Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Just finished the Pulitzer Prize winner. So glad a colleague bought it for me as a gift.

What a stylist Greer is. Some bon mots:

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.. at nearly fifty he is like those bronze statues in public parks that, despite one lucky knee rubbed raw by schoolchildren, discolor beautifully until they match the trees.

In a world where most people read one book a year, there is a lot of money hoping that this is the book…

Texting and email saved him from phones forever.

…. an author too old to be fresh and too young to be rediscovered, one who never sits next to anyone on a plane who has heard of his books.

Some kid who couldn’t even name the Beatles?

…. the lines on his face like origami that has been unfolded and smoothed down with your hand….

…. pink to his middle, gray to his scalp, like those old double erasers for pencil and ink.

No one could rival Arthur Less for his ability to exit a room while remaining inside it.

… scrambled from the sixties onto the mountaintop of the seventies, that era of quick love and quaaludes (is there any more perfect spelling than with that lazy superfluous vowel?)

… while the five finalists were chosen by en elderly committee, the final jury is made up of twelve high school students.

‘When I was young, all I wanted to read were pretentious little books. Camus and Tournier and Calvino. If it had a plot, I hated it.’

Less is not known as a teacher, in the same way Melville was not known as a customs inspector.

The city of youth, the country of age.

Less kisses her on each cheek, but she leans in for a third. Two in Italy. Four in Northern France. Three in Germany? He will never get this right.

… we each got to make one rule about the road trip. Mine was that we could only sleep in places with a neon sign. His was that wherever we went, we had to eat the special. If they didn’t have a special, we had to find another place.

Where is his editor when he needs her? His editrix, as he used to call her.

… he is who she has.

He looks up at a closed-circuit television to follow the fleeting romances between flights and gates…

Boredom is the only real tragedy for a writer; everything else is material.

For a fifty-year-old man, the boredom of lying convalescent in bed is rivaled only by sitting in church.

For a seven-year-old boy, the boredom of sitting in church is rivaled only by sitting in an airport lounge.

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Bon Mots from David Cale

A sampling from David Cale, monologist, from his collected Shows (2016):

When I die they’ll find intuition at the wheel.

Care and all its relatives seemed to fall out of me.

We were married in a registrar’s office by a man whose accent was so thick that to this day I’m not completely clear what I was agreeing to.

It was so quiet in the open. You could almost hear your moods change.

I felt like someone who’s used to swimming in pools in people’s back gardens, who’s suddenly been dropped in the ocean.

I don’t want to play a game I have no interest in winning.

It’s funny how things that are said at pivotal points in your life are forever imprinted.

Sexually speaking I’d say Keith was like a really good waiter at a pretty good restaurant. Very good service, but ultimately disappointing food.

Sometimes the pleasure was so intense she felt like hailing a taxi.

Sometimes the sex was so intense that the only words to say to him that matched the intensity were the words. ‘ I love you’. But she couldn’t tell him that.

“Oy, it’s brutal out there in the sexual jungle. Not that I’ve been to the sexual jungle, but I’ve flown over it a couple of times, on my way to somewhere else.”

“Oh, longing,” I says, “I used to spend about six months of the year there. I spent so much time there that I ran for office. I became the Mayor of Longing.”

Transcendent Years Complete

I finished Marshall W. Mason’s mammoth memoir about the Circle Repertory Theater Company. I referenced here when I started it Transcendent Years.

Not the least of the book’s pleasures is listing of lesser known plays either produced by the Circle Rep, or plays by playwrights who became a big deal after their time with the Off-Broadway company.

Some plays I want to read:

  • Knock, Knock by Jules Feiffer
  • The Disintegration of James Cherry by Jeff Wanshel
  • The Lesson of the Master by Richard Howard
  • Three Hotels by Jon Robin Baitz

I couldn’t leave the book without another quote by playwright Lanford Wilson. From his play Serenading Louie:

“I don’t actually think…that I loved him then. But I love him then now.”

Thank you Mr. Mason. I learned a lot.

Christmas Miscellany

  • Drink coffee on my balcony (briefly)
  • Journal
  • Finish up left-over charitable donations (seems an appropriate time)
    Reread Alice Munro’s “The Turkey Season” (an offbeat Christmas read)
  • Finish last minute gift-wrapping
  • Some Christmas phone calls
  • Maybe some exercise?
  • Enjoy dinner with family tonight

I took the photo on the property last night. Like many photos- a lucky fluke. As I posted on FB, despite the urban grayness of the locale, it still conjured some magic for Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays, everyone.

 

 

 

 

Whenever You’re Ready

Just finished Nora Polley’s memoir about being a Stratford Festival stage manager: Whenever You’re Ready, written beautifully by Shawn DeSouza-Coelho.

What an apt title.

Apart from the famous names, such insight into the art. For example…
– The idea that a stage manager, like an actor or director, can have a favourite blending of actor and text, especially in performance.
– A stage manager works out a careful schedule of cues, only to be thrown off by the timing of actors. And yet, they can throw it off a bit, as needed.

After all, it is always, ultimately, their show.

Transcendent Years

I’m reading Marshall W. Mason’s “The Transcendent Years The Circle Repertory Company and the 1960’s”. For context- I got to see the Broadway production of Lanford Wilson’s “Fifth of July” in 1980 with, movingly, and ironically, Christopher Reeve playing a paraplegic. (See my blog post Happy Lanford Wilson Day)
More about that landmark play another time.
Mason’s book is a history of The Circle Repertory Theatre company and therefore an overview of Wilson’s output as a playwright (and Mason as a director).
So I am slowing down my progress through the memoir by reading the plays of Wilson, as they come up. Many are short one acts. All are unique. Wilson was a trailblazer from the start. His very first plays (“Home Free!” and “The Madness of Lady Bright”) broached, in turn, incest, and the life of a drag queen. Not easy subjects at any time for a writer. That he could humanize them compellingly speaks to his talent.
More to come….

The Turn of the Screw

Decided to spend October rereading Henry James’s masterful novella. Its sense of dread, suspense and just plain scariness is singular. I’m not surprised it’s been adapted as an opera (not seen) and the movie The Innocents (I own a copy- Criterion, of course.)

I’m reading with the perspective that the demonic possession is in the governess, not the children. Both perspectives work.

I should be done by Hallowe’en.