1. I finally got back the results from the two bone scans I had on January 2. The nuclear bone scan (to see if my prostate cancer has moved into my bones) shows no advancement. Earlier scans (which I took before the Lupron treatments commenced in July 2013) showed that one of my left ribs was illuminated like a Star Wars light saber--its entire length. Although I haven't yet seen this recent scan, my University Hospitals oncologist, responding to my email query, replied with this: the previous bone lesion is less intense than previous suggesting improvement. No other sites. I had to wait another week to learn about my bone-density scan--a procedure to make sure my bones are not thinning, becoming more frangible. This is a danger both because of my age (70) and my regular Lupron treatments. This is the reason I'm so focused on not falling. I am taking large doses of calcium and Vitamin D each day to combat the enemies of age and medication. Here's what my oncologist sent me: Dexa scan : normal density Keep taking Ca and Vit D. Oh, I will ... I will!
2. One result of these encouraging ... results: I'm going to return to some book-reviewing for the Plain Dealer, something I'd had to abandon a couple of months ago. Books editor Joanna Connors has been very accommodating, but I'm going to "ease" back in--reviewing only things by writers I already know well--or subjects I know well. Energy loss remains an issue--again, from aging, but principally from those quarterly Lupron injections.
3. This week I finished Philip Roth's 1998 novel, I Married a Communist. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It deals with the Red Scare of the 1950s--the House Un-American Activities Committee--the blacklists. All of that. But the frame story is in the present. And much of the tale is told by the narrator's (Nathan Zuckerman's) former high school English teacher, now in his 90s. Back in the 1950s, this teacher's brother lost his radio career--and his public reputation--because of his Communist sympathies. And when he broke with his wife, she published a book--I Married a Communist--ghosted by two right-wing "journalists," one of whom was directly related to U. S. Grant. Portions of the novel are very moving, and, as usual, Roth is able to float around in time as if it were his personal pool, and (also as usual) his ending is deeply affecting.
4. I also finished Roth's 1990 novel, Deception, which I did not enjoy so much. It is virtually all dialogue among characters whose names appear only rarely. There are no dialogue tags (no he said, she said) and very few passages of exposition. Just raw dialogue, and it's up to you to figure out what's going on. Turns out--I think?--that much of this is from the writer's notebook. Were the sex discussions imaginary? Actual? His wife, who reads it while he is not around, is ... concerned and curious (two pale words for what she feels). Anyway, this one was in the Admired but Didn't Enjoy category. An amazing technical achievement, but it left me kind of ... maybe not cold, but cool. Not every reader felt that way. The New York Times (via Fay Weldon) called it swift, elegant, disturbing (March 11, 1990--link to review.)
5. Finally ... last night Joyce and I saw Selma, and we were both deeply affected by it--for varying reasons. We both lived through that era, of course. When that march occurred (March 1965), I was twenty years old, a junior at Hiram College, and the events were all over the evening news and newspapers--and were the fuel for many late-night dorm-room conversations. (Joyce would graduate from high school that year.)
In another way, Joyce has been working for seven years on her book about abolitionist John Brown, so the Selma events--more than a century after Harpers Ferry--resonated deeply with her.
In yet another way, I spent my boyhood in the segregated Southwest--Oklahoma and Texas. When we moved to Ohio in the summer of 1956, my Oklahoma home town, Enid, still had segregated schools, bus seats, drinking fountains, public parks, restrooms, etc. I grew up thinking all of that was normal.
I've been puzzled by the many questions about filmmaker Ava DuVernay's view of President Lyndon Baines Johnson (beautifully rendered, by the way, by Tom Wilkinson). He's shown resisting Civil Rights and King more than he actually did. (In today's Times, for example, columnist Maureen Dowd goes after that film for this portrayal--link to Dowd's piece.) Johnson in fact did evolve to a more supportive position--just not in the time frame of the film.
And my response? Who cares? Are we really going to look at a film about Selma and whine about the portrayal of a white character? (Do we need to look back at film history and see how many times filmmakers have portrayed black characters in less-than-factual ways? Or presidents? Or other historical figures? Start counting now; you should finish in the next decade or so.)
I've also heard some quibbling about the accent of English actor David Oyelowo (who played King superbly). Please. Tom Wilkinson didn't sound much like LBJ--and we have myriads of examples of Americans playing Brits and vice-versa in great films: Richard Burton in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love (a film, by the way, that played fast and loose with the facts of Shakespeare's life--and career). If you want to know what King and LBJ actually sounded like, hop on Google and start listening. Don't expect Selma to do that for you.
Historical or literary accuracy is not something I really expect at the movies, you know? (If I want that, I'll go to the library, not the cineplex--though at the library I'll also find distortion, misrepresentation, bias, etc. if I'm not careful.) Do I go see Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes--a Holmes who is virtually nothing like the character in the stories (and what about his accent?)? Do I go see Russell Crowe as Noah, for pity's sake, and complain he didn't look or sound like the real one?These are just movies. Movies--many of them--are works of art, works no more concerned about bare fact than is any painter or sculptor or novelist.
What we saw in Selma last night was an emotionally truthful (if not always historically accurate) film. We saw King's human fragility and inhuman determination. We saw the white establishment's firm resistance (personified by LBJ) to Civil Rights. We saw the incredible courage of men and women who walked into the face of violence and hate and said No more.
Of course the film didn't show it exactly the way it actually happened--and why should it? That's not an artist's job.