Monday, February 28, 2011

With luck, this will be my last George Eliot post for awhile. Managed to complete Adam Bede this weekend in a torrid session of reading during a rare extended period of silence at home. And the thing is so dang good. Reader, I cried. I'm not sure I was quite ready for the turn the plot takes after Hetty's fate is resolved, but it's still done so beautifully you just don't care. And to drag out the suspense a little Eliot even parades the whole cast of the Poyser farm out for one last ensemble piece at a dinner; we get to meet the bit players in mini-portraits at the table. I had been wondering why we hadn't seen more of the common laborers on the farm, since Eliot seems to love training the lens on them so much. I wish she didn't wait so long to do it here. But at least this last supper scene lets us savor for one last time the phenomenon that is Mrs. Poyser, who might be, of all the Eliot characters I can remember, the one with the quickest, most biting, most creative wit. And then there is a wedding and then it is done.

I'm in that rosy period where you remember the book and the characters and you can think about it actively and productively and even authoritatively if you are in such a mood. It won't be long, though, before the particulars will fade and I will remember only broad outlines of things and then I will forget even that and only remember that I loved the experience of reading the book. It will turn into pure feeling. Hopefully, I will have room in my life for a re-read by then.

The last couple of days, I've been easing my way through the Patti Smith memoir of her life with Robert Mapplethorpe, Just Kids, on recommendation of Sarah Jane, and it's a fun glimpse into 70's NYC. My favorite moments are the scattered impressions she provides of fellow residents at the Chelsea Hotel. Harry Smith, in particular. It reminds me of my days living in the dorms at IU, to be honest.

My other first impression is that Smith got taken for a ride by Mapplethorpe, who feigned an emotional connection to her until he could find a male lover with more money. She just seems so naive that it's hard to believe she made it at all there. But she did.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Another snow day. I've been reading Adam Bede to Smokey today and we are trying to finish it today or tomorrow, but that will be difficult because for lunch I went to my favorite sketchy Mexican restaurant that no one else in my family, except June, will visit with me to eat as much as I could with the $8 I had on me. I was able to eat way too much and still leave $1.50 on the table, so, anyway, I'm now very sleepy as a result. Smokey is, too, as you can see.

I am a little disoriented with A.B. right now, what with Hetty's sudden pregnancy and apparent infanticide and all. Was I supposed to know that she was pregnant? Should I have been able to infer that from the desperation of her quest to Windsor in search of Arthur? I'm used to feeling this way when reading Faulkner--stupid, that is--but usually Eliot's talky narrators keep you pretty well filled in on things. I'm hoping that this all ends up as one big mistake, for Hetty's sake, but this does not feel like a hopeful book to me, so I'm trying to keep my expectations modest.

It's interesting what time has done to the relationship between the high-class classlessness of Arthur and his "Most likely to have no prospects" milk-made Hetty. At the time it was written, I'm sure Eliot intended this relationship to depict the cruelty and carelessness of the class system as represented by Arthur and his father the squire. Arthur is the bad guy. Today, though, it's a little bit easier for me to see him as a victim of class as much as Hetty is. I mean, I think if it weren't for his "station" and all, he'd be with her, and, dopes the both of them, they'd have just as much a chance at making it as anyone, I suppose. I'm not supposed to, but I think Arthur is just as tragic a figure as I'm sure Adam is going to turn out to be.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Oh, so that's where I left them. Actually, this reminds me of a hairy bushwhacking experience I had once on Vancouver Island.

via paradise express.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A friend of mine de-friended me on fb the other day because of a comment I made to one of his many humorous status updates. His was a witty pro-Kindle provocation, and I responded in what I thought was a similar spirit, but in defense of those of us who still think that the old fashioned book has benefits that can't be reproduced by an lcd screen, back-lit or otherwise.

He must have taken it differently, though, as I found out during an awkward exchange when we crossed paths irl recently. The best, most painful, part of our conversation can be paraphrased as follows:

Me: "So, did you leave fb?"
Him: "er, no."

I guess my comment came across as irked rather than good-natured ribbing. I take the blame, though, in my defense, my comment did employ irony and self-deprecation in an attempt to signal my peaceful intentions. What remains to be negotiated is how we are to act when we see each other at our daughters' dance classes. Or if his wife takes their daughter, do I have an obligation to tell her, before we engage in pleasantries, that her husband has de-friended me? I would write a letter to The Ethicist about this, but Randy Cohen has been replaced, and I don't know if I can trust the new guy yet.

But at least I am still the friend of the book. Just look at The Leopard up there. I tried to start reading it late last night, but ended up just contemplating the spartan elegance of its cover for a few minutes before falling asleep on the couch.

The paperback of Adam Bede I am slowly rationing to myself lately is just as pleasurable to look at and hold. I've decided that one of the critical advantages that books have is their depth of field. They can pose for photo-shoots, for heaven's sake. They look different depending on the light, they have profiles, they can even be coy.
Just look at Hetty here, for example--it took me a lot of shots to capture this expression on her face. She is not the most cooperative of subjects. Whereas the Kindle is all about cooperating with, accommodating, the reader, pragmatism above personality. Who needs friends like that? Unless I am sneaking one into a wedding ceremony, my books are always too big for my pockets. They make me hold their hands, cause me to drop packages as I dig for the house key. By far, these are among the most unaccommodating relationships that I have.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Sheehey makes #1 Play of the Day!

As a school, IU does not dunk a lot. We just are not dunkers, never have been. Back when John Laskowski did the color for IU games and someone dunked, he would actually say "Baston with the dunk shot." Yes, "Dunk shot." Las, former IU player, expressed the general attitude of IU toward on-court flamboyance. I think I can remember every interesting dunk by Calbert Cheaney, Alan Henderson, Jared Jeffries, DJ White, there were so few.

But in our last two games we've had a couple of good ones, and this one by freshman Will Sheehey is so fun. As ESPN guy says "Indiana loses, but who cares?"

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Today's roast cooling by the window

Three snow days really depleted our coffee supply, so I had to spend about an hour in the basement today roasting at the same time that I was putting a new ball valve on this ugly stretch of leaking PVC pipe. I think I fixed the leak, but it's one of those repairs I'm reluctant to go down into the basement to check on because I just don't really want to know. I'd rather let the basement fill with water than fit pipe again today.
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Wednesday, February 02, 2011


If you have the gift of a snow day, or two, you have to have something to show for it.

June Apple reading some Wallace Stevens. "Hey, this is at my reading level," she said.
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snow diary

Tried to put together a diary of yesterday's snow day, but it was more difficult than it sounds.

5:00 Awake, wondering if school was closed.
5:01 Awake, knowing school was closed, wondering when I lost the ability to sleep in.
5:45 Give up, go downstairs to read Adam Bede.
6:30 Make coffee, decide that Billy Bragg would be the soundtrack of the day.

And it's pretty much a blur from then on. I know that at some point I surprised myself by figuring out how to play Bragg's "The Saturday Boy." I know there was a protracted game of charades. And I know that I did not make any igloos because it was too windy and that the mail-woman skipped us because I didn't even try to shovel.

So here is day #2, and I hope it ends just as blurry. Really like the idea of weeks that have extra weekends built inside them.