1. AOTW; I had pretty much realized I didn't have a winner this week ... until last night. We were on I-77, heading north toward home from Montrose, when the AOTW roared down the entrance ramp, ignored the fact that I, in the right lane, could not move over because I was being passed on my left, and forced his way in front of me, an accomplishment made possible only because I jammed on the brakes, crying "I have my AOTW!"
2. Over the past few days I watched--via Netflix DVD--the old Paul Newman film Harper, released in February 1966 while I was doing my student teaching (West Geauga HS, 11th grade English). I remember seeing the film (at Hiram College?), and by then I was a big Newman fan (still am). I can't remember why I ordered the film (dotage?), but I had a good time with it--and what a cast! Arthur Hill, Lauren Bacall, Julie Harris, Robert Wagner, Robert Webber ... It's based on the PI novel by Ross Macdonald (whose works I've loved), The Moving Target (1949). (Link to film trailer.)
Some of it looks primitive now (scenes in moving cars that are not moving--just the filmed background is), and it's about a half-hour longer than it would be these days (lots of talk--which now bores us), but watching Paul Newman is a gift. Oddly, some of the plot involved illegal Mexican immigrants ... good thing that issue is settled, right? Fifty-one years after the film was released!
3. I finished two books this week.
- The first was the 1938 novel by William Faulkner (I'm reading those books of his I somehow never read), The Unvanquished, a novel set in Mississippi near the end of the Civil War--and somewhat afterward. I was struck, I guess, by how so many of the issues Faulkner wrote about nearly seventy years ago are still with us. Race, voting rights, gun violence in the streets, women's rights (a young woman dresses as a man so she can fight with the Confederates)--all of it roils through these pages narrated by a character from a family who inhabits a number of Faulkner novels and stories--the Sartoris family. (A Snopes appears, as well, and behaves like a Snopes.) And, oh, some little Faulkner touches: the members of a poor family read aloud to one another from a cookbook--vicarious pleasures--food they can't find or afford to buy. And my heart went pitter-patter when I came across an allusion to Davy Crockett!
- The second was the first novel by Elizabeth Strout, whose complete novels I've decided to read (and now finished!). She won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Olive Kitteredge (2008), and I've really enjoyed reading my way through her fiction--a journey, by the way, that I'm doing more or less backwards: I read the most recent ones first, then moved back.
In Amy and Isabelle, 1998, her first novel, Strout employs a device which now dominates her fiction--and enlightens her readers: multiple points of view. She is not the first, of course, to do this (remember The Moonstone, As I Lay Dying, and numerous other forerunners), but she is among the most talented.
The story takes place in the fictional Shirley Falls, Maine (a place she uses in other works, as well) and involves a single mother, Isabelle (she's spread the fiction in town that she's a widow) and her teen daughter, Amy (who's a handful, to say the least). It's a novel about love, about learning what it is and isn't--and about how we resemble our parents in some very fundamental ways. Isabelle, who works as a secretary in the local mill, is obsessed (maybe too strong a word) with her boss, who's married.
Amy gets involved romantically with a new high school math teacher (she's so naive; he's so horny), and Strout shifts the point of view, chapter by chapter. Isabelle, Amy, Isabelle, Amy. A wonder to watch.
4. We're enjoying the cop series Shetland, which we've begun streaming. (Confession: We turn on the subtitles: otherwise, we miss some of what these folks are saying. As we get better with the dialect, we'll shut if off ... promise.) (Link to some video.)
5. And, finally, on Friday night we saw the new film mother! at the Kent Cinema. Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, Noah, etc.) Joyce and I don't agree on some of this--so this is all in the first person! It's a dark film about love (and what it isn't), about ambition, about the artist and creation and destruction and revision, about family (is murder always below the surface, ready to bubble up?), about public idolatry of the celebrity (we don't come out looking good at all in this film), about vanity and vacuousness. It's surreal throughout--sometimes resembling (and using the techniques of) a teen horror flick (hand-held camera, tight shots of woman walking into a dark room to see what that noise was, etc.) (Link to film trailer.) Fire smolders below all (and, at times, flares.) People just don't listen. Violence of all sorts. All in an old fire-ravaged house that Lawrence is restoring so that her husband, a poet who can't think of what to write about, can write. The house has a ... history (duh).
There's some sex (mostly implied) and some back-lit shots of Jennifer Lawrence (who is very good in this) in diaphanous sleepwear. And there are some fine actors here--not just Lawrence but co-star Javier Bardem (we saw, not long ago, No Country for Old Men, the Coen Bros' brutal film with Bardem as a psycho killer), Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer (looking ominous all the way).
All said, I thought the film was about a half-hour too long--and a bit too--what?--obvious? I mean, I got it pretty early on, and so I felt the whole thing just went on too long.
Also--confession: I'm not much of a fan of horror films, so the horror-film ambiance here just annoyed rather than entertained me. (This, of course, is my fault, not the film's: It is what it is; I am what I am.)
6. Final Word--A word I liked this week from one of my online word-of-the-day providers.
- for you fidget-spinner lovers, from the Oxford English Dictionary
1. a. The noise made by the rapid motion of a wheel; also as adv. Also extended to other whizzing or buzzing noises (see quots.).
1824 Scott Redgauntlet II. xi. 258 I carried a cutler's wheel for several weeks..there I went bizz—bizz—whizz—zizz, at every auld wife's door.
1904 G. A. B. Dewar Glamour of Earth vi. 131 The zizz of the cricket, or the shrill of the bat.
1908 H. Belloc Mr. Clutterbuck's Election xiii They shot round the base of the hills,..had a splendid zizz along the Hog's Back, and then turned sharp round.
1955 D. Barton Glorious Life xxv. 232 The sustained, high-pitched zizz of a party was audible.
1965 Listener 17 June 900/3 The zizz of a trishaw's wheels passing on the road.
1976 Drive May–June 53/2 Gear lever zizz is irritating.
b. Gaiety, liveliness, ‘sparkle’. colloq.
1942 L. V. Berrey & M. Van den Bark Amer. Thes. Slang §240/2 Animation; spirit; vim;..zing, zip,..zizz.
1970 Gourmet Jan. 18/2 No party got into full swing until Tallulah arrived to put her particular type of zizz into it.
1983 Times 22 Feb. 12/6 The Queensgate centre lacks, perhaps, finesse and a touch of zizz.
2. Also ziz. A short sleep, a nap. Cf. Z n. 4b. slang.
1941 Tee Emm Aug. 17 He could not have caught our Pilot Officer Prune at three o'clock one afternoon having a zizz full-length on a mess settee.
1960 ‘N. Shute’ Trustee from Toolroom v. 105 ‘Captain's having a ziz now,’ said the navigator. ‘Supper's at eleven o'clock, Greenwich. He's getting up for that.’
1970 P. Dickinson tr. Aristophanes Wasps in Plays I. 169 Just what I aim to forget by having A quiet ziz.
1979 M. Tabor Baker's Daughter i. 31 Philip's having a zizz. He can't stay awake.
1985 Guardian 24 Jan. 1/3 They would not film any lord who had drifted off in the warmth of the lights for a refreshing zizz.