Several great things I have recently read/seen/heard:
The new Bob Dylan album Tempest (I try not to buy everything on Amazon these days but I will note that it is $5 for the Mp3s on Amazon). I’ve only listened to it 2-3 times can say that it continues his amazing late-career run. For a long time I took for granted that nothing Dylan had done since 1975 (Blood on the Tracks) was even remotely in the same ballpark of quality or significance of much of his music before that point. But ever since, I guess, World Gone Wrong in 1993 it’s all been great, much of it amazing. (I don’t know about Christmas in the Heart, I gave that to my dad for Xmas but have not really checked it out myself!) Some of the new one sounds like, I don’t know, Western Swing, Johnnie Cash, Nashville Skyline; weird, craggy, old-timey; funny, tender, & mean.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette. This is the funniest book (novel) I have read in quite some time– totally sharp, witty, entertaining, and moving too. The author, Maria Semple, used to write for Arrested Development so the funny part is not surprising. One reviewer sums it up pretty accurately as “a wry slice of a life– one that’s populated by private school helicopter parents, obsessively eco-conscious neighbors, and green-juice swilling, TED-talking husbands.” The social satire is hilarious and spot-on even for someone who doesn’t know Seattle– Seattle stands here for a certain kind of techie contemporary bourgeois bohemian that one finds everywhere. The private school shenanigans are priceless. What’s most immediately impressive and amusing is Semple’s facility with the different voices, jargons, and styles contained in all the documents she incorporates seamlessly into the novel — which is a dossier of texts, somewhat in the style of Clarissa or Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, I suppose, with no real central narrator but only Bernadette’s 8th-grade daughter, who (we eventually figure out) has collected the set of texts and is collating them and turning them into a narrative. There are emails back and forth from various parties; a psychiatrist’s report; memos from the head of the not-quite-A-list Seattle private school; a cruise ship’s log; a news article or two; tributes by famous architects to the protagonist Bernadette, who designed an influential early “green”/eco house, won a MacArthur, and mysteriously retired; some IM messaging within Microsoft’s system, etc. In this way it brings to mind A Visit From the Goon Squad a tiny bit — and there’s one riff about the pauses between songs on a CD that almost seems a homage to Egan’s novel — but the mode is more brightly comic and satirical.
Homeland, the Showtime show starring Clare Danes. Season one is recently out on DVD and we are devouring it (waiting for the 3rd and final DVD to arrive). Danes is fantastic and the show is addictively suspenseful– I’ve never seen 24 but I imagine it has some things in common with that? It is, interestingly, a remake of an Israeli t.v. series. Danes plays a somewhat unstable C.I.A. officer who has become convinced that Nicholas Brody, a war hero and former POW recently captured and brought back from Iraq, is in fact a mole or double agent who was turned by Al Quaeda. Three episodes left and I do not know how it’s going to turn out, although I have some theories. Season Two starts pretty soon.