Reading

Finally reading. I go through long periods of reading snippets of this and that. Too distracted, tired, unfocused to read an entire book. But then I stumble on a book that immediately draws me in. It’s by an author I’ve read before. He writes about New Yorkers, usually bookish, Jew-ish, self-absorbed but not unsympathetic. Florence Gordon is 75, an intellectual (and not ashamed of it), a feminist pioneer and a lone wolf. She is writing her memoir. As her only son and his family reappear in New York and her life, she reluctantly returns to the family fold. Well, she sort of does. She’d like to keep her distance, but her 19 year old granddaughter becomes her research assistant. Not one to back down from a challenge, Emily takes Florence as she is, and learns some things from her – like grit to live life on her own terms.

“Florence Gordon” got to me. Florence is old, blunt, uninterested in pleasing other people, but she is also a fighter, believer in social causes and fiercely independent. I like that she has the guts to leave her own surprise birthday party because she’d rather be home writing her book. She is the kind of person one would like to be (but only if unafraid of being a difficult woman). Pearls of wisdom are dispensed in the short chapters. Like: “Medical science was working tirelessly to extend the life span, but it would be more humane to find new ways to shorten it”.

It was between “Florence Gordon” and Margaret Atwood’s “Stone Mattress”, but I decided to read “Florence” first. At first glance, “Stone Mattress” seems more cerebral and less approachable. Maybe I’m prejudging.

This afternoon I went to see “Pride”, a British film about the 1984 mining strike in the U.K. and the support the miners received from a small group of gay and lesbian activists. Florence would have approved of the unlikely alliance. “Pride” is a feel good movie, even if it touches on sad themes. The camaraderie of the “good fight” is uplifting. I didn’t mind the Bronski Beat in the soundtrack, although definitely preferred Soft Cell. Still remember dancing to the extended version of “Tainted Love” at the Domino.

We’re in a 1980’s nostalgia phase. Not sure why. My personal nostalgia phase is more the
late 1970’s. The U of T years. Discovering new things and feeling like life was full of possibility.

I like take the Avenue Road bus. I walk to Queen’s Park, on the edge of U of T campus. The other passengers are a different crowd than in the Financial District. The other day I overheard on the bus three work friends discuss office politics. They were talking about a colleague who sounded a bit Machiavellian, but they seemed to have a handle on how to deal with her antics. We passed Algiers South and Algiers North, and then their conversation petered out as they approached their stop. Activism at work, and social, but not in the social activism sense.

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