My Diary


Coles Phillips (1880-1927) attended Kenyon College, where his first drawings appeared in the yearbook, The Reveille, then moved to New York after his junior year to make his fortune as an illustrator. This is from the cover of Good Housekeeping, January, 1914.


Eminent Victorians

Lytton Strachey’s 1918 biographies of Cardinal Manning, Dr. Arnold, Florence Nightingale and General Gordon are said to have changed the way history is written, but they would be enough simply for their glimpses into the lives of four people we don’t think much about these days, from Nightingale’s first moments in the soldiers’ hospitals of Scutari in the Crimea to Gordon’s last moments in Khartoum. Beautifully written, wonderful stuff.


In a gated golfing community in North Carolina: laminated instructions on how to set a small animal trap; a Full Throttle energy drink can; a Top Flite 1 golf ball, “Straight”; an envelope addressed to someone in Virginia (which I mailed); plastic wrap; a soggy newspaper; a Dr. Pepper can; tinfoil; a shredded Pepsi can; a flattened Sprite can; a bungee cord (no doubt lost rather than littered, a distinction for which I have been taken to task in the past).

On Art

“What other people may find in poetry or art museums, I find in the flight of a good drive — the white ball sailing up into the blue sky, growing smaller and smaller, then suddenly reaching its apex, curving, falling and finally dropping to the turf to roll some more, just the way I planned it.”

— Arnold Palmer

The Incredible Journey


Sheila Burnford’s wonderful book, The Incredible Journey (1961) led to a wonderful film of the same name two years later, and I recommend them both to you. The film, produced by the Disney studios, is at long last available on DVD, although only to members of the Disney Movie Club; I imagine that will change. The DVD transfer is pristine, a beautiful print of a beautiful film. Do not confuse this with the Disney remake, Homeward Bound, in which the animals talked; the original (1963), with a perfect narration by Rex Allen, is both an extraordinary tale and a beautiful nature film of the sort that only Walt Disney was producing in the 1950s and ’60s.

On Silence

Here Mr. Erskine joined them.

“There’s no such thing as silence,” he said positively. “I can hear twenty different sounds on a night like this without counting your voices.”

“Make a bet on it?” said Charlotte.

“Done,” said Mr. Erskine. “One, the sea; two, the wind; three, a dog; four…”

The others passed on.

— Virginia Woolf in Jacob’s Room (1923). Parsing the silence, a game I first played with my daughter, listening; but not betting on the outcome, just listening.

On the Perils of DIY

Allen Lewis Brooksy Burton
Went to buy himself a curtain,
Called on Greenburg, Moe, and Mintz,
Bought a hundred yards of chintz
Stamped with owls and all star-spangled,
Tried to hang it, fell, and strangled.

— A poem by James Thurber written during a meeting with Harold Ross, editor of The New Yorker, and pushed across the table to E.B. White; quoted in The Years with Ross (1957)