The Great Good Thing

klavanAndrew Klavan’s memoir, The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ is a great read. Klavan goes back to his youth growing up in the suburbs of Long Island with a mom who was atheist and a father who was culturally, but not religiously Jewish. He chronicles his rocky relationship with his father and his love of writing and reading stories. It’s easy to see that Klavan was a storyteller from his earliest days. What’s more it’s shown in the writing. The Great Good Thing is masterfully written. Now an accomplished novelist and screenwriter, Klavan knows how to make every word and every metaphor count. He’s a delight to read.

This memoir isn’t preachy or saccharine. Instead, Klavan shares how he slowly came to be baptizes after dealing with the demons and mistakes of his early life. He doesn’t portray himself as a saint. He isn’t proud of his rebellion at school. He doesn’t sugarcoat his struggles with depression or anger. He trenchantly describes how anti-semitism plagued him and for years was a barrier to Christianity for him.  Instead he gives us a smart, open look at one very intelligent guy’s slow turning to faith. While doing so he offers a road map to deeper understanding of theology and scripture.

Because Klavan’s writing so good, so intelligent, I’ve ordered one of his novels to read next. (By “next” I mean after I’ve finished the eight books I’ve already started.)

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Shoplifters

Winner of the 2018 Palm d’Or at Cannes, Shoplifters was at the top of my to-watch list. It’s now out on DVD and I got it from the library after a short wait.

Set in Tokyo, Shoplifters takes us into the hovel where a motley crew makes up a family. Early on it’s quite foggy how this grandma, mother, father, teenage girl and boy related. They live hand to mouth off of the grandma’s small retirement allotment, the mother’s wages at a commercial laundry, and by shoplifting. The teenage girl works at a kind of sex shop, but it seems she can keep all her earnings.

The “dad” teaches the boy to shoplift and during one of their sprees, they discover a young girl of 4 or 5 who’s neglected and abused. They coax her to come home with them because they feel sorry for her. This quiet girl, whom they name Lin, comes to feel at home with this rag tag family, that doesn’t follow society’s rules.

They are a likable bunch even though they take advantage of each other quite a lot. They keep secrets from each other and

The way the film delves into poverty I was reminded of Kurosawa’s and Renoir’s The Lower Depths. You know that the characters’ behavior is the main reason they’re stuck in poverty. Since the Shoplifters features children, it pulls the heartstrings more than Kurosawa and Renoir’s films.

I found Shoplifters charming, but also depressing in parts. Yes, there were moments that highlighted everyone’s generosity and kindness. Their quirks were endearing. I thought the sex club that the teenager worked in to be disturbing, particularly the first scene there. Later we learn more about the grandmother’s role in the girl’s life and her plight of prostitution, though not entirely revealed to the grandmother is even more disturbing.

While I didn’t want an unrealistically happy ending what we got was too abrupt and I wanted to know more about what happened to the teenager.

All in all, despite good acting, I was disappointed by Shoplifters as the story’s rather bleak and it left too many bows untied.

This I Couldn’t Believe


I saw on Inside Lens, a Japanese TV documentary that in Japan people rent “friends” if their real friends aren’t attractive enough for Instagram and social media photos or they rent families if they’re lonely. (That video’s not on YouTube.) Here Conan O’Brien used such a service.


Renting friends or family has such a melancholy feeling, but this other Japanese trend bothers me more. You can pay someone to apologize for you.

Huh?

While the service is costly at $400-500 USD, I still think these customers are getting off easy.

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I was delighted that Victoria is back on Masterpiece Theater as of Sunday and that I’m just as delighted that I got the DVDs for the gritty police drama Spiral. I’ll write about both later in the week.

For my weekly classic film, I saw another Japanese one, The Living Magoroku. It wasn’t great, but there are plenty that are better. The pacing was slow and some actors were stiff.

I’d mention that I had a phone interview for another part time library job. This one pays better and should use more of the skills and knowledge I acquired in library school. Tomorrow I have a face to face interview. I’ve done some prep work already. The two jobs’ schedules go together well, except for one overlap.

I was happy to see snow falling on Saturday. We haven’t had any since November and if it’s going to be cold, I’d like to see some snow. It is winter after all. Plus since there’s less people working or going to school on a Saturday, it’s a great time for snow.

I had lunch with my cousin Janice and it was a wonderful time to catch up.

I discovered another YouTube gem in the vein of “Kids Say the Darnedest Things.” It’s Kids Try where kids are given unfamiliar foods and they react to them. The creators picked just the right personalities for this series.

It’s been a rather quiet week, but with work it is harder to find time to write. I did get started on revising my play.

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I can’t believe New Years was last Tuesday. It seems like more time than that has passed.

I made a point of seeing another opulent church before the decorations would come down and went to Holy Trinity Polish Mission. Since I was downtown, I also stopped in the Art Institute of Chicago which has a Neapolitan Crèche. Though they acquired this exhibit with over 200 figures in 2013, I hadn’t seen it. I was blown away.

I’ve been working regularly and particularly enjoy helping in the Makerspace. So many patrons come in with creative ideas and leave with great gifts. They feed off each other. Friday was jam-packed as the regulars start their Christmas gifts now and finish by say March. Now I’ve got several ideas buzzing in my head.

I’m learning all about the history of candy by reading Sweet Tooth, a micro-history on sweets. I’ve learned that candy made from sugar was first developed by Saudi’s who used it as medicine. More on this book later.

So 2019 has started off well. It’s been warm here, well over freezing and I’m enjoying meeting new colleagues and learning new skills. It’s melancholy to put away Christmas decorations because I feel that now I have the time to savor them, whereas leading up to Christmas there’s so much frenzy that I don’t. I think I prefer the post Christmas days to early December.

 

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I had a good Christmas. My sister and her two kids came for about a week. After mass at my niece’s high school on Christmas Eve we went downtown for dinner with my dad’s side of the family. Christmas itself started with a special breakfast, opening presents and later finished with a great dinner.

I worked on Wednesday to Friday and am getting a lay of the land. Wednesday I worked at the other branch. It has a completely different vibe. Both are pleasant, but it’s interesting how though they’re so close to each other, there’s a discernible difference. I had more time in the makerspace and I’m finding it quite fun to learn what can be done with the various machines.

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A must-see

I lucked out and got to go to The Woman in Black at the Royal George Theater on Saturday. I got to watch a Humphrey Bogart movie, All Through the Night and Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress I recommend all of these.

Also on Sunday I explored a church from a list of the Must-See Chicago churches. St. Hedwig’s was stunning. It’s wonderful to see that the community supports this treasure.

I’m savoring the hygge and slower pace of the post-Christmas season.