Sunday, November 19, 2017

Life: It Goes On - November 19

It's November 19th and I just went outside in my barefoot. The backdoor is standing open. It is only 48 degrees but, in the sun, it feels warm. And I know how few days we have left before going barefooted is no longer possible.

This homebody has certainly had a busy week! Sunday Miss H and I went to a basketball game; Monday night Miss H, The Big Guy, and I went out to eat because Miss H and I had free pizza to redeem; Tuesday night I had book club;  Thursday BG and I went to the U.S. Olympic Team Curling Trials; and Friday Miss H and I went back to them. I would have loved to have gone back again last night for the final match; but, let's be honest, I really didn't want to have to get cleaned up in time to go. Or leave my house again.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: The soundtrack to La La Land. Mostly in my head. Seriously, I cannot get those songs out of my head! I like the soundtrack well enough but a week of it is quite enough.

Watching: My late night movie this weekend was the 1965 version of Rodgers' and Hammerstein's Cinderella, starring Lesley Ann Warren, Celeste Holms, Ginger Rogers, Walter Pidgeon and Stuart Damon (remember him as Alan Quartermaine on General Hospital?!). I adore this movie but I'm the only one in my house that does so I can only watch it when I'm by myself.

Reading: I finally finished The Witches and spent a couple of days dipping into new books. I finally settled on Helen Oyeyemi's What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours. It's pretty much perfect after two heavy nonfiction reads.

Making: Between eating leftovers and eating out (dinner both nights of curling was at the event), I was hardly in my kitchen this past week. Yesterday I did use the last of this year's tomato crop to make homemade marinara sauce so we had spaghetti with that last night. Best marinara I have ever made so I'm looking forward to pulling out the container I froze later this winter.

Planning: Thanksgiving's long weekend. I need to get my Black Friday and Small Business Saturday shopping lists ready so I can knock out a bunch of Christmas shopping this weekend.

Thinking About: Miss H is heading off to South Carolina by herself on Friday. She'll be gone a week. You moms out there will know that I'm consumed with making sure she has everything she needs to make her travels safe. And then I won't stop worrying until she is back a week later.

Enjoying: Sunshine and fresh air.

Feeling: Unfocused.

Looking forward to: Family time. And my sis and her hubby spending the night Saturday night!

Question of the week: Ladies, have you ever traveled solo? If so, hit me with your best trips for staying awake in the car, being safe, things you need to take. Also, if you live in the south, what kind of weather might Miss H be driving into this time of year? And, if you live along the route from Omaha to Greenville, SC, can she hit you up if she needs help? (Can you tell I'm a worried mom?!)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Nonfiction November - Be The Expert, Ask The Expert, Become The Expert

AND I'm caught up! This week's prompt is hosted by Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness.

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

My nonfiction reading is all over the place (I'm not sure I've ever read three nonfiction books about the same subject) so "being the expert" is out. I'm not necessarily looking for recommendations about specific topics at this time; I tend to choose nonfiction books because they sound interesting not because I was looking for a book on a specific topic. So "ask the expert" isn't for me right now. So I went to my TBR list and sorted it by type to find out what kind of nonfiction books I've got on it to see if there's a topic that it appears I want to become an expert on. Turns out, that seems to be murders. So, here are three books I'd like to read that will help me become the expert:

The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago by Douglas Perry and The Devil In The White City: Murder, Magic Madness at The Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson are both set in Chicago. Three Bodies Burning: The Anatomy of An Investigation Into Murder, Money, and Mexican Marijuana by Brian Bogdanoff was added to my list after hearing Bogdanoff speak (he was the lead investigator on the case) and is about murder right here in Omaha.

Now that you know about my fascination with murders, I'll understand if you don't want to be friends any more!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Nonfiction November - Book Pairings

Week Two's prompt is hosted by Sarah, of Sarah's Book Shelves:

It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

This is the prompt that always proves tough for me and I often skip it. This year, I'm in!

My first pairing combines one of my favorite fiction reads of 2016, Jesmyn Ward's Salvage The Bones and Sheri Fink's nonfiction Five Days At Memorial, which I've been meaning to read for a long time. Both share Hurricane Katrina as a central event.

My second pairing is a pair of books set in India which both examine the lives of the poorest of that country's people, Thrity Umrigar's The Space Between Us (one of my favorite books of 2010) and Katherine Boo's Behind The Beautiful Forevers (one of my favorite books of 2016).

My final pairing is two books that deal with the recovery of art in France following the Nazi occupation: Sarah Houghtelling's Pictures At An Exhibition and Robert Edsel's The Monuments Men. George Clooney thought Edsel's book was so interesting that he turned it into the 2014 movie of the same name.

What nonfiction pairings would you suggest?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Seduced by Mrs. Robinson by Beverly Gray

Seduced by Mrs. Robinson: How The Graduate Became The Touchstone of A Generation by Beverly Gray
Published November 2017 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
“Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?”

When The Graduate premiered in December 1967, its filmmakers had only modest expectations attached to what seemed to be a small, sexy, art house comedy adapted from an obscure first novel by an eccentric twenty-four-year-old. There was little indication that this offbeat story--a young man just out of college has an affair with one of his parents’ friends and then runs off with her daughter--would turn out to be a monster hit, with an extended run in theaters and seven Academy Award nominations.

My Thoughts:
I was seven years old when The Graduate came out; clearly I didn't see it for years after it was released. Still, I can't remember a time when I wasn't aware of it. Let's face it, everyone knows the Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack. I've read some interesting things about the making of the film before so I didn't even read the synopsis when I saw this book was available.

Here's some of what I learned:

  • Producer Larry Turman read Charles Webb's book after reading it because a book reviewer had compared it's protagonist to Catcher In The Rye's Holden Caulfield. He paid Webb $1,000 for the rights because two scenes particularly grabbed him: young Benjamin Braddock decked out in an entire SCUBA get up floating in the bottom of his parents' pool and the final shot of a disheveled Benjamin in the back of a bus with a young woman in a wedding gown. 
  • Robert Redford really wanted the role of Benjamin Braddock and, physically, he was perfect for the role of a young California man, suntanned, blond, and tall. But Benjamin was a kid who was supposed to have had little luck with girls. When director Mike Nichols asked him if he had ever struck out with a girl, Redford said, in all earnestness, "What do you mean?" He was out.
  • Dustin Hoffman gave up a role in Mel Brooks' The Producers to play Benjamin and make love to Brooks' wife, Anne Bancroft, who played Mrs. Robinson. My background has always led me to find nothing odd at all about Hoffman being cast as Benjamin but, at the time, a Jewish leading man was certainly a daring choice.
"The casting of Dustin Hoffman as The Graduate's romantic leading man was a shock to Hollywood, which had spent decades trying to sidestep the Judaic roots of its founders. But in the wake of The Graduate, young Jewish males were suddenly everywhere, and often they were playing characters with backgrounds similar to their own."

  • Much of Mrs. Robinson's look and her home decor are the result of Nichol's reading Henry James' novella The Beast In The Jungle. Hence, Mrs. Bancroft appears almost exclusively in animal prints and her sunroom is backed by a jungle of tropical plants.
  • Mike Nichols used light and dark to differentiate between Mrs. Braddock and Mrs. Robinson and glass and water to illustrate the way Benjamin was trapped in his parents' world. In fact, a lot of the things Nichols did in this movie changed the way other filmmakers make movies. 
  • That iconic shot at the end of the movie of Hoffman and Katherine Ross, where their faces turn from exuberance to "what the hell have we done?" That wasn't scripted or directed. Someone forget to say "cut" at what was to have been the end of the scene and that's what happened to Hoffman's and Ross' faces when they thought they were done with the shot. It was so perfect that Nichols left it in. 
"In hindsight, it's easy to wonder: If Ben and Elaine have backed away from the future that's been preordained for them by a hypocritical older generations, where exactly are they headed? The fact that there's no good answer reminds us of what this film may actually portend. Perhaps that's what it's secretly about - the end of the happy ending."
  • No one expected this movie to the hit that it was. Young people stood in long lines, even in the cold, to see it because of the way it spoke to them about what would come to be known as the Generation Gap. But not everyone loved it; critics definitely had a wide range of opinions about what it was, what it wasn't, and what it could have been.
"The Graduate's prescience about matters of grave concern to the Baby Boom generation gave it a life of its own. If we young Americans were anxious about parental pressure, or about sex (and our lack thereof), or about marriage, or about the temptations posed by plastics, it was all visible for us on the movie screen. Today The Graduate continues to serve as a touchstone of that pivotal moment just before some of us began morphing into angry war protesters and spaced-out hippies."
"...those of my generation - didn't much want to face a life built on a bedrock of our elders' choices. In Benjamin we found a hero willing to turn his back on the kind of bright upper-middle-class future we weren't sure we wanted." 
  • Gray has done a thorough job of researching and presents a lot of material. She gives the background of all of the players in the making of the movie and follows up with them afterward; she takes viewers through the entire movie to explain what makes each scene work; and she talks about the impact the movie had on the generation it was targeted at and the generations that followed. 
  • As much as I learned, and as much as I did enjoy the book, I think I'm not the kind of person that wants to read a book that breaks down one movie quite as much as this one did. I must admit that I started skimming quite a lot in the last 100 pages. I think if you were a person for whom this movie was a touchstone (a.k.a. someone about ten or fifteen years older than I am) or someone who really enjoys learning about movies, you'd likely enjoy this book even more. 
  • I definitely need to watch this movie again soon while all of this is still fresh in my brain and I can really appreciate the film making touches that made the story work so well.

"The Graduate lasts partly because it offers something for everyone, the restless youth; the disappointed elder; the cinephile who values the artistic innovation that's the legacy of director Mike Nichols. And this film has also burrowed its way into Hollywood's dream factory. The American movie industry, which worships box-office success, has learned from The Graduate brave new ideas about casting, about cinematic style, about the benefits of a familiar pop music score."

Monday, November 13, 2017

Nonfiction November - My Year In Nonfiction

Well, this month clearly got away from me and I'm hard pressed to say how. Nevertheless, as nonfiction is something I'm really pushing myself to read more of, I definitely didn't want this month to go by without me playing along with everyone for Nonfiction November. So this week, I'll be playing catch up. Week 1's was hosted by Jules of @JulesReads:

Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

What Was Your Favorite Nonfiction Read Of The Year?
This one's a tie between Elizabeth McCracken's An Exact Replica Of A Figment Of My Imagination and TaNehisi Coates' We Were Eight Years In Power. Two very different books - one that made my heart break and one that made my brain work.

That Nonfiction Book Have You Recommended The Most?
Even more than fiction, I feel that nonfiction is something that I recommend based on what I know about particular readers. For example, I have recommended Shrill by Lindy West to all of my feminist friends but West's language and graphic subject matters make it a book that's not for everyone. For biography buffs, I highly recommend both Grant by Ron Chernow and Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird. But they are both very big books and definitely not for the faint of heart. For my more liberal friends, I always recommend Sarah Vowell's books and Assassination Vacation is no exception. Perhaps the book that I find myself recommending most, of the nonfiction books I read this year, is Notorious RBG which really has something in it for everyone.

What Is One Topic or Type of Nonfiction You Haven't Read Enough Of Yet?
Easy - science. I'm not looking for textbook reads but I would like to read some of Mary Roach's books, perhaps some Carl Sagan, and, definitely, Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Astrophysics For People In A Hurry.

What Are You Hoping To Get Out Of Participating In Nonfiction November?
As always, it's a great chance to remember the nonfiction books I've read this year and to kick myself in the rear for not reading more nonfiction (although I may have reached a personal best this year). Most of all, it's always great fun to visit the sites of everyone participating so I can find even more nonfiction reads I want to read.

What about you - how was your year in nonfiction?