Words and Numbers

3:10 To Yuma

Several years ago (more than several, actually) I had the notion of watching the old-time Westerns that are considered classics. I went through several of them--The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and maybe a couple of others. I was somewhat disappointed, especially as I loved Western stuff when I was a kid, and didn't go any further. 

The other day something reminded me of another film that's usually ranked with those others, 3:10 To Yuma, from 1957. I found it on the Criterion Channel, which I have not used very much and am wondering whether I should cancel, and watched it, in two roughly 45-minute sessions.

I really liked it, and it's definitely my favorite of its type at this point. It's a good story, pretty convincing for the most part in spite of the conventions of the time. It's about a rancher who ends up, more or less against his will, solely responsible for getting a captured outlaw on that 3:10 train, with the outlaw's gang trying to stop him. Glenn Ford, atypically, plays the outlaw, and is very effective--genial and charming with just a hint of menace. 

But what I really love about it is the photography. It's very crisp black-and-white, and full of the Western scenery that I love. The story is set in southern Arizona, and I think it may have been shot there, or perhaps in some part of southern California where the landscape is similar. You can get a sense of the quality in this Criterion Collection trailer:

The song, by the way, has nothing at all to do with the plot, except for the title reference. 

The movie is based on an Elmore Leonard story by the same name. Being an admirer of Leonard, I was curious about the original story, and found it at the local library in a collection called The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories. I suppose I have to say that I was disappointed in the story. It's pretty slight, its action including only roughly the last half of the movie. It's a case where you could argue that the movie is better than the story, though I don't really trust my judgment there, since I encountered the movie first. Some of the other stories in the collection are really good, though. And they have a sort of potato-chip, can't-eat-just-one appeal. I think I've read half of them now, and I only got the book a couple of days ago, with no intention of reading more than the one story.

There's a 2007 remake of the movie which apparently got pretty good reviews. I may watch it sometime. My interest was dampened a bit by a clip which I saw on YouTube, thinking it was just sort of a trailer, which gave away the very different ending.

Many years ago in college I had a Southern Lit teacher who had a very old-style  genteel southern accent, and who once, when whispering and giggling broke out in class, said to the culprits "I fail to see the humor." Only in his accent it came out as "I fail to see the Yuma."  It's unfortunate for me that I still remember that after almost fifty years.


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I have only seen the remake, Mac. It was quite good, Russell Crowe and Peter Fonda. Peter Fonda I thought was particularly good as one of the baddies. Maybe I knew that Elmore Leonard had written it at one time, and forgotten. I've only read his gangster type stuff, all very good of course. Right now I'm plowing through the Stephen King "Dark Tower" series, which is sort of neo-Western fantasy, quite unlike his usual horror genre.

I just looked up the 3:10 to Yuma remake. Apparently Christian Bale is the good guy, Russell Crowe is the bad guy, and Fonda is a Pinkerton agent. So much for my memory, did not remember Bale at all. Fonda was so unbelievably gruff that I wasn't sure who the actor was until halfway through. I do recall thinking it was quite excellent. Wikipedia claims it is better than the original.

There's a fun interview with Leonard on the Spectator literature podcast - about two months back. I got some of his books on my kindle at that time. Maybe I will read them on the camino. 3.10 to Yuma sounds good.

Elmore Leonard is an absolute master of...I'm not sure what to call it...action-suspense-intrigue-crime. I haven't read that many of his books but his specialty is putting more or less ordinary people in extremely difficult situations. Where they turn out to be not so ordinary. The first one I read, which I always forget the name of, involves an Israeli soldier who gets mixed up with an expatriate American who's running from the mafia. Early on in the description of the soldier there's mention of the marksmanship badge he wears. Toward the end of the book you remember that.

Stu, from what you say and what I saw in that clip, the remake seems worth a look. The original is so limited by the techniques and conventions of the time that it's probably a somewhat apple-orange comparison to say which is better, even if the new one is very good. Sounds like maybe they made the story more complex--no Pinkertons in the story or the old movie.

I picked up one of those Stephen King Dark Tower books in a store once and thought it was intriguing. But I didn't buy it and have never investigated further. I've never read any of his stuff, actually, except for one short story in The Atlantic which seemed to have been a sort of ok-let's-see-what-you-got challenge from the magazine, in response to King blasting contemporary fiction. So it was a conventional literary short story and not especially good in my opinion.

If the professor you're talking about is who I think it is, I can almost hear his voice. Last time I saw him was in the post office; we were both buying sheets of William Faulkner stamps.

Although I've never read Elmore Leonard, we did watch a series, Justified, based on one of his works. The violence was appalling but the portrait of Eastern Kentucky and life there was remarkable. It seemed really authentic to me because of both the music and the language and expressions. Although I haven't been to that area the language is similar to that of southeast AL where the hubs is from. I'm uncertain as to whether the Leonard story was set in KY though.

Almost certainly it's who you think it is. That's perfect about the stamps. If I remember correctly you were in that class, too. Now that I think about it, it could have been my/our yuma that he failed to see.

Justified is really good. It's "based on" a Leonard short story, "Fire In the Hole," which you may remember is a phrase that's important in one early episode. But it must be somewhat loosely based, since the base is only a short story and the series ran for six seasons. Leonard is listed as executive producer but he died in 2013, about halfway through its run, so I don't know how involved he was.

I was somewhat disappointed in the way the series dealt with the character of Boyd. They were starting to dip into some interesting philosophical/theological waters with him, but then he just got disillusioned and was more or less an ordinary bad guy. That was a great performance, though, by Walton Goggins (how perfect is that name for a Kentucky country guy?).

Another great performance: Margo Martindale as Mags. Wow. I looked her up at the time to find out her background, because she was so totally convincing as this hillbilly crime queen. She's from Texas. Miss Jacksonville High School 1969. :-)

It was after Justified that we watched The Americans. I kept thinking that Claudia, the handler of the spy couple, seemed familiar, and finally realized it was Martindale. Rather different character!

Yes I remember Mags / Claudia. I watch justified down to about season four and then I lost the thread after my mother died. I was enjoying it but the bad guy character was becoming annoying.

I spent the afternoon on the sofa with the dogs watching 310 To Yuma. Very surprising ending - I don’t think it could happen in a contemporary movie

Oh yeah, we were both in that class. I don't recall the yuma thing but my recall is far from wide-ranging. When you're back on facebook I'll message you something I do recall, as well as an anecdote from elsewhere about the professor.

Now I recall the "Fire in the Hole" thing.

Goggins was a perfect name indeed, the actor was born in Bham and raised in GA, which probably contributed to his excellence with the accent. All the changes the Boyd character went through were certainly startling, and the performance was astonishing. Martindale was also stellar; that was one creepy character! I didn't see The Americans but I agree, those actors who can be effective as a number of completely differing characters are true masters!

Martindale is a great actress - but Mags is somewhat similar to Claudia

True, with respect to being devious criminals, though Claudia has at least in theory High Ideals. But they're products of such very different cultures.

Yes, the ending of 3:10 is surprising. I didn't find it entirely convincing, actually.

As I somewhat vaguely recall, Justified got less interesting in the last season or maybe two. There was a plot development that involved evil rich businessman who were not-very-convincing caricatures as such characters often are. But there was a nice wrap-up of a couple of threads at the end.

I wouldn't expect anybody to recall the "yuma" bit, Catwoods. I don't know why it lodged in my brain.

I have some relatives named Goggins. It's the combination of that with "Walton" that somehow gives the actor's name its flavor. Funny that names like that tend to be associated with the South now, as I think a lot of them are English. Scruggs. Skaggs. "Wragg is in custody"--another odd bit of data stuck in my memory, from Matthew Arnold, commenting on the story of a woman accused of killing her baby.

My SB hairdresser thinks it is good to the end and exhorts me to try again. I found that every episode gave me a feeling of deja vu. I couldn’t tell if I had seen this before or not.

There is something about the bad guy which makes it remotely plausible.

"something about the bad guy"--true. The story does not end exactly that way, btw.

I didn't think the latter part of Justified was bad by any means, just not as engaging.

All those baddies in Justified were very well acted, but mostly just left me feeling creeped out. I don't think I could have managed the full series without the good guys, Raylan and his boss Art.

That's a description of a successful drama, isn't it? :-)

I watched three very good series over the past few weeks: Shetland 5, Spiral 6, and Line of Duty 5. All three are excellent.

Hadn't planned it that way but all three happened to arrive at the library at roughly the same time, so I watched them back-to-back.

Shetland 5 is indeed really good. I haven't seen the others.

I watched the first season of Spiral and could never watch it again. Horrifying.

Line of Duty looks OK - season 1 is on amazon.

I forced myself to go back to The Crown and try again. I didn't like season 1 because of the Dianification of the problems of the monarchy. The problem is my seminarian students really resonate with it. They bring up episodes to illustrate theology. Im thinking that maybe being a monarch is a role analogous to being a priest and that why they like it so much. My lodger took one look at one episode and said 'its the accents.' Im in the middle of Season 2. My mother would have loved it - the costumes are devastatingly beautiful. I still don't like the Dianification. Prince Philip and others so often say things that are unbelievable coming from them. Im watching it for the costumes, as my mother would have done. I'd rather be watching Line of Duty, but its not in my line of duty!

Line of Duty is a procedural about an internal affairs unit. Each season has a different plot, but they're all related in that there's a larger overarching plot-line about high-ranking corrupt cops that ties the seasons together. It's very well-written and acted and it's extremely suspenseful -- it's won a number of Bafta's and other UK TV awards.

I think Im going to watch that - it sounds like my cup of tea.

I've watched two episodes of Season 4 of Better Call Saul, but Im waiting until there are a lot of episodes and I can binge it. I don't want to get to where there's some cliff hanger and I have to wait a week.

Series 1-4 are available on Amazon Prime.

I've enjoyed The Crown just as a well-executed drama, trying to keep in mind that a huge amount of it had to be speculative. But I'm sure it kind of seeped into my mind as factual anyway. Series 3 is worth watching if only for Olivia Colman's performance as Elizabeth.

Grumpy, I'm glad to hear you speak negatively of Dianafication. I didn't really pay all that much attention to that whole thing, but it seemed rather baffling. I guess my based-on-the-headlines reaction was "What's your problem, lady?" It's a really sad story, of course. I remember Charles-Diana wedding being in the news and hoping they would live happily ever after.

Meghan of Meghan and Harry seems like, potentially, Diana x 10. I say that in great ignorance, again based mainly on headlines. And photos--she just sort of looks like trouble to me. Maybe just as well they are bailing out.

Heh--my wife and I are doing the same with Better Call Saul. Also I need to watch at least the last couple of episodes of the previous season to refresh my memory.

I should add to my comment on Meghan 'n' Harry that I realize it may be totally unfair.

The actor who plays Prince Philip looks just like Harry.

I think it was Claire Fox, being interviewed by Brendan O'Neill who said that you have to hand it to the Queen - 93 years old and she ensured a hard Mexit! The demands H&M made (using the royal name on merchandise) were really disgraceful, and the Queen did right to see them off. Im very sorry for Harry, who used to be a good egg before he went into therapy. Yes, its a good thing they bailed.

It is a sad set of events. Everyone now believes Diana's neurotic story, that Charles and Camilla used her as a foil, intending from the beginning to continue their affair - 'there were three people in this marriage from the start.' I have always accepted Auberon Waugh's guess, that Charles and Camilla made the mistake of thinking they could break it off and not see each other again - which was a mistake because it never works. Its a cynical guess, but to my mind more likely than the Dianified version. Charles has always insisted that he returned to Camilla only after the marriage had broken down, and that seems plausible. I've never read a royal biography, so maybe there is evidence against this, but I don't know why everyone accepts Diana's version without question. But of course a very sad set of events - he was much too old for her, and had been around the world too many times.

I watched the last episode of the fifth season of Line of Duty last night. Very good, but the complicated wrap-up ending I found pretty confusing, largely because it brought up stuff that went back to earlier seasons that I couldn't remember. :)

Speaking of Dianafication, Caitlin Flanagan has a good piece in the The Atlantic about that and Megxit.

I only had time to read about half of the Flanagan piece, but it's really good. Will read the rest later.

"largely because it brought up stuff that went back to earlier seasons that I couldn't remember"

Yeah, there were a couple scenes I watched twice for that same reason -- it took me a little time to make the connections. I remembered all the faces but not the names. But that's one of the things I love about the show -- its complexity. It's similar to True Detective in that way.

Watched 'Knives Out' last night -- lots of fun. Daniel Craig is great, doing his best Shelby Foote impersonation. I found it weird thinking that he's also 007.

Knives Out was so good!

I’m guessing I’m going to have to cancel our movie club though it was about eight members not 10. But one member is pregnant and another is her husband and I don’t think we should do this. We were going to watch the movie Rob recommended - Tel Aviv is on Fire.

I’m definitely going to watch line of duty.

I was expecting Knives Out to be more of a parody/comedy, but I enjoyed it very much nevertheless. I understand that people liked Daniel Craig's detective character so much that they're considering doing a "franchise" with him. If the new Bond film is his last, he could move right into a "Benoit Blanc" series without missing a beat.

I've got 'Ford vs. Ferrari' lined up for tonight. I've had several people tell me it's a very good movie even for people who aren't gearheads. And I'm a big fan of Christian Bale's anyways.

I loved F vs F And as you can well imagine I know nothing about cars

Didn't get to watch F vs. F last night as planned, but I did happen to see that Richard Jewell is out on DVD now. That's the one about the guy who reported the Atlanta Olympic bombing then turned into a suspect. It got good reviews when it was first released earlier in the year.

I enjoyed Jewell. It has a bit of a self pitying conservative narrative but overall I thought it was about a seven out of 10 kind of film.

I watched episode one season one of line of duty and it looks like this is going to be a dark one

I'm pretty sure I would enjoy F vs F. Jewell doesn't sound that interesting to me, good reviews notwithstanding.

Did you happen to see the trailer for it? I thought it looked pretty interesting based on that.

I saw the storm around Christmas time and enjoyed it a lot but it does have a bit of a conservative victim narrative.

Don't know The Storm. Motherless Brooklyn is also out on DVD now. I liked that one pretty well.

Watched 'Ford v. Ferrari' and 'Richard Jewell' over the weekend. Both very good.

It's weird thinking of Clint Eastwood being almost 90 and still directing movies. It's a little odd thinking that each movie he makes could very well be his last.

I enjoyed both of those movies a lot. I will be sad when Clint dies

I’m watching line of Duty season one and the Crown. I’m watching the alternate nights so nothing gets too dark.

I thought Christian Bale was really good in F v. F. He's one of those actors who can do just about anything, it seems.

My lifetime experience with cinema pretty much tracks exactly with Clint's career. The first movie that I ever saw that had a lasting effect on me was A Fistful of Dollars (late 60's) and I basically grew up with his movies thereafter.

I think Eastwood's movies are all worth watching. He is such a good director. Even when the subject matter does not seem immediately interesting to me, as is the case with Richard Jewell, or another recent one that I enjoyed, Jersey Boys.

We've talked about what we're watching while we're stuck at home -- is anyone reading anything interesting?

I have a couple of posts coming up about two things I've recently read. I'll hold off saying what, so that any discussion can be on those posts.

sounds good!

Meanwhile, feel free to discuss recent reads here. I’m taking care of grandchildren out of school bc of the virus , so probably won’t be able to post for the next couple of days.

On the advice of a grad student, Im listening to The Plague on my audio books. When I told my lodger, he said everyone is listening to the Plague on their audiobooks.

Im reading Serontonin by Michel Houillebecq. Its not as good as his previous book, Submission.

Next I have on my reading table A Conservative Sensibility by George Will.

Edith Stein: The Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite, by Teresia Renata Posselt. This was our book club book. I thought it was very good. You get a very good idea of what she was like, and her spirituality.


The Plague is much better than I remember. I last read it as a teenager

I have a big, fat biography of Hannah Arendt that I came across when I was shelving books in the Senatobia, MS, which is a town of about 4000 in NW Mississippi, where nobody ever seems to check out anything that wasn't written by current popular authors. Sometimes, I wonder who ordered these books and how they could possibly still be in the library.

I am still on the pages that tell about her ancestors, which I dread in any biography of another time and place, because I will never be able to remember them or keep them straight. I'm eager to get to the meat of the book.


I had totally forgotten how enjoyable it is to hear a child whine that his math problems are too hard.

I bet you gave some more great memories to come.


I'm not quite sure of some of the details in that comment. Probably "gave" was supposed to be "have." But I am probably also giving some memories to come.

A couple of very mundane things I've read recently: a Ngiao Marsh mystery, Grave Mistake. Loved it for the characters and general good writing. She is such a deft and enjoyable writer. I don't remember having quite as enthusiastic a reaction to some of the other similar writers.

Also read a mystery by C.J. Box, recommended to me by the Cook's Pest Control girl who was checking our termite stations. Odd but very pleasant little person, possibly "trans"--very short hair, mannish clothes, gave me a masculine name, yet pretty clearly female, and *very* young--that's why I say "girl." Talking to me at the front door, she looked past me and said "You have a lot of books!" Then started telling me about this mystery series she's reading about a game warden in Wyoming. I thought that sounded interesting and read Open Season. Pretty good, not outstanding. Interesting depiction of conflict between environmentalists and natives. Never talked about books with the termite inspector before.

Ngaio Marsh is my favorite. I set out to read them all in order once, but I am not sure I got to the end.

C. J. Box is very popular with men. They check out his books 4 or 5 at a time. I've been meaning to read one as part of my attempt to be knowledgeable about what our patrons are reading. This attempt is one reason why many of the books I have read lately are not worth writing about.

I have this vague memory of having a short discussion about something I was reading with the exterminator at the parish where I worked. I think it was by Dean Koontz and the bug guy was a fan.


Open Season spoiler:

It involves a father saving his daughter's life, so on the basis of that one book it's good that men are reading Box. Not only does he save his daughter's life but he's a good man all around, not an anti-hero.

I was surprised when I realized that Grave Mistake was set in the '70s. I hadn't realized Marsh was still writing then. And it was as good as the previous one I read which was written in 1941. Her last one came out in 1982--and she was born in 1895.

Speaking of big fat biographies, I'm about 1/3 of the way through Joseph Frank's bio of Dostoevsky (the one volume edition). Very interesting and quite readable. Also almost done with Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate, about the battle of Stalingrad in WWII. A little slow going, but it has some remarkable passages about Nazism, Stalinism, and the similarities between the two. The book was banned in the USSR when it was submitted for publication in 1960, but was smuggled out in the 70's and published in English in 1980.

As lighter fare I've been reading poet Donald Hall's String Too Short to be Saved, a memoir of his boyhood summers spent on his grandfather's New Hampshire farm during the 30s and 40's. Lovely stuff, beautifully written. I've never read any of Hall's poetry, but based on this book I ordered his selected poems.

I’ve never read much of Hall but have never forgotten a delightful and brilliant poem which was in my freshman English anthology: Six Poets In Search of a Lawyer, which describes six different varieties of bad or obnoxious poets.

That rings a bell....I wonder if I've encountered that one somewhere too.

Re: books, betterworldbooks.com is having a 20% off sale on all in-stock books, with free upgraded shipping included. This is the outfit started by a couple Notre Dame grads which donates a book to charity for every one purchased. They mostly sell remainders, used books, and library discards, but you'd be surprised what you can find there at really good prices. I ordered nine books yesterday and the total including tax was a whopping $41.00. It's mostly stuff I've wanted for awhile but didn't feel like ordering individually, or couldn't find at a good price without having to pay shipping.

I had never heard of CJ Box, Janet. But was in Casper WY for a meeting and went into an excellent bookstore there, Wind City Books, and there was a big display of his stuff. He lives in Casper. I don't read very much genre fiction, so have not read any as of yet.

But speaking of genre fiction, I recently read five Stephen King books in a row, to the point that I am terribly sick of his writing right now. So I picked up something much more verbally challenging, The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis. Quite the wordsmith, and the book is not about a pregnant widow.

Oops, I scrolled back further, looks like Mac brought up CJ Box, not Janet.

If it sounded like at one point I was recommending The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, I rescind that recommendation. Book 4 was 700 pages of nonsense, that I have not yet fully recovered from. Some of these writers get too big for editors to be able to touch them. It should have been a 300 page book, and I would not now be feeling so resentful. :(

Well, I guess I'll continue to not read S King.

Never read any Martin Amis but I know he's supposed to be quite good. I did read a couple by his father, which were excellent in a bitter sort of way.

Thanks for the tip on that book sale, Rob.

An interesting reading list, none of which I’ve read, only one even heard of.


Three good books by Martin Amis that I've read: two nonfiction ones, Experience: A Memoir and Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million ("Koba" was a pseudonym used by Stalin), and a novel that made me laugh, when maybe I shouldn't have, Lionel Asbo: The State of England ("ASBO" in the UK is an "anti-social behaviour order").

I read the Martin Amis memoir, Marianne. I think before I read any of his fiction. I really liked it. Then I read London Fields and I think that is all until now. I thought perhaps I should be re-reading War and Peace just in case I am knocked off by the coronavirus. I know that sounds a tad fatalistic. At least we are in Lent, which means I am praying more fervently than usual. Sigh.

I read a lot of S. King in the 80s and 90s, but lost interest around 2000. When he's at his best he's very good, but he's been too prolific to keep up a high standard, imo. The last novel of his that I really liked was Desperation, which came out in the mid 90's, I think. I remember it as having a fairly prominent religious element, which surprised me at the time.

It's been 20+ years since I've read him, though, and I'm not sure what I'd make of him now. I do remember liking some of his early novels a lot.

Have any of you besides Janet read Dean Koontz? I know she has because she has recommended him to me pretty strongly. But I never have gotten around to him.

And, oh yeah, there was this:


I've read a lot of Dean Koontz, but none for years. I thought his initial books were just typical horror genre fare, except his characters were not as well drawn. But then at some point there was a very positive shift, and I couldn't say when exactly, but it all got way more interesting - characters, plot, spirituality concerns. I'm sure Janet could talk more on that point, or perhaps she says in that post, that I don't have time to revisit right now. He is a very interesting author.

Last night I picked up a gift book that's been sitting on my shelf for a while, A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr, one of his Berlin noir novels, which a blurb on the cover says are "first-class, as stylish as Chandler and as emotionally resonant as the best of Ross MacDonald". The setting of this one goes back and forth between Buenos Aires, 1950 and Berlin, 1932. So far, finished only the first chapter, which was very good.

That sounds like just my thing.

Kevin Williamson's newsletter of a few days ago had this remark, which made me think of Rob's comment about the Dostoevsky biography:

"I have made a point of not learning too much about the lives of writers and artists I admire and whose work I enjoy."

I'm of similar mind. I don't think biography is irrelevant by any means, but I don't think the few literary bios I've read did much for my appreciation or understanding of the writer's work, apart from the "oh, that's why he was interested in that." Dostoevsky I suppose might be an interesting enough character in his own right to make the bio interesting. And I guess Frank has a lot more to say than just facts.

I've always been interested in what makes writers tick, but only certain writers, i.e., ones whose lives and/or philosophical ideas seem interesting to me. My interest in Dostoevsky's life revolves around the development of his ideas: how did he come to be so philosophically prophetic and psychologically astute?

Wordsworth's my favorite poet, but I doubt I'd ever read a big full-on biography of him. I have a small "life and works" book about him which will probably be sufficient. On the other hand I thoroughly enjoyed Ackroyd's big bio of Dickens, which I read some 20 years ago.

I've never wanted to read one of the more recent bios of Evelyn Waugh. Im sure he was profoundly unpleasant and I don't want to hear about it. I used to love VS Naipaul, and his biography was simply horrifying. Not merely unfaithfulness but the mental cruelty to his wife was borderline demonic. I have never wanted to read Naipaul again, who was, really a great writer.

I've been meaning to read Franks'biography of Dostoievsky for 20 years, which I suppose means, not seriously meaning to.

I do like short, well-written biographies. I read a short biography of Jane Austen some years back which is a model of the genre. Aside from not wanting to know all their grave sins, I don't want to know what the great writers ate for breakfast either.

Waugh is the perfect example of the writer whose bio I actively don't want to read--at least not the complete all-their-grave-sins sort of bio.

"I don't want to know what the great writers ate for breakfast either." Right. I did read a quite lengthy one of Wodehouse not long ago, and it did neither of us any harm. But a great deal of it was fairly tiresome.

I think my avoidance goes back nearly 50 years, to a moment when, browsing in the library, I picked up Ellman's biography of Joyce, considered "definitive" at the time and maybe still, and just at random read a decidedly TMI bit about him and his wife.

Frank's bio of Dost'y spends a good amount of time on the intellectual and socio-political currents of 19th Russia and how they affected/influenced the author. He says in his forward that there were plenty of good nuts-and-bolts type bios of FMD, and that he wanted to do a more idea-oriented one.

I recently bought Millgate's bio of Hardy, after being somewhat disappointed by another one I tried, which spent too much time on his views of sexuality. The guy seems to want to make the case that Hardy was a sexual free-thinker but had to tone down his advocacy due to Victorian conventions. Which may very well be true, but that's not what I'm interested in about Hardy.

Hardys poetry is very good but I cannot imagine reading a biography of him.

Ackroyd was a good writer. My mother had all his books and I used to dip into the different biographies.

Re: Hardy -- I've always liked his fiction and there's definitely a sort of progression/development there. I am interested in seeing how that came to be.

Besides the Dickens bio I've read some of Ackroyd's fiction, but that's about it. And I've had his book Albion on my shelf for about 10 years but haven't read it yet.

I have two by Claire Tomalin - Dickens and Hardy, as I admire both of them as writers - but I have read neither (has anyone read these?). I believe she wrote one on Jane Austen also. Since completing my Master's degree I have read a very small amount of non-fiction. Though I did read Chrissie Hynde's autobiography! :-)

Im watching Tiger King. It could be on the citizenship test.

That is a puzzling comment from several points of view. First from the point of view of "what is it?", which Wikipedia has resolved. Second, "why?" Why on the citizenship test, and why watch it. I will consider "de gustibus" as the answer to the second. Although according to Wikipedia the coronavirus isolation may be a factor in its popularity.

For my part I succumbed yesterday to the temptation of another new Netflix release, series 3 of Ozark. I call it a temptation because I had decided after series 2 that because of its violence and general unpleasantness I wouldn't watch anymore. But I was out of sorts and wanted some distraction. I watched the first half of the first episode. Not recommended but I will more or less inevitably watch the rest. It's a Breaking Bad-ish sort of thing, about an ordinary guy who gets mixed up in the drug trade.

Ok, after reading this I understand what you mean about the citizenship test:



Still no National Review, or anything on the internet that's not about the Coronavirus.

When I started Lent, it looked like it was still possible to do the camino. So I made a sole exception for reading about the Coronavirus, so I could keep an eye on it as I planned for Spain this year. Well, things panned out so that there is no other news except the coronavirus.

America is sitting on in quarantine on the couch watching Tiger King.

Apparently so, apart from me. You can get the general idea of the NR piece from the title: "Any American Who Says He Doesn’t Love Tiger King Is Lying"

"no other news except the coronavirus" Ain't that the truth. And most of it is useless--speculation, rumor, repetition, partisan, or some combination of all of them.

Here in NZ, we've got Naked Attraction to watch. Wikipedia describes it:

Naked Attraction is a British television dating game show, broadcast on Channel 4, in which a clothed person selects one contestant to date from six naked people, whose bodies and then faces are gradually revealed through successive rounds, from the feet up. Once those six have been whittled down to two, the person deciding then appears nude to select one of them for a fully clothed date. The programme then presents their feedback after the date.
How I wish I could say, unbelievable.

I think I am just a little shocked.

Mac, when my doctor told me that the original American tests were faulty It came as a complete news to me. I haven’t heard anything about the test being faulty. He seemed pretty surprised and said that was the beginning of a comedy of errors. But I’ve been reading about it all the time and I’ve never heard that and I told my lodger and he never heard that And he reads about it incessantly.

I’ve seen references to that but couldn’t tell you where. Lots of people want to blame their religious/political enemies for it.

“It” being the virus, or at least its spread.

Found a New Yorker piece from March 16th on on faulty test kits. A bit:

The first batch of kits, sent to more than fifty state and local public-health labs⁠, arrived on February 7th. Of the labs that received tests, around six to eight were able to verify that they worked as intended. But a larger number, about thirty-six of them, received inconclusive⁠ results from one of the reagents. Another five, including the New York City and New York State labs, had problems with two reagents. On February 8th, several labs reported their problems to the C.D.C. In a briefing a few days later, Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that although “we hoped that everything would go smoothly as we rushed through this,” the verification problems were “part of the normal procedures.” ...

The void created by the C.D.C.’s faulty tests made it impossible for public-health authorities to get an accurate picture of how far and how fast the disease was spreading. In hotspots like Seattle, and probably elsewhere, COVID-19 spread undetected for several weeks, which in turn only multiplied the need for more tests.

That dastardly Trump....

Yes the pieces that cant be weaponized are kicked under the carpet. But we really need to have a conversation about how did America develop this culture of incompetence? We didn’t used to be an incompetent culture. When I first came here and taught people for the first time who are not training to be ministers, people who wanted to be engineers and so on it Simply shocked me That they complained about being marked down for a small mistake. If an engineer makes a small mistake the bridge can collapse. I thought at the time, 2011, you guys deserve to be outstripped by the Chinese.

I don’t know if I agree with “culture of incompetence.” But granting it for the sake of argument, I would say it’s part of a general deterioration and decline, and so not likely to be reversed. I can give examples of declining standards of many sorts going back to the early ‘70s.

Its impossible to intellectualize Tiger King because so much of it is just insane. But it does seem that an obsession with animals epitomizes much of the lunatic side of the contemporary American mind.

I remember years ago reading a New Yorker article about a man who went to the Hospital in the South Bronx with cuts that looked like they had been made by very big teeth. Alarmed, the authorities raided his Bronx apartment and found tigers, dogs, aligators, and maybe leopards or some smaller breed of big cat. He explained, 'I wanted my animals to interact like in Jungle Book.' The use of the word 'interact' is unforgettable. I remember the dogs because the article said they seemed afraid of the big cats.

Tiger King seems like a documentary version of this kind of 'lost it insanity.' Not all the characters seem nutz - one, Doc Antle, just seems like a highly manipulative cult leader who is using the tiger kittens to make money. But the central drama, between Joe Exotic and his menagerie and Carol Baskin the animal rights lady, just seems to display the heart of the crazy side of our culture.

“interact” is indeed a beautiful touch.

So much of the craziness is enabled by affluence. Consider the phenomenon of monster trucks. But these people you’re talking about are on a different level: not just doing crazy things but really being crazy.

Did you ever see The Gong Show?

No I have not seen that one.

I’m not sure what you mean by monster trucks. My neighbours have an enormous expensive pick up truck Which is intended to pull the horrible caravan they have parked outside my house half the year. These expensive pick up trucks seem to be made to pull something so it’s a statement such as I have a boat or I have a horrible caravan.

It’s true that’s a lot of pick up trucks on the road that look to be driven more by a working class person but not cheap old rusty pick up trucks.

I think I'm going to skip the Tiger show.

Not to mention the naked dating one.


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