Notes from the past two weeks

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Detail from Ken Krimstein’s graphic biography of Hannah Arendt.

📚 Today I reached 121 books read this year. Twenty-six of those are non-fiction works, which means I am only four books from my goal of thirty.

Speaking of non-fiction… from Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom (Ken Ilgunas):

p. 74
It never failed: When I’d gaze at the stars and the aurora, I’d see my problems for what they were. I always told myself that I’d been under the control of other forces: parents, school, work. And I’d convinced myself that my debt was to blame for everything as if I had nothing to do with contracting the debt in the first place). I hated my job even though I worked for a wonderful company. And I told myself that, because of the debt, I couldn’t travel, couldn’t go back to school, and now couldn’t even leave my room.

Part of me liked being in debt. Part of me even wanted to stay in debt, to keep going on random and expensive three-week trips to places like Ecuador so I could spend my hard-earned dollars on halfhearted adventures, instead of staying focused on what should have remained my true goal: busting out of the great American debtors’ prison, steadily chipping away at its walls with each paycheck.

Part of me like being in that position of submission, tied up in leather, willfully cowering beneath a ruthless whip-wielding Sallie Mae. Life is simpler when we feel controlled. When we tell ourselves that we are controlled, we can shift the responsibility of freeing ourselves onto that which controls us. When we do that, we don’t have to bear the responsibility for our own unhappiness or shoulder the burden of self-ownership. We don’t have to do anything. And nothing will ever change.

Also on the subject of non-fiction… I loved Krimstein’s The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt. What a fabulous introduction to the philosopher’s life and work! Good customer service story: My copy of Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World (Elisabeth Young-Bruehl), ordered not long after I finished The Three Escapes, arrived with a bent cover and chipped pages. Hoping for a modest discount, I wrote to customer service, and Amazon refunded the entire cost of the book.

🎭 Since my last post, I’ve seen two plays — Nell Gwynn at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (meh) and Mansfield Park at Northlight (misguided, at best) — and one opera — Il trovatore at the Lyric (fabulous; review here).

☕️ On Thursday I was sick enough to call out from work for the first time. After dragging my tired, sniffling self in on Friday, though, I began a nine-day break, arriving home just a few hours before my younger daughter, who is here for Thanksgiving. (My husband and older daughter begin break on Wednesday.)

🍂 Autumn visited for about three days. Not kidding. A few of my neighbors were unable to finish leaf removal before the first snowfall. It snowed again this past Thursday. We were lucky: During a break in my fever last Sunday, we cleared many of the last leaves; and on Monday, in a scarf, earmuffs, and warm coat, I did the last mow of the season.

 

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.

O wonderful son

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“Your silence will not protect you.”

We have seen more than a few Hamlets, stage and screen. The incredible production at the Gift Theatre is the best we’ve experienced.

From the choice to portray the relationships between fathers and children as warm and affectionate to the decisions surrounding the expression of Ophelia’s madness, from the decaying set to the superlative performances — it’s simply riveting.

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.

Backyard birding

Over the last nine days, I have, among other things:

■ followed the progress of the robin family that calls our forsythia bush, “Home”;
■ mowed the lawn three times (!!);
■ seen a play (Suddenly, Last Summer at the Raven);
■ visited the Lincoln Park Zoo;
■ prepared for and undergone one of those screenings doctors recommend for all of us fifty-plus folk;
■ potted a couple of new plants and repotted some older ones;
■ lost a battle against an unidentified and insistent weed in my back garden area;
■ seen a good movie (I, Tonya) and a good documentary (Jane);
■ caught up on the harrowing second season of The Handmaid’s Tale;
■ fretted about how little I have practiced my music; and
■ finished four books:

Sometimes I Lie (Alice Feeney; 2017. Fiction.)
Buried Child (Sam Shepherd; 1978. Drama.)
The Idealist (Justin Peters; 2016. Non-fiction.)
Behold the Dreamers (Imbolo Mbue; 2016. Fiction.)

For the commonplace book, from Act Two of Buried Child:

SHELLY: Can’t we just drive to New Mexico? This is terrible, Vince! I don’t want to stay here. In this house. I thought it was going to be turkey dinners and apple pie and all that kinda stuff.
VINCE: Well I hate to disappoint you!
SHELLY: I’m not disappointed! I’m fuckin’ terrified! I wanna’ go!