Tuesday, June 20, 2017

At a University.

A van from the anthropology department pulls into the parking lot and parks.  A driver and passenger leave the van with a package.

“Hey, guys,” an awful woman with long greasy hair and in campus polic uniform called from across the lot, “You can’t park there!”

“It’s just to leave this package in the building here.”

“No!  That’s the President’s place.”

“But it’s just for a minute.”

“I don’t care.  It’s 24 / 7 reserved for the President.  I’m not kidding.  If you don’t move now, I’m writing you a hundred dollar ticket.”

Hail to the Chief.

Notes on Reading.  Nonfiction.  Steven Gdula, The Warmest Room in the House: How the Kitchen Became the Heart of the Twentieth-Century American Home.  Bloomsbury, 2008.

This book is a historic overview of food, food production, kitchen design and decor, dieting, products, influences of economic times, technologies in food production and preparation, influences of the media, personalities.  The index will be useful for future reference; the annotated bibliography is interesting.  I recommend the book as a good social history of the U.S. In the twentieth century.

Notes on Reading.  Short Story.  Sherman Alexi, “Clean Cleaner, Cleanest,” in The New Yorker, June 5 & 12, 2017.  This story is a sympathetic look at the life and work of Marie, a maid in a sleazy motel.  Alexi shows her devotion, her positive attitude (“It helped to think that she was helping other.”), her religious values (a practicing Catholic), her willing acceptance of the foibles of others, as well as her own, and her devotion to her work, despite the attendant physical pain and injuries that come with the job.  The story ends with the day of her retirement.  Her manager’s gift is that she has to clean only one room and receive pay for the entire shift.  She takes her time with the room, returns home to her husband, who retired from a job at a hardware store earlier that year, brings both of them a beer, “kissed her husband on the cheek and waited for the rest of her life to happen.”  Comparison with Flaubert’s “A Simple Heart” are obvious.

Notes on Reading.  Fiction.  E.L. Doctorow, World’s Fair.  Vantage Press International, 1985.

Doctorow is gifted in his ability to illuminate the moment in a memorable way.  He presents daily life to be remarkable.  This is the story of a Russian Jewish immigrant family living in New York City in the 1930’s from the perspectives of three other family members, but primarily from the point of view of a perceptive boy, from his pre-school through fifth grade years.  Favorite episodes: building an igloo, descriptions of shops and markets and their proprietors, days at the beach, emergency surgery and recuperation, the thrill of the parachute drop at the World’s Fair.  This is entertaining and memorable reading, perfect reading for summer.


About billwednesdayblog

Retired high school English and French teacher.
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1 Response to Tuesday, June 20, 2017

  1. Janice says:

    I like the way you summarize the short stories! A good barometer for how much interest I might have to actually read it myself! I expect that Mrs Wilkins, Mrs Burnette, and Ms Sykes all gave you straight A’s in English class? Were you in my class? Lee ..Oliver, probably, huh

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