Three Winter Walks.
Before the snowfall. It’s quiet. It’s 45 degrees. The sky is gray. Mist hangs in the air. I frighten a flock of robins on a lawn and adjoining vacant lot. Two men are working on a project in a garage. They wear hoodies and smoke cigarettes. I wear mist on my glasses, overcoat, and cap.
During snowfall. I knock snow off Red Car, the trash can, and the wood pile. I walk carefully, slowly. I want to look both at my path and at the scenery, but I favor the path. Lawns, greens, and fences have filled with snow. The sky is uniformly gray. It’s 25 degrees and movement warms me. Nobody else is out; there is no traffic. Snowfall is steady, beautiful.
After snowfall. Snow flies from trees, roofs, cars, trucks, and fences with wind. It is in the 20’s. I walk forty minutes, carefully. There is ice below the snow. When a car approaches, I step off the road into shin-deep piles. It is cold, and there is sometimes a wind. Where are the children and teenagers, bundled up, building snowmen, having snowball fights, sledding? Why am I not doing those things?
On a Gift Bag, and in Religion, Politics, and Things in General. Is there any surprise that a snowman would think, LET IT SNOW.
Notes on Reading. Nonfiction. Daniel Menaker. The African Svelte: Ingenious Misspellings That Make Surprising Sense. Drawings by Roz Chast. Forward by Billy Collins. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.
Menaker collects 101 words and phrases with misspellings, such as “calender,” “slight of hand,” and “tow the line,” and discusses through etymology and definition, how the errors are interesting as well as humorous. Menaker writes with wit, and his segues between entries are entertaining and amusing.
Notes on Reading. Fiction. Nathan Hill. The Nix. Knopf, 2016.
When I began this novel of 620 pages, I thought I would spend a couple of weeks reading it. I finished it in two days. It had been decades since I found a novel so involving, interesting, and entertaining.
The plot is compelling, emphasizing familial relationships. Characters are revealed through ten sections of narratives alternating in time from 2011, 1998, and 1968.
I enjoyed the details of each time period, but I found the Chicago riots of 1968 particularly interesting because of what they reveal about our culture at the time.
Satire of news and social media, addiction to computer games, dieting, contemporary situations of student rights, and particularly the lack of morality and intelligence in some political leaders is evident throughout.
The story ends positively, revealing the theme of self-knowledge. Knowledge of self makes possible knowledge of others. “Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in our own story that we don’t see how we’re supporting characters in someone else’s.”