Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer time and the living is easy

When I posted last in May, it still felt like spring -- some days were still quite cool and often highs were only in the 70s. Well, we spent no time at all hanging out in the 80s and now, post-Solstice, it is sticky, clingingly hot with big thunderheads looming every day. I've been watching movies in the AC (Star Trek and Up at the theater, recently Slumdog, Tell No One, Chinatown, and In Bruges at home), taking in baseball games, and reading a bit.

I read John Crowley's newest novel, Four Freedoms, which hearkens back to the style of The Translator, rather than that of the more mystical, speculative fictions of the Aegypt cycle or Little, Big. The latest is set during WWII on the domestic front and centers on a fictional wartime airplane factory, which Crowley places near the real Ponca City, Oklahoma.

It treats many themes that I spent so much time exploring in my Master's thesis on literature of the earlier world conflict -- the war's left-behinders -- the old, the crippled, and the female non-combatants. How did this world, suddenly drained of most of its able-bodied young men, look and feel to them? An entire country bent toward one purpose -- making war successfully -- is suddenly dependent on those marooned at home, those who, heretofore, mattered the least in a culture that more or less rigidly defined roles based on gender and physical ability. What a rich, topsy-turvy, and liminal world for a writer of Crowley's genius to look into.

What next? I have a copy of The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy, which Levi Stahl is making sound so fun right now, and also The Lost City of Z. I've started neither, rather dipping into Michael Dirda's Classics for Pleasure and the Fitzgerald translation of The Illiad.

I've been listening to Phoenix's latest, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which I like a little more each time I play it, and Morrissey's The Quarry. And I'm completely enthralled with Okkervil River -- everything. They're at the top of my list for the band I most want to see next. They aren't exactly coming around to my neck of the woods anytime soon, but I'll keep an eye out.

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