Monday, January 4, 2010

Meander into the New Year!


  1. Thanks for the new meander.

    Not sure if this made news in your areas, but over the weekend an effigy of President Obama was found hanging in Plains, Georgia. Oddly enough, the effigy was hung in front of a sign that reads, "Plains, Georgia. Home of Jimmy Carter, our 39th President."

    As a result, I revised my Op/Ed piece about Carter and have asked my editor to reconsider his decision not to run it. Maybe he'll change his mind.

  2. Yes, thanks, Gintaras. I've been so taken up with novels that I've let my meander chores slip.

    Rick, that's horrible news. I haven't read that anywhere -- my guess is there is more of that than we hear about. I hope your editor sees the light.

  3. You've been reading up a storm!

    I just read Flaubert's short novel, A Simple Heart, in preparation for a Western Lit survey I'm teaching this Spring.

    It's a minutely detailed and loving portrait of a nineteenth century house servant. Flaubert described the story to a friend in this way:

    "It is just the account of an obscure life, that of a poor country girl, pious but fervent, discreetly loyal, and tender as new-baked bread. She loves one after the other a man, her mistress' children, a nephew of hers, an old man whom she nurses, and her parrot. When the parrot dies she has it stuffed, and when she herself comes to die she confuses the parrot with the Holy Ghost. This is not at all ironical as you may suppoose, but on the contrary very serious and very sad. I want to move tender hearts to pity and tears, for I am tender-hearted myself. Now surely," he concluded, "no one will accuse me of being inhuman anymore."

  4. Is this Flaubert's parrot?

    As for my reading, once I started I couldn't stop. Russo and McMurtry were particularly heartening and just good fun. McMurtry may be right about Duane's Depressed being his best novel. Seems to have summed up his life and work in some strange surrogate way and probably draws more directly on his own life experiences. Now I need to read his Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen. I really enjoy entering his world.

    This has been a good break for me, but it's time to get back to work, alas!

  5. That would be the same parrot I suspect. Haven't read Barnes' novel.

  6. I wonder what would become of Flaubert's parrot, if Schrödinger's cat got in the house ;)

  7. They would both be alive and dead simultaneously?

  8. I'm not sure a cat would want to mess with a stuffed parrot.

  9. Or would they alternate live and dead states in some kind of cosmic synchronicity?

    Thanks for the connection re Times Square, gintaras.

    BTW, the NYT had this for when you want "Times Square to go away" -- I put it in work and home computer bookmarks ASAP--it may be helpful to others with "over 40 eyes":

    READABILITY The single best tech idea of 2009, though, the real life-changer, has got to be Readability. It’s a free button for your Web browser’s toolbar (get it at
    ). When you click it, Readability eliminates everything from the Web page you’re reading except the text and photos. No ads, blinking, links, banners, promos or anything else. Times Square just goes away.

    You wind up with a simple, magazine-like layout, presented in a beautiful font and size (your choice) against a white or off-white background with none of this red-text-against-black business.

    You occasionally run into a Web page that Readability doesn’t handle right — no big deal, just refresh the page to see the original. But most of the time, Readability makes the world online a calmer, cleaner, more beautiful place.

    Go forth and install it.

  10. I bet the advertisers hate this feature, NYT.

  11. I installed Readability after David Pogue recommended it in the NY Times. I'd forgotten about it, but it's great for reading long items.

  12. I read The Help by Kathryn Stockett over the weekend. The novel is set in Jackson, Mississippi 1962-64. I think that more women than men are reading this bestseller, since it's about domestic help working for white families. Some of the characters stayed with me for a while after I'd finished.

  13. Article in health section of today's NY Times about FDR, speculating about cause of death:

    It doesn't dispute his death by cerebral hemorrhage. There is a new book, FDR's Deadly Secret by Dr. Steven Lomazow that revives theory of FDR having melanoma.

    (Posted this first by mistake in another book thread that comes up with my bookmark.)

  14. What are the odds?

    I am now reading Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, another book that I've never read before. Perry Smith, the aspirin addict, has a yellow parrot in his life, quite like Felicite's in Flaubert's A Simple Heart. Perry's parrot, "taller than Jesus, yellow like a sunflower," comes to him in a dream and saves him from being swallowed by a huge snake.

    Another odd coincidence concerns Worcester, Massachusetts, where I lived from age 12 to 20. After Perry is released from prison, he sets out for Worcester, hoping to reconnect with a friend he made while serving in the Korean War.

    If you haven't read In Cold Blood, you might want to add it to your list.

  15. I've always shied away from that because of the subject matter. Not sure it's my kind of book. I understand the movie is excellent, too, but ditto.

  16. The movie is very dark and very good. The murder scenes are hair-raising in their intensity, but also quite tame by today's cinematic standards. Which goes to show, as all of the greatest writers and film makers know, that you can often accomplish more with less. Today's film makers simply don't leave enough up to their viewers' imaginations.

    The book isn't nearly as dark, mainly due to Capote's unemotional reportage.

  17. In True Blood is a very good read. I read it a few years ago after the first of two films came out on dvd. After I read the book, I rented the TV movie (older than the theatrical films) and by then I'd had enough. I also saw the second film on dvd.