The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Victor Hugo’

Life Is One Never-Ending Conference Call, and Other News

January 27, 2014 | by

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From ConferenceCall.biz, a gif-art project by Zach Scott.

 

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This Is Spinal Fusion

October 30, 2013 | by

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The doctor asks you to bend down, then waddle a few steps as he watches you. You might be ten but could be fourteen, at the pediatrician or in the school nurse’s office, probably a girl but maybe a boy. It might be the last item on a long checklist of routine things: height, weight, blood pressure, pulse, and temperature, check; vision and hearing, check; mumps vaccine, chickenpox history, tetanus shot, check; then, finally, the duck-walk diagnostic test.

Me, I was in the school gym. I’d waited with friends for my turn in the locker room with the doctor who’d volunteered to give physicals for the middle-school athletes. He knew my mother, so we made polite conversation between routine questions. Then, he asked me to bend and take a few steps. I did so, staring at the cracked concrete beneath my bare feet. When I was allowed to straighten, I could see that the doctor’s face had changed completely.

Locked on my torso, his now-serious eyes ticked left-right-left-right, then fixed on the planes and angles of my shoulders and hips. Trusting that I trusted him, the doctor placed one of his hands on my shoulder and his other hand on my hip. After a moment, one of his hands moved to my back and traced the misaligned knobs of my spine. That sensation, a man’s hand running down my spine impersonally, as if I were no more animate than a mannequin or cadaver, would become very familiar to me.

Scoliosis curves your spine into an S, a biological scarlet letter glaringly visible by X-ray but also perceptible to the naked eye. Read More »

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Happy Birthday, Victor Hugo

February 26, 2013 | by

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“An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise.” —Victor Hugo

 

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The Characters of Les Misérables are Sad

January 18, 2013 | by

Here is a mood index chart for Les Misérables. Red indicates negative emotions. There is a reason miserable is in the title.


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What We’re Loving: Comfort Reads, Evil Santas

January 4, 2013 | by

On the train down to Washington I read “Stage Mothers,” Elif Batuman’s article about a women’s theater troupe in rural Turkey, and kept pretending to have a cold so the guy sitting next to me wouldn’t think I was crying over the international issue of The New Yorker. Even by Batuman standards, it’s a knockout. If you missed it, go fish it out of the recycling. (Then read her conversation with J. J. Sullivan in the current issue of the Review.) —Lorin Stein

In her introduction to Monica Dickens’s Mariana, recently rereleased by the unimpeachable Persephone Press, Harriet Lane describes it as a “‘hot-water bottle’ novel, one to curl up with on the sofa on a wet Sunday afternoon.” And this story of a young girl growing up in England in the 1930s is certainly comfort-reading at its finest. While dated at points (the moments of casual anti-Semitism are certainly jarring), it’s a fun read, breezy and funny and often touching, with beautifully observed bits of everyday life throughout. Dickens, the great-granddaughter of Charles, was a prolific and popular author; for anyone with multiple winter Sundays to fill, I’d also recommend her 1939 memoir One Pair Of Hands, which details her stint, much to her family’s chagrin, as a cook-general in some of London’s wealthiest households. —Sadie O. Stein

Before the holiday break, I had some time to explore my Netflix account and found, to my excitement, a hidden gem entitled Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. “This unusual Christmas story is set in the frozen beauty of Finland,” the description reads, “where local reindeer herders race to capture an ancient evil: Santa Claus.” What more could you ask for, to prepare yourself for holiday travel and awkward family soirees, than an R-rated horror film that has more in common with Die Hard than It’s A Wonderful Life? Filled with dry Scandinavian wit and reindeer slaughter, while this isn’t a film for the whole family, it’s one that’ll be playing in the Alvarez household for many Christmases to come. —Justin Alvarez

In a bout of plain old mean-spiritedness, I’ve been relishing the bad reviews of the film Les Misérables. Hugo’s book is among my all-time favorites—there’s just something about those sweeping nineteenth-century social novels—so much so that I wanted to change my name to Jean Valjean after reading it (a confession that brought ridicule from my colleagues here; I stand by my dream). The casting of the film is so absurd, as is the excessive emotion. Oh, the drama! Oddly enough, I inadvertently took David Denby’s advice to those who liked the film to watch Singin’ in the Rain as an example of what good musical theater can be. And he’s right: I loved it. —Nicole Rudick

Holidays are certainly the best time to try out new recipes; most people are pleasantly surprised by an unfamiliar dish amongst the old family standards. My sisters and I have a Twelve Days of Christmas party each December and always aim to have a few things on the buffet that weren’t there the year before. This time around, my older sister’s wassail was the hit of the night, not in the least because it comes with a great history that necessarily involves the host singing one (or more) of the many carols about drink. Seeing as it’s Christmas until Sunday, I’m planning on enjoying another batch of wassail before the season ends. —Clare Fentress

Perhaps few will share my excitement about the following: there is an audiobook of The Golden Bough, and it is free, and you can download it here. —S.O.S.

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Gracie and Cyril: An Oral History

December 11, 2012 | by

Grace Paley was born Gracie Goodside ninety years ago today, and my grandmother still calls her that. My grandmother’s parents separated when the Depression hit: her father lost his job, and couldn’t countenance his wife, a beautician, the household’s only breadwinner. In summer, her mother stuck around the beauty salon, but my grandmother would visit her aunt and uncle in Long Pond, in Mahopac, fifty miles north of the city. Uncle Al was a piano teacher, and one of his students a girl named Grace. Two years older than my grandmother, Cyril, Grace spent the whole summer in Mahopac. Her father, a doctor, built a house there, and he’d bring the family up from their Bronx brownstone, at Hoe Avenue and 172nd Street.

I first picked up Paley after my father’s father, Mortimer, died. I hadn’t realized she was part of their same world of meetings, but my grandmother told me. My grandmother remembers everything.

Dr. Goodside—Isaac—he had a chauffeur, Saunders. God forbid, you could never use that word. It was a driver. Gracie’s father, he came from a large city in Russia, not the Pale of Settlement. They  spoke Russian, they did not speak Yiddish. He went to medical school in Italy, and his great pleasure was when the Italian fruit vendor came, you know, with his truck. He’d come once or twice a week, and Dr. Goodside came to talk to him in his broken Italian. Gracie’s father, he also was a great fan, a lover, of Victor Hugo—and his son, who became an ophthalmologist, was named Victor. Gracie was the youngest, she must have been at least ten years younger than Jeanne, Jeanne after Jean Valjean. And she was named Grace, and her sister said to me, in Italian, it was Grazie—thanks, thanks. Jeanne told me this when she was already teaching. She was much older, and she was married to a child psychologist, a real son of a b—a child psychologist who hated children. They never had children.

Gracie was unusual, she was extremely bright. Every day she was made to read at least an hour, I think she was made to study Russian. And they had a large house in Mahopac, her parents always encouraged kids to come to the house. Her father was a music lover, and he would invite people over to his house, and play music. He had this phenomenal record player. My Uncle Al, the piano player, was such an SOB—he would say, “I’m not going, he doesn’t know anything about music.” But that’s how I knew Gracie, the lessons. Her parents, they wanted us to come to her house, we went there, we played Monopoly. I would see Gracie almost every day—we would go swimming, we would have a hare and hound race, try not to fall for the false trails the guys set up. And we’d discuss politics and sex and stuff, whatever kids at that age discuss. She was the leader because we always went to her house, and she was the one who had ideas, and who could give advice. Even at that age. Wherever you went to meet, it was always at Gracie’s house. All the kids would follow Grace.

The other children—Victor, he was not a talker, and Jeanne, Jeanne was always apologizing. I don’t think they ever really answered the father. And their mother was a quiet woman. Gracie was always the one who was really challenging him.

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