Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Books, Reading, Purple Roses and Free Association

Reading my bro's very interesting forays into the written word remind me of when I actually had time to read real books. Now, in between diapers, feeding, playing and burping that is increasingly rare.

Yes, Evelyn is doing just fine. She is continuing to grow, is now eating solids (well, mush anyway) and can 'tripod'. Is that in the OED? It means she can sit up as long she supports herself with one hand. She can't crawl yet, but has developed rolling over and over to a fine art and has been known to cross the room in such a fashion. Being with her is such a joy, and coming home to play with her is by far the highlight of the day.

But back to the point, reading has taken a back seat for a while but back before it did I prepared a list of favorite books (I think this is when my bro was incommunicado for a few weeks). Anyway, here is my list of favorite books that I have read in the last few years. I would say that I enjoyed them, except that it would be hard to say that reading the first book on the list was enjoyable. It was an amazing emotional experience, but enjoyable???

1. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
2. Lamb by Christopher Moore subtitle: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
3. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory MacGuire (yes, his Wicked is more famous, but this, is treatment of the Cinderella story, is much better)
4. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Susanna Clark
5. The Instance of the Fingerpost by Ian Peters

However, now that reading is in the backseat for a while we have taken to watching movies, which can be done while burping the little one, or while she is falling asleep on your shoulder (did I mention that she is cute when she is asleep and that sometimes she has the most wonderful little snores?) The other night we were watching the Purple Rose of Cairo, a Woody Allen film from when he still made good movies. In the film Mia Farrow plays a put upon housewife in the 1930's who retreats to the local movie theatre to forget her troubles. One day, much to her surprise (and ours) one of the characters walks off the screen and into her life. Chaos ensues.

All of which leads to the first question of this entry:

If you could bring any character from any movie off the screen and into real life who would it be and why?

And, in a bit of free association, this question reminds me of another question, asked by Terri Gross of someone I can't remember. I think it is the best interview question I have ever heard:

What is it that surprises you most about the person you have become?

And by the way, both of these questions are way too personal for me to answer.


I spent the weekend thinking about your posits, and I have to say that I was hard pressed to think of a single movie character that I had any interest in meeting. I expanded the scope of your question to include books, since I've read a lot more books than I've seen movies, but even then, there weren't any characters I wanted to meet. But what was interesting is that I inevitably felt myself pulled towards the people who created those movies and books. I found that I wished I could have met John Ford, much more so than I would want to meet any of the characters in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. I would much rather meet J.K. Rowling than any of the Harry Potter characters. I very much wish that I could have met and talked with Rex Stout during his lifetime. As realistic and multi-dimensional as characters seem inside their stories, I find it hard to see them as having any dimension outside the context of the stories. The creators of the stories, on the other hand, fascinate me.

All that said, if I had to chose, I think I would pick, from movies, to meet Dutton Peabody, the drunken newpaperman from Liberty Valance, just because he would be a hoot to listen to. And, from books, Archie Goodwin, for the same reason.

Regarding your second question, I'm glad Terri Gross wasn't interviewing me (like she would have any reason to), because nothing about my life surprises me. It's been a progression of events, one step after another, and it's led me to this place. Nothing surprising about that. There are a couple of things about my life that I find discouraging, but nothing surprising.

P.S. It seems a bit cheeky of you to ask these questions when you refuse to answer them yourself. :)
OK, you caught me. The fact is, you are right. I think it would be very tedious indeed to have to spend much time with any screen characters. But I wouldn't mind a dog like Gromit.

As to what surprises me about my life, there are a few things:

I gave up hoping that I would start my own family years ago, and now here I am with a wife and daughter. Go figure.

When I was growing up I never thought that I would wander that far from New England, but between Illinois, Oregon and California I spent 20 years away. I never expected to wander for so far or so long.

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