Saturday, December 08, 2007

After Jack Armstrong Got Out Of The Snake Pit

Where to begin? My husband tells a story about an old radio serial where a hero had been written into so tight a corner at the end of one episode, that the writers resorted to opening the next episode with “After Jack Armstrong Got Out of the Snakepit...”, so they wouldn't have to explain how the hero had escaped all the difficulties. Suffice it to say that my absence has been due to a need to climb out of the snake pit. But during that period, while largely idle and unproductive to all appearances, I did read some and watch some good material.

For example:

Slings and Arrows ( – The Canadians have been holding out on us! This is a wonderful television series about a theater troupe of professionals who do a sequence of Shakespearian plays (Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear). Each season corresponds to a single production. Our priest at church recommended the series to us and Patrick and I fell in love with it. Love factors in, the performing arts collide with the business of theater, and the various characters rotate through various stages of life. The first season started a bit on the slow side, but gathered momentum. Patrick and I watched the second season in a single weekend, just because we couldn't bear to wait to find out what happened. The acting is amazing. If you are looking for a good Christmas gift for someone this year who is involved with the arts, I do recommend this set of DVDs.

Silent in the Grave – JenClair had written about this one some while back and I'd had it sitting on the shelf but didn't get around to reading it until literally this past week. It might have done with some good editing to tighten up the pacing but all in all, it was fun with some fun twists. I thought her male lead was a little too brooding and dramatic, but should you need something both interesting and frothy during the holiday season, I'd recommend this one. The author, Deanna Raybourn, has a new one out at the moment as well featuring the same set of characters, called Silent in the Sanctuary and a third one in the works, Silent in the Moor.

The Dead Secret – Wilkie Collins. Yes, he writes pure, somewhat implausible Victorian melodrama. But he's so good in some ways. He can take a page or more to describe a single incident of catching sight of a servant in a doorway and have that image arrest you and tell you more about that character than most modern writers would think necessary or interesting. Yet it works. You care about that woman and her role in the household at that moment of the mistress' death.

In Praise of Slowness – Carl Honore. This one was disappointing. I expected more depth to the research backing up his points, but he relied too much on the anecdotal without adding practical advice for executing a more balanced life style. I much preferred a book by Margaret Guenther entitled At Home in the World: A Rule of Life for the Rest of Us. She bases her thinking on the Rule of St Benedict and understands how the pressures of modern life sometimes can preclude what seem like fairly basic common-sense behaviors. No guilt but understanding and encouragement for making the attempt to bring oneself back into balance.

Finally, just this afternoon I read this story about depression, Martha Stewart and making Christmas cookies. It's charming.

By the way, if you're experiencing winter at the moment in terms of chilled air, snow flakes, etc., you might want to consider a great baked potato with toppings for lunch - cheese, salt and pepper, bacon bits. Warms you right up! Oh, and I had meant to tell you that I got a great little laptop during November.

May I say, how much I missed all of you?