1. AOTW: No on qualified this week, so instead ... WOTW (Wonder of the Week), a young father I saw in the health club locker room on Saturday; his son looked 3-ish. Dad was teaching, holding, answering countless questions, being gentle, patient ... wish I had a video that all young parents could watch.
2. Last night, Joyce and I watched, via Netflix DVD, a PBS documentary: Niagara Falls (2006), an hour-long (too rushed) history of the Falls--geographically, geologically, socially, culturally. They should have done a 6-parter. So much more they could have gotten into. Still, some great stuff, well worth watching. Just now I checked: The whole damn thing is on YouTube! (Link to the video!)
2. Good news: Just saw on Amazon that another season of Bosch (based on the Michael Connelly LA detective novels) will commence on April 21. We will be there!
3. And we were thrilled to discover that we had missed two seasons of Endeavour, the Brit detective series, so we are greedily consuming them in the evening in bed!
4. I finished two books this week.
- First was The Book That Changed America: How Darwin's Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation (2017), by Randall Fuller, Chapman Professor of English at the University of Tulsa. In 1859 were two major events that Fuller focuses on here: the execution of abolitionist John Brown and the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species--two events that both divided a nation and in some ways galvanized people. Darwin and Brown appear frequently in the text, of course, but also some of the superstars from Concord, Mass.: Thoreau, Bronson and Louisa May Alcott, Emerson, Hawthorne. Those scientific thinkers who supported and condemned Darwin also appear throughout; among the latter, of course, were those who realized, reading the book, that Darwin's theory made very questionable the role of a Creator--especially as related in Genesis. This did not go down well with many--and, of course, still doesn't, all these years later.
The prose was lively and bright; the illustrations (textual and visual) glowed with relevance; the arguments convincing. One error struck me: He mentions Kate Chopin's The Awakening (1899) and says that in "the two decades before her novel," Darwin's ideas had appeared in the works of Stephen Crane and Jack London" (179). Well ... London didn't publish his first book (The Son of the Wolf) until 1900. So ... I think I know what he meant--but the passage lacks clarity.
Still--so glad I read it, and Joyce is waiting nearby to snap it up because of its John Brown aspects.
- I also finished Michael Chabon's first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988). I've been a fan of Chabon's for a long time but have not read everything ... so ... I'm reading now the ones I missed. (Not that many--but still ...)
Mysteries is a young man's novel in a number of ways: he was only about 25 when the novel appeared, and it's the story of a young man--his friends, his loves, his mistakes, his family, his epiphanies--a young man spending the summer in Pittsburgh, working at a "book store" that sells many other things and doesn't seem to give all that much of a damn about books.
He becomes involved with a young library worker named Phlox (!!), becomes friends with a biker/semi-hardass named Cleveland (!), a gay friend named Arthur (Art is the narrator's name, too), and his own father, who is deeply involved in mob business. He ends up sleeping with both Phlox (who's virulently homophobic) and with Arthur (not at the same time!). Cleveland makes some mistakes, and the novel accelerates toward a violent conclusion. Art can't seem to decide if he's gay or not--bisexual?
I enjoyed the novel--saw the seeds of talent that have flowered--truly flowered--later on. But ... it's a first novel with problems that sometimes overwhelm the promise.
Oh, and it's got some "literary" aspects, as well--allusions to Poe, to Coleridge's "Kubla Khan," and, of course, two principal locations are a library and a bookstore!
5. Some final words--words I liked this week from my various online word-of-the-day providers:
- from wordsmith.org
noun: A strong desire or inclination.
From French appétence (desire), from Latin appetentia, from appetere (to seek after), ad- (to) + petere (to seek). Ultimately from the Indo-European root pet- (to rush or fly), which also gave us appetite, feather, petition, compete, perpetual, propitious, impetuous, petulant, pteridology, pinnate, and lepidopterology. Earliest documented use: 1610.
“Conservatives will now be able to test the national appetence for more individualistic solutions to social policy problems.”
James Travers; Cautious Voters Keep New PM on Tight Leash; Toronto Star (Canada); Jan 24, 2006.
- from wordsmith.org
adjective: 1. Illiterate. 2. Not alphabetical.
noun: An illiterate person.
From Greek analphabetos (not knowing the alphabet), from an- (not) + alphabetos (alphabet), from alpha + beta. Earliest documented use: 1876.
“While it was not true that he was totally analphabetic, the printed word gave him a rough time.”
Allan Seager; A Frieze of Girls; University of Michigan Press; 2004.
“In Chapter Fifteen, Laura Santone discusses the ‘Dictionnaire critique’ ... whose entries appeared in analphabetic order.”
John Considine; Adventuring in Dictionaries; Cambridge Scholars Publishing; 2010.