Mildred and me 1955

Mildred

It was a common name for girls among Norwegian immigrants. Rutgersen, Börresen, Dahl, Aarstad. And others. All produced Mildreds. The vogue lasted across at least two generations. No one names girls that any more, not since the War. The median age for living Mildreds, I read somewhere, is seventy-eight, older even than the Gertrudes and […]

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Middlemarch

Middlemarch

I am reading Middlemarch. I am up to the moment in Chapter 5 when Dorothea decides she must tell Celia she is determined to marry Mr. Casaubon. Before she has said anything about it there is the following exchange. Celia begins: “Is any one else coming to dine besides Mr. Casaubon?” “Not that I know […]

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Enghavevej, Edvard Pedersen, 1850

Uncle Knud

I can’t let Uncle Knud alone. This is the character I introduced in my last post. Married to Aunt Josefine for five months in 1918–1919, lived in Brooklyn with his sister and brother-in-law for the next twenty-three years, until his death in 1942, and whose ashes were buried with Josefine at Evergreens Cemetery. A character […]

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Three Sisters

Emigrants

Old photos arranged on my desk. Everyone pictured is long dead. Some of them dead twenty years before I was born. Grandparents? Great-grandparents perhaps? Yet they are not. These are photos of my aunts, uncles-by-marriage, first cousins. On the left two of my Aunt Josefine. Then two of Aunt Anna and her husband on their […]

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Picasso, Dora Maar, 1938

Jessica Jones

We are watching, as it happens, in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, the television series Jessica Jones, which is based on a Marvel Comics original. A contemporary morality play with a feminist inflection. Sex, drugs, mental illness. An edgy air. A noirish tale in a chiaroscuro New York City. Jessica herself a wise-cracking, heavy-drinking […]

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tent

Tent meeting

We have a photo hanging in our entranceway, a large panoramic group picture posed by a professional photographer, a religious meeting under a tent. The camera is stationed at the rear looking forward, at an elevation, so that the preacher or minister and other platform worthies, including a number of choristers and musicians, are in […]

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Brooklyn

It must have been 1946, because the War had ended and the landlord, Mr. Smedfjeld, had just died of TB. My father was cleaning out the cellar. “Don’t touch those rags,” he said. “Why not?” I said. “They belonged to Mr. Smedfjeld,” he said. “But you are touching them,” I said. “It doesn’t matter so […]

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Queens

Preparation

I could date it with some precision if I thought about it, probably in the late 70s, in other words a long time ago, and I forget what book it was that triggered it, a Bellow or an Updike most likely, but at any rate what came out was an idea that reading American authors […]

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Memed

Memed, My Hawk

John wrote to me from Istanbul a while ago saying I should read Yashar Kemal’s Memed, My Hawk. There were no copies in the public library here, nor in the university library, and so I turned to Amazon—not without the usual flutter of misgivings. An attractive offer of a clean used copy said one dollar, […]

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Turner, Snow Storm (1842)

Turner

Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner has been universally praised. Were we missing something? Would we think better of the film in recollecting it, or seeing it again? Possibly. The film starts out with a problem, or rather several problems, from the point of view of dramatic interest. J.M.W.Turner as a subject. Only imagine an incredulous old-time […]

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