(December 11, 2017)
Halloween pumpkin, 2017
I know, I have been away a long time. I don't know if anybody ever looks at these pages, but it occurs to me that they are the closest thing to a diary that I'm likely to leave behind, and someday I may want to look at them myself and reminisce about what I was doing when...
Started the year with George Eliot's Middlemarch (an unexpected Christmas present), which is basically like War and Peace minus the war. I enjoyed it so much that right afterwards I started on The Mill on the Floss, but that turned out to be too much George Eliot too soon. I will probably come back to it some day, though.
Another unexpected present was a massive tome entitled The rivals of Sherlock Holmes (continuing the Victorian theme), which also turned out to be quite enjoyable. (Apparently, there have been several collections, and even a TV series, by this title; follow the link to see the one I'm talking about.)
From the bookshelves almost at random I picked, for a plane trip, Thomas Cahill's Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus, which I found surprisingly moving. I have found it is often a good thing to look at the foundations of my faith (which is to say, really, my life) through new eyes.
And then there is Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field: How Two Men Revolutionized Physics, which I thoroughly loved, and how could I not? My two favorite physicists, both of them (by all accounts) really great people, and a very well-written account of a fascinating intellectual adventure. I always get weepy when I get to Maxwell's death, though...
Currently reading Man is not alone by Abraham Joshua Heschel. No, I had never read it in full before! And I can't recommend it too highly. This may sound silly, or morbid, or presumptuous (or all three), but I decided long ago that, if I am granted a few last words before I die, I will recite the Shema (and remember my friend Barry, who taught it to me so many years ago).
I pretty much completed my Grateful Dead collection this year (this line already shows that I am not a Deadhead, since a true one would never consider their collection complete, no matter how many thousands of tapes they might own). But I have now most of the studio albums and enough of the live ones, including the legendary Cornell '77 (just released this year officially for the first time). Of the new acquisitions, perhaps the one I like best is the live, acoustic album Reckoning. I love a lot of the stuff in it, particularly (of the songs that are not available elsewhere) "Cassidy."
Incidentally, if you can't figure out what the lyrics to their songs are (they tended to mumble a lot in their old age, especially in concert), an excellent (and very entertaining) book is The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, by David Dodd. I also got this for Christmas last year, and I have been enjoying it ever since.
For a while now I have been enjoying a manga called Soredemo Machi wa Mawatte Iru ("And yet, the city turns"), often shortened to "Soremachi." It is a seinen, slice-of-life manga with a bit of fantasy and an occasional (light) mystery thrown in. It features flawed-but-likable characters (for the record, my favorite is Kon-senpai, whom the author, wisely in my opinion, uses only sparingly). It is generally clever and well done, but the cumulative effect is a little like reading the Peanuts comic strip: funny but not exactly happy, which may be one reason why I'm kind of stuck on volume 4 (another is, obviously, that I've forgotten all my kanji...)
I gave up on contemporary American comics many, many years ago, but this summer my son introduced me to the latest incarnation of the venerable Detective Comics, and I actually found myself enjoying it. It is a bit of a team book, and a team of (mostly) misfits at that, and I'm liking it much as I used to like the X-Men when it was good. The writing is the usual over the top stuff that we get these days in action movies and TV shows (at least I guess comics were always over the top), but the quiet moments are good, and the artwork is eye-catching in a tasteful, stylish way. So guess I'm going to give it a try until (a) the writer or artist(s) leave or (b) the next reboot of the DC universe, whichever comes first....
Fare thee well now, Let your life proceed by its own design
Nothing to tell now, Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine
Grateful Dead, Cassidy