[lit-ideas] Re: Between a hard running mineral and a fluke

  • From: david ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 15 Oct 2015 13:39:17 -0700

On Oct 14, 2015, at 11:15 PM, epostboxx@xxxxxxxx wrote:

Many happy returns of the day, David. Perhaps if you played this up as a
significant astrological coincidence, publishers may look upon the poultry
manuscripts in a different light …

Chris Bruce,
already waiting in line
for an autographed copy
of the first edition, in
Kiel, Germany

Those waiting in line for my book may need both a mattress and the patience
of an asylum-seeker. On the other side of my barricades publishers have yet
to form themselves into a forlorn hope. No doubt it’s just a matter of time.
Somewhere out there at the edge of the Douglas firs the siege forces are
probably gathering.

This morning, nudged by a zephyr from the open screen door, a stray chicken
feather intruded like an explorer under the door of what we’ll call the “throne
room." “Funny,” I thought, “funny!” (riffing on Dudley Moore’s skit about
lobsters appearing in similar circumstances. If you don’t know the reference,
skip forward). “Maybe the publishers want a parlay.”

At the time I was reading William Kittredge, “The Nature of Generosity,” and
had reached a bit about W.S. Merwin on food labeling. “Guess how completely
you become what you eat,” Merwin wrote. "Guess how soon. Guess at the taste
of locusts and wild honey.” I imagined the poet later extrapolating these
thoughts to embrace, of course, poultry: will pizza turn my chickens into, say,

Done with ablutions, I returned to the computer. Before I started work I
glanced once more at the “New York Times’” proof reading error: on the front
page they called Hillary, “Mr. Clinton.” I’d blame auto-correct—because that’s
my current hate—but I can’t see how.

Kittredge hadn’t left me. I picked up a birthday gift and read the label,
“Stone ground. The distinct high quality and flavour of this specialty mustard
is due to the traditional grinding of the mustard seeds with silex
grindstones.” Silex? I tried the web. Under “archaic and foreign uses” of
that word I found, “used to refer to flint and chert and sometimes other hard
rocks.” Flint actually is a chert—the inter-webs say so-- the “and” is wrong.

Whoever translated “meule de pierre,” got it right though. For a grinding rock
you want something “riche en silice: plus le pourcentage est élevé et plus la
roche est résistante, la slice étant le minéral courant le plus dure…” dammit,
auto-correct is changing every word. We’ll settle for the approximate (and
whimsical), silica is the mineral "running the hardest on the surface of the

Ingredients: water, mustard seeds, white wine, vinegar, salt, mustard seed
husks, sugar, spices. Seed husks: “Téguments de moutarde.” Now there’s a word
for the day, “téguments.” Apparently we have the same word in English, but it,
according to another work-postponing search, is “terminology in helminthology
for the name of the outer body covering among members of the phylum
Platyhelminthes. Clear as mud.

Auto-correct fixed my spelling of “helminthology,” which had been somewhat

The rest of the explanation of “teguments” is about flatworms and flukes, about
which I know nothing, unless we’re referring to the fluke Lewandowski goal, on
ninety minutes, the one that finally killed Scotland’s chances of qualifying.
Scotland didn’t have much chance anyway. But Matt Ritchie scored. To whom I’m
not related. As far as I know.

Carry on,

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon

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