Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sunday Sundries, 54

1. AOTW--I thought this would be a no-brainer this week ... but then ... at the last minute ... a tie.

  • On Tuesday, I rode my bike to Starbucks after lunch. When I arrived, I tossed my backpack and helmet on the couch--unoccupied--by the front door and went to stand in a line of a half-dozen people or so. When I got my coffee (grande Pike, if you're interested), and headed back to "my" couch, I saw there was an older guy (my age?) sitting there, newspaper open to cover his face. I stood and stared (and pondered the meaning of the word incredible) and picked up my stuff and went to another chair and felt like the wuss I am. (Shoulda sucker-punched the dude, right?)
  • Last night (Saturday), Joyce and I were driving south on the Rt. 8 freeway to the Chapel Hill area. I need a new spring jacket, and Joyce had agreed to pony up (Father's Day, you know). We were in the right lane, doing 5 mph above the speed limit. We passed an on-ramp. A moment later I heard a roar (like a castrated bull ... do they roar? they should!) Anyway, a small red sports car roared by us on the right--inches away--swerved over into our lane--inches ahead of us--roared off into the future, where (as he perhaps is learning right now) he would share the AOTW Award!

2. As some of you know, I've been (slowly) working my way through all the novels of Mary Ann Evans, aka George Eliot (1819-1880). Some years back I listened to the CDs of Middlemarch while I was driving to and from the Cleveland Clinic, where, for seven weeks, I was undergoing daily radiation treatments for my pesky prostate cancer. I finished the novel my final day, sitting in our driveway after my final treatment, weeping.

Anyway, I thought I'd read the others (none of which I'd read before), and so I decided to read them in the order of original publication. And so I began--Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), and now I'm into Romola (1863), a novel that takes place in Remaissance Florence.

I really liked the novels before Romola--even Silas Marner, the bane of many students in our Hiram High School (though we had a new teacher my senior year--the Marner guy, Mr. Brunelle, had retired, and we did not read it!). But I've been struggling with Romola--just can't get too interested in it.

Okay. So, some months ago, knowing nothing (much) about Eliot's life, I contacted Kirsten Parkinson, a professor at Hiram College, Joyce's long-time colleague who teaches the Victorians. I asked about a good general biography to read, and she recommended what you see below (and she was right: It is very good). George Eliot: The Last Victorian (by Kathryn Hughes).

And let me tell you how thrilled I was to learn that Eliot had a terrible time writing Romola. She knew the book wasn't much good. And here's what Hughes wrote: "It is hardly surprising that Romola turned out to be lengthy, laboured and dull.  ... dead at its centre" ... with "history-lesson tedium" (243, 249).

Oh, yes!

But, of course, I will finish it ...

2. I also finished Lucky Alan, the recent collection of short stories by Jonathan Lethem, one of the most versatile and unusual fiction writers today. (I read through all of his work a year or so ago when I was preparing to review his new novel, Dissident Gardens (2013).) I pretty much liked the stories in the new collection--and they are as different from one another as three random passers-by on the street (other than being filled, of course, with his keen intelligence and wry imagination).

A sample of that humor: In the story "Traveler Home," some wolves arrive at a guy's place and leave a human baby there for him! Turns out it was the incorrect address, but the guy gets it to the proper family.

3. When did postcards get so big? Geez, the postcard-ads that come in our (junk) mail are huge. Do they think we'll pay more attention? Market research must tell them, "Yes, people will pay more attention." And, I guess, in a way, I have (as this item proves). But they still all go straight to the recycle bag.

4. This week I memorized my 149th literary passage (almost all poems), Amy Lowell's "Night Clouds." Lowell (1874-1925) and her poem appear in Adventures in Reading, the literature anthology we used at Hiram High School, 9th grade, 1958-1959, Mrs. Browning. I've been picking poems from that book to memorize because ... well, probably because I'm a nostalgic sap.

Night Clouds
by Amy Lowell

The white mares of the moon rush along the sky
Beating their golden hoofs upon the glass Heavens;
The white mares are all standing on their hind legs
Pawing at the green porcelain doors of the remote Heavens.
Fly, mares!
Strain your utmost,
Scatter the milky dust of stars
Or the tiger sun will leap upon you and destroy you
With one lick of his vermilion tongue.

Amy Lowell

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