Dawn Reader

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

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Sundries, 77

1. AOTW--What I love: An AOTW roars around me on a double-yellow line (unable to stand my going only 5 mph over the speed limit). And then, down the road, I see him (always a him), waiting at the next stoplight. His impatience has put him a car-length in front of me. It's all I can do not to honk, to offer some simple but sharp sign language.

2. Okay, so I watched the Transporter films with Jason Statham. More than once. So sue me. And a few months ago, spinning around through the offerings on Netflix's streaming service, I discovered that there was a TV series based on the films (sans Statham). I started watching them. Not all that good. No matter. I watched them all--both seasons (trailer). I'll confess that I generally didn't watch them when Joyce was in the bedroom. I watched them between the time I'd stopped reading for the evening and was ready for some Brain Rot. But, anyway, I got sort of hooked. This week I watched the final episode (the series has been cancelled), and the terminal (?) moments show Frank (Our Hero) driving at high speed through an alley directly at a Bad Guy in another car; a game of Chicken. Just before we see what's going to happen--blackout.

3. This week I finally finished George Eliot's 1850 novel, Romola, which, as I've noted here before, I had to force myself to finish. In recent decades I've read the complete novels of Dickens, Trollope, Thackeray--about to finish Smollett. And I started on Eliot. I've enjoyed the earlier novels--Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner--and I adored Middlemarch, which I "read" via a set of CDs. But I wanted to read the other ones, and Romola is the price I paid.

It's set in Renaissance Florence (that's Italy, not Florida), and involves (duh) Romola, the devoted daughter of a blind scholar. Enter Tito, an appealing and bright young newcomer (he's Greek), who becomes the father's assistant. Love breaks out. He marries Romola. But then ... Tito's Dark Side emerges. His most heinous act (in my eyes): He sells the scholar's great library! Then he gets involved in local (deadly) politics, has another family, and Gets His in a moment that ranks as high on the scale of Unlikely/Impossible as that moment in David Copperfield when Steerforth, David's old rival, washes up dead at David's feet on a beach near a shipwreck. But this coincidence in Romola is even more unlikely--and made me laugh aloud (not the response Eliot was hoping for, I would guess).

Anyway, I'm still going to read the rest of Eliot (hey, I started--now I have to finish), but I hope I have no more Romola-like experiences!

4. This week I also finished a novel I enjoyed as much as any I've read in a long, long time. Hogarth Press has planned a series of novels based on Shakespeare's plays (2016 is the 400th anniversary of his death)--novels written by various contemporary notables (link to Hogarth Shakespeare information). The first release is The Gap of Time, by Jeanette Winterson, a novel based on one of my favorite of the Bard's plays--The Winter's Tale. (Oddly, tomorrow we're going to our local Cinemark to see the Branagh-Dench production of the same play.)

Winterson has enormous fun with the story--and extracts from it some powerful moments and scenes. Long Shakespeare story short: a king believes his best friend has had sex with the king's wife and impregnated her. He tries to kill the friend (who flees safely) but orders the newborn to be abandoned in the wilderness. The child (Perdita) is saved by a loving family, grows up not knowing who she is; the accused wife dies (so the king thinks). And then he finds out he'd been wrong. Eighteen years pass. Everyone gets back together, the most dramatic moment of which involves the king's witnessing the unveiling of a statue of his late wife--only it's not a statue. It's she. Who forgives!!!!! Winterson gives that statue-moment a great twist.

Winterson sets the story today (Internet, Facebook), makes the accused wife a popular singer, adds some layers of homoerotic attraction between the king and his friend, etc. etc. I have to tell you that I wept at the end.

There's some metafictional playfulness, too--one direct mention of Winter's Tale and some other allusions to Shakespeare--clear and cloudy. And Winterson herself steps into the story near the end.

I so greatly admired Winterson's mastery of the page. She whisks us here and there, alters some of the original plot so that it makes more sense in the contemporary world, has some downright fun--e.g., Autolycus, the conman, cut-purse in the original, deals with used cars (Auto ..) and cheats at cards. I laughed aloud in the coffee shop--just as, later, I wept like a little kid who just found his lost kitten, which, miraculously, has learned to talk, The reason? Winterson gives Perdita the final two pages--a soliloquy of sorts--and she nails it.

Wonderful writing. I wish I could read it again and still feel my sense of wonder, surprise, elation.

5. Words, Words, Words. Some recent words I liked (for various) reasons, words that popped up on my various online word-of-the-day sites:

  • sternutate = to sneeze
  • inconnu-= an unknown person, a stranger
  • slugabed = a lazy person; one who stays in bed far too late 
  • fastuous = haughty, arrogant
  • pandiculation = the act of stretching oneself

6. A dream on Friday night: I am standing outside. The wind is very strong. Above me, I see items floating in the air. I realize they must be debris from a disaster in the sky. Suitcases, a large cardboard box, and a grand piano. The fierce wind holds them in the air. I hope the piano will not land on me. One item falls into my hand: a clipboard containing some person's schedule for the day. 

I wake up.

7. I thought we had finished all the available-for-streaming episodes of Midsomer Murders, but I discovered one more, an episode that had more than a few similarities to Hamlet. Murder of a father (by a brother?). The Danish police are involved. A gloomy son. A distraught girlfriend. Etc. All involving a kingdom of sorts--a very popular and profitable biscuit business. As usual, it had some incredibly dumb aspects (the Head Baker is a caricature of a caricature), but now, at last, we have seen all the ones available.

8. Finally ... last night we ran some errands, then came home and watched (via Netflix DVD) the 2015 film Chappie, which, though made by the guy (Neill Blomkamp) who did the fine District 9, nonetheless bombed at the box office. Basically, it's about a sentient robot (the first), which must be taught like a child but who--sadly, sadly--falls into the hands of some Bad Guys (who don't somehow seem all that bad by the end). The script is ludicrous, and security at the robot factory is more lax than at Kohl's. (Hugh Jackman's the Very Bad Guy.) But I still found myself having kind of a good time watching it. Scary to think that your entire consciousness, brain, memory, etc. might one day fit on a flash drive (as it does in the film). Link to trailer.

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