Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Light Pillar

A light pillar captured out the window of our car on Lake Shore Drive this morning. A nice, freaky little meteorological phenomena to buoy our bout of chilliness.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Coffee With Balzac

It's probably not the best way to take the measure of French literary tastes, but based purely on the amount of times Balzac is referenced in any number of French films I've seen (most recently in Julian Schnabel's French production, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), it seems clear that he's still very much revered there. (I looked, but nobody has felt compelled to compile a list of all the Balzac references running through French cinema--or at least hasn't seen fit to make it available online.) I suppose a case could be be made that he's one of a handful of 19th century writers of fiction whose works are still widely read and respected. Even cherished. In France at least. Elsewhere, one imagines he can be found on the occasional syllabus, read because he must, any pleasure derived by the student merely a happy coincidence.

I have a copy of Balzac's Cousin Bette on my shelf. I'm looking forward to reading it, hoping to catch a glimpse of what makes him so revered and hoping, as I suppose most of us hope when picking up a work of fiction, to be delighted and transported. He was, according to the books introduction, a bit of a coffee fiend, drinking cup after hot, black cup as he wrote through the wee small hours of the night. 4 to 5 novels a year! Prolifically caffeinated.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Abby's Great-Grandma had a birthday party today. Her sons, of whom she had 4, threw it for her. She was born 85 years ago today in Chicago. There was a snowstorm that day. On the way to the hospitable her mom's car got stuck and she had to walk the rest of the way. Needless to say, she told us, she's never been all that fond of cold and snow.

She's a classy lady, Abby's Great-Grandma. We're so happy to have helped her celebrate today.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Oh, No, Frankie Valli!

Since finishing up school just before the holidays, I've had great luck choosing just the right book to fit my mood. Reader and books have been in perfect accord.

Over the last few weeks I read a gaggle of small books about big albums, a couple slices of fiction, back issues of Cineaste and Film Comment (which I finally organized) and one fat old biography of Abe Lincoln. I can't tell you how guiltily luxurious it's been to put some good reading music on, recline in the big brown chair, and read stuff entirely of my own choosing. In succession. No syllabus in need of attending, no paper to research, no group project coming up--just me and a book about honest Abe. Sometimes I've gone so far as to indulge my reading with a glass of wine.

And I learned something about Lincoln I didn't know. He was born in Kentucky. Really? Do most people know this? I assumed Illinois was the Land of Lincoln. I mean, surely such a claim naturally includes his place of birth. But it turns out those bragging rights belong to a log cabin on Sinking Spring Farm in Kentucky.

So I'm learning.

And when I'm done with Lincoln, I'm looking forward to moving on to LBJ--those three books by Robert A. Caro , the first of which has been flirting with me from the bookshelves, have been begging to be read for a few years now. The blurb on the back cover of Book One offers tantalizing hints of one man's "superhuman drive," of Hill Country Texas dustbowls, Congressional debuts, Senate races and pugnacious political genius. And that's just Book One. Eventually Vietnam brings him low, that much I know. Caro's still working on that one.

Who is going to write Robert A. Caro's biography? A biography of a biographer is the stuff of academic tenure. What does it mean to devote a significant portion to your life to diligantly chronicaling the life of another? Chapter 7: The Lydon Johnson Years. Such a chapter would include a moving account of Caro's exhaustive research methods, a lengthy summary of the books' rapturous critical reception along with the author's corresponding gratification, grants that made it all possible (including innumerable lonely lunches sorting through documents at the Johnson Library in Austin) and why Book One of The Years of Lyndon Johnson is dedicated to Ina.

Abby and I went puddle jumping yesterday. She helped me get her into her frog inspired rain gear (the matching green boots are a little big, so an extra pair of socks helps) and we headed outside. Cooler then the day before, but still freakishly warm. Abby pulled me toward the pothole puddles in the ally, tiny pools of snow melt, gravel and urban sludge. I wondered if maybe she shouldn't be jumping in them. Little flecks of mud clung to the bottom of her raincoat I imagined rare water born diseases.

We moved to less impressive sidewalk puddles. A cabbie rolled up to a stop sign, looked over at Abby attacking a puddle and hollered, "That's cool!" We walked to what we call the Old Park and ran in its circles of various sizes. "Little circle!" Abby yells. "Bigger circle....Biggest Circle!" Then we do it again.

Abby's favorite song right now is Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons' Big Girls Don't Cry. We've watched this YouTube video of it at least once a day for the last month. We both love Valli's giddy falsetto. Whenever he swoops up on "Cry" we look at each other in mock surprise and say, "Oh, no, Frankie Valli!"

Friday, January 04, 2008


All our Play-Doh is blended by little hands. No need to keep it white-gloved.

We love the smell, too.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Filagree and Snow

The snow that fell on New Years Eve and into the new year was wonderfully filigreed. All those wan, leafless trees were made stately, upholstered in a delicate cloth of snow. Even the cars took on an absurd opulence, their imperfections flattered by a few inches of fallen snow.

Later on, past 2 a.m, I r
ead in our living room, pausing every now and again to listen as people walked past, their voices rounded off at the edges and muffled, swallowed up by the snow.