Friday, October 21, 2016

Krugman on Hillary

Lynn left, and Toronto collapsed - the weather has been unremittingly gloomy and damp after days of brilliant sun. Ah well - Brucie is from Vancouver, so this dark wet is nothing for him.

A bit of boasting, as it's so welcome when a lonely writer receives a pat on the head: two readers have emailed to tell me how much they've enjoyed "All My Loving." The first: It's really terrific, Beth. I love it and have laughed out loud. I figure we're very close in age and sensibility as so many details, such as the brush rollers and what we were taught that girls do, I deeply identify with.

And the second: a student wrote, "I am LOVING your book about Paul," and then sent me a story of her own about Ringo. Yeah yeah yeah!

Yesterday, oh the drama - my eagerly-awaited new washing machine - a Consumer Reports Best Buy, no less - arrived, only it would not fit down the narrow stairs to the basement and went back on the truck. All the appliances in this house are ten years old, bought in 2006 after the big fire here in 2005, and now they are all breaking. The repairman for the washer told me the computers inside are programmed to break after ten years, so I shouldn't be surprised, but still, there I was with an overflowing basket of dirty clothes and no washer. John to the rescue - he came over and hacked off part of the drywall covering the walls to the basement, and soon there was drywall dust everywhere and an inch to spare. But of course, the washer had gone off somewhere and it'll be a week before it comes back. Neighbour Monique let me bring a pile of clothing next door to wash.

First world problems, I know. A bit more importantly - the planet is saved from the giant orange blowhole, who has self-destructed hooray! Again, no surprise, the only surprise being that he was there on the public stage, being taken seriously, to begin with. How did that happen? The Republican Party has some 'splaining to do. In the meantime, Paul Krugman has written a succinct analysis of Hillary's strengths. Thank God someone has finally said it.

When political commentators praise political talent, what they seem to have in mind is the ability of a candidate to match one of a very limited set of archetypes: the heroic leader, the back-slapping regular guy you’d like to have a beer with, the soaring orator. Mrs. Clinton is none of these things: too wonky, not to mention too female, to be a regular guy, a fairly mediocre speechifier; her prepared zingers tend to fall flat.

Yet the person tens of millions of viewers saw in this fall’s debates was hugely impressive all the same: self-possessed, almost preternaturally calm under pressure, deeply prepared, clearly in command of policy issues. And she was also working to a strategic plan: Each debate victory looked much bigger after a couple of days, once the implications had time to sink in, than it may have seemed on the night.

Oh, and the strengths she showed in the debates are also strengths that would serve her well as president. Just thought I should mention that. And maybe ordinary citizens noticed the same thing; maybe obvious competence and poise in stressful situations can add up to a kind of star quality, even if it doesn’t fit conventional notions of charisma.

Furthermore, there’s one thing Mrs. Clinton brought to this campaign that no establishment Republican could have matched: She truly cares about her signature issues, and believes in the solutions she’s pushing.

I know, we’re supposed to see her as coldly ambitious and calculating, and on some issues — like macroeconomics — she does sound a bit bloodless, even when she clearly understands the subject and is talking good sense. But when she’s talking about women’s rights, or racial injustice, or support for families, her commitment, even passion, are obvious. She’s genuine, in a way nobody in the other party can be.

So let’s dispel with this fiction that Hillary Clinton is only where she is through a random stroke of good luck. She’s a formidable figure, and has been all along.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

cuteness alert

The third debate is about to begin; the horror, the horror! But we had a great evening here. Lynn left this morning, sadly, but this afternoon Bruce arrived. And Sam agreed to make a superb dinner for Bruce, Wayson and me, to cheer us up before we watch democracy being smushed once again.

Here, some lovely things to look at before the horror:
Eli has asked to have a "sleepover" with Ben, so last night his mama let them do it. Could I drown in love?
And again - this is my son in Washington D.C., visiting his dad - here he's at his six-year old sister's Grade One class, showing them how basketball is played when your head is on the level with the basket.

And now it begins.

Monday, October 17, 2016

"All but gone" and Chihuly

In 30 years, I have never seen this - my garden without a thick tangle of wires across the sky. Now - just birds and green.

So busy! So little time, so much to do with my best friend visiting from Provence. How the city has opened up to her. On Saturday, the market, a walk with Anne-Marie around Ashbridge's Bay in the hot sun,
then dinner here with old friends from university days.
On Sunday, a Pilates class at the Y and then the matinee of a Beckett play at Canadian Stage - "All but gone," a stunning production, beautifully directed, acted and sung. Lynn judged it "perfect." As soon as I got home, I sent an email reprimanding the Globe's theatre critic Kelly Nestruck, who gave the show a ferociously bad review simply because a bit of it had been mounted a few years before. The house was nearly empty, perhaps because of his review, when it's a very good show that should be seen. Don't miss it! As Lynn says, Beckett is so revered in France that if a production like this were mounted in Paris, it would be sold out.

In the afternoon, listening to Eleanor Wachtel interview Sir Christopher Ricks on his book about Bob Dylan, with excerpts from the songs. Bravo Bob! A hero. I think it's wonderful that the Nobel committee is embracing popular culture and music - albeit the music of a genius.

Last night, "The Hunt of the Wilderpeople" - a New Zealand film about a Maori boy and his foster father on the lam in the woods - very entertaining. Did we do enough for one day? Well, when we got home, I rushed to turn on "Poldark," but Madame Blin did not watch. A little too bodice-ripper for her. I love that show.

This morning - MORE. Off to Chihuly at the ROM with beloved friend Ken, whom I'm grateful to know through Lynn. A gorgeous exhibition of sculptured glass - and the artist's collection of First Nations artifacts.

And then smoked meat for lunch, which Lynn adores because you can't get it in France. She's a cheap date.

She is only here for two more days, and tonight and tomorrow I have to go off to teach, so our non-stop round of cultural activities will have to slow down. I will miss her very much. But luckily, Bruce is arriving a few hours after Lynn leaves, also to stay for a week. The Kaplan Hotel is in full swing, which makes the host very happy.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

best friend

Beautiful days - hot sun, red leaves, Toronto at its best. Which is a special joy because my best friend Lynn is visiting for a week from Provence, a place which is always at its best. A treat to share my fine city with her. Here's what my home town looked like last night:
First, my own great news: THE WIRES ARE DOWN! It only took a year to go through the incredibly complicated process, but it's done, and the sky above my garden is clear.
Thank you!

And ... my friend Piers Hemmingsen, a fellow Beatles nut and author of "The Beatles in Canada" sent me a link - "All My Loving" is listed as one of the library's best books on the Beatles. Believe it or not, I didn't know the book was even in the library. Not only that, but when I took a look, two of the four copies were checked out! Two people reading my book as we speak. I know, to J. K. Rowling, two readers would not cause excitement. But to me, yes yes yes.

Lynn and I went to a book launch - my dear friend Kate Trotter's beautiful daughter Kathleen, fitness trainer to the stars and a star herself, has written a book, "Finding Your Fit: a compassionate trainer's guide to making fitness a lifelong habit." It's a charming book full of practical tips. I've known Kathleen since she was a baby - hard to recognize the stunning and poised young woman speaking to the stellar crowd at her launch - Clayton Ruby, Harriet Sacks, Louise Dennys - friends and clients. Brava!
Lynn is now a fitness buff herself, getting up at 5 every morning to follow an on-line yoga course before starting her day. Yikes. This did not happen when we lived together in 1968. She has recently lost 12 kilos and is even more gorgeous and vibrant than ever, this mother of five and grandmother of eight, on her way to deliver a paper on Lydia Davis to a linguistics conference in Savannah. I know, my friends are the most boring people.

My friend and I took Anna and the boys, and Eli's friend Finn, to their favourite sushi restaurant last night. Chaos of the best kind. But chaos.
That is not a green fascinator on my head.

We also went to see the Juilliard String Quartet play Beethoven and Bartok, thanks to Music Toronto in its 45th year - and a better string quartet I couldn't hope to hear. Moving, rich, powerful. Today, going to St. Lawrence Market and the Beach with Anne-Marie and then our old university friends Jessica, Louise and Suzette are coming for dinner - FUN!

And more fun: I received the following cheery note from an agent I sent a query to.
Thank you for your query, which we read with interest.  While we felt that this project has good potential, we have very reluctantly decided to pass.
Interest! Good potential! Not just reluctantly but very reluctantly!! Obviously, best-seller status is just around the corner.


Onward - into this heavenly day, with my best friend of almost fifty years by my side.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


One of the worst things about the current debacle south of the border is how much time - how incredibly much time - is being wasted on this vile man when there are so many problems to solve. Every day, endless essays about him, articles, YouTube films, songs, cartoons, not to mention the constant, noisy parade of commentary on TV and radio. But this, by the NYT's David Brook, is one of the best articles I've read about the whole sad affair. A new perspective on a human being.

I watched a very good doc the other night - Citizenfour, about the crusade of Edward Snowden. What it makes clear is how idealistic he was - perhaps a bit misguided, my right-wing friend insists his release of classified documents put many secret agents at risk of their lives. Not sure about that, but I do respect his desperate quest to show us what governments are doing illegally, without our knowledge - and what it reveals does tarnish Obama's halo. After watching, I went to Google to read about Snowden now; he's still stuck in Russia, not sure where he can and will land permanently as he has been refused entry by nearly every country on earth. A martyr, in a sense, to his ideals - though making a very good living as a speaker, via Skype. Thanks, at least in part, to American ingenuity.

I was happy to read that Canada is apparently limiting American access to our information. About time.

Just an update, for those of you long-term followers of this blog: you remember that I've been battling Bell and Rogers to get the huge tangle of cable wires that cross my backyard taken down. After a year - a full year - of back and forth and men in orange arriving to do this and that and dealing with neighbours who were not happy with one aspect or another - after all that, I was told that today, the guys would be arriving, at last, to take down the wires.


Maybe tomorrow.