Dawn Reader

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

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sunday Sundries, 82

1. AOTW--How about those drivers who SEE me in the crosswalk in downtown Hudson and do not slow down (and sometimes accelerate!).

2. I was on call for jury duty this week--Summit Co. Common Pleas. The routine required me each late afternoon to call (or check their website--I did the latter) to see if my group would have to report the following morning. It was probably a "good" week to be on call: the holidays and all. And, in fact, there was only one day that any group had to go in (not mine). So ... I was available but did not serve.

This is (I think) the fourth time I've been on call. I actually got into a court room only once (to be interviewed), but by the time they got to me (or would have gotten to me), they'd already empaneled some folks, so I went home.

I taught Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men for many years (to middle-schoolers) and (early on) was kind of hoping I'd get on a jury to enliven the experience for the kids. Never happened.

And I don't think it will happen again. No one over 75 need serve, and I am accelerating toward that number (unfortunately).

Photo shows the web information the court offers to prospective jurors. (I was in the White group.)

3. Some recent words-of-the-day I liked (from the various online providers who send them to me):
  • eucatastrope  = a favorable turn of events in a narrative; a happy ending
  • clinquant = glittering, especially with tinsel
  • stelliferous = having or abounding with stars ("Stelliferous, stelliferous, night. / Paint your pallet blue and gray ....")
  • abdominous = having a large belly; potbellied 
  • philobiblian = book-lover
4. Some of you know that I recently finished reading The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After (a sequel), both by Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870). As a boy, I'd read both of those works in Classics Illustrated, the series of comics my parents, alarmed by my fondness for Superman and Jim Bowie, bought as some sort of touchingly hopeful alternative.

Recently, I got on eBay and bought the old Twenty Years After (I ain't tellin' how much it cost!). I see that this comic was copyrighted in 1947 (I was three).

And as I recently read it again one evening in bed, I was absolutely certain I could not have gotten very much out of it as a boy--or even now, if I hadn't read the novel. I would have liked the sort of panels you see below (reminding me a bit of Jim Bowie). But that's about it.

4. We saw three movies this holiday weekend!
  • Star Wars. I didn't care for it as much as the critics did--or as much as numerous friends and relatives did. It seemed, well, not all that different from the very first one I saw--a death star, a dark (evil) figure, young people discovering the Force is in them, etc. I know. Mentors. That was probably the point--to engage both the next generation of fans--and to remind a lot of older folks what a great time they'd once had with Han and Luke and Wookies and visual wonders. (Our son was about 5 when the first one came out and spent a couple of years dressed as Luke, running around the neighborhood making light-saber sounds.) But I fear I was bored most of the time--and alarmed, of course, by the vast numbers of murders in the film. Gettin' old ... me and murder.
  • Daddy's Home. No comment. Should be ashamed of myself. (Though I've always liked Will Farrell and Mark Wahlberg.)
  • The Big Short. We really liked this one. Clever filmmaking. Strong performances from everybody. But a depressing ending: Nothing's changed. Wall Street is Back At It. Another depressing thing: The film shows the rest of us being so self-absorbed that we don't even really care as long as we have Facebook and Twitter (and blogs?), etc.

4. Last summer, I saw in the New York Times an obituary for writer John A. Williams, a writer (Confession Is Good for the Soul) whom I'd not heard of. (Link to Times obit.) (Link to an NPR story about him, too.)

Everyone was talking about his novel The Man Who Cried I Am (1967), which, of course, I'd not read. A good friend (from back to college days) and writer William Heath recommended Man to me as well. So ... on the ABE.com, where I bought the copy you see below, and I finished reading it this week.

It's a powerful novel about the world of black writers--from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. Based (I've read) on the life of Richard Wright (1908-60), whose Black Boy and Native Son I read years ago, the novel adroitly shifts points of view throughout, hops around in Time a bit, and shows clearly the profound difficulties black writers have had in a white world--not to mention the competition among themselves. (There are only so many seats at the American Literary Table--and few, if any, were/are reserved for African Americans.)
Williams does not use real names for the most part (an exception--Malcolm Lowry, on whom I wrote a forgettable paper in grad school). Martin Luther King has a different name--and does not come off well; Malcolm X is "Reverend Q"; JFK is only the new President--that sort of thing. 

But it's wrenching to read--and more than a little depressing, too: Things have not really improved much since 1967. Oh, there are some better laws, some better opportunities, but as CNN and the newspapers tell us, day after day after day, race remains the most divisive and explosive issue of our time. And in The Man Who Cried I Am, the characters talk about this--repeatedly--reminding readers again and again of the privilege that whiteness confers on Americans--a privilege that too many of us, I fear, are unwilling to recognize. Or admit.

Not much of Williams is still in print--you'll have to go to ABE or other used-book sites to find him. I just recently bought his memoir This Is My Country Too (1965), which I'm going to read as soon as I finish a book about ... Billy the Kid (I know, I know).

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