Spotted: Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

Lords and ladies, you’ll never guess what I saw the other day.

So sayeth the wiki:

Wolf Hall (2009) is a multi-award winning historical novel by English author Hilary Mantel, published by Fourth Estate, named after the Seymour family seat of Wolfhall or Wulfhall in Wiltshire. Set in the period from 1500 to 1535, Wolf Hall is a fictionalized biography documenting the rapid rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII of England, through the death of Sir Thomas More. The novel won both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.[1][2] In 2012, The Observer named it as one of “The 10 best historical novels”.[3]

Now of course, when I think of Thomas Cromwell, I can only think of James Frain, who played Cromwell in the Tudors, across from Henry VIII, as played by that crazy guy from the Woody Allen Movie with ScarJo:

Your grace

But then that makes me think of the time when he played this guy in True Blood, who was basically a raping vampire, the worst combination of things since seconds after the big bang:

Your neck

And now I’m hiding under my desk, forgetting what I was talking about.

Cromwell.  Wolf Hall.


Apparently, the author portrays Cromwell not as being the power-hungry sycophant that he is so commonly known for, but rather as a pragmatic and well-rounded character.  Although it seems like she started this project already with the mind-set that she was going to paint him in a softer light.  The truth is probably somewhere in between, as often seems the case.

This does sound like a fascinating read, especially if you like old stories about kings and queens like I do.  Maybe they should make it into a movie.  I wonder who would play Henry VIII?  Hmmmm….




Spotted: Bone, Breath, and Gesture

Dammit San Francisco, can’t you read books that I know about?  When I saw the young lady next to me reading a book with the title “Bone, Breath, and Gesture,”* I had no idea what it was about.  Sounds like it should be the name of the new Iron & Wine album.  I thought it could be either 1) creepy fiction, or 2) about skinny asthmatic mimes.  Wait, is that a rhinoceros on the cover?  No, had no idea.  Reading its description wasn’t too helpful at first.

This book is a collection of writings on principles and techniques by the pioneers of bodywork and body awareness disciplines. Together, they represent a historical record of the field of somatics. Ranging from hands-on workers like Ida Rolf to phenomenologist Elizabeth Behnke, their lives span this century. In these lectures, writings, and interviews, editor Don Hanlon Johnson has sought to revel the unbroken lineage, theoretical differences, and major similarities of these originators.

Wut.  But then I remembered a time when a friend mentioned that a family member of hers was getting his certification in “Rolfing.”  After explaining to me that no, in fact, it had nothing to do with the piano-playing Muppet, but was in fact something like extreme massage or chiropractics chiropractasy what a chiropractor does.  I honestly have no idea what phenomenology is, but how awesome is it that some does know what it is and is interested enough in it to be reading “lectures, writings, and interviews” about all this stuff!

And, no kidding, this is available at Green Apple books.  So will someone read this and tell me if I need to be Rolfed?

* Depending on the source, it is listed as either “Bone, Breath, & Gesture” or “Bone, Breath & Gesture.”  I guess the controversy of the oxford comma spills over even into alternative-ish medicines.

Spotted: Freud

Yes, the fact that this young lady is chewing on her pencil while reading Freud hasn’t escaped my attention, but come on.  What kind of blog do you think this is?  It’s the kind in which my super-ego I would commend this girl for being able to not only read Freud’s “Civilization and its Discontents” on the train, but also underline stuff.  Although that means she’s not “Please hold on”-ing and could lose her balance and fall on someone.  Unless that’s what she really wants?  I wonder why she hates her mother.

The opening lines of this books are actually quite interesting, and if indicative of the rest of it, I could understand the need to have a pencil at mouth hand:

It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement –that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.

Spotted: Blue Nights

In Blue Nights, author Joan Didion attempts to address the relationship with her adopted daughter (and only child) as well as the latter’s passing in 2005.   It was also in 2005 that Didion’s first book, The Year of Magical Thinking, was published.  In that tome, Didion discussed and dealt with the death of her husband.

It’s some pretty heavy stuff this young lady is reading.  I hesitated posting about this book, given that we are in the midst of the holidays.  But for me, and I imagine for many of you out there who have also lost close family members, the holidays bring a certain sadness.  I enjoy the holidays, and the love and cheer that I share with those I am lucky enough to have around me, but it will always be enjoyed as a layer on top of a Higgs field of nostalgia.

“We all survive more than we think we can,” Didion says of living on after the deaths of her loved ones. “We imagine things — that we wouldn’t be able to survive, but in fact, we do survive. … We have no choice, so we do it.”

I would just add that I think we do more than just survive.  We learn to cherish our memories, but (need to) learn to love the new and the different.  So it is on that note that I am going to go home and spend Christmas with my mother and her new boyfriend WITH AN OPEN MIND AND/OR OPEN BOTTLE OF WINE.

Sorrowful “Blue Nights:” Didion Mourns Her Daughter [NPR]


Charlie Rose Interview with Amos Oz

I just saw a fascinating interview with Amos Oz, the Israeli writer, on Charlie Rose.  What an articulate man.

What he said really captured my attention.  Transcriptions are my own:

“The best way to know the soul of another country, is to read its literature”

“Curiosity is a moral virtue.  I even think a curious person is a better lover than a person who is not curious, but it is too early in the evening to discuss this aspect.”

“I take a morning walk in the desert.  The desert helps look at everything in proportion.  [How does it do that?]  What’s important, what’s not important.  When I come back from the desert and I turn on the radio and I hear a politician say ‘forever,’ ‘ever,’ ‘for eternity,’ I know the stones out there in the desert are laughing.

“James Joyce, in Ulysses, takes great trouble to count how many steps from the pub to the street corner.  And this is called fiction.  Whereas when a journalist says the skies over the middle east is covered with clouds, this is called non-fiction.  Why?”

The whole interview is here:

My reading list is getting really looooooooooooooooooooong.  Has anyone seen his stuff on Muni?

Spotted: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

I don’t have much to say about this, other than from all accounts, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana sounds like a really well-written depiction of a woman’s struggle for survival in Afghanistan.  When her male relatives are forced to flee after the Taliban take control, Kamila Sidiqi starts a dressmaking business to earn money to raise her five siblings. 

Stories of resourcefulness and perseverance like this never fail to move me.  If you feel like helping out a nascent business in a country less fortunate than our own, a loan through Kiva is a great way to turn those feelings into action.

Where (Wo)Men Win Glory

I’m talking about Muni, obviously. 

I saw this young lady reading a SF library hardback copy of “Where Men Win Glory,” by Jon Krakauer of “Into Thin Air” and “Into the Wild” fame, while wearing a shirt that said “Army” on the sleeve (the young lady, not the book).    

After getting home and googling the title, I learned that the book is a biography of Pat Tillman, the football star who eschewed a lucrative NFL contract to join the Army, and was eventually killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan, though the original report claimed it had been enemy fire, and it was only after an investigation that the truth about what had happened came out. 

It was hard not to notice this book and its reader the day after 9/11.  I know I’m a few days late, but my thoughts go out to all those in the armed forces, whether they are home, abroad, or on public transit.