I’ve been grading papers from my freshpeeps last night and today, and have about a dozen or so left. I’m letting the CPU in my head reboot for a while, and I may tackle a few more tonight, or leave the lot until tomorrow. I also have a batch from my Early Brit class, but they can wait until later in the week. So in the interest of thinking about something other than grading, here we go…
A few days ago, my buddy (and erstwhile bassist) Justin mentioned to me that our local Goodwill store had a batch of novels from Hard Case Crime on its shelves. I got over there Thursday and discovered that they were still waiting, a situation which I corrected promptly. Eight dollars later, I found myself the owner of eight crime novels, and have nosed my way into a couple thus far. My upstairs book (which I read while heating or eating dinner) is The Peddler (1952) by Richard S. Prather, best known as the author of the humorous Shell Scott private eye series. This is not one of those books. Thus far, it appears to be a rise-and-fall gangster novel, set in the world of 50s-era San Francisco vice. At this point in my reading, our criminous protagonist is on the rise (I almost said “on the come,” but given that he’s a pimp, it seems a bit on the nose. . . well, maybe not the nose, but. . . dammit.), and while professional enough, the book feels a bit leaden. I do have to say, however, that I smiled a bit when the protagonist describes the efficiency of a whorehouse as “a slot machine.” I’m a little surprised he slipped that particular metaphor past the editor. Or maybe I’m just crass. Of course, those aren’t mutually exclusive conditions.
My downstairs book is Donald Westlake’s “lost novel” Memory, which Lawrence Block recalled from Westlake’s archive after Westlake died in 2008. (Block tells the story in his collection of reminiscences, The Crime of Our Lives, which I cheerfully recommend.) I’m only a couple of chapters in at this point, but I’m already looking forward to going deeper into the story.
My other pickups included Stop this Man! by Peter Rabe, Baby Moll by John Farris (as “Steve Brackeen”), Cornell Woolrich’s Fright (as by “George Hopley”), Gun Work by David J. Schow, Seymour Shubin’s Witness to Myself, and Fifty-to-One by Hard Case publisher Charles Ardai. Doubtless I’ll report on at least some of these as I read them — and they give me something to look forward to once I’m done grading. In the meantime, if you swing by the Mondoville Goodwill store, you may be able to find a copy of Mr. Block’s The Girl with the Long Green Heart — I already owned that one.
In my 8 a.m. FroshComp section, a student was complaining about a paper she was doing in another class. “I just don’t know how I can write ten pages about [the topic].”
I talked to her a bit about offering details and exploring ideas, and then she said, “Have you ever written a ten-page paper, Dr. Moore?”
Indeed I have. When pressed, I talked a little about my dissertation (which was really quite terse as such things go, at about 190 pages). Then I explained the dissertation’s role in the doctoral process, and how it’s ostensibly supposed to advance the field by some infinitesimal amount.
But you know, it’s kind of neat showing these kids (many of whom, like this particular young woman, are first-generation college students) a little bit about how one gets a union card in this racket. Heck, it might even give a few of them ideas. But I think I have enough to feel guilty about already.
Well, my beloved Kentucky Wildcats were upset in the NCAA tournament on Thursday, so my decks are clear for baseball season, and since the Cincinnati Reds are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention until at least 2027, I really haven’t much to sweat on that front. I was expecting a little ribbing on Friday, but it really wasn’t too bad.
Once upon a time, I would have been bothered by the loss. However, I take these things with much more equanimity nowadays. Some of it is because I’m older, I guess, and a lot of it is because I spend enormous amounts of time around college athletes, and I’m continually reminded that they’re just goofy kids like my daughter, and that it’s silly to get too invested in the outcome of the sports they play.
But part of it, too, I can trace back almost 21 years. The Spawn was born on the night of the NCAA basketball championship game between Kentucky and Arizona, which the eastern Wildcats lost in overtime. I was holding her as I watched Kentucky’s Nazr Mohammed miss a bunch of free throws, and it seemed like a very nice lesson in acquiring perspective on what was actually important. It’s a lesson I’ve tried to remember.
A few years ago, Mondoville went from having four supermarkets to three. Last year, one of those three underwent an identity change to the budget/low-end brand of its parent company. Now that store is in the process of closing, and I don’t know what, if anything, will be moving in to replace it. There are rumors of a higher-end supermarket filling the space, but given Mondoville’s demographics, I have doubts that such companies would take that bet, much as I might like to see that happen.
The fact that I have to drive more than half an hour to get to Real City in order to find a store that sells some of my favorite foods is one of the few complaints I have about living in Mondoville. And now there will be even less choice in town. Again, in the grand scale of things, this isn’t awful. But for some reason, it disturbs me a little when a market or a local restaurant shuts down — maybe because I think of the people whose ambitions or dreams are failing along with the business. Here’s hoping something good comes their way.
Well, I may take a crack at a couple more student papers before I call it a night, so I’ll wrap this post up with some music. I don’t know much about the Canadian band Immaculate Machine, but I heard this song on the CBC stream a few years back, and I fell in love with it. This is “Broken Ship.”
See you soon!