Dawn Reader

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

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sunday Sundries, 105

1. AOTW: Well, I had a little debate this week: There were two obvious choices. What the hell--split the award!

  • It seemed as if all the drivers in northeastern Ohio had gotten together and decided: "This week, if we see Dyer coming, let's dart out in front of him from a parking lot--or make left turns right in front of him as he approaches. That'll get the Old Boy's heart going!" It did.
  • When I opened the locker I would use at the health club on Saturday, I saw that the previous user had left three filthy, noisome towels piled on the bottom. (I had my umbrella--so I used it to pick them up and deposit them in the towel bin, about fifteen feet from the locker. Did not want to touch them since, you see, I have no desire to get the Plague.)
2. The past couple of weeks I've written about a film from years ago (1965)--36 Hours--with James Garner, Rod Taylor and Eva Marie Saint in a WW II drama about a Nazi plot to figure out when and where D-Day will occur. (Link to original trailer for the film.) It's a film I saw in college at the Hiram College Cinema.

I wrote that I'd been surprised to learn that the filmmakers based the screenplay on a Roald Dahl story--"Beware of the Dog"--a tale that originally appeared in the Oct. 1944 issue of Harper's Magazine--just about a month before I was born. Well, last week I reported on that story (I'd found a copy online; read it). But this week--I couldn't stand it. I ordered a copy of the original magazine (found one on eBay), and here it is. The first image shows the entire cover; the second is a close-up showing Dahl's title. (Link to Dahl's story.)

Well, all of this will go in a folder in a file drawer, and some descendant will look at it and wonder, "What was wrong with Daniel Dyer? [Pause.] Is madness genetic?"

3. I finished one book this week, another novel by the late John A Williams (1925-2015), a fine writer who died not quite a year ago (July), a writer of whom I'd not heard until I read his Times obituary last summer. I've been proceeding through his works, slowly, and I've read two of his nonfiction books and now, having just completed his 1985 novel !Click Song, I've read nine of his twelve novels.

!Click Song is the story of a black novelist, Cato Caldwell Douglas, his rise in the publishing world, his career-long competition with a white writer, Paul Cummings, whose work always earns more celebration (in reviews, in the reading world) than Douglas' work does. Once again we see the formidable barriers preventing black writers and editors from having much of an effect in the publishing world--a very white world in Douglas' (and Williams') day. We follow Douglas into his later years--his relationships, his children (a son, Glenn, also becomes a writer--as does a son out of wedlock during some time Douglas spent in Spain).

We also get some sharp scenes in the academic world, where Douglas goes to earn his steady income (his novels produce a very unreliable source of funds). He gradually sours on students, is upset that they seem more interested in grades than in learning anything. Douglas says (of his students): "We insisted that they learn to write and to comprehend what was written"--a demand that did not make him popular in his classes (300). He also comments about sexual relations between students and professors--he tells us of "writers who'd run through the coeds like Zeus through a flock of swans ..." (263).

We see his marriage grow stronger by the year, too.

I liked how Williams interwove Douglas' dreams with experiences--sometimes I couldn't tell which was which (Williams intentionally dissolves the two into each other, each a different kind of reality).

It's sad when Douglas' career begins to slide. Publishers seem no more interested in the experience of black Americans (hey, Civil Rights is over, right?), and readers (one editor tells him) no longer want to be challenged.

Some prescient stuff here, too--Douglas wonders if there will ever be a black President. And--visiting a prison to do a reading--he's shocked to see that virtually all the inmates are brown or black.


4. We saw two films this week (at home).
  • We've decided to work our way through all the Coen Bros.' films, in order, and this week we watched Raising Arizona (1987--Netflix DVD), with the young Holly Hunter and Nicholas Cage (who used to be such a fine actor in independent films--no comment about now.) There are some wacky scenes I'd forgotten--e.g., when Cage steals some diapers from a mini-mart, and the cops pursue, blasting away as if he'd robbed the Federal Reserve. (Trailer for film) Oh, a great performance (in a smaller part) by John Goodman, barely recognizable in his youth. Until you hear that voice ...
  • We also saw (Netflix streaming) a documentary featuring MIT linguist Noam Chomsky--Requiem for the American Dream (2015). Chomsky talks calmly and analytically about the state of the American economy, about inequality, about how all of this came to be, about what we can/should do about it. The political right has long demonized Chomsky (and I can see why), but there is no shouting here, no hectoring, no wild accusations--just some rational discourse (and some storytelling) about what is going on--and about what the solution(s) might be. (Link to YouTube trailer for the film.) 

5. Some final words ... from my various online word-of-the-day services ...
  • villatic \vi-LAT-ik\ adjective (dictionary.com)
    of or relating to the country or to a farm; rural.
    Origin: Villatic entered English from the Latin villāticus, and derives from vīlla meaning "farm; country house." (from dictionary.com)
  • proditor, n. obsolete (from the OED)
    A traitor; a betrayer.
    1436 Rolls of Pail. IV. 500/2 Youre Lieges on the See Costes went to the See, in resistence of youre Proditours, Rebelles, and Adversaries.
    a1460 Knyghthode & Bataile(Pembr. Cambr. 243) 1357 (MED), The proditours that fle from oost to ooste, Be war of hem.
    c1500 Melusine(1895) 310 Wycked & vntrue prodytour & enemy of god.
    1546  in State Papers Henry VIII(1852) XI. 95 As manifest ennemy and proditour to the Cristen state.
    1601  in Cal. State Papers Scotl.(1969) XIII. App. 1134 The Catholik cause wharof I was callit proditor a betrayer, because I spak as said is.
    a1616  Shakespeare Henry VI, Pt. 1(1623) i. iv. 31, I doe, thou most vsurping Proditor, And not Protector of the King or Realme.
    1657  M. Hawke Killing is Murder & No Murder 54 [He] was betrayed by his Servant,..whom..they..as a Proditor precipitated from the Tarpeian stone.
    1678  G. Mackenzie Laws & Customes Scotl. i. 129 The betrayer or proditor.
  • Olykoek \OL-i-koo k\ noun  (dictionary.com) 
    1. Hudson Valley: Older Use. doughnut
    Origin: Olykoek is an Americanism with roots in New York Dutch. It is formed on the basis of the Dutch oliekoek meaning "oilseed cake," equivalent to olie, "oil," plus koek, "cake."
    Quote: Such heaped up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds, known only to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the tender olykoek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller …
    -- Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," The Sketch Book, 1820

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