Sunday, May 3, 2015
Sunday Sundries, 49
1. AOTW. I hereby nominate the virus software I've been using; when I updated it today, it shut down my ability to print from Word. I took that well, believe me. I checked online, saw that this was a problem other users of the software have been experiencing, so I promptly uninstalled it, re-installed the software (from another company) I'd been using before the switch--and printed merrily away.
2, My mother's telephone has been all messed up the past week: She (age 95) hasn't been able to hear me when I've called. Fortunately, brother Dave is out there this weekend for a visit (she lives in an assisted living place in Lenox, Mass.) and has straightened it all out. Sweet to hear her voice again saying something other than Hello? Hello? Hello? HELLO? HELLO? [Click.]
3. An obituary in the New York Times really struck me today. (Link to it.) The headline said this: William Sokolin, Wine Seller Who Broke Famed Bottle, Dies at 85. Much of the piece is about how, in 1989, he accidentally broke a rare bottle--perhaps from the cellar of Thomas Jefferson. But it made me think about what it would be like to be remembered principally for your worst mistakes.
Daniel Osborn Dyer, Who Broke His Mother's Tiffany Lamp, Dies at 132.
Daniel Osborn Dyer, Who Misplayed a Fly Ball in a Key Game in 1961, Dies at 132.
Daniel Osborn Dyer, Who Broke the Dreisbachs' Picture Window with a Boomerang, Dies at 132.
It all seems rather ... unkind, doesn't it? But I've seen such things often--athletes remembered for a key error, explorers who got lost. That sort of thing.
4. Joyce and I enjoyed seeing While We're Young on Friday night up at the Chagrin Cinema. We liked it much more than we really thought we were going to. (Link to film trailer.) In its review, the New York Times had complained a bit about the plot (I agree--contrived and convenient), but what interested me the most was the idea of defining yourself by your age. The "older" couple in the film--Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts--were in their early 40s and feeling ... old. (At 70, I'm having trouble sympathizing!) They fall under the sway of a younger, more energetic pair, and the next thing we know, the Older Ones are doing some pretty funny and stupid things.
The writer and director was Noah Baumbach (The Life Aquatic, The Squid and the Whale, etc.), and this was not in their league, really (not in weirdness, not in most other ways). But worth seeing, worth thinking about--especially its ongoing debate about the line between fiction and nonfiction, a line that these days is very, very blurry.
5. There was a big feature piece in this week's New Yorker about ... Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), whose forty-seven novels I read over a decade-long period about, well, a decade ago. I've posted about that adventure before--and have given a couple of talks about it, as well, including a speech at Western Reserve Academy of May 4, 2012. Anyway, the author of that New Yorker piece, Adam Gopnik, talks about a sort of new relevance for Trollope and his novels. Here's a link to that piece, but you may not be able to access it if you're not a subscriber.
6. Finally, I finished the most recent novel by Jim Harrison--The Big Seven--which is a sequel to his 2011 novel, The Great Leader, and involves the same protagonist, a retired cop named Sunderson who has a K-Mart full of issues. His marriage has broken; he's bought a remote cabin that abuts the property of some Upper Peninsula wackos (who are criminal in every sense of that word); he's thinking about--and even trying to write about--the seven deadly sins (see the title); he's thinking, too, that there ought to be an eighth one: violence. Repeatedly, he muses on the violence in our history (particularly against Native Americans) and realizes that it (violence) is a horror at the core of our souls; he's having sex with ... inappropriate ... lovers.
I've read all of Harrison's novels (a memoir, too--and some poetry) and have reviewed a couple of them, too. And, in general, I admire his work. He is a marvelous storyteller. His novels flow along not in any contrived, forced way but in a natural, fluid style that seems almost effortless--though I'm certain it isn't.
As I hinted above, his novels are full of sex (nothing too graphic), and his male characters can not stop thinking about it--and/or doing something about it. The eyes of his men are magnetized by the behinds of women--of all (legal, pretty much) ages. Over and over again we read about men's delight in the callipygian charms of girls and women. Sunderson wonders at one point when all of this will end. I don't expect it will, not while Harrison draws breath and exhales it into the souls of his male characters.