How many people will flip through a copy of Tim Egan's National Book Award-winning The Worst Hard Time and decide not to read it simply because its topic is "too depressing"? The Dust Bowl, the Depression, people and animals choking, starving, dying -- who wants to read about that? Our own lives have enough unhappiness. But tragedy has a way of being uplifting: Reduced to the barest essentials and near-total despair, many of the Okies survived. They clung to life -- even without the PlayStations and cell phones that we "just can't live without." Sometimes unhappy books make us realize how much we ought to value our lives.
ESPN had its fancy countdown before the Ohio State-Michigan game. But Occidental vs. Whitworth -- with its 5-foot-6 receivers, its professors filling in on the p.a. system -- was a lot more typical of the way the uncorrupted version of college football is played on autumn afternoons.
After the game, with Whitworth players and fans whoopin' and hollerin' in one end zone, the Oxy team knelt for a long time in the other. Then player after player -- most of them seniors -- walked up to their head coach and hugged him. They'd shared more than just a bunch of football games.
Congratulations to director Jessica L. Sety and the cast of EWU's theater production of Big Love (no relation to the HBO series, reviewed on page 44). Somehow, an arched Mediterranean set, husbands rappeling down from an unseen helicopter, rock crescendos and blinding light during orgies of violence, and comic bits involving flopping bodies and a Ken doll all added up to one of the sharpest examinations of gender roles we've ever seen.
Playwright Charles Mee derived his plot from an ancient Greek play in which 50 women in compelled marriages take a vow to murder their husbands. Which sounds like an extreme premise until the recent AP story out of Afghanistan. In a country in which most marriages are arranged, here's what hundreds of Afghani women are doing to escape their abusive husbands: They're setting themselves on fire.
Packed to the Gills
The INB Center was nearly full on Saturday night for Vince Gill. Touring in support of his unprecedented four discs of new material, These Days, he brought along with him what seemed like the entire Grand Ole Opry -- 17 players in all. Vince played a smattering of old faves, but spent most of his time playing new stuff. But the highlight was his hilarious recollection of the time his dad taught him to drive. Then he played "The Key to Life." Tears of laughter faded into tears of nostalgia. Thanks, Vince!