Friday, April 08, 2005

“Ever gone a week without a rationalization?”

The Movie: The Big Chill, 1983 (Lawrence Kasdan & Barbara Benedek, screenwriters; Lawrence Kasdan, dir.)
Who says it: Jeff Goldblum as Michael, a celebrity journalist
The context: Michael explains to his old friend Sam (Tom Berenger), an actor, why rationalizations are more important than sex.
How to use it: To defend your rationalizations.

Greetings from Connecticut, where I stayed last night on my way to New York City. My friends the Kinsolvings live in a 200-year-old farmhouse in southern Litchfield County, with a back yard filled with birds. Spring is much farther along down here. The willows are already putting out leaves, and the daffodils are up. Early this afternoon I'll catch the train to NYC, so I don't have to worry about driving in the city.

It's a rather eclectic reading list this week -- I'm looking for a unifying theme, but don't see one. If you do, speak up.

Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven. Krakauer traces the history of the Mormon religion and the development of Mormon Fundamentalism, looking at their links to the murder of a young Mormon housewife and her baby. Fascinating and scary as hell, although it feels a little unfocused. In his author’s note at the end of the book, Krakauer says he started to write one book and ended up writing another, and it shows.

Louise Erdrich, Four Souls. The latest book in Erdrich’s Ojibwe cycle fills in the story of how Fleur Pillager revenged herself on John James Mauser, bore the child who grew up to be Jack Mauser, and regained her identity after throwing away her souls. Because these books are a cycle, not a series, you can read them in any order. I probably wouldn’t start with this one, though; if you’re new to her, read The Beet Queen or Love Medicine before you read Four Souls.

Maud Hart Lovelace, Betsy-Tacy and Betsy, Tacy and Tib. A weird thing about being my age is being able to say, “I haven’t done thus-and-so in 30 years.” I hadn’t read these books in 30 years. I reread them this week because they inspired a book I’m planning to read next week, and I wanted to refresh my memory. Betsy and Tacy are five-year-olds who become best friends in the first book, at the end of which they meet Tib, who completes the trio. Betsy is the leader, bossy and imaginative; Tacy is bashful and dreamy; Tib is practical and matter-of-fact, with an inconvenient habit of bluntness. But Betsy and Tacy like her anyway.

C.J. Box, Out of Range. Box’s series about Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett is a thoughtful, panoramic view of the issues confronting the modern West. In this installment, Joe investigates the death of a fellow warden who had been his role model, and runs up against opposing extreme views about the ethics of meat-eating. The “ethics of meat” theme feels underdeveloped, but Joe Pickett is a consistently believable and engaging character, and always a pleasure to hang out with.

Dante, The Inferno, translated by Robert Pinsky. Okay, I didn’t read this – I’ve never read the whole thing, I’m ashamed to say – but I listened to it on audiotape on yesterday’s drive down to Connecticut. Pinsky reads it, along with Seamus Heaney and others, and it’s gripping. Now I am going to have to read it, dang it, just so I can look up all the historical figures Dante name-checks.


Anonymous said...

Our faith, our friends, and our romantic entanglements, and what we decide to make them mean and cause us to do in the real world, are each reflections of our individuals souls -- all the good, bad, and indifferent that comprise our souls. That's what the books you read all have in common.

To quote Mom every time I tell her about reading another Graham Greene or Jospeh Conrad book, "Would it hurt you to read something nice for a change?"


Paul Tomme said...

"Sometimes you just have to let art flow over you."

AnswerGirl said...

You'd like that CJ Box series, Paul. I recommend it.

Anonymous said...

Try out the Durling/Martinez translation for Dante. Paradiso should be coming out later this month and the other two have come out within the past 5 years. It's similar to the Pinsky, but I've been told (by a linguist) that it's closer to the Italian.

-Chris B.