Three things 7 – 21 February 2012

Today is Shrove Tuesday, but I will save my shriving for later in the week. Lent is partly about penance, but also about asking what really matters.

I’m going to do my first book post today.

1. I stayed up all night–well, almost–finishing Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot. It is a story set in the early 80s that draws together the rise of literary theory in the US academe, mental illness, Mother Teresa, and a plot that, in outline, offers a twist on the idea of the novelistic romance. It is a book for the erudite reader. I found moving, though, the story of the manic depressive character–mainly because he reminded me of an old friend. The book quotes one of my favorite tunes, “Once In A Lifetime” by The Talking Heads, and even uses it as an epigraph!

2. Speaking of books and music, one Philippine author has got me cheering because she quoted an early Everything But The Girl song, “Each and Every One.” I must say that I have found good use for an e-reader as a way of reading books that I would otherwise avoid reading in public. Tweet Sering’s Wander Girl is the second of the local chick-lit genre I have gotten around to reading (the first was her sister Tara’s Getting Better, which UP republished in a compilation of Sering’s short stories). As a rule, I do not read chick-lit, though Helen Fielding’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (which was inspired by the BBC series) was a past exception. I needed to read Tweet’s book after Eugenides’s weighty story, and I enjoyed the book. It was a lighthearted romantic comedy with all the appropriate moments of drama and profundity. (Sering has written for film before.)

But the highlight is Sering’s soundtrack for the book, which is a blend of Eighties New Wave and the venerable then-adult-oriented contemporary band Everything But the Girl. (They went totally electronica in the late Nineties. In hindsight, and given Tracey Thorn’s brilliant 2010 album that sounds like a stylistic overview of EBTG’s musical trajectory, it was–how can we put it nicely?–a learning experience.) Tweet specifically cited the duo’s 1994 album Amplified Heart, which both fans and critics agreed was their best. And it is my favorite album too. I liked “We Walk The Same Line,” which was the first song played on my favorite station at the time.

3. Finally, in books I want to read, I have one particularly intriguing book on my wish-list. There is a new English translation of the Haggadah coming out, and this newly translated version by writer Nathan Englander (edited by Jonathan Safran Foer) sounded utterly intriguing when the translator talked about this on a recent radio show. I do hope it has an e-book edition. Meanwhile, with Lent coming up, I might re-read David Ford’s Self and Salvation. More precisely, resume re-reading it.

For those who observe it, and for those who should because it’s not all that bad, have a happy and holy Lent!


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