Yes, it's a blog about reading.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

January New Yorkers, con't

The 1/16 issue was pretty dull. The best thing was the "Your three wishes FAQ" in Shouts & Murmurs.

The missing issue (12/26 and 1/2/06) is in my possession, thanks to P&M; so far I've read and enjoyed "The Albanian Writer's Union as Mirrored by a Woman" by Ismail Kadare, an (you guessed it!) Albanian writer. This specialty issue (my feelings on that topic are known) is on International Fiction, so I'll be reading and commenting on that for a bit.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

January New Yorkers

January Issues:
12/26-1/2 – missing in action.
1/9/06 – read it but I don’t really remember it.
1/16/06 – in progress
1/23-1/30/06 – Nothing remarkable in this issue. The review of the 3rd volume of the MLK biography (“At Canaan’s Edge” by Taylor Branch) had some interesting tidbits about the relationship between MLK and LBJ, and also what MLK was trying to do on the fronts of poverty and inequality that went beyond voting rights. The 1/15/06 edition of the Boston Globe had an editorial decrying the current image of MLK as a “Benneton-esque teddy bear” which makes it easy to ignore “his increasing focus on economic equality and his launch of his Poor People's Campaign, a challenge to the most fundamental patterns of the US economy and caste system. ‘Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality,’ he told garbage workers in Memphis the month before his assassination.” The editorialists make the point that it’s easy to celebrate MLK (and Rosa Parks) because racial inequality is now considered un-American, while economic inequality is given a pass because supposedly we have equal opportunity for all. The Globe editorial points out that the gap between the wealthiest and poorest in our society has more than doubled since 1960, that more children are growing up poor in America than in any other industrial nation and recent cuts to student aide puts more limits on the opportunities available to low and middle-income families. I was recently accused of being anti-capitalist because I was advocating for the children of undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts to be able to attend state universities and colleges at the residential rate. Isn’t this kind of opportunity the engine that drives capitalism? Isn’t giving people a chance to improve their situation the reason why our country has grown and prospered?

Back to the New Yorker review: He alienated Johnson by speaking out against the war in Vietnam, (the reviewer draws a great analogy by likening them to Henry II and Thomas a Becket.) and finally: “He rose above the particularism of his own people in an almost quixotic and ultimately tragic attempt to deliver the entire country from racism, war, and greed” (pg. 91).

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Anna Karenina, random thoughts on

I think I must have read this book three or four times, maybe more. I don't even know which translation I read but it was probably the Constance Garnett. I always loved it but the one I am reading now seems to have an immediacy and freshness that I don't remember noticing in the past. Every few pages, a thought, a phrase, an insight seems to leap from the page. It is the most vivid and yet at the same time the most delicate and subtle writing!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Back to Mary Poppins

Back to Mary Poppins! It’s hard to imagine a time when movies were not readily available for our viewing pleasure.  I remember when watching “The Wizard of Oz” on TV was a major event.  It was only on once a year, so the time my grandfather turned the channel to a football game stands out quite clearly in my mind. As the “New Yorker” article points out, the movie “Mary Poppins” ‘left a deep impression on the generations of children who saw it during its three theatrical releases, in 1964, 1973, and 1980.’ That was it, three chances in almost two decades to see a great movie. All that changed rather quickly with the advent of the VCR, with movies and taped TV specials becoming daily fodder for our children.  But the interesting thing about the Mary Poppins article in the New Yorker is the described dichotomy between the book and the movie. The actual character of Mary Poppins and the tone of the books (apparently there was a whole series) were very different from the Disney version. So much so that the author wept at the premiere.  Disney spent fifteen years ‘wooing’ Travers to get control of her story and despite her caveats, including the ‘unheard of at Disney’ script approval, she wasn’t able to control the finished product. Well, she became famous, the movie won five Academy Awards, and the rest is history. What saddens me is that the books seem to be for the most part forgotten. And that is the true crime of the Disney empire, to have co-opted children’s literature so that some greatest stories ever written are no longer read but are packaged in a sentimental, yet cynical way for easy consumption, like fast food. I’m thinking in particular of “Peter Pan”, a book I read many times and loved. I can still remember something of the strangeness of it and the wonderful phrasing (“’My name is Wendy Moira Angela Darling. What’s yours?’ ‘Peter Pan,’ he replied, thinking for the first time that it was a rather short name.”) I’m sure no one reads that book any more, or if they do, it is in a ‘Disneyfied’ version.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Books Read 2005

Books Read 2005
The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
Master & Commander, Patrick O’Brian
Post Captain, Patrick O’Brian
The Sunday Philosophy Club, Smith
The Kalahari Typing School for Men, Smith (audio)
The Big House, George Howe Colt
Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens
The Vicar of Wakefield, Oliver Goldsmith
The Kiterunner, Khaled Hosseini
A Late Education, Alan Moorehead
Siddhartha, Herman Hesse
What’s the Matter with Kansas, Thomas Frank

After the Plague, T. C. Boyle
The Clothes They Stood Up In, Alan Bennett
The Lady in the Van, Alan Bennett
The Art of Deception, Ridley Pearson
The Track of the Cat, Nevada Barr
A Superior Death, Nevada Barr
Ill Wind, Nevada Barr
Endangered Species, Nevada Barr
Blind Descent, Nevada Barr
Liberty Falling, Nevada Barr
Deep South, Nevada Barr
Love Creeps, Amanda Fillipacci
High Country, Nevada Barr
Closers, Michael Connolly
The Lincoln Lawyer, Michael Connolly
My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok
Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince, J.K.Rowling
The Polysyllabic Spree, Nick Hornby

January seems like a good month for making lists and summing up the past year. So this is all I have to show for my year. I was hesitant to post this list since it shows what a lot of 'non-serious' reading I do (as my summer obsession with Nevada Barr shows), but well, it is what I do.

I realized I never posted on the Nick Hornby book. That was a last minute gift for someone else; someone who might be reading this blog and who I haven't seen to give the gift to. As soon as the deed is done, I'll post about the book.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"Feral, destructive and spreading"

Republicans or wild hogs?

The above quote refers to Ian Frazier's article in the Dec. 12 New Yorker (still haven't found the Christmas issue, by the way). The article entitled "Hogs Wild" is about, you guessed it, wild hogs, which may or may not appear interesting at first glance; however, as is typical with Frazier, he takes a quirky turn somewhere in the middle when he studying a map with various shadings of green showing the spread of the wild pigs across the United States. He is reminded of the red-blue state maps that became ubiquitous during the 2005 Presidential election and spends a good part of the rest of the article expanding on this theory, that states and counties that voted for Bush have a high or expanding feral hog population (Texas, for example, has the highest population of feral hogs of any state). The theory doesn't hold up internationally though, since Australia now reportedly has more wild hogs than people (23 million to 20 million) and they are pretty much anti-Bush).

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Wasting time

I spent the day working on the diabolically hard Sudoku puzzle that was in the Sunday Globe magazine. I really have to limit myself to one of these a week since they become all-consuming. I was even dreaming about it last night. I've been trying to prove to myself that I can solve even the hardest puzzle through logic, not guessing. Today, I finally had to posit one number of two in a cell and follow it through to see if it worked, but, in the process, I found a clue that I had overlooked, so was able to solve the thing logically. Tomorrow, I'll be getting back to Mary Poppins, Anna Karenina and the latest New Yorker.

Oddly enough, I seem to be missing an issue - was there a 12/26 issue? If so, what was in it, what was on the cover, can someone save it for me?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Mary Poppins

When I was a kid in the pre-video, pre-DVD, pre-Tevo days, movies were rare events and not the stuff of daily life as they are now. I still remember the first movie I saw; it was “Mary Poppins” and the year must have been 1964, which means I was 7. We went to the movie and loved it and bought the soundtrack, on a 33 record album of course, which we played over and over again. I knew all the words to all the songs and could say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (sp?) backwards. Walt Disney was also a family hero. We watched “The Wonderful World of Color” (in black and white) every Sunday night at 7:30. I remember when Walter Cronkite announced Walt Disney’s death on the news; I think it was a Thursday (I just looked it up on Google, and I was right – he died of lung cancer on Thursday, December 15, 1966). Besides JFk, his was the first death that I remember, and the first that I felt as personally affecting me, more than that of the President since I was only in first grade at the time. (The fact that my teacher was crying was the most shocking thing to me about JFK’s assassination.) Anyway, I am trying to get to the point of this entry, which is to discuss the article in the Dec. 19 New Yorker about the author of the original Mary Poppins books, P. L. Travers. But now, I’ve run out of steam and will have to continue this thought tomorrow….

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

First, I must describe my Christmas present from L. – The Complete New Yorker! It has eight discs with every issue from 1925 to 2005 (the anniversary issue in February). There is a searchable archive, which seems a little limited in its search capability, but I was still able to find the article on malaria that I read a few years ago (July 2001). It was by Malcolm Gladwell and described the near-eradication of malaria. There was a recent article on malaria with some shocking statistics about its resurgence, so I kind of wanted to refresh my memory about the previous article – now I can do that. So, you can see what a colossal time-waster this is going to be for me (almost as bad as Sudoku!). Still, it’s one of the best presents I ever received.