Tuesday, February 03, 2009

In the grip of winter, distractions must be found

The snow and ice did not quite melt away before the chill set in anew -- today, a brisk wind blew clouds of snow off the rooftops of the office buildings producing, for a few moments, a faux blizzard. Real snow fell this morning, but didn't last, and it's rather bitterly cold, refreezing the old snow and ice. I wrestled the wheeled trashcan to the curb this morning, up and over the ridges of snow and found a cove between shoveled mounds to perch it near the curb. Everything becomes difficult -- routine chores, walking, driving, concentrating on work.

Companionably, London was hit by a snowstorm that brought the city to a halt, and the citizenry is none too happy about it. School closings! One quote in the Guardian was someone bemoaning the officials' unpreparedness and remarking that a bad example was being set for children, who were being taught that when things get difficult, just stay home and have fun. If that person were transported to the U.S. and could observe our love and acceptance of snow days, he might wonder afresh how it is that we became the most powerful nation on earth.

And in yet another example of American sloth compared to the British -- we who choose a mere 25 or 50 or at most 100 "best novel" lists from time to time -- the Guardian newspaper has compiled a list of 1000 novels "everyone must read." Now seriously, Americans don't even want to read a list that long, much less the actual novels! I feel certain that I can die without regret, if die I must, not having read John Grisham's A Time to Kill, or even anything of Martin Amis. Of course, those Guardian folk are probably indulging in some good-natured hyperbole with the "must read" directive, particularly when one of their own, the lamentable Victoria Beckham (aka Posh Spice), infamously claimed never to have read a single book. I thought every English person was born clutching a copy of Bleak House.

And finally, my browsing uncovered another tribute to John Updike by one of my very favorite writers, Ian McEwan, summing up thusly:

The Updike opus is so vast, so varied and rich, that we will not have its full measure for years to come. We have lived with the expectation of his new novel or story or essay so long, all our lives, that it does not seem possible that this flow of invention should suddenly cease. We are truly bereft, that this reticent, kindly man with the ferocious work ethic and superhuman facility will write for us no more.
Under the banner of welcome distractions, it seems as if the music world is conspiring to send all my favorites to town in the next two months. I already was planning to see Gary Louris and Marc Olsen, Brandi Carlile, and Ryan Adams. Today, I see that Marah is also stopping over this month, and the Cowboy Junkies are playing a gig with the Louisville Orchestra in March. I need to win some radio tickets or I'll go broke. I did find one freebie last night -- the Von Bondies' (also touring, but not nearby) new song, "Pale Bride." He may be Jack White's sworn enemy, but I like Jason Stollsteimer's voice a lot; the VBs certainly have a lot of attitude live. It's still one of my favorite rock shows. I'm sure the small venue had something to do with it. I thought they'd disbanded, it's been so long since I heard anything out of them.

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