New books redux

My book-buying binge has abated, now that I’ve exhausted my accumulated points, discounts, and account credits, etc., and only three or four titles remain on my wishlist (for now). 

Other news: After a day of nearly fifty degrees and abundant sunshine, we have returned to below-twenty on our walks. This is an observation, not a complaint, as I much prefer to run cold than run hot.

And yesterday I squandered nearly two hours on a film in which the leads had no chemistry, and the plot had more holes than the mesh bags in which I wash my favorite sweaters. It was a romantic comedy sans love and humor. But, gosh, isn’t Jennifer Lopez something? Still, the time could have been better spent watching any of the items on my watch list (e.g., Flee, The House, Season 4 of Ozark) — or, perhaps better still, practicing my music or reading.

In which another week passes

Musicians at the Bristol Renaissance Faire.

We were able to tuck a ten-mile bike ride into each weekend morning, which is such a refreshing way to open a day. With neither plays nor museums on our calendar, we decided to visit the Bristol Renaissance Faire after yesterday’s ride. Because I skipped last year’s trip, I relished stops at favorite vendors like Seventh Sojourn, where I stocked up on scented soaps.

Today after our ride and a little yard work, my daughters headed out for lunch and a hike with a university friend, my husband settled in for a long study session, and I attended to some paperwork, banking, and writing. We still hope to wring a game or two and a family film out of the weekend before it concludes. We’ll see; we’ll see.

Speaking of seeing, I have finally shared the Lord of the Rings movies with my daughters. One thing and then another always kept us from getting around to the films, which may not have been such a bad thing. Apart from Andy Serkis’ brilliant portrayal of Gollum, the trilogy doesn’t really hold up for me, and they weren’t particularly impressed, either. This is heresy, I know, but it all felt so… abrupt and amateurish. In short, the books were better. (But not much.) And speaking of not holding up, while in the dentist’s chair (again!) mid-week, I heard Steve Perry earnestly crooning, “And here, I stand, with o, pen arms…” and thought, not for the first time, Oh, dear! This just does not hold up. So I texted my boyfriend of thirty-five years, husband of thirty-one:

They’re playing “Open Arms” at the dentist.
Our song doesn’t hold up.
But I love you anyway.
So eighties. So la, la la, la la, la laaaa.
Guess you can’t dance to NPR, though.
[“Open Arms” was our first dance at our wedding reception.]

To which he sagely replied:

Can’t dance to anything.

In reading news… Today begins Week 5 in my quest to read War and Peace in seventeen weeks. Here are my Week Four commonplace book entries:

p. 448
There was no answer to any of these questions, except one, and that not a logical answer and not at all a reply to them. The answer was: ‘You’ll die and all will end. You’ll die and know all, or cease asking.’ But dying was also dreadful.

p. 451
Your view of life is a regrettable delusion.

I continue to progress in the “Shakespeare in a Year” project, too, making adjustments that suit my interests and scheduling needs. For example, I have read one hundred of the Sonnets and Don Patterson’s related commentary, which is a bit ahead of the plan, but I will read As You Like It this week, which is a tiny bit behind schedule.

In other reading, I finished Chang-Rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea last night. As others have pointed out, the first-person plural viewpoint contributes to the mythic quality of the narrative, but it also obscures the protagonist a bit, which may frustrate some readers. That said, I think others who share my enthusiasm for Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel) will appreciate this beautifully written novel.

p. 215
It’s our common character on display, which is why we invest so much of ourselves — often totally beyond reason — in particular figures and performers, both fictive and of flesh. And when that display is unsettling or notorious, we can collectively wring our hands and wail and then try to assuage the disquiet in our hearts by more coolly interrogating its antecedents, the conditions and causes of its expression, and debate about how we might curb a future recurrence, none of this cynically posed but subtly servicing the final hopeful notion that This Is Not We.

p. 219
But if we calm ourselves and open our eyes and step back far enough, we have to admit that our society, if not fundamentally unwell, has been profoundly wounded.

Joyce Carol Oates’ recent short fiction collection, Dis Mem Ber, was on the porch when I returned from the Faire last night. I couldn’t help myself: I read four of the seven stories before setting it down to finish On Such a Full Sea. Quick, quintessential JCO, particularly the title story. I plan to finish tonight.


The Virginia Theatre, as seen from our hotel room.

Filmgoers began lining up before 9 a.m. on Friday. We planned to join our daughters for a late breakfast before heading to the festival, but for a tiny moment, I wondered if I should make camp outside the Virginia Theatre. In the end, we joined the line at 11:40 a.m. and had located terrific seats by 12:10 p.m. No camping required!

Anecdote: On March 30, I followed a link from the University’s site to the official Ebertfest site and scrolled through the films. The documentary immediately attracted my interest, but then… I couldn’t believe my eyes! Sheila O’Malley’s short film July and Half of August was scheduled to be screened just before They Call Us Monsters. What synchronicity, eh? (I recently republished my post about seeing the reading of her play in Chicago.) With her powerful short still on my mind, I send prayers to the film gods that it has attracted the sort of attention that will result in feature-length treatment. More people need to meet Neve. Two enthusiastic thumbs up!

Ben Lear’s documentary weaves the debate surrounding a California State bill concerning whether juveniles should be tried as adults with the story of three juvenile offenders enrolled in a script-writing class while awaiting their sentences. Thumbs up!