Sunday, October 4, 2015
Sunday Sundries, 69
1. AOTW: Whoever came up with the idea that we'd like to see an advertisement on the LCD at the self-serve gas pump before we can start pumping. (I have figured out a workaround!)
2. It was the 120th anniversary of the first publication of The Red Badge of Courage recently--a book (as I recall from my mom's teaching career) that used to be standard teaching fare. The explosion of YA novels in recent years has pretty much replaced the (short) novels that used to adorn the secondary-school English curriculum--from Red Badge to The Call of the Wild to Ethan Frome to Silas Marner to ... (Frome, as you can see, recently appeared on my book-nerd calendar.)
Back in the summer of 2004 we English III (juniors) teachers at WRA assigned the Library of America edition of the works of Stephen Crane (1871-1900) for the "summer reading" that year. Although I'd read a lot of Crane (thank you, Dr. Ravitz at Hiram College!), I'd not read it all, so I spent the summer both reading all of his work and visiting some key sites in his life, including the towns of Port Jervis, NY, where he grew up (and where they have a Crane Walking Tour) and Asbury Park, NJ (which has a Crane home/museum); Joyce and I also went to Newark, NJ, to Evergreen Cemetery, site of his grave.
I'll do a longer post on Crane one day, including some of the photographs we have of various sites.
Oh, and I loved it that he played on the baseball team at Syracuse University! You can see SC right in the center (1890), his chin resting on his right fist.
3. Last night, Joyce and I saw Pawn Sacrifice, the film about the 1972 chess battle between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in Iceland (trailer for film). I remember so many of the things the film portrayed (I was 28 years old at the time--a new father!), and I loved how they showed clips from old newscasts and talk shows (they even digitally replaced the actual Fischer with Tobey-Maguire Fischer in some moments from the Dick Cavett Show (link to that 1971 interview on YouTube)).
Maguire was pretty good as Fischer (but better as Peter Parker), and we especially admired the performance of Peter Sarsgaard, playing a priest here (a Fischer intimate and supporter), an actor often consigned to psycho roles.
The women in the film were most entirely pawns (!), but so it was in Fischer's world.
I read a book not long about about his sad disintegration into his madness and political-outcast state. He embraced nasty ideas about Jews (he was born into a Jewish family) and other sorts of conspiracy-theory wackiness.
The producers/director had to deal with chess, of course, and they kept it simple, for most of us don't know much about it except for the very simple legal moves of each piece. I played some as a kid but generally lost to everyone except those to whom I taught the moves--and soon they where whipping my behind, too. Haven't played in years.
4. A word-of-the-day this week from dictionary.com was melee, and it reminded me that for a long time I mispronounced that word. In fact, when I married Joyce (and started writing bad poems to her), I wrote a sonnet, "The Freeway Cow," about, well, a cow we saw on I-80 on one of our visits to Des Moines, Iowa, to see my parents in the 1970s.
The final couplet indicates my ignorance of the pronunciation:
A freeway cow can start a steel melee:
Believe in brakes, and that shall make you free.
So it goes ...
5. Finally, this week I finished reading Salman Rushdie's new novel, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, a novel that, by the way, got a bit of a condescending review in the New York Times Book Review today (link to review). I liked it a lot better than did the reviewer at the Times.
It is a fantastic novel (in the sense of odd and remarkable; bizarre; grotesque), dealing with a near-future war caused by the opening of "slits between the worlds"--the upper world of the jinn (frisky, sometime evil, things that enjoy sex) and the lower (our) world. The narrator, by the way, lives 1000 years from now.
The story often satirizes the way we live our lives (he is especially harsh on religion--so be advised), and it is chockablock with allusions to both high and low culture (from The Tempest and Frankenstein to Mickey Mouse and Gandalf) and shows Rushdie's silliness, too (there's a character named Mac Aroni).
But, finally, it's a novel about love, about courage, about belief, about sacrifice. And although I could quibble about a few things here and there, I looked forward each time to resuming the reading. Like every other fine writer, Rushdie can make you laugh, cry, groan, think--on virtually every page.