Tuesday, January 29, 2019


WWW.WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt us to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here.
1. What are you currently reading?   
Richard Nixon, The Life by John A. Farrell. As I await the Mueller findings, I find myself thinking of Nixon more and more.
I grew up believing Nixon was the bogeyman. Now I want to know about the man in full. The ambition and intellect as well as the envy (paranoia?) that I suspect propelled his train of thought right off the rails. I want him placed in the context of his times -- the Depression ... WWII ... the Cold War ... the Swinging 60s ... and the Watergate era he created.

I've barely cracked the spine of this book, but it's gotten high marks from political biographers I admire (John Dickerson, Douglas Brinkley, Chris Matthews), so here's hoping this book delivers.

2. What did you recently finish reading?  

Surrender, Dorothy by Meg Wolitzer. A close-knit group of friends spends a few weeks every summer at the same beach house. This year, almost as soon as they arrive, the unthinkable happens. Sara -- their hub, the one who was at the center of it all -- dies suddenly in a tragic accident.

Now what?

They continue in the house, trying to cope with their grief. They are joined by Sara's mother, Natalie, a woman left emotionally shattered by the loss of her only child. Together they mourn and alternately try to keep Sara alive through shared memories, and try to heal and get past their grief.
I had a problem relating to some of the characters. I didn't like overbearing Natalie. Maddy, Sara's oldest friend, was completely unbelievable. I couldn't take seriously a nursing mother who is tormented by irrational fears for her baby's safety, yet she smokes and drinks. (Gee, Maddy, if you're so worried about the baby's welfare, try not feeding him nicotine and alcohol through your milk.) Friends Peter and Shawn felt more like stock characters than real people.

But I loved the character of Adam. I understood his complex and loving relationship with Sara. Maddy may have been Sara's oldest friend and Natalie gave birth to her, but Adam knew her and loved her best. He was with her when she died. The impact of such a loss will be incalculable and lasting, and he knows it.

As Dr. Berger said in Ordinary People, "Control is a tough nut." Everyone in the house is faced with not only loss but a titanic reminder about how fragile their carefully curated world order can be. I appreciated Surrender, Dorothy for tackling that, even if I didn't like the final result. This is an ambitious, well-written book. Just because I found it frustrating doesn't mean I'm sorry I read it.

3.  What will you read next?  
I don't know.

It makes sense now

I've seen every episode of Friends. Many more than once. And so I've often glanced at the Laurel & Hard poster in Chandler and Joey's apartment. But I never really paid attention to it (I thought Stanley was wearing bunny ears) or gave it any thought.

Now I get it. I recently saw Stan & Ollie, which inspired me to learn a bit more about Laurel & Hardy. I came upon the 1928 silent movie, Leave "Em Laughing, and realized how much like the Friends Laurel and Hardy were.

Like Stanley, Joey is forever childlike and bumbling. Like Ollie, Chandler is exasperated and impatient but ultimately loving toward his silly pal.

As luck would have it, Leave 'Em Laughing is the movie that poster was taken from. (And those aren't bunny ears; Stanley has a toothache).