Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday, September 20

Yesterday turned out to be a very good one for work.

Sunday's new student went all right but not great.  Didn’t get as good a ‘read’ on her as I would have liked.  Still the mother is no nonsense about work and she is driven enough to have told her mom she wanted an SAT tutor at the start of her junior year.  So it should be all right.  Still not sure if I didn't say a few things I shouldn't have.  I give myself a B to B- on our first meeting.

I think I’m giving up on Dead Souls.  300 pages in and I guess I should just finish.  But I feel little motivation.  Gogol's voice is for him the attraction I think and though it may have been ground-breaking when published the contant authorial interruptions and commentary feels now gimmicky, tired, and over-cute. (“Oh some readers may object to _ I know, but what can I do? This is how we poor Russians are!”)  Too much of that.  I started reading Isaac Babel short stories yesterday but I think I’ll also begin a novel of some sort.

Have been enjoying return of NFL far more than I expected.  Having DVR makes a huge improvement to watching games.  The ability to fast forward through commercials, kickoffs, and Dan Dierdorf makes the watching experience exponentially better.  The league itself continues to be the best run in pro sports; the salary cap allows relative parity (no Yankees and Red Sox buying the best team every year) and because of the season’s brevity the actual games all feel important.  It’s a surprise to me—as little a jock as there ever was one—but I’ve become a real football fan.  I even watch football ‘analysis’ shows (of which a great parody could and should be written—if I were on SNL I’d pitch this in week one).  Although I will say that, for my money, Mark Schlereth is the worse—and the dimmest—commentator in all of sports.

Watched a fascinating documentary on Bobby Fisher over the weekend (on HBO).  I knew already most of the facts about his life, but I’d never seen the video footage—his confrontation with Spassky in '72 and his steady devolution thereafter into an anti Semitic conspiracy nut.  (His radio address exulting in the attack on the World Trade Center was particularly unsettling).  The press conference he gives when he is allowed to enter Iceland and become a citizen (2001?) stands out, especially the exchange between him and Jeremy Schaap about J’s father’s “typical” Jewish treachery towards Fisher.  Then the older man from Iceland who talked about how exhauasting it was to be around Fisher, how he drove everyone away.  Not that that needed explaining—it was plain on the video.  But fascinating.  Made me feel much more sympathy towards him than I ever had.  His mother more or less abandoned him at sixteen and he clearly never developed even the most minimal socialization skills.  (He basically locked himself in his apartment and played chess from sixteen to his mid twenties).  Although I have a fatigue about the genius madness thing.  We like to have our geniuses nutty so we are freed from the burden of being not genius.  


JMW said...

I won't keep you from whatever novel you decide to pick up next, but I just finished the letters of Walker Percy and Shelby Foote, and I often thought of you while reading them. It's mostly Foote, as Percy's didn't start being saved until later on -- and Foote is just a much more voluminous correspondent in general, even when Percy enters the picture. I hadn't/haven't read any Foote (read two Percy novels), and he starts in the letters as a young, braying jackass of sorts -- though it can become comic, the way he's always saying things like "The thing you'll know to do when you're as great a writer as I am is..." But he not only mellows (somewhat) with age, you get a better sense that the earlier megalomania had some southern-style jesting in it. Anyway, it was only a slightly rocky start, but I quickly realized I would regret when it was over. You should read it sometime, if you haven't already.

ANCIANT said...

Interesting. I haven't read it or even known of it. Did you think of me because of the megalomania or because the writers are Southern? Or a mix of both? Or some third reason?

I've read nothing by Foote, ever, though I think my mom has recommended him to me before.

JMW said...

The megalomania and southernness didn't hurt, of course. But seriously, Foote is always making the case for the things he thinks Percy should be reading or listening to -- mostly Proust. And I liked his enthusiasm, but he also had a cranky humor that I appreciate in people, and I came to like him a lot. I didn't think of you for very specific reasons, more because of the overall tone and the sense of camaraderie, the kind of epistolary relationship you and I and a certain Evil Person had once upon a time, before the war.

ANCIANT said...

I am both cranky and enthusiastic, though rarely at the same time. I wish that I were more epistolary than I have been. Have you read any of Foote's fiction?

JMW said...

I haven't read any of Foote's fiction. I feel like the thing to read would be the Civil War trilogy, but military histories -- even literary ones -- are not usually my bag. I do have the first volume, though, so maybe I'll test the waters at some point.

Yes, you can be both cranky and enthusiastic, but again, it's not that Shelby Foote reminded me of you, per se. For one thing, he's gruff in a way that you and I aren't -- you get the sense he would eat us both for breakfast and spend the rest of the day picking us out of his teeth.