Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir, and Me: A Memoir
by Deirdre Bair
Nan A. Talese (November 12, 2019), 341 pages
Kindle edition $14.99, Amazon hardcover $21.99
Deirdre Bair has written several biographies, but two of her best known and most highly regarded works were her studies of Samuel Beckett and Simone de Beauvoir. What they had in common was that both individuals lived in Paris, and she made frequent trips there to work on both books.
Beckett was interesting because he told Bair that he would “neither help nor hinder” her efforts, yet he seemed to track her every move as she interviewed friends, relatives, and associates. Beauvoir was fully cooperative but could be difficult to work with at times. While Bair’s relationship with Beckett remained strictly professional her work with de Beauvoir was complicated by Bair’s admiration for de Beauvoir’s feminist philosophy.
Throughout all this Bair describes managing the projects in the midst of her personal life: getting a PhD, finding an academic position, the politics of getting tenure, and giving proper attention to her husband and children. Her life was busy, complicated, and at times downright frustrating.
Bair’s writing style is engaging and the book at times reads like a novel. She is honest about her personal life and candid about her relationships with Beckett and de Beauvoir. If you enjoy reading about things literary consider this book.
Today is May 1st, and those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that means I am writing about our child Tasha. We long ago designated May 1st as Tasha’s birthday. We brought her home from the shelter on November 1st, All Saints’ Day, in 2005. When we took her to the vet in Gilroy a few days later she said that Tasha appeared to be about a year-and-a-half. We decided to designate her birthday as May 1st in honor of my beloved late Grandma Monaghan. That makes Tasha sixteen today. Amazing!
We did have a health scare recently. She had some intestinal bleeding, so the vet here in Hemet prescribed her a probiotic and told us to take her off the arthritis pain medication (which she had just started and which was helping her greatly). We had an appointment scheduled for a few days later. (Spaced out appointments due to COVID-19 and social distancing, you know.) The vet took an x-ray and thought he saw a mass on her spleen, so he sent it to the radiologist. Turns out that it was just the position her stomach was in for the x-ray. Tasha is now on the probiotic long term and on a less harsh (but more expensive, of course) arthritis pain medication. A hefty vet bill, but Tasha is well worth it. She is a happy girl and it’s a relief both to see her poop looking normal again and to see her moving around comfortably.
We have always made a point of taking good care of Tasha and feeding her quality food. We don’t know her origins, as animal control picked her up on the mean streets of Gilroy all those years ago, but clearly she contributed some very solid and healthy genetic stock.
We are both so delighted that Tasha is still going and still going well.
I am always looking for ways to improve my writing, so when this title turned up on Early Bird Books for $1.99 I grabbed it.
Zen in the Art of Writing is a collection of essays Bradbury wrote over a period of years on the topic of, obviously, writing. He writes about the importance to him of writing every day. He also describes how he would simply make lists of words, nouns mostly, and how much of his work came out of a word that got his attention on the list.
Bradbury writes about the importance of reading broadly. He writes, “I have known Bertrand Russell and I have known Tom Mix, and my Muse has grown out of the mulch of good, bad, and indifferent.”
He makes one point that particularly struck me:
This does not mean to say that one’s reaction to everything at a given time should be similar. First off, it cannot be. At ten, Jules Verne is accepted, Huxley rejected. At eighteen, Thomas Wolfe accepted, and Buck Rogers left behind. At thirty, Melville discovered, and Thomas Wolfe lost.
Just because I loved Tom Robbins in my twenties doesn’t mean I will enjoy his work today.
Some great stuff here from one of America’s most respected authors.
Today we have a Sunday morning lectionary occurrence that happens only once every three years: the reading of the Emmaus story. True, the story is in the lectionary for Easter evening each year, but for Sunday morning it is only found in Year A, the year of Matthew, on the third Sunday of Easter. This is one of those oddities perpetrated by those lectionary elves, as the Emmaus story appears only in the Gospel of Luke.
The Emmaus Road passage is my favorite narrative in the Bible, and I have written about it many times. You’ll recall that in the story Cleopas and his companion encounter the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus, but they don’t recognize him until he has departed. One interpretation of the story suggests that Cleopas’s companion, due to not being named, was a woman. This has to do with the mores and conventions of first century Palestine; since Cleopas is named had his companion been male he would also have been named. I have always rather liked this idea and so for this week’s Good Shepherd e-news I selected the image on your left.
In the days when we were able to meet in person for worship I would always sit in a pew at Good Shepherd near the stained glass window on the right. I always thought that this depicted the Emmaus story, but in a video we created when we were searching for a rector a relative of the person who to whom the window was dedicated said that it was the Last Supper. Oh, well. Then again, as my spiritual director pointed out, perhaps they’re the same story.
What is important about Emmaus, however, is this, in the words of the Rev. Dawn Hutchings, “Each and every one of us has at one time, or indeed for some of us, many times, traveled along the road to Emmaus.”
I wrote a while back about how our outdoor gas grill never got used last year. This was due to a couple of factors: we had a new stove that we loved and on account of my surgery I was not allowed red meat until late August. So the grill sat there unused.
This year we decided that we would get back to grilling, but our grill was in serious need of cleaning. Due to social distancing we discontinued the services of our housekeeper, but thinking that she might appreciate the work we told her that we would pay her the regular house cleaning rate to clean the grill. However, she failed to call us on the agreed-upon day after the rain was to have ended, so Terry undertook the task of cleaning it herself. She completed the task and we’re now good to go. Given the current heat spell I think that we’ll probably give the newly-cleaned grill its first use tomorrow.
Penguin Books (September 24, 2019), 254 pages
Kindle edition $12.99, Amazon paperback $12.59
In Surfacing Kathleen Jamie has compiled a collection of her essays that touch upon a variety of topics, although her selections display a particular interest in archaeology.
The first half of the book is an extended essay about Jamie’s visit to an archaeological site in Alaska. She describes not only the archaeological work but the native Americans in the area, their daily lives, and their attempts to maintain a cultural identity in the present day. Other essays in the book describe the challenges of archeology in her native Scotland. Jamie also writes about nature, making sure her father was eating properly, and being stuck in China at a time of social unrest, presumably in the 1989 Tiananmen Square era.
Jamie’s writing style moves the reader along quickly and she maintained my attention throughout. Surfacing may be of particular interest to readers interested in archaeology in the New World.
Here is something tailor made for these stay at home, quarantine, social distancing days. It is a new PBS program entitled Dishing with Julia Child. Simply calling it delightful doesn’t do it justice.
There are six episodes in the series. My local PBS station, PBS SoCal, is airing them in batches of two each Friday evening. If your PBS station isn’t showing the series it is available through your cable provider’s on demand service, or via streaming for PBS Passport and Amazon Prime members. In each episode professional chefs watch an episode of The French Chef and comment on it.
I DVR’d the first two episodes and mistakenly watched the second episode first. In that episode Julia shows how to bake bread. Sara Moulton and Carla Hall comment together, as do Marcus Samuelsson and Vivian Howard. They note how Julia loves butter, sneaks in tangentially-related cooking techniques, and provides alternate methods for doing a given task in the kitchen. In the first episode, which I watched second, Julia demonstrates preparing fish while José Andres and Eric Ripert point out how the camera started and just kept running. The program was not edited; if Julia made a mistake she recovered and went on.
If you’re looking for something to put a smile on your face in these bleak days Dishing with Julia will do it.