Updike, Redux

Commenter Michael, who objected to the thrust of my comments about John Updike’s oeuvre a few weeks ago, reports on the recent meeting of his Portland, Maine book club and their discussion of Rabbit at Rest:

There was one fortyish [ed. note:  Michael too is fortyish] female consciencious objector who scheduled a competing girls-nite-out rather than discuss why the Rabbit’s internal monologue several times refers to Mrs. Rabbit as a “dumb mutt”.


Otherwise, and I am barely spinning this, the group was, to quote [my wife and her mother], “blown away.”  I think part of the reason is that Rabbit at Rest finds Updike at the height of his powers – several reviews indicate some sort of perfection of Updike’s craft in this novel.


As the visual artist / art historian in the group put it, “he notices everything”, and as others noticed, the way he jumps from Rabbit licking candied crumbs off his hand “like an anteater” in one sentence and contemplating a plane crash in the next, the sudden, realistic yet jarring changes of scope, are fascinating to follow. The run on sentences are gorgeous and also realistic.


The discussion was on point from beginning to end, and many people were compelled to read favorite passages, which almost never happens.


I think that Adam Gopnik put it far better than I ever could: Continue reading

Change you can smell! Or, same old $h!t, different day



Via Corrente, the verdict on tax cheat Tim Geithner’s new plan to save the his universe:

I was going to dub the new financial plan TANF 2 — temporary assistance to needy financial institutions, without, you know, any of the means-testing or work requirements involved when poor people get help.

But Jamie Galbraith (private communication) has trumped me; he says it’s the Bad Assets Relief Fund.

Yes, we’ve gone from bad, to worse, to BARF.  Enjoy, darlings!  Sometimes I feel like I’ll never be done mucking out this darned stall–but I can’t expect the poor, dear animals who $h!t the place up to clean it up now, can I?

I guess the only worse investment than the BARF plan is, well, paying $36 billion dollars for each Republican vote for the “Stimulus Bill” right?  As Lambert at Corrente would say:  “And we get…?”

UPDATED, later this afternoon:  Wall Street no likee, either:  “Stocks Plunge as New Bailout Disappoints.”  Some days there’s just no pleasing people.  Better luck tomorrow, Timmy!

Blogroll Amnesty Day: chain, chain, chain of fools edition

Internationally known A-list blogger William K. Wolfrum (who also blogs at Shakesville) has tagged humble Historiann for Blogroll Amnesty Day.  This means that I have to send $100 to the name at the top of the list, then add my name to the bottom and then send 5 copies to other blogs, and then wait for the money to roll on in.  Payday is just around the corner, darlings!

So herewith are five blogs with which I’d like to share the cash love:

cowgirlwagonFirst up is Roxie’s World, when you’re in the mood for shockingly articulate cross-species blogging (with a side of Emily D.–yeah, you know me–thrown in for free.  How very public, for a dog!)  Then there’s Notorious, Ph.D., one of the few Americans who got good news about her job last week.  (Hint:  she gets to keep her job, and yet not do it next semester. . .wait for it. . .  while still getting paid!  Unbeflickinbelieveable.)  Next stop is Center of Gravitas, where GayProf can satisfy all of your needs for vintage Wonder Woman comics, gear, and what have you.  Next up is a new blog and blogger on WOC and GLBTQ issues who seems like an old friend already:  Prof. Susurro at Like a Whisper.  Don’t miss her recent review of Still Black:  A portrait of black transmenAnd finally there is Romantoes, for those of you who can’t say no to fries with that sandwich (You’re probably the alternately disturbed men and/or anxious women who google “hot 40 year old moms” several times each day and for some reason reach this blog.  What’s up with that?  Anyway, go check them out.)

Don’t thank me–just send the Benjamins straight to Historiann, c/o American Express, Potterville, Colorado.  I’ll swing by the P.O. on my next ride into town.  Toodeloo, friends, and I’ll see you tomorrow (or the next time I get a bee in my 10-gallon hat, which probably won’t be too long after that first cuppa joe in the morning.)

Bleg: Good biographies for a book club?

clintonsheehyA neighbor of mine has asked me if I have any advice on good biographies for her book club.  I’m thinking something published by a trade press, American or European history, and well-written and interesting enough to keep intelligent non-specialists engaged.  Since this is a women’s book club, biographies of women would be especially useful, but all suggestions are welcome.

In a quick e-mail to my neighbor, I recommended Laurel Thather Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale(1990), and Blanche Wiesen Cook’s Eleanor Roosevelt, vol. I. (1992).  (I probably should have warned her that the Cook bio is 600+ pages!)  My guess is that this book club will want to be able to read and hear the voice of the subject, so while I admire Camilla Townsend’s accomplishments as a historian in Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma(2004), and her Malintzin’s Choices:  An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico (2006), my guess is that an audience of non-experts will feel that the subject of their book is rather elusive.

Friday round-up: we ain't got the do-re-mi

cowgirlguitardoremiI am so glad other people are writing interesting things and posting them on the open-source, non peer-reviewed world wide timewasting web today!  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to click the following links and enjoy the wisdom, mystery, and pathos of it all:

When women are unemployed and looking for a job, the time they spend daily taking care of children nearly doubles. Unemployed men’s child care duties, by contrast, are virtually identical to those of their working counterparts, and they instead spend more time sleeping, watching TV and looking for a job, along with other domestic activities.

.        .        .        .        .         .        .        .        .        .

Historically, the way couples divide household jobs has been fairly resistant to change, says Heidi Hartmann, president and chief economist at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.        

Do tell!  Anyway, I’m off to find those tail-scalpin’ scalawags, for probably only 80 cents on the dollar.  Ride hard, but don’t put your horses away wet, friends.

Stephanie Coontz in the New York Times today


Image by Ruth Gwily at the New York Times

Family historian Stephanie Coontz has an op-ed in the New York Times today, “Till Children Do Us Part.”  It’s less historical than sociological, suggesting that in order to overcome the inevitable stress that children put on a relationship, parents should take time together away from their child/ren in order to preserve a happy relationship.  Coontz also suggests that “traditional” households are unhappier than feminist ones:

Marital quality also tends to decline when parents backslide into more traditional gender roles. Once a child arrives, lack of paid parental leave often leads the wife to quit her job and the husband to work more. This produces discontent on both sides. The wife resents her husband’s lack of involvement in child care and housework. The husband resents his wife’s ingratitude for the long hours he works to support the family.

Gee–who ever would have predicted that?  What I wonder is, on what basis did people ever think that adding children to a household decreased marital tensions?  From what I’ve observed, even when a child is dearly, dearly wanted and loved, ze creates a lot more work for everyone (as well as, eventually, a lot more fun, but at first it’s just a lot of work.)

Dump the sports, keep the radio on


Radio, radio...

Inside Higher Ed ran a story this week about the demise of Miami University’s independent NPR-affiliated radio station, WMUB.  Historiann lived in Oxford from 1997-2001, owned a home there, and was a responsible public radio member/listener.  We listened to the station all day long–even “Mama Jazz” in the evenings.  I volunteered to answer phones on the early morning shift for their fund drives.

I understand that in these lean budgetary years, programs that are not “mission-critical” will get the ax.  My question is this:  why are college  sports teams ever seen as “mission-critical?”  The marquee sports–men’s football and men’s basketball–involve only a tiny handful of students who are unrepresentative of the student body on most campuses (since women are the majority of college students.)  Why not just drop out of the NCAA and turn them into club sports, as so many women’s teams and other men’s teams are?  Early in this decade, Miami University built a fancy new academic building down by their playing fields that is only for the use of student athletes.  It was apparently too much for their preciousnesses to hike up to a classroom building or the library to get their homework done!  Why the superstar treatment?  I know it’s the “Cradle of Coaches,” but it has produced only one NFL player in recent memory?  (And no, the vast majority of sports programs don’t make money–they consume it.)  Why does higher ed agree to run a free double- and triple-A league for the NBA and the NFL?  MLB and the NHL have done just fine, thank you very much, without this kind of welfare giveaway. Continue reading