Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Better Editor

I am in the midst of reading Jonathan Franzen's latest novel Purity.  My friend Phyllis selected it for me when I told her I was looking for a good plot.  I admire these writers who give us big stories full of characters living contemporary lives.

So yes, there's a lot to dive into here.  Especially because Franzen let's us know what everyone is thinking while the characters struggle to be understood.  So then, I was wondering:  why do I feel engrossed and tired at the same time?   Does Franzen need a better editor?

Or is it simply that omniscience is exhausting.  And that's why nature provides us with our own
sanity-saving inner editor.  "Real life" doesn't allow us the same rights of invasion that we look to the novelist to provide.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Over Before it's Over

I wish I could like Hillary, but I don't.  I wish I could get excited about the first woman President, but I'm not.  Marrying your way to the top is no fun. It makes it a tired idea and it hasn't even happened yet!  We all admire the athlete who leaves while he's ahead.  Or retires gracefully when he's behind.  If athletes can give up money and power, why can't people in public office ever go away on their own accord?

I was thinking about this today after reading my friend Gerry's blog about people on the rebound.  How do they get over a lost love, if they ever do.  Obama beat Hillary because he was fresh and new.  And, he ran a superb campaign with a new approach to winning.

Hillary on the rebound?  The pattern seems the same.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Every Heroic White Man

I'm looking forward to seeing the movie "Sully."  It will tell the story of the heroic pilot Sully Sullenberger who saved all of his passengers by landing his crippled plane in the Hudson River.  Sully will be played by (who else?) Tom Hanks.

It seems like whenever Hollywood wants to celebrate a heroic white man it turns to Hanks. He played James Donovan, the obscure lawyer who successfully negotiated the release of the U2 spy, Francis Gary Powers, and refused to leave the hapless student Frederic Pryor behind.

Hanks played Captain Richard Phillips who put himself in danger to save his cargo ship and crew when they were attacked by Somali pirates.

I wonder how Tom Hanks feels about all these roles?  Is he glad for the steady income for a middle-aged actor and lets it go at that?  Or, does he envy and maybe even yearns for that one "real life'" moment of smart thinking and courage that separates these heroes from the rest of us?

If I were Hanks, I know I would take pride in one iconic role that's certainly my favorite:  it's Woody from the three Toy Stories.   Let's put Woody up there with the "real life" guys.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Deciding Which Lives Matter

My young relative Abby visited the other day.  She was with her parents returning to Indiana University for her sophomore year studying American History.  I thought of her today as I read two extraordinary articles in The New Yorker.  Each in their own way contemplates history's essential point:  whoever gets to tell the story determines the characters and the plot.

Jeffrey Toobin writes about Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer devoted to death penalty defense, who is attempting to chronicle and commemorate the thousands of the people who were the victims of lynchings.  Kathryn Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize winning staff writer, contributes a thoughtful exploration of the many books and TV projects devoted to the Underground Railroad.  

These are old stories that never quite made it, did they?  Are they catching a wave?   Both writers warn us not to fall for the myths in the textbooks, or the myths that try to move the needle in another direction.  Can we finally go for more than comfort here?

I hope that Abby's professors will stress history's ambiguity.  That's a good perspective to have on history and on life.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Sunday in the Park with Dads

It was heartening to see all of the fathers with their children in my favorite park:  sprawled on the grass with an infant; tossing the ball with their nine year old; pushing the stroller with baby and dog; manning the swing set at the playground.

I hope the moms were home with their second cup of coffee and enjoying a leisurely read of the Trib or the Times.

In some ways, it's better now.