Sunday Potpourri: Noises and Books

I’m in my office this afternoon; the Summer term starts tomorrow, and I have a few things to put in order today. Meanwhile…

***

Yesterday was the twelfth anniversary of my parents’ murders at the hands of my brother, the event I sometimes call The Big Noise. It was also the first anniversary of the death of our family’s (but mainly Mrs. M’s) dog, Jasmine (or as long-time readers will recall, the Hound of the Basketballs.) As this weekend approached, my sense of the absurd kicked in and I found myself weirdly conflicted. “Really, God? It’s not enough that my birth family is essentially wiped out, but the dog has to check out on the same date?” That seems like adding insult to injury, you know? I bet there’s not any damned truck, either.

Those thoughts are probably somewhere on the continuum between sacrilege and full-on blasphemy. I know that, but I don’t really claim to be any more than an amateur Christian, and I freely acknowledge I’m not good enough at it to turn pro. And they’re the thoughts I have.

***

But that doesn’t mean that I had to sit around the house thinking them, so I suggested to Mrs. M that we make a run down to Real City for a change of scenery. She concurred, and after lunch we hit the overcrowded Interstate and made the trip. I dropped her off at a favorite thrift store while I hit a nearby Frappuccino Reserve. From there, she deposited me at the local used media emporium and went off to check out some of her favorite retailers. I couldn’t find any of the books I really wanted, but occupied myself by reading a graphic novel featuring the Justice Society of America and a collection of adventures of The Spirit. Afterward, we swung by a Kroger store, where I bought a pint of my favorite ice cream, and then we headed home.

There had been a heavy rain while we were in the grocery, and traffic was slow on the way back to Mondoville. On the way home we talked about that day from years ago, the dinner Dad had brought home from McDonalds that evening, my folks’ favorite restaurants, and the facility where my brother is serving his time, but we agreed that the afternoon had been an improvement over staying home and brooding.

As I unlocked the door of the Mid-Century Mondohaus, a thought flashed across my mind: “I hope Jasmine hasn’t — oh. Right.” I mentioned it to Mrs. M later. We smiled and shrugged.

***

As part of my ongoing campaign to keep myself distracted yesterday, after dinner I bought the Kindle edition of Adrian McKinty’s I Hear the Sirens in the Street, the second book in his Sean Duffy series, set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles of the early 1980s. This time around, the story includes such elements as John DeLorean’s car company and the Falkland Islands War, all within the context of the region’s low-intensity civil war. I’ve now read the first two of the five-book series, and I think I’ll be reading the others sooner rather than later.

Earlier in the week, I read Born to Be Posthumous, Mark Dery’s excellent biography of the writer and illustrator Edward Gorey. I discovered Gorey’s work as an undergraduate, thanks to the director of the Northern KY U Honors program. I have all four of the trade collections of Gorey’s minimalist books, along with a signed volume of his posters.

Dery’s book examines Gorey as a multifariously liminal figure. Was he an author or an illustrator? A writer for children or adults? An East Coast aesthete or a regular guy from the Midwest? Apparently he was all of these things to different people — in fact, he seems to have been an incredibly difficult person with whom to connect. Time and again, Dery shows us people who were close to Gorey, all of whom were sure they were outside of some circle of “true friends.”

Similarly, his sexuality seems to have been ambiguous. Gorey presented as flamboyantly gay, from his fascination with the ballet to his archly theatrical conversational style and extravagant manner of dress. However, while he acknowledged being gay, he also described himself as “undersexed,” and although he seems to have had (largely unrequited) crushes on men, may only have only had a single sexual encounter over the course of his 75 years, and even that is uncertain, something a relative reported may have happened.

Dery devotes appropriate attention to Gorey’s work as well as his personal life. He notes that Queer Theory offers a useful lens for an examination of Gorey’s books and other work, noting its echoes of such Victorian and Mauve Decade writers and artists as Wilde, Beardsley, and Edward Lear. Dery’s readings strike me as reasonable and useful, a refreshing change from assorted critical approaches that do violence to the texts they would consider.

Insofar as the book may be flawed, it seems a little repetitive at times, underscoring points Dery may have already made in earlier chapters. Having said that, I think it is both readable and scholarly (it is extensively end-noted) — useful to the academic without the staleness of the library shelf. In fact, should I have the opportunity to teach a single author course in the next few years, I may well use Dery’s book as a means of looking at Gorey, allowing me to pass the gift to another generation of undergrads. If you are interested in either Gorey or his work, I recommend Dery’s book enthusiastically.

***

The afternoon goes on and I still have work to do, but I’ll close for the time being in my usual fashion. The United States of Existence were psych/garage revivalists in the mid-1980s. This track demonstrates their understanding of the vibe while telling a pleasantly cautionary tale. From 1986, this is “A Scandal in Bohemia.”

See you soon!

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Culture, Education, Faith, Family, Literature, Music, Why I Do What I Do. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s