1. AOTW--Okay, this one is not egregious--but annoying. I was walking across the Hudson Green the other afternoon--bitterly cold, lots of snow--and coming toward me on the sidewalk: a group of 4-5 young women. Four or five abreast. Covering the entire sidewalk. As far as they were concerned, I was not there. I stopped; they didn't; no one moved to give me a little sidewalk room; I had to step out in the snow and wait for them to pass. Muttering grievous execrations ....
2. I finished two books this week ...
- The first was William Faulkner's first novel--A Soldier's Pay (1926--first published in England, with the help of Sherwood Anderson). It is the end of WW I, and the army has discharged a number of our principals before they ever saw any action. The opening scenes are on a train, where they meet a severely injured soldier (with a horrendous scar on his face), a young man who is not expected to live, a young man returning home. Several of them take care of him on the train--including a young woman, who becomes a principal, as well.
The "bad guy" is Januarius Jones, a fat, horny guy in Georgia (where they're headed) who makes moves everywhere--hanging around a young woman's house sniffing for dogs in heat. There's also a young (superficial) woman engaged to marry the wounded soldier, though she cannot abide the sight of him now and begins to look elsewhere.
Complications accumulate ... and I ain't tellin' how it all works out.
Faulkner does a couple of cool things, technically. Most of the characters' thoughts are hiding in parentheses, and every now and then he inserts a sort of "overview" of what's going on by writing pages as if they were in a play script.
And, of course, his language ... "Nine day, or ninety day, or nine hundred day sensations have a happy faculty for passing away, into oblivion, where pass sooner or later all of man's inventions" (Lib of Amer ed, 224).
I'm embarked on a (slow) voyage through the novels of Faulkner I've never read before ... this was the first. His and mine.
- The second--The Nix (2016)--was actually the first book I finished last week. It's the first novel by Nathan Hill, and if this is any indication, he is going to have quite a career. It's a story about a son (now a college teacher) discovering the story of his mom, who was involved in the protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago--that violent one. We swirl around in time--back and forth and forth and back--and learn that, well, lives are complicated.
There is a devastating scene near the beginning: Our prof encounters a young woman who has patently cheated on an essay--taken it from the Internet. But--clever young thing--she's capable of turning tables. And does. I laughed, cringed, grieved as I turned those pages.
And then--near the end--something with startling contemporary relevance; one character say ...
"What's true? What's false? In case you haven't noticed, the world has pretty much given up on the old Enlightenment idea of piecing together the truth based on observed data. Reality is too complicated and scary for that. Instead, it's way easier to ignore all data that doesn't fit your preconceptions and believe all data that does. I believe what I believe, and you believe what you believe, and we'll agree to disagree. It's liberal tolerance meets dark ages denialism. It's very hip right now" (601).
3. Followers here know that Joyce and I have been slowly working our way through the films of the Coen Bros.--in the order they released them. Last night (Netflix DVD) we watched, oh, the first third of O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), a hoot of a film about three escaped convicts (in 1937) from a Mississippi chain gang (one, Geo. Clooney, has an obsession with his own hair style--very amusing). John Turtoro--a Coen Bros.' favorite--is one of the others). Lots of country music and satire about the rural South. We saw it when it originally came out--but neither of us remember a lot about it. More next time ... ! (Link to film trailer.)
4. Final words. Some words from my sundry online providers of a word-of-the-day ...
- from dictionary.com
ataraxia \at-uh-RAK-see-uh\ noun
1. a state of freedom from emotional disturbance and anxiety; tranquillity.
Remember that the goal of the great Epicurus was not an earthly he-done (Hedonism), or pleasure, but a lofty ataraxia, or freedom from cares and trivial thoughts.
-- H. P. Lovecraft, Selected Letters, 1965–1976
Origin of ataraxia
Ataraxia “impassiveness, calmness” is best known from and associated with the ethics of the Athenian philosopher Epicurus (341–270 b.c.). It is acquired by shunning politics and obnoxious people, by paying no attention to the gods or an afterlife, and by devoting oneself to trustworthy friends and a simple life. Ataraxia was important to the Stoic philosophers, also, but for them the final goal was apatheia, which means not “apathy” in the modern sense but “calmness,” imperturbability gained from the pursuit of virtue. Ataraxia (spelled atarxie) entered English in the early 17th century.
- from wordsmith.org
camorra (kuh-MOR-uh) noun
MEANING: A secret group united for unscrupulous purposes.
ETYMOLOGY: After Camorra, a secret organization in Naples, Italy, engaged in criminal activities. From Italian, possibly from Spanish camorra (fight). Earliest documented use: 1865.
USAGE: “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.