Dawn Reader

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

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sunday Sundries, 149

1. AOTW: (a) Runner-Up. The entrance/exit from our grocery-store parking lot has three lanes: (i) enter, (ii) exit left, (iii) exit right (onto somewhat busy Ohio 303). This morning--the AOTW Runner-Up was in the right exit lane with his left blinker on; we were directly behind him, planning to turn right. And we had to wait and wait and wait until 303 was clear in both directions before the AOTW-RU managed to make his left turn. (b) Winner. Daniel Osborn Dyer. Last night, Joyce and I were heading over to Kent to do a little shopping for our son's birthday next Sunday. I reached an intersection, wanted to turn left, saw the light was green, turned left--failing to notice that it was not just a green arrow that was on (the way we usually turn), but it was all-green, both north and south. An oncoming car very nearly T-boned us, and, as we drove on (shaken), I imagined the other driver was screaming: "There's the AOTW!" And he was so, so right.

2. Some of you who visit this page now and then know that we are (slowly, slowly) streaming/DVDing our way through all of the Coen Bros. films. This week we finished No Country for Old Men (2007--link to film trailer), based on the eponymous Cormac McCarthy novel (2005). We'd seen the film when it came out (ten years ago!) but had forgotten what incredible tension builds in that thing. And what impressed me this time was what the Coens did not show--some of the murders are off-camera. (Shakespeare used to do that--offstage deaths (e.g., Lady Macbeth).) And I remained so impressed with the Coens' ability to mix grimness and humor--a gift. I was laughing as much as I was trying not to, you know, lose it. Last night we started Burn After Reading (2008).

3. I finished three books this week ...

     a. The first was Powdered Eggs (1964--the year I turned 20!) by Charles Simmons, a longtime book critic for the New York Times, a novel I'd not ever heard of until I saw Simmons' obituary in the Times about a month ago (he died at 92 on June 7--link to obit). So I thought I'd read the book--maybe read some of his others, too. There are only a few more.

Tis an odd novel. Written in the form of letters (sans date, sans salutation and the other "letter parts" that teachers drummed into me in elementary and junior high school), the story is about a guy writing a novel--and the letters comprise pieces of the novel (as well as accounts of the writer's current doings). Near the end--and this is amusing--we get a speculative book review of his novel--the sort of things critics would/might say about it.

The narrator has some attitude--and some sweetness. For the latter, how about this--oh, one of the odd things: one of his girlfriends is named Prudence, my mother's name: "But Prudence's home has that deepness that comes to things used by people with good hearts" (60). Awwwww ...  Oh, and for the former quality (i.e., his "attitude"), he calls a priest (silently) "this four-eyed, peckerless little vacuity opposite me ..." (104).

I enjoyed the book--laughed, mused, wondered, admired. And I probably--down the road--will read the rest of his novels

   b. The second (which I'd been reading slowly in bed at night) was The Thirst (2017) by one of my favorite thriller writers, Jo Nesbø, a Norwegian novelist who has become a massive best-seller, principally because of his novels about Detective Harry Hole (sounds better in Norwegian, I bet).

In this latest novel Hole--who is semi-retired and teaching investigative technique to younger cops (including Oleg, the son of his lover)--emerges to take on a case of a "vampirist"--a guy who goes around with a set of iron teeth biting young women on the neck, drinking their blood, leaving them dead.

I don't want to give anything away, so I won't--but let's just say that the novel's not really over when you think it is. I enjoyed, by the way, nerd that I am, the multiple references to Othello scattered throughout, and a character also quotes a famous line from The Tempest, uttered by young Miranda when she sees handsome young men for the first time in her life (she has grown up on a remote island populated only by her old father, Prospero, and grungy, animalistic Caliban): "O brave new world, that has such people in it" (5.1).

These Shakespeare allusions have an even greater resonance because Nesbø is the author of one of the forthcoming modernized/novelized plays of Shakespeare published by the Hogarth Press; he's doing Macbeth, scheduled for 2018. Can't wait.

   c. And, finally, the wonderful 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Olive Kitteridge (2008), by Elizabeth Strout whose works I've only recently begun to read (I started with her most recent, My Name Is Lucy Barton, 2016). But after Olive I'm a-gonna read em all!

The style of Lucy and Olive is similar--a series of semi-connected stories. Sometimes Olive is the focus, sometimes not; sometimes she is merely an allusion in someone else's story and/or conversation. But as the novel advances, things change in Olive's life: her son (her only child) marries and moves to California (Olive lives in a small town in Maine); her husband suffers a stroke that puts him down; she chafes more and more about those around her and about Life in general--Olive, a retired 7th-grade math teacher, has attitude, and she is not hesitant to share her feelings with those whom she encounters. Other crises arise--but I'll not spoil the story any more with a summary.

I love this style that Strout has developed and perfected. And I'm going to read her other novels now--and eagerly so.

Some sentences that got to me for one reason or another ...

  • "Hope was a cancer inside her" (45).
  • "... that must be the way of life, to get something figured out when it was too late" (60).
  • "... it's her soul, really, that is wearing out" (71).
  • "... what did they have now, except for each other, and what could you do if it was not even quite that?" (139).
  • "It baffled her, the world. She did not want to leave it yet" (270).
There were more, many more ...

4. We didn't go to the movies this week--nothing we really wanted to see. So we streamed some of "our" shows--Doctor Blake, Suspects, and a recent Netflix comedy special with Chris D'Elia, who cracks me up--not just with his stories but with his very expressive body--he's like a piece of wire! A bit raunchy but humorously rather than grossly so.

5. Final Word: A word I liked this week from one of my various online word-of-the-day suppliers ... a  proper noun I've long known--but did not realize it could be a verb, as well ...

     - Robinson Crusoe

verb tr.: To maroon, to isolate, or to abandon.
noun: A castaway; a person who is isolated or without companionship.
After the title character of Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe. Crusoe was a shipwrecked sailor who spent 28 years on a remote desert island. Earliest documented use: 1768. Crusoe’s aide has also become an eponym in the English language: man Friday.
“I had not seen any people ... while I was Robinson Crusoed out there on the wet international border.”
Robert Wehrman; Walking Man: The Secret Life of Colin Fletcher; BookBaby; 2016.

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