52 weeks – July 22, 2012

Books

Sunset Park, by Paul Auster. I listened to Auster reading it himself on CD. The characters are complex and believable and the prose is fresh, free of cliché and stereotyping. It’s set in 2008 USA, in Florida and New York. Auster is similar to Updike in his ability to zero in on time and place through a myriad small details, but he has his own rhythms.

Themes: harsh economic times, sexuality, awareness of the body, relationships (lovers, parents, children), remorse. It makes you think about the moments that make up a life, the ways people relate to one another, and the intolerable physical pain that comes from having made a very big mistake that can’t be undone.

Miles’ father, Morris, has waited seven years for Miles to come home:

He has done it three more times since then, once in Arizona, once in New Hampshire, and once in Florida, always watching from a place where he couldn’t be seen, the warehouse parking lot where Miles was loading crates onto the back of a truck, the hotel lobby where the boy rushed past him in a bellhop’s uniform, the little park he sat in one day as his son read The Great Gatsby and then talked to the cute high school girl who happened to be reading the same book, always tempted to step forward and say something, always tempted to pick a fight with him, to punch him, to take him in his arms, to take the boy in his arms and kiss him, but never doing anything, never saying anything, keeping himself hidden, watching Miles grow older, watching his son turn into a man as his own life dwindles into something small, too small to care about anymore …

… and now that Miles is living in Brooklyn, out there in Sunset Park next to Green-Wood Cemetery, he has come up with another character, a New York character he calls the Can Man, one of those old, broken-down men who forage among dumpsters and recycling bins for bottles and cans, five cents a bottle, five cents a can, a tough way to make a living, but times are tough and one mustn’t complain … and when the Can Man speaks, more often than not he will punctuate his remarks with absurd, outlandishly inappropriate advertising slogans, such as I’d walk a mile for a Camel, or: Don’t leave home without it, or: Reach out and touch someone, and perhaps Miles will be amused by a man who would walk a mile for a Camel, and when the Can Man wearies of his advertising slogans, he will start quoting from the Bible, saying things like: The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north, it whirleth about continually or: And that which is done is that which shall be done, and just when Miles is about to turn around and walk away, the Can Man will push his face up against his and shout: Remember, boy! Bankruptcy is not the end! It’s just a new beginning!

Food

The three-course fixed price dinner at Arms Reach, sitting on the patio on a summery evening. Baked brie with pear compote and crunchy pita. Mustard-seed-coated salmon with mushroom risotto. Raspberry crème brûlée. A Quail’s Gate wine flight to go with dinner: a Chardonnay with the brie (I don’t normally order Chardonnay but it worked well to offset the richness of the brie) and a Pinot Noir with the salmon.

Musical

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story at the Stanley. Zachary Stevenson is absolutely excellent as Buddy Holly. He is better looking than Holly — but he can’t help that — and he channels Holly’s half nerd, half quintessential rocker, personality and musicality extremely well. The music is great. The story pulling it all together is, well, secondary.

Local original rock’n’roll DJ, Red Robinson, does a nice voice-over cameo.

I knew I was going to enjoy  the evening on the way in when a man behind me in the lineup started singing “Rave On,” and everyone else started jumping around and clapping along. Sometimes, the audience is just perfect.

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