Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday Sundries, 146

1. AOTW: Ah, yes, this morning ... car in front of us at a stop sign. Turned right (no signal), soon turned left into grocery parking lot (no signal), parked in a slot so that the tires were also into the adjacent slot. In other words: Nothing much changes in AOTW Land.

2. I finished two books this week.

     - The first was the latest from Colm Tóibín--House of Names--a re-telling of the stories of Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Orestes, Iphigenia, Electra, et al.  Tóibín tells us at the end that he played fast-and-loose with the details, adding, subtracting, modifying. He divides the tale into sections, each focused on a particular principal; some are in the first person (Clytemnestra, Electra); the Orestes sections are in the third person.

The rough details of the story remain. Agamemnon, hoping to gain a fair wind to take him to battle, sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia. Mom--Clytemnestra--does not forgive him, and when he returns, she murders him. Her accomplice, Aegisthus, clears the way by sending away her son, Orestes (just a boy), and pretty much co-opting the other daughter, Electra. Well, Orestes grows up, comes back, blood, blood, blood. You know.

I loved how Tóibín handled the story--the narratives flow smoothly, arrestingly--from first sentence (Clytemnestra says, "I have been acquainted with the smell of death") to the last (about Orestes and his friend/ally Leander: "Almost afraid to look at each other, the two went back into the corridor [of the palace] and stood together without saying a word, listening to every sound") (3, 275).

And along the way we get a lot to think about. To what extent are the gods responsible for all? To what extent are we (for our determination to believe in gods?) What are the consequences of revenge? What does "family" even mean? And "friendship"? And on and on and on ...

     - The second was a 2008 collection of nonfiction (Maps and Legends) by Michael Chabon, whose complete works I've been working through in the order of publication (skipping the ones I've already read).

These pieces--generally from the early 2000s--are some published essays and some texts of speeches he delivered here and there. The title piece is about how--as a boy--he became fascinated, even obsessed with maps, and felt himself become alive to "the power of maps" (30). And, later, he realized how writers are always working with "maps"--of this world, of the world(s) they've created--and other writers work in the blank space on those maps. Such a cool idea. The writer, he says, "goes where the action is, and the action is in the borders between things" (24).

He also writes about his early reading (he loved/loves Sherlock Holmes), of his fascination (which continues) with comics and graphic stories. He notes that writers "should tell stories that we would have liked as kids" (93).

There's also a review of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, an essay in which he mentions that "there are story echoes of the Jack London-style adventure" (116), but he does not mention a book of London's that is post-apocalyptic, as well--The Scarlet Plague (1912)--a novel about survival in a dying world.

London's The Scarlet
He also talks about the genesis of some of his earlier work--The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988) and The Yiddish Policeman's Union (2007); I enjoyed this a lot because I'd only just recently read both of those titles.

But my favorite is his last--a modified version of a speech he gave in the mid-2000s, "Golems I Have Known." In it he talks about the borderland between nonfiction and fiction, memoir and fiction, truth and lies--and he does so by seducing his audience into thinking he is telling them a factual story from his boyhood. But it was fiction, he tells us at the end--"lies." It's a gorgeous piece about what he calls "the borderland between these two kingdoms, between the Empire of Lies and the Republic of Truth" (222).

3. We saw (via Netflix DVD) a Stephen Soederberg film, Haywire (2011). I've always loved Soederberg's work, and this title (when I saw it on the Netflix website) did not look familiar. So I ordered it. And it wasn't until, oh, about the last half-hour that I realized we had seen it before. Oh well. There are worse ways to spend your time than to be with Steven Soederberg for a couple of hours!

It's an adventure story about a woman warrior (played by Gina Carano). Here's the plot summary from IMDB:

Freelance covert operative Mallory Kane is hired out by her handler to various global entities to perform jobs which governments can't authorize and heads of state would rather not know about. After a mission to rescue a hostage in Barcelona, Mallory is quickly dispatched on another mission to Dublin. When the operation goes awry and Mallory finds she has been double crossed, she needs to use all of her skills, tricks and abilities to escape an international manhunt, make it back to the United States, protect her family, and exact revenge on those that have betrayed her.

It was fun to watch again--if, that is, you're into the "action thriller'" genre (think: Jason Bourne movies). I don't recall seeing Carano perform before (she was in Dead Pool and Fast & Furious 6, neither of which I've seen), but she's apparently a martial arts expert, and she got to display those talents (some supplemented, of course, by CGI). She even kicks Channing Tatum's butt. And Michael Fassbender's, too! (Link to film trailer.)

4. We finally finished streaming the latest season of Bosch on AmazonPrime. I've read all of Michael Connelly's novels about LA detective Harry Bosch, so it's been fun to watch these--though Titus Welliver, who plays Bosch, is not what I pictured as I read. Still, he's good--once you get used to him.

The season ended on a cliffhanger--thus: hope for another season!

5. Final word--a word I especially liked from my various online word-of-the-day providers;

     - from dictionary.com, with some help from Merriam-Webster

humblebrag  noun [huhm-buh l-brag]
1. NOUN: a statement intended as a boast or brag but disguised by a humble apology, complaint, etc.
2. VERB: to make such a disguised boast or brag: He's humblebragging about how tired he is from his world travels.
The humblebrag—e.g. I'm exhausted from Memorial Day weekend; it’s soooo hard to get out of Nantucket—sits at the center of these competing needs. It is a boast in sheepish clothing, kvelling dressed in kvetch. And, like nearly all forms of multi-tasking, the drive to satisfy two goals at once typically results in double-failure.
-- Derek Thompson, "How to Brag," The Atlantic, May 26, 2015
Humblebrag was first recorded between 2005 and 2010. It’s a portmanteau combining the terms humble and brag.

Oh, and a portmanteau word (def from Merriam-Webster): a word that is composed of parts of two words (such as chortle from chuckle and snort), all of one word and part of another (such as bookmobile from book and automobile), or two entire words and that is characterized invariably in the latter case and frequently in the two former cases by single occurrence of one or more sounds or letters that appear in both the component words (such as motel from motor hotel, camporee from camp and jamboree, aniseed from anise seed

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