William Butler Yeats ~ Joseph Kleitsch


There are trees in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

Excerpt from The Wild Swans at Coole by William Butler Yeats

Painting by Joseph Kleitsch


Thoughts on the Cove


In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
   Down to a sunless see.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearig tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge ~ Kubla Khan

The world of the insensible appreciates the benefits of peace.
Erasmus ~ The Complaint of Peace

As interesting as I find speculation, I do not invest my emotions in it. It makes for a poor return.
The Book of Rhino

Magic Mushrooms


The Daily Prompt word-of-the-day is Mushroom

There are two literary references to mushrooms that immediately come to mind: the mushroom upon which sat the Caterpillar in Alice Through the Looking Glass and the basket of mushrooms given to Frodo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring.

I was young when I read both stories and was bothered by the fact that magic came in the form of a mushroom. At the time, I did not like mushrooms and thought that biting into one was too high a price to pay for fantasy. I certainly could not see why the hobbits were so greedy for them. A nice, tasty basket of strawberries would have been more agreeable. However, in the hands of Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane, the mushroom motif made more sense.

I had a book of fairy tales that showed illustrations of little creatures such as mice, rabbits, fairies, and brownies sitting on or under mushrooms. There were even tiny mushroom houses. Those pictures indelibly linked mushrooms with magic in my mind. At one time, I wanted to live in a little mushroom (but not eat it.)

I wonder why mushrooms are so cute. Walt Disney animated them in the movie Fantasia. Perfect. One of my favorite sequences. I wonder why that is.

(Note to self: Think about the magic of mushroom–but not the ones from Grace Slick. Those are scary.)

Curious Cats Do Strut


The Daily Press word-of-the-day is Strut . Friday’s are the days l like to write about authors and books connected to the prompt. Today’s word reminded me of two writers, a poet, and a singer/songwriter. The first offering is by T. S. Eliot and the second is by Brian Setzer. I hope you enjoy their works.

Rum Tum Tugger by T. S. Eliot ~ Cats

The Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat:
If you offer him pheasant he would rather have grouse.
If you put him in a house he would much prefer a flat,
If you put him in a flat then he’d rather have a house.
If you set him on a mouse then he only wants a rat.
If you set him on a rat then he’d rather chase a mouse.
Yes, the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any call for me to shout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

The Rum Tum Tugger is a terrible bore:
When you let him in, then he wants to be out;
He’s always on the wrong side of every door,
And as soon as he’s at home, then he’d like to get about.
He likes to lie in the bureau drawer,
But he makes such a fuss if he can’t get out.

Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any use for you to doubt it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

The Rum Tum Tugger is a curious beast:
His disobliging ways are a matter of habit.
If you offer him fish, then he always wants a feast.
When there isn’t any fish, then he won’t eat rabbit.
If you offer him cream, then he sniffs and sneers,
For he only likes what he finds for himself;

So you’ll catch him in it right up to the ears,
If you put it away on the larder shelf.
The Rum Tum Tugger is artful and knowing,
The Rum Tum Tugger doesn’t care for a cuddle;
But he’ll leap on your lap in the middle of your sewing,
For there’s nothing he enjoys like a horrible muddle.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any need for me to spout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

Stray Cat Strut by Brian Selzer ~“The Stray Cats”

Black and orange stray cat sittin’ on a fence,
I ain’t got enough dough to pay the rent.
I’m flat broke, but I don’t care.
I strut right by with my tail in the air.

Stray cat strut, I’m a ladies cat.
I’m a feline Casanova, hey man, that’s that.
Get a shoe thrown at me from a mean old man.
Get my dinner from a garbage can.

Don’t go crossing my path.

I don’t bother chasing mice around.
I slink down the alleyway looking for a fight,
Howling to the moonlight on a hot summer night.
Singin’ the blues while the lady cats cry,
“Wild stray cat, you’re a real gone guy.”
I wish I could be as carefree and wild,
But I got cat class and I got cat style.

(Note to self: My sister recently pointed out how many expressions we get from cats: cat nap, pussyfoot, hightail it, scaredy cat, curiosity killed the cat.)

Martian Neighbor

The Daily Press word-of-the-day is Neighbors. This calls for a poem by Craig Raine about our Martian neighbors.



A Martian Sends a Postcard Home

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings–

They cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek with pain.

I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand.

Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on the ground;

then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.

Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colours darker.

Modelt T is a room with the lock inside–
a key is turned to free the world

for movement, so quick there is a film
to watch for anythings missed.

But time is tide to the wrist
of kept in a box, ticking with impatience.

In homes a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet, they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to supper
openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt
and everyone’s pain has a different smell.

At night, when all the colors dies
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves–
in colour, with their eyelids shut.

Craig Raine 1979



I am currently reading The Tontine, a two-volume novel by Thomas B. Costain, published in 1955. Two brief facts: Thomas Costain was born in Ontario, Canada in 1885 and died in New York City in 1965. A tontine, according to Webster’s dictionary, is “an annuity scheme in which subscribers share a common fund with the benefit of survivorship, the survivors’ shares being increased as the subscribers die, until the whole goes to the last survivor.”

That is the only quote I am providing because The Tontine is a destination, not a journey book. It’s a page-turner in the sense that one keeps reading to see what happens; but it is not a page-stopper in that there are no memorable spiritual or philosophical gems over which to ponder. Costain wrote in a similar manner in The Silver Chalice and The Darkness and the Dawn; it’s straightforward storytelling without any stops along the way for a cup a tea at an old mill.

The Tontine, however, takes a diversion into another country with two of the characters. I am not too keen on diversions; I don’t know how much information about a new setting and new characters I should retain for future reference. If something about the diversion is central to the plot, I will have to go back and re-read it, something I don’t like to do with a destination book. It is a non-preferred activity.

A tontine itself is an interesting concept for a story. One knows from the beginning that there will be only one survivor; the question is whom will it be? In reading about a tontine, one must settle in for a decades-long story. If the storyteller is skillful (as Costain is), the reader will make an emotional investment in his or her favorite character and will want to see them win.

(Note to self: I don’t think George R. R. Martin would do well with a tontine—he kills off so many characters, it’s not worth caring about them.)

(Note to self: That is an uncharitable remark. The chemo must be getting to me.)

That is all I have to say about The Tontine. Why belabor the point?

A Dab of Dobbin


Please, release me, let me go, for I don’t love you anymore.

To waste our lives would be a sin. Release me and let me love again.

(Song written in 1949 by Eddie Miller and Robert Yount)

The Daily Press word-of-the-day is Release . If there is one literary character that personifies the song Release Me, it is William Dobbin in the novel Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery. Dobbin remains faithful to Amelia Sedley for years, even after her marriage to George Osborne. His name crops up occasionally in other literature as a byword for faithfulness and unrequited love. In one of Agatha Christie’s novels, a character is described as “a regular Dobbin”; that one word reveals volumes about the person.

There is another “Dobbin” in Vanity Fair and that is Amelia Sedley, the character about which Dobbin is so Dobbinish. She marries Dobbin’s best friend, George Osborne and when he is killed in battle, makes her life a shrine to his existence. Cherishing the memory of George, she rebuffs Dobbin’s offers of marriage, treating him very shabbily.

Now whenever I encounter a literary Dobbin, I always analyze the object of their devotion. Many times it’s a real head-scratcher. Take, for example, George Osborne. He is the spoiled son of a rich man. A vain, self-centered spendthrift, he squanders his inheritance and leaves Amalia pregnant and penniless at the time of his death. He also flirts shamelessly with Amalia’s best friend, Becky Sharp. While reading the book, I could find no qualities he possessed that compelled his wife’s steadfast devotion. Over and over, I asked myself, “Why, Amelia, why?”

I can understand why there are Dobbin characters in the first place. They can be interesting. However, when I consider all of the Dobbins I have encountered in literature, most of them are like Amelia. Why is that? Why do the worst characters bring out a person’s Dobbinishness?

(Note to self: Don’t be a Dobbin—if you must, make sure that he or she is worthy.)

So my advice to all you literary characters out there is this: If you are considering being a Dobbin, I suggest you dabble in it first. Begin by being a Dob and investigate your Dobbee thoroughly and objectively. It could save you a lifetime of grief.


Looking Daggers at Cloaks


The Daily Post word-of-the-day is Cloaked. It reminds me of a passage in the novel Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.

The setting is a feast in honor of Prince John to which all nobles are invited to attend, both Norman and Saxon. Cedric and Lord Athelstane, Saxons, accept Prince John’s invitation.

“Cedric and Athelstane were both dressed in ancient Saxon garb, which, although not unhandsome in itself, and in the present instance composed of costly materials, was so remote in shape and appearance from that of the other guests, that Prince John took great credit to himself with Waldemar Fitzurse for refraining from laughter at a sight which the fashion of the day rendered ridiculous.”

It turns out the offending garment was a long cloak; the Normans favored short ones. Scott provides a brief commentary on short cloaks.

“The Emperor Charlemagne, in whose reign they were first introduced, seems to have been very sensible of the inconveniences arising from the fashion of this garment.

‘In Heaven’s name, said he, ‘to what purpose serve these abridged cloaks? If we are in bed they are no cover, on horseback they are no protection from the wind and rain, and when seated, they do not guard our legs from the damp or frost.’

Nevertheless, in spite of this imperial objurgation, the short cloaks continued in this fashion down to the time of which we treat. They were therefore in universal use among Prince John’s courtiers, and the long mantle, which formed the upper garment of the Saxons, was held in proportional derision.”

Apparently humans have been silly about clothes for a long time.

As Louisa May Alcott wrote, “let us be elegant or let us die.”

The “E” Ticket

The Daily Press Prompt is Witty

On Fridays, I usually write about authors and books and since witty books written by witty authors are my favorites, I had no problem responding to the prompt.

When Disneyland was young, you could purchase tickets for rides individually or you could by a coupon book. The tickets were ranked according to fun level and popularity of the ride, with “A” being the cheapest (usually the rides for small children) and “E” being the most expensive for the thrill rides or most entertaining rides (like The Matterhorn); the in-between rides were “B”, “C”, and “D.”

The coupon book was the better value so we always purchased it, and then hoarded the highly-prized “E” tickets. Witty books written by witty authors are the “E” tickets of literature. They are engaging, entertaining, enlightening, encouraging, edifying, and empowering. They are the only books to which I give a five-star review. So here is my list of E-ticket fiction books.

Fantasy The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, and Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis

Science Fiction Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov

Mystery Robot Series by Isaac Asimov and the novels of Agatha Christie

Culture and Society The Barchester Chronicles by Anthony Trollope, the novels of Jane Austen, and the novels of P. G. Wodehouse

Children and Young Adult The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, Anne of Green Gables Series by Lucy M. Montgomery, and The Time Series by Madeleine L’Engle.

There are not many books on the list, which is expected in a normal distribution. The “E” books are rare, comprising a very small percent of the book population. The other reason reason for the paucity of “E” books is that all but one of the authors is deceased. That makes it rather difficult to read their new books–they aren’t writing any.

The fact that I love the “E” books does not deter me from reading other books; they are like the “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D” tickets in the Disneyland coupon books. I read quite a bit, always in search of the elusive “E” ticket.

Finally, I have to include everything I write for The Book of Rhino as an “E” book. It would have to be because I put everything I love into it, which makes it valuable only to me and those particular readers who share my particular taste in literature. I suspect that we are also on the far end of a normal distribution, comprising only a small percent of the reading public. That’s alright. Someone has occupy that standard deviation.

Make Like a Tree


It is astonishing that a collection of statements that are individually true can be used, in combination, to yield an effect that the truth should not.

Isaac Asimov ~ Robots and Empire

The Daily Prompt word-of-the-day is Leaf
This reminds me of that classic trope “Make like a tree and leaf” that is popular at one time or another among the grade school set. Once my friends and I discovered the charm of make like a tree and leaf, we branched out into similar phrases.

“Make like a banana and split.”

“Make like the wind and blow.”

“Make like butter and fly.”

These are examples of how a collection of words, strung together in a sentence, should not make sense, but somehow do. It’s like the writings of P. G. Wodehouse.

“Tuppy’s fatheaded words were still rankling in my bosom as I went to my room. They continued rankling as I shed the form-fitting, and had not ceased to rankle when I made my way down to corridor to the sale de bain. It is not too much to say that I was piqued to the tonsils.”

I understand—it’s what I mean when I say something fries my toast.

(Note to self: I wonder if Wodehouse would know what that means, if he were alive and remotely interested in reading my blog.)

I use the phrase fries my toast once in a while with great satisfaction. Other phrases come to mind, ones that I have strung together from words that somehow fit to make a meaning.

“I’ll be your best bet.”

“I smell your feet.”

It’s not really speaking in metaphors; it’s sort of a pre-metaphor way of thinking. Wodehouse was especially adept at it.

“Augustus Fink-Nottle was Nature’s final word in cloth-headed guffins.”

“I am never at my best when the situation calls for a certain soupiness.”

I love reading Wodehouse because he knows how to gather words around each other, make them get along, and inspire them to express new and delicious ideas.

I smell his feet.