The Fourth


Well…my big plans for the 4th — driving to Newport Beach (specifically to Balboa Island) to live the good life — were thwarted when I was halfway there and my friends called to tell me that they’d closed the streets on Balboa because of overcrowding. Or something. So I turn around and head back to Malibu except I can’t get to the beach in Malibu because of a fire in the canyon. Those things are scarey. So I’m roughing it like the rest of you.

Not all is lost, though.

It’s the 4th, which, of course, brings us the single greatest sporting event of the year. This year was even greatester, as there was an actual overtime period to the hotdog eating contest. Chestnutt, I think, was just toying with Kobayashi. 

I’m reading a couple of books that are just eat up with interesting. One is about water. Anyone name the three qualities water possesses that make it such an incredible molecule? Me either, although I remember my professors always talking about them. But the book, Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource, by Marq De Villiers, kept me up last night. I couldn’t put it down. Quick summary: Water is both abundant and scarce; we need to think a bit more about how we use water; wars over water aren’t far-fetched.

Also reading: Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives, edited by Peter Orner. A collection of stories told by undocumented people living in America. The stories are fascinating and heartbreaking. I’ll actually try to write something about this book later (honest). It’s amazing the things people put themselves through to live in America. I know immigration is a huge issue, and there is no simple solution to the problem of people illegally coming to America. I think understanding where some of these people come from and what they go through and why they go through it is important.

I know that JU has read Richard Price’s Lush Life. I finished it a week or so ago. It was way good. Mary Ann Gwinn (from the National Book Critics Circle) agrees. She has this to say: This is the first book of Price’s I’ve read, and the best novel I’ve had the pleasure to spend time with in many a while. It is utterly contemporary (about a murder on Manhattan’s Lower East Side), so it’s not really an escape; more like deep-diving into the social and psychological currents of our culture. Like other Price readers, I keep thinking of Dickens when I read him, for his grasp of character, dialogue and incredible feeling for textural detail. In a hundred years readers will go back to this book to fathom what Life Was Like in our age; I suspect they’ll find, as we do when we read Dickens, that the more things change, the more people remain the same – mucking things up, then reaching for redemption.

Also: We should hire a staff writer to write about architecture. That’s my idea for the month. If Al will make me editor of the architecture section, the first assignment for our expert would be to discuss what has to be hands-down the coolest skyscraper ever. The crazy building will rotate, move, and change shape. I’ve never wanted to live in Dubai more than right this very moment.

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8 Responses to “The Fourth”

  1. urbino Says:

    Anyone name the three qualities water possesses that make it such an incredible molecule?

    Hmmmm . . .

    It’s both an acid and a base?

    Its tremendous affinity for itself (hydrogen-bonding)?

    Its high specific heat?

    At its melting point, the liquid is denser than the solid?

    I give up. Do tell.

  2. Michael Lasley Says:

    Oh….I really haven’t the slightest what all three of them are. I just remember every college science class I ever had….you couldn’t pay a professor not to profess these three things. I’m just proud I remembered there were three things, even if I can’t remember what they are. One has to do with the specific heat. One has to do with the density of liquid vs solid. I’d have to look up the third. But I’ll take your word for it that it’s either a) the acid / base thing or b) the affinity for itself.

  3. urbino Says:

    Oh. I thought they were in the book and you were just playing with us.

    I agree about Lush Life. “Refreshing” is the word that comes most to mind. I’d still call it literary fiction, since it’s character driven, but it’s got more story to it than lit fic often does, and a stronger plot line. Real stuff happens; not just conversations that then get explored for their psychological/emotional effect on the characters.

    Lit fic can sometimes get a bit too far up its own poop-chute, if you know what I mean. Like Al.

  4. krissnp Says:

    Interesting points about the immigrants. And the rest.

  5. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Hey, keep my poop chute out of this.

    Just checked out three books to read on my upcoming Arkansas vacation: a Garrison Keillor book about Wobegon, a Ian McEwan book about a beach, and a Rick Reilly book about cheerleaders. Hope and expect some time to read in Arkansas – absolutely no time now as we prepare to move.

    Keep saving me a place in Malibu, Mikey. I promise I’ll be there soon.

  6. Michael Lasley Says:

    I’ll try to say something about the immigrant stories sometime soon, Kriss. I don’t think I can do the book justice, though. I highly recommend it.

    Al, the McEwan book is a good one. It’s one of those that is very short (if you’re speaking of Chesil Beach), and it’s kind of meant to be read in one sitting (according to McEwan), if you can manage to get 4 or so hours to yourself in Arkansas.

    I spit on the fires this past weekend, so your place is safe. Although, you’re right on the edge of the mtns, so you’re house’d be the first to go if the fires got to going good. Just something for you to look forward to.

  7. urbino Says:

    So be sure to pack marshmallows.

    And asbestos.

  8. alsturgeon Says:

    They should never have accepted me at Pepperdine. Katrina came when I lived on the Gulf Coast (the BIG one everyone feared). Guess what Malibu can expect during my tenure? Hold on to your poop chute.

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