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[OCTOBER 2017.]

Everything smells like burn, aircraft move around, there’s a brown haze in the north and the sun at dusk was a case of pinkeye. Hot autumn. I’ve done very little in the yard this year. A scrub jay mistakes poplar fuzz caught in a cobweb for an edible spider; it has a hard time scraping its beak clean once the mistake becomes clear.

Big Data came to the day job. (It was bound to.) Around three or four in the morning I found myself taking an online assessment that would measure my response to various artifacts and situations and plot them on a scale from “Baroque” to “Zen.” My final score was 100% Baroque and 0% Zen. “I am so far from what I wish!”

It’s a master class around here in lying down where all the ladders start.

I stayed up late finishing Oblomov. From the book’s reputation I was expecting a pure novelty piece about inaction, and that part was very funny; but two hundred pages in, Oblomov meets a young lady and the book puts on the full dress of a nineteenth-century novel.

“Olga,” he said, barely touching her waist with two fingers (she stopped), “you’re wiser than I am.”

She shook her head.

“No,” she said, “I’m simpler and more courageous.”

The love scenes are top-notch—Olga is fantastic—and for a long stretch it had the same forward pull that I get from Fanny Burney and the Brontës (naive and sentimental reader). The Magarshack translation is good too; it has that bit of starch that you want in your Russian books. Oblomov’s Russo-German friend is an Ideal of Conduct, and would get wearying except that Goncharov knows the Ideal of Conduct must always resign himself to being a bit of a jerk, and wrings sympathy out of it.

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