18.6.09

"DEUX OU TROIS CHOSES...."

The demands of Academe (and the shameful ease with which I can be made to feel overwhelmed) have effectively kept me from blogging for a very long while, but an all-too-short breather between spring and summer quarters affords me a window of opportunity in which to very briefly run down, in bare-bones style, a smattering of the things that have been going on in my life since last time:



--I spent August of 2008 at La Maison des étudiants canadiens in Paris, participating in a study-abroad program offered jointly by the Departments of Comparative Literature and French at UW. I read Les Lettres d'Abelard et Héloïse, found Susan Sontag's grave in Montparnasse, rode the Metro (le RER en particulier!) everywhere, and learned all about the evolution of the city over the course of its loooong and fascinating history.

--I ended a six-year relationship (on an amicable note, fortunately, as we continued to share the apartment for several months!). Break-ups are always painful, but because of its amicability--the fact that we both had become aware of and were in some mutual accord about our suitability as friends and our growing incompatibility as anything more--this one was actually easier than the ending of any other relationship I've had, although neither of us had ever been with anyone for nearly as long as we had been with each other. Is it possible that a relationship can actually just run its course, and the reason all my other break-ups were so much more memorably painful was that I felt those relationships never got a chance to run theirs? Of course, I also have to consider that I'm not as young now as I was then, and I've experienced a few more hard knocks of various types in the meantime, which may have toughened me up a bit....



--Love came back into my life in the form of a (now former) Mississippian, the wonderful and one-of-a-kind Cameron Smith, with whom I drove from Jackson back to Seattle in mid-December (just in time for us to survive the kind of freakish cold snap that rarely happens in Seattle, let alone in the South!). Cameron is a fellow cinéphile, and I see Seattle, a place about which I complain probably too often, through fresh(er) eyes now; what with the Landmark Theatres, The Northwest Film Forum, and The Seattle International Film Festival Revival Screen (all of which we've been happily frequenting together in the past six months), this town is a cinematic wonderland, particularly compared to the many, many areas of the country where someone who wanted to see, for example, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Tokyo Sonata would simply be out of luck (I've been told that such things cannot even be found in the video stores in a great many non-coastal U.S. towns). Of course, a wide range of cinematic options can't be considered the only thing that makes a city livable. But for those of us who are so inclined, it makes up for any number of drawbacks (like unbelievable daily traffic on perpetually crumbling roads, to cite the example that springs most quickly to mind). I also consider my own quality of life greatly enhanced by the fact that I am now almost always accompanied to the movies by someone with whom to hold hands and discuss the film afterwards.



--"Advanced" French (I would be more modest and just call it "third-year," as I hardly feel "advanced," but that's what the school calls it, so...) is markedly more interesting and, for related reasons, more difficult than "beginning" and "intermediate" years. It's been only days since the end of what turned out to be a grueling six months of French 302/303, and I don't know whether my long sigh of the final day was one of relief or one of un peu de douleur for the rollercoaster grinding to a halt. In any case, I thought I'd attempt a tiny act of commemoration of some of the primary rewards I got for all the sang, sueur, et larmes: 1) I wouldn't dare do it sans dictionnaire, and it's very slow going, always, but thanks to the push into the deep end one is given in the third year, I can actually read French now. During the last couple of quarters, over three different courses (two language courses and one literature course taught in English but with readings in French), I read Irène Némirovsky's Suite française; Victor Hugo's Claude Gueux and Le Dernier jour d'un condamné à mort; Balzac's Le Curé de Tours; Flaubert's Un Cœur simple, Proust's Un Amour de Swann, and Sartre's Les Mots, among others. 2) The in-class films were, as they have been each year, revisitations and revelations of some of the greatest Francophone cinema. We watched Cocteau's La Belle et la bête and Ousmane Sembène's La Noire de... in my "intermediate" classes. Among the "advanced" year films were La Grande illusion, Laurent Cantet's Ressources humaines, and Andrez Wajda's glorious Danton (Criterion finally released it on DVD, and my French professor already had it for us to watch the following week!), which I had seen before but which I did not remember being such a fine piece of work. Its use of striking, Penderecki/Lygeti-like music is, to my mind, a link between Kubrick and Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood.

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