Weekend Update:
Weekend II, 2011

Somebody’s having fun.

What Will is having fun with requires a bit of product description. In 1942, among my parents’ wedding presents was a set of coasters. Does everybody know what a coaster is? I’m not sure. They’re usually useless*, so there’s no reason to have them around, and nobody would if it weren’t for housewarmings and hostess gifts and whatnot. (Just buy “cocktail napkins.”) My parents’ coasters are emblematic, I think, of their time. Ringed in sterling, their bases are a weird transparent pseudo-cut-glass plastic that isn’t like the plastic that was ubiquitous in my boomer’s life but harder, more like glass somehow, but not glass. Modern but very traditional, à la fois.

Megan used to ask, “Do you like all this junk?”, meaning the stuff that I’d inherited from my parents and somehow felt obliged to display in our apartment. She had a point. I didn’t like a lot of it, and the coasters were near the top of the list of things that I could do without. One of these days I’ll give them the home-studio treatment, so that you can see them if as I were putting them up for sale at eBay. Why did I keep them? More to the point, why did I put them on a table in the living room, as if they were useful and/or decorative, when in fact they are neither? Call me Virgil, as in the Fourth Eclogue: I clearly must have foreseen the coming of Will.

The coasters are one of Will’s favorite toys. His playing with them follows a two-stage program. First, he holds them up and does things close at hand. Then he throws them around the room. As his pitch isn’t very serious, “around the room” means “on the floor in front of wherever he happens to be,” but that’s going to change.  Just now, as you can see in the photo below, he has discovered what to us looks like the deep-sea diver possibiltiies of the coasters: he can look through them! Later in the day, he would discover that he could look throught two coasters at the same time, but even if I’d caught that with the camera, I’d prefer the image below, because it has a weird Nineteenth-Century craziness vibe.

I ought to point out that the coasters spent almost the entirety of my parents’ marriage locked up with the other silver items in a breakfront cabinet in the dining room. My mother was a lot less attached to things of the past than I am: why did she hold on to them? No matter, no matter. The point is that, being “modern plastic,” they’re safe for Will to throw around as well as to peer through. They have finally found a purpose. I believe that, now that we know what these objects are really for, we must make sure that he keeps them for his children.


Last week’s “Summer Reading” edition of the Book Review was so difficult to get through that I decided, finally, that I have had enough of reviewing it week after week, as I’ve been doing since the summer of 2005. I’ve learned a lot about book reviewing, and especially about what a general-reader-oriented paper-of-record Book Review ought to look like, and the Times’s offering is so off the mark that if it ceased publication next weekend I should probably feel more relief than regret.

I never got as far as the first fiction title. The line-up of books about figures from the worlds of sports and entertainment was as endless as a coach class check-in line at Thanksgiving, but what made the pieces indigestible was the snarky condescension of reviewers who ought to have been in some sort of analytic therapy that would help them either to embrace their heartfelt values or to renounce them as elitist nonsense. The Book Review walks an impossible line, not that it has to but because, I think, the world of New York publishing from which it emanates is so awfully confused right now. As I say, I learned a lot from poring over the reviews for six years, and wondering why most of them were written in the first place. There will always be a place at this blog for Liesl Schillinger and for other thoughtful commentators. (Lydia Davis on John Ashbery’s Rimbaud — fascinating!) But the energy that I’ve spent on the Book Review reviews is needed elsewhere.


Unless I fall asleep at the wheel, Will will be allowed to toss one of the coasters as if it were a frisbee just once. There will be no second toss; the coasters will be taken away, regardless of wails and sobs, if any, and put away for a future in which, who knows? a future Mrs Will decides that coasters circa 1942 are just what she’s been looking for. Or the other thing. I know that there will be an attempt to “throw a flying disc” (as Wikipedia so discreetly puts it) because of the Shaun the Sheep episode entitled “Fetching.” This episode elicits an exceptionally keen response from Will, and even though the part that appeals to him has little to do with discurgy (I just made that one up), it’s a big part of the action, and the inevitable is the inevitable.

The scene that Will likes is the dalliance between Bitzer, the show’s sheepdog, and a lady dog who is traveling with her human owners in neighboring caravan. The lady dog looks just like Bitzer except: (a) she wears a beret instead of a watch cap (b) she has proposterous eyelashes and (c) her long ears roll out in what I believe is called a “flip.” The moment Bitzer signals his determination to win this lady-dog’s favor, by spitting on his paw and smoothing down the hair (?) under his watch cap, Will starts to laugh, as if Johnny Carson had just made a funny, and he continues to laugh throughout the entire dalliance, which, let me tell you, involves the most discreet stand-in-for-sex scene since smoking became immoral (the two dogs’ tails — the upraised tips of the two dogs’ tails — go round and round, while the beasts do their carnal sniffing offscreen). Will laughs when Bitzer whistles, faute de mieux, his appreciation of the lady-dag’s charms. The thing is, this episode is the only one in all of Shaun-the-Sheepdom that makes Will laugh. He is an ardently engaged follower of all the episodes, but this he finds funny. This makes him laugh.

As if it were Preston Sturges. Hoo boy.

There will be no frisbees thrown in my living room! I hope that I’ve put my foot sufficiently down.  

* Drinks that require a coaster are invariably cold, and invariably the condensation that accumulates on the tumblers’ exterior causes the coasters to adhere to them, for a moment or two, before they clatter down onto the table, splashing wet everywhere and defeating the whole purpose of their existence.