Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday (on Wednesday)

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Could Re-read Forever

What would you do if you could only own a few books, in this case, ten? What if you had to downsize? Which books could you live with and read over and over? It is NOT easy to choose just a few, but if I had to choose right now, this is what I could read over and over again. These are what I call my lifetime books because I have read them (some from an early age) again and again, and I look forward to the next reread.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Middlemarch by George Eliot

The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Rhymes for Today

Light Verse

Def: "light verse, is poetry that attempts to be humorous. Poems considered "light" are usually brief, and can be on a frivolous or serious subject, and often feature word play, including puns, adventurous rhyme and heavy alliteration."*

Some of my Facebook friends have inspired me to respond with a bit of light verse.  Here is a collection that may tickle your fancy.

Weather in New Mexico

What little I know
About such a thing
Is if you don't want snow
You should wait for Spring!

If a Bee Stings

If stung by a bee,
I'd sit under a tree,
And say fiddledeedee,
But that's just me.

Technical Snafu

To login or not to login,
That's what's bustin my noggin.

Pie for Lunch

If you want to get a luncheon high
There's nothing better than Frito Pie.

* Source: Wikipedia

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Memories and Music

A Visit from the Goon Squad 

A Visit from the Goon Squad

"[Charlie] takes hold of his hands. As they move together, Rolph feels his self-consciousness miraculously fade, as if he is growing up right there on the dance floor, becoming a boy who dances with girls like his sister. Charlie feels it, too. In fact, this particular memory is one she'll return to again and again, for the rest of her life, long after Rolph has shot himself in the head in their father's house at twenty-eight: her brother as a boy, hair slicked flat, eyes sparkling, shyly learning to dance."

I was impressed with the confidence of the prose in Jennifer Egan's novel. It is told in a post-modern style with a narrative that unfolds over the course of self-contained stories within each chapter. The episodes meld together through connections that form a cohesive narrative. The stories do not occur chronologically, but rather they jump through time showing different periods from the past of the 1970s to the future of the 2020s. The novel is also split into two parts—A and B—which echoes the two sides of an album.

Several characters appear in more than one story, and through the ways in which they appear at different points in time, their narratives become clear. One of the stories is told as a power-point presentation. The theme of popular music and popular culture in general pervades the novel. This was an aspect that made me uncomfortable as I did not recognize a lot of the references (apparently I do not share the narrator's taste in music). There is a strong critique of popular culture. This criticism is made primarily through exploration of the music industry, but film, photography, and journalism are also investigated in the novel. Egan draws attention to the way in which trends come and go, and the effects of these cultural shifts.

Other themes include the issue of identity, as Egan explores the extent to which identity is inherent and the ways in which it is assumed. The novel’s characters struggle to find meaning and authenticity in their lives, and they use different methods to discover, create, and escape their identities. Above all is an in depth exploration of the passage of time, the effects of aging on individual lives, and the longing for the past through memory. The novel’s title even speaks directly to the theme of time. Bosco, the former guitarist of The Conduits, who has become fat, alcoholic, and suicidal, states, “Time’s a goon, right?” Traditionally, a goon was an individual who inflicts fear and violence on others to achieve a desired end. Utilizing the word “goon” illuminates Egan’s understanding of time as an unforgiving force that shapes the novel’s characters in various, and often unpleasant, ways.
This novel won awards and praise from many. I found it a challenging read that proved uniquely interesting.

View all my reviews

Friday, February 02, 2018

Life-Long Learning

Film Societies and More

"As much as I love books and the theater, I think the cinema is a uniquely modern medium that we look to for the stories of our times." - Christopher Nolan

In these days we have Netflix and on-line downloading of movies.  Because I subscribe I was recently delighted and very deeply moved by Everlasting Moments, a film directed by Jan Troell.  

However, more than forty years ago when I was a student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison we had film societies. It was the age before home video, in that era student film societies were all the rage. Classic and foreign films were shown in classrooms after hours, hosted by groups such as the Wisconsin Film Society, Fertile Valley, Praeteorius, Phoenix and El Dorado. Graduate student Russell Campbell even started his own film journal to cover the phenomenon, "The Velvet Light Trap", which has become a leading peer-reviewed journal for film and television studies.  The Wisconsin Union presented films as well, and they continue to do so today under the aegis of the WUD Film Committee. 

This was the environment in which I "discovered" foreign films.  I remember attending many of Ingmar Bergman's greatest hits and one, The Seventh Seal, remains a top favorite of mine decades later.  But there were the French films of Chabrol (who outdid Hitchcock), Renoir, Truffaut, and the director that was to become my favorite, Eric Rohmer.  
The film societies did not neglect the American cinema and my memories include shockers like "Wait Until Dark" with Audrey Hepburn and "Night of the Living Dead" directed by George Romero.  There were also literary adaptations like "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" with Alan Arkin.  This was part of my education as much as the formal classes, the Badger Marching Band, and Saturday mornings listening to LPs of Shostakovich and others at the Madison Public Library.  It was a wonderful place to be young and learn.  It was the beginning for a life-long learner.