Simply messing about in books

Ratty-and-Mole-in-Boat-with-Dragonfly

Ludibundness?  Dippoldism? Contorplicate? Cathistophobia? Seeksorrow? Floccinaucinihilipilification?

If you’ve ever felt the need for words like these, you’ll love Mrs Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure and Preposterous Words. Gert’s favourite by a mile is dharna: in India, a way of collecting debts by sitting on the debtor’s doorstep until the money is paid or the collector has starved to death.

Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure and Preposterous Words: Josefa Heifetz Byrneindex

Get has been pottering about in some other books that haven’t held her interest: Michael Chabon’s Moonglow, Miles Allinson’s Fever Of Animals, Eric Beck Rubin’s School of Velocity (great title, though) and Nicholson Baker’s Substitute. Nicholson Baker took a short course to qualify him to act as a substitute teacher at all levels from littlies to hulking teenagers – presumably so he could write this book. It’s an interesting and rather dispiriting experience of the whole beautiful, wasteful, totally crazy educational system. But give me a break, Nicholson, it’s  719 pages long, and after a few hundred pages blow-by-blow and word-by-word  descriptions of a day in the classroom get a bit dull.  There’s  a point at which a very long book starts to feel more like an exercise in writerly ego – the same goes for Moonglow.

SingingTheLand_0

Highly recommended to anyone who enjoyed Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines is Singing the Land (Currency Press 2007), a book by an old friend of Gert’s, Dr Jill Stubington, who has spent years  recording and transcribing Aboriginal music in remote Australian settlements. In traditional Aboriginal society, The combination of musical talent, ritual knowledge and the authority and ability to reveal the true nature of things confer a power and status impossible to acquire by any other means. (25)

This will  open up your mind to a completely new way of thinking about music.

12 thoughts on “Simply messing about in books

  1. “dharna: in India, a way of collecting debts by sitting on the debtor’s doorstep until the money is paid or the collector has starved to death.” what a way to make a living!

  2. Songlines is on a virtual lower shelf of to-be-read books — which means I might get to it in two or three years. Maybe I ought to move it up a shelf?

    1. I think Jill’s book is better as a real insider’s account, and from someone who really knows the subject through and through. And as a musician you’d be fascinated by what she says about learning to listen with completely new ears and trying to notate music that just doesn’t fit into Western classical music rules.

  3. “This will open up your mind to a completely new way of thinking about music.” Of course, this statement stirs a great deal of interest in me. You have a lot of different musical instruments such as the a Didgeridoo. I love the deep throated male vocal sound it provides. I think have used it in a song at one point. If not I will in the future.
    Leslie

          1. That circular breathing never worked for me. You have to breath and there are places in the phrasing of the music to breath.
            Leslie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s