Dawn Reader

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday Sundries, 150

1. AOTW: An easy one this week. Some dude--in a hurry--going the wrong way down a one-way street in Hudson. Right at me. How I avoided him I have no idea? Must have been, you know, the consummate driving skills I learned at Hiram High School under the tutelage of Mr. Barnhart--Coach--who, sadly, passed away this year. Coach would have dragged the AOTW out through the window and explained to him--most abruptly--what a ONE-WAY sign means!

2. Yesterday afternoon was a gathering of the mighty Class of 1962 of Hiram High School (RIP) at the Hiram home of classmate Ron Etling (a retired middle-school teacher, just like ... you know?).

You can see the Old Man lurking in the back. I'll write more about all of this later in the week--for there's a come-one-come-all HHS reunion this afternoon at Welshfield--and I'll be heading up to that, too.

3. A couple of movies this week--one on DVD (Netflix), the other at the theater.

     a. Via Netflix we watched Stranger Than Fiction (2006), a film we'd seen back then--but had pretty much forgotten. Will Ferrell--very much under control--plays an OCD IRS agent who begins hearing a voice narrating what he's doing--and that voice turns out to belong to Emma Thompson, a novelist, who is, at the moment, writing his story--a story, Ferrell learns, that will end with his death. Meanwhile, he falls for a baker, Maggie Gyllenhaal, whom he is auditing. Also along for the ride: Dustin Hoffman and Queen Latifah. Written by Zach Helm , directed by Marc Forester. Link to film trailer.

Both of us loved this film: a bright script--great performances--many surprises (something I love in a film!).

     b. On Friday night we went to the Kent Cinemas to see The Big Sick, which we also both liked a lot. A whole lot. It's a story about inter-cultural love (based on a true story--in the closing credits we see some photos of the "real" people involved) and about how love just doesn't always conform to what others want for you. Again--a bright and clever script (that was a bit too long, I fear) and some excellent, understated performances by the principals. Written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, who also plays the male lead. Link to film trailer. Great to see Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, who play the parents of the woman in the lead, Zoe Kazan.

4. I finished a couple of books this week.

     a. The first was a collection of essays by Jonathan Lethem, a writer whose books I've really enjoyed reading over the years (he's principally a novelist). This collection he's called More Alive and Less Lonely: On Books and Writers, 2017,  and includes pieces that date back to the late 80s--though most are more recent. Lethem enjoys fantasy (more than I do), so a number of these pieces are about writers I don't know very well, but I was particularly affected by his essays about Thomas Berger (1924-2014), whose novels I've loved since I first read his Little Big Man (1964). There are more than twenty other novels--and I've read them all! (Joyce taught LBM way back in her earliest years as a grad assistant at KSU.) Anyway, Berger and Lethem never met--but they carried on a long and increasingly affectionate correspondence, and when Berger died, he left instructions that allowed Lethem to go through his library and take what he wanted. Lethem's account of this was a highlight for me.

There are other essays on Bob Dylan, Rod Serling, Steven Millhauser (another great favorite of mine), and numerous others. So glad I read this ...

     b. The second was a dense but enlightening collection of essays by Siri Hustvedt--A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women (2016). I've read a lot of Hustvedt's works (not all)--and I've greatly enjoyed the work of her husband, Paul Auster (one of my favorites). Hustvedt, who also writes novels, has a Ph.D. in English from Columbia U and lectures on psychiatry. These pieces--many of which were originally lectures/speeches she gave at various academic conferences--are textually very complex and rich (and, okay, beyond me at times!).

The subjects range from gender issues, to the workings of the brain, including memory and emotions and rational thought. Though many of the pieces are academic in nature (numerous quotations from the work of other scholars, etc.), Hustvedt has a graceful, powerful way of stating her principal points. Here are a few I liked ...

  • "The Patriarchs disappoint us. They do not see, and they do not listen" (32). 
  • "Every book that changes me becomes me" (78).
  • "... the literate brain is very different from the illiterate brain" (102).
  • "Good ideas regularly go missing, and bad ideas often win the day" (159).
  • "Reading is as close as we get to being two conscious people at once" (310).
I could go on and on. I had to read this book slowly--and accept that I just wasn't going to get everything. But what I did get? Illuminating moments--even thrilling at times.

5. Final Word: A word I liked this week from one of my online word-of-the-day providers ...

     - uptalk  noun [uhp-tawk]

1. a rise in pitch at the end usually of a declarative sentence, especially if habitual: often represented in writing by a question mark as in Hi, I'm here to read the meter?
Uptalk, the researchers found, could also serve a strategic purpose through a technique known as "floor-holding," in which the speaker, anticipating an interruption by the listener, tries to stave it off by using a rising tone at the end of a statement.
-- Jan Hoffman, "Overturning the Myth of Valley Girl Speak," New York Times, December 23, 2013

Uptalk is a linguistic term for an intonation pattern in which a declarative sentence ends in a rising pitch like a question. The phenomenon was first noted especially among teenage girls and young women, though it is used among the general population. Uptalk entered English in the early 1990s.

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