1. AOTW: Okay, I was attending an event this week. Arrived a bit early (before the doors opened). About twenty other folks eventually joined the loose line. Just as the door opened, a new arrival (this is a gender-neutral post) swooped in, flew to the head of the line, and walked in first. (Don'tcha love Entitlement? AOTW style?)
2. Last night, Joyce and I saw The Girl on the Train. Neither of us had read the novel. But what could be bad about it? Pretty much everything, I fear. I was Bored Out of My Gourd the whole time (and--not bragging, just saying--figured out the killer in about the first half-hour). Worse: I didn't really care about anyone, the baby included. (Grumpy guy, eh?) So ... I suppose I ought to read it now--and will get it on Kindle ... just to see ... (Link to film trailer.) Or maybe I won't?
3. I finished a couple of books this week ...
- Richard Russo's Interventions: A Novella & Three Stories (2012) is a beautiful little volume--well, volumeS. It's a boxed set of four little books--each featuring illustrations by his daughter, Kate Russo. I read only two of the volumes for these reasons: (1) One of the stories--"The Whore's Child"--had appeared in a Russo collection of stories that I'd read earlier; (2) One of the others--"High and Dry"--is extracted from his memoir (published a bit later), a book I'm going to read this coming week. That volume (Elsewhere: A Memoir, 2012) is the final Russo book I've not read. I'm starting to get a little sad: I really like his work. Admire it. Am moved by it.
* "Intervention" (the story) is about a realtor named Ray--married 30 years--who's dealing with a serious illness that he does not want to deal with. As he goes through his days, we learn about his life, his odd uncle Jack, an insistent friend named Vinnie, his father's death, and on and on. All of this in the most unobtrusive, graceful prose that is Russo's trademark. Things flow along--and then there's a confluence, and I am swept away ...
* "Horseman" is the tale of a troubled woman--Janet--who's haunted by a poem from childhood, Robert Louis Stevenson's "Windy Nights," one of the poems in Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses. (Link to the poem.) Janet is an academic--a scholar who--as a mentor tells her--needs to find her own voice before she can be any good as a writer. I love this little bit:
"Oh, you'll succeed just fine," he said, waving that concern aside. "You'll just never be any good."
The story is about her search for her self--and, ipso facto, for her voice. Loved it. It's soaked in the acid of Truth.
A side note: Russo does not name the poet or the poem in the story--he just quotes some lines (and Google, of course, took me right to them). I liked the poem (only two stanzas long), and this week I memorized it! Can't wait to recite it to my grandsons, both of whom heard from me--among the very first words they ever heard--another poem by Stevenson in that same Garden of Verses collection--'My Shadow," a poem my grandmother recited to me--one of my earliest memories from childhood. (Link to that poem.)
- The second book--Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing (2016)--is a novel whose title caused me a bit of embarrassment this week. I had merely glanced at the title, and what I saw was Homecoming, a title I repeated a few times on Facebook. A kind correction soon came from dear friend Cindy Brodsky, who'd also read the book and who had actually taken the time to read the title!
I first became aware of Yaa Gyasi when I saw her on The Daily Show in mid-August this year (link to that video). I was very impressed with her and promptly ordered the book--then read it almost immediately when it arrived.
She's from Ghana (once: the Gold Coast, a country, by the way, that was the subject for a report I wrote in geography class in seventh grade--Mrs. Nichols--1956-57 school year. I confess that I sort of, uh, copied it directly from The World Book Encyclopedia, but Mrs. Nichols didn't seem to mind: She must have been grateful that she could actually make sense of it.)
Gyasi's novel is, in one way, a series of interconnected stories--multi-generational ones--that begin in the days of the slave trade and advance to the present. I was grateful that she included (in the front matter) a family tree that helped me keep track of the players.
It is a powerful novel, one that illustrates the pervasive cruelty and inhumanity of all sorts of people, the most egregious, of course, being the English, the Dutch, the Americans, who, at the time, seemed unaware that there was something immoral about a person's owning another person. Gyasi does not ignore or excuse the tribal conflicts in western Africa that helped fuel the trade. Far from it. But she sees complications and subtleties everywhere, and that is among the many wonders of this wondrous novel--her first.
Yaa Gyasi is a young writer to keep your eye on. (She was born in Ghana, by the way--but raised in Alabama--then to Stanford and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She now lives in Berkeley, Calif.)
4. Joyce and I are watching the most recent comlplete season (#18) of Midsomer Murders, a series to which we (well, I) are (am) addicted--for no real good reason. Habit. The stories are so similar--but, I guess, there's some comfort in that. If not much entertainment. Still, I can't stop myself, streaming (Netflix).
5. Joyce and I voted absentee today. For us, the election is OVER!
6. An interesting, if obsolete, word from the Oxford English Dictionary recently--their word-of-the-day ...
† minimifidian, adj. and n.: That reduces faith to a minimum; having little faith.
Origin:A borrowing from Latin, combined with English elements. Etymons: Latin minimus, -i- connective, -fidian comb. form.
Etymology: < classical Latin minimus smallest (see minimum n. and adj.) + -i- connective + -fidian comb. form, after nullifidian n. and adj., solifidian n. and adj.
N.E.D. (1906) gives the pronunciation as (mi:nimifi·diăn) /ˌmɪnɪmɪˈfɪdɪən/.
1825 S. T. Coleridge Aids Refl. 356 The Minimi-fidian party err grievously in the latter point.
1854 Harper's Mag. June 117/1 These attempts to prop up our belief by the endorsement of the politician, or the patronizing certificate of the minimifidian man of science.
A person who has the least possible faith in something.
1882 Spectator 2 Dec. 1547 Lady Bloomfield's ‘supernatural’ stories..are not of a kind to challenge the scrutiny of a minimifidian in pneumatology.
1825 S. T. Coleridge Aids Refl. 207 Again, there is a scheme constructed on the principle of retaining the social sympathies, that attend on the name of believer, at the least possible expenditure of belief... And this expenditure I call Minimifidianism.