Brainy

The Picnic by James Tissot

The Picnic by James Tissot

It’s the long weekend.  It’s the picnic.  I had to make potato salad, because there were complaints last year about the readymade stuff from the HyVee.

This year I made the mayonnaise.  Just the Joy of Cooking recipe.

This is my brain on mayonnaise.

What will get my brain working?

The TLS?

The TLS is definitely brainy.

No matter how many reviews I read at the TLS, I cannot keep up with the books.

I read Nigel Smith’s review of John Leonard’s Faithful Laborers:  A Reception History of Paradise Lost, 1667–1970 with fascination. I love Milton so much that I took two Milton classes, one as an undergraduate and another just for fun 20 years later.  Although I prefer Paradise Regained to Paradise Lost, I am quite sure I would appreciate Leonard’s “comparative, analytical summary of the chief critical concerns and debates that Paradise Lost has generated since its first appearance in print in 1667.”

But I still haven’t gotten around to that volume of Thomas Hardy’s letters I also read about in the TLS.

Read Hardy first.  I have more in common with him

Sometimes there is a “fun” article:  recently Peter Stothard, the TLS editor and author of Alexandria:  The Last Nights of Cleopatra, wrote a light, entertaining piece about the classicist Helen Morales’ Pilgrimage to Dollywood: A Country Music Road Trip through Tennessee.  (Dollywood is the Dolly Parton theme park.)

The New Yorker is brainy, but not that brainy.  I don’t read James Wood:  sorry, I’m not interested in what he writes.  Often female critics write about the kind of middlebrow fiction so popular with many of the English bloggers.  (That, I think, is what female critics are allowed to review.)  In 2005, Cynthia Zarin wrote a long article about E. M. Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady books.  Immediately all of the women in my family read these charming books and loved them.

How about The American Scholar?  There are some charming essays, and there are some very serious essays.  Priscilla Long’s “What Killed My Sister?” explores the tragic death of her beautiful, talented sister from schizophrenia.  Did you know that people born in flu season are more likely to develop schizophrenia?  Or that a parasite in cats’ feces, Toxoplasma gondii, can cause it?

Tragic.

And so I’ve read some very smart stuff online.

And now I’m off to read Thomas Hardy’s letters, or, more probably, something by Laurie Colwin.