Dawn Reader

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

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday Sundries, 120

1. AOTW--I know that self-congratulation is not a virtue, but I fear I am the winner of this week's AOTW. Last week I was at a two-way stop in Hudson (see map below), pointed west on Middleton Road, waiting for traffic to thin so I could turn south on Stow Road. Another car across from me stopped after I'd been sitting there awhile, but he waved me on, and so I turned left, not remembering that I hadn't checked (recently) to my right. I saw a car rapidly approaching, so I gunned the old Prius to avoid a collision, a collision that would have been entirely my fault. The guy who just missed me stayed well back until I turned west, a mile later, onto Aurora-Hudson Rd. and home. He went straight (whew), but I certainly earned some sign language from him, and I most definitely earned this week's AOTW award.

2. I finished three books this week--two from my nightstand (at a 10-pp/night clip). I'll do them first.

     - Mary Beard is a noted scholar of Ancient Greece and Rome (I've read a couple of other things by her), and her newest is SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (2015), a work she wrote for general readers, a work that features many illustrations. (The title is from the Latin Senātus Populusque Rōmānus--the Senate and People of Rome.) She dispels the clouds of false stories, tells us a lot about the lives of ordinary people throughout the Roman Empire (although she acknowledges that far less is known about them than about the wealthier, more powerful classes). She does not focus over-long on such things as the assassination of Julius Caesar, the doings in the Colosseum, and other things which many people know a tad about; instead, she shows how those events fit (or don't) with the patterns of Roman life. She is cautious throughout, as well, reminding us that people write things down for reasons--and some of those reasons are flattery (self- and otherwise), concealment, and the quite conscious attempt to revise the truth. Very good book. I should probably read it three more times to get more. But, lazy, I won't.

     - And speaking of Rome ... I finished (just last night) the first novel of Wilkie Collins (1824-1899), a writer best known for The Moonstone and The Woman in White (both of which I've already read). I liked those two novels so much that I read a short biography of Collins (Wilkie Collins: A Brief Life, 2015, by Peter Ackroyd) and then began reading his novels in the order that he wrote them. (He wrote many other sorts of works, too; I'm focusing on his fiction.) His earliest is the one I just finished--Antonina; or, The Fall of Rome (1850). It is the story of the Goths' siege and sack of the city in 408-410 CE. Collins follows the historical events closely, but he focuses on young Antonina, a Roman girl whose strict father expels her from her home when he blames the innocent girl for an indiscretion. Outside the city, she is rescued by a young Goth warrior, who sets her up in a distant farmhouse and visits her every day--no, not for that (not in an 1850 novel--the same year, by the way, as The Scarlet Letter).

Well, things don't go well. The Goth warrior, in violation of his trust, is discovered; Rome withers without food; a vengeful Goth woman pursues Antonina; and ... Aw, I ain't tellin'. Of course, the city falls, but what happens to Antonina and her father (with whom, late in the novel, she reconciles?).

Collins also deals with the clash between the "old" religion of Rome (the myriad gods) and the rise of Christianity--and the ensuing conflicts and bitterness. This is personified in the character of Ulpius, a former priest of the old ways who is willing to do anything to restore those ways. (He has a most appropriate end!)

I enjoyed this book a lot--though it does go on and on and on. But such is Victorian fiction ...

Oh, and tomorrow in this space, a surprising story about the actual copy of the book I read. Quite a discovery ...

     - The third and final book I finished this week was Richard Russo's 2009 novel That Old Cape Magic. Followers on this site know that I've been reading all of Russo's work--in the order he wrote it--except for Nobody's Fool (1994) and the sequel, Everybody's Fool (2016). The film of Nobody's Fool (1994--with Paul Newman, et al.) is what first drew me into Russo's work. I read those two books, one after the other.

Anyway ... That Old Cape Magic ...  This is a story of two weddings--and (as is customary in Russo) the deep history that precedes them. Jack Griffin is the son of two snooty professors (Dad is dead; Mom in decline), both of whom are frustrated because their careers landed them in Indiana, not at some prestigious Eastern college. Son Jack gets interested in screenwriting, has a modest career in Hollywood (very modest, actually) and ends up teaching at a university, as well. He has married Joy, who has an odd family (as if he doesn't), and when the stories commence, their marriage is somewhat ... stressed. Their own daughter, Laura, is about to marry as well.

Well, as we go through the story, truths begin to emerge, some not until near the very end, and, as is also necessary in Russo, you'd better be paying attention to the smallest details because they are often small in size only, not in significance.

Some usual Russo humor--including the man who marries Jack's divorced mother; the man's name is Bartelby, and several times Russo has Bartleby "preferring not to" do something! (And Melville fans will chortle.)

Russo writes often about family (its collapse, its enduring effects on those who belong), about the difficulty of love, about the need for the capacity to forgive. And this novel is no different.

I'm a little sad. There are no more Russo novels to read. There is a novella that's on its way to me (Interventions, 2012) and a memoir, already in the house (Elsewhere: A Memoir, 2012). And then begins the wait for something new ...

3. We're happy that a new season of Longmire is back on Netflix (streaming). We've watched the first one and are already realizing how much we've forgotten about last season. Oh well. (Link to trailer for new season.)

4. We're also watching a Netflix (DVD) documentary (2011) about writer/philosopher/cultural figure Paul Goodman (1911-1972): Paul Goodman Changed My Life. It's interesting to watch (I read a lot of Goodman back when), though not all that interesting (repetitive interviews with folks who knew him). We've watched (maybe) 2/3 of it and hope to finish tonight or tomorrow. A little bit goes a long way. (Link to trailer for the film.)

5. An interesting moment in Kent the other night. We'd driven over there and decided to take a look at the last house where we'd lived there, 114 Forest Drive (we sold it in 1978, the year we went to Lake Forest, IL). Well, as we were drifting by, we saw a couple of folks who looked as if they might be the current owners carrying some boxes of pizza into the house. I stopped, hailed them, and had a great chat about our time there in the 1970s, the changes. They invited us in--but we thought we'd pass. And did. (Maybe another time?)

114 Forest Dr.; Kent, Ohio
from the 70s, when we were living there
6. Final words ... from my various online word-of-the-day providers ...

     - poppism, n.
The act of making a smacking sound with the lips  Obsolete
Forms:  16 popisme,   17 poppism.
Origin: A borrowing from French. Etymon: French popisme.
Etymology: <  French †popisme (1534–5 in Rabelais in Middle French) <  classical Latin poppysmus (also poppysma) <  ancient Greek ποππυσμός, in Byzantine Greek also πόππυσμα <  ποππύζειν to smack the lips, make a clucking sound, reduplicated form with expressive gemination, of imitative origin + -μός, suffix forming nouns (also -μα: see -oma comb. form).
Compare the following earlier use of the classical Latin word in an English context:
1601  P. Holland tr. Pliny Hist. World II. 297 Touching the manner of worshipping and adoring flashes of lightening, all nations..doe it with a kind of whistling or chirping of the lips. [margin] Poppysmus, in setting our lips close together, and drawing the breath inwards.
1653  T. Urquhart tr. Rabelais 1st Bk. Wks. xxiii. 104 The prancing flourishes, and smacking popismes [Fr. popismes], for the better cherishing of the horse, commonly used in riding.
1753 Chambers's Cycl. Suppl. at Adoration, The method of adoring lightening,..was poppisms, or gentle clappings of the hands.

     - Flavescent  \fluh-VES-uh nt\
1. turning yellow; yellowish.
A few flavescent leaves, shed during delivery, fell to weaving the carpet that would be finished by nightfall.
-- Patrick Chamoiseau, Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows, translated by Linda Coverdale, 1999 
Origin of flavescent
Flavescent entered English in the mid-1800s. Its immediate source is the Latin present participial stem flāvescent- “becoming golden yellow, yellow” from the verb flāvescere “to become golden yellow, yellow.” The verb derives from the adjective flāvus “golden yellow, yellow.”

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