Monday, July 16, 2012

history and such

Since last posting, I have finished The Children of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir, and The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey, by Candice Millard. Both were quite good.

I liked Weir's biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine a ton, but didn't enjoy her book about Mary, Queen of Scots, at all. So I didn't know how this book was likely to go, but fortunately it was very informative and entertaining and clear. It turned out to be almost entirely about Mary I, despite the title. Edward and Lady Jane Grey get some page time, and Elizabeth appears as a teenager, but it deals mostly with Mary's reign and ends with her death. I can recommend it if you're at all interested in Mary; I certainly got more information than all my previous reading about the Tudors provided.

The River of Doubt was also enjoyable. It's about Roosevelt's journey down an unknown South American river in 1913, but has long chapters about the indigenous people, the fauna, and the ecological history of the region. I found those to be the most interesting parts: the journey itself became a bit of a "what could go wrong next?" farce, complete with dog fatalities. Millard knows her science, or at least it seems that way to a non-scientist like myself.

In other news, I hung out this weekend with an actual human male who appears to rather enjoy my company. He has a degree in theater, and it says all you need to know about my alma mater that when I discovered as much I promptly thought, "Aw, crap, he's a Brecht-snob whose dream was to study mime under Ariane Mnouchkine and whose girlfriends created naked interpretive-dance pieces about Frida Kahlo." And then I was startled out of my wits when he knew his Shakespeare.

(I have a theater minor, and managed to study mostly Shakespeare and Chekhov. But my senior year honors seminar consisted of hours and hours of Mnouchkine productions on video, and papers on Indonesian puppet theater, and guest workshops by the local avant-garde company which you were not allowed to skip even if you'd broken your tailbone the week before*. You say "theater major" to me and I immediately picture the guy in that class who was on the edge of his seat for the entire four hours of a 1950s performance of Faust, in German, without subtitles; and no one wants to hang out with that guy. [Indonesian puppet theater is pretty interesting, though.])

There was no mime involved in our day together. We did end up tagging along with a tour group run by someone he knows; the group was all middle-aged white women who seemed like they might have had some mimosas at lunch and who were very openly appreciative of their strapping Native guide. I found this seriously cringe-worthy, because I am oversensitive to Othering (see: alma mater, above), and then as we were walking to our next spot of interest, one woman turned to us and said, "I hope you don't mind how we are with [guide]. We're all widows of brain cancer."

"Oh," we said.

Another woman turned around. "No, not all," she said. "Some of us have lost children to brain cancer."

"Ohhhh," we said. And then I felt like an asshole. But it was a very good tour. And a very nice day, so I'm not going to say any more about it. If it had been bad, I would turn it into a hilarious story for the blog immediately, but it wasn't. Your loss, my gain. (And now you know why my reading pace has been so slack the last few weeks.)

Next up: possibly The Road to Wellville or some silly mystery from the library. I haven't decided yet.

Also: welcome, alumni who are here after seeing my shameless plug for the blog in the magazine! Of course the first post you see is the one mocking our theater department!

*I've been asked this many times: there is only one way you break your tailbone, and it consists of falling on your ass.


  1. Replies
    1. PIG IRON. One of their exercises involved the instructions to "use your tailbone like a searchlight". That is all I remember but I remember it VERY WELL.