The Drum Major Instinct

Theater of War presents “The Drum Major Instinct” tomorrow. Details here.

And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, (Everybody) because everybody can serve. (Amen) You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. (All right) You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. (Amen) You only need a heart full of grace, (Yes, sir, Amen) a soul generated by love. (Yes) And you can be that servant.

The full text of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “The Drum Major Instinct,” sermon delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, can be found here. Audio also at that link. An article of interest — “Revisiting One of King’s Final and Most Haunting Sermons” (The Atlantic, April 1, 2018) — can be found here.

Alas, poor Cromwell!

Weekend stack.

Last night, I finished reading Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light. The Cromwell trilogy is, as so many others have already pointed out, a remarkable achievement.

Not pictured is my first book of the year, Stephen Greenblatt Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics (2018). Brilliant.

p. 35
Populism may look like an embrace of the have-nots, but in reality it is a form of cynical exploitation. The unscrupulous leader has no actual interest in bettering the lot of the poor. Surrounded from birth with great wealth, his tastes run to extravagant luxuries, and he finds nothing remotely appealing in the lives of under classes. In fact, he despises them, hates the smell of their breath, fears that they carry diseases, and regards them as fickle, stupid, worthless, and expendable. But he sees that they can be made to further his ambitions.

p. 41
He promises to make England great again. How will he do that? He shows the crowd at once: he attacks education. The educated elite has betrayed the people. They are traitors who will all be brought to justice, and this justice will be meted out not by judges and lawyers but in a call-and-response between the leader and his mob.

p. 43
But Shakespeare grasped something critically important: although the absurdity of the demagogue’s rhetoric was blatantly obvious, the laughter it elicited did not for a minute diminish its menace. Cade and his followers will not slink away because the traditional political elite and the entirety of the educated populace regard him as a jackass.

p. 53
Shakespeare’s Richard III brilliantly develops the personality features of the aspiring tyrant already sketched in the Henry VI trilogy: the limitless self-regard, the law-breaking, the pleasure in inflicting pain, the compulsive desire to dominate. He is pathologically narcissistic and supremely arrogant. He has a grotesque sense of entitlement, never doubting that he can do whatever he chooses. He loves to bark orders and to watch underlings scurry to carry them out. He expects absolute loyalty, but he is incapable of gratitude. The feelings of others mean nothing to him. He has no natural grace, no sense of shared humanity, no decency.

Books read

Since last week, I’ve finished seven books, bringing my total for the year to 228.

Harriet the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh; 1964. Fiction.)
As I mentioned this was a reread in anticipation of the new biography.

Crooked House (Agatha Christie; 1949. Fiction.)
Endless Night (Agatha Christie; 1967. Fiction.)
One of Robin’s mini challenges was to read three books by Agatha Christie. In January, I read The Mousetrap, picked up a few new Christie titles… and promptly forgot about the challenge. Better late than never, right? Crooked House may be my new favorite, especially now that Josephine is uneasily paired with Harriet in my readerly imagination.

The Silence of the Girls (Pat Barker; 2018. Fiction.)
A feminist Iliad.

p. 216
Now, he can see what he’s been trying to do: to bargain with grief. Behind all this frenetic activity there’s been the hope that if he keeps his promises there’ll be no more pain. But he’s beginning to understand that grief doesn’t strike bargains. There’s no way of avoiding the agony – or even of getting through it faster. It’s got him in its claws and it won’t let go till he’s learnt every lesson it has to teach.

Bring up the Bodies (Hilary Mantel; 2012. Fiction.)
As I mentioned last week, “Read the Mantel trilogy” is a 2020 goal. You don’t need me to tell you what an achievement these books are.

Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans (John M. Marzluff; 2012. Non-fiction.)
A late entry to my list of reading goals: a book from the collection of ornithology titles, preferably one about my bird of the year.

We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence (Becky Cooper; 2012. Non-fiction.)
As she attempts to solve a decades-old mystery, Cooper excavates the pervasive misogyny of university politics while negotiating the creative non-fiction writer’s tendency to become the subject. Coming from such a young writer, this was particularly deft and compelling.

p. 332
Breathing life into someone on the page was an act of both resurrection and transubstantiation: I wrote them by learning about them, then by holding them inside me, then by feeling for them. By the end, I’d become their host, so of course I would forget where they ended, and I started.

p. 405
It occurs to us that a cousin of randomness is serendipity.

p. 426
Some days I don’t even know what to tell you about Jane. I know even less about whether telling a responsible story of the past is possible, having learned all too well how the act of interpretation molds the facts in service of the storyteller. I have been burned enough times to know: There are no true stories; there are only facts, and the stories we tell ourselves about those facts.

Bookshelf

My Ideal Bookshelf

Eight years ago, when My Ideal Bookshelf was first published, I assembled the collection pictured above. Atop the stack on my desk this morning is one of those books, Harriet the Spy. Favorable reviews (e.g., here and here) of the recently published Louise Fitzhugh biography prompted me to revisit Harriet for the first time in many years; I have not been disappointed.

Most of the other books on my desk are marked with dogears and slips of paper for this entry. Since my last annotated list, I’ve read nine, bringing my 2020 total to 221.

Gideon Falls, Vol. 5: Wicked Words (Jeff Lemire; 2020. Graphic fiction.)
This series is barreling toward the conclusion.

Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered (Ruth Klüger; 2001. Non-fiction.)
As I mentioned, Klüger’s is “an unforgiving memoir of growing up Jewish in Nazi-occupied Vienna and escaping death in a concentration camp.” (NYT, October 16, 2020) It was recommended in the lively discussion that occurred in the comments during Court Theatre’s Deep Dive: Leopoldstadt.

p. 69
Remembering is a branch of witchcraft; its tool is incantation. I often say, as if it were a joke — but it’s true — that instead of God I believe in ghosts.

p. 150
Of course, that’s always the case: men go to war because they are drafted. They usually go with enthusiasm, which lasts as long as their side is winning, never mind if their cause is good or bad. A minority know their minds, and the rest mistake the collective mind for their own.

p. 194
I shed these prejudices quickly and quietly, as one takes off a pair of nylons under the table, secretly, so that no one will notice you’ve been wearing them.

p. 199
No one is as dependent as mothers are on the dependency of their children.

Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel; 2009. Fiction.)
When The Mirror and the Light was released earlier this year, I quietly added “Read the Mantel trilogy” to my 2020 goals. These books are proving to be the perfect companions for long-nighted December days.

p. 499
The fate of peoples is made like this, two men in small rooms. Forget the coronations, the conclaves of cardinals, the pomp and the processions. This is how the world changes….

Memorial: A Version of Homer’s Iliad (Alice Oswald; 2011. Poetry.)
In this startling and powerful reframing of the Iliad, two similes (on facing pages in my edition) begged to be pressed into my commonplace book. The first reminded me of the most exquisite passage in all of literature written in English (see below):

Like snow falling like snow
When the living winds shake the clouds into pieces
Like flutters of silence hurrying down
To put a stop to the earth at her leafwork

The second was so poignant it hurt:

Like when a mother is rushing
And a little girl clings to her clothes
Wants help wants arms
Won’t let her walk
Like staring up at that tower of adulthood
Wanting to be light again
Wanting the whole problem of living to be lifted
And carried on a hip

The Dead (James Joyce; 1914. Fiction.)
In which one finds the most exquisite passage in all of literature written in English:

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge (M.T. Anderson; 2018. Fiction.)
One of the most delightful books I read this year. Related article here.

In Defense of Elitism: Why I’m Better Than You and You Are Better Than Someone Who Didn’t Buy This Book (Joel Stein; 2019. Non-fiction.)
Yes, Stein’s humor is an acquired taste. Related interview here.

Antigone Rising: The Subversive Power of the Ancient Myth (Helena Morales; 2020. Non-fiction.)
Related article here.

The Theater of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today (Bryan Doerries; 2015. Non-fiction.)
A wonderful reader recommended Theater of War to me in late spring. Since then, I’ve watched seven readings — most recently, The Book of Job with Bill Murray. Doerries’ book is as riveting as those performances.

p. 13
It is not our job to judge the characters in Greek tragedies — to focus on their “flaws.” Tragedy challenges us to see ourselves in the way its characters stray from the path, and to open our eyes to the bad habits we may have formed or the mistakes we have yet to make. Contrary to what you may have learned in school, tragedies are not designed to fill us with pessimism and dread about the futility of human existence or our relative powerlessness in a world beyond our grasp. They are designed to help us see the impending disaster on the horizon, so that we may correct course and narrowly avoid it. Above all, the flaw in our thinking about tragedy is that we look for meaning where there is none to be found. Tragedies don’t mean anything. They do something.

Reading notes

Since my last annotated list, I’ve read ten books, for a total of 212. I am currently reading Ruth Klüger’s Still Alive, “an unforgiving memoir of growing up Jewish in Nazi-occupied Vienna and escaping death in a concentration camp.” (NYT, October 16, 2020)

Lakewood (Megan Giddings; 2020. Fiction.) LIB
Terrific premise; lackluster prose. Review here.

Disappearing Earth (Julia Phillips; 2019. Fiction.) RFS
This, on the other hand, was gorgeously told. Review here.

Parable of the Sower (Octavia Butler; 1993. Fiction.) RFS
Ordered the sequel after only three chapters. Related article about this prescient novel here.

On Immunity: An Inoculation (Eula Biss; 2014. Non-fiction.) ATY
The following passage (Chicago Tribune; September 1, 2020) prompted me to pick up some of Biss’ work:

To read Eula Biss is to remind yourself that you are relatively illiterate, have never had a clear thought in your life, can’t compose a decent sentence if you tried and should probably just shut up and go into marketing already. Or so I’ve heard. Is this the smartest writer in the Chicago area right now, on this day, in the late summer of 2020? Years ago, before Aleksandar Hemon left Chicago to teach at Princeton University, there may have been an argument. This is a parlor game, after all. But still, who else in the Chicago area, sentence for sentence, thought for thought, writes with more confidence, accessibility and provocation than Eula Biss?

For a number of (perhaps obvious) reasons, I began with On Immunity. She’s remarkable. Review here; interview here.

Theory of Bastards (Audrey Schulman; 2014. Fiction.) RFS
Review here. No question, one of the most memorable books I’ve read this year.

Devolution (Max Brooks; 2020. Fiction.) ATY
Well, it’s no World War Z, but it was a pleasant enough evening of reading. Review here.

New Boy (Tracy Chevalier; 2017. Fiction.) RFS
Part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, this retelling of Othello is set in an elementary school. While some may think the premise strains credulity , I think it works well, almost too well.

Miracle Creek (Angie Kim; 2019. Fiction.) RFS
This appeared on a number of best-of lists last year. While I thought it was an engaging courtroom drama, I’m not sure it reached the heights its appearance on those lists suggests.

Class Trip (Emmanuel Carrère; 1999. Fiction.) RFS
The last time I was this unsettled by a work of fiction was on rereading Turn of the Screw.

Fen (Caryl Churchill; 1983. Drama.) ATY
Read to prepare for the third “Theatre & Thought” series presented by the Court Theatre and the University of Chicago, Caryl Churchill’s Fen and the Dramaturgical Process.

Still reading

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My weekend stack, which includes recent acquisitions.

I’ve finished twelve books since my last post, for a total of 190; my goal of 208 for the year is within reach.

Seven Guitars (August Wilson; 1995. Drama.) ATY
King Hedley II (August Wilson; 1999. Drama.) ATY
Jitney (August Wilson; 1982. Drama.)
Gem of the Ocean (August Wilson; 2003. Drama.)
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (August Wilson; 1984. Drama.)
The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson (Sandra G. Shannon; 1995. Non-fiction.)
As I mentioned in my last post, Court Theatre’s 2020/21 season includes “Theatre & Thought,” four series of lectures by University of Chicago faculty and other scholars. The first four-week series, “The World of August Wilson and the Black Creative Voice,” concluded this week.

The Bacchae (Euripides; 405 B.C. Trans. Nicholas Rudall; 1996. Drama.)
The second four-week series, “Euripides’ The Bacchae and Contemporary Adaptation,” begins next week.

The Walking Dead: The Alien (Brian K. Vaughan; 2020. Graphic fiction.)
He had a brother?

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (Isabel Wilkerson; 2020. Non-fiction.)
Review here.
p. 223
This was the thievery of caste, stealing the time and psychic resources of the marginalized, draining energy in an already uphill competition. They were not, like me, frozen and disoriented, trying to make sense of a public violation that seemed all the more menacing now that I could see it in full. The quiet mundanity of that terror has never left me, the scars out living the cut.

We are told over and over again in our society not to judge a book by its cover, not to assume what is inside before we have had a chance to read it. Yet humans size up and make assumptions about other humans based on what they look like many times a day. We prejudge complicated breathing beings in ways that we are told never to judge inanimate objects.

Monogamy (Sue Miller; 2020. Fiction.)
Review here. A satisfying way to pass a Sunday afternoon.

Level 7 (Mordecai Roshwald; 1959. Fiction.)
What an odd time to rediscover this fictional diary of a nameless, button-pushing soldier.

Dear Edward (Ann Napolitano; 2020. Fiction.)
Earlier this summer, a friend asked if I had read this. We don’t necessarily read in the same ways or for the same reasons, but when I reached for a simple book earlier this week, I didn’t put it down. Sad without being (too) sentimental, true without being (too) didactic, it’s also filled with quiet humor. The main character may be a bit precocious, but then again, he was homeschooled.

What I’ve been reading

Current stack.

With more than three months remaining in the year, a goal of 208 books seemed reachable, so I readjusted my Goodreads challenge (for the third time); I’m currently at 178.

The New Wilderness (Diane Cook; 2020. Fiction.)
This caught my eye when it was long-listed for the Booker Prize. (It made the short list.) Review here. I wasn’t “dazzled,” but I was riveted.

The River at Night (Erica Ferencik; 2017. Fiction.)
The Truth about Harry Quebert Affair (Joël Dicker; 2014. Fiction.)
Every once in a while, I peruse the shelves, stop on a book, and think, “Hmmm. How did this get here?” So it was with these two. River, was mildly entertaining; Affair, however, was dreadful.

Sentient (Jeff Lemire; 2019. Graphic fiction.)
We Stand on Guard (Brian K. Vaughan; 2016. Graphic fiction.)
Both are solid stand-alone volumes.

The Piano Lesson (August Wilson; 1987. Drama.)
Fences (August Wilson; 1985. Drama.)
Two Trains Running (August Wilson; 1993. Drama.)
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (August Wilson; 1982. Drama.)
Radio Golf (August Wilson; 2005. Drama.)
Court Theatre’s 2020/21 season includes “Theatre & Thought,” four series of lectures by University of Chicago faculty and other scholars. For the first four-week series, “The World of August Wilson and the Black Creative Voice,” I’m making my way through the entire American Century Cycle.

From Radio Golf, Wilson’s last play:

If it don’t take all the quarters you fix it. Anybody with common sense will agree to that. What they don’t agree on is how to fix it. Some people say you got to tear it down to fix it. Some people say you got to build it up to fix it. Some people say they don’t know how to fix it. Some people say they don’t want to be bothered with fixing it. You mix them all in a pot and stir it up and you got America. That’s what makes this country great.

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster (Svetlana Alexievich; 2005 (1997). Non-fiction.)
Read as a companion to Adam Higginbotham’s Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster (2019). Haunting.

p. 107
I’ve felt something like this when someone close to me died. The sun is out, and the birds are flying, and the swallows, it starts raining — but he’s dead. Do you understand? I want to explain this whole other dimension in a few words, explain how it was for me then.

Still reading

A summertime photo: Last August, my daughters and I spent an evening at the beach not far from where my husband and I grew up. The sound of the waves washing in and out… one of my favorites.

As back-to-school season drew near, I craved the sort of books that slide down like a glass of Hi-C and some Oreos, a snack Debbie D.’s mother often served when we climbed out of the pool following a long afternoon of lazily spinning on floats and gossiping. What can I say? We were young and unworried. Anyway, that yen for the bound version of refined sugar explains these two selections:

The Gifted School (Bruce Holsinger; 2019. Fiction.)
A Good Marriage (Kimberly McCreight; 2020. Fiction.)

Good luck and a great conversation with my older daughter explain the four graphic works I finished since my last post:

Family Tree, Vol. 1: The Sapling (Jeff Lemire; 2020. Graphic fiction.)
Something Is Killing the Children, Vol. 1 (James Tynion IV; 2020. Graphic fiction.)
Undiscovered Country, Vol. 1 (Scott Snyder; 2020. Graphic fiction.)
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist (Adrian Tomine; 2020. Graphic non-fiction.)

After revisiting our admiration of Jeff Lemire’s work, I poked around to see what he’s been working on lately. Say what you will about algorithms, I am grateful for the two recommendations that followed my discovery of Lemire’s Family Tree; I have enjoyed other titles by Tynion and Snyder and found these pretty solid. Tomine’s wry memoir arrived in my stack via a Goodreads recommendation.

This month, I concluded my Harry Potter reread:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling; 2007. Fiction.)

The only book I’d go out of my way to recommend, though:

Lost Children Archive (Valeria Luiselli; 2019. Fiction.)
Gorgeously written, thinky, harrowing. I really loved it. Reviews here and here.

p. 29
Conversations, in a family, become linguistic archaeology. They build the world we share, layer it in a palimpsest, give meaning to our present and future. The question is, when, in the future, we dig into our intimate archive, replay our family tape, will it amount to a story? A soundscape? Or will it be all sound rubble, noise, and debris?

Notes

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This image was taken last August, when we visited the Harvard Museum of Natural History. How the time has… yes, flown.

Now that our daughters live within a five-hour drive, we are able to see them more easily and more often: We were out earlier this month and plan to return in early September, if travel restrictions permit.

Where did the last year go, though?

It’s August.

Again.

When the afternoon light achieved the autumn-approaches slant on the living room floor earlier this month, I called the company that services the heater and air-conditioner to schedule our annual clean and check. The tech we prefer is older and, concerned about his health, has greatly reduced his time in the field, so a new tech was assigned to our routine maintenance appointment.

He arrived on time, but the mask he wore looked like the dust protection my husband and I use when cleaning the garage, and his non-stop patter all but spelled “Look at my germ-laden droplets!” in the air around his face, so while our favorite tech may enter the common areas of house, the new guy was confined to the utility area. Trying to ensure he did what needed to be done from six feet away was tricky, but I caught two issues that would have resulted in a return visit that first cool morning in October. (Fingers crossed that there were only two.)

We are also catching up on postponed medical and dental appointments. I joked with my husband after one of my appointments that I would have rather been that up close and personal with my hair stylist (no, I haven’t been to the salon since February) than with the lab techs and radiologist. Haircuts are optional, he reminded me; healthcare is not.

In other news, with the Women of Trachis, I reached 159 books read this year.

Lanny (Max Porter; 2019. Fiction.)
Not as memorable as Grief Is the Thing with Feathers but worth reading. Related article here.

The Trial (Franz Kafka; 1914/1925. Trans. Breton Mitchell 1999. Fiction.)
Nightmarish and brilliant.

The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath; 1963. Fiction.)
According to the Jackson bio I finished last month, Plath’s autobiographical novel was inspired by Hangsaman. Serendipity / synchronicity / synthesis abounds: I read Ted Hughes’ Crow earlier this month because it informed Porter’s Grief Is the Thing with Feathers.

The Old Guard, Book One: Opening Fire (Greg Rucka; 2017. Graphic fiction.)
After hearing about the Netflix movie on NPR, I decided to watch it. As I said to my husband, what I would have loathed at a theater was harmless enough for a Saturday night couch date. Rucka also pens the Lazarus series I follow, so I decided to read the book.

Zone One (Colson Whitehead; 2011. Fiction.)
Review here.

p.183
He was a mediocre man. He had led a mediocre life exceptional only in the magnitude of its unexceptionality. Now the world was mediocre, rendering him perfect. He asked himself: How can I die? I was always like this. Now I am more me. He had the ammo. He took them all down.

p.266
We never see other people anyway, only the monsters we make of them.

Philoctetes (Sophocles; 409 B.C. Trans. Bryan Doerries; 2015. Drama.)
Women of Trachis (Sophocles; 425 B.C. Trans. Bryan Doerries; 2015. Drama.)
Read in anticipation of another Theater of War production.

Survivor Song (Paul Tremblay; 2020. Fiction.)
I loved A Head Full of Ghosts and thought The Cabin at the End of Woods was a solid page-turner, a perfect poolside read. So was this. As many other readers have noted, his prescience about just how badly we would fumble the response to an outbreak was more than a little eerie.

Reading notes

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Current stack.

With The Good Soldier, I reached 151 books read this year, 120 of which were from my shelves. Over on Goodreads, I had selected 104 as my original challenge goal but eventually updated that to 120. More recently, I changed it to 156, but now I wonder: Is 208 a realistic goal?

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (Ruth Franklin; 2016. Non-fiction.)
My unplanned Jackson unit began in May with We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which I read and then watched. In June, after reading Sheila’s review of Shirley, I promptly grabbed Merrell’s novel from the shelves, then watched the film. What am I waiting for? I asked myself in late June and pulled Franklin’s tome from the shelves. I finished this meticulous and engaging biography in July and followed it with The Haunting of Hill House.

p. 172
Writing in the interstices — the hours between morning kindergarten and lunch, while the baby napped, or after the children had gone to bed — demanded a discipline that suited her. She was constantly thinking of stories while cleaning, cooking, or doing just about anything else.

Richard II (William Shakespeare; 1595. Drama.)
To complement this excellent programming. One of my favorite lines of Shakespeare:

For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings….

The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson; 1959. Fiction.)
See above.

Say, Say, Say (Lila Savage; 2019. Fiction.)
Review here.

Ajax (Sophocles; 442 B.C. Trans. Bryan Doerries; 2015. Drama.)
In anticipation of this excellent presentation.

Gideon Falls, Vol. 4: The Pentoculus (Jeff Lemire; 2020. Graphic fiction.)

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers (Max Porter; 2015. Fiction.)
Reviews here and here. Remarkable. Two passages for the commonplace book:

BOYS
She told us that men are rarely truly
kind, but they were often funny, which
is better. ‘You would do well to prepare
yourselves for disappointment’ she said,
‘in your dealings with men. Women are on
the whole much stronger, usually cleverer’
she said, ‘but less funny, which is a shame.
Have babies, if you can’ she said ‘because
you’ll be good at it. Help yourselves to
anything you find in this house. I want to
give you everything I have because you
are the most precious and beautiful boys.
You remind me of everything I have ever
been interested in’ she said.

DAD
Moving on, as a concept, is for stupid people, because any sensible person knows grief is a long-term project. I refuse to rush. The pain that is thrust upon us let no man slow or speed or fix.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling; 2005. Fiction.)
Revisiting these books that my son and I so enjoyed has been sweetly nostalgic, but with this, the penultimate volume in the beloved series, the flaws have become too big to hide under a long sweater of sentiment. They’re just not particularly well-stitched, are they?

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster (Adam Higginbotham; 2019. Non-fiction.)
I watched the HBO series and thought, Why haven’t I read Midnight yet? For the record, the non-fiction account is many, many times more frightening than the cable program.

In Praise of Walking: A New Scientific Exploration (Shane O’Mara; 2020. Non-fiction.)
Related link here. A quick read, O’Mara’s survey of the brain-body connection complemented my own experience: as my mileage increased, so did my active and engaged reading and practicing.

An aside: When I tendered my resignation from my tutoring gig, I was asked — so many, many times — what I planned to do with myself. To most, I said, “Oh, I’m sure I’ll find something.” To those closest to me, though, I confided that I wanted nothing more from re-retirement than the time to read more, write more, study more, practice more, and walk more. And, boy, have I had the time, eh? That’s what happens, I suppose, when one’s re-retirement begins exactly twelve days before the world presses the PAUSE button.

Crow (Ted Hughes; 1970. Poetry.)
Of course, after reading Porter’s novel, I had to read the poetry that inspired it.

An aside: Each New Year’s Day, my family engages in the bird of the year game outlined in Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds. (Related link here.) To mix things up a bit this year, we decided to move the date of our game to the first day back to work after the winter holiday, January 6. We could choose a bird from our respective backyards or a bird we saw at work. That morning, I awoke to the sound of crows conversing loudly beneath our bird feeders. My favorite bird! Finally, the year of the crow!

Speaking of backyard birding, a rock dove landed in the yard the day before yesterday. I’ve never seen a pigeon at our feeders; it dwarfed the mourning doves and blue jays. How capacious they are! A second pigeon made a few passes over the yard but didn’t touch down. Later, I saw both on my neighbor’s roof. This is a wooded neighborhood, so the pigeons looked quaintly out of place.

The Good Soldier (Ford Madox Ford; 1915. Fiction.)
Related link here. How did I arrive at (mumble) years of age without reading this book?