Dawn Reader

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

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sunday Sundries, 101

1. AOTW--The parent (I'll not name a gender) who sat beside his/her little daughter (1.5? 2?); she was already playing with a hand-held gaming device; they ignored each other, each lost in a digital device. These are years and moment you can never recover--and you're losing them ... Made me far more sad than annoyed ...

2. I finished two books this week ...

  • Infinite Jest (1996) by the late David Foster Wallace (b. 1962, d. a suicide by hanging in 2008).
    • It was almost a year ago when I posted here about how and why I finally started reading Wallace's novel. (Link to that old post.) Prompting me was former WRA student Sam
      Clark; I saw him reading the book in the Open Door Coffee Co., and I, uh, sort of, uh, feigned/let on (lied?) that I had read it, too. Later, before a large scarlet IJ appeared on my breast, I pulled the book from the shelf and began ... June 11, 2015. And, as I said, I finished it just about a week ago (May 2). Okay, so it took me nearly 11 months. There are reasons.
    • For one--it's very long (1079 pp in my copy); the pages are big; the print is kinda small; DFW doesn't seem to see the necessity for paragraph breaks; the story is dense and complicated.
    • For another--I'm always reading other things--professionally (for book reviews), for curiosity (whatever), for fun. IJ is with my"bedtime" books--titles I pick away at every evening, approx. 10 pp/book. Right now here's what's with that group: Tobias Smollett's Travels Through France and Italy, Cori McCarthy's You Were Here; Stephen King's 11/22/63; Mary Beard's SPQR; John Irving's Avenue of Mysteries. I try to read 10 pp from each book each evening, but I don't always make it--especially with DFW.
    • I know that DFW has an enormous fan base. When I posted on FB that I'd finished the book, some of my friends "liked" it; some said it was their favorite book of all time.
    • I should admit here that I was not really "fair" to the book, reading it over an 11-month period. It's not the sort of novel that works well with that kind of schedule--especially at my age when I can forget the reason I just walked into another room in the house.
    • It was not among my favorite books--in fact (confession), I had to force myself to finish it. (Again--probably the fault of my reading schedule.) I did very much admire the book--such a complicated, inventive narrative--and I also laughed quite a bit (where I was supposed to, I hope). Also--I played on my college tennis team--and taught in a couple of summer tennis camps--so I really related to and enjoyed a lot of that stuff in the novel. I also saw all kinds of autobiographical stuff--especially the struggles with drugs, which, of course, DFW experienced for years. But, sadly, the fact is: I would not have finished it had not I kept running into Sam and his family down at Open Door!
    • Sam and I are going to meet this summer (he warns!) to talk about the book, and I have some notes and comments--and many questions. So that should be fun. But--for me--is was not a book to enjoy so much (as I said) as to admire. It is an astonishing achievement--but was not the best bedtime story for an Old Guy ...
  • The Junior Bachelor Society (1976), another novel by the vastly underrated John A. Williams (1925-2015), of whom (as I've written here repeatedly) I'd not even heard until I read his obituary in the New York Times last July 6  (link to that obit). I decided then that I'd read one,
    just to see what was going on, and since then I've decided to read them all, in the order he wrote them; I've read eight of his twelve novels, two of his six works of nonfiction. And I am both impressed and depressed--the former because of the quality of his work, the latter because of my ignorance. Bachelor, as I started to read it, bore a plot similarity to Broadway's hit play, That Championship Season, by Jason Miller (1972), a play that won the Pulitzer for Drama in 1973 (and some other awards). Both stories deal with a reunion of former athletes to honor their long-ago coach. But that's where the similarities end--just with the device. Season takes place in a living room where the players and coach have gathered. Some ugliness emerges in the course of the three-act drama.
    • Bachelor follows a number of characters--the coach, the former players, their lovers--
      multiple points of view throughout. And the plot also contains the story of a recent crime. One of the former players (Moon) has become a fairly successful pimp out in LA (the story takes place upstate New York), but in a confrontation, Moon kills a corrupt cop and is on the run. He decides he will stop briefly at the reunion, where ... well, some stuff happens.
    • I found the pimp-on-the-run the least interesting part of the novel; better, I thought, were the memories of the men, the struggles they've had in their lives (all are black), the varieties of peace they're beginning to make with themselves--and with one another. Some is very moving, affecting.
    • I've already got Williams' next novel on my pile--!Click Song (1982).
3. Is there a TV series more ironically titled that Happy Valley--streaming on Netflix--about a woman cop (played by the amazing Sarah Lancashire--also in the show Last Tango in Halifax, playing a very different character from this one), a West Yorkshire cop who gets involved in some nasty cases. We are partway through episode 2.2 (there are 6 episodes in Season 2), and it's all I can do to make myself watch it. I greatly admire her--love the ambiance--but her life is so grim (as is her profession) that it's just difficult--at least for me--to binge-watch. (Unlike, say, Death in Paradise, which has a far more playful attitude.)

4. Last night (Saturday) we started watching (Netflix DVD) a film I (for a reason I cannot recall) suddenly began thinking about a few weeks ago. The film--36 Hours (1964)--stars James Garner (pre-Rockford Files, though he had starred in a Western TV series Maverick (1957-62); Rod Taylor; Eva Marie Saint. I didn't know until I looked at the credits that the script is based on a story by Roald Dahl, "Beware of the Dog" (available on Google Docs), a tale I've not read, but I just printed it out; I'll read it tonight, report on it soon in this space.

  • The film takes place on the eve of D-Day, and the Nazis, uncertain where and when the invasion will occur, drug and kidnap James Garner (an American officer who knows all) and try to convince him that the war has been over for six years. Their hope: To get him to talk willingly. They have an entire "set" erected to resemble a military hospital; everyone speaks flawless English.
  • We stopped last night, about halfway through, and Garner has already said "Normandy," and the Nazis are hoppin' happy.
  • I remember seeing the film at the old Hiram College Cinema (our "Sunday night at the movies," open to the public). I see that it was released late in November 1964 (my junior year at Hiram College), so I suspect it didn't make it to Hiram until later in 1965--maybe the summer?
  • More later ...

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