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A Week of Living Quietly

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 28, 2005

The ''Firefly'' marathon proved somewhat brief, although it did last long enough that my wife wants to watch the rest of the series on our DVD set. We celebrated Target Demo's birthday with dinner last night, then relaxed and watched other odds and ends: ''Greg the Bunny,'' ''Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge.'' Laughter accompanied. Today, TD has headed home, dogs in tow, and the house is eerily quiet.

This morning I gave a second listen to Madeleine Peyroux's ''Careless Love'' CD, which I like quite a lot. I came to Peyroux in a roundabout way. Earlier this season, her music was used on ''Nip/Tuck,'' notably her cover of Leonard Cohen's ''Dance Me to the End of Love.'' I got a note or two from readers wanting to know whose music it was, and found out for them, and then became curious myself. Found Peyroux's ''Dreamland'' CD at the library, and enjoyed it -- and so it and ''Careless Love'' ended up on the Christmas list, and now I am enjoying them all over again.

Books were also under the tree, and I have just recently realized that I asked for a lot of print despair.

I have read Jeannette Walls's ''The Glass Castle,'' about the columnist's upbringing and her difficult parents, which has invited comparisons to Frank McCourt's ''Angela's Ashes.''

''Glass Castle'' was impressive in parts, but I preferred McCourt's account of his childhood, where the most horrible moments could still be laced with laugh-out-loud humor. Also in my book stack is McCourt's latest, ''Teacher Man''; I have sampled the fine, funny introductory segments (after ''Angela's,'' McCourt notes, he became known as ''an authority on misery of all kinds'') and am looking forward to the rest of the memoir. And right now, I am reading Joan Didion's ''The Year of Magical Thinking,'' which describes her dealing with the sudden death of her husband, writer John Gregory Dunne, on Dec. 30, 2003.

I went for these books for different reasons. ''Glass Castle'' just sounded good. I have read McCourt's other two memoirs and wanted to continue the journey. And I have been reading both Didion and Dunne for 30 years or so, so I had an interest in them as well as in the subject matter. I expect to have more to say about it here when I finish it. I know that it feels powerful and true, bringing up the memories of the death of my first wife, and describing emotions that are still familiar and raw.

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