Archive for November, 2010

Sunset on the farm

Monday, November 29th, 2010

That photo may be the last time I ever see a sunset from my grandparents farm. They are not getting any younger and given the cost and time to make the trip to rural Minnesota from halfway around the world I don’t know when I will get the time and change to do it again. I’d like to do it again. My daughter — the driver behind this trip — really enjoyed the farm and the whole trip. And it would be nice for her to spend more time with her great-grandparents. Especially since she is the first great-grandchild.


When I was growing up I spent a few weeks every other year on my grandparents farm. A lot of things have changed, or at least my perception of a lot of things has changed since I stopped going on family vacation when I was a teenager.

The most obvious change is that my grandfather does not farm any more. He rents the land out. So gone are the cows and tractors that dominated the daily routine when I was a kid. Other changes that I see; a lot less crop diversity than I used to see. Everything was corn and soybean. There were not even that many cows, just a sea of corn and soybean. Interestingly my uncle, who still makes a living farming, says that most of their soybean crop is shipped to Taiwan and Singapore. It’s a small world when you consider that the soybean that turned into my stinky tofu in Singapore might have been planted and harvested by my uncle halfway around the world.


The other thing that you can’t help but notice is that windmills. Everywhere. I do remember there being one, or two power generating windmills off somewhere to the east the last few times I visited the farm as a kid. Now they are everywhere. And trucks carrying 100 foot blades are all over the roads. Seeing all the windmills gives me a bit more hope that despite the blowhards in Washington and their inability to move beyond the “did we cause it” to the “how to stop it” discussions on global warming (or climate change) that the world is moving on without them. The exploitation of renewable energy sources is proceeding apace in the commercial world; let the politicians blow on.

You can see the whole Pipestone, MN, USA, September 2010 photoset on Flickr [].

My Day

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
My day 23 November 2010

The Hamlet

Monday, November 15th, 2010
William Faulkner
On Goodreads []

I enjoyed The Hamlet more than The Sound and The Fury. Fury just required too much work on the readers part. The story was brilliant but the payoff was not worth the work over all. The Hamlet, while still requiring some work on the readers part to dive past the colloquial language of the dialog, appreciate the setting and, to some extent, deal with the modernist [] style elements.

The Hamlet is about the invasion of a small mythical southern every-town; Frenchman’s Bend, by the Snopes family. Detailing a number of Snopes’ and their eccentricities while relying on the non-Snopes character of Ratliff to provide grounded commentary and continuity. The Hamlet is mostly a comic novel, in places laugh-out-loud funny, set against the not so funny experience of life in the post reconstruction South.

I think that, like most of Faulkner‘s [] books the Americana is more than a surface veneer. I don’t find Faulkner’s stories to be timeless, place-less classics. Rather they are a specific meditation on the times and situations of the post-reconstruction American South. I have a hard time imagining how anyone who has lived their entire life in New York City could come close to appreciating Faulkner’s writing, much less how someone from another country could appreciate them in any great depth. The fact that the books do sell and are liked by people from outside the South amazes me. But they are, and Falkner did win the Nobel Prize for Literature. So…

I have two tenuous connections to Faulkner’s South, one general and the other specific. Generally, I grow up in rural Virginia, the South lite, and spent time in my grandparents house in Alabama, the South by any measure. This helped me to penetrate the language of The Hamlet enough to allow me to read the book in a fluid, natural way without struggling over the language used by the characters, making back and forth dialog enjoyable (as opposed to the Sisyphean effort require to digest the dialog in Ulysses [].) More specifically, I grew up in Charlottesville, home to UVA where Faulkner was “Writer in Residence” twice in 1957 and 1958. How I managed to read so little Faulkner in school (just The Bear short story to my recollection) is a mystery to me.

Interestingly, and perhaps contrary to what I say above, my post-high-school re-introduction to Faulkner came in the form of a friend who grew up in New York City. After moving to C’ville and living in a ‘house-too-far-back-in-the-woods’, in his own words, he moved downtown (such as it is) and became obsessed for a time with reading about the old South. Faulkner was his main source. It did nothing to dispel his fears of being molested in the woods by some Deliverance-esque hicks. Despite confirming his worst fears about the nature of southerners, my friend enjoyed Faulkner immensely enough that his recommendation put Faulkner on my list of to-reads. It only took me 11 years to get around to reading any.