A brief catalog of recent enthusiasms, artistic and otherwise:
1. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. I’ve owned this book since high school and it’s accompanied through the years, to New England, New York, Chicago, and everywhere I’ve lived for shorter stretches. But I hadn’t read it until last month, when I was driven to it by reading one too many of the glowing reviews of Zachary Leader’s new Amis biography, soon to be available here in the States. Now I wonder what took me so long, especially given the book’s giant reputation. And, large though it may be, the reputation doesn’t even do the book full justice; it credits the main veins of mordant humor and hilarious disaffection that run through it, but not necessarily Jim’s genuine and affecting vulnerability. For the sake of those of you who have not yet indulged in Sir Kingsley’s first and most famous work, I’ll forgo discussing the fairly bizarre ending other than to say that it gives every indication of belonging in a different book, though in a way more interesting than detrimental.
2. Knitting with Malabrigo kettle-dyed worsted wool yarns from Uruguay. Before I started knitting three months ago, I hadn’t the faintest idea how seductive yarn could be–potent little bunches of pure color, texture, inspiration. Knitting shopping rocks, and knitting itself is not far behind.
3. The Lives of Others: Finally caught up with the much ballyhooed film about artists under surveillance in 1980s East Germany, and it’s just as good as everyone says. While it’s fantastically illuminating of the endlessly variegated ways of being a loyal or a skeptical subject of the state, its main achievement is a personal portrait of a soul in flux. That portrait sits quietly alongside the sometimes noisy melodrama involving the other characters, a drama in which it’s certainly implicated but from which it’s essentially separate. I left the movie theater with E. M. Forster echoing in my head: Only connect.
4. What else? Playoff hockey.