Dawn Reader

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

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday Sundries, 89

1. AOTW: All those drivers I saw (from my coffee shop window) on February 10, drivers whose windshields were partially--even mostly--covered with ice and snow, reducing visibility to zilch, endangering not just themselves but everyone else on the roads.

2. This week I finished John A. Williams' 1960 novel--his first book--The Angry Ones. Last week I mentioned I had started it (and I also mentioned this lurid cover, which is about as misrepresentative of the text as it could possibly be). Williams' (1925-2015) obituary in the New York Times last summer both alerted me about his writing career, a career about which I'd known nothing, ignited yet another reading frenzy of all his works. The Angry Ones, the fourth of his books I've read, was his very first book, a paperback original (never published in cloth cover).

It's the story of Steve Hill, a young black writer in NYC after WW II (in which Williams himself served) who is trying to survive--and to help some friends survive, as well.

The only job he can find is with some sort of self-publishing outfit called Rocket, where he does promotional work for a pittance.(Williams himself had just such a job.) Over and over again in this novel we see black characters looking for jobs--being treated like street litter. If they even get an interview, they are treated with a pitiful lack of concern--or, sometimes, the interviewer thinks a black man is a porter, a delivery man of some sort. Williams writes these scenes quietly--no firestorms here (well, quiet ones). But readers cannot help but see how egregiously the white "establishment" treats these non-white characters. One of Steve's friends can't take it any longer, and ...

About halfway through the book, Steve anguishes about this "inexcusable, senseless, horrible waste of lives and talent" (103).

Steve has (sort of) a love life. The young woman he's loved since boyhood now lives in Albany, where she married ... Steve's brother (when it wasn't working out with Steve). But she's a widow now with two children, and Steve finds himself drawn toward her again.

And there's a white woman (see cover), Lois, who's profoundly attracted to Steve, but, in the end, she just can't do it--can't find the strength to be with him in a world that makes it profoundly difficult for mixed-race couples (there's a grim scene outside a bar one night).

Oh, and Steve's boss at Rocket (a gay man) tries to exert sexual pressure on Steve: no sex, no raise. The Rocket scenes, by the way, give us a good hard look at the NY publishing industry.

I was a little disappointed at the end (I thought Williams allowed Steve an easy way out), but, overall, a powerful book, published in 1960 when I was in high school. Before the March on Washington, the Kennedy and King assassinations, Vietnam, and on and on and on.

Anyway, I'm going to read on. The next book on my Williams pile is a novel--Sissie; I'll be starting it this week, just as soon as I finish Suzanne Berne's latest--The Dogs of Littlefield, a novel I'm loving.

3. This week, Joyce and I finished watching (Netflix streaming) what appears to be the final season of Foyle's War, a series we have adored from the get-go. The early seasons were about a small town English detective during WW II; the later ones, post-War, show Foyle now working as a government agent in London, but still applying the skills and insights and integrity he employed as a cop.

Michael Kitchen, who plays Foyle, is absolutely perfect for this part--about as fine a match (actor to character) as I've ever seen. Pictured in the background here is actress Honeysuckle Weeks (a fabulous name!), who plays his driver and whose husband is an ambitious young politician in London. She's absolutely credible and great in her part, too. I hope the rumors of "no-more-Foyle" are just that--rumors.

Oona Chaplin
4. We're also enjoying the British series The Hour (about a post-WW II BBC TV program) with Romola Garai, the wonderful Ben Whishaw (who plays Q in the recent James Bond Films), and Dominic West (The Wire). Watching it slowly, though: There are only six episodes--though I just checked trusty Wikipedia and see there's a 2nd season, as well! In a smaller part--so far--Oona Chaplin, Charlie's granddaughter who looks astonishingly like young Charlie (no, she does not wear the Tramp's clothing).

5. Finally--Joyce and I went to one of our favorite restaurants last night for a Valentine's Eve dinner--the Bistro on Main (on Kent's west side). Loved the food ... a few aftershocks today ...

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