I occasionally hear parents complain that their elementary school children have ended up studying dinosaurs for several years in a row. A few grades go by and suddenly it seems like the only specialized knowledge their child has picked up is how to tell a Pachycephalosaurus from a Pentaceratops. As for teachers, they know that kids love studying dinosaurs.
In Homer’s Odyssey the Sirens’ song was an enchanting tune, impossible to resist, that lured lonely sailors toward a perilous shoreline, where they would die when their ships crashed against the jagged rocks. In the mesmerizing documentary The Bridge, the Sirens’ song is the strange allure of San Francisco’s magnificent Golden Gate Bridge.
When I’m reading a joke out loud from a new joke book, I hear my voice start to falter, from laughter, almost to weep, from laughter, the way my sister’s voice did as a child or a woman, especially if somebody made a bathroom joke; and my father’s voice did, when he wasn’t just poking fun at someone, when he found something really funny; slapstick got him laughing that way, sometimes. A laughter beyond words, maybe beyond grief. As I hear myself laughing like them, with them, I say: a laughter beyond death.
In director Todd Field’s Little Children, adapted from Tom Perrotta’s best-selling novel, Kate Winslet plays Sarah, an intelligent, expensively educated woman who is raising a preschool daughter in the suburbs. Her husband, Richard (Gregg Edelman), has apparently lost sexual interest in her; up in his study he amuses himself with photos of an Internet seductress known as Slutty Kay.
The readiness is all, he says, but I’m not ready, not for this: the bluebird back before her time—that is, if she ever left—the winter soft as summer mist when pink buds swell too soon, surprising. Which should, it seems, be cause for joy, but, yet again, it is not so, for on this fragile island earth, ice fields melt, dark waters rise, and sweeping north in wild flight, swans bear within them seeds of death, not yet in bloom, but it will come when warbler, wood duck, raven, wren drop from the silent sky like stones; and in the green dawn no birds sing.
There was a shallow moss gray basin set with bunches of grapes. The grapes were chiseled green with the ripeness of their September harvest. There was a pert glazed pitcher, black as obsidian, filled with cold water. There were six linen napkins with red diagonal strips laxly laid by earthenware plates.
But no one sat at the low walnut table. There was no shepherd or mastiff nearby. No, Old Pritchard’s family—bless them!— was casting about somewhere below for his lean body, his cracked bones.