1. AOTW: No one in particular qualified this week--in fact, I had a pretty mellow time with people this week, so ... let's celebrate! We're evolving! (Not.)
2. I finished one book this week--a book I've been reading slowly (it's on the pile next to my bed, and books in that pile earn only about a chapter a night). It's an early novella by Wilkie Collins (1824-1889), a writer who complete works I've begun to read--in order of original publication.
Mr. Wray's Cash Box (1852) is a "Christmas book"--in the fashion of A Christmas Carol by Dickens, who was a mentor to Collins--and a good friend and collaborator. (Re: the picture up above--"The Frozen Deep," the other title in the little volume, is a play, a production that involved Dickens, who loved performing onstage.)
Collins' recent biographer, Peter Ackroyd, says bluntly in his 2012 volume: "[T]he reviewers liked it, but the public did not" (60). Well, I loved it. It's a perfect little Christmas book for Shakespeare freaks (like me).
The story tells about an older man (Reuben Wray) and his granddaughter, Annie (who lives with him). Wray has retired from a (small) career in the London theater; he is a man who has long adored Shakespeare--has memorized all of his plays--has been the (minor) friend of the great Shakespearean actor John Kemble, and now has arrived in town to give lessons in elocution for anyone who wants them.
He carries with him a "cash box"--a container generally used for, well, carrying cash.
Some thieves decide they will rip him off. They (sort of) do, but in the box is not money but something far more precious to Mr. Wray--an image of the Bard, one of the most famous ones, the one in the church at Stratford-upon-Avon, where the Bard lies buried. It's his "funerary monument."
Anyway, Wray loved that image and once, years before, had concealed himself in the church overnight; there, he made a cast of the head, a cast which he kept with him forever after in his cash box. (The mold he had stored elsewhere.)
Well, not to give too much away: The robbery does not go exactly as planned; Mr. Wray is devastated; his granddaughter leaps into quick action; and ... well, it is a book for the Christmas holidays, so you can bet it does not turn out badly.
Anyway, I really liked the novella (for what it was)--especially the Bardolatry of Mr. Wray--and the many allusions to the plays and to the famous players who have performed his works.
3. I forgot to mention last time that Joyce and I finished watching the very good (not great) documentary about Paul Goodman (Paul Goodman Changed My Life, 2011), a film (link to trailer) that tells the story of the rise of Goodman (1911-72), a prolific essayist, novelist, poet, political and cultural theorist, etc. (His book Growing Up Absurd (1960) was everywhere when I was a young grad student.)
We watched it in portions--twenty minutes or so each night--and the last time I wrote about it, I had not yet seen the section that deals with rather ... exotic? prolific? sundry? voracious? ... sex life. He was bi-sexual but seemed to prefer men, and this preference (in the 1960s) cost him some jobs and support, but he became a popular speaker at rallies for Civil Rights and against the Vietnam War.
Learned a lot in the documentary--and much was very surprising.
Available from Netflix (DVD) and elsewhere ...
4. The weekend saw a great visit with my younger brother, Dave (four years my junior), who stayed with us so he could attend his 50th high school reunion at James A. Garfield HS in Garrettsville, Ohio, the school where my mother taught high school English for a decade before heading out to Des Moines, Iowa, in the fall of 1966 to begin their wonderful years teaching at Drake University.
Dave (I'll brag) was valedictorian at JAGHS, went to Harvard, where he earned both his bachelor's and doctoral degrees (history). With some colleagues he founded The Winthrop Group, a company that researches and writes corporate and other sorts of histories (right now they're writing the history of Brown University). Check him out on Amazon.com: many publications. (Link to his books on Amazon.) (Link to Winthrop Group.)
We had a great time while he was here (he arrived Thursday morning, left Sunday morning). We toured the various shrines and sites in Hiram (where we had lived from 1956-66) and Garrettsville and Kent; we spent a lot of time with my son and his family (seeing little league baseball games, eating at an Italian restaurant, going to a movie). Many long, long, long talks.
This morning he will fly to France, where he will join his wife to spend some time with some old friends.
Then it's back to Lexington, Mass., where he lives with his wife, Janice (who has retired from her career teaching at the Harvard Business School), and where he stays in touch with his son and daughter, fraternal twins, now 27 (I think), both of whom still live in the area. Rick and Bella.
The picture shows Dave and me standing at the site where the Hiram Local School once stood (the noble original structure is in the b&w photo). Razed some years ago ... sadly. (The secondary school part of it had closed at the end of the 1964 school year--I was in the penultimate graduating class.)
5. Thursday night, Dave, my son (Steve), and I went out to see The Magnificent Seven, the recent remake of a remake. I think there were more deaths/minute than anything I've seen in a long, long, long time. At the end, I think you could have crossed the street in the little town by stepping only on corpses. Some bizarre things occurred that you really don't want to think about too much; about all the film did for me was remind me of the countless hours I spent as a kid watching all those Westerns on TV, none of which, of course, remotely matched the violence in films these days. (Link to trailer for film.)
6, Some interesting vocabulary words this week--but I've already written too much--will catch up next week.