Sunday Salon: Rambling About This and That

Clovis stands in front of the false bookcase secret door.

My goal this weekend is to finish Hanya Yanagihara’s  A Little Life.  I would say it’s the best thing I’ve read in years, but I recently read Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend so I can only say it’s the best thing since I read My Brilliant Friend two months ago.

I don’t really know why I like A Little Life so much.  It’s just the kind of book that would normally annoy me.  It’s about four male friends, most of whom work in some form of the arts, all of whom live in Manhattan.  They met in college and have stayed very close over the years.  They have an ambiguous sexuality, they’re not lovers but none of them seem to have much in the way of a heterosexual love life.  One has a very dark past that he will not discuss.  It’s all very MFA, which is typically something I avoid.

But A Little Life has worked its way under my skin.  I read 140 pages yesterday evening and hope to read the rest today and tomorrow.

A full review will follow.

Yesterday, C.J. and I installed the front window on the time machine he is building in the backyard.  We’re hoping to have it completed enough to really show it off in two weeks when we’re hosting a department barbecue.  A few weeks ago we installed a giant wheel as the main control. The wheel is really an old carved table-top dumpster diversion with a sort of Asian design on it.  You can stand inside the time machine and turn the wheel to set the exact time you want to go back to.

It’s looking very steam punk.

I’ll post some pictures once more of it is completed.

Our house has really turned into a Dickensian fantasy, think Mr. Wemmick from Great Expectations.   In addition to the time machine we have a Victorian bedroom, done up in full period regalia with stencilled walls, parlor furniture, a very fancy bed frame, lots of period lamps (some with fringe) and various Victorian items.  This is also one of C.J.’s projects.  Upstairs we have a false bookcase secret door, see previous posts, and there is a small model railroad empire in my basement studio.

The English department will have lots to discuss.

School has started up in full.  I’m loving it so far.  All three of my classes are fun groups, not a “bad” kid in the bunch.  I can’t say much about the new superintendent yet; I’m reserving judgement for a later date.  He has already proven himself to be a hands-on guy; he won’t be in his office all of the time like the last one was.  But that could be good or that could be bad.  We’ll wait and see.

I’ll be going to the Associations of Writer’s and Writing Programs national conference in Los Angeles early next year.  My roommate from Yale posted a notice to his Facebook page about it, so I checked it out, asked my principal if the school would pay for it, and registered to go.  It’s looks like lots of fun will be had in addition to a small-scale Yale reunion.  Mona Simpson will be one of the featured speakers.  She wrote Anywhere But Here which was one of my favorite books years ago.  I plan on reading some of her more current stuff between now and the end of next March when the conference starts.

This week I went on something of a book buying spree.  I have several hundred books in my TBR stack so more is not what I need but circumstances led me to Book Passage in Corte Madera where I found so many titles that I couldn’t resist buying a few.  I bought Berlin Now: The City After the Wall by Peter Schneider.  C.J. and I have visited Berlin twice, it’s one of our favorite cities.  Many people who visit Berlin fall a bit in love with the place.  The other book was Reading Dante by Prue Shaw which looks interesting, but the main reason I bought it is that I know I’ll never be able to read all of Dante on my own, so having a book that is essentially a course on him with selected passages is perfect.  Let an expert pick out the good parts for me, I thought.

At my local bookstore I picked up Haints Stay by Colin Winnette and the next in the Elena Ferrante series.

So, it looks like I’ll be spending the rest of Labor Day weekend reading and working on the time machine.  If anyone is going to the AWP conference, I’d love to meet up.

See you there, or see you then.

10 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Rambling About This and That

  1. In spite of my very happy life, after reading your posts, I often wish I was living yours.

  2. When I read A Little Life earlier this year, I initially felt that it was too long. But you know what, it stuck with me–haunted me, really. It took days before I could pick up another book, something that’s not usually a problem for me. And to this day, I can’t watch The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt because of this book.

  3. I look forward to seeing the Time Machine pics. At your barbecue, maybe you should have a table with just fruit for any Eloi that may attend. 🙂

    I read Yanigahara’s “The People in the trees” for a book club early this year and, while I enjoyed the writing, didn’t think too much of the story overall. Have you read that one?

  4. I’m glad to hear about someone else enjoying A Little Life. I enjoyed it a great deal, and then when I finished I found that hardly anyone else I know liked it even a little.

  5. Initially I couldn’t wait to read A Little Life, but as bits and pieces of abuse and violence leak into reviews, I’m wondering if I’m up to it. Curiosity will get the best of me and I’m bracing myself already.

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