1. AOTW--Well, I saw something this week at the health club that profoundly disgusted me. Let's just say that it involved a sink in the locker room and a pair of men's underwear? No more--I've said too much for a Sunday!
2. I finished the final (posthumous) novel of Oscar Hijuelos this week--Twain & Stanley, a novel that imagines the (actual) friendship of Mark Twain and explorer Henry Stanley ("Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"). Hijuelos (says his wife in the Afterword) spent at least twelve years on the book, researching, writing, and I believe it. I know a lot about Twain (I've read all/most (?) of his books), and I had a childhood fascination for Stanley, principally because of a 1939 movie I saw on TV years ago, Stanley and Livingstone, with Spencer Tracy as Henry Morton Stanley. (Link to a YouTube clip from the film.)
In my memoir (Turning Pages: A Memoir of Books and Libraries and Loss, Kindle Direct) I talk more about this interest in Stanley, and, later, I bought some of his books, which still stand on my shelf.
Anyway, Hijuelos imagines this friendship in great detail (he had little actual documentation), including letters, conversations, and journal entries (principally from Stanley's wife, Dorothy). Shifting points of view, he follows their relationship from 1859, when they met on a Mississippi river boat, which young Sam Clemens was piloting, and follows them to the end.
I liked how Hijeulos hinted at the affection between Twain and Lady Stanley (a lit fuse that never burned down to the explosive), and I liked, as well, how he handled the subsequent blows to Stanley's reputation when stories emerged about his abuse of people in the Congo.
You have to wait until just about the very end to learn the significance of the title, a significance I ain't tellin'!
I'd not read any Hijuelos before this, but I've ordered some of his earlier books.
3. Have you watched any of the "documentary" by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, An Idiot Abroad? We've streamed the 1st season on Netflix, and the stories about their collaborator Karl Pilkington (who plays a dull dude) whom Gervais and Merchant, for a gag, send around the world to visit some iconic sites--the pyramids, Inca and Aztec ruins, etc. They always make certain he has lousy accommodations and has to do things that are, well, uncomfortable.
And speaking of "uncomfortable," that's how we feel as we watch. We've rarely watched an entire episode straight through--it's just too painful to watch. (Link to some footage.)
4. On Christmas Day--after spending the morning cleaning up after our Christmas Eve dinner and gift-exchange with our son and his family--Joyce at I went to see Joy, the new film by David O. Russell, starring Jennifer Lawrence, with important supporting parts by Robert DeNiro (her father) and Bradley Cooper (with whom she has a business relationship).
It's based on a true story of a woman (whose home life, to say the least, is a mess) who invents a new kind of mop--and charts her struggles to get someone to sell it (and to root out those who are trying to con/cheat/deceive her).
Everyone performs well, but Russell's view of the "American Dream" is a dark one, at least in my eyes. The pursuit of wealth. Get that mansion. Those accouterments. Happiness is then certain. Is Russell promoting this view? Or satirizing it? Watch it and see what you think. (Link to trailer.)
5. We'd sort of forgotten about the TV show Elementary, a modern Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller with Lucy Liu as Watson), so we were glad to see the shows are all on Hulu. We've been streaming Season 2 ... I see that some episodes are on YouTube, too ... In 2011, Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch starred in a stage production of Frankenstein, alternating characters (Victor F., the creature). I haven't seen it yet but am going to have to remedy that quickly. (Link to some video.)
6. I'm on call for jury duty this week at the Summit County Courthouse. Sigh. I've been called several times over the years--but have not yet actually served on a jury.
7. Finally--the word-of-the-day from dictionary.com today seems fitting for the Holidays:
abdominous = having a large belly; pot-bellied