me” by John Howard Griffin
51.  “Bleak House” by Charles Dickens
50.  “The Corrections” by Jonathan Franzen
49.  “Mason & Dixon” by Thomas Pynchon
48.  “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis
47.  “Forward the Foundation” by Isaac Asimov
46.  “The Problem of Pain” by C.S. Lewis
45.  “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson
44.  “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish” by Douglas Adams
43.  “Breakfast of Champions” by Kurt Vonnegut
42.  “A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway
41.  “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
40.  “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig
39.  “Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr” by Nancy Isenberg
38.  “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac
37.  “Light in August” by William Faulkner
36.  “The Johnstown Flood” by David McCullough
35.  “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote
34.  “Utilitarianism” by John Stuart Mill
33.  “Tropic of Capricorn” by Henry Miller
32.  “Almost a Miracle” by John Ferling
31.  “The Mysterious Stranger” by Mark Twain
30.  “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess
29.  “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor
28.  “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski
27.  “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
26.  “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger
25.  “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand
24.  “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” by Jane Jacobs
23.  “Deadeye Dick” by Kurt Vonnegut
22.  “Speaker for the Dead” by Orson Scott Card
21.  “The Colony” by John Tayman
20.  “The Air-Conditioned Nightmare” by Henry Miller
19.  “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan
18.  “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain
17.  “Helter Skelter” by Vincent Buglioso
16.  “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe
15.  “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card
14.  “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams
13.  “Nine Stories” by J.D. Salinger
12.  “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller
11.  “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand
10.  “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” by Dave Eggers
9.  “Maps in a Mirror” by Orson Scott Card
8.  “Slaughterhouse-5” by Kurt Vonnegut
7.  “Dubliners” by James Joyce
6.  “Letters From Earth” by Mark Twain
5.  “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut
4.  “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway
3.  “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
2.  “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole
1.  “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck

Like a Guilty Chimney

Posted in Memoir with tags , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2012 by sethdellinger

I was meandering around my apartment a few days ago, terribly close to feeling, for one split second, bored.  It was terrifying;  there is, for me, almost no worse sensation, and I’ve been successful for years in avoiding it.  To head it off, I walked over to one of my more neglected bookshelves and started nosing through books from my distant past.

I was almost immediately confronted with an unexpected sight: my own handwriting, on the inside cover of a book.  And then the memory came flooding back:  during a sizeable period of my 20s, I did a lot of writing inside of books.

First, I like to write things, as readers of my blog know.  And I’m not referring to the creative writing aspect of my interests, I mean I just like to write.  Even now, I fill notebooks with meaningless lists and jibber-jabber.  I’ve always been a writer-downer.  But during my mid-twenties—after I began drinking very seriously as an alcoholic but before my life became a miserable unlivable mess—I went through a period of two or three years when a majority of my nights were spent at friends’ houses, or friends of friends’ houses, or the house of a friend’s out-of-town grandparents, or a house a co-worker was house-sitting.  It wasn’t an unhappy time, just a time of listless drifting, half-hearted partying, and a fair amount of depravity.

For the majority of this time period, my faithful companion was a backpack, in which I kept my alcohol (White Tavern Gin, half gallon, almost always), clothes and/or toiletries if I had any, cigarettes, and whatever book I was currently reading.  This was quite often all I had with me in foreign homes.  And I often found myself the only person awake in these places.  Granted, as an alcoholic, there was a lot of sleeping in my life, but you’d also be surprised how drunk a practiced alcoholic can get after a few years of really going at it.  And so it was on many, many occasions, I found myself in homes where I felt slightly uncomfortable, often the only person awake very late at night, in complete silence for whatever reason (don’t wake the parents/wife, can’t figure out how to turn the TV on, cable bill didn’t get paid, or just plain no TV or stero to be found, etc), and after some time, I’d become largely too drunk to actually read the book I had with me.  This is when I started writing inside my books—because they were the only thing I could find to write on, and I had little else to do.

Not everything I found on my bookshelf was a great example of these writings.  Sometimes it was just me leaving these little markings for my future self, a little flag saying, “Hey!  You liked this part!”  I think it’s cute and optimistic.  Here is a “flag” from my copy of Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22”:

(clicking on any of the photos, and then click it again when it re-loads, to see the full-size scan)

And here’s another one not quite from lonely drunken nights, but from a golden era in a relationship I had with a marvelous woman named Cory.  We both took turns reading stories in the “Collected Short Stories” of Ray Bradbury.  We devised a coding system in the table of contents.  (there are 6 pages like this):

Now, for some of the “lonely night” book scribbling.  Here is a poem I wrote inside my “Selected Poems” of E.E. Cummings (a book I must have owned for almost 20 years now, and I still consult nearly every month, but I didn’t know this poem was in the back of it until I checked for this blog entry).  The text of the poem is this:

Richard Simmons is a terrible man.
He seems to be more happy than
a lazy sleeping noiseless cat
which doesn’t mind being fat.

Some incomprehensible blabber from the back cover of Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”.  It looks like academic notation, although I never had to read it for school:

From C.S. Lewis’ “The Problem of Pain”.  Also, there’s a phone number (I came across a lot of phone number’s written in books; this was before the cell phone).  Anyone recognize the number?

For a time, I stayed in the basement of some friends of mine.  This basement had zero entertainment modules in it…no television, radio, whatnot…in fact, it barely had light in it.  But it did contain, most of the time, thousands of dollars in musical equipment:  full drum kit, multiple guitars, 4-track recorders and all sorts of other gadgets and whirlygigs I never understood.  That’s because this basement was the de facto practice space of a band called Post Vintage (one of my friends who lived at this place was the bassist), and let me tell you, I loved this band.  Not just because my friend was in it or because I lived in their practice room, but because they ruled!  (listen to their stuff here; they’re unfortunately no longer active.)

Anyway, this is all a very long way of telling you that, apparently, one night in this dark, quiet basement, I decided to write the lyrics to their song “Next at Seven” inside the front cover of my copy of Sylvia Plath’s “Collected Poems”.  “Next at Seven”‘s lyrics are by Dave Peifer, whose solo work (as Isotope) can be heard here.

Anyway, this one kind of shocked me.  I have no memory of doing this.  Although I do distinctly recall having my Plath phase at the same time I lived in the basement here.  Not, largely, a very happy time in my life.

But here, for me, is the one that really tickled me.  A drunken poem (I can always tell when something I wrote was composed while intoxicated) inside the cover of Gregory Corso’s “Mindfield”.  Corso is (I think he’s still alive) a Beat poet who I liked very much back then but not so much now.  His poetry is also markedly different than the poem I wrote inside his book, which I think it interesting.  But what’s most interesting to me is that I really like this drunken poem I wrote.  That is very rare.  I wrote like shit when I was drunk.  But this one really seems to capture the whole feeling and environment I’ve descibed to you from this time period of my life:  being the only person, awake and drunk in a house that I am unfamiliar with, and the subtext of sorrow and addiction I was feeling.  This is the poem:

Upon finding myself too drunk to read
and too severed to cavort
with folks
I resign to my own posturing
amongst myselves
amidst sleeping zombie-me’s.

Twirling in this foreign apartment
thier slumbering noses
reflect the television screen
and I cannot find my shoes.

Like a guilty chimney I sit still.

My 84th Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags , , on February 10, 2012 by sethdellinger


“White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane

Gotta love the spirit of the 70s here; the dirty, intoxicated, probably-suicidal beauty; and oh, that ending!  Plus rock and roll that makes reference to literature is cool (except when Robert Plant does it).  I wish they still made music like this:

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