Saturday, November 08, 2008

this & that...

I frequently see a man down the street from us. I suppose he is in his 60s, I am not a good judge. looks healthy enough. he looks like he is waiting for a bus, but the stop is across the street, and he never gets on or off one that I have seen. he lives a few yards away from where he stands, in what I am guessing is a group home. just stands there and watches, for considerable stretches. I have taken him to be simply interested in the passing flow, but there is that in his face, and this is completely inference, a sense of worry. I think of my father, who would, at times, have no idea where he was. nothing in his surroundings was familiar, tho he recognized me, and Beth, if not to the degree of knowing exactly the relationship. this past summer I was at the library at closing time. there was a man there about whom the librarians were concerned. the man did not know where he lived. he sat in a chair while the police were called. he looked at me with the same look my father used to have, surrounded by an unfamiliar world. this condition does not cease to amaze me, that panging sense of loss. we rely on certain foundations that are not, we discover, so secure as we believe. Buddha gives a clue, not to put a shine on this.

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I was thinking about what I read when I was young, in terms of my later (age 16) becoming a writer. I was not a voracious reader in that autodidact sense that comes up in bios. I read, but I also watched the 3 Stooges. I know that I read Robert Benchley early on, and was mystified by James Thurber's cartoons. both those writers were in my parents' collection. Winnie-the-Pooh might have been read to me but I doubt that I read it myself until I was an adult. I was fond of Landmark Books, which were history and biography books for elementary school readers. I read every sports bio available at the school library, including bios of such unknowns as Red Schoendiest. which brings to mind the time a cereal box offered a small figurine of an American president in every box. when I fished out the prize I was thoroughly disappointed. it was James Polk. I was hoping for a real president like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Benjamin Franklin. anyway, I was fond of the adventures of Danny Dunn (Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint, which detailed his adventures in a sort of space bathyscath that was painted with this miracle paint, anti-gravitying its way into endless space), and the Happy Hollisters. we had 2 HH books, and I assumed until I consulted Wikipedia today, that those 2 were the extent of their adventures. in sooth, there are some 20 HH books. The Hollisters were essentially proto-Brady Bunch, tho with no implication of anything so decadent as remarriage. just as the 3 sets of Bradys paired off in neat incestuous units, so too the 4 older Hollisters. the littlest, Sue, is right out. I really enjoyed the 2 stories that I read. one was set at some oceanside resort, one was in the desert. turns out that the same mill that made the Hollisters made the Hardy Boys and such like. at Barnes & Noble yesterday, the juvenile selection was pretty oppressive. lots of franchises like Hannah Montana, just reams of bleary looking product. I never hooked into that stuff when I was young. I read a few Hardy Boys, but no Tom Swift, none of Edgar Rice Burroughs various series. dunno why. I have since read some Tom Swift Jr adventures. they are hilarious. son of erstwhile genius Tom Swift Sr from a generation before. Jr is much smarter and more capable than his dad. he just flies around in his rocketship with his pals, solving crimes, comes home for a delicious meal cooked by his mom, during which he explains to dad his latest discovers and victories. fully loaded, that is.

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I started reading Brothers Karamazov. not sure why but I have only read one Russian novel, War and Peace. which is great. it's the milieu and the Napoleonic history that I like. I read 200 pages of Anna Karenina and could not get interested. the inferred gloom of Dostoevsky put me off from him. well, I have gotten thru several Thomas Mann novels so I guess I have the right stuff. at least he has some humour. I have to applaud B&N for producing less expensive editions of public domain authors.
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