Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Dead White Guys

"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible."

-- Vladimir Nabokov

Today is the birthday of Vladimir Nabokov. It's also probably the birthday of William Shakespeare. Happy 449th, Bill! This is also the anniversary of Shakespeare's death, as well as the death of Miguel de Cervantes. I've read books written by all of these guys, and we are very lucky they all lived and wrote for us.

Today is also the feast of St George, who never killed a dragon. The dragon story is very cool, though, and it's a pity we don't know the name of the 12th-century writer who came up with that one.


  1. Happy Birthdays and Deathdays. Mr. B, I am learning a lot about pancreas cancer, and it is not making me feel more comfortable with mortality.

  2. Mr M, mortality isn't supposed to make you comfortable.

    Last month I went to the doctor because my arm has been hurting for months, pain swelling from my chest down to my left hand fingertips. Sometimes the pain was excruciating. My doctor figured that the brachial nerve (or the myelin sheath around it) in my upper arm had been somehow injured. He had me get an xray to confirm there was nothing else going on. A dark spot in my humerus showed on the xray, and my doctor scheduled me for an MRI. "Maybe it's nothing," he said. "It could just be a bad xray; it's not necessarily cancer." For the next ten or so days while I was waiting for my MRI appointment, I brooded constantly over my mortality. Mostly, I was really frightened. The fear was ice cold. I am not comfortable with death, not at all.

  3. Also, I'm fine of course. I've just somehow managed to injure a 1-inch or so section of my brachial nerve. It will repair itself, though it will hurt until it heals.

  4. I'm very glad to hear that you are fine, Scott. I would be sad if you weren't.

    Every Tuesday now I sit in a room of researchers and physicians talking about how they will cure lung and pancreas cancer. Each time they talk about patient statistics, I no longer see numbers. I see people with lives and loved ones who are probably freaking out. It is a weird feeling like holding a panicked cat in a box and trying to pretend it's not making any noise.

  5. I'm glad you're okay. Nothing worse than waiting for news like that. I had a similar ten days waiting on a mammogram a few years back. Facing one's mortality is a bitch.

    I also like that quote by Nabokov.

  6. Such are the pleasures of growing older, right?

    Nabokov's compositional process, of finding the symbolic patterns first and then filling in the space with setting/plot/character, sounds more attractive and useful to me every day.

  7. Naturally, I'm all for being aware of, if not actually facing, one's mortality every day. But mostly Davin's insistence upon recognizing that there are people behind the numbers makes me almost teary. (I am also glad that neither Scott nor Anne have or had cancer, of course.)

  8. I'm aware of my mortality, but I didn't like facing it that week or so in March. You do seem more sanguine with the idea of your own mortality than the idea of the mortality of others. That's probably the opposite of how most people are.