Sunday, February 19, 2017

LXXIV.

As you know I often claim not to "blog" anymore unless I read a book with an owl in it, which I am then compelled by nature to add to my long list of books I read with owls in them. So last night I finished reading the wonderful new novel - partly in that it has many wonders in it! - by George Saunders, LINCOLN IN THE BARDO. It takes place mostly in a graveyard, among ghosts, which I don't think is a spoiler, as the book flap mentions both the graveyard and the ghosts. So right away, you know, I feel pretty sure it's going to have an owl in it. Ghosts? Graveyards? Owls must be on that list. But I go along for quite a spell and no owl. Then some ghosts are gliding through the graveyard and some generic "birds" look at them funny. We are told that birds don't care for ghosts. Which is interesting, but I thought, "Well, that's it for birds in this book." BUT THEN! Chapter LXXIV, which takes place inside a mausoleum, starts like this: "Outside, an owl shrieked."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

You Didn't Let Me Down, Sam Shepard

Almost at the end of this short new book by Sam Shepard and I was like, are you kidding me? Are there not going to be any owls in this book? Why, Sam Shepard's the one who got me started in my lifelong career of counting the owls in the books I read. But now there's a section about the movie THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (though he doesn't name it), with a weirdly persistent refrain that the movie has "absolutely no sense of humor" (is that a bad thing? I can't tell what Sam Shepard thinks!) and Sam Shepard has bats and owls chasing the incredible shrinking man at the end of his movie, though I don't think that's accurate, and I should know, remember how I had a lot of big thoughts about the end of that movie on January 14, 2009 ("click" here)? Of course you do! But maybe I just forgot the bats and owls. Or maybe Sam Shepard is using "poetic license"! I guess we'll never know.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Hieronymus Bob

Steve Wolfhard sent a pic of Bob Hope driving a golf cart in the shape of his own (Bob Hope's own) head. Then Tom Herpich cleverly "photoshopped" it (I guess) into a Hieronymus Bosch painting. I don't know if you would have spotted it had I not told you. It fits right in!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

What Ruth Gordon Ate

You get a lot of meals catalogued in this Ruth Gordon book. Megan was most interested in "steak Stanley," which comes with fried bananas, while my eye fell on "curry soup Waterbury, named after the great polo player who'd flung himself out the Pullman window." Megan, with her prodigious research skills, immediately procured a recipe for steak Stanley, which she sent along, but I'll be danged if I can find anyone who knows about "curry soup Waterbury" aside from the late Ruth Gordon. I found one famous polo player (and rope manufacturer!) named Waterbury, but I don't see any indication that he threw himself off a train. I never try very hard, though. For example, I have no idea what Ruth Gordon is having for dinner here with Orson Welles and Shirley Temple, or why, or what Orson Welles thinks he's doing with his hand.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

The Original Skeeky Kid

Megan Abbott and I have been reading lots of books about movie people together. We read some books about Orson Welles, then we read about Walt Disney, then Bunuel's autobiography (first recommended to me by Bill Taft), which, to my astonishment, did not have an owl in it, though there were rats and spiders and one or two bats and hair growing out of cracked-open tombs. And those were just his childhood memories! As you know, I don't "blog" anymore unless I read a book with an owl in it, and that brings us to MY SIDE by Ruth Gordon, which Megan and I are reading now, in which a certain Miss Jerome is described as a "five-foot, brown-haired, brown-eyed, parchment-skinned ninety-pound replica of a hoot owl." And that's Ruth Gordon just getting warmed up! I'll tell you one mysterious word she likes to employ: "skeeky." Even Megan, who loves to do research (remember when she found out all about "friendship clubs"?), had trouble tracking down examples. I looked in my GREEN'S DICTIONARY OF SLANG, VOL. 3, P-Z, and found only "skeek," with examples drawn from the early twenty-first century, which seems to be directly opposed to the way Ruth Gordon uses "skeeky." Skeekiness, in Ruth Gordon's usage, is a condition to be desired. The only helpful example Megan could find comes from a magazine short story from 1915: "he spilled a line of bunk about her being the only and original skeeky kid." This fits nicely within the time period that Ruth Gordon is writing about when she uses "skeeky." So! Now that I've got you here and I read a book with an owl in it, I can tell you about an unrelated matter that has been on my mind. I watched the Welles version of THE TRIAL, and it pretty much ended with - SPOILER! - Anthony Perkins alone on a desolate shore with a lit bundle of dynamite. And that reminded me of PIERROT LE FOU, which also ended with its isolated protagonist standing in a lonely spot with a lit bundle of dynamite. And then BANG! Is this a genre? I think I need to find a third example before I can say it's a genre. Oh! While I was watching THE TRIAL, Megan happened to tweet - not knowing that I was watching THE TRIAL - that it was Jeanne Moreau's birthday. And then there she was in THE TRIAL! Jeanne Moreau, I mean. And there I was not knowing it was her birthday. And just about the first line she has in THE TRIAL is, "If you're stuck for something to say, try happy birthday." Isn't that a weird coincidence? Well, I thought it was a weird coincidence. Okay, I'll see you next time I read a book with an owl in it!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Mary Miller's Consecutive Owls

As you know I don't "blog" anymore unless I read a book with an owl in it, which I then add to my big list of books with owls in them. Yesterday afternoon I walked up to Square Books and was delighted to see a stack of Mary Miller's new story collection, ALWAYS HAPPY HOUR. So I bought one and came home and read the first eleven stories in a single evening. There are sixteen stories in the book. You do the math! I guess that means I read almost 3/4 of the book in a single sitting but I'm not sure because I'm going to let you do the math, as previously stated. But that's how riveting Mary's new book is. And I am pleased to inform you that two consecutive stories have owls in them. "Owls are predators. They could take off with a small dog, easy," says a character in one. "There's an owl at my house," says a character in the next. As to the former point, I was thinking about it just the other night when Dr. Theresa and I were watching SLEEPING BEAUTY and the owl was overly friendly with the squirrel.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Owl Grease

THE BIRDS came on TCM yesterday and I thought, "I wonder if Messiaen ever saw this movie?" That's considered a real knee slapper around here. But then I really started wondering. And I remembered there was a book on the case right next to me all about Messiaen. But I looked through it and it's not that kind of book. I thought maybe Messiaen would have enjoyed the soundtrack to THE BIRDS - in fact it was the soundtrack that made me start thinking about him - but disapproved of the bird behavior. Or maybe he would've found some mystical interpretation of the bird behavior. And you know, maybe he would have hated the soundtrack. I guess we'll never know. I did open the book to some diary notes of Messiaen, which is how I know that he heard the call of a pygmy owl at Bryce Canyon, Utah, at 5:20 in the morning on May 5, 1972. In related news, Chris Offutt told me he has been reading my "blog." And I was like, "WHAT!" Because as you know I don't "blog" anymore. But to save me some time, Chris sent me part of his next novel... JUST the parts with owls. I believe I counted five owls, though as Chris pointed out in his accompanying email, some of those could be the same owls. Chris gave me permission to quote from his owl passages but I'm hesitant to spoil anything. The piquant title of this "post" comes from Chris's manuscript and already I feel I've said too much.