1. AOTW--I'm tempted to mention the runners/joggers this morning (there was some kind of race in Hudson), runners/joggers who were loping down our street and would not move aside a bit to let me back out of our driveway. We sat there for a long, LONG time. On the other hand--perhaps the race was for a beneficial cause, and so my complaints would make ME the AOTW. So ... I think I'll pass this week!
2. I finished three books this week, two of which I'd been--slowly--reading in the evening when I go up to bed. Let's deal with them first ...
a. I've always loved Oscar Wilde--well, always is, of course, an exaggeration. But since I've been fairly sentient, he's been one of my favorites. His personal story, of course, is a horror (prosecuted and jailed for homosexuality, etc.: He lived a bit too early, didn't he?), but his plays (The Importance of Being Earnest, et al.) I never tire of seeing, and now I've read his lone novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), a story I've known for a long time--it's one of those tales whose details sort of drift into your mind from cultural allusions here and there. There have been quite a few films and TV adaptations of the tale (check 'em out on IMDB--I don't think I've seen any of them), the earliest a silent film from Denmark, 1910 (three years before my father was born!).
The story was like and unlike what I thought I knew. The dialogue is crisp, ironic, funny (when it's not heinous!)--just what you'd expect from Wilde; the story is dark, dark, dark, dark, dark. A handsome young man goes over to the Dark Side, likes it there, then, slowly, becomes virtually crushed with the weight of his own egregious acts. Meanwhile, he sat for a portrait as a young man, and (through a device I'll leave for you to remember or to read for yourself) he soon realizes that the portrait is aging, but he is not. Alarmed, he covers it and stores it in a remote room, checking it out later only a couple of times. Including ... the final time, an encounter that ends the novel.
So glad I read it. It's one of those I-should-read-this-sometime books, but no one ever assigned it to me in school, and the years drifted along ...
b. I'm a long-time fan of Carl Hiaasen, a Florida journalist who also writes wacky novels about Florida wackiness. His newest one, Razor Girl, has a number of parallel plot threads that eventually weave together: a young woman (see title) who's involved in a series of traffic-accident scams, a former cop who's now a sanitation inspector but wants his old job back, a TV show like Duck Dynasty (but with another name) that loses one of its principal characters who freaks out and goes AWOL, a Super Fan of the show who decides he wants to be on the show (and does some kidnapping and gun-waving to try to realize his dream), a guy who wants to buy sand from Cuba to restore beaches in Florida, beaches being eroded by climate change. There is more.
I admired how Hiaasen twisted his threads around, how he dealt with some of what he sees as, well, flaws in the American character--but in a humorous, ironic, exaggerated way. Talented writer.
c. This one I read during the past week or so, Richard Ford's third novel (I'm on the trail of reading them all, in order of publication), The Sportswriter (1986), the novel that propelled him to fame, the first of several to feature Frank Bascombe, who narrates this tale of love lost, of family fracture, of settling for what's easier rather than for what's best. Frank's marriage has broken; a young son has died; he is hanging with a young woman, a nurse named Vickie, whom he seems to love--but perhaps doesn't. Earlier in his life he published a well-received book of short stories. He then started a novel but could not finish it and turned to sportswriting, a career that has landed him a job on a magazine that resembles Sports Illustrated. He thinks it's easy--and is good at it. Easier than writing serious fiction. Throughout the novel, he mentions/complains a bit about his "dreaminess"--he can't seem, always, to stay in "reality" (whatever that is). He also has a (sort of) friend who admits his homosexuality to Frank. This does not turn out well. (It's 1986, recall.)
Ford is a ruminative novelist--often pausing to let his narrators/principal characters muse about what all of this means; he also--like Richard Russo (whose complete works I've recently finished)--can make a plotline seem invisible. Until it isn't. Until the story goes so dark that it's hard to see--or so bright that, well, it's hard to see.
3. This week we finished the Brit TV series William & Mary (featuring Martin Clunes, a favorite of ours--e.g. Doc Martin); the show originally ran from 2003-05. Clunes plays William, an undertaker; Julie Graham plays Mary, a midwife. Both have children from previous marriages (snarky teens--the part I disliked most about the series). But ... even in the episodes I didn't like overall (and there were more than a few), there were always moments of enormous emotional power, of great surprise and cleverness. I lived each episode for those moments--some of which, by the way, were unusual funerals that William had to arrange. Well worth watching. (We saw it via Netflix; it's also on Acorn TV.)
4. A wonderful experience at the movies last night ... We went to Kent to see the new film by Warren Beatty (written, directed, starring!), Rules Don't Apply, a story set in the early/mid 1960s when the prodigiously talented Howard Hughes (played by Beatty--an Oscar performance, in my view), the billionaire has begun fading psychologically. Interwoven is a (fictional) love story between one of his drivers (who soon advances) and a young starlet he's brought to Hollywood and put on salary--but has given no film roles to. (That's an awkward sentence, but this is a blog: deal with it.)
Lots of 1960s' ambiance, detail, music, etc.--my young manhood!--and some wrenching emotional scenes. And a cast of all-stars, some of whom (Alec Baldwin) play only tiny parts but who are surely just thrilled to be in a Beatty film.
Some of his cast: Paul Sorvino, Matthew Broderick, Candace Bergen, Martin Sheen, Annette Bening, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Oliver Platt, Dabney Coleman, Steve Coogan (in a great turn as a frightened plane pilot). The two lovebirds are great, too--Alden Ehrenreich and Lily Collins.
The only sad thing: only about a half-dozen in the audience on a Saturday night ... doesn't bode well.
Beatty. Bonnie & Clyde, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, and so many others. A towering talent who has been quiet for quite a while--nearly twenty years (a sort of Hughes figure himself!). Joyce and I loved the film--and both of us confessed to having forgotten what a remarkable talent he was/is--in front of, behind the camera. (Link to trailer for the film.)
5. Last Words--some words I liked from my various online word-of-the-day providers:
- from the Oxford English Dictionary
pluviose, adj. Of, relating to, or characterized by rain; rainy.
Origin:A borrowing from Latin. Etymon: Latin pluviōsus.
Etymology: < classical Latin pluviōsus rainy < pluvia rain (see pluvial adj. and n.2) + -ōsus -ose suffix1. Compare earlier Pluviose n., pluvious adj., and also pluvial adj., pluvian adj.
In quot. 1824 fig.: tearful.
1824 Examiner 30 May 337/1, I was moved to vent my pluviose indignation.
1854 D. Lardner Hand-bk. Hydrostatics, Hydraul., Pneumatics iii. 33 A vertical section of the strata of the soil, which is penetrated by the pluviose waters.
1954 Geogr. Jrnl. 120 314 Thus these maritime and mountain areas have the greatest extent of the pluviose zone.
1. A person who says ‘perhaps’ with regard to a particular issue (in quot., the attribution of certain characteristics to Satan).
1909 ‘M. Twain’ Is Shakespeare Dead? ii. 24 The Supposers, the Perhapsers, the Might-Have-Beeners, the Could-Have-Beeners..and all that funny crop of solemn architects who have taken a good solid foundation of five indisputable and unimportant facts and built upon it a Conjectural Satan thirty miles high.
2. Cricket slang. A risky or unintended stroke.
Forms: 19– perhapser, 19– p'rapser nonstandard.
Origin:Formed within English, by derivation. Etymons: perhaps adv., -er suffix1.
Etymology: < perhaps adv. + -er suffix1.
In form p'rapser after p'raps adv.
1954 J. H. Fingleton Ashes crown Year xxiii. 247 Morris somewhat luckily got Bedser fine for 4... It was what cricketers know as a ‘perhapser’.
1957 D. Stivens Scholarly Mouse 86 Did you ever see such a p'rapser—he pushed a yorker away for four!