Dawn Reader

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

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sunday Sundries, 110

1. AOTW--No one really stood out this week (other than the usual Traffic Doofuses), so I will take the crown myself this week, with apologies to all.

2. Okay, so I'm streaming all 100 episodes of The Rockford Files again. So what if I've done it so many times I've lost count! I love that show that ran from 1974-1980.

3. Earlier this week Joyce and I went to see the new Tarzan movie. I grew up watching Johnny Weissmuller swinging through the sound stage--uh, jungle--and I liked Cheetah (who is NOT in the new film! Oh no!), I merely tolerated Jane (I was too young) and envied Boy.

Later, Lex Barker came along (he made only five Tarzan movies), but I was never too crazy about him. I missed Johnny W.
The last Tarzan film I saw (I think) was Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984), with the lean Christopher Lambert in the title role--and with appearances by stage heavyweights Ralph Richardson and Ian Holm. Jane was Andie MacDowell! It was directed by Hugh Hudson, whose previous film, Chariots of Fire, had won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1982 (he'd been nominated for--but had not won--in the Best Director category). I don't remember much about it--except not liking it very much.

This new Tarzan film--The Legend of Tarzan--adds Samuel L. Jackson to the mix (as an American academic), and the film retains all the awkwardness of the earlier ones. One white guy accomplishing what a country full of black guys can't. Yes, the filmmakers tried hard to make Jane more "liberated," to make many of the Congolese more competent and independent, but it still came down to the Same Old Thing. In this case--it was breaking up a massive attempt to enslave most of the country's people to work in the diamond mines to benefit Bad White Guys. Jane gets captured by the main BWG (of course--played in his now very familiar sleazy way by Christoph Waltz). I was affected now and then by some of the stuff with the animals--all CGI, of course. But still ... Something about a man nuzzling with a lion, you know? And the deep, expressive eyes of an elephant?

BTW: For you Aurora, Ohio, readers--Johnny Weissmuller (pre-Tarzan), who had been a swimming champion (multiple golds in the 1924 Summer Olympics), appeared at Geauga Lake Park, where, at 22, he set a new record in the 220-yd freestyle. It was July 11, 1926. Ninety years ago, almost exactly.

4. I finished one book this week, the 2016 novel, The Whale: A Love Story, by Mark Beauregard (his debut), the story of the relationship (and, yes, "relationship") between Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne (15 years his senior) in 1850-51 when both were living out in the Berkshires (Pittsfield and Lenox, Mass., respectively). Hawthorne had just published The Scarlet Letter and was at work on The House of Seven Gables; Melville was trying to rescue his once-thriving career by writing a story about a white whale.

Because my mom lives now in Lenox (and, previously, in Pittsfield), and because my two brothers (both of whom live in the Boston area) share an old farmhouse in Becket, Mass. (not far from all of this), for a weekend/holiday retreat, I have been out there many times, and so I greatly enjoyed re-visiting the sites so important in their story--Monument Mountain (which the two writers climbed on the day they met; with them, among others, was Oliver Wendell Holmes--not a bad day's outing!), Arrowhead (the former Melville farm, now a museum), and the red Hawthorne cottage (rebuilt on its original site--near Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony). Joyce and I have been in the houses, have climbed the mountain.

Also, Beauregard's research was thorough. He knows the places. Knows the biographies. Knows the books. Knows the written correspondence between the two (though virtually all of the Hawthorne-to-Melville letters are gone). He uses the correspondence here liberally--even composes letters when he needs to. And he does a good job of showing how absolutely smitten Melville was with the older writer, whom he greatly admired ...

... and had the hots for in this new novel (and maybe actually). But I felt for much of the time that I was reading a romance novel (and, yes, there is some pelvic grinding but nothing much beyond: Hawthorne won't allow it, though Melville is eager for it). Although Beauregard does make a good, solid effort to reconstruct what must have been some lively intellectual conversation between the two, I just wasn't too convinced--and the real interest, it seemed to me, was in the fire of this attraction--how damaging it could have been to both of them--how helpless Melville was (and how willing)--how fiercely moral Hawthorne was ... but weak, too.

But--again--the diction was ... excessive. For example ...

  • p. 105: Beautifully dying, dusky yellow oak leaves spun in the gentle breeze, catching the soft afternoon sunlight. As Jeanie Field's buggy approached Arrowhead, the gaudy rubies of sumac trees beckoned her gaze up toward the blond and crimson crowns of maples and ashes and finally to the tips of the fading yellow oaks, which glowed in the full light far above. The whole landscape fluttered and changed with every breath of air ....
  • p. 131, in Melville's mind: Oh, Nathaniel, we humans are but droplets of the essence of God, lost on the fertile earth, all separate but remembering the same vast ocean from which we came. Oh, Nathaniel, I know that you felt the pull of this tide of love in your heart--we are split from the same original impulse, and together we create not just love but creation itself ....
  • p. 222: Hawthorne turned his head aside, and a thrill of terror shot through Herman's whole body--he clutched at Hawthorne, who convulsed and gasped, and this shuddering continued wordlessly for a few moments. The room seemed veiled in supernatural shadows.
A bit much, eh?

Still, I'm glad I read it (for the reasons above), but I wouldn't call it a whale of a story. More delphine.*

5. Some final words--some words I like from my various online word-of-the-day providers ...
    Forms: α.   18– herogony   Brit. /hᵻˈrɒɡəni/, /hᵻˈrɒɡn̩i/,  U.S. /həˈrɑɡəni/.  β.   18– heroogony.
    Origin:A borrowing from Latin, combined with English elements; modelled on a Greeklexical item. Etymons: hero n., -gony comb. form, Latin heroogonia, Greek ἡρωογονία.
    Etymology:In α. forms <  hero n. + -gony comb. form, after Byzantine Greek ἡρωογονία (see below). Compare post-classical Latin herogonia (1740 or earlier). Compare theogony An account of the genealogy and history of heroes or demigods, esp. the unfinished account forming part of Hesiod's Theogony (8th cent. b.c.). Cf. theogony n. n.heroogony, n.
  • FROM DICTIONARY.COM (I love this one!): 
    • SELENOTROPISM \si-lee-nuh-TROH-piz-uh m, sel-uh-noh-\
      1. Biology. growth in response to moonlight.
      Selenotropism of Plants. *--Ch. Musset, struck by the heliotropic movements of plants, has made some experiments on the influence of the moon. ... The bud seemed to follow the moon, and when the plants were placed at a window with a western aspect a fresh movement was seen, and this continued until the moon disappeared behind the hills.
      -- Edited by Frank Crisp, Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society, Ser. II--Vol. III, 1883
      Origin of selenotropism
      Selenotropism can be traced to the Greek selēnē meaning “moon” and trópos meaning "turn." It entered English in the 1880s.


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