October 23, 2016 § 1 Comment
Here’s a list of some who have offered lists of Never Reads. I offer in part to prod others, in part to show the variety they offer, and in part to try to make sure everyone on the Ale House list has been reached. All are aged 65-80
Joyce Carol Oates; Don de Lillo
Sterne, TRISREAM SHANDY;
Dreiser, AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY; Proust A LA RECHERCHE, Goethe, ELECTIVE AFFINITIES
ANNA KARENINA, ULYSSES, TROLLOPE
Roth, ZUCKERMAN UNBOUND, PATRIMONY; Penelope Lively, A FAMILY ALBUM
Steven Hawking, A SHORT HISTORY OF TIME, 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE, PARADISE LOST
October 8, 2016 § 1 Comment
I invite anyone who wishes to contribute to a list of Books I’ll Never Read. One is fine, any up to a total of five. No names, please, but do indicate your age. I’ve found that locating what I’d choose has changed a lot from 30 to 50 to 70, then few changes after that, but one interesting one, Dante’s PARADISO> I put the question to a friend in her mid-fifties recently, and she said quickly ATLAS SHRUGGED. I actually owned a copy when I was 24, but I never read more than a 100 pages, and I knew not long thereafter that I’d never finish it, and by my 40th birthday it had past being interesting as a candidate.
When I taught at Amherst, it seemed assumed that we’d at least try to read “all,” or most, English and American literature. Well before I retired, then, Books I’ll Never Read included a Smollett, a few Thackeray, a Dickens, a George Eliot, a Conrad, etc and while I did eventually read some of these, the others fell into oblivion; I was pleased in my 60s to finish CLARISSA, LA RECHERCHE DU TEMPS PERDU, and JOSEPH AND HIS BROTHERS.
Another friend lists his choices thus: ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, THE MAN WITHOUT QUALITIES, Mann”s DOCTOR FAUSTUS, JOSEPH AND HIS BROTHERS, etc. From which I sense an air of “Not me!’ And, whenever I too adopt such a tone, I find on my list Lady Murusaki’s THE TALE OF GENJI
So, whatever the mood or tone, age or experience, drop me a line via email please(firstname.lastname@example.org) Because I had small stroke last week I’m now home happily. My hip surgery has had to be postponed more or less indefinitely. So help fill my days with your book or list. Roger
September 16, 2016 § 2 Comments
4 made a comment to the Memory Support blog, and three, two writing from Down Under, mentioned the institution of Wednesday Breakfast. That deserves #147.
I lived on 3511 E. Schubert Pl. for 45 years, taught at UW 37; I’ve been a member of Group Health for 46 years and of Prospect CCC church for 26. Given that, my charter membership in Wednesday breakfast begins in this century, and no one is quite sure when was its first meeting. For sure: it was started by David Brewster, that master inaugurator, as Thirsty Thursdays in Bert’s Madrona Pub. That lasted about a year, and since then,it has lived in the High Spot on 34th in Madrona. 8-9AM. No one has ever made a list of its members. or said what it took to become one. Joel Connelly of the P-I was there from the beginning; most of those I remember from the first couple of years did not last. Two are deceased, 4-5 left town, at least twice that many more still work and can’t manage the time; Dorothy Sale’s exercise class changed its meeting time, one announced it seemed we don’t like Republicans.
I think the Hi-Spot has had only two bakers over the years; if there have been more, there has never been any change in the variety and excellence of the scones over the years. Clare has waited tables for close to 5 years; even if we have a large gathering, there has never been more than a 15 minute wait to get food, and eggs, etc. are cooked to order. My guess is that there’s not been more than three raises in prices over the years, and people are willing to pay a lot for $$ items like a Tofu Scramble or Berkeley Bowl.
As for myself, let me compare the gathering Labor Day weekend for the week. 18 at the first, an overflow onto a second table, noise so loud no more than two could hear each other. The week following there were 8, by themselves on the patio, one conversation, talking, among the variety of subjects, about the Methow Valley, Taiwan Walker’s shutout, and getting AG Bob Ferguson to come as a guest. That wonder can’t happen often, but, for me at least, what can work every week is two or three finding themselves in conversation about grandchildren. Madrona at its best. Jane Austen at her best.
September 8, 2016 § 4 Comments
It’s about dementia, which it doesn’t support, but it is what you think it is. When it pronounced Dorothy’s dementia had developed apace, we moved down here. the only couple in this unit, to a new apartment, two rooms and bath, no kitchen.
My right hip has for some years been loaded with arthritis. After last Christmas it started to hurt. Cane was replaced by a rickety walker, and then I was loaned a motorscooter, which got me around fine, but was terrible for exercise, and my legs soon developed sores. A church friend gave me a new walker; various creams and pills helped, the surgeon declared legs fit, and we have an appointment on October 21 for the hip getting replaced.
Up on 17B our two great caregivers came most of two days. Down here we have many caregivers, but they have much to do, and Dorothy and I are by ourselves much of the time. We’ve been told to stay inside Horizon House much of the time; we take taxis, mostly to go to Group Health and church. So we ask people to come see us; some come regularly; others make it when they can; Tim and his wife come to dinner when they’re in town.
I go to the Madrona Hi-Spot for breakfast every Wednesday morning. I’m the bursar, and accept whatever money they give me. Many weeks I find myself with little or nothing to say. People travel, and we’ve not traveled for years. I have little to chip in on local politics, except to remind them that Jeff Bezos and Amazon are ruining much of downtown Seattle, as Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, etc. have never done. I will be watching the Mariners into October, and many of the Wednesday-folk seem to have never started. I found myself watching U.S. Open Tennis this Labor Day as I never did before, as if it were the first weekend in April and golf at Augusta.
What do I make of this, if anything? One possibility:
Will you still need me? Will you still feed me? Now I’m eighty four?
creams and pills
November 19, 2015 § 2 Comments
A few weeks ago a friend gave me a copy of BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME. and in that interim I read the book and heard that many I know had too, and all but a few praised it. Today it won the National Book Award. I cannot add much except my own sense of why this has happened, and should have happened.
First, if there are references here to Martin Luther King or Thurgood Marshall, or the civil rights movement of the 1960s, they are strictly incidental. I’m quoting sentences from paragraphs on pp. 7-8:
But race is the child of racism, not the father. . the belief in the pre-eminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society–this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, and deceitfully, to believe that they are white. The elevation of the belief in being white was achieved through the flaying of backs, the chaining of limbs, the strangling of dissidents. . .
and on the list goes, and perhaps only Messrs. Scalia, Thomas, and Alito can seriously claim that’s all in the past. Next to the announcement of Coates’ award in today’s NYTimes was a report by the Chicago Police Department about what happened to 166 complaints about police behavior to the effect that most were trivial, unfounded, repetitive, easily explained. In the case of clear evidence of a white cop shooting an unarmed black man the cop “thought he saw” and prosecutors wouldn’t prosecute
Let me go back to Coates’ key phrase above. It’s perhaps easier to understand if the words are reversed “deceitfully, tragically, hopelessly.” so the first leads to the second, and the second to the third. Over time and endless repetitions, it is as though the three are happening all at once, at which point the cop has practically no choice but to believe in his own whiteness..
The first part of the book is all punches, struck deep and strong. Put up with them, take their strength. Then Coates goes to Howard University and its Mecca, and then his wife takes them to Paris, which he learns how to love. Then, nicely relaxed, read about the Dreamers, blacks dreaming of being white, learning to talk white, make money, move into gated communities. Having thought they’ve paid their way into all this, they applaud black cops who fire on the runaway black man. The book is a letter to his 15 year old son, to whom the final message is “Don’t be a Dreamer.” It’s not long. Read it through.
September 13, 2015 § 2 Comments
I knew William James mostly as Henry’s older brother for many years, as a founder of psychology, as Pragmatist without knowing what that entailed. Then my friend Jack gave me a copy of THE VARIETIES OF FRELIGOUS EXPERIENCE for me to read on our annual visit to the Oregon desert. The book was a series of lectures given in Edinburgh, and the first obvious fact was how wonderfully he must have lectured, laying things out with grace: the Religion of Healthy Mindedness, the Sick Soul, the Twice-Born, Mysticism, all done with lavish quotations from those doing the experiencing.
I have half a dozen times lent out this book, and half a dozen times it has not been returned. Surely it is here as I write, but no, for good or for ill.
A month or so ago a friend lent me a copy of a large biography of James. I plodded my way along, feeling I’d find no reason to go on forever. Then I came upon a page, one I want to quote here, that the author, Robert Richardson, shows he is not just a victim of documentiasis:
James’s willingness to listen, his risking of ridicule
his spiritually democratic openness, as he let into his
life a parade–like the finale of a Fellini film–of healers
reformers, reformers, and visionaries. He let in Horace
Fletcher, the diet guru and messiah of munching; Anne Payson
Call, the currently invisible author of spiritual books on
therapeutic relaxation;Thomas Davidson, the ebullient phil-
osopher and apostle to the working man, S.H. Hadley whose c conversion in a New York waterfront mission prefigures Bill
Wilson and Alcoholics Anonymous; Clifford Beers, who fash-
ioned his own harrowing story of mental illness into biting
and effective and effective call to reform; Elwood
Worcester the co-founder of the Emmanuel movement and
popularizer of Gustav Fechner; Fechner himself a German
psychophysicist who, after serious illness, awoke to
see the entire universe as alive; and Bill Bray, the
working-class English evangelist whose vision has the
reality of a summer morning and whose feet walked the road
while his heaven swam in heaven.
The reader of THE VARIETIES OF RELIGOUS EXPERIENCE, to say nothing of PRAGMATISM, need have known nothing of this–It feels like a real fight–as if there were something wild in the universe.”
August 19, 2015 § Leave a comment
At the Quilcene Barn last weekend, listening to an exciting performance of Bartok’s Quartet #3, I was suddenly aware of two movies, both about late Beethoven, both marked by that music’s beginning with a chord and then moving and moving onward, which was certainly the case with the Bartok.
Movie #1, COPYING BEETHOVEN(2006,Agnieszka Holland)imagines a young musician copying some of Beethoven’s late music, which puzzles her. She then dares to ask Beethoven to read some of her music, which, he reminds her, derives from his early work. He mocks her, and insists the future of music lies in his recent compositions which have no set form, and just unfolds itself. Ed Harris is exactly as he should be as Beethoven. The movie gets thin pretty much set after Beethoven tells the copyist what he’s doing, and, alas closes with the Ode to Joy, which is hardly without form
Much more impressive in every way is LATE QUARTET(2112, Yaron Zilberman)starting with the quartet as it begins its 25 anniversary, Martin Ivanir and :Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1st and 2nd violin, Catherine Keener viola, Christopher Walkin, cello. Walkin is maybe half as old as Hoffman and Keener, who are married. First sign of trouble, Walkin discovers he’s developing a case of Parkinson’s. Trouble Second is Hoffman saying he wants a year playing first violin, a position he’s never had. Trouble Three is the most contrived, and best not gone into here, but all these, and their various endings, are in keeping with the music, Beethoven’s Op. 131. The music weaves in and out, never seeking or reaching resolution, so dominant, melancholy, with no sense of depression whatsoever. The stories, thus, have to be there, but even Trouble Three, quite slambang, never gains pride of place.
And, quite appropriately, it was Hoffman’s last movie, death at much too early an age, but it too, given all he’d done, was melancholy but not depressing.