Tuesday, August 03, 2021


WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here.  

1. What are you currently reading? Paul Newman: A Life by Shawn Levy. I'm not deep into this 500+ page biography, but so far I'm struck by Paul Newman's very ordinariness, and how he embraced it. Yes, he was an Oscar winner, a box office champion for five decades, inarguably the most popular of the Method Actors who revolutionized theater and movies.

But, except for his looks, he really wasn't exceptional. Not a natural talent, acting was hard work for him. He took his craft seriously, never for granted. Since he had nothing to do with his blue eyes, he considered being handsome a lucky break, just as he was lucky to make it through his Navy service in WWII without a scratch. He consistently seems to view himself as a fortunate bloke determined to make the most of the lucky circumstances he was given. Separate from his movies -- I'm a fan -- I find that I like Paul Newman.

I've also discovered the basis of his legendary philanthropy. Through one charity alone, Paul donated $245,000,000. Yes, you read that right. He worked as hard at growing Newman's Own into a not-for-profit powerhouse as he did at becoming a good actor. Why did he do it? It goes back to his mother's example. No, she was not financially generous. In fact, she was highly materialistic. Paul understood her -- she escaped poverty by immigrating to America and was determined never to be poor again. But while he loved her, her attitude disturbed him deeply and left its mark. Children in the US, Ireland, France and Israel are the better for his charity work, which goes on. (So buy Newman's Own when you get the chance.)

2. What did you recently finish reading?  Murder at Blackburn Hallby Sara Rosett. This is the second book in a cozy mystery series set in London in the 1920s. Our heroine, Olive Belgrave, has social status but no money. So she hires herself out among the aristocracy to perform "discreet inquiries," like checking out a daughter's new beau, finding a stolen pedigreed dog, vetting a nanny candidate ... In this book, a publishing house wants her to track down a famous author who has disappeared without turning in the manuscript he's obligated to deliver.  They hire Olive because they don't want the publicity that would come from calling those vulgar police!
I liked this book. I learned a lot about the early 20th century. For example, I didn't know about the tin masks that disfigured veterans wore after WWI. Or that doctors actually recommended their sick patients smoke special asthma cigarettes! These tidbits are introduced naturally, seamlessly into the story and I appreciated them. The mystery itself was good, too, and kept me guessing to the end.

The only thing I didn't really like was Olive herself. Whether it's Kinsey Milhone or Spenser or Archie Goodwin, I want to really root for the detective I'm accompanying on these adventures. I don't yet have a grip on Olive. Perhaps more of her personality will be revealed as I move through the series.
3. What will read next? I don't know.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 3

Today's happiness -- Clean sheets and towels. Usually I do my laundry on Sunday nights about 6:00 PM. I just didn't get around to it Sunday, so I did it Monday afternoon. Which means I woke up this morning in a fresh nightshirt, on fresh sheets and then I dried myself after my morning shower with fresh towels.

Yeah, this happens every week (except usually it's on Monday instead of Tuesday). But it's such a happy way to start the morning and the week. A reliable mood lifter. It deserves a happy Beatle Button. 

Honorable mention goes to the new shower liner and rings I put in today and the plant stands I began using in the den. It's nice to give my surroundings a little upgrade.

Each day in August you are to post about something that makes *you* happy. Pretty simple. And, it doesn't even have to be every day if you don't want it to be. It's a great way to remind ourselves that there are positive things going on in our lives, our communities, and the world.