It has been a full, but rewarding weekend here in Mondoville. Friday night I was lucky enough to get a review copy of Mr. Block’s latest, The Crime of Our Lives. It’s a collection of columns and reminiscences of LB’s travels through an exemplary career. His profiles of friends, acquaintances, and fellow toilers in the world of crime fiction are unsparing, but kind, marking Block as both a gentleman and an honest writer. His accounts of his time with and around the infamous Scott Meredith literary agency would be worth the price of admission all by themselves (and a useful lesson for aspiring writers), but there’s plenty of great stuff here.
And of course, there’s Larry’s style. When I introduced him at a reading here in Mondoville a few years back, I compared his writing to an Ali jab or a Willie Mays basket catch. It seems effortless from a distance, so effortless that you want to try it yourself. But after you’ve tried and found yourself face-down on the canvas or watched the baseball skip past you and roll to the wall, you realize there may be more to it than you thought. That seeming ease and conversational tone are in fact well and hard earned, and we should take great pleasure in the chance to experience them.
So as usual, LB, you’ve given us a damned fine book — thanks, and I hope lots of folks buy it.
But I have to say — they’ll never think of Lucille Ball the same way again.
Yesterday, I spent the middle of the day on campus, at an open house for potential students, not unlike the sort of events I’ve attended at Flagship with the Spawn. I do some of the meet-and-greet stuff, and I also teach a couple of mini-classes for groups of the kids we’re recruiting. My lesson was “What did they speak in England before they spoke English?”, and it runs up to Caedmon’s Hymn. I felt it worked pretty well, and the kids seemed interested. One even asked me how I had gotten into medieval studies, and I told him something I’ve said here before. One of the major appeals of the period (for me, anyway) was the depth of the passion I find in the people. Although one can certainly find irony in the period (reading Chaucer unironically is a sucker bet), there’s still a sense in the work that there’s Stuff On the Line. In our day in which everything is ironic and snark is the currency, I find medieval intensity refreshing.
So maybe I did some good for the school yesterday — one can hope.
After my open house stuff, I swung by the stadium to catch a Lacrosse match. Our ladies already had the game well under control by the time I got there, but it was a nice, sunny, and breezy day, so I watched the rest of it. I did notice something unusual, to me, anyway. A former student of mine is Mondoville’s goalie — a nice kid. That’s not unusual; we have a lot of nice kids here. The unusual part is her uniform number: 121. It’s the only three-digit number I’ve seen on a college player’s jersey (although there have been past occasions in which a player wore #100 for a football team’s centennial).
I asked another student on the team about it while my former student was on the field. She said she didn’t know if there was a story behind it, but she didn’t know of another three-digit jersey either. If I spot the young lady in the classroom, I’ll try to get to the bottom of it, and I’ll let you know if I find anything out.
Last night, of course, I watched Kentucky sneak past Notre Dame in the NCAA basketball tourney. As I’ve grown older, I don’t get as worked up over the games as I once did — I’d like to think I’ve gained a certain measure of perspective. For example, although the Spawn was born the day Kentucky lost the NCAA championship to Arizona, I’ve somehow seen fit to allow her to remain in the family. Even so, I found last night’s game almost too tense to watch, and had to unwind for a half-hour or so after it ended, which meant that I got to bed pretty late. It was a fine, thrilling performance, and all the participants should be proud.
Next, Kentucky plays Wisconsin, and I have to return to the words of a Bogie classic:
WE DON’T NEED NO STEENKIN’ BADGERS!
Finally, a bit of music. In the early 80s, I saw a video for a song on MTV (That’s right, kids — that used to happen.) It was from the Bluebells, a Scots band that was somewhat similar to Aztec Camera, or that got lumped in with them, in any case. All I knew was that I loved the song, and although it took me years to chase down a copy, I’m glad I did, because I still think it’s a terrifically sweet piece of pop. It has stayed in my head all that time, reminding me of the charm and the melancholy of my late teens and early twenties. So from 1983, here’s “Cath”, from the Bluebells.
See you soon!