Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Strange Things Happen to the Rice

Since finishing my dissertation I have felt the perhaps-predictable urge to immerse myself in literature unrelated to the 1950s, or to McCarthyism. Less predictably, I've had an odd predilection for the detritus of high culture. Usually when traveling I go straight for the worst trash to read on the plane; I'm talking Clive Cussler and Us Weekly. Flying to Nashville? I scarfed down The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Usually, when driving to work the Mary and I listen to nothing but Lil Wayne and Katie Perry; now I can't turn the dial off of WXPN. I've been scouring concert listings, looking for interesting Curtis recitals. A few nights back, when preparing today's lecture on baroque opera, I began to watch a DVD of Dido and Aeneas, and an hour later found myself still glued to the screen. Inspired by the recent Nation review of her correspondence with Robert Lowell, I just bought Elizabeth Bishop's collected poems, and have been devouring them a few a day, like vitamins.

Such strange gluttony! But anyways, Elizabeth Bishop: fascinating. My favorite poem in the collection is one the editors found written in a Fannie Farmer Cookbook she gave to her friend Frank.

You won't become a gourmet cook
By studying our Fannie's book--
Her thoughts on Food & Keeping House
Are scarcely those of Lévi-Strauss.
Nevertheless, you'll find, Frank dear,
The basic elements are here.
And if a problem should arise:
The Soufflé fall before your eyes
Or strange things happen to the Rice
--You know I love to give advice.


cpo said...

One Art is one of my favorite poems. There is an awesome version of it by the Dutch band the Ex.

Also, did you here the really long feature about Bishop and Lowell on NPR today.

Sophie Amelia said...
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