Theater of the absurd

We have what are arguably some of the hottest tickets in town.

From Eugène Ionesco’s play Victims of Duty (1953):

CHOUBERT: It’s quite interesting. The Government’s urging all the citizens of the big towns to cultivate detachment. According to this, it’s our last hope of finding an answer to the economic crisis, the confusion of the spirit and the problems of existence.

MADELEINE: We’ve tried everything else, and it hasn’t done any good, but I don’t suppose it’s anyone’s fault.

CHOUBERT: For the time being the Government’s merely recommending this ultimate solution in a friendly manner. They can’t fool us; we know how a recommendation has a way of turning into an order.

MADELEINE: You’re always so anxious to generalize!

CHOUBERT: We know how suggestions suddenly come to look like rules, strict laws.

MADELEINE: Well, my dear, you know the law is necessary, and what’s necessary and indispensable is good, and everything that’s good is nice. And it really is very nice indeed to be a good, law-abiding citizen and do one’s duty and have a clear conscience! …

CHOUBERT: Yes, Madeleine. When one really thinks about it, you’re right. There is something to be said for the law.

MADELEINE: Of course there is.

CHOUBERT: Yes, yes. Renunciation has one important advantage: it’s political and mystical at the same time. It bears fruit on two levels.

The beginning of the end

From page 219 of The Cabin at the End of the World (Paul Tremblay; 2018):

Andrew has taught literature for years, calling his course How the World Ends. The course has occasionally included a literary analysis of the Bible’s Book of Revelation and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding their red, black, white, and pale horses. Over the years the course syllabus has evolved, but one of the main arguments / discussions he has with his students remains a constant. No matter how bleak or dire, end-of-the-world scenarios appeal to us because we take meaning from the end. Aside from the obvious and well-discussed idea that our narcissism is served when imagining we, out of all the billions who will perish, might survive, Andrew has argued there’s also undeniable allure to witnessing the beginning of the end and perishing along with everyone and everything else. He has impishly said to a classroom, to the scowl of more than a few students, “ Within the kernel of end-times awe and ecstasy is the seed of all organized religions.”

Mid-year reading review

From page 69 of The Hole (Hye-Young Pyun; 2017):

It was impossible to capture the trajectory of life in a map. Without one, there was no way of wrapping your brain around it all, and yet he was skeptical as to whether you could ever represent the world through maps alone.

But it was meaningful. Someone had taken these invisible trajectories that could not be studied with any sort of accuracy and had tried anyway to turn them into a tangible space. He found it boring sometimes for the same reason. A world that could not be understood perfectly, could not be explained unambiguously, and was interpreted differently based on political purposes and conveniences was no different from the world he was already living in. And yet, the one way in which maps were clearly better than life was that they improved with failure. Life itself was merely an accumulation of failures, and those failures never made life better.

The jacket copy suggests that The Hole evokes the work of Shirley Jackson and Stephen King. While I appreciate the assertion, I thought this meditation on the horror of finding blank emptiness at the center of a career, a marriage, a life was more philosophical than the comparisons to psychological thrillers suggests.

This was the book I completed before heading to bed last night, so I have completed sixty-eight books so far this year:

27 novels
10 plays
18 non-fiction titles
13 graphic fiction works
18 works published this year

My complete list can be found here.

Even better on rereading:
Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro; 2005. Fiction.)
Childhood’s End (Arthur C. Clarke; 1953. Fiction.)
Daytripper (Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá; 2011. Graphic fiction.)
Mrs. Caliban (Rachel Ingalls; 1983. Fiction.)

Forgot how wonderful this writer is:
Memento Mori (Muriel Spark; 1959. Fiction.)

For those who loved The Elementals (Michael McDowell; 1981):
The Reapers Are the Angels (Alden Bell; 2010. Fiction.)

A new-ish author who deserves the hype:
Little Fires Everywhere (Celeste Ng; 2017. Fiction.)
Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng; 2014. Fiction.)

Fabulous story for a long car trip:
American Kingpin (Nick Bilton; 2017. Non-fiction.)

Honorable mention:
The Idealist: Aaron Swartz and the Rise of Free Culture on the Internet (Justin Peters; 2016. Non-fiction.)

The most engrossing book I’ve read so far this year (not including rereads):
Behold the Dreamers (Imbolo Mbue; 2016. Fiction.)

Honorable mention:
Killers of the Flower Moon (Dan Grann; 2017. Non-fiction.)
An Abbreviated Life (Ariel Leve; 2016. Non-fiction.)
After the Eclipse (Sarah Perry; 2017. Non-fiction.)
The Hole (Hye-young Pyun; 2017. Fiction.)

Two weeks

Before they struck out on their own…

How the time passed:

■ two fledged robins and numerous other juveniles, including cardinals, sparrows, red-bellied woodpeckers, blue jays, and goldfinches;
■ one play (Buried Child at Writers Theatre);
■ two museum adventures: the Field and the Shedd;
■ one documentary (Won’t You Be My Neighbor?);
■ fifteen hours of music practice;
■ one music lesson;
■ one American Red Cross course (Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED);
■ four “dates” with the lawnmower, edger, and trimmer;
■ three trips to the car dealership (Bleah!);
■ two hours of volunteer work;
■ two episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale;
■ the first week of my current MOOC (music theory); and
■ six books:

Macbeth (William Shakespeare; 1606. Drama.)
Royal City, Vol. 2: Sonic Youth (Jeff Lemire; 2017. Graphic non-fiction.)
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace (Patty Yumi Cottrell; 2017. Fiction.)
Macbeth (Hogarth Shakespeare) (Jo Nesbø; 2018. Fiction.)
Hamlet (William Shakespeare; 1602. Drama.)
The Lying Game (Ruth Ware; 2017. Fiction.)

As well as all of the even more commonplace activities (e.g., errands, chores, walks, games) that this parttime educator’s summer months comprise. Apart from car shopping and the excessive heat warnings, the season has been quite kind to me, so far. How has your summer been?

Next up: mid-year reading review.

New books

5F3C342B-132D-4BBF-8FAA-F71365F7983FEarlier this week, I weeded my library, which means, of course, that there is room for some new books. What got yanked? Books I have read but will neither reread nor recommend. Books that were compelling at earlier stages in my life. Books I’ve outgrown.