Sunday, February 12, 2006

I dragged several companions with me

to see Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story and while I'm not sure how much either of them liked it, I really loved it: it's fluff, sure, and Sterne's novel isn't at all my favorite of the eighteenth-century biggies, but the adaptation part is delightful and the Steve Coogan-Rob Brydon stuff is absolutely hilarious. (Alice has a better post than this one about the film's charms that includes a segue onto a particularly favorite topic of mine, the Ink and Incapability Blackadder episode, which I always show to the students in my "manners & morals in the 18th century" lecture course as a reward for their having seriously read the preface to Johnson's Dictionary.)

Just got back from an extremely good if in the end rather snowy (but I must have a several-months-moratorium-at-least on complaining about Amtrak, it was true the 7:15am train was delayed by almost 3 hours but I had a ticket on the 10:00am and was able to use it on the earlier-one-that-was-actually-now-leaving-at-the-time-I-expected and got back here around 4:15, very reasonable) few days in NY. Columbia stuff was very good, Rutgers workshop absolutely excellent (what a great place; there must have been eighty people all thrilled to be there to discuss Swift!).

I hit the excellent Barbara's Bestsellers kiosk/mini-store in South Station on the way down, which meant that I was lugging around more books than is really sensible but I enjoyed E. L. Konigsberg's The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place on the train ride down to NY (oh, and I see it is a sort of prequel, can't wait to read the one that came before--I am surely overdue a spending spree in a really good children's bookstore). Konigsberg is basically a total genius, I look back through the list of all her books & think I must have read my favorite four or five of them literally hundreds of times when I was a kid; From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler remains the absolute classic (and a reason the name Claudia is a particular favorite of mine), but A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver was another favorite at one point and also About the B'Nai Bagels and most especially Father's Arcane Daughter, a genuinely haunting novel that every mystery writer would do well to read. It's her first-person voices that are really so exceptional, plus the fact that the children in the books are fully plausible (and intelligent) in a way that even many of my most-loved children's and young-adult's fiction can't live up to.

The other novel I got there has mesmerized me in every spare moment between Wednesday afternoon and right now when I've just finished it, and so it deserves its own post (above).

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