Backtracking to some brief thoughts on my last read of 2008, Saul Bellow's novella The Actual, I found it a fluid, mischievous set of intertwining character studies at the center of which is Harry Trellman, a Chicago businessman - an eternal outsider with a talent for assessing character.
The Superbowl mystifies me. This year particularly, when the sound of adults screaming their heads off both in pleasure and in agony, made me think that the same phenomenon that causes this reaction is going to be what eventually turns the economy around.
After working for 11 hours on a homework assignment yesterday, I fell into bed and didn't really feel like tackling Middlemarch, so I reached into the TBR pile and pulled out Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys. I wasn't wild about American Gods but I did like The Graveyard Book and Coraline and, in fact, the new 3-D film of Coraline is terrific, so I'm not sure what to expect from this one. So far, a hapless fellow named Charlie learns that his father has dropped dead while singing karaoke in a bar and flies to his funeral. After it, he learns from an old neighbor that his father was a god...no really. This tale is told in a whimsical voice - half Dickensian saga, half comic pop fiction - it is fast-moving, funny, and the language has a kind of permanence.
An excellent essay from the New York Times about why computers might never outperform the human brain.
With the economy gone to the dogs and our health going to the pigs and an all-round atmosphere of hysteria that is becoming the real reason for worry, I thought it the perfect time to bring back our favorite psychopath, Tom Ripley to really give us somewhere to place our anxiety.
The semester is finally over, my last paper handed in, and five films I had requested all came in to my local library at the same time, so we watched Le Scaphandre et le Papillon last night. Based on the memoir by the journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby who was paralyzed by a stroke yet able to understand everything that went on around him - locked-in syndrome. Scaphandre is French for diving bell, which is Bauby's metaphor for what it is like to be trapped inside himself.
The day's musings are by Frank O'Hara, not me. His warped angle was necessary to counteract all the rain and all the talk. This poem has the best opening line.
Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O'Hara
Am I to become profligate as if I were a blonde? Or religious as if I were French?
The pickin's have been slim here lately, I know. I have my first comprehensive exam to prepare for and most of my reading has been on experimental design and analysis. I am nearly done with Jedediah Berry's The Manual of Detection which I have heretofore described as a kind of surrealist Encyclopedia Brown.
What’s the biggest book you’ve read recently? (Feel free to think “big” as size, or as popularity, or in any other way you care to interpret.
That would be A. S. Byatt's The Children's Book. It is big in its number of pages, big in its ambitions to encompass many sweeping social, political, and artistic themes of a recent period of history in Europe (in my post on finishing it I called it 'vast').
Two-thirds of Brits have lied about reading books they haven’t. Have you? Why? What book?
We don't do that on this side of the Atlantic (yeah, right).
I had yet to read a book by Ward Just before picking up his latest, Exiles in the Garden. It is set in Washington D. C. and concerns Alec Malone, a senator's son who rejects a life in politics in favor of one as a photographer.
I wrote in my first post about Richard Powers's new novel Generosity that I was afraid this was going to be one of his novels that I couldn't get through. I am glad to say it did not turn out that way.
It's a fun way to review the year - care to join me?