Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Summer 1967

I've been reading some extraordinarily fine novels this summer among them Alice Greenaway's White Ghost Girls, a lyrical and haunting story about two American girls living in Hong Kong during the Maoist Revolution and the Vietnam War. The narration begins with these rich detailed lines:
What can you give me?
Can you give me a back alley, a smoke-filled temple where white-hooded mourners burn offerings and wail for the dead? The single chime of a high-pitched temple bell? The knocking of a wooden fish?
Can you give me hot rain, mould-streaked walls, a sharpness that creeps into my clothes, infests my books? The smells of dried oysters, clove hair oil, tiger balm, joss burning to Kuan Yin in the back room of a Chinese amah? The feverish shriek of cicadas, the cry of black-eared kites? The translucent green of sun shining through elephant ear leaves?
Can you give me a handful of coloured silk? An empty pack of cigarettes? A tape recorder? Narrow, stepped streets, balconies hung with shop signs, laundry strung on bamboo poles, rattan birdcages? A ripened pomelo split open? The chalky bone of cuttlefish?
Can you give me my father's hand in mind, Frankie's in the other? Then take everything and go away?
Because if you can't, it's not enough. And if you can, I might leave anyhow. I'll head for cover. Disappear in jungles of triple canopy.
This morning, our coach gave us a long and equally moving main set:
400 free pace
4 x 50 descend
300 free pace
4 x 50 descend
200 free pace
4 x 50 descend
100 free pace
4 x 50 descend

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Five laws of library science

What is the role of the public library in the 21st century? And what is library service? In the pool and out, I've been grappling with these two basic questions. The words of Dr. Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan (1892-1972) continue to provide me with inspiration and motivation. In the 1930s, the Indian mathematician contributed these guiding principles:
  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader his or her book.
  3. Every book its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader.
  5. The library is a growing organism.
Here is this morning's delicious main set:
400 freestyle pull moderate
4 x 100 sprint
300 freestyle pull moderate
4 x 75 sprint
200 freestyle pull moderate
4 x 50 sprint
100 freestyle pull
4 x 25 sprint

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Orange you glad I didn't say banana?

Gaitskill's Veronica is an unsentimental, poignant story about hard people with real hearts. The novel follows Allison Owen, a sick and aging former model, as she reflects on her life in the 1980s international fashion scene and her peculiar friendship with a tough, older and uncomely woman who has contracted AIDS. Allison unapologetically shares her view of the world in this passage of the book:
Yes, we were stupid for disrespecting the limits placed before us; for trying to go everywhere and know everything. Stupid, spoiled, and arrogant. But we were right, too. I was right. How could I do otherwise when the violence of the unsaid things became so great that it kept me awake at night? When I saw my father sitting in a chair, desperate to express what was inside him, making a code out of outdated symbols even his contemporaries could no longer recognize? When I saw him smile because my mother fell on her face and then put the smile away like it was a piece of paper? When I heard him rail against dying men because otherwise he had no form to give his hates and fears? All the meat of truth was hidden under a dry surface, everything revealed and made articulate, everything even our greatest embarrassments and lusts.
"All the meat of truth was hidden" under a wet surface at Huntington Bay this weekend. The currents were unkind. Hoping to complete the 10K distance, I patiently chased after those orange buoys, but was humbled and disappointed by the results. In three and a half hours (which included 1.5 hours of swimming in place), I had only travelled the 5k distance. Orange buoy after orange buoy, "everything [was] revealed and made articulate, everything even our greatest embarrassments and lusts." Sigh. Still, I couldn't be happier for teammates Hannah, Amanda, Colleen and Wiley who deservedly won medals and the folks from CIBBOWS who persevered, managing to avoid (what one of their members fondly calls) the "Ride of Shame."

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