Dawn Reader

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

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sunday Sundries, 92

1. AOTW: Runner up: The woman who pulled right out in front of me (from a commercial driveway) as I was heading south on Rt. 91. Jammed brakes. Said some naughties.
Winner: At the health club, I returned to my locker after working out, and a guy nearby had spread his stuff over the entire bench (designed for sharing!). I had to go to the other side of the room to get ready for my shower. He made not the slightest move to allow me some room. AOTW!

2. I finished two books this week.

  • Craig Johnson's novel The Dark Horse (2009), a Longmire novel that I read via Kindle, a few pages a night. I love the Longmire TV show--and some of the novels I read. Not this one. I just could not get interested in it, and even the "exciting" parts were not all that exciting--or plausible. Sometimes writers of thrillers and detective novels move their hero somewhere else instead of his/her home ground, just to see (that was the case here). In my reading, I don't think it ever works out too well. But, of course, I'll keep reading the series (what else am I gonna do?). 
  • Jim Harrison's latest collection of novellas, The Ancient Minstrel (2016). I reviewed a couple of Harrison's books for the Cleveland Plain Dealer over the years, and, as a result, I've read all of his books. His best are great--the writing seems almost not like writing at all but more like a direct communication from him, mind to mind, heart to heart. Seamless. At other times ... well, not so hot. (In other words, he's like all other human beings.) This current collection shows both sides. I'll deal with each of the three below.
    • "The Ancient Minstrel" is a third-person novella he's written as a sequel to his memoir Off to the Side  (2002). In an introduction he tells us that since the line blurs--the line between what did happen and what traitor memory tells us has happened--then he might as well fictionalize the story somewhat. And the result is very good. (I liked his comment about teaching--which he'd done long ago: "the morbid routine of teaching" (22).) He tells about his purchase of a sow--and the consequences--and his periods of writing (poetry and fiction)--and of not writing. "He had to write and there were long periods of time when he didn't have a poem ready to arrive" (84). And he ends with some sage advice: "You don't want to be writing unless you're giving your life to it" (100).
    • "Eggs" is a very affecting story--the life story--of Catherine, whom we see at age 8 or so at the beginning, on a Montana farm. She has a gift with chickens (and they like her). We follow her through her life--though not always chronologically--and end in her old age, and Harrison gives us one of his very affecting endings, something he's very good at.
    • The weakest of the three is the final one, "The Case of the Howling Buddhas," which follows Sunderson, a former cop, and the focus of a couple of earlier fictions--The Great Leader (2011) and The Big Seven (2015). Anyway, Sunderson has some weaknesses of the flesh (to say the least), and in this story he steps over a cultural/societal/moral line--big time. The end is no real surprise--and the symbol at the end--a deer caught in a fence--is hardly subtle.
Harrison's male protagonists, by the way (and Harrison himself, if we can trust his memoir), have a deep and abiding interest in the behinds of women. Over and over and over they comment--and the trend continues here. The woman in "Eggs" has "a striking butt" (132). Delphine (a character in the final novella) has a "sumptuous ass" (212). This gets wearisome, to tell you the truth.

3. Netflix alerted us that the latest episode of the long-running series Midsomer Murders was available, and so, of course, we watched the first one. It was predictable: a remote community festival (in this case, a book festival!), a couple of odd murders, lots of red herrings. I cannot believe we've watched all of these episodes (the series began in 1997!): they are mostly average or below. The characters don't really develop. I don't really care about any of the characters. But still I watch. Like a dullard addicted to cheap candy bars.

4. Was it a coincidence--or marketing?--in the New York Times today when I found the Retirement section tucked into the Book Review? (Only Old Folks read books?)

5. Joyce and I watched the X-Files back in the day (the 1990s). Addicted. Although I never, ever (even in childhood) believed in the arrival of extraterrestrials, I kind of enjoyed the stories--the relationship between Mulder and Scully. But. This new series? (We've seen just two.) The first one was okay. But this most recent one--about some kind of lizard-man running around)--was, in my view, the worst single episode of any TV series I've watched since, oh, the early 1950s when our family got our first TV set. (Of course, I watched the episode all the way, though!)

6. Last night (Saturday) Joyce and I watched (Netflix DVD) the documentary King Corn (2007). Two young recent college grads go out to Greene, Iowa (northern part of the state, between Waterloo and Mason City), where they lease a single acre in a corn field. Their goal: to plant corn, to see where it goes. They encounter some very friendly and cooperative locals and go off to look at cattle feed lots, at places that convert corn to high fructose corn sweetener, interview locals, academics--and Michael Pollan! The young men are genial hosts; some information they share ranges from interesting (we Americans pay less of our income for food than anyone else in history) to alarming (the corn-fed beef suffer--and produce "meat" that's high in cholesterol and fat). Worth watching--though it's nearly a decade old now.

7. A Few Last Words: Some words-of-the-day this week from my various online subscriptions.

  • nephology (the study of clouds)--OED
  • rupestrine (living or growing on or among rocks)--dictionary.com
  • bookaholic (hmmm ... wonder what this means)--OED; the word is recent (1965)

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