Sunday, September 12, 2021

book and concert

Our book discussion group today handled Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Holding the meeting online proved highly productive this time, as new people, people from out of town, and people who'd just never gotten around to a meeting before showed up. We had 14 altogether, which is more than we could fit in some of our living rooms.

I'm usually a grumbler, but I rather liked this book and read the whole thing. What I particularly liked was the way the supernatural element slides in surreptitiously over the course of the plot. Some of my favorite fantasy novels are written this way. Others made the obvious comparison to traditional Gothics, but the closest thing to a Gothic I've ever read is Northanger Abbey, which isn't much help.

Some were a bit disappointed with the ending. Others didn't believe that the style of the 1950s, the ostensible setting, was adequately conveyed. I was mostly concerned about a slack section in the early middle, where the characters basically sit around for a while waiting for some more of the plot to show up. However, this is briefer and less intense than it is in many novels.

It's set among an Anglo family living in the mountains in northern Mexico by the played-out silver mine they used to run decades ago. Most of them still don't speak Spanish, and this surprised some of us, but I and others knew that that area had lots of unassimilated Anglo settlements, not just mining ones but agricultural ones, renegade Mormons (like Mitt Romney's grandparents) and so on.

Not long ago I received an announcement from the Cambrian Symphony, a local volunteer orchestra that I attended regularly up until the pandemic stopped concerts. They were resuming, but the opportunity to stream the concert live was enough to dissuade me from going down to the Hammer Theatre, which is designed for spoken plays and is ill-suited acoustically for concerts.

So I listened and watched online. The date being 9/11, the anniversary was acknowledged. The conductor had the in-person audience stand for, not the National Anthem which wasn't played, but for Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. This was followed by Barber's Adagio for Strings, requiring a complete personnel change. Lastly, Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony, which the conductor introduced as displaying a variety of moods from despair to triumph. So no attempt either to wipe out and ignore the upbeat middle movements, or to downplay their contrast with the rest. The heavily string-oriented second movement was displaying wobbly, but the equally daunting finale was a vast improvement. Be sure you mention that to the stars.

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