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The Oxford Story, and 2023’s cultural tally

One more day of 2023. What a year. Terrible for the world, another brutal, beyond brutal war fought senselessly, many thousands of senseless deaths in an incomprehensibly complicated and contested part of the world. My daughter and I are so far apart on this issue, I urging moderation, seeing both sides: what Israel is doing in Gaza is indefensible, no question, but there’s a very good reason the state of Israel needs to exist, and Hamas, which has done nothing to improve the impoverished lives of its people, launched this incendiary war — versus her, Israel is utterly culpable and should never have been created; the Palestinians and Hamas are simply revolting against endless oppression, as oppressed people must.

Free Palestine. What does that look like? How is that possible? Wipe out Israel, with all its current hideousness, the only democracy in the Middle East?

It’s a good thing she and I love each other so much.

Not to mention what’s happening in Ukraine, and parts of Africa, and the political horror show in the U.S. A story in the NYT: a young brother somewhere in the midwest had an argument with his sister about Xmas presents, so he shot her, and then another sibling shot him. I’ll take arguing about Gaza; at least we’re not slaughtering each other. The world gone mad. And no sun here for many days, grey gloom gloom gloom.

However. From my safe perch, I’ve been slothful, nothing much getting done, but life goes on. I’ve been serving leftover Xmas dinner to many friends — Monique, Ruth, Annie; just finally froze the rest. Rona is coming over this afternoon so we can exchange memoirs and battle scars about launching books this year. Tomorrow, getting groceries and feeding the birds and reading, that’s about it. Naps, many naps. The Y. Fighting the gloom. My latest sinful addiction: Law and Order SVU — delicious.

But joy, an essay has just come out in Queen’s Quarterly, a literary magazine of exceptionally fine quality, heavy shiny paper, beautiful layout and illustrations, good writing — poetry, fiction, memoir, essays. My piece is about lecturing on my first book at Oxford University, and a wonderful thing that happened there. An important story for me. Link below.

Kaplan Nov 2023

Finished reading Julia Child’s My Life in France, so uplifting, her pleasure in everything, eating, drinking, the French countryside. How can she possibly remember every fine meal? But she does. Someone left Bonnie Garmus’s hugely successful Lessons in Chemistry in my little free library, so I started it last night. Wow, compelling — she sweeps you right into the story, for sure, I can see why it’s already being made as a film. I rarely read fiction, so we’ll see how this goes. Was just asked for a blurb for a memoir-in-essays that’ll be published later this year, am enjoying it so far.

Finished The Crown. People diss it, but I think it’s fabulous television, gorgeously shot, very well-written, and of course the acting can’t be beat, all of them, especially Elizabeth Debicki as an uncannily true Diana and Imelda Staunton as the Queen, pulling you into her restrained heart … superb. The writers are hard on Harry, it’s clear they don’t think much of him and portray him as a petty, angry brat in the series, which I think is unfair, and William is 100% tender-hearted, loyal, true. And Kate Middleton is a grounded schoolgirl who simply loves the boy for who he is. Hmmm. Perhaps it’s a little more complicated than that. But still, terrific. Bravo.

I’ve kept a list this year, because I forget so easily what I’ve read, seen, done. The tally: 21 books, though I think I forgot to write down a few, and there were a few others started and not finished. 27 films, both in theatres and on Netflix, and 12 documentaries. 27 TV series followed at least partly. (Call the Midwife back Xmas night- as always, tears! This series is sublime.)

9 plays. 5 music and dance events. 5 talks. Disappointing — only 2 visits to an art gallery.

But that will change for 2024, because I’m planning a trip to Paris. Had to cancel a trip last winter because of the massive strikes throughout France, and need to rebook soon to avoid losing all those points. When I saw there’s a big Mark Rothko exhibition at the Fondation Vuitton, ending April 2, I booked for the last day. I’ll travel far for Mark Rothko. So, I hope, Paris with my friend Lynn, possibly a quick visit to visit a friend in Amsterdam, then a few days in London and a jaunt around the English countryside with friend Penny, to Northamptonshire where my British roots are.

How does that sound? Amazing, right? Nothing is booked, but plans are afoot, life seeping back into these stagnant bones, after years of pandemic isolation.

Of course, all this may change in an instant. Tons of people are getting sick. France may convulse with another round of massive strikes, or England may. What’s pretty sure, however, is that Canada won’t. My own health — who knows? So far so good, is all I can say. Does it get better than that?




2 Responses to “The Oxford Story, and 2023’s cultural tally”

  1. Hi Beth, it’s always such a pleasure to read your blogs. Thank you for sharing your life so generously.
    I don’t see the link to the QQ piece, can you please send? Thanks!

  2. Beth Kaplan says:

    Robin, I will send it to you, I don’t think I can put it on the site. I’ll try, though. Cheers! Happy New Year – your book year!

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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