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Cam's Commentary



About books, reading, and ideas with a little about poetry, music, movies, photography, art, and other wonderous things in the universe...



Updated: 2016-09-16T08:51:06.097-04:00

 



Welcome Beyonders!

2013-01-26T06:29:54.754-05:00

Hello fellow Beyond Beyond-ers and any stray internet wanderers who may have found this blog. If you've come from the Beyond class and have a Blogger blog, you might have followed a link from a comment I left. Blogger has been a bit persnickity about letting me leave comments (it reacts as if I'm not logged in) and isn't always recognizing my Open ID. Sorry for the extra click, but I now blog at Four Deer Oak. You'll find my photography and musings over there. Thanks for following the link! And, goodness! I'll have to change that poorly sized header on this page. Wowzer!



This Blog is Dead! Long live the Blog!

2011-07-01T22:45:28.132-04:00

I'm now posting here. I hope you will continue to follow me as I re-enter the world of blogging. If you'd like a link on my new blog, be sure to leave a comment on the new blog. See you around the web!



Sky High

2010-07-24T08:29:27.518-04:00

(image)
Blue Sky, originally uploaded by Cam.

This week's "Photo Friday"




Sweet Summer Sights

2010-07-20T10:14:48.400-04:00

It's hot here and the humidity has been hovering just below 100%.  At least it's not raining -- all the time.  Yesterday, I went for a walk at the new 100 Acres Art & Nature Park at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  Two artists are living in a floating island in the lake right now. I'll have to go back again with the intent to bring something to trade and make a visit to the island. You can read about their project "Give and Take" here. The camera, of course, was present on my walk. It's amazing the things you see when you start looking for them. When I got home, I spied this beautiful blue creature on my patio table:And these, that came home from the Farmers' Market:which reminded me, as plums always do, of the poem "This is Just to Say", by William Carlos Williams. They were so sweet and so cold.[...]



Summer Fun: Splash!

2010-07-11T22:22:52.273-04:00

(image)
Splash!, originally uploaded by Cam.

This week's entry for the Photo Friday Challenge, Summer Fun. Taken May, 2010, Washington Square Park, NYC.




BLOOM!

2010-07-03T14:08:44.543-04:00

(image)
Rose, originally uploaded by Cam.

This week's Photo Friday challenge is "Bloom". Since I like to shoot flowers, the most difficult part of this challenge was deciding what photograph to use. I shot this at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, May 21, 2010.

This was my second choice, also shot on the same day:

(image)
Rose II, originally uploaded by Cam.



Here's a link to several others.

Enjoy the holiday weekend!




2 Comments

2010-06-25T16:48:52.571-04:00

Last week, the evening before an important business meeting, I tired of thinking about doing any further prep work for a presentation that wasn't likely to assist in maintaining my job past an upcoming merger. So, what to do, when one is in New York, doesn't have room in luggage to carry home lots of books, and hasn't scored tickets to Shakespeare in the Park in the virtual raffle: find a play with affordable tickets 20 minutes before the current rises. My choice: Nora & Delia Ephron's Love, Loss, and What I Wore. The play, really a reading of several monologues by five actors, had some funny lines but dealt with a predictable catalog of "women's" issues surrounding careers, marriages, children, and health, divorce and death. While I enjoyed my evening, I not likely to remember much from the play in a week. But, later that evening, when I was unable to fall asleep, I decided to try to draw some examples from my own wardrobe over the years. What works as a device in the play, similarly, provoked me into thinking about various episodes in my life. I'm not skilled at drawing, but voila! It is what it is.As an adult, I came across a photo my father had shot one Easter morning.   Alongside my 3 sisters, I sat on the porch, posed for the camera.  We all were in brand new dresses and shiny patent leather shoes, with matching hats:  four little ladies -- almost. From left to right, Michele, Helene, & Patrice sat primly, smiling, legs crossed demurely, their hats seated jauntily atop neatly brushed curls.  At the end of the row was me:  knees apart, dress rumpled and grass-stained, socks fallen, mud-covered shoes, straggly hair, hat in hand, unable to hide the fact that no amount of AquaNet could keep the curls from fleeing as soon as I went outside.    I suspect I never saw this picture when a child because my mother was aghast when she saw it.  Many of the pictures from my childhood were similar.   I knew from an early age that I didn't have a career in modeling ahead of me.One of my favorite dresses when I was 6. It's was a hand-me-down and you can find a picture of the real dress in an earlier post.   I felt like a princess in this dress, the green velvet vest the most luxurious item I owned.  I thought I was beautiful! I wore it for every holiday for a few years, long past a proper fit. It was certainly different than the scratchy wool uniforms we wore to school: Red plaid, white blouse with peter pan collar, navy blue tie, navy blue socks, serious looking shoes. I think they were saddle shoes, before those became retro and cool.   We drew bell bottoms & flower power signs in our notebooks -- the closest we could get to dressing how we wished.   Just before the start of the school year, all the moms would gather in the gym for a uniform exchange.   For some girls the jumpers were too big at the start of the year.  For petite me, they were too big and too long all year. There wasn't a chance in the world that I would ever fail the nuns' random tests to be sure that your skirt was only so many inches from the floor when you knelt.  I detested the color red for years. In Jr. High, my parents' placed me in a public school.   Nobody knows me, I thought.  Here's my chance of being cool.   That lasted until my mother came home one day with my new school clothes.   She also had a special surprise:  she had my sister sew an outfit -- a pantssuit, with bellbottoms! -- for me.   Nearly 40 years later, I still don't know what she was thinking  and wonder if my sister really hated me that much:  Red and mustard colored paisleys on a sea of brown. Brushed velvet. Pants and vest, worn with a bright yellow blouse. I think the idea behind the vest was to hide my bloss[...]



Photo Friday: Motionless

2010-06-25T10:03:33.292-04:00

(image)


Safe Harbor, originally uploaded by Cam.

This week's submission for Photo Friday. Taken at Isle of Capri, Florida, January, 2010




Fromage! (Photo Friday Assignment: Arranged)

2010-05-28T14:21:26.443-04:00


Fromagerie.  Paris, May, 2009. 

Photo Friday:  Assignment "Arranged"



Family: Mother & Child (Photo Friday)

2010-05-21T21:23:04.313-04:00


Mother & Child, at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Brooklyn NY.  May 21, 2010

This week's Photo Friday Challenge: Family.



Coast: After a Storm (Photo Friday)

2010-05-09T01:35:47.781-04:00

This week's Photo Friday Challenge is "Coast".  I shot the following on the Gulf Coast, following a storm in January, 2010.   Amazing what creatures from another world the tide can toss ashore.    [...]



A is for The Address

2010-04-17T01:49:21.916-04:00

Last month, my husband and I traveled to the city where my father was raised for the funeral of one of my uncles.  It was one of those bittersweet family gatherings, sad because of the loss of SJ, relieved that he and his daughters are no longer pioneering in the wilderness of his dementia, lively because of the opportunities to greet -- and in a few cases -- meet members of the extended family.  Coming to terms,  in slow increments, one member of my parent's generation at a time, with being part of the senior generation of the family is an odd thing.  Though it is a path that many travel, there is no roadmap.   I remember my mother commenting after my last grandparent died, that she and my father were now the elders, with no parents.  That sense of orphanhood was something that I didn't understand 30 years ago, and I am only beginning to get a glint of what that might mean now, despite the fact that my father has been deceased for 14 years, his sister for 16, his twin cousins and their spouses for over five years, his own twin for a year.  As we drove through the city, we passed places that seemed vaguely familiar.   I saw that park where I think we sometimes would view July 4th Fireworks.  Place names seemed familiar, although more from the retelling of events rather than any firm memories of experiences.  Could I have possibly remembered my sister pushing my brother out of the car at the corner of Shermer and Beckwith?  Mom seemed to think that I was an infant.  Or was that another child?  The story has been told so many times that it is my memory, even if that memory is only of the family tale.  I certainly knew the intersection as we drove through it.After the funeral, I got out the trusted GPS -- and my brother's not so trust-worthy directions -- and drove through the neighborhoods my parents lived in when I was a preschooler.  I pointed out each of the houses where we lived, retelling stories.  Then we headed north and toward the lake to The Address.  Even my husband understood where we were headed when I gave him the number.  Known only by its house number, if there was a family homestead in my family, it was this: my Grandmother's house.  Several years ago my husband was visiting my cousin and needed to login to her PC (on-site support and maintenance is the cost of boarding for free in Gotham).   Over the phone, from my desk at work, I asked him if he knew what my common password was.  I don't need your password, he said.  I need hers.  Change the leters, keep the digits, I said. I bet that's it.   Puzzeled, he tried and was successful.  That random number has meaning?   Yes, it does.  Standing as a presence almost as monolithic as my grandmother, is that house, a house so symbolic in my father's family, it is known only by a number.  I later learned that my father and my brother have also routinely used some variation of the address for passwords and lock combinations.   My grandparents moved into this house in the 1930's and lived there until long after the War when their children were grown and on their own.  Eventually, they sold it to my Aunt.  In total, the house was owned by someone in my family for over 50 years.   When I was a child, all family holidays happened at this house.  There were numerous versions of holiday photos of my grandmother's 25 grandchildren.  At Christmas, the aunts wore appliquéd aprons with trees and candycanes, the uncles sparkly vests with Santas and Snowmen.  I suspect those accessories never left the house, but they've been memorialized in Kodachrome.  At East[...]



A is for Anna or Airplanes or Awe. B is for Books or Buttons, or Birds... P is for Photos, or Palwaukee....

2010-04-11T22:16:21.250-04:00

Ever since I saw Courtney, and then Charlotte tackling the "Alphabet: A History" meme, I've thought about doing it myself.  I thought it might be a way to get back into blogging, a framework to help with the discipline of writing regularly.   But, even thinking about topics for the Alphabet meme, or any other blogging schemes  (for instance, actually writing about the books I've read for Emily's TBR challenge) didn't seem to provide the structure I needed.  I couldn't find the right way to start.   What would I write about for "A"?  After all, starting at R, or B, or Q, may have been okay, it seemed to be more of a procrastination method that I could think of many other things to write about than something to write about for 'A'.   So instead of writing, I pondered possible blog post topics. And dismissed them all.  My maternal grandmother, Anna,  was a possibility, but it seemed a topic both too large for a single blog post and too much in the fog of childhood memories to be much of anything unless I worked on it for a very long time.  I wrote a short story about by grandparents 25 years ago.   Instead of writing the blog, I pondered how I could rework that story into something worthy of submitting for publication.  But I didn't do anything but think about it.  The story isn't of a quality that I would want someone else to read, but there was a lot of emotion surrounding the writing of it that I can't bring myself to edit it.  I thought about writing about airplanes:   My first time in an airplane.   Riding in a sailplane with my father.  Musings about my grandfather who trained to be a pilot during WWI.  My son studying astronomical engineering and deciding to pursue a career in the Air Force.   My first trip in an airplane -- at age 12 and without any family -- was an adventure, but not all that spectacular.   Flying in a glider was one of the most peaceful, meditative experiences I've ever had, but I'd be terrified to try to pilot one.    I've learned recently that there used to be a photo of my grandfather on the wall of 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant. Maybe sometime in the future, when I'm in the Chicago area, I will venture out to the 'burbs to see if it is still. I wonder if it is at all like the photo that my father kept on his dresser throughout his life, the one I would stare at and dream up what adventures the smiling pilot in what looked like a Red Baron outfit might have had. I should find the photo before I write about it, I thought; it could be P is Palwaukee.   I could write volumes about my conflicting feelings about B's decision to join the USAF, but that decision is his, not mine and I know he wouldn't be comfortable with me writing about it.    Airplanes as one blog post?   I don't think so.  I thought about changing the biographical theme of the meme to one of ideas... A is for Awe, A is for Achievement, A is for Advantages, A is for Anger...   I quickly moved away from that idea.   What would B be for?   M?  Z?  It sounds like it could easily be preachy, or cloying, or just plain boring.  Thinking of Z, I thought I could start at the end of the alphabet and work to the front.  Maybe then I would think of something for a post titled A is for ....   But, what would I do for Z?  Z is for... Zero.  I came up empty.  Zero.  Zilch.  Zzzzzs.   And so it is when one wants to write but can't.   You come up with all sorts of reasons why you don't want to tackle something, o[...]



A random review of the last few months

2010-04-05T22:23:17.502-04:00

* Number of books read between Jan 1 & Mar 31:  10* Number of books for Emily's TBR Challenge:  6* Number of books written about for TBR Challenge:  1* Best book read so far this year:   Olive Kitteridge.   Awesome.   * Number of posts this year:  a meager 16.* Number of photos posted since Jan 1:  18.  This is NOT a photo blog.   Not a photo blog at all.  But I'm sure enjoying my new DSLR camera, a Canon EOS Rebel XSi.  * Thought about renaming this blog Books, Birds and Bull. The bull is that I write about books. Below is a bird that entertained me today when I was working from home.  Let's see:  Work? Distraction?  Joy?   Yep, Joy wins.   * Number of shots it took me to get a good picture of this bird:  about 50.   It's a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.   * Number of holes this little guy drilled into this tree today:  6 in this photo.  I thought about telling him to stop hammering on my tree, but I think he would say that it is his from root to crown.  * What the bird found interesting:   these tasty (presumably) little critters. * Varieties of flowers in the woods:  at least 6, plus naturalized daffodils, crocus, hyacinths.     - Trout Lillies   - Bluebells   - Cutleaf Toothwort   - Trillium   - Spring Beauty   - Violas    The Spring Beauty is my favorite wildflower.  See the little ant crawling on the blossom?  * Number of movies so far this year:  6.* Kept track of number of miles walked in January (16 total).   Feb & March:  0.   I'm a lazy slug.  Am working to correct that.  So far this month, walked 4 miles.  * Saw William Eggleston Demographic Camera exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago last month.   Liked the exhibit, was intrigued by the odd photographs of Elvis' house, not so sure what I think about the new Modern Wing. * I'm looking forward to returning to the Art Institute to see Matisse: Radical Invention in May.  Will also see The Taming of the Shrew at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre - a new production set in 16th century with new contemporary scenes by playwright Neil LaBute that are suppose to frame the Shakespeare work, "providing a 21st century lens" on the Bard's work.  * It's half time in the NCAA game, with Butler behind by 1 point.  Blue is growling at those Blue devils! This city is wild.   Eavesdropping on conversations in the restaurant this evening, it was apparent that lots were heading downtown to the game.  However, the people who were wearing their tickets around their necks:  don't you think that was either a) just a bit stupid or b) a bit show-offish?  Go Dogs![...]



Photo Friday: Blurred.

2010-04-02T15:34:48.361-04:00


This week's Photo Friday's topic is Blurred.  I like the blurred branches in the foreground and the blurred reflection in the water.   I like even more that it is no longer snowy & cold! 

Taken Feb 6, 2010 with a Canon EOS Rebel XSi, @ Waycross Conference Center, Morgantown, IN
Shooting Mode:  Auto
Tv(Shutter Speed):  1/500
Av(Aperture Value):  8.0
Exposure Compensation:  0
ISO Speed:  200
Focal Length:  250.00 mm
White Balance Mode:  Auto



Pleasure in unexpected things

2010-03-28T22:44:21.490-04:00

Friday, my day started with a 6:45 phone call with a coworker in the UK, and I was rushed to get to the office by 9. But, just before I left, when I opened the drapes, I saw the most incredible patterns on the balcony. There had been just enough moisture to collect and then freeze as the temperatures hovered around freezing. Work be damned; I grabbed my camera and clicked away before the delicate lace-like crystal patterns evaporated. The drab, dirty tar of the balcony may not have been the most beautiful background, but the beauty was in nature's design. I had to rush to get to the office before a 9:30 meeting, but it was worth the pleasure of snapping a few pictures to capture one of those fleeting, marvelous, moments that are too often missed in the chaos of every day life.It's difficult to remember to look at the world around us with an alert eye. Too often I miss it all; but I try to be aware of the unexpected moments and not miss to many of them. It makes me smile when that happens. I especially liked the shadows from the railings, in this shot. I like the designs in the ice here. I like the way the light reflects in this one. This is the first time that I've participated in Photo Friday, a weekly challenge. This week's theme: Pleasure. Timely topic, given that I took these before I checked out this week's topic.[...]



It's Spring!

2010-03-23T00:00:44.237-04:00





March Haiku

2010-03-04T23:46:42.912-05:00

Sun shines on birch branch
Huddled against cold blue sky
Early hopes of Spring



Quadrennial Love Affair

2010-02-24T00:28:11.039-05:00

On evening, in 1992, during the Albertville Olympics, I discovered my then 4-year old son attempting to recreate his own Olympic endeavor.   Having stacked his Playskol table and two chairs atop a sofa, then placing a cardboard box over the stack, covering it with a a white blanket and climbing to the top of his makeshift mountain, he yelled "Look, Mommy!" just before he attempted his first -- and last -- indoor luge run.  While his ingenuity and swiftness in engineering his sliding track amazed me, I should not have been surprised that he would have thought of it.  After all, my television had been set to non-stop Olympic broadcasts for the duration of the Games, as it has been for every Winter Olympics since I first fell in love with Jean-Claude Kielly in the 1968 Grenoble Games.  I'm not much of a sports fan, by every four years, I learn the names of the sliders, the skiers, and the skaters.   I brush up on the subtle differences between a triple lutz and and triple toe loop, learn the number of medals in each discipline, follow the made-for-TV rivalries,  listen intently to the melodramatic stories of Olympian lives.  During the day, I can now feed my addiction with the internet -- pictures, videos, commentary -- and when I'm near a TV, NBC, MSNBC, CNBC are on heavy clicker rotation.   Why do I like the Winter Games so much?  Perhaps because I watch athletes do feats that I know I could never attempt.  For example:  Skiing - My sharpest memory of my one attempt at skiing is that I went the weekend after Michigan changed its drinking age from 19 to 21. My friends abandoned me on the beginners' slope, and I abandoned the slope after two attempts and bruises that didn't fade for a few weeks.  How anyone can remain standing on long strands of fiberglass confounds me.  Skating - I can skate forward.  I can skate backwards.  But, having honed my best technical skills on the neighborhood Overbee's Pond when I was eight, I'm best at the triple ass spin, a technique frowned upon by the Skating Federation.  Sliding - I mostly do this in my car in the winter.  At speeds far slower than 90 miles an hour.  Without cowbells.  Sometimes I think I deserve style points, though.  Freestyle & Snowboarding - I have never been that hip.  Curling - Until last weekend, when my husband had the curling matches on for most of the day, I would have said that brooms on ice scare me.  But, having realized that CNBC stands for Curling.  Nothing But Curling, I realize that this may have been a sport that I could have aspired to.  The strategy of the game intrigues me.  Still, trying to sweep stones over "pebbles" into the "house" seems a bit odd.  I do like the tradition of the winners buying the losers a drink.   Quite sporting.  I never had any dreams about being an Olympian, though for years I would tell people that the 'J' in my surname was pronounced as in "Jean-Claude", and I had my hair cut in a Dorothy Hamel Wedge.  Two weeks of races on fast sleds, jumping over obstacles of snow, jumping into the air, flipping head over heels on purpose, or racing downhill in roller-derby fashion:  watching people trying to go fast and defy gravity while on slick surfaces will always grab my attention. Good thing that the Winter Olympics are only held once every four years; it would be too much excitement for me if it were more frequent.    [...]



Photo: Afternoon, Heron

2010-02-20T22:09:15.946-05:00




Photo: Afternoon (Ice)

2010-02-07T19:00:33.474-05:00




What they are saying about me?

2010-02-02T00:04:17.608-05:00

Who is revealing something about me?   My bookshelves, of course.   Although I didn't realize it until I saw this at Dorothy's site.  Originally from Ella at Box of Books.  My shelves are screaming the following things:1.  "We want more room!"  The top shelve of one is bowed, due to the double- and triple-stacked books placed on top of it.  Subtext:  I hate to shop and continue to put off buying another bookcase. And really, do I need that stack of New Yorker guilt staring at me every day?   I really should pitch some of those old magazines.   I can get it on line!  2.  "Lots of new books here!"  There are lots of new acquisitions in my library, although not all are recently published.    Untold story:  I had to send most of my library to the dump about seven years ago due to a flood.  Although I think my buying has slowed a bit, I think there for awhile I was trying to build, in quantity at least, the same sized library I had previously.  While I could buy new copies of the books, I couldn't replace the well-worn, cracked bindings of my favorite books, or replicate the notes I wrote in some of them.   Some of the books I miss most frequently are the anthologies that I used in school -- often I think of a passage of an essay, or poem and I can visualize exactly where it was in the book.  How I would love to walk into the other room, search for a few minutes, until I found the book I was thinking of, then flip to some dog-earred, fingerprinted page to read the passage.  While I may be able to find a copy of most of those works, I can't go back and revisit the notes I might have written when I first encountered it, the words I might have highlighted, the definitions I wrote in the margins.   I miss visiting that old reader and her thoughts.3.  "Disorganized!"   There is little reason as to where my books sit on the shelves.  Generally, of the two bookcases in living room, one is works that I have read, and the other is works that I haven't read yet.  Both need to be weeded and organized and many of the books should go to Book Mooch.  Why?  So I can get more books, of course!  4. "Someone in this house likes...."...."Art!"   I have several art exhibit catalogs.   When I travel, I like to visit art museums and I have acquired several books on art as a result.  The oldest exhibit catalog I have is from the first special art exhibit I remember seeing -- an exhibit at the Royal Academy in London on Post-Impressionism in 1979.  The most recent is the book of photos and critical essays that accompanied the exhibit  "The Americans" by Robert Franks, at the Metropolitan Museum last fall.   I've looked through this book numerous times in the last three months; I am in awe of these photographs.   Franks said of his photographs:  "When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice." Robert Frank, LIFE (26 November 1951), p. 21.  He was right about the quality of his photos, but it isn't just reading a line twice - it is reading the poem over and over again.  ..."Poltical History!"   I have a special table top shelf that features several presidential biographies.  My husband started on a[...]



Friday Bullets, because all the cool kids do it

2010-01-30T00:37:40.394-05:00

Since others have been doing bullets weekly, I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon.  *  It stinks to work late on the last day of the month, especially when it falls on a Friday.  Even stinkier: to inadvertently do something to take the entire computer system down at 5:45pm when everyone is busy trying to get things finished for the day.  When the crashing culprit and the computer fixer are one and the same, things don't get any better.   * You can call me a loser.  Recently lost:  a glove, a set of keys, my favorite hat (oh really cool NYC hat, please come back to me!  Please!), lens cap to my telephoto lens, and my Rx sunglasses.   Probably a lot of other things that I don't even realize yet that I have misplaced.  In addition to the thousand of thoughts that I meant to say, do, or write down before they slipped through the gray matter.  * Including the thought I was going to write here....* The month goes really fast at work when you've been on vacation for most of it.   Easy task when weekly status and monthly status reports covered the same time span.   Having to add that you were the root cause of the only downtime this month because of  something stupid:  priceless.  See first bullet point.  *  Funniest thing I've seen this week:  Tracy Ullman as Rachel Maddow & Ariana Huffington, w/ Meghan McCain and Barney Frank.  Can't decide which character Ullman is best at impersonating.  It's hard not to think that it is Huffington, but the other characters are nearly perfect as well.  Makes me want to subscribe to Showtime so that I could watch all of Ullman's shows.  * Have made progress on Emily's TBR challenge.  At least on the reading part.  Not so much for the posting part.  * Even if you think you hate opera, you should make an attempt to see the Met HD rebroadcast of Carmen at a theater near you this Wednesday, 2/3 @ 6:30.  I saw it when it aired live a few weeks ago.  It was wonderful.  Elana Garanca & Roberta Alagna spark and sparkle in this production.   Olivier Award-winning director Richard Eyre about his new production of Bizet's drama says: "It is one of the inalienably great works of art. It's sexy, in every sense. And I think it should be shocking."  I have a friend whose Indian-born husband says he will go to the opera because it reminds him of Bollywood.  Productions like this one of Carmen make me understand that comparison -- song, dance, passion, humor, tragedy; it has it all.   This video is from the London production last year.   *  At the beginning of December, I thought it was silly that the neighbors decorated a very tall tree with lights in the shape of a palm tree.  Now that it is 8 degrees, I see it differently.   I hope they leave it up until warm weather has arrived.   * I made up a new cocktail this evening.  I didn't have the ingredients for what I wanted, so it was a little of this, a little of that, from the licquer cabinet.   Hmmm...if I can recreate it, perhaps I'll think of a name and publish the receipe.  Unfortunately, too much whiskey tends to make one forget the details.  * This is pretty cool.  The history of the world told through 100 objects from the British Museum, produced by BBC 4. &nbs[...]



Raymond Carver: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

2010-01-26T22:54:30.108-05:00

I was intrigued by the choice for this month's selection of my book club, Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk about Love. My book club has been meeting for eight years, but in recent months we've had some major changes in the makeup of the group, which have changed the dynamic. Not necessarily as a result of that change, but recently, our book choices have been pretty rotten. When my good friend, and trusted bookgroup member, S. sends me an email to informing me that I don't want to be bothered with picking up a copy, I know to take that advice.  At one point a few months ago, I decided that if we didn't start reading "decent things" --which I defined vaguely as "not crap"--, I would consider dropping out. Every once in a while, reading something light and irrelevant can be good escapist reading, but when it is a constant diet of pap, well, I just don't have time. So, when A. suggested Carver's first book of stories, I was intrigued and looked forward to interesting reading in the month ahead. This is an especially interesting choice since short story collections historically have not been very good discussions for this particular group. But, since the dynamic has changed, I'm glad that we are trying a collection again. I was also looking forward to this because I had not read Carver, which has seemed like a deficit in my reading. The only work that I know of his is the poem What The Doctor Said, which is a poem that has stuck with me since I first read it five years ago. Such persistence is surely a sign, if not of a good writer, at least of a good poem, and is certainly enough to merit reading more of his work, even if I had never heard any thing else about him (which, of course, I have). When I went to the bookstore over the weekend to pick up the book, I was disappointed that they did not have this particular volume of short stories. But, they did have The Collected Stories of Raymond Carver. Since this included all of the stories from What We Talk About, I decided it was a good choice. What I realized later was that this volume also included all of the original, unedited, versions of the stories in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.  Knowing that Carver's editor, Gordon Lish, had done extensive edits, I couldn't wait to begin to read these works side by side. Thus far, I've read the first three stories in the collection. I had intended to read all of them, as published in the original 1981 volume, before reading the earlier drafts. But, after reading "Mr Coffee and Mr Fixit", I couldn't wait to read the original.  Because the original was so much longer there had to be a big difference in the versions and I couldn't wait to see what that was.  I found "Mr Coffee and Mr Fixit" to be a bit sparse, too sparse to be much of a story.  It sets a mood of regret, resignation about the realities of one's life, dissatisfaction with one's spouse and children. But, the original story "Where is Everyone", while it addresses the same situations and circumstances,  has so much more detail. I realized that I knew the characters from the first story, but found that I liked learning more about them in the second one. Did I need to know that his wife relapsed into alcoholism for the story to work? The narrator tells of his battle with alcoholism, but does it make a difference to know that his wife is struggling to remain sober too -- something tha[...]



2 Comments

2010-01-17T14:48:46.869-05:00

Not sure why in the middle of winter I would decide to read something with summer in it's title, other than to warm me.   Of course A Midsummer  Night's Dream has little to do with summer, but much to do with merriment.   The opening lines always bring a smile: 
(Theseus) Now fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
draws on apace; four happy days bring in
Another moon:  but, O, methinks, how slow
This old moon wanes! she lingers my desires,
Like to a step-dame, or a dowager,
Long withering out a youn man's revenue.

(Hippolyta) Four days will quickly steep themselves in night'
Four nights will quickly dream away the time;
And then the moon, like to a silver bow
New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night
Of our solemnities.

   (Theseus) Go, Philostrate,
Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments;
Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth:
Turn melancholy forth to funerals;
The pale companion is not for our pomp.
Hippolyata, I woo'd thee with my sword,
And won the love, doing thee injuries;
But i will wed thee in another key,
With pomp, with triumph and with revelling. 

The back & forth between Theseus and Hippolyta -- "It's four long days". "Four days is not long at all!" -- is the kind of repartee that occurs between each of the couples throughout the play and, while representative, is not at all the best example from the work. But, what merriment there is throughout for the audience. It is fun to read (or re-read) this play -- in midwinter January or midsummer June. I could write lots about this play, but my purpose today was not to critique. Reading Shakespeare was such a burden when I was a student, but what a pleasure it is now to read for no other reason than the sheer joy of it.