The Good Universe Next Door

You know that E.E. Cummings line everyone quotes?

“listen: there’s a hell
of a good universe next door; let’s go”

That’s it.

It’s a funny line, because at first you think maybe he’s talking about heaven. Or Heaven. What’s funny is that if so, he’s referring to heaven as “a HELL of a good universe.”

All funnies aside, I think what E.E. Cummings meant was not heaven. Or Heaven. But rather some sort of transcendence that might be compared to heaven. Not even a transcendence. Perhaps a withdrawal into the more beautiful parts of ourselves.

I felt something like that today. I had spent the most of the afternoon watching season 3 of The Office, waiting waiting waiting for Jim and Pam to get together. And then I played with Ruby. Actually, I threw her ball as far as I could and then vaulted into the truck bed to hide. I didn’t peek over the rim until I could hear her snuffling close to the back bumper. I laughed at her entire back end wagging, her ears down in surprised delight. Then I watched part of Inception, but discovered halfway through that I was not, in fact, in the mood for Inception. Finally, I wandered to my laptop and began to write on one of my long pieces.

And for a split second, it was strange to be writing, to be deeply immersed in some worthy creating after the paltriness of the day. For a split second, it was as if some small bit of subconsciousness were waking up and whispering, “About time you got back. Do you remember this?”

Of course I did. My own hellofagood Universe.

Fin 2012

I have just come to the startling realization that I do not own Wuthering Heights.  My favorite of the Bronte novels, the quintessential Byronic, I-just-want-to-hole-myself-up-with-lightning-in-the-background-and-rage-at-Cathy’s-moronic-actions-and-then-cross-my-arms-in-smugness-because-now-Heathcliff’s-available novel.  Or at least, that’s how it is for me.

Anyway, I dug for about fifteen minutes, came up with six other books I should read in the near future (Les Miserables unabridged; Life of Pi; The Last Lecture; This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen; The Wit of Oscar Wilde; This New and Poisonous Air, in case you wanted to know), but no Wuthering Heights.

Presently, I’m not sure what to do about this problem except to pout about it.  Easy enough, as I’m already missing Dick Clark and dreading my New Year’s 5K tomorrow.

All that aside, the true purpose of this post should probably be to lay out the future of Eight Days a Week.  After all, this blog was created for a 2012 New Year’s resolution, and the resolved duration was only a year.

However, although I’ve shirked, and although this is only the 293rd post (is it possible that I dropped that many days??) and not the 365th, I love the darn blog too much to drop it permanently.  I hereby resolve, then, to keep things going indefinitely, to blog even more in 2013 than I did in 2012, and to generally whine less about paper writing and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Happy New Year, friends.  Thanks for reading.

20 Questions

  1. Will Dicaprio’s performance as Gatsby be better than Redford’s?  

    Admittedly, I’ve never seen the Redford Gatsby, but as you all know my opinion of Leo, and as I spent time stalking Mr. Redford at Sundance over the summer (and eventually settling for an enormous reuben sandwich from the lodge restaurant instead), I’m going to say no.

  2. Narnia or Middle Earth? 

    I loved Narnia first, beginning in fifth grade.  I didn’t read Lord of the Rings until eleventh grade.

  3. Hemingway or Joyce? 

    Hemingway, that crazy genius bastard.

  4. Favorite font? 

    I haven’t thought about this one much, truthfully. I usually stick to Cambria, which is the default on Mac. Times New when forced.

  5. What’s your ideal book length for reading? 

    If the book keeps me engaged, than I don’t care how long it is.  The average length of the books I read is probably about 250 pages.

  6. You have to go a year without a book (all forms) or a week without food. Which one do you choose and why? 

    Well, obviously I’m a fan of food.  Training for a 5K, not to mention basic functioning, would be rather difficult without it.  But to go without intellectual stimulation would be torturous as well; one can watch The Wedding Planner on TLC only so many times.  I’m going to say I’d skip the food, but someone had better bring me Chipotle at the end of the week.

  7. Best concert you’ve ever been to? 

    Concerts I’ve been to: Paul McCartney, Neil Diamond, Cloud Cult, Flogging Molly, Rooney, Coldplay.  The Rooney was the only one I legitimately didn’t enjoy, despite the fact that MIchael from The Princess Diaries was singing lead.  Paul McCartney has to take the prize on this one, mostly because he’s Paul McCartney, but partly because he’s still got it, and because I went with my mom in ninth grade, and because I brought back more souvenirs from that concert than most kids bring back from Disneyworld.

  8. Star Wars or Star Trek? 

    Star Wars.  I first saw it in my neighbor’s basement.  We stole the VHS’s from her older brother and then sat for hours, eating fudgsicles and holding the everlasting debate: Leia buns: chic or earmuffs?

  9. Best compliment you ever received from a teacher/professor? 

    In sixth grade, I wrote a book report on The Diary of Anne Frank.  In the margin, my teacher scrawled, “Is this really you writing this?”  Thinking I was being accused of plagiarism, I confronted him at his desk, ready to defend my honor.  Then he told me it was a compliment.  And I sat back down.

  10. What’s your one piece of writing advice? (don’t be shy!) 

    How about this?  The best writing advice I’ve ever received: “The best essays are written by those who ask ‘why’ one more time than anyone else does.”

  11. Mountain reading or beach reading? 

    I hate beach reading.  Not only is it hot and blinding, but sand gets everywhere.  I think I’m more of an indoor reader.

  12. What’s one novel you think is awesome that everyone else thinks is bad? 

    Gone With the Wind.  It’s a magical book, despite its length and its sentimentality.  But Scarlett O’Hara is a b.  That is all.

  13. Conversely, what’s one novel you think is bad that everyone else thinks is awesome?

    Invisible Man.   Wicked.  The Red Badge of Courage.

  14.  Amazon: Good or bad?

     Amazon provides me with cheap textbooks every semester, so I’m going to say good.

  15. Most famous author you’ve ever met?

    I haven’t met many authors, sadly.  Maybe Michael Perry at the literary festival last year?

  16. What percentage of books on your bookshelf have you actually read (estimate)? 

    80%.  I do buy a lot of books, but I also go through them fairly quickly.  Nothing bothers me more than the presence of an unread book on my shelf.

  17. Favorite reading beverage? 

    Water.  I’m trying to make myself into a tea drinker, but so far that isn’t happening.

  18. A hypothetical: Print and digital books are no more and audio books are the only form of literature remaining. One catch: All the audio books are read by Gilbert Gottfried (who has indeed recorded an audio version of 50 Shades of Grey). Are you done with literature? 

    The story is what matters to me, not the form it’s in.  I will not be denied my Virginia Woolf!

  19. One novel every teenager must read? 

    I believe every freshman in college should read Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise.

  20. Who inspired you to become an avid reader? 

    I don’t know that anyone specific inspired me; I’ve loved to read ever since I learned.  I’m sure it helped, however, that my mom is a reader, and that both of my parents kept my bookshelf stocked.  I’ve also been under the wing of several gracious librarians, who have wavered overdue notices and allowed me to check out past capacity and offered book suggestions before I even asked.

The Great Gatsby

Oh. Man.

We all know I adore F. Scott Fitzgerald, so the fact that this movie brings to life his most well-known novel is the main draw.

I also happen to like Baz Luhrmann a lot.  If anyone can capture the glittering decadence of 1920s high society, it’s Mr. Luhrmann.

My only doubt at the moment comes from the presence of Mr. DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby.  Obviously, Mr. Luhrmann has a bit of a soft spot for Leo, as he cast him first in Romeo+Juliet, and now in Gatsby.  I, however, am not so certain.  This is just the type of film Leo constantly chooses: an epic period film.  And he always, always plays the tortured protagonist.  Leo’s a fine actor, really, but when one does the same movie time after time, one must find a way to be different in every one.  And I don’t think he is.  In fact, I can imagine exactly how Leo will be in Gatsby.  The tone of his voice, the bulldog wrinkles when he’s breaking down emotionally, the facade of nonchalance…I hope he’ll surprise me.

On the upside (someone stop me I’m critiquing this movie and it’s not even out yet), the choice of Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway is intriguing.  Admittedly, I’ve had a soft spot for Mr. Maguire since I saw Seabiscuit several years ago, and then Spiderman and Pleasantville not so many years ago.  What’s fantastic about him, I think, is that it always seems like he doesn’t quite know what he’s doing.  You get a sense, while watching him, that he’s improvising every single line he delivers, drawing his intensity not from a script, but from the force of the story and the character.  It’s subtle, but it makes you forget you’re watching an actor act.

I don’t want to not mention Carey Mulligan, but I also don’t feel like I have to; she’s been steadily good in everything I’ve seen.  She and Michelle Williams, as a matter of fact, are my favorite actresses right now, and actually remind me of each other in terms of their eclectic choices.  I like an actress who’s established, but who isn’t afraid to do an indie film.

Okay I’m done.  Done with the film talk, but not done counting the days until December 25th.  I’d say that gives me enough time to reread Gatsby.