Thursday, December 13, 2018

Seven degrees above zero on this black morning, the coldest so far this season in Portland . . . and one of us inadvertently bumped the thermostat yesterday evening and thereby turned off the heat all night. As a result, waking up in Portland was like waking up in Harmony: frigid floors, ice-cold woodstove, cups of coffee as hand-thawers. Fixing the problem, however, was quicker than it was up north.

I got the good news yesterday that people are actually signing up for my 24PearlStreet essay class! This is thrilling because I was prepared for disappointment, being a faculty newcomer and all. Instead, I'm delighted to say that it will definitely run. Along with that class, I'll be teaching at least three times a week in southern Maine, late January through early March, with more to come as spring arrives. It's almost as if I'm impersonating an adjunct.

Today, I hope to finish the first pass through the novel I'm editing. It's on an extraordinarily tight publishing schedule, so I've had to grind it out at a rattling pace. In the interstices I've been immersed in Johnson's The Birth of the Modern, which is packed with one fascinating anecdote after another. I keep wanting to copy them all out for you. This one alone demonstrates the breathtaking richness of the age:
[When Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from Elba in 1815], he took a peaceful Europe by surprise. Byron had got married . . . and was already repenting at leisure. . . . Jane Austen was writing the final chapters of Emma. . . . Shelley had just deserted his wife and run off with William Godwin's daughter, Mary. J. M. W. Turner was painting his sun-filled arcadian canvas, Crossing the Brook. Gioacchino Rossini was writing The Barber of Seville and Ludwig van Beethoven his piano sonata Opus 101. Humphry Davy was working on the first miner's safety lamp.
And meanwhile Goya. And Hegel. And the death of Tecumseh. And Waterloo on the horizon.

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