All I can say is WOW – leave it to a frakkin’ legend like Alice Munro to screw my head back on about New Yorker fiction. If reading the weekly New Yorker story is like a dubious session of panning for gold, reading Free Radicals by Alice Munro is like finding a big fat nugget of the good stuff in your pan. She sets up this story with such straightforward innocence it totally had me fooled, though I really should have known better. I love how it builds a sort of quiet foreboding in the early paragraphs, even though you’re not really sure what to suspect. It’s got that rustic gothic mood most recently felt in the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men, and before you realize it the plot’s already turned on you. Several times at that. And while the ending might feel one turn too frivolous, this is brilliant stuff. I’m not even gonna summarize, you should just read it now. And I really need to be reading more Munro.
This is actually an amalgam of the past several days but shhhhh it’ll be our little secret. Recently observed:
- Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
- Angels by Marian Keyes
- Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon
- Choke by Chuck Pahlaniuk
I’m sure expectations for some sort of profound revelation are building with each passing day, but for now I’d just like to try and get back into an executional groove with this blog so I’m going to start out with one of our recurring features and a promise to make it more recurring than history has thus far indicated.
Friendly Fire by Tessa Hadley is the first New Yorker story I’ve read in several months, and while it went remarkably quickly and had some charming details, there’s simply no plot to speak of – the main character is a middle-aged woman named Shelley who’s earning extra money by doing some work for her friend Pam’s cleaning business. The two clean a warehouse in the middle of the night. The end. Shelley also has a son in the British army stationed in Afghanistan, which is an interesting wrinkle given our (understandable) preoccupation with American soldiers overseas but the perspective ends up being under-utilized. While visiting Karan in New York last summer I vaguely remember having met a literary girl who cited Tessa Hadley as a favorite author, and there are indeed some nicely observed moments here – the soldier son now kisses his mother goodbye “as if he were putting her aside, kindly but firmly” – but there just isn’t enough here to hang a hat on.
In that time-honored tradition of winter break, I’ll be spending the next two weeks at home. There are honestly a ridiculous number of things I want to get done during this time – to the point where I know I won’t be able to get to all of them – but let me just state for the record that I’ve never been happier to be going home. Seriously. All in all 2007’s been something of a minefield, but mostly in the “th-th-that that don’t kill me” sort of way. At least, that’s what I choose to believe. And I truly do believe it.
What I’m looking forward to the most: seeing the fam, having some time to think, and plotting out 2008. Oh, and making end-of-year lists, of course. I’m all about the lists.
Listen up, Gmail: You’ve been my favorite web app for years and single-handedly started the whole Web 2.0 revolution so I’ve been cutting you some slack but WHAT’S WITH THE SUDDEN PROBLEMS LOADING PAGES??? What are all these new scripts I imagine must be churning in the background? The colored labels are nice (takes away the need for that Greasemonkey script) but if this is the price of admission I must strongly reconsider. Consider this your penalty flag.
Note of irony: I actually hesitated a moment just now before posting this until I noticed my Gmail got stuck again so NOW IT’S ON.
It’s been a pretty rough year for the Bears, but the two redeeming facets have been a) They’re responsible for the only Packers loss thus far into the season, and b) Devin Hester still manages to capitalize on the (few) opportunities he’s given.
Love the Forrest Gump moment at the end. The man is a baller.
I was listening to an old “This American Life” the other night. The topic was the influence of television, and while I was listening to Ira Glass describe his unabashed love for The O.C. (which he shamefully calls “trashy”, shortly before admitting that he cried when it went off the air) it occurred to me that there really is no point in trying to hold yourself above it all. Even when a show is universally acknowledged by people to be complete trash, you often find those same people are the first ones breathlessly discussing plot points or recounting the crisis of the latest episode. (Reality TV is a prime example; I can’t believe the number of closet Project Runway fans.)
My question is this: do we need to openly acknowledge that something is trashy in order to give us license to enjoy it? Or shouldn’t we try to understand and love what it is that makes these “trashy” shows so compelling to watch? I realize that when you think like a critic (as I’m far too prone to do) you’re definitely not embracing that side of it enough.
Truth be told, I have less at stake here than you might imagine. I don’t actually have a TV show that I’d be embarrassed to say I’m a fan of. Then again, what can I say — I do have amazing taste.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit how overjoyed I am that Gmail has finally implemented IMAP for iPhone but honestly it’s just so freakin’ sweet to have all your email synced no matter where you read it from! Poor Yahoo – for a brief window of time there I was seriously considering making them my primary email account because only they had true sync. Oh well. Say la vee, as they say.
So Google launched their OpenSocial initiative last week, and despite all the requisite buzz (and uber-ridiculous stock inflation) I’m still not sure I understand what’s going on here. It’s supposed to be a universal API to create apps for all social networks, but watching the intro video did nothing but bring up more questions. Consider this: at one point, Flixster actually gives a demo showing that they’ve used OpenSocial to create a canvas page on a Ning network that recreates the Flixster network. That’s right, they’ve recreated their own network inside someone else’s network. What? What’s the point of this? Who’s the winner here if all you’re doing with this open API is spamming every social network with mini-versions of your own network? It’s kinda like a webtop interface that allows you to use a browser inside of it – mirrors reflecting mirrors. I just don’t get it.
And to top it all off: what are these Google campfire talks? This one looks like it’s been shot on a studio set that’s been somewhat dressed to look like the great outdoors. Are they beginning production designers, or (gasp) might these people actually be camping together?
Today’s edition comes with a bonus story: this evening while riding the muni back from the gym I sat down next to a gentleman rolling an enormous doobie. Despite the absurdity of the moment I admired his chutzpah; his female companion, however, seemed wholly disinterested. I began to doubt his resolve when he kept fiddling with his paper and refused to seal it – maybe he just needed to keep his fingers busy? – but I think he’d commenced licking when I got off.
Spotted today (only on the ride home):
- Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
- Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
- St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell
- Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan
- Second Innocence: Rediscovering Joy and Wonder: A Guide to Renewal in Work, Relationships, and Daily Life by John Izzo, Ph.D.