Books of The Economist, 29 October 2011

Question:  When is self going to get around to perusing the current issue of The Economist?  Why is she still stuck in October when her desk calendar says it is already December?

Why did the former manager of Natalie Nail Salon in downtown Redwood City open her own salon, and why did it have to be directly across the street from Natalie Nail Salon?  And why did self have to park on that side of the street yesterday, in front of the new nail salon, and why did she have to take so long getting out of her car?  Self took so long that the former manager of Natalie Nail Salon noticed her and came out of the new nail salon, right out to the sidewalk, and greeted self.  At that juncture, why didn’t self invent some excuse to skedaddle, why did she instead follow behind the former manager of Natalie Nail Salon, right into the new nail salon (All the while, self felt pinpricks in the back of her neck, from what she felt sure were the stares of the attendants in Natalie Nail Salon, across the street)?  Since self had already burned her bridges (so to speak), she felt obligated to make an appointment for a manicure/pedicure at the nail salon across the street from Natalie Nail Salon.

And now — FINALLY! After all that useless hand-wringing! — we have arrived at the list of books self is most interested in reading after perusing the reviews in the 29 October 2011 issue of The Economist.

It’s a short list:

Instead of a Book:  Letters to a Friend, by Diana Athill

Until she was 75, Diana Athill worked “editing the books of others at André Deutsch, a London publisher.  Near the end of this career, she started writing again, and over the next 22 years she produced five more memoirs, including Stet, an acclaimed account of her editing life, working with authors such as Philip Roth and John Updike, published when she was 83.  She finished with Somewhere Towards the End, about getting old, for which she earned the Costa Biography Prize as well as an OBE” (Self thinks this stands for Order of the British Empire), in 2009.

Robertson’s Book of Firsts:  Who Did What for the First Time, by Patrick Robertson

“From the first false eyelashes (1916), public lavatory (1852), and sliced bread (1912), Mr. Robertson takes readers on an alphabetical romp through history’s innovations and innovators.  He wisely concentrates on the people behind these inventions, rather than the concepts themselves.  A natural storyteller, he injects life and humanity into what otherwise might have been a dull list.”

*     *     *     *     *

And, since self is already on the subject of books, she might as well go whole hog and list the authors whose acquaintance she made (for the first time) in her 2011 reading.  This is a partial list because self is only going to include the authors she ended up liking:

  1. Alan Bennett
  2. Rajiv Chandrasekaran
  3. Patrick Leigh Fermor
  4. Karin Fossum
  5. Lloyd Jones
  6. Alan Lightman
  7. Tom McCarthy
  8. Ian McEwan
  9. Antonio Muñoz Molina
  10. Christine Montrose
  11. Alan Moorehead
  12. Harry Mulisch
  13. Bernhard Schlink
  14. Will Self
  15. Hunter S. Thompson
  16. Judith Thurman
  17. Edith Wharton

Here’s to more happy reading in 2012!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

First Movie Seen In December 2011

Self saw “The Muppets”!  Amy Adams is adorable!  She confesses she snoozed through the “Toy Story” short that preceded!  And there were previews for all sorts of kiddie movies, self thinks there was even one for “Rin Tin Tin,” but watching it reminded her of son, and he still hasn’t committed to coming up for the holidays — WAAAH!  Big time WAAAAH!

Self!  Stop being such a cry-baby!  Son is a grown man, now!  You’d better start getting ready to celebrate Christmas by yourself!

After “The Muppets,” still infused with the joy of having heard “Mahnahmahnah” sung during the closing credits, self drove straight to Wegman’s, ignored all the sundry rich people in their REI and North Face down parkas (This is frickin’ Ca-lee-fuh-niah, for heavens sake!  Reserve the parkas for the ski slopes!) and, since no one was paying attention to her, and she had to wait half an hour for an attendant (She noticed the tanned couples were being faithfully dogged by Wegman’s staff), she bought a huge, FAT Noble fir!  So fat it looks like it can accommodate 200 ornaments!  The woman who finally helped self asked where self was planning to put it.  “Oh, I have a huuuuge picture window,” self assured her.  “Huge!  And every year, the neighbors gather on the sidewalk, just to wait for the moment when I open the blinds and — VOILA! — the tree is laden with Christmas ornaments from such far-flung places as Berlin and the Philippines!  It is quite a local attraction!”

“I’ll put a red tag on it right away!” the woman said.

To be fair, the woman who helped self was super-nice.

Now, to the movie.

But wait!  There was something else!  Self discovered (after she’d parked) that there was a street fair along Broadway!  Many many booths selling kiddie things (knit sweaters, whirligigs, “Fit Kids” sign-ups, and so forth) were set up in front of the Courthouse plaza.  Oh what joy to be in Redwood City, alive during a street fair!

Afterwards, self went to the Century 20 and purchased several gift cards.  Then she asked the ticket seller:  “Are there any movies starting in the next 15 or 20 minutes?”

“Oh yes!”  the young woman said.  “The Descendants!” (Self couldn’t help noticing how accurately the woman had pinned self’s demographic.  Perhaps it’s time for another hair dye … )

“There’s also Hugo!” she went on …


“And J. Edgar … ”

Three for three, self was thinking.  Gaah, all the movies self really wanted to see and did end up seeing, like Immortals and Harold and Kumar, were completely, to this girl’s thinking at least, beyond the viewing possibilities for middle-aged women in camel pea coats …

“And The Muppets … ”

“I’ll take that one,” self said immediately.  For she loves Amy Adams.  She could watch Amy Adams cleaning a toilet.  Bet Amy could make the job look wonderful and refreshing.  She is so bubbly and full of energy!  Even in “The Fighter,” when she had to play the girlfriend of Mark Wahlberg, and got into a hair-pulling fight with his trashy sisters, she still managed to look fresh and perky.

And, oh!  This was a musical!  And while self was buying the obligatory popcorn, the cashier, who looked about 17, asked her, “So what movie are we seeing today?”

The Muppets,” self replied.

“Who’s your favorite Muppet?” the young man asked.

Wow, this day was really full of conversations!

“Kermit,” self answered.

“Naaah!” the young man said.  “It’s got to be MISS PIGGY!”

Oh my goodness!  What a conversation to have with a 17-year-old!

Anyhoo, self proceeded to the movie, and at first she was rather glum.  But after the first burst of song, and especially after Amy Adams showed up wearing a neon yellow skirt, self was wide awake, and laughing and laughing and laughing.

Self would just like to say, there were so many 80s references here, it was ridiculous.  They even had James Carville.  James Carville, dear blog readers!  Displaying his bald head and impish grin (which self confesses she finds strangely alluring) for about two seconds!

Jack Black, Emily Blunt, Chris Cooper, and Rashida Jones (among many others) were along for the ride.  Can you imagine Chris Cooper singing and dancing?  No?  Well, then, ladies and gentlemen, you have just got to see this movie!  Afterwards, self couldn’t help singing “The Rainbow Connection” to herself in the car!

Why are there so many
Songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side?
Rainbows are visions
But only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hiiiiide
And what’s so amazing
That it keeps us star-gazing . . .

After self got home, she looked up “The Rainbow Connection” on YouTube. The best versions, in her humble opinion, are the ones by Sarah McLachlan and Jason Mraz.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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