1. AOTW: Amazingly, no one really stood out this week. But Christmas is coming, and some people, I know, have very special ... gifts ... they save for the holiday season!
2. This week we finished streaming the 5th season of Portlandia, and the wackiness continued in this unique series featuring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, who play a variety of characters (of varying genders) in each episode. It's fun to see some of Armisen's former SNL colleagues pop in for a cameo now and then (Seth Meyers was in a recent one), and other notables (Jeff Goldblum, Kyle MacLachlan, etc.), too. I can't "binge-watch" these shows--about one a week is all I can take ... I seem to have some sort of Wackometer that will not permit any more than that!
What drew me to Mandel's work, I think, was a review that had mentioned a Shakespeare angle to the story, and, indeed, there is a traveling company of survivors that goes around mounting productions of Lear, Midsummer Night's Dream, and some others in the little communities that have gathered since the great destruction. We follow the stories of several characters, and Mandel moves artfully around in time, filling us in on the stories of her principals. There's also a Bad Guy, who calls himself The Prophet and has gathered around him a group of (murderous) True Believers. So there's a little violence here, as well.
What I liked best--the storytelling, the clever use of Shakespeare's plays, and the hope that infuses all. We fall, we start over, we try again ...
4. I also finished Rick Moody's latest, Hotels of North America (2015), which purports to be the
collected online reviews of a guy named Reginald Edward Morse. "Rick Moody" appears at the end in an Afterword, but he has just stepped into his own novel as a character, not as "himself." Most of the reviews are about the reviewer (generally the case in all kinds of reviews, even those written by someone I know about as well as my own image in the mirror), and so we learn all about Morse's failed loves, marriage, his daughter, and, incidentally, some amusing observations about America's motels and hotels.
I was struck because I've stayed in some of the places he mentioned--and others? Well, he has a review of a place in Cannon Beach, Ore., the beautiful little town where my parents first retired; he also has a review of the Tall Corn Motel in Des Moines. Well, there was a Tall Corn in Davenport, Iowa (not in Des Moines, as far as I know), and back before our son was born, Joyce, my brother (Dave), and I were driving out to Des Moines for a family visit, and my 1969 VW Fastback broke down near Davenport, and we spent a night in the Tall Corn. Quite an experience.
Cleveland makes the novel, too.
Anyway, Moody is the master of the l-o-n-g sentence, and the cumulative power of some of them is stunning--as is the final paragraph of this very unique, original novel by one of my favorite contemporary writers.
4. We started streaming yet another British mystery series, Vexed (link to trailer for Season 1), a very odd series about a couple of mismatched homicide detectives: a crude, barely competent, ethically challenged guy and a bright confused woman married to something of a creepo. The very first scene in the very first episode shows the two looking at a flat for her to rent, and it's a little while before we realize that this is a crime scene, and the bloody body is lying on the floor!
Again, I can't binge-watch this. Saving and savoring,
5. Finally--last night we watched (Netflix DVD) the 2009 Steven Soederbergh film (link to trailer), The Informant, which stars Matt Damon as a troubled executive with Archer Daniels Midland (corn products mega-corporation) who, at first, seems to be a stereotypical whistle-blower. But then the film gets interesting as the complexities of Damon's character emerge. Complexities is an understatement. Soederbergh is a masterful storyteller, and so the thing unwinds in surprising ways--and features some very odd characters--Damon's wife, a couple of FBI agents, who are, to see the least, not, uh, typical.
I don't know why we didn't see this when it was in theaters ... ? But loved watching it last night.