Sunday’s diverse potpourri

  • Speaking of rain, many of us are getting tired of water and flash flooding. And yet there are some nearby farms that haven’t gotten a drop. We’ve had some heavy showers even though North Georgia isn’t in the dark green area on this map.
  • The 2001 Ken Follett novel Jackdaws about French resistance fighters during World War II has a surprising formatting problem at the beginning of the paperback. In the middle of chapter four, we suddenly find the front-matter praise for the book followed by the title page and the entire book starting over. Assuming that the initial print run was done via offset, an error like this would have been easy to spot during proofreading. My copy is from the 2017 printing which may well have been produced via print-on-demand. Even so, there would have been a proof copy where this error should have been found. I don’t expect this kind of screw-up from a publisher the size of Penguin.
  • Typical of indoor/outdoor cats, Robbie occasionally leaves a dead mouse or a dead bird on our welcome mat where they probably aren’t very welcoming to guests. He came inside late yesterday afternoon after the rain had made it dark enough outside to obscure the gift. When I opened the door to let him out this morning, he acted like the dead bird as a bomb and came to a sudden halt. Finally, he jumped over it and ran off. I have since removed the bird. Maybe he thought another cat left it there. Cats!
  • Kenan Thompson thinks “Saturday Night Live” could end in three years: “50 is a good number to stop at,” he said on “Thursday on Comedy Central’s “Hell of a Week” when asked about rumblings that the show could be planning its exit. “Well, I need to start planning,” he joked, but acknowledged, “there could be a lot of validity to that rumor.”  Personally, I haven’t watched it much since the original cast disappeared.
  • Speaking of rain again, there was a storm approaching when I started typing this post. Now it’s mysteriously gone and we have a sunny day once more.
  • We sat down with a snack last night, flipped on the TV, and “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” was running. We left it on the screen while deciding what to watch and got hypnotized into watching the whole thing. Normally, we would record it because there are way too many ads on the SYFY channel. Nonetheless, we had fun seeing it again. And, isn’t that cemetery really awesome?
  • Huffington Post: “Stuart Woods, an author of more than 90 novels, many featuring the character of lawyer-investigator Stone Barrington, has died. He was 84. Woods died in his sleep on Friday, July 22, at his home in Litchfield County, Connecticut, his publicist, Katie Grinch, said Wednesday.” I read a fair number of his lightweight novels featuring the globe-trotting attorney Stone Barrington, so it’s too bad there won’t be any more. I guess Woods paid his dues–and then some. Barrington seemed to end up in bed with every woman he met. What an inspiration!

    Malcolm

Ken Follett’s sobering novel ‘Never’

Many authors, especially lately, have written books about the end of the world as we know it. I think the first novel I read about an apocalypse in our world was the 1949 Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. In spite of its theme, which seemed all too real to me as a junior high school student–I liked the novel a lot.  Stewart’s antagonist was disease.

Today, I see a lot of novels in which the culprit is climate change, and that’s to be expected. Early on, I read Hiroshima (1946) by John Hersey, On the Beach (1957) by Nevil Shute, and countless nuclear war-related novels since. Those books probably influenced my belief that Truman was wrong when he dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

To avoid getting into the realm of spoilers here, I’m not doing to tell you how Never ends. Yes, it does involve the prospect of nuclear war. People seem to be of two minds about how a nuclear war might start. Primarily, people presume Russia or China will suddenly attack the United States or whatever rationale brings either country to that point. Others presume the war would be started by a rogue nation like Iran or North Korea that has nothing to lose by harming the United States and other western nations.

What’s sobering about Follett’s novel is how small and/or isolated provocations, many of which involve a so-called “appropriate response” can escalate into a potential conflict that might involve nuclear weapons. In this scenario, it doesn’t take long for countries that have responded to attacks with conventional weapons to respond with a measured conventional weapons response to suddenly be on the brink of a war much larger and more difficult to stop.

This well-written, realistic novel provides readers with a lot of food for thought. It’s one of those books that’s very hard to stop reading even though there are chores to be done and bedtime to consider.  I hope some of those who read it will be impacted as I was impacted by Hiroshima and On The Beach and resolve that there’s never a justifiable reason for using a nuclear weapon.

Malcolm

 

Sunday’s succotash (who invented that stuff, anyway?)

  • As you can see by the AccuWeather graphic, our heat wave in North Georgia has eased up a bit, leaving us with an outdoor sauna bath without anyone handing out fresh towels and cold beer. At present, my desktop weather simply says “rain off and on.” Other than not having fresh towels, we’re also not having grass dry enough to mow. The yard’s not looking its best right now. About all I’m doing outside these days is pulling the wheelie bin out to the road and going out to buy groceries (which ensures that I’ll have to keep moving garbage from the house to the road).
  • I was happy to see this news: “Novelist Jesmyn Ward has become the youngest person ever to win the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.” Her words are well controlled and still carry magic in them. According to Michael Shaub’s story on Kirkus, Ward said, the award “not only because it aligns my work with legendary company, but because it also recognizes the difficulty and rigor of meeting America on the page, of appraising her as a lover would: clear-eyed, open-hearted, keen to empathize and connect.”
  • Currently, my light reading has taken me to Ken Follett’s Never (2021). I must confess I hadn’t read anything from him since The Pillars of the Earth. His work still reads well, though it tends to be long and (in Never, at least) includes multiple venues that take a while to get used to. If we can trust Steven King, and I think we can (more or less), he said, “Ken Follett can’t write a bad book, and Never is his best. It’s terrifying. I defy anyone to put it down once the last 150 pages are reached.”
  • We’ve been watching old movies at night because most of our “regular shows” have taken their usual long summer vacation. How long has it been since saw you Sydney Pollack’s neo-noir “Absence of Malice” from way back in 1981? Since my wife and I started out as journalists, it was fun seeing an old-style functioning newsroom. As Wikipedia notes, Variety called it “a splendidly disturbing look at the power of sloppy reporting to inflict harm on the innocent.” I always liked Melinda Dillon, Wilford Brimley, and then, Paul Newman wasn’t bad either. I kept expecting Sally Field to show up looking like the flying nun or Forrest Gump’s mom in which she’d explain the whole box of chocolates thing to Paul Newman.
  • On a completely irrelevant side note, our local Food Lion grocery store has finally started carrying Newman’s Own salad dressings and other products. The product shown here not only tastes great on a tossed salad but also works as a great marinade for steak. According to the company’s website, “When Newman’s Own first began, Paul Newman declared that 100% of the profits would go to good causes. The mission continues today through Newman’s Own Foundation. In total, more than $570 million has been donated to good causes since 1982.” By the way, Newman wasn’t wearing that crown in the movie.
  • Those of you who know me, whether you’ll admit it or not, know that I’m a fan of poet/engraver William Blake (1757-1827). So I was happy to see a story about him in The Marginalian, “The Only Valiant Way to Complain Is to Create: William Blake and the Stubborn Courage of the Unexampled.” It begins on a disturbing note: “In the first days of a bleak London December in 1827, a small group of mourners gathered on a hill in the fields just north of the city limits at Bunhill Fields, named for “bone hill,” longtime burial ground for the disgraceful dead. There, in what was now a dissenters’ cemetery, the English Poor Laws had ensured a pauper’s funeral for the man who had died five days earlier in his squalid home and was now being lowered into an unmarked grave.” He saw what others seldom see and probably don’t understand–especially in 1827. The story notes that Blake was the man Patti Smith would celebrate as “the loom’s loom, spinning the fiber of revelation” — a guiding sun in the human cosmos of creativity.

So, I ask you, where else can you read about Sally Field, salad dressing, and William Blake in the same post?

Malcolm