Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Book: "A Happy Marriage"

Author Rafael Yglesias dropped out of high school to complete his first acclaimed autobiographical novel, married a woman named Margaret who died some twenty years later of cancer, had two sons, lives in Greenwich Village, and writes novels and screenplays. All of these facts are also true of character Enrique Sabas. The book mostly alternates between chapters describing the courtship and marriage of Enrique and Margaret and chapters describing the last few weeks of her life.

One of the reviews I read online criticized the book for focusing on Enrique rather than Margaret, and that's true. However, I found the book moving and satisfying.

My rating: **** (out of 5)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Finished Object: Career Tracks Cardigan

Pattern: Career Tracks by Jean Frost
Yarn: Jo Sharp Luxury 8-Ply DK

This is my first sweater knit side to side (except for the sleeves) and I'm very happy with the result. I'm particularly happy with how well it fits.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Book: "Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It"

I've read 2 novels by Maile Meloy, but this is her first book of short stories I've read. Several of them are set in Montana and they all involve middle class characters. As the book jacket notes, the stories are about characters who "are caught between opposing forces: between innocence and experience, impulse and stability, fidelity and desire." Her characters are well developed and the stories are engaging.

My rating: **** (out of 5)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Movie: The September Issue

I think that in documentaries about living people, the filmmaker keeps the camera on the subject for so long, that the subject eventually forgets about the camera. That doesn't happen in The September Issue. Anna Wintour seems to be always aware of the camera's presence. Nevertheless, the movie gives an interesting peek at how one magazine (and one person within that magazine) can exert a tremendous influence on the fashion industry.

My rating: **** (out of 5)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Movie: A Serious Man

I'm a huge Coen brothers fan and was looking forward to this movie. A physics professor seeks advice from several rabbis when his life begins to fall apart. However, in typical cynical Coen brothers fashion, there is no solace from religion and, in fact, things go from bad to worse. I agree completely with the message of this movie (There's nobody watching over you directing your life. Life is a combination of your own actions and chance.). However, it wasn't nearly as enjoyable as Fargo or The Big Lebowski.

My rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Book: "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"

I don't normally read genre fiction, but here I was in Paris, I'd finished the book I brought with me, 5 back issues of the New York Times Book Review, the book Rohn had loaned me, and still had 7 days to go before returning home. The co-reader had found this book too slow moving, so I hijacked it from him.

The most compelling thing about about this book is its two main characters. Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist who has been duped into writing a libelous article about a corrupt corporation and convicted to serve several months in prison. Pror to serving his sentence, in the course of another investigation, he hires a private investigator, Lisbeth Salander, to assist with research. She appears to have Aspbergers. She has almost no social skills, but is highly focused, with a photographic memory, the ability to hack into computers, and no compunctions at all about doing so. The relationship that develops between these two as they solve a decades old mystery is the most interesting thing about this book.

My rating: *** (out of 4)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Last Day in Paris

Our last day in Paris was enjoyable, but tinged with regret at leaving. We went to the Pompidou Center to the Museum of Modern Art. On the plaza outside we saw a woman playing a digeridoo and the three men in the photo playing instruments and doing Mongolian throat singing. It was almost as if they had dropped down from another planet - or another century - and the sound was oddly compelling.

The permanent collection at the Pompidou was great and lunch (steak for me, seafood salad for the co-diner) enjoyable.
We wandered around Ile St. Louis, and the Marais, then stopped for a last gelato at Amorino. Already we're planning our next trip back.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Last Minute Shopping and Search for a Mime

Today lunch was at a noodle shop we had noticed a couple of weeks ago. A guy in the window stretches and cooks the fresh noodles which are then incorporated into soups or stir-fries. Unfortunately the window made it impossible to get a good photo of him, but lunch was delicious.

While shopping at Place de la Madeleine (an upscale shopping area) I came across a group of about 20 Arab women marching and chanting - couldn't tell what their cause was. They were surrounded by at least as many policemen in riot gear.

A couple of days ago, we had seen a mime at Place du Tertre in Montmartre. At that time I was tired and not in the mood to take photos, so this evening we looked for him again and were fortunate enough to find him. His act was set to old-fashioned music and was truly charming.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Book: Gourmet Rhapsody

This book, written before The Elegance of the Hedgehog but released after it in the United States, centers on one of the minor characters in that book, the restaurant critic Pierre Arthens. Totally self-centered, he has alienated his children and almost everyone else who has contact with him. The chapters alternate between the viewpoint of the critic and the viewpoints of others, including his cat and a work of art in his office. In the final hours of his life he tries to remember a flavor that was critical to his career. The book deals with themes of social class and philosophy, like Hedgehog did, but does not meet the standard of that second, more successful book.

My rating: ** (out of 5)

Last Few Days in Paris

We've become very aware that we have just a few more days left in Paris. It feels like we're tying up loose ends, hurrying to visit the places we've missed and returning to a few of the places we particularly like.

Today we went to a wine bar (Tartine) suggested by our son, Michael. I had a charcuterie plate (meats, sausages, pate) and the co-diner had a cheese plate. We both tried wines we hadn't had before and we enjoyed this lunch very much.

From there we walked to the Institute of the Arab World designed by architect Jean Nouvel (see photo). We went up to the rooftop terrace and took a couple of photos, then moved on to the sculpture garden on the Seine. From there we returned to Ile St. Louis for window shopping and gelato. While heading for the Metro, we stopped by Notre Dame yet again and shot a picture of St. Denis holding his head. We plan to go to Place St. Germaine tonight to see if there are any interesting street entertainers.

Versailles: Wretched Excess or Why the French Had a Revolution

I expected to be impressed by the scale of Versailles and was not disappointed. It's hard to imagine the size of the chateau, the size of the gardens, and the amount of gold gilt that can be used in one estate. Although Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon and hamlet were charming, you can't help but remember that these also were financed by taxpayers living in far more modest circumstances.

This was an exhausting day because of the scope of this park.