Monday, September 21, 2015

Beautiful Ruins

This summer my son went to Italy, posting some pictures on Instagram that looked remarkably like the cover of this book, Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. My son's favorite place was Corniglia, and I knew exactly where it was, thanks to a Cinque Terre picture map that functions as a sort of frontispiece in the book. My son loved Italy, and I loved this book, which starts in Italy and then rambles through time and geography in a wonderful way, going to Hollywood and Idaho to somehow critique the twentieth century and bring us right up to date with the craziness of reality shows on tv. We also get to visit the filming of the successful flop Cleopatra (with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) and ponder what it means to be a real artist or to "sell out," as they say. I laughed and I sat mouth open in awe at the marvelous truths revealed in this funny novel. The characters are easy to love, despite their flaws (which is what I want from real life, too, and to be loved in that way), down to a character you love to hate and hate to love!

We are in the beautiful ruins of summer now, with seedheads feeding the birds and leaves beginning to fall. Real fall starts on the 23rd this year, my calendar tells me, coinciding with Yom Kippur. (Ah, I just re-watched the film Atonement, so I'm coinciding, too.) I'm collecting balsam seeds in envelopes, and soon it'll be time to transplant the vintage geranium back into a pot to bring indoors. Likewise, before the first frost I'll bring in the hanging pots of fucsia, to hang indoors from a curtain rod...

But I hope we have many weeks of warmth to come. And many blue skies.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Web of Middle Age

We are in the season of abundant and ginormous spiders. I keep walking into their webs. I try not to, of course, because they are so beautiful and the spider's temporary home and feeding ground, but it keeps happening. And the spiders just keep rebuilding their webs in the same exact spot.

Making us equally stupid, I guess.

This morning, headed out to work, I walked into the rebuilt web at our back gate, fending it off, once discovered, with the plastic sleeve of a DVD I was returning to the library, and the spider landed on my hand.

Big wiggle (from me), no bite (from it). Sigh...

I just finished Middle Age by Joyce Carol Oates, and I really liked it.* I need to read more Joyce Carol Oates, and, indeed, there is more, plenty more. She is prolific and varied, sort of like Michael Caine in the acting world, and I love Michael Caine! In this book, Oates looks at a range of people in middle age--a full range of ages within the middle--and how hard, how disruptive, how like the woes of Job this transition can be. It can devastate and transform, or both! These people are unified by place--Salthill-on-Hudson, in suburban New York--and inciting incident: the sudden death of one of them. And that one is philosophical, intelligent, curious, vigorous, and mysterious, somehow leading them all on a journey of self discovery and allowing them, somehow, to arrive at a more authentic place.

I am the right age to appreciate this book.

*I kept pondering her use of the word "oblivious" (as I keep thinking of oblivion as a deep forgetfulness, not a constant and casual unawareness) and wondering about whether it's "oblivious of" or "oblivious to," but beyond that trivial meandering of my mind, I was gripped. As if she were a large spider and I were her prey! Ack! Oh, no, am I, in truth, oblivious to/of the ginormous spider webs?!

Anyhoo, I recommend this book, if you, too, are in middle age and of a mind to appreciate it. I also recommend Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White, to anyone of any age at any time. (And he would have recommendations for you as to the use of the word "oblivious," etc.) (I think he might disapprove of that dangling "etc." and, in general, my use of parentheses.)

Ah, the DVD I was returning was The Turning, which is strangely and wonderfully pertinent, a dark and twisty film based on a book of short stories by Tim Winton, an Australian writer. Gorgeous, compelling, and long, but I was all wrapped up in it.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Call Off the Search

Thanks, dear hearts, for checking in with me, during these many weeks and months of not blogging! Nothing's up, nothing's wrong! I'm just in a waiting mode, or observing mode, or I'm filling up with something that will pour out soon. It's been a lovely, busy summer of family gatherings and extended "spring cleaning." I've been throwing my life away, as I like to put it, but that means, basically, recycling a ton of paper. (Maybe an actual ton? I hope not that much! Many, many rejected poems. And other stuff. Don't worry, I keep records. Er, too many records. Hence...)

I've been trying to track down a particular song I used to hear. Haven't found it, but I've found the voice who sang it: Katie Melua. And another song I love, by her: "Nine Million Bicycles." Here's the fantastic video of that at YouTube! And I love "Call Off the Search," too! So, yes, I'm here. And not here. Call off the search.

Balsam is here with me, too, blooming madly along the fence.