There is a danger in juggling too many thoughts, in holding onto attention loosely. In such random jostlings and momentary fragmentations tragedies have occurred. More often, however, our failures are minimal and we are simply inconvenienced. It was through a similar misallocation of mental resources that I found myself at McKay's bookstore Monday afternoon puzzling over the cacophonous hubbub of children, young and young at heart, who yearned to be outside in the sun but instead found themselves trapped (myself included) in long lines and interminable waits. Only as I pulled out of the parking lot did I remember that it was a holiday. The prize: coming home with slim volumes by Alice Munro and Richard Yates.
As it seems that my days have been as scattered as my thoughts, an endless cycle of never-enough, and my own mental perigrinations are not likely to settle down unless I give them an outlet, you shall have just that: random mutterings in lieu of a post.
1. I have mostly caught up on sleep. In fact I slept 12 hours Saturday, perhaps to my regret as I was groggy and unfocused most of the day, a good part of which was spent curled up between Tikka and Moises, reading 32 Yolks: From My Mothers Table to Working the Line by Eric Ripert. The book was engagingly enough written to draw me in and it seems honest and forthright. You see in the young Eric, in his character as a young child, but also in how he deals with his experiences growing up, his stubbornness, his drive to push through pain and loneliness, his need to excel, all the qualities that will make him a top chef. The book is quite clear about what is needed to succeed in the restaurant business, what is behind the perfect meals diners expect. It was an easy read and good for a day when I was really only running on half power.
2. My state of overwhelming exhaustion may have been kicked into overdrive by attending the symphony Friday night, a decision I in no way regret as it was a truly wonderful performance and my heart soared with the music. The orchestra was led by the incredibly talented and dynamic guest conductor, Mei Ann Chen, who won the hearts of the audience with her energy, her sparkling personality, and, not least, the beauty of the music itself. The concert ended with a stunning performance of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite. The Beethoven was pretty good too, at least on the orchestra's part, which is high praise from me as I distinctly did not like the way Beethoven was performed under the former music director. My problem with the Beethoven, the Piano Concerto #1, was actually with the pianist. Lise de la Salle is obviously very skilled, with enormous technique and a very powerful sound. And yet there were sections where her rather outsized sense of interpretation struck a discordant note in my enjoyment of the piece. I don't actually mind hearing a familiar piece in a new way, especially when that new way of listening opens new vistas of understanding. Perhaps I am just growing older and more set in my ways, a bit curmudgeonly concerning beloved music, or perhaps my disgruntlement was just an echo of my underlying exhaustion, but I felt that her interpretation grated, and I was often more annoyed than enlightened. Perhaps if I were again in my 20s I would hear it differently, but alas it is not to be so.
I must admit however that Lise de la Salle gave a magnificent rendition of a Schumann song as her encore. She played with a fiery intensity that captured the imagination, making me yearn to hear more. I look forward to hearing her again, perhaps to following her career, and I would happily hear her play Schumann again. Schumann, perhaps, would never be the same.
3. I am in the midst of another round of sorting and tossing, a refinement of sorts, in both preparation for moving in a couple of months, but also for putting my current house on the market. One such small burst of activity revolved around shelving books, and removing a few tomes that no longer held interest. Two books that came down off the shelf were by John Reed, Insurgent Mexico, and Ten Days that Shook the World. I reread both. I remember how the first book, the first book I read by Reed, perhaps when I was 19, captured my imagination. I had never read anything quite like it and I was both thrilled and shocked by some of its revelations. Reading it again now, I can remember those feelings, albeit fleetingly. Read is definitely biased, but there is a humanity to his descriptions of his time with the campesinos, and he captures pathos, and stunning naiveté born out of desperation. But he skims over the flaws and abuses of his heroes deftly, while going into excruciating detail of the crimes of the people in power. He does the same in Ten Days but although the prose may be more mature here, it has also lost its humanity. The text is dry, the revolutionary zeal more blindly integrated. In Russia, Reed is consorting with the leaders of the revolution, not the common man, and there is less humanity, less questioning of the human condition, only acceptance of the rightness of the cause at hand. The latter book held my interest less than the former. It was in the bag of books that prompted that foray into McKay's mentioned in the opening paragraph. Munro will make me happier. Insurgent Mexico currently remains on the shelf, and yet its position is tenuous. As I read and reconnect with those books that are my true joys, it may yet find itself traveling onward toward a new home.