Johnathan Franzen’s The Corrections

Despite the book’s grim realism, I liked its insights, the flashes of recognition I experienced when I read the older characters’ dialogue. Like the Midwestern Enid Lambert, my grandmother says “it tickled me” as in “I got a kick out of it”. I’m not sure if Grandma would be tickled by Franzen’s depiction of a …

silkscreens and tragedy

We took my mother, who is up from Missouri, to see the Andy Warhol exhibit yesterday. I hadn’t known that he did so many disaster pieces. Maybe it was batting silver balloons around at the last exhibition of his work I saw (Chicago 1989) that had falsely given me the impression that he was all …

hot cheez doodles

Not long ago I read a passage from a 1989 journal which covered the summer before I went to Durham, England for a year. I was working in a local potato chip factory, an experience which inspired the following poem dated August 11: “You smell like a potato chip!” O mecca — hot cheez doodles …

The Stories of English

I’m enjoying The Stories of English by David Crystal. When he wrote about Bede, Lindisfarne, and Durham, I got nostalgic for my Medieval Literature class at Durham University. I was 19, full of romantic notions — cobbled lanes and ancient cathedrals made me wild with delight. Our professor took us on a weekend trip to …

mime opportunity

Recently I finished reading Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution by Peter Richerson and Robert Boyd. It was mostly pretty heavy going but worth it for the following quote: “Many scholars believe that language evolved to manage social interaction. Social actors can often benefit by communicating about who did what to whom, …

I liked ‘The Secret Mitzvah of Lucio Burke’

I just finished this novel set in 1930’s Toronto. I enjoyed learning the social history of city streets I’ve seen. Though I don’t know very much about baseball, I cheered on Lucio as he threw the ball that hit the mysterious bird that had stolen Bloomberg the pitcher’s glasses. And when Lucio’s lover Ruthie hits …

More cultural revolution

Jan Wong’s Red China Blues delivered both entertainment and education. I like her direct sense of humor and honesty. The chapter on Tianamen Sqaure was especially moving. She actually observed the massacre from a Beijing hotel balcony on the north side of the square. I remember that June weekend in 1989 very well because my …

balzac and prophet bells

The Toronto Public Library has had all kinds of holds turn up for me recently, so I’ve been turning lots of pages. I finished Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, which was a hit with me. The heroes saved a violin from ideological destruction by saying the name of a tune was “Mozart is Thinking …

Aftermath

Joel Meyerowitz’s exhibit Aftermath: Images from Ground Zero is in Toronto. We saw it yesterday afternoon. As I studied the wreckage, a heavy numbness pressed on me, but the pictures of firemen and construction workers were comfortingly understandable. The grief in their eyes shows the way to feeling, even though it only hints at the …