1. AOTW: Well, I hate to return to the Same Old Well, but this week I had several AOTWs, all of whom did the same thing: Ignore the law that says When your lane ends, you do NOT have the right-of-way. You must slow and merge, not charge ahead like, oh, Ben-Hur in a chariot race. I almost honked at one guy on Saturday, but in these days of everyone's-carrying, I thought it more prudent to be a wuss.
2. I finished two very good books this week--one a "serious" novel (though comic)--the other a detective novel (sometimes I think our genre are ridiculous--writers are serious, pretty much all of them).
- The Throwback Special, by Chris Bachelder, was a finalist for the National Book Award this year. (It lost to Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad, a novel I liked a lot, too). The title is the name of that infamous football play on November 18, 1985, Giants v. Redskins, when the career of Redskin quarterback Joe Theismann ended when a hit by Giants' linebacker Lawrence Taylor was a factor in the shattering of Theismann's leg. (Here's a link to a video of the play; you might not want to look at it.) By the way: One of the TV commentators was O. J. Simpson.
Anyway ... the novel begins with a swift summary of that gridiron play. And then we arrive in the present. It seems a group of men meet each year on November 18 in a motel, don the equipment of those players, head over to the local middle school field and re-enact the play. But first they have a lottery to determine who will perform as which player. There is no single protagonist: All of the men are equal (as characters). They are a spice-rack of human beings. A little bit of everything. Along the way, Bachelder zings the motel culture (great bit on "free" continental breakfasts), the American family, the American male, our passion for ritual and routine, etc. A gentle scalpel he uses. But the slices are deep.
I learned about the book, by the way, from novelist Brock Clarke (whose "break-out" novel was An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England (2007), a novel I liked so much I invited Clarke to spend a day with us at Western Reserve Academy, which he did--April 28, 2008. My students read and pretty much loved the book--and felt like geniuses while doing so: The novel dealt with a lot of the American writers we'd read during the year. Brock and I have stayed in touch--and I've read and loved his subsequent books, too. Here's a photo of him with one of my classes that day. (He and I are in the front row; he's the younger guy!)
- I also finished the latest Michael Connelly novel--The Wrong Side of Goodbye--featuring his stalwart detective Harry Bosch (named for the painter!). Bosch, who worked a long time for the LAPD, is out on his own now, part-time as a private eye, part time in another LA-area police department. (We enjoy the Netflix Bosch series.)
He's working two cases this time (one for each of his part-time jobs): (1) the "screen-cutter" is a serial rapist terrorizing the area; (2) a fabulously wealthy man who's dying hires him to see if he has any descendants (this one is a lot like a Raymond Chandler story!). The stories do not intertwine--but they show the changes in Bosch's life. There's a big change at the end, too, but I ain't sayin' what it is!
I've enjoyed the Connelly novels for years--including his newer series about the "Lincoln lawyer," Mickey Haller, who, we learned in earlier novels, is related to Bosch; Haller has a key role in this one, too.
Years ago (October 11, 2006), Joyce and I met Connelly at Joseph-Beth up on Chagrin Blvd. (the store is gone now). Signed a bunch of books, graciously. Here's what I wrote about it in my journal. [edited a a bit] (Echo Park was his new novel.)
... up to Joseph-Beth with Joyce for the Connelly signing … a good crowd there; in front of us were two women from Kitchener, Ont. who were very loquacious/big mystery fans/big Connelly fans; MC was very laid-back (looked just like his photos) and talked about his life and about this current book; emphasized how much research he does for each Bosch book (which usually takes him 11–12 mos. to write, though he wrote The Poet in 3 mos., he said, and The Lincoln Lawyer in 4; told story about how he thought he’d made a mistake when he retired Harry & made a P.I. of him; realized he could not get him back on the force, which was where he belongs; but then a new actual police chief came into L.A. and began hiring back retired detectives (he’d actually read Bosch novels, too), so MC had a way to get HB back in the action he liked him to be in; answered questions for about 30 min, then scrawled his name on the books I’d brought—all of them; I was #1 in line!
3. We're keeping up with the TV series Elementary by using the CBS All-Access app--not the best app I've ever used, but worth it for this series based on Sherlock Holmes, who, here, is a consultant to the NYPD, present-day; and Watson is Lucy Liu, a former doctor. Not all the episodes are good--I figured out the bad guy in a recent one in the first 15 min--and I'm not all that bright!
4. We finished the latest season of Midsomer Murders via Netflix (it's been on since 1997!). I'm not sure why I watch them, but I do. They are wearisome and often dull (and I often don't care about anyone in the episode, including the detectives). But I started them, so I have to see them all, right?
5. Last words--some words I liked this week from my various online word-of-the-day providers:
- from wordsmith.org (don't think I've ever seen this one!?!)
verb intr.: To mutter, grumble, or chatter.
Of imitative origin. Earliest documented use: 1599.
“All they [passengers in the train] did was chunter on about lambs, holidays, solar panels, grass growing, farming, the health service, marinades, Niagara Falls, the Taliban, and -- honestly -- noisy neighbours.”
Louise James; Biddies Doing My Head In; Belfast Telegraph (Ireland); Mar 27, 2016.
- from dictionary.com
quinquennium \kwin-KWEN-ee-uh m, kwing-\
1. a period of five years.
…[W]hat I'm hankering after first, you know, is some hint that the racket is still going on. Not all that frequently. Say once in a quinquennium.
-- Michael Innes, A Family Affair, 1969
Origin of quinquennium: comes directly from the Latin noun quīnquennium, formed from quīnque "five," and annus "year." It entered English in the early 1600s.