25 March 2011

Bits and Bobs + Seen on the Subway

 
The Blogger Lunch
Last week in the midst of a visit by my sister, brother-in-law, and niece, I was able to have lunch with a New Hampshire-based blogger who was in town for a few days. A frequent visitor to DC throughout her life, Margaret Evans Porter was willing to give up a few hours exploring the city to meet up with me at the delicious cafe of the National Museum of American Indian at the foot of the Capitol. I think I originally came across her Periodic Pearls blog via Nan's Letters from a Hill Farm. Margaret is a true Renaissance woman. A novelist with 13 published works and a former member of the New Hampshire legislature, Margaret has lived and travelled all over the place and really seems to embrace life long learning. And she has two of two of the cutest dogs on the Internet.

Buying Books
I have already chronicled my delightful Persephone Triple Play, but in the past couple of weeks there have been other book buying binges including a discount bookstore going out of business where I got 9 books for $18. And then I finally made my way to the Borders liquidation where I brought home a big stack about which I will blog in due time.  And then this weekend is the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School used book sale. I have never been but I have high hopes.

Salman Rushdie is in love with his own celebrity (a personal account)
We have friends visiting from out of town who recently attended a dinner party with Salman Rushdie. Seated around the table were a bevy of university academics all set to engage in deep conversation with the literary giant only to be quietly mystified that the only thing Rushdie wanted to talk about was popular culture. One of my friends was seated next to him and is no slouch when it comes to popular culture. But he was surprised when it became clear that Rushdie's only interest in popular culture was as it reflected on his own celebrity. The conversation was a one-sided litany of Rushdie's many celebrity friends and the many terribly interesting things they said to him. The way my friend tells the story, it seems a little tragic that such an old geezer was trying so hard to be hip.

Seen on the Subway
Since there was a whole week when I didn't commute I haven't had as much opportunity to spot people reading. Add to this the fact that I was too into my own reading to look up much means I only have one example to offer this week.

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

The Reader: The interesting thing about this reader is that I spotted him several weeks ago reading the same book and I am not sure he is making much progress. Even more interesting is the fact that both times I have spotted him he has actually been walking down the street reading the book. I would say he was mid-twenties with a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) bag.

The Book: Since this walking reader had the front cover of his book folded back I could only catch a little triangle of a saturated blue. And the back cover and spine was the palest green. I instantly recognized it. The pale green was certainly a Penguin and the blue cover was the blueprint motif of Penguin's edition of Gravity's Rainbow. I have never read the book, but I never forget a cover.

The Verdict: I have been tempted in the past to give Pynchon a go, but lately I have come to understand that his style of writing is probably not for me. So I have put him, at least temporarily, in the Joyce-Faulkner pigeonhole of authors to avoid.

9 comments:

  1. Isn't that just so great that you two met up!! I love it.
    I'll never read Pynchon or Joyce, but I wouldn't align Faulkner with them. (says Nan the Faulkner fan) ;<) That's so funny that you saw the same guy reading the same book. And sad about SR, though he is another writer I'll never read.

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  2. Thomas, it was an absolute pleasure spending time with you. I thoroughly enjoyed our wide-ranging conversation. And the meal was fantastic, I'll certainly be returning to the NMAI restauarant on future visits! So many creative dishes, I look forward to working my way through the offerings.

    If ever you're in NH, I hope you'll get in touch.

    Ruth & Jewel appreciate the compliment. Your Lucy is definitely in the pantheon of "cutest internet dogs"!

    (And Nan, I live in hope of meeting you someday as well. We're certainly close enough geographically.)

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  3. I swan, it's a small world after all. Margaret emailed me after your lunch, Thomas, and I was delighted to learn that you two had met. Wish I could have joined you! Kristine

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  4. I would just like to say that I feel encouraged and validated by your Pynchon-Joyce-Faulkner pigeonhole. Thank you.

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  5. 'Joyce-Faulkner pigeonhole of authors to avoid' - I love that. I too have been meaning to read Pynchon but every year I hear more and more people say how difficult he is. But it's a long term goal of mine;P

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  6. I have to echo pagesofjulia - you made me feel so much better with the pigeonhole comment. :) Sounds like you had a wonderful lunch, and I will look forward to reading about your recent book hauls. We finally made a trek over to our closing Borders...my dh jokingly suggested that we might want to buy a few of the empty shelves and leave the books behind.
    Have a great weekend!

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  7. I'm relieved to say none of the Borders in San Antonio have closed (though Austin, TX lost 3 or 4). I'm sorry to hear it but glad you got some good bargains.

    I'm in complete agreement about Pynchon, I've never had any real desire to read him or James Joyce, and although I did get through As I Lay Dying without too much trouble, I got really frustrated with The Sound and the Fury and gave up after less than 20 pages. There are too many good books out there for me to waste time with Faulkner.

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  8. Karen K - +1 on The Sound and the Fury. I felt very stupid, or alternately, that the world that appreciates Faulkner had been taken in by something or conspired to make the rest of us feel stupid. No one book delights us all, of course. But I didn't find the redemption there. Like you, I gave up very quickly. btw my mother is Karen K, I had to check to be sure you weren't her. :)

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  9. Great post, and I'm really enjoying your regular Seen on the Subway feature!

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