1. AOTW: There were two winners this week of this prestigious award; oddly, both occurred in virtually the same place (see map below showing area of Hudson very near our home on Church St.):
- The first was a woman driver. I was heading west on Church St. (our street), about to turn left, south, on E. Main. Here came a woman going north on E. Main, but ... problem: E. Main is one-way south at this point, so we nearly had a head-on collision. She smiled--one of those "I-know-I'm-the-AOTW" smiles. And squeezed by me.
- The second, a male pedestrian. I was heading north on Main Street, about to turn east into Church Street. Then ... I saw AOTW 2 walking across Main, west to east, ignoring the crosswalk about fifty feet north of him. He was a dumb guy on a smart phone. Ignoring traffic (me) and heading onto Church St., east-bound, the same way I was going. He continued walking on Church, talking earnestly on his phone, right down the middle of the street while I crept along behind him, my homicidal thoughts flaring brightly in my imagination.
2. Joyce and I started streaming a new detective/cop series via Acorn TV--a Brit show called Suspects. We watched only the first episode (there are many to follow), and we decided, for the nonce at least, that this would be our new addiction. IMDB tells me there are five seasons, making us 5x more happy (I hope). Link to trailer for episode 1. We haven't learned much yet about the principal characters (we mostly just saw them in action, not in reflection or repose!), so I'm not sure about their personalities, etc. But we'll see ...
3. I spent much of the week reading Paul Auster's new novel, 4 3 2 1, which, I see in today's New York Times Book Review, is Bestseller #13 in Fiction. Hard to believe--not because it's undeserving (it's a wonderful novel), but because it is long--nearly 900 pages--900 large pages. But I hardly noticed as I was turning them.
The novel tells about the boyhood and young manhood of Archibald (Archie) Ferguson, b. 1947. The young man resembles Auster himself in some fundamental ways (as readers of Auster's memoirs--his great memoirs--will recognize): He's obsessed with books, with learning; he loves French literature and France itself; he adores sports--especially baseball and basketball (he's a good, not great, player).
Instead of telling a single story, Auster elects to tell four versions of Ferguson's young life. It's sort of a what-if? novel. What if this happened to his parents? What if Ferguson made that decision instead of this one? What if people's sexuality were different? And on and on. So ... we get four versions of the life, versions that are interwoven rather than told in four discrete segments. We follow Ferguson 1 for a bit, then move to 2 and 3 and 4. (And, yes, there's a quick allusion to "The Road Not Taken.")
The novel had a special resonance for me, principally because Auster is about my age--and leans leftward (as I do). So ... we go through the 60s again--the turbulent 60s. He even has a little bit about Kent State, May 4, 1970--Joyce and I were both attending KSU at the time. All the political things he deals with, the cultural things, the athletic things--all of these were as familiar to me as, well, as today. The Attica riots. The riots at Columbia Univ. Vietnam. The assassinations of JFK and MLK. And on and on.
The emotional power of each version is stunning. He makes us care deeply for each Ferguson--and for the characters around him (parents, friends, relatives). I have to say that I wept freely a few times, right there in the coffee shop where I was reading--reading this book I did not want to end.
I've read Auster for a long, long time--his novels, his memoirs. (Reviewed a couple of them, too.) All good. All remarkable, really. But this, in my view, is a masterwork. One of the greatest novels I've ever read.
4. Final Words: A couple of words I liked this week from my various online word-of-the-day providers.
- from dictionary.com
oscitant adjective [OS-i-tuh nt]
1. drowsy or inattentive.
2. yawning, as with drowsiness; gaping.
I dread the arrival of the delivery man, who will be even more oscitant than this man at the take-out phone.
-- J. D. Landis, Lying in Bed, 1995
The Latin verb ōscitāre means “to yawn, gape (of animals)”; “to turn toward the sun (of plants)”; and by extension “to be listless drowsy, inactive, half asleep.” The word entered English in the early 17th century.
- from dictionary.com
whiffler \HWIF-ler, WIF-\
1. a person who frequently shifts opinions, attitudes, interests, etc.
2. a person who is vacillating or evasive in an argument.
Ay, ay; he's a whiffler, but a good man on a sea-elephant.
-- James Fenimore Cooper, The Sea Lions; or, The Lost Sealers, 1849
Origin of whiffler
Whiffler has a sense that is now sadly obsolete, “one who smokes tobacco,” dating from the early 17th century. Its current sense dates from the mid-17th century.