Saturday, November 01, 2014


It is unseemly that a minor cold can make me so grumpy - think of everyone battling genuinely major ailments of one kind or another! - but it is essentially two weeks now with no exercise, and despite everything else in life being pretty much OK, my mood has suffered as a result. Made a plea on Facebook and have lined up some good light reading suggestions for the rest of the weekend (I don't teach this week, due to the fall election holiday - I need to get my act together to do some of my own proper work, but in the meantime I'm slightly at sea without the need to do Monday and Tuesday's course readings over the weekend). Hoping to spend the evening so completely immersed in a fictional world that I stop paying attention to my own glumness!

Have had a rather good run of entertainment in the world as opposed to the mind over the last week or so, though the Britten is quiet in a way that made me feel AWFUL about periodic inability to suppress coughing (in fact it reminded me that I heard the War Requiem a number of years ago at Carnegie Hall with an even worse cold - conservation of character over time!).

First, courtesy of my friend T. who got us comps, the inspiring Storm Large at the Public Theater. Genuinely magical performance: I think everyone in the room was transported and uplifted! Lots of good samples at Youtube and I am going to order up some of the back catalog (bought the new album after the show, though my iPod touch is now so ancient that it won't update with iTunes). She's been singing with our friend Thomas Lauderdale and band Pink Martini recently, which was why it caught my attention; it was an absolutely wonderful show, enough so that I download and read her autobiography the next day. I suppose if you're only going to get one, an album is a more obvious choice than the book, but I hugely enjoyed it: definitely recommended (here's the Amazon link).

On Thursday, the extraordinary Britten parable Curlew River, part of the Lincoln Center White Light festival and performed, appropriately, in the Synod House at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Here's a review that conveys the feel of the performance. I had never heard Ian Bostridge in person: it is a beautiful work, and I could not imagine a better performance than his in the part of the Madwoman. The moment at the end when the child's voice comes through is genuinely unearthly. Drinks afterwards with Nadia and Nico, which was also fun; Nadia is recovering from pneumonia, we are all working a bit too hard in ways that tax the immune system.

And last night, at the Bushwick Starr, the excellent Ghost Quartet. Here's the NYT review. It took me a little longer to be won over - the performers are superb, but only a couple songs in the first forty minutes stood out for me, and there is always that risk of whimsy - the story also could still use a little focusing - but I really loved the last part, when the lights go out and the story really ramps up in intensity and appeal. The show is sold out through its final performance on Nov. 8, but if you get there by 7:15 or so, they can probably fit you in.

I will definitely download the cast album: the two standout songs in the first stretch are "Any Kind of Dead Person" and "Four Friends" (during which shots of whisky are poured for the audience - very welcome, on my part, and temporarily quieted my lung ailment!)

Miscellaneous light reading (too lazy to paste in links):

I did finish the Richard Morgan "Land Fit for Heroes" trilogy (decent writing, but way too much fighting and the three main characters are all too similar to each other).

Felix Francis, Dick Francis's Damage: actually this one is much better, I had really written the collaborative ones off as dreadful but this reads more like an actual Dick Francis novel as of ten years ago - i.e. still something like a child's cartoon of peak-era Francis, but much more readable!

Tricia Sullivan, Shadowboxer (very appealing, though I thought it would have been edited differently for a larger publisher - some pacing issues - but she's a great writer and I am eager for the next installment).

Patrick Rothfuss, The Slow Regard of Silent Things: an immersive read, I like his writing a lot, but could not shake uncharacteristic politically correct impulse to disapprove of laudatory representation of anorexic OCD heroine!

Then, happily, William Gibson's new novel, The Peripheral: there was one funny moment when I had a sudden pang for the more sincere, less self-conscious pleasures of Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, but really this is very good, I can't imagine anyone who likes reading novels at all not enjoying this. (Gibson shares with the late lamented Iain Banks the ability to write female protagonists that actually feel to me like they could be myself!)

Then Paulo Bacigalupi's The Doubt Factory, a good recommendation from Brent (and an interesting example of how a novel might attempt to approximate argument) though I wasn't sure I bought the ending.

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