1. AOTW: At a coffee shop--sitting at a table not ten feet away from me--an older man bellows: Liberalism is a form of incurable brain cancer! As both a liberal and a cancer victim I found much to offend in the AOTW's remark. And I thought all day--and afterwards--about how horribly polarized we are now--demonizing the "other side," believing the vilest Internet stories/memes (as long as they assail, demean, misrepresent the Other Side), judging entire groups of people by their worst members. And on and on ... Are we truly hopelessly divided? I fear so.
2. This week we finally finished watching (via DVR) the second season of True Detective, the HBO series we loved last year and more or less tolerated this year. Among the characters it was hard to find someone to admire--but we sort of settled on Rachel McAdams, the former Mean Girl (and fellow cast member with TD2 Bad Guy Vince Vaughan in Wedding Crashers), who played a dour detective with issues. The whole series could have been subtitled: Through a Glass Darkly. No wish to see it again.
3. This week--I finished reading Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul's A Bend in the River, 1979, a novel narrated by a young man trying to run a business in a small town (at the eponymous bend in the river) in unnamed African state undergoing political turmoil (to say the least). The young man's growing political, sexual, and, well, human awareness parallel the larger issues around him, and we see clearly the problems of race and class and ethnicity and religion--and the hunger for power. The effects of poverty. And wealth. We see how defining some humans as "other" enables us to do the worst to them. And we see that hope never has a capital letter.
I read the book because the English faculty at Western Reserve Academy (I retired from there in June 20111) are reading the book together and will be meeting (or have met?) to talk about it. Perhaps I'll join them. (Or perhaps I missed it?) Could be fun.
4.I also finished Jude Morgan's The Secret Life of William Shakespeare (2012), a novel about the early career of the title character (you've heard of him?). I was slow to warm to the novel but gradually got caught up in it. We get the point of view of Ben Jonson, as well--and there are some encounters with Christopher Marlowe (until he takes a knife in the eye--buh-bye, Chris). Morgan did a good job of bringing Anne Shakespeare to life--and shows her taking a couple of trips to London to see her husband's work. Her second trip has another motive: Who is this woman in the sonnets?
Morgan shows Shakespeare as brilliant (of course) but also a man with a fierce work ethic--as he certainly must have had to complete some thirty-seven plays (or more) in the years he was in London--not to mention some some poems (Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece) and 154 sonnets!
We see him, too, as a Reader--as he surely had to have been. And as an actor with average ability, content to play minor character parts.
Shakespeare fans will enjoy seeing the genesis of his ideas for Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, and numerous others. (The more you know the more fun you'll have with the novel--probably true of any novel.)
The novel ends with the death of Elizabeth I and the coronation of James I (1603); Shakespeare's career was far from over. A sequel?
I try to read the novels dealing with Shakespeare and his world--always fun to see how contemporary writers perceive him and his accomplishments.
5. Joyce and I watched a DVD of Shall We Dance (1937), the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers film. The plot (as usual) is ridiculous, and you wait (and wait and wait) for the dance numbers. Our favorite was when the two of them tap dance in roller skates! (YouTube link to rollerskating scene).
6. Finally: This was the third week in a row that the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Sunday book page had reviews "off the wire" only--two of the three were from the LA Times (the other was from the Dayton Daily News--at least it's in Ohio!). My editor had warned me that this was coming. And it has come. No more local writers will be reviewing on those pages.
So book-lovers in the Cleveland area can either check the LA Times' website for reviews (or the Dayton Daily News)--or wait until Sunday and read them in the Plain Dealer.
Sad. All this does is give another group of people--a fairly large group, I would think--a reason to cancel their subscriptions.
I started reading the Plain Dealer when we moved to Ohio in 1956; I was not quite twelve years old. My wonderful Hiram College English professor Abe Ravitz reviewed for the paper when I was an adolescent, and then, improbably, I began doing so in 2000. It was always a privilege--one that I did not take lightly.
And there were numerous talented local writers whose reviews I always looked forward to reading.