Well, neither vaguely desired Nashville trip happened, thanks to birthday parties and other gatherings. But that’s okay. I belatedly found some indifferent-to-critical reviews of the exhibits at the Frist I had wanted to take everyone to see so it seemed that it wouldn’t have been worth the time and expense anyway. And, although the production of As You LIke It certainly sounded like a good one, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival released their season schedule this week, and that’s on the boards for them, so we’ll catch that one instead.
This is docked up in Huntsville over the next few days, so we might attempt a trip up to see it. Probably won’t happen though, unfortunately, at least with both of them.
But at least we have ArtWalk today and tomorrow. We won’t miss that.
I’m super tired this morning because over the past two days, I’ve binge-watched the BBC series Happy Valley. It’s really excellent in every way. An absorbing, suspenseful storyline, fantastic performances, especially the deservedly lauded Sarah Lancashire in the lead, sharp but not forced social commentary about the impact of drugs on a community and individual lives and a deeply humane vision. It’s rough, though, so be warned. At the center is a consideration of loss and the value of an “unwanted” human life, which is quite compelling. As I said, it’s difficult to watch at times, but is as absorbing as almost any contemporary novel you’d pick up to read. iReally good. It’s on Netflix. Far more worth your time, if we’re talking Netflix, than, say, House of Cards, which I liked in spurts at the beginning,but grew to dislike by about episode two of the second season, which I never finished watching.
Our nighttime reading is Penrod by Booth Tarkington. It’s my father’s copy from the early 40’s. I had read it as a kid, as well as, a little later, Seventeen and The Magnificent Ambersons. We are all enjoying it, although I do a bit of ad-hoc, on-the-spot editing for two reasons:
1) Tarkington’s language is arch and complicated, partly to enhance the humor of the situations this ordinary boy gets himself into. I don’t strip it down much because the effect really is amusing, but sometimes it’s a bit much and I just get tired of reading it.
2) And yes, the racism. It’s infrequent, but when it does pop up, it’s worse than what one encounters in Twain. Twain is trying to paint an accurate picture of his time,and that includes being real about how people speak and act. There’s no doubt, however, that Twain views Jim as fully human and deserving of respect, and that the white characters are, in a way, judged by their view of Jim’s humanity, and so for that reason, I wouldn’t even call Twain’s work “racist,” even though I acknowledge that I might certainly feel differently if we were black. It reflects a racist society, but the authorial point of view is clearly the opposite. I may have said before that this last time I read Huck Finn it seemed to me to be a very long metaphor for the American struggle to understand and act on the full humanity of African Americans. In particular, I puzzled over the lengthy set-piece, running over a few chapters of Tom and Huck’s plan to free Jim after he’d been captured. If you recall, they argue about this constantly. Huck just wants to get ‘er done, while Tom insists on formulating elaborate, ridiculous schemes because that is just the way it’s done and it wouldn’t be fitting t do it any other way – wouldn’t be right. As this went on and on, I wondered if Twain intended this to be a commentary of sorts on the pre-Civil War conflicts over abolition.
Okay, but back to Penrod. Tarkington is not so subtle. The two black boys who feature in the story are not quite caricatures, but close. No, the problem is that Tarkington speaks of them as “darkys” and drops allusions to the purported negative qualities of “coloured” people as a group. Yeah, I skip over those and say “boys” instead even after forthrightly explaining the problem.
So why read it? Well if these issues cropped up on every page, I certainly wouldn’t. But it’s rare enough and editable enough to make the sometime riotous humor and knowing view of boyhood in the book worth a read. But it’s a good exercise in understanding why some works last as literature and others don’t.
Schooling resource note, even if you don’t homeschool and just want supplementary materials. Scholastic sometimes runs dollar sales on digital editions of many of their workbooks. I bought a bunch this summer, and we’re putting them to good use – some math supplementation and in particular, right now, the roots workbook. Repeat: it’s worth it when they’re selling them for a buck, which is not happening now, but maybe keep a lookout for that sale.
By far the most striking programs I listened to this week were two episodes of The Food Programme revisiting the 40-year old television program, A Taste of Britain. From the show page:
In 1974, Derek Cooper set off on a hunt – for BBC Television – around Britain to discover what was left of its regional foods and traditional ingredients. Forty years on, Dan Saladino revisits that series, called “A Taste of Britain” – to meet some of those involved, their descendants, and to find out what happened after these food traditions, many of which at the time were on the wane, were recorded for the cameras.
The first two programs were one Dorset and Wales, respectively, and the last will focus on Yorkshire. They are quite well done and fascinating, as the contemporary presenter shows video of the older program to descendants of the farmers, cooks and market-sellers interviewed by Cooper and they reflect on what has been lost and how things have changed, sometimes even for the better as the market for certain food products have revived and developed.
And I learned a lot. Dorset knob? Laverbread? Cockles? I don’t want to eat any of it, but I was quite interested in learning about them all…
I am still attempting to do a comprehensive series on all of my books, grouping them according to parish need and use – I’ve gotten one post up! Go me.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!