Friday, May 29, 2020

Now for Something Really Interesting

I'm gone.

That's right, I'm away.

I've escaped Corona-madness on my bicycle and will check in when WiFi access allows.

Look for me in Iowa. South Dakota, North Dakota. Montana. Idaho. A sliver of Washington state. Oregon.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Normal People

Normal People
BBC available thru Hulu

Normal People is based on the bestselling novel by wunderkind Sally Rooney.  I can’t seem to get the characters of Connell and Marianne out of my mind. There were so many Shakespearean “what-ifs” that beset their relationship. Miscommunications that led to tragedy. It seems like a great love story if it wasn’t so normal.

I’m not s millennial but I get them. It is an age group that has had a lot thrown at them, though this series does not touch upon any historical milestones or events. Basically there are no terrorists. Or action, for that matter. Yet the dialogue and interactions rise above navel-gazing, I think because we are so emotionally invested in the characters.

That said there were moments where the sex (and there is tons of it graphically depicted) nibbled at the edges of Fifty Shades of  variety, which for me was emotionally off-putting in the sense that I wanted to scream at Marianne WTF! Stop it! You’re better than this! The same with Connell Wake up! Or Go back!

But that’s the point, the winding series of push/pull, for the characters to figure out who they are both together and apart. To finally realize what they really want.

It’s weird. In the beginning episode we see both characters confident in themselves, though in different ways. Connell knows he is popular, the big fish in a small pond, while Marianne can’t wait to flee her small provincial west coast Irish town for college. She knows she is smart, though friendless. Until Connell. Neither understand the strength of their relationship.

At Trinity College in Dublin the dynamic flips and Marianne is in her element and Connell is trying to get his feet under him. They are both trying on different personas—evident by the people they date. We see both characters journey with the hope they are smart enough to figure it all out.

By the last episode we see them not as two but one. One of the last scenes is a birthday party where Marianne is laughing and relaxed. Connell still struggles in social situations but seems to have come to grips with his anxiety, and acceptance. Both have settled into worn out shoes, none more surprised than they.

And their love for each other is apparent. Sometimes frustratingly so. I think at the birthday party even their friends see this. Like them, we wish the couple the best, knowing that even as they graduate with brilliant prospects they still have many more roads to travel.

Good luck Marianne and Connell.

Normal People': Hulu/BBC's New Series Is A Great Adaptation Of ...

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Great Believers

The Great Believers
Rebecca Makkai
Viking, 2018

“We were the great believers.

I have never cared for any men as much as for these who felt the first springs when I did, and saw death ahead, and were reprieved—and who now walk the long stormy summer.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, “My Generation”

A striking epitaph for Rebecca Makkai’s latest novel, The Great Believers about . . . .

Imagine a mysterious virus suddenly besetting a population. The illness itself sets those people apart, publically identifies them. It hits with impunity, across all ethnicities and age groups. At first no one knows how it is spread . . . they have an idea formed from fear and panic, prejudices and assumptions. A mixing of fluids. And, because this population is somewhat small, though no one knows exactly because it can sometimes be hard to tell, and marginalized, the rest of the world carries on. Years later as the outcry grows for treatment, a vaccine, more is done to stop the spread, to help those infected to live with the disease.

Now imagine AIDS in the 1980s, 1990s in Chicago, in Boystown, and the fight. The battle to be heard and not die. Rebecca Makkai has tackled a huge subject and brought us deep inside characters who lived and died during that time.

She uses a braided narrative jumping between principally 1985 and 2015 with a character named Fiona who acts as a witness. She lived through the impact and the aftermath with great buckets of survival guilt, investing all her energies into trying to fix something bigger than herself. To be the last one in the hospital room soothing, holding a hand.

The novel encompasses a broad swath of history up to and including the 2015 terrorist attack in Paris. But it is this feeling, of a generation lost, misunderstood, cast aside that she dwells in, beginning with those living in artist enclaves in Paris after the First World War. We follow a couple as they struggle with artistic ambition and shell-shock, gender bias and inequality. The author connects that group with those living on society’s fringes in Boystown, a gay enclave in Chicago.

I came to Chicago in 1982, right as Reagan was inaugurated. Who knew what was up ahead. I was a recent college grad on the cusp of my own great adventure. As news of a new infection spread I sought to sort the hype from the facts. Sin from science. By the time I married in 1986 there was a test and all those filing for a marriage license were required to take the test. I am ashamed to admit the numbers of people dying was not in my purview. I only know that a few years later I volunteered to work a table at an AIDS Walk fundraiser. Thousands of people signed up, most had been directly affected by loss of a friend or loved one.

The world of art and entertainment has certainly borne the brunt of those loses.

Rebecca Makkai has written a great historical novel that allows us to feel the pain and urgency of that time, that long stormy summer.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Trying to Remember

From the Corona Files

If this were 2018 I’d be leaving on one month for a month-long bike ride along the North Sea. If this were 2017 I’d be six weeks out from a cycle tour of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the coast of Maine followed by Art Week on Great Spruce Head Island. If this were 2016 and Obama was president we’d have no pandemic and I’d be going from John O’Groats to Land’s End in the UK. Even last year at this time I’d be planning my daughter’s wedding and a quick trip via the Adirondacks, Vermont, and a bit of New Hampshire.

Now all memories as I stare out my window, wondering when I can get back on my bike, trying to remember who I used to be.

Friday, May 15, 2020

WHY is TURKMENISTAN reading my blog--be gone Internet trolls!!!

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