1. AOTW: It happened again. Yet another version of a previous AOTW saw as soon as he arrived that I was waiting for service at a counter, but when the clerk turned around to wait on us, he went first. I hope he has room on his mantel for all the awards he's going to accumulate in his life!
2. I finished three books this week ...
- The Hatred of Poetry (2016) by Ben Lerner (novelist and poet) is basically a monograph--a bit over 80 pages long. In it, he traces the hatred of poetry back a long, long way--and also talks about the varieties of poetry-hating--from I hate all poetry to hating certain types of it. His final sentence kind of says it:
All I ask of the haters--and I, too, am one--is that they strive to perfect their contempt, even consider bringing it to bear on poems, where it will be deepened, not dispelled, and where, by creating a place for possibility and present absences (like unheard melodies) it might come to resemble love (85-6).
Lerner's text is clearly aimed at "literary" types--other writers, other poets--and has, when the last page lies before you, not much appeal for general readers, I don't think.
- I also finished a collection of Richard Ford three short stories (well, novellas?), Women with Men (1997), I Ford book I had to read out of order because it was so slow arriving in the mail. (As some of you know, I'm reading all Ford's work, beginning to end, and, unfortunately, the end is now looming. This has been a most enjoyable and enlightening journey.)
As you can tell from the title, the stories have something in common--the relationships between women and men. The first tale ("The Womanizer") takes place in Paris, where an American salesman has gone on business. There, he meets a French woman ... and ... guess what? Things don't work out too well.
The second story, "Jealous," is a story dealing with places Ford used in his earlier work--places in the West. The narrator is telling us about his teenage years when Dad was messing around. The narrator goes with his aunt for Thanksgiving, and--let's say--some things go wrong on their trip back to her place.
The final story, "Occidentals," also takes place in Paris where a guy who's just published his first novel (highly autobiographical) has come to meet with his French publisher--and his translator. Although he has brought along his current gf, things are not going well (she's ill). They do some sightseeing, have an awful dinner with some awful American tourists, and then ... Things don't work out too well.
Over and over again in his work, Ford shows the behavior (psychological and physical) of men who just seem incapable of committing to a woman--incapable of understanding them in any but the most superficial ways. As a result, the tales tumble into chaos, mirroring the lives of his principal male characters.
- Finally, I read Robert Coover's new one, Huck Out West, reviewed in today's New York Times Book Review (link to review). I've read Coover's work for a long time (since the 1960s) and have always enjoyed it. As I look at his pub list on Wikipedia (I know, I know--link to the site), I realize I haven't read them all--but quite a few.
Here, Coover does what a number of other writers have done in recent years--come up with a sequel to (or another take on) Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a novel I taught each spring the final ten years of my career (high school juniors at Western Reserve Academy). Coover's is much better than most of the others. (Some of those include My Jim, Finn, The Further Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Becky, and even Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim.)
Huck is grown now and is out West (see title!), in the area of Deadwood, South Dakota, where the Custer massacre is about to happen--so we are in 1876. Along the way, Huck re-encounters Jim, Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher, and Ben Rogers--and they have not all turned out especially well. Jim is still enduring the unspeakable horrors visited upon black men; Tom is a creep-o; Becky ... well, she's found the world's oldest profession. And so on.
Huck has also lived with the Lakota for a while and has befriended one of them--Eetah--to whom he shows the same loyalty and understanding that he had long ago developed for Jim. I'll confess that as I neared the end, I was thinking that I was going to get some kind of re-play of Thomas Berger's Little Big Man--that Huck was going to be at the Little Bighorn. And ... read it!
One Coover choice to think about: Huck seems sexless--almost genderless in the tale. Not really too interested in sex--though he has some opportunities.
3. I've realized that the TV detective series we're streaming/enjoying (via Acorn)--Brokenwood--is not in Australia (as I've said a couple of times here)--but New Zealand. Pay attention, Dyer! as some of my public-school teachers used to, uh, urge me.
4. On Saturday night Joyce and I went to Kent to see Hidden Figures, whose trailer I'd seen probably a half-dozen times. (Link to trailer.) The trailer had left me a little wary--it seemed a bit ... slick. And, in ways, it was. At times I felt it had too bright a look for the segregationist era that I grew up in (my Oklahoma and Texas boyhood--1944-1956). The whites, though crude and clueless in the film, were a bit too nice, if you can believe it. I loved some aspects of it--the sight of the poor mathematician who had to run (in high heels!) in the rain to get to a women's room for "colored" was a piercing mixture of comedy and tragedy, the women's strength in the face of appalling disregard, the tension with the Soviets (which I remember so well), and on and on.
There was a character who seemed based on Wernher von Braun, the Nazi rocket scientist we swept up at the end of World War II (the Soviets got some of these guys; we got some--immigration for them was not an issue!). I remember seeing von Braun on TV during some of those early rocket launches in America. A sort of American "hero." Back in Germany, though, von Braun had used slave labor--Holocaust Jews--as workers on the rocket-testing sites, but the guy based on him in Hidden Figures is, he tells us, a Pole whose parents were killed in the Holocaust. That seems to me like a grim, grim revision of the history.
I enjoyed the performances, though, as I said, it all seemed--in spite of some of the great indignities those women experienced--a bit ... sugar-coated.
5. Final Words--Some words I enjoyed this week from my various online word-of-the-day providers.
- from wordsmith.org
noun: A secret group united for unscrupulous purposes.
After Camorra, a secret organization in Naples, Italy, engaged in criminal activities. From Italian, possibly from Spanish camorra (fight). Earliest documented use: 1865.
“Flaubert had poured a stream of corrosive irony on this idea of patriotism. Is it loyalty to a set of political jobholders, a king and his court, a president and his bureaucracy, a parliament, a congress, a Duce or Führer, a camorra of commissars?”
Albert Jay Nock; Memoirs of a Superfluous Man; Harper & Brothers; 1943.
- from dictionary.com
esperance \ES-per-uh ns\
1. Obsolete. hope.
The lowest and most dejected thing of fortune, / Stands still in esperance, lives not in fear.
-- William Shakespeare, King Lear, 1608
Origin of esperance
Esperance offers a perfect example of the “prothetic” or “prosthetic” vowel e that appears before an s followed by a stop consonant such as p, t at the beginning of a word in some Romance languages. Latin sperāre “to hope” is esperar in Spanish and Portuguese and espérer in French, but sperare in Italian. The prothetic vowel has persisted in modern Spanish, e.g., estación, and in Portuguese, e.g., estação “(train, bus) station,” but not in modern French formations, e.g., station, or in borrowings, e.g., sport (from English). The word entered English in the 15th century.
- from wordsmith.org
noun: Squabble; commotion; confusion.
A corruption of Hindi “bap re” (literally, oh father!), an exclamation of surprise, grief, etc., from bap (father) + re (oh). Earliest documented use: 1816.
USAGE: “The whole bobbery, which has simmered for years, will finally come to a boil on Tuesday.”
Peter Fimrite; Feng Shui a Sausalito Voter Issue; San Francisco Chronicle; Feb 27, 2002.