Current Distractions, June 2014 Edition

My apologies for how cursory I expect this post to be, but the fact is that I'm writing it before the long weekend, because otherwise it'll be late, and I have a bit of a headache this evening. June has been chiefly rainy and has gone by way too fast.


Orange Is The New Black

I marathoned season 2 within two weeks after it came out (it would've been quicker if not for my obligations the weekend it was released). I can't even believe that this show exists, to be honest. I've never watched Weeds, but I heard it went off the rails in its later seasons, and I really hope that that doesn't happen with OITNB.

Voyager and Enterprise

I can't even believe that these two shows exist, but for different reasons. I finished watching Voyager this month, and it was ultimately unsatisfying, though not utterly terrible. It just had a lot of squandered potential.

Enterprise, on the other hand, seems to be misguided right from the pilot episode, in which two of the main characters have to decontaminate one another by greasing each other up, filmed in a way that's basically softcore porn. It's like if instead of Deanna Troi telepathically calling William Riker "Imzadi" in the pilot of TNG, she'd flashed multiple scenes of them fucking into his brain.

It Happened One Night

I've been meaning to watch this old romcom for multiple years, and I finally got around to it and I wish I hadn't waited so long. The leads in this movie don't even kiss on screen and it's awesome. I love how old movies like this had to rely more on snappy dialogue than absurd set pieces, and build sexual tension in much more subtle ways (see above complaint about Enterprise).



Having drawn them in my office pool, I'm cheering for Argentina (La Albiceleste!) this year. This is actually the first time that I'm paying any attention whatsoever to the World Cup, because I didn't know it existed until 2006. My boyfriend at the time was a soccer dude, and then I was quite painfully dumped just before the competition began. In 2010 I think I was busy not doing much after starting my job (unfortunately I didn't start doing Current Distractions posts until September of that year, or I'd be able to actually tell you what I was doing instead. Anyway I haven't been able to watch much thanks to said job, but I did watch Argentina vs Iran, and what I have to say about that is: Messi Messi Messi.


City of Saints and Madmen

How did I not realize that this was a short story collection before I got 80% of the way in? It was ok. Probably better if mushrooms really creep you out.

I'm also still learning Italian. These are the words of Italian Bilbo Baggins.

68. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

Year Published: 1920
Pages: 432
First Sentence: On a hill by the Mississippi where Chippewas camped two generations ago, a girl stood in relief against the cornflower blue of Northern sky.
Rating: 3/3 (read it!)

It’s almost as if I’m not learning my lesson. I keep on putting off reading List books and then being thoroughly blown away by them. A few bad apples have spoiled the whole bunch.

Still, like Angle of Repose, I actually happened to pick up Main Street right when I needed to, when it had eerie resonance in my own situation. I think the main reason that I avoided the book for so long was that it has an uninspiring title almost on par with Loving.

Anyway, the book isn't about any of the things I expected it to be. It's instead about a young woman named Carol who marries Dr Will Kennicott and moves from the Twin Cities out to Gopher Prairie, MN, the town of pop. 3000 where his practice is located. In the Cities, Carol was a librarian, and she is a highly-relatable-to-yours-truly lover of books and ideas. In Gopher Prairie, she finds herself mired among stodgy people and unable to effect any of the "reforms" she wants to see, although in that particular pursuit, she's less mired than simply ineffectual.

Since November, I've been living in a town half the size of Gopher Prairie, although the temporary nature of my residence means that I haven't really been absorbed by or wrung through small town life in the same way that Carol is in this book. Still, I feel like I can aver to the truth of her feelings, being at once more and less isolated than she is, with my solitary evenings and my trips back to the my own city every weekend.

This book is great but a bit repetitive and difficult to process. It took me a lot longer to read than I expected it to. There's a lot that happens—Will and Carol get married, they have a housewarming party, she develops a crush on a young lawyer in town, she comes up with various plans and schemes, stages a play, etc etc. So maybe it's trying to echo the drudgery of her life. The novel's best secondary characters, an atheist odd-job man and Carol's maid Bea, sadly disappear too soon.

Will Kennicott ends up being the real heart of the novel. He isn't particularly special, but he's a good doctor (there's a particularly effective chapter in which Carol accompanies him on a house call to amputate a man's arm, something your average small town GP would not be doing these days) and he cares about Carol. Carol, meanwhile, is relatable and also a tool, in a way that's made me reflect a little on my own views. She's also vain, which, let's be honest, is another thing that I can relate to.

Without giving too much away, there's some late parallels between the novel and the play A Doll's House, in terms of women finding themselves and defining who they are, and stuff like that.

I usually also comment on the writing so I'll do the same for this book of course. It's good but unremarkable. I sense that that was intentional, though, meant to illustrate, as I wrote above, that nothing interesting happens in a small town. Though Sinclair Lewis was apparently satirizing the idyllic small town found in so much American fiction, nothing here is terribly funny (a statement, not a complaint). His portrayal of the young proto-metrosexual, nicknamed "Elizabeth" and widely ridiculed, is fascinating, as is the rare instance of perspective on the First World War from a time prior to the Second (thus far only glimpsed in one other book on The List, A Farewell to Arms).

This isn't one of the strongest of the 3/3s, but it's definitely worth a read, especially if you've ever been ineffectual in a small town.

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"W-why——" she observed, as she reflected that in Gopher Prairie it is not decent to call on a man; as she decided that no, really, she wouldn't go in; and as she went in.
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"I'll bet a hat it was your Vida Sherwin. She's a brainy woman, but she'd be a damn sight brainier if she kept her mouth shut and didn't let so much of her brains ooze out that way."
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"I love her for being so happy," Carol brooded. "I ought to be that way. I worship the baby, but the housework—Oh, I suppose I'm fortunate; so much better off than farmwomen on a new clearing, or people in a slum."
It has not yet been recorded that any human being has gained a very large or permanent contentment from meditation upon the fact that he is better off than others.
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