Dawn Reader

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

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday Sundries, 72

1. AOTW: I continue to be dazzled by two traffic maneuvers (executed by all the AsOTW out there):
  • Failing to use the turn signal (it's that little lever attached to the left side of the steering wheel--lets people know, via flashing lights on front and back, that you're about to turn).
  • Making left turns by following the hypotenuse instead of the other two legs of the right triangle. 
2. I finished three books this week--a thriller, a work of journalism and history, a collection of short stories.

- Agent 6 (2012) by Tom Rob Smith is the third novel in Smith's fine trilogy of novels about Leo Demidov, a member of the Soviet secret police, and in the three novels we see his rise, fall, redemption (sort of). I read the first two novels (Child 44 and The Secret Speech) when they were originally published (2008 and 2009, respectively) and was impressed with his knowledge of Cold War intensities and with his ability to weave a story. There was a recent film (Child 44, 2015), with a screenplay by another favorite of mine, Richard Price, that combined some elements from the first two novels. Loved the film (link to trailer).

In this third novel, Demidov has fallen from favor, is in Afghanistan, drugged on opium most of the time. But he longs to get to the United States, where he can figure out what happened to his wife and daughter, framed for the murder of a Paul-Robeson figure on a visit there. We weave our way around the war zones, then arrive in New York for the exciting resolution. There's more afterwards, but I ain't tellin'.

- In The Teacher Wars (2014) journalist Dana Goldstein takes us back to the dawn of the United States and steadily moves forward, giving us the background on the issues that continue to perplex us today--teachers' unions, tenure, testing, curriculum development, etc. I took some history of American education courses in grad school--and read a lot, too--so not a lot here was new for me, but it was compelling to see it arranged in ways to illuminate our current debates about public education. She keeps a balanced perspective for the most part--looking at the principal "sides" of the issues--and at the end she offers some conclusions and suggestions, which, of course, we will ignore. Examples: Teacher Pay Matters (duh: make the job attractive in financial and other ways, and young people will consider it); Focus on the Principal as Much as the Teacher (yep: I had two great ones, and they made all the difference--for the kids, the community, the faculty); Return Tests to Their Rightful Role as Diagnostic Tools (yep).

- Joy Williams' short-story collection The Visiting Privilege (2015) brings together some previously collected and published stories with some newer ones. And they are terrific. Often featuring people who are clinging to the cliff's edge, they are sharp, focused, generally brief, and help us understand the survival of those who are not the fittest. She is great with dialogue, the ambiguous ending, and the surprise, among which are allusions to surprising names from literary history--surprising because of the contexts (the lower reaches of our socio-economic classes). Williams is one of our best writers--nonfiction, novel, short story. Check her out.

3. As some of you know, I subscribe to some words-of-the-day on various Internet dictionary sites, and there were some words this week I liked (mostly because I didn't know their origins).

- dog-and-pony show dates back to the late 19th century; some more from the OEDOriginally: a small circus or travelling show, esp. (in early use) one featuring only dogs and ponies. In extended use: a small-scale or poor quality entertainment or service.’

- scuttlebutt (from dictionary.com): 1. Informal. rumor or gossip.
2. Nautical. a. an open cask of drinking water. b. a drinking fountain for use by the crew of a vessel.

The site adds this: Scuttlebutt entered English in the late 1700s from the word scuttle, referring to a hatch in the deck of a ship, and butt in the sense of a cask or barrel. The informal sense arose in the early 1900s.

- obmurmuration (one I just flat did not know), from OEDThe action or an instance of complaining or criticizing. It dates to 1604, just before the arrival at Jamestown of you-know-who. Not used very often these days (I would guess!).

4. Finally--The leaves are all over the yard; I put our outdoor grill away for the winter; I probably won't be riding my bike much longer this fall; the storm doors and windows are on; I am, on some days, wearing socks made of SmartWool; we're having cornmeal mush for suppers on Saturdays again (our cold-weather custom)--mixed with local honey and walnuts; the snow shovels, hanging in the garage, are vibrating with excitement and anticipation.

I'm not.

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