XERXES



 


That's not me.  (I'm over here.)  It's Xerxes in her best Sunday dress.
This week she has been reading Alexander Theroux's Darconville's Cat.
 
 
Darconville's Cat is the first book Xerxes has reread in five years.
(There it is, seven from the bottom as you scroll down this page.)
It's not the plot . . . it's not the theme (love and hate) . . . it's the words!
 
Like his character, Darconville, it would seem Theroux also
 
"crafted his writing and loved listening to those tiny explosions when the active
brutality of verbs in revolution raced into sweet established nouns to send
marching across the age a newly commissioned army of words-on-maneuvers."
 
Sometimes an author will sustain a certain kind of description for a sentence or two,
sometimes for a paragraph or two, but Theroux can hold a note for pages and pages.
 
Here Theroux reveals some truths about academics:
 
"Faculty meetings are held whenever the need to show off is combined with the imperative
of accomplishing nothing.  It was the case at Quinsy College.  There were five every year
 -- a rump parliament of 'educators,' all bunged up with complaints and full of pre-fabricated
particulars, who sat around on their buns for several hours trying to correct various problems,
whether of school business or personal bagwash, and to confront problematical variables, every
one of which was always greeted with a salvo of idle questions, nice distinctions, sophisms, obs
and sols, and last-ditch stratagems.  The presiding genius?  Brizo, goddess of sleep.  The style? 
Extemporaneous.  The participants?  Teachers, who, like whetstones, would make others cut
that could not cut themselves . . . Finally, the Great Consult began.  They discussed tenure
procedure.  They revised policy on sabbaticals.  They rehearsed, to palsied lengths, curriculum
changes, cross-registration, crises in enrollment.  It suddenly became a great din of objections,
fierce denials, and loud peevishness all expressed in noises like the farting of laurel in flames
with everybody going at it head to head as if they were all trying right then and there to solve
the problem of circular shot, perpetual motion, and abiogenesis!  Staring in disbelief, Darconville
looked on in a kind of autoscopic hallucination as each of the faculty members rose in turn to make
a point that never seemed to have an acute end.  It was all queer, make-shift, and unpindownable,
for all the cube-duplicators, angle-trisectors, and circle-squarers seemed to keep busy avoiding
any question that hadn't sufficient strength to throw doubt on whatever answer couldn't have been
offered anyway lest an inefficacious solution only prove to muddle a problem that couldn't be raised
in the first place.  The discussion, rarely deviating into sense, grew round with resolutions and
amendments as they sacrificed the necessary to acquire the superfluous and did everything twice by
halves, for, like Noah, they had two of everything -- two, it might be said, they didn't need so much
as one of:  two policies, two excuses, two faces and , always, forty-eleven reasons to prop up both."
 
And here Theroux paints a portrait of a Southern stereotype:
 
"These were the 'hearties' of Fawx's Mt., not a great deal different, truth to tell, from the other wonderful
sapsuckers down South that might be classified under ordo squamata: yomp heads, mountain boomers,
rackensacks, hoopies, haw-eaters, snags, pot-wallopers, buckras, goober goopers, scataways, pee-willies,
 wool hats, pukes, raggeds, boondockers, dug downs, tackies, crackers, and no-lobes.  It's a kind of club
 -- 300-pound dipshits, always named something like "Hawg," Clayton, or Orval -- who drink flask bourbon,
have chigger-bites on their arms, and wear their hair either short or slicked back (the comb tracks are always
visible) to reveal faces like those reversible trompe-l'oeil funheads you snip from the Sunday paper to fool
someone with.  They have no chins, are inclined to be goitral, and are always chewing down a blade of grass fiercely
and absentmindedly.  They are given to wearing suntans, white socks, work boots, and cheap acetate shirts, the
sleeves of which are always rolled up to a point higher than the triceps brachii in tight little knots.  They like
whiskey with good bead, respect Shriners, whistle a lot, drive with one hand, slide crotch-first onto barstools, and
 -- just "funnin'" -- love to hang around butt-slapping and goosing each other, punctuating certain remarks of course
with that significant nudge just before they're going to fart.  They like to wade into swamps and jacklight rats, are
big lodge-joiners, and know everything about guns which they always handle, silently, with phallic reverence.  They
have hands like cow-horn, with nails bitten to the quick.  They have spools of rusting cable in their backyards, nail
coons to the walls, adore rodeos, and their execrable grammar is half informed by protective coloration, half by rank
stupidity.  Chainsaws are their toys.  They're given to sheep jokes, often engage in games with each other like
"'Squail the Pig' or rustic variations of 'Detur Tetriori: or, The Ugliest Grinner Shall Be the Winner,' and are fond of
spitting contests.  But the favorite redneck recreation is incest.  They fear women, so hate them, but as most are latently
homosexual they fear that even more, and so fifty times a day boastfully and loudly proclaim for each other's benefit
that they'd hump a rockpile if they thought a snake were under it.  They invariably refer to their penises as 'Bid Sid.' 
They are usually married, but each willfully keeps confined to home his jittery gap-toothed wife, always either
pronouncedly fat or thin -- they all look as if they support nature on a diet of lucifer matches and gin -- who, when
not peeking half-wittedly around the doorframe of a dogtrot cabin, squats on her porch dandling a big thick-necked
gosling of a child with a purple hairbow and an I.Q. that doesn't even register, repeatedly telling it, 'Wave to the street!'"
 
 

***

 

Any comments you might have for Xerxes
can be sent to Hud[dot]Hudson[at]wwu[dot]edu.
I will see to it that she receives them.

***
 
 
Xerxes' Fifth Year
 
 
Last week Xerxes was reading George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones
The week before Xerxes was reading Peter van Inwagen's Quam Dilecta
The week before Xerxes was reading Nicholas Wolterstorff's Lament for a Son
The week before Xerxes was reading Graham Greene's The Hint of an Explanation
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night
The week before Xerxes was reading Denis de Rougemont's The Devil's Share
The week before Xerxes was reading Marguerite Yourcenar's The Memoirs of Hadrian
The week before Xerxes was reading Vladimir Nabokov's Laughter in the Dark
The week before Xerxes was reading Ivan Turgenev's First Love
The week before Xerxes was reading Muriel Spark's Memento Mori
The week before Xerxes was reading Ronald B. Shwartz's For the Love of Books
The week before Xerxes was reading E.H. Gombrich's The Story of Art
The week before Xerxes was reading Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal
The week before Xerxes was reading T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland
The week before Xerxes was reading Edwin Abbott Abbott's Flatland
The week before Xerxes was reading Harold Pinter's The Homecoming
The week before Xerxes was reading Carson McCullers's The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
The week before Xerxes was reading Arnold Lobel's The Adventures of Frog and Toad
The week before Xerxes was reading Robert and Richard Sherman's My Own Home
The week before Xerxes was reading Christopher McDougall's Born to Run
The week before Xerxes was reading Hermann Hesse's A Child's Heart
The week before Xerxes was reading Francesco Petrarch's Triumphs
The week before Xerxes was reading Percy Bysshe Shelley's The Triumph of Life
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida
The week before Xerxes was reading Albert Camus's The Fall
The week before Xerxes was reading C.S. Lewis's Letters to an American Lady
The week before Xerxes was reading Stephen Prothero's God is not One
The week before Xerxes was reading Alvin Plantinga's Where the Conflict Really Lies
The week before Xerxes was reading Frederick Buechner's The Sacred Journey and Now and Then
The week before Xerxes was reading David Berlinski's The Devil's Delusion
The week before Xerxes was reading Philip Kitcher's Living with Darwin
The week before Xerxes was reading Bernard Suit's The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia
 
 
Xerxes' Fourth Year
 
 
The week before Xerxes was reading Stanley Fish's Save the World on Your Own Time
The week before Xerxes was reading Mark William Roche's Why Choose the Liberal Arts?
The week before Xerxes was reading Thomas Hurka's The Best Things in Life
The week before Xerxes was reading a Carthusian monk's The Cloud of Unknowing
The week before Xerxes was reading Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist
The week before Xerxes was reading Eduardo Galeano's Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone
The week before Xerxes was reading Plato's Republic
The week before Xerxes was reading Elizabeth McCracken's An Exact Replica
The week before Xerxes was reading Saul Bellow's Ravelstein
The week before Xerxes was reading Henry David Thoreau's Reading
The week before Xerxes was reading Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind
The week before Xerxes was reading Molière's Tartuffe
The week before Xerxes was reading Aristophanes's The Clouds
The week before Xerxes was reading Paulo Coelho's The Devil and Miss Prym
The week before Xerxes was reading Richard Russo's Straight Man
The week before Xerxes was reading Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question
The week before Xerxes was reading Nicole Krauss's Great House
The week before Xerxes was reading Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence
The week before Xerxes was reading Geshe Kelsang Gyatso's Universal Compassion
The week before Xerxes was reading Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go
The week before Xerxes was reading Hermann Hesse's Narcissus and Goldmund
The week before Xerxes was reading George Bernard Shaw's Back to Methuselah
The week before Xerxes was reading Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge
The week before Xerxes was reading God's The Book of Job
The week before Xerxes was reading Dennis Potter's Hide and Seek
The week before Xerxes was reading Iris Murdoch's The Time of the Angels
The week before Xerxes was reading Mervyn Peake's Collected Poems
The week before Xerxes was reading José Donoso's The Garden Next Door
The week before Xerxes was reading Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree
The week before Xerxes was reading Lisa Genova's Still Alice
The week before Xerxes was reading G.K. Chesterton's Manalive
The week before Xerxes was reading David Orr's Beautiful & Pointless
The week before Xerxes was reading A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh
The week before Xerxes was reading Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart
The week before Xerxes was reading Douglas Hofstadter's A Person Paper on Purity in Language
The week before Xerxes was reading C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters
The week before Xerxes was reading William Butler Yeats's He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
The week before Xerxes was reading Jonathan Swift's The Battle of the Books
The week before Xerxes was reading Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air
The week before Xerxes was reading Niccolo Machiavelli's Letter to Francesco Vettori
The week before Xerxes was reading Henry David Thoreau's Life Without Principle
The week before Xerxes was reading Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
The week before Xerxes was reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure
The week before Xerxes was reading George Orwell's Animal Farm
The week before Xerxes was reading Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals
The week before Xerxes was reading Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince
The week before Xerxes was reading Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog
The week before Xerxes was reading Joris-Karl Huysmans's Against Nature
The week before Xerxes was reading Sheridan Le Fanu's In a Glass Darkly
The week before Xerxes was reading Virginia Woolf's The Waves
The week before Xerxes was reading Mark Twain's Letters from the Earth
 
 
Xerxes' Third Year
 
 
The week before Xerxes was reading Mark Twain's A Dog's Tale
The week before Xerxes was reading Jean Anouilh's Becket
The week before Xerxes was reading James Goldman's The Lion in Winter
The week before Xerxes was reading Antonia Michaelis's Tiger Moon
The week before Xerxes was reading Pär Lagerkvist's The Dwarf, Barabbas, and The Sibyl
The week before Xerxes was reading Leonard Cohen's Dance Me to the End of Love
The week before Xerxes was reading Robin Robertson's Mortification
The week before Xerxes was reading Mark Twain's The Mysterious Stranger
The week before Xerxes was reading Jeffrey Burton Russell's Lucifer and Mephistopheles
The week before Xerxes was reading Jeffrey Burton Russell's The Devil and Satan
The week before Xerxes was reading Toni Morrison's Beloved
The week before Xerxes was reading Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman
The week before Xerxes was reading Henry James's The Turn of the Screw
The week before Xerxes was reading C.S. Lewis's The Pilgrim's Regress
The week before Xerxes was reading Jeffrey Burton Russell's The Prince of Darkness
The week before Xerxes was reading Alexander McCall Smith's 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom
The week before Xerxes was reading Daniel Keyes's Flowers for Algernon
The week before Xerxes was reading Huston Smith and Philip Novak's Buddhism
The week before Xerxes was reading Michael Sells's Approaching the Qur'an
The week before Xerxes was reading Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov
The week before Xerxes was reading Stephen Prothero's Religious Literacy
The week before Xerxes was reading Darby Conley's The Dog is Not a Toy
The week before Xerxes was reading T. Cathcart and D. Klein's Plato and a Platypus
The week before Xerxes was reading Rainer Maria Rilke's Stories of God
The week before Xerxes was reading Kazuo Ishiguro's Nocturnes
The week before Xerxes was reading Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame of Paris
The week before Xerxes was reading Leonard Nimoy's I Am Spock
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shatner's Up Till Now
The week before Xerxes was reading Charles Baudelaire's The Flowers of Evil
The week before Xerxes was reading Arthur Rimbaud's A Season in Hell
The week before Xerxes was reading Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita
The week before Xerxes was reading Christopher Hitchens's God is not Great
The week before Xerxes was reading Philip Larkin's The Less Deceived
The week before Xerxes was reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit
The week before Xerxes was reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Return of the King
The week before Xerxes was reading Voltaire's Candide
The week before Xerxes was reading Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale
The week before Xerxes was reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers
The week before Xerxes was reading Mervyn Peake's Boy in Darkness
The week before Xerxes was reading A.E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad
The week before Xerxes was reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's The Tempest
The week before Xerxes was reading Owen Gingerich's God's Universe
The week before Xerxes was reading Jack Fincher's Lefties
The week before Xerxes was reading Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Children's Hour
The week before Xerxes was reading John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces
The week before Xerxes was reading Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn and A Fine and Private Place
The week before Xerxes was reading Yann Martel's Life of Pi
The week before Xerxes was reading Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game
The week before Xerxes was reading William F. May's A Catalogue of Sins
The week before Xerxes was reading Henry Fairlie's The Seven Deadly Sins Today
The week before Xerxes was reading Jorge Luis Borges's Ficciones
 
 
Xerxes' Second Year
 
 
The week before Xerxes was reading Gioconda Belli's Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand
The week before Xerxes was reading G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday
The week before Xerxes was reading Dante Alighieri's Purgatorio
The week before Xerxes was reading C.S. Lewis's The Four Loves
The week before Xerxes was reading Steven Schwartz's The Seven Deadly Sins
The week before Xerxes was reading Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens
The week before Xerxes was reading Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs
The week before Xerxes was reading Sy Safransky's Four in the Morning and Sunbeams
The week before Xerxes was reading Daniel Levitin's This is Your Brain on Music
The week before Xerxes was reading Alfred Lord Tennyson's In Memoriam
The week before Xerxes was reading Paul Woodruff's Reverence
The week before Xerxes was reading Richard Yates's Eleven Kinds of Loneliness
The week before Xerxes was reading Marilynne Robinson's Gilead
The week before Xerxes was reading Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass
The week before Xerxes was reading Jenny Bond and Chris Sheedy's Who the Hell is Pansy O'Hara?
The week before Xerxes was reading William Hjortsberg's Falling Angel
The week before Xerxes was reading Edward Gorey's Amphigorey: Fifteen Books
The week before Xerxes was reading Cornelius Plantinga's Not the Way It's Supposed to Be
The week before Xerxes was reading Mark Twain's A Cure for the Blues
The week before Xerxes was reading Herman Melville's Moby Dick
The week before Xerxes was reading G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy
The week before Xerxes was reading Frederick Buechner's Godric and The Alphabet of Grace
The week before Xerxes was reading Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung's Portraits of Vice
The week before Xerxes was reading Paul Johnson's Intellectuals
The week before Xerxes was reading David Foster Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
The week before Xerxes was reading Alexander Pope's An Essay on Man
The week before Xerxes was reading Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology
The week before Xerxes was reading Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants
The week before Xerxes was reading Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God
The week before Xerxes was reading Ingmar Bergman's Images: My Life in Film
The week before Xerxes was reading William Trevor's The Story of Lucy Gault
The week before Xerxes was reading Anonymous's Everyman
The week before Xerxes was reading Eugene Field's Little Boy Blue
 The week before Xerxes was reading David Maine's Fallen
The week before Xerxes was reading Stephenie Meyers's Twilight and New Moon
The week before Xerxes was reading Gordy Slack's The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything
The week before Xerxes was reading Nicole Krauss's The History of Love
The week before Xerxes was reading Wallace Stevens's Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
The week before Xerxes was reading The Dalai Lama's An Open Heart
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part II
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's As You Like It
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra
The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Macbeth
The week before Xerxes was reading Jelaluddin Rumi's The Essential Rumi
The week before Xerxes was reading Harold Bloom's Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?
The week before Xerxes was reading Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
The week before Xerxes was reading Leo Tolstoy's The Devil
The week before Xerxes was reading Colin McGinn's Shakespeare's Philosophy
The week before Xerxes was reading Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild
The week before Xerxes was reading Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World
The week before Xerxes was reading Martin Buber's I and Thou, Meetings, and The Way of Man
 

Xerxes' First Year
 

The week before Xerxes was reading Allan Chinen's Once Upon a Midlife
The week before Xerxes was reading G.K. Chesterton's St Francis of Assisi
The week before Xerxes was reading Jean Toomer's Cane
The week before Xerxes was reading Ikhwān al-Safā's The Animals' Lawsuit against Humanity
The week before Xerxes was reading Patrick Süskind’s Perfume
The week before Xerxes was reading Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark
The week before Xerxes was reading John Milton's Paradise Regained
The week before Xerxes was reading Dylan Thomas's The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower
The week before Xerxes was reading Stephen Crane's The Blue Hotel
The week before Xerxes was reading Gore Vidal's Creation
The week before Xerxes was reading A.S. Byatt's Possession
The week before Xerxes was reading C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce
The week before Xerxes was reading Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven
 The week before Xerxes was reading Dennis Potter's Blackeyes
The week before Xerxes was reading David Suzuki and Wayne Grady's Tree: A Life Story
The week before Xerxes was reading James Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner
The week before Xerxes was reading Alexander Theroux's Theroux Metaphrastes
The week before Xerxes was reading Mervyn Peake's Titus Alone
The week before Xerxes was reading Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast
The week before Xerxes was reading Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan
The week before Xerxes was reading Walter de la Mare's The Three Royal Monkeys
The week before Xerxes was reading John Collier's His Monkey Wife
The week before Xerxes was reading Lois Lowry's The Giver
The week before Xerxes was reading Rudyard Kipling's Mandalay
The week before Xerxes was reading Ralph Helfer's Modoc
The week before Xerxes was reading Stuart McLean's Home From the Vinyl Cafe
 The week before Xerxes was reading Ossie Davis's Purlie Victorious
The week before Xerxes was reading George MacDonald's The Portent
The week before Xerxes was reading Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead
The week before Xerxes was reading Michael Phillips's George MacDonald - A Biography
The week before Xerxes was reading Christopher Moore's The Stupidest Angel
The week before Xerxes was reading Gordon Lightfoot's Minstrel of the Dawn
The week before Xerxes was reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War
The week before Xerxes was reading Robert Graves's I Claudius
The week before Xerxes was reading Philip Ardagh's A House Called Awful End
 The week before Xerxes was reading John Milton's Paradise Lost
 The week before Xerxes was reading Mervyn Peake's Mr Pye
The week before Xerxes was reading J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The week before Xerxes was reading Riff Raff and Magenta's The Time Warp
 The week before Xerxes was reading William Shakespeare's Timon of Athens
 The week before Xerxes was reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion
The week before Xerxes was reading e.e. cummings's anyone lived in a pretty how town
The week before Xerxes was reading Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici
The week before Xerxes was reading C.S. Lewis's A Preface to Paradise Lost
The week before Xerxes was reading Stephanie Plowman's The Road to Sardis
The week before Xerxes was reading Alexander Theroux's Darconville's Cat
The week before Xerxes was reading Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective
The week before Xerxes was reading T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
The week before Xerxes was reading Matthew Scully's Dominion
The week before Xerxes was reading Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray
The week before Xerxes was reading the Prologue in Heaven from Goethe's Faust
The week before Xerxes was reading Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market