Monday, July 15, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Saw WILD ROSE, which I liked less than I expected. It was like a documentary except it wasn't. Plus that Glascow accent was so difficult. A very nice week here although we could use some rain.

I have been watching PROJECT RUNAWAY. It is very soothing because Phil and I never watched it together so I have no memories of that. Any show we both enjoyed is hard to watch. But I am doing okay. Still running around with friends too much. At some point, I am going to have to learn how to stay home and face it.

Trying to finish EUPHORIA for my book group. Next book is on Flint Water Crisis. Dread that one.
Going to read CONVICTION (Mina) first though.
Three times in the last few days the name Michael Bennet has come up. What do we think of him at the Democratic nominee? Have to get the media to take notice because that is key. Although I think there are some fine candidates here I don't have much faith in them beating Trump. He's got too many cards up his sleeve.

What have you been up to?

Friday, July 12, 2019


Sandra Seaman’s Forgotten Book from 2008


To be perfectly honest, I've never written a book review. For me books have always been a personal journey, something I've kept to myself, so I hope you'll bear with me as I tell you a little about the book I chose.
The book is "The Quiet Game" by Greg Iles. I'd been dipping into the work of several Southern writers when I stumbled across The Quiet Game. Published in 1999, the book centers around a thirty year old mystery.
Penn Cage is a lawyer who, with his daughter, returns to his parent's home in Natchez, Mississippi so the two of them can heal after the death of his wife. He gets prodded into investigating the unsolved murder of a black man in 1968. A murder that neither the black nor white community wants re-opened. Everyone is guarding their secrets, playing the quiet game.
Iles lays bare the undercurrents of a small southern town from the racial to the political. His wonderful writing weaves the secrets of the past into the secret lives of the present, exploring the effects of choices on people, their families and the community.
My poor summary doesn't do justice to the many layers that Mr. Iles has written into this book. His words make you sit up and think, chew your fingernails when things go terribly wrong, and smile when you realize that under all the conspiracy and mayhem the story is about justice in its truest sense.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Mikey and Nicky, written and directed by Elaine May

I never saw this film before and I always assumed it was written and directed by Cassavetes. But no, it is Elaine May and in interviews the actors acknowledge that she wrote every word, none of it was invented by the actors on the spot. That is both a testament to Falk and Cassavetes' great acting and May's great writing. Filmed in Philly where she grew up, May claims to have mob people in her family that gave her both the plot idea and the language used.
Nicky (Cassavetes) calls Mikey (Falk) to rescue him—this time a contract on his life for money he stole from his mob boss—Mikey shows up to help.  Mikey gets him out of the hotel where he has holed up, and starts to help him plan his escape, but Nicky keeps changing the plan, and a hit man is hot on their trail. Betrayal and friendship take center stage. 
This is a violent film. Yet all the violence arises from the plot and the characters. The slick streets emphasize the hazardous nature of the night. The treatment of women is both horrendous and believable to the times and the men. Ned Beatty is very good too. Highly recommended although not for a nice night out.

What is your favorite film about the mob (THE GODFATHER I and 2 excluded)

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

In memory of....from Phil's memorial service

 Forgive me for posting a few of Phil's books and this speech, but I wanted to share with you some details of Phil's career. You probably know him as my husband more than someone like this....This is from Dan Geller, the chairman of Phil's department the last decade of Phil's career.

                          In Memoriam: Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, Philip Abbott

Patti asked that I speak to Phil’s accomplishments as a scholar, and I consider it a privilege to do so.

My first meeting with Phil was on the initial evening of my interview for the Chair’s position at Wayne State Political Science in 2004. Although we both received our doctorates from Rutgers University, Phil was ahead of me in the program and I knew him only by his reputation among the graduate students. For my interview at WSU, the Dean of Arts and Sciences invited Phil to the dinner with us at the top of the Renaissance Center, and the reason was clear: to introduce me to the most accomplished faculty member in the department. I joined Wayne State as Chair of the Department of Political Science that August, and one of the principal reasons for my decision was the opportunity to work with a scholar of the stature of Philip Abbott.

Permit me to describe just a portion of the exceptional research under Phil’s name. Professor Abbott is the author of fourteen books and three edited volumes. These works are among the most important in the fields of Political Theory and the American Presidency. His book Political Thought in America is the leading text on American political theory. Professor Abbott’s prodigious scholarly record also includes the authorship of roughly ten chapters in edited collections. He published over thirty-five sole-authored articles in such prestigious journals as Perspectives on Politics, Polity, the Journal of Politics, Political Research Quarterly, Political Theory, and Presidential Studies Quarterly. This immense body of exceptional work established Philip Abbott as one of the leading scholars in the discipline of political science.

Phil received his Ph.D. from Rutgers in 1971, began his work as an Assistant Professor at Wayne State in 1970 and was promoted to Full Professor in 1980. Long recognized as one of the nation’s foremost political theorists, Phil had a profound appreciation for the relevance of his subject matter to contemporary life and its value in illuminating real world ethical dilemmas. His works exhibited uncommon sensitivity to such issues, setting him apart from others working in the field of political theory. In the 1990s Professor Abbott began to receive national recognition for his research in an additional field -- the American presidency. It was in this area of specialization that Phil’s reputation achieved even greater heights. Five of his last eight critically acclaimed books analyzed the office and role of the presidency, strong and weak presidents, untimely presidential successions, and a masterwork on Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In keeping with Philip Abbott’s extraordinary record of scholarship, he was the recipient of prestigious external awards, including his appointment by the American Fulbright Association as the Thomas Jefferson Professor of American Political Institutions at the University of Amsterdam. Professor Abbott was also the recipient of every major internal award for scholarship that Wayne State University confers. He was the first member of the faculty of the Department of Political Science – and one of the few faculty members in Liberal Arts – to be inducted into the Academy of Scholars. He was the recipient of two Board of Governors’ Faculty Recognition Awards, one for his book Furious Fancies: American Political Thought in the Post-Liberal Era , and a second for his two books, Seeking Many Inventions: The Idea of Community in America and States of Perfect Freedom: Autobiography and American Political Thought. Among Philip Abbott’s other awards were a Gershenson Distinguished Faculty Fellowship, a Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award, and the Michigan Association of Governing Boards of Higher Education Award. In recognition of his stellar accomplishments as a scholar, Dr. Abbott was named Distinguished University Professor in 2005 – the highest academic honor the University can bestow.

Philip Abbott’s remarkable record extended as well to his teaching and service. He directed over ten doctoral dissertations and over twenty-five Master’s theses. Professor Abbott taught a large number of undergraduate and graduate courses including the required doctoral seminar in Philosophic Problems of Social and Political Inquiry. In recognition of the superb quality of his teaching, Dr. Abbott received both the University’s Graduate Mentor Award and the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Lastly, Phil Abbott made huge contributions to the governance of the Department, the College, and the University as a whole. He served as an elected member of the Department’s Policy and Personnel Committee and as its Chair for nearly twenty years. Professor Abbott held the role of Assistant Dean and Graduate Officer of the College of Liberal Arts for three years, served one or more terms on over half a dozen College Committees, and in 2001 was named President of the Liberal Arts Faculty Council. Dr. Abbott was an elected member of the Academic Senate for over a decade, and he chaired the Policy Committee of that body over a period of multiple years. In Toto, his service to the University included membership on over thirty different standing or ad hoc units and committees.

It is difficult to grasp how one man could have accomplished so much, in so many areas, in such a brief time.

In closing, I wish to note that Philip Abbott’s monumental reputation as a scholar and the status he conferred on the Department of Political Science, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Wayne State University is without equal. With his passing, the University and the discipline have lost a great scholar, the Department has lost its leader, Patti, Megan, Josh and Kevin have lost a husband, father, and grandfather -- and I have lost a friend. But, for the sake of us all, his magnificent works live on.

Daniel Geller
Department of Political Science

Monday, July 08, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Three good movies this week. Steve O and I saw ECHO IN THE CANYON, which looked at the music coming out of California in the mid-sixties. It was narrated and mostly sung by Jakob Dylan, a handsome lad who doesn't quite have the rock voice or charisma to be completely successful in this role, but some nice music and good observations about that time. I really enjoyed Spiderman, great combo of teen- age antics and a clever plot. And PAVAROTTI was nicely done by Ron Howard.

Reading BIG SKY by Kate Atkinson;. She is such a great writer.

Lost my power on the 3-4th of July but that allowed me to spend some time with my son and grandson and DIL. Not a bad week.

Go find the person you are married to (if you are) and tell them right now how much they have enhanced your life, how much they mean to you. Every day I am reminded of how we didn't say that enough to each other. We felt it was implied but implied is not enough. You will really regret it if this isn't something that was part of your everyday conversation, the fabric of your life. All of you are old enough that time isn't infinite for you anymore.  

And I am telling you, how much you all have meant to me over the last decade or so. You are here every day and that counts for so much.

What are you up to this week?

Friday, July 05, 2019


Andi Shechter has been a publicist, chat host, interviewer, convention-planner, essayist and reviewer. She lives in Seattle with far too many books.

NO HUMAN INVOLVED, Barbara Seranella (reviewed by Andi Shechter)

The other day, in a fit of rereading (I get this way after trying two or three new books and finding them wanting) I picked up DEADMAN'S SWITCH by Barbara Seranella. This is a book I've read at least three times and will, undoubtedly read again. It was the last book Barbara wrote and I got annoyed thinking about that. It was the first book in a new series that featured a fascinating and terrific new protagonist, a woman with an interesting job in crisis management and an interesting life. Charlotte Lyon has obsessive compulsive disorder , an at times seriously disabling condition and Seranella it brilliantly – she was the "un-Monk" to me. (I know people with OCD and cannot watch the overbearing neurotic "Monk" who simply refuses to deal with his illness but instead expects the world to deal around him. Rrrrr.)

Sorry, off track. But see, the thing is that Barbara Seranella died in January of 2007 and that really frosts me. I'm still mad. I wasn't ready to lose a friend and to lose the person who created Munch Mancini, one of mystery's best protagonists. Her first book was NO HUMAN INVOLVED and it featured a character few of us had ever met. Munch was a junkie, an addict and was in trouble. In this first book, it's Munch's last day as an addict. She's going to get clean and sober. Throughout the history of the series, we watch her learn about all the life she missed while she was on drugs, all the hell she left behind and watch her try to get beyond it – something that's hard to do. She has debts she'll never pay, but she is learning to join society , as she puts it. Munch takes on responsibilities, sobers up without being preachy, faces the world pretty squarely and is just great to spend time with.

A couple years after I read NO HUMAN INVOLVED, I was hosting a discussion about hard-boiled mystery at a convention on a Sunday morning, It was a casual thing, a bunch of us sitting around in a circle and chatting. One of the participants in the conversation was so interesting, had so much to say and yeah, that was Barbara Seranella. I valued her friendship and the chance to catch up with her when she came to town on a book tour, and I miss her still. She had talent and used it. Her books are well crafted, and her protagonists unforgettable. This week, I'm reading my way through the Mancini series and being impressed all over again. I don't want her to be gone.

Monday, July 01, 2019


Went to a glass show, which was pretty darn incredible. Hundreds if not thousands of glass works from all over the world. Some of them sold for upwards of  $50,000 and none were under $5,000 so not in my price range for sure. Looking was enough and trying not to trip and fall on anything. 

Saw the filmed version of La Boheme from the Met. Astounding because the singer who played Mimi stood in the for a sick Mimi and had just sung Madame Butterfly the night before. We have two movie theaters that play operas, ballet, plays and music from various places. The closeups make up for it not being live.

Also saw The Last Black Man in San Francisco, which was sad, beautiful, original. Highly recommend. 

Echo Canyon is playing nearby. Wonder if Steve O. has seen it? Be more fun to see it with someone, but my friends are not rock fans.

Still working on getting things in order. Went to Secretary of State this week to put the car and registration in my name. But will I ever drive it? Don't know. It is quite a chore going on the site of every bill we get and changing the personal and billing information. Then going on my bank site and adding it there. Had to get a repairman to fix a noise in the furnace. Had to pull weeds for hours. Had to take my little cart to the grocery store and lug it home. Only a mile each way but the car is awkward. Have to look for better one.

But luckily I had glass shows and movies and books and opera and friends and tv to help out. 

What about you?

Friday, June 28, 2019


Lew Archer is hired by Alex Kincaid, to find his new wife, Dolly, who has suddenly disappeared. Archer takes the case when it is clear the police are uninterested and finds Dolly quickly, but, of course, complications arise. 

A man from her past has shown up at their hotel. This and the death of her college advisor, Helen Haggerty, has sent her into flight. She claims, in fact, that she's caused Helen’s death. Archer puts Dolly into a rest home with a man who has treated her in the past for similar incidents. Kincaid hangs around to keep an eye on her.

It seems that Dolly is linked to a number of mysterious deaths over a long period. The dean of the college Dolly attends also figures into the story at multiple points. He is dominated by his mother although puts up less of a fuss than you might expect.
This is very much a story about family relationships and how children can be manipulated by adults. The past has the present in a stranglehold in this book. Try as they might, the characters in THE CHILL are helpless but to follow a path they sometimes had no hand in making. Although many characters in THE CHILL only appear on the page for a minute or two, they are each given traits to be memorable. Archer himself is the least memorable and I think Macdonald planned it thusly. 

My favorite line, and one that sums up much of the plot, is "I'm beginning to hate old women."

Monday, June 24, 2019


Thing That Are Making Me Happy

It was sad going to Stratford for the first time without Phil, but it still beat sitting at home. BILLY ELLIOT was amazing. An eleven year old boy does every performance (six months, 3-4 times a week) and he was sensational as was the entire production. OTHELLO is always a problematic play for me because it is hard to believe Othello would be so easily persuaded his wife was cheating. Although they framed it well as both racism and sexism at work.
PRIVATE LIVES is amusing but I most see it now as a piece of theater history. Beautiful staging and sets in all three. If you live close enough to go to Stratford, you will be rewarded.

Also saw LATE SHOW this week, which was okay but not great. Kaling's humor never quite works for me. It is always so predictable. But Emma was terrific. Actually all the acting was good and I like the writer's room insights.

Reading a Michael Robotham book, which is terrific. He is one of my favorite writers these days.

Finished FOSSE AND VERDON, which was pretty great. (FX). 

Three sunny days. I think that is our record for this summer. 

What about you?

Monday, June 17, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Went to hear the first night of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Series where the Emerson String Quartet played three of Beethoven's string quartets. It was sublime. The festival goes on for two weeks and takes places in venues all over metro Detroit, many of them astoundingly gorgeous churches and synagogues. A few are in Windsor, Ontario and in Ann Arbor so it is truly a regional delight. I last heard the Emerson String Quartet perhaps thirty years ago and they have only gotten more sublime.

Watched FLEABAG again and I have to say the second season may be the best 180 minutes I have spent this year watching a performance. Heartbreaking, amusing, true.

Started a series called THE SOCIETY and it looks like the Christian right may have infiltrated Netflix. Not sure after only twenty minutes but the signs were there. 

Reading Kate Mulgrew's memoir. She is one smart cookie. For those who are unfamiliar with the name she was the sole female commander on a STAR TREK series, plays RED on OITNB and was Mary Ryan on Ryan's Hope in the seventies. Her writing is superb if a bit straining to be superb.

Hope you all had a happy father's day, fathers or not.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
Give Me Your Hand
Release date: Jul 02, 2019
A life-changing secret destroys an unlikely friendship in this "magnetic" (Meg Wolitzer) psychological thriller from the Edgar Award
Format: Print book
Giveaway ends in: 13 days and 17:06:39
Availability: 50 copies available, 4782 people requesting
Giveaway dates: Jun 15 - Jun 29, 2019
Countries available: U.S. 

Available on good reads

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Landscape with Fragmented Figures, Jeff Vande Zande (Bottom Dog Press, 2008)

It is hard to imagine this book taking place in a locale other than Michigan. If soldiers returning from war can be said to suffering post-traumatic stress disorders, many people in Michigan suffer similarly. Too many years of economic downturn takes a toll. An urban scholar doing a study of cities that have badly floundered, failed to find anyone with much optimism about the future of Detroit. (But now this has changed). This book captures that pessimism and angst.

Ray Casper is an artist, teaching at a small college in Bay City, Michigan. He's done some good work, is known as an inspirational teacher, has a nice relationship with his girlfriend, Diane. Suddenly, things begin to go awry. Diane, also an artist, leaves him. He loses his will to paint and desire to teach. He is unable to find solace with colleagues or friends. He is adrift even before his father dies, leaving many unresolved issues. His brother, a ne-er do well, Ray has never come to terms with, comes to live with him. Things continue their downward spiral as Ray comes to resemble his brother, Sammy, more and more.

This was a difficult book to read and yet I never put it down. Michigan is no longer hospitable to a diverse group of people: the blue-collar, Sammy; the artist, Ray; the student, Billy, who finds little support for finding a way to make a living or getting an education. The writing is fluid, the story poignant, but the book's most important strength is its clear-sighted and unabashed presentation of truth. That truth also examines the nature of art and the artist.

There are no heroes in this book. Just real people trying to find some joy in life, trying to find a reason to go on.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Sandra Seamans Day

And so it began:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Well, I'm Here

Okay, so I've finally surrendered to the world of blogs. Welcome to my little corner of the world, pull up a chair, get comfortable, and let's see if we can find something to talk about. 

And Sandra Seamans indeed found a lot of things to talk about. I doubt there was ever a blog that celebrated short story writing as well and a fully as MY LITTLE CORNER. Nor one that served a community as thoroughly and as selflessly as hers. She found her niche surprisingly quickly and although she claimed she mostly started a blog so she could participate in flash fiction challenges (remember those) it required hours of work for Sandra to pull up the information she did so willingly.
And it was also clear that she read many blogs herself and there were a lot of them back in 2008. 

If you go through the ten plus years of entries, you will see names come and go, zines come and go, contests come and go. And nobody was a bigger champion of other people's success than Sandra. Her "little Snoopy Dance" was always joyous. If someone wanted to a history of the online crime short story community over the last twenty years, her blog would be the place to start. A place to collect every contest, every call for submissions, the writers, the ups and downs of the business, and on and on.

In 2015, in the course of a week, Sandra lost her husband and mother and a lot of the joy went out of her. Although she came back to blogging, it was not about writing short stories so much as continuing her service to her fellow short story writers. How brave.

I only ever knew Sandra online but somehow it seemed like I knew her pretty well. She was candid on her blog. And we shared a year of reading short stories. Brian Lindenmuth suggested the challenge and initially there were quite a few participants, but by the end it was mostly Sandra, Brian and me.
Reading a short story every day doesn't seem like an onerous task but the mere chore of finding 365 stories you are willing to read was harder than we thought. Anyway, through her blog and through flash fiction challenges and through this assignment, I felt like I knew Sandra well.

Here are a few words from short story great, Art Taylor.

"In my writing courses at George Mason University and in any workshop I led elsewhere, I regularly devoted a section of my PowerPoint to resources for writers trying to market their short fiction. At the top of the first slide was My Little Corner, and I felt like I could never say enough about Sandra’s expertise on short story markets, her dedication to staying on top of market news, and her advocacy always on behalf of the authors, finding opportunities for us and warning us about venues to avoid. I never met Sandra in person, sadly, but she and I chatted sometimes, mostly in the comments section of My Little Corner. When she included something about me in her posts, she called me a “friend of the blog,” but in our own way in this age of online interactions, I felt like she and I were actual friends. I’m sorry I missed the chance to let her know how very much I appreciated her and her work." 

An interview from 2012 on DO SOME DAMAGE.
Some words from Paul Brazill 
Sandra on PULP CURRY 
Here are some words from Kate Laity
And from Sandra Ruttan 

Sandra's collection of stories COLD RIFTS is out of print, but it won't take much effort to find many of her stories online. A particular favorite of mine was one she wrote for a flash fiction challenge I ran a long time ago. The challenge was to write a story that uses the song  "SWEET DREAMS." Hers was clever and beautifully rendered. Google "Repeat Offenders" if you care to sample it. It's just a thousand words after all. Just a short story. But for Sandra and a few others, a good short story is the gold standard of writing.

Goodbye, Sandra. We will miss you.

Friday, June 07, 2019

FFB-CITY OF BONES, Michael Connelly

Is there anyone whose words on the page capture police life better than Connelly? He is as patient a writer as Bosch is a cop. CITY OF BONES opens with a dog finding bones of a child who probably died about 1980. The kid's death was the last of a long line of abuses he suffered.
Bosch patiently follows leads and false leads to a good conclusion. Lots of memorable scenes and characters but Bosch is the one our eyes follow. Highly recommend.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

First Wednesday Book Reviews

Jonathan Santlofer' THE WIDOWER'S NOTEBOOK tells the true story of the unexpected and somewhat mysterious death of his wife, Joy, after minor knee surgery. The day after her procedure, Jonathan is in the next room at home when he hears her cry out. He calls EMS immediately, but they are unable to save her. The book tells the story of their very happy marriage, and the months and then years following her death.

This book was very pertinent to me, of course. My situation shared some characteristics of his (long happy marriage) but was different in other aspects (suddenness v. long illness).  It was beautifully written and illustrated by Mr. Santlofer, who is a writer and an artist. He was able to capture his wife with words and a pen equally well. I found this book a particular comfort, but I think his journey is one many people would find worth reading about.

For other book reviews, check out Barrie Summy's blog.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019


Agnes Varda directed this film in 1977 and it's  the most comprehensive look at being a young woman in that era I've seen. It confronts both the problems of unwanted pregnancy and the problems of wanted ones. Two young women meet in 1962, both wrestling with their womanhood. This was such a specific look at the Roe v Wade era-but in France, with short trips to Amsterdam and Iran. It was very good in most respects although long interludes of singing nearly derailed it for me. Men are given pretty short shrift in this film-a real ground-breaker in that regard. At its heart, it's about female friendship, a rare thing in a film that was not a comedy.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

I am determined to find some things that are making me happy. And one is the lovely hydrangea, George Kelly's gift allowed me to put in my garden.There are actually two of them because they were having a sale. This was Phil's favorite shrub and we always had a bunch of them around before this house. Thanks, George.
The HULU show, CATCH 22, is making me happy. And rewatching DEADWOOD before I see the movie. Also the second season of FLEABAG. It starts strong and just keeps building. Liked the documentary THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM at the theater.

As I am knee-deep still in financial stuff and shredding my past, I am going to leave it at this.

What about you?

P.S. We are going to celebrate Sandra Seamans online next Monday. If you knew her or have anything to say about her, let me know.

Friday, May 31, 2019


Mitch Bartoy was in the first writing workshop I took at Wayne State. He was head and shoulders above all of the other students in terms of his progress, talent, drive. And sure enough in 2005 Minotaur published his book. It was the story of a cop in Detroit in 1943. Of course, it's about race, class and corruption. It captured Detroit well, and also its wealthiest suburb, Grosse Pointe. A ton of research went into it.

Mitch had spent years on this first novel, working as a postal employee to support his family. His contract was for two books and things began to go wrong for Mitch pretty quickly. His kids got sick, his agent left him, his publisher wasn't happy with his progress on the second novel. It eventually came out and died a quick death. He needed the time he had taken with his first book and he had none of it.

As far as I know, his career ended there. Maybe he is writing under another name and is wildly successful. I hope so.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

R.I.P. Sandra Seamans-MY LITTLE CORNER

Sandra Seamans served the writing community selflessly by posting contests and calls for stories on her blog, MY LITTLE CORNER. She wrote wonderful stories herself until the dual deaths in 2015 of her husband and mother. She never bounced back from her grief. I am sure she died before her time due to that blow. A collection of her stories was published as an ebook by SNUBNOSE PRESS but when the press closed, her ebook disappeared. Some are lucky enough to have it on their e-reader.

Friday, May 24, 2019


(from the archives)
I am a big Larry Watson fan and LET HIM GO did not disappoint. It is a great followup to books like WHITE CROSSES and MONTANA: 1948.

After their adult son is killed in an accident, his widowed wife marries again and leaves the Blackledge's home to go with her new husband to Montana. She takes their grandson with her, of course, and therein lies the problem.

"With you or without you," Margaret Blackledge insists, and at these words George knows his only choice is to follow her.

George takes to the road with Margaret by his side, tracking down the Weboy clan quickly. When Margaret tries to convince Lorna to return home to North Dakota, bringing little Jimmy with her, the Blackledges find themselves mixed up with the entire Weboy clan, a horrific family determined not to give the boy up without a fight. It's more about possession than love with a family like this. 

This slim volume contains a heart-pounding story, unforgettable characters, terrific atmosphere and some of the most beautiful prose you will ever read. I liked it almost as much as MONTANA: 1948.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

This is the hardest chore yet. The clothes.
I could ask someone else to do it-to fold them and bag them up. But clothes were very important to him and so now they are important to me. Folding each piece carefully as if he will be judged by their presentation at a donation center.
He had beautiful shirts. None were just a dull oxford blue. They were peacock colors, dozens of them Linen, a special favorite. Hell to iron though.
The same with the sweaters, Cashmere. Fitted.
He was not an extravagant man in any way, but he loved looking nice. A friend referred to him as dapper. That's about as close to it as I can get. I have heard stories about widows holding onto things years later. It always seemed crazy until now.

Friday, May 03, 2019


Sometimes belonging to a book group makes you read books you would never have come across on your own. This is one of them.

The story takes place in the years of the Second World War in the Mississippi Delta. It's told in multiple voices, which gives us insight into a number of characters, all of them wrestling with the lot fate has dealt them.

Two returning soldiers both struggle with what the war has done to them--one white, one black. The black soldier has actually been treated better as a soldier in Europe than he will ever be in the South of the 1940s.

The black soldier's family, sharecroppers, wrestle with the indignities forced on them in that era (leaving stores by back doors, taking what's left over of virtually everything).

The wife of the land owner (and they are not rich either) is college-educated but must live in a shack when her husband loses their potential house to a sharper bidder. Their marriage is not an easy one.

All of these characters have noble moments and lesser ones. This is a sad book but one that will stay with you. Netflix made a good movie of it too.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

As you can imagine-not too much

And yet, Phil's memorial service was simply beautiful. I asked about eighteen of our friends, family, and Phil's students to remember him through reading from his own work, through poetry he loved, through reminiscences of their years with him, through music. It turned out wonderfully. About 150 crammed into the place. People came from St. Louis, DC, NY, Flagstaff, Ohio, etc. People postponed trips to be there and if one word resonated throughout the service, it was kind. His students, and there were many of them, all concurred on his kindness to them

Some very good friends, hosted a party afterward. The Abbott family felt bathed in the affection every one expressed.

I'll be back. Keep the lights on.

Friday, April 26, 2019

C'est Fin

Philip Reading Abbott was born on October 18, 1944 in New Hope, PA. His father, William Harvey Abbott was in the Merchant Marine  and overseas. Bill Abbott would return and become a shop owner, taking over a business, which had been previously run by his father-in-law, Joseph Reading.  Phil's mother, Beryl, helped run the business.  In 1949, a second son, Billy, was born.
Phil earned a bachelor's degree from American University in D.C. in 1966 and Master's and Ph.D degrees at Rutgers University in 1971. He began teaching at Wayne in 1970 at the age of 25. During his years at WSU, Phil published 14 books, more than 40 articles and countless book reviews.  I will cede a recitation of his academic career to his colleagues.
Phil and I met in the summer of 1965. I was seventeen, he was twenty. We married in 1967 and moved to New Brunswick. In the years since, there has never been a day that Phil didn't make brighter. He was my biggest supporter, my biggest champion.  When I finally found I enjoyed writing, he read early (and later) drafts of every story I wrote and always claimed they were perfect and didn't need a word changed. We always has so much to say to each other, so much to enjoy together. He was the one I most wanted to tell something to, and I know he felt the same way.
His childhood was a hard one and the lesson he took from it was to be the best husband and father he could. I'm sure his colleagues believe he devoted his entire life to scholarship, and indeed he was a very productive scholar, and a devoted teacher. He understood Wayne students were mostly first- generation college kids. Phil was the first in his family to finish high school. His parents did not imbue him with confidence and ambition, and he felt many of his students were also very much on their own too. Every class he taught got his full attention. Every exam he graded did too. He felt it was his duty to talk in class about books, movies, and other cultural events that his students might not hear about otherwise.  He didn't use the classroom to proselytize.  Hopefully educated students would make good decisions about politics through the historical lessons he spoke and wrote about.
But Phil's greatest devotion was always to his family. He was available to us whenever we needed him. And it was all the time. President of the PTO at Grosse Pointe North High school, managing and then coaching baseball teams, taking Megan to art classes at CCS on Saturdays, being the room parent that went to Toronto twice with fifth grade classes on buses. He was very glad his kids were never embarrassed about having him around at school and at other functions. He was so proud of his two kids, both of whom strived to succeed in school, in their professions, as moral people, in life. And having a grandson, we were able to spend a lot of time with for his first ten years was the ultimate pleasure.  And both of his children's achievements were a great source of pride.  
I am sure the time ahead of me will be as difficult as these last years have been. But I so many good memories to sustain me. How lucky I was to have such a long time with such a good and generous man. I want to thank the many people who have helped us shoulder the load of these last years. I am sure it would have been immeasurably worse without the help of family and friends.  As I was lucky in a husband, and lucky with my family, I am lucky with my friends.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

SHORT STACK, Reed Farrel Coleman

This is a collection of stories and poems by Reed Farrel Coleman. The terrific cover is by his son, Dylan. Debuting today, it can be purchased at the usual places. Some mighty fine reading if the stories of his I have read in the past are any indication.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

RIP my beloved husband

Died today at 4:00. He reached for my hand, I gave it to him, he died.

Monday, April 22, 2019


On a temporary hiatus. Love to all.

Monday, April 15, 2019


I don't have much this week. I have barely been out of the house. Phil is sleeping most of the time now although he is in no pain. I hired a new hospice, which seems much better.
I am watching HORACE AND PETE on Hulu, which troubles me a bit because of Louis C..K but boy, there is some great acting: Laurie Metcalf and Alan Alda, in particular. Love BETTER THINGS with Pamela Adlon.
Lots of rain here. There better be May flowers.
Reading TRUST EXERCISE by Susan Choi.
Sticking with THE OA but not sure why.
What about you?

Friday, April 12, 2019


Books I read in 1987.

'Be True to Your School' was written from a  diary Bob Greene kept during his junior year in high school. In it's richness is found it's timeless joy. This is a great snapshot of the awkward, humble, fumbling, funny and adventurous transition from boy to young adult.

Whether you're a man or woman though, Baby Boomer or not, if you love friendships, discovery of the opposite sex, popular music as a soundtrack to life, and fun, fun, fun, you will love this book.

The single most universal reaction from readers of this book, if not spoken, then felt, has to be the frustrating wish that Mr. Greene had continued making entries in his diary past his junior year. You'll love the characters, the small town and the adventures that surely must await.

We want more!!

A wonderful and poignant prologue, of sorts, by Mr. Greene is the also true, "And You Know You Should be Glad".
 P.S This was probably the last joyful year of the sixties before the war and its associated events and traumas tore us apart.  Much of this review was taken from amazon commenters. I wish I could read it again. My only note on the page in my diary was "Fun.!"

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Forgotten Movies: OFFICE SPACE

For a very long time I have heard people remark on how much they like this movie. Having seen it, I can't understand why. It's a pleasant enough two hours, but not half as funny as I expected and really, so tame. Ron Livingstone plays a guy who works in a cubicle for a soulless company. He is unable to voice even a mild complaint about his treatment. When he is encouraged to seek hypnosis to make him more aggressive, he is left in limbo as a guy who just does what he wants. I expected what he wants to be much funnier or at least funny. But it is also too tame. I wish someone would tell me why they liked this movie because I sure missed it. Jennifer Aniston is unmemorable as his girlfriend. She has forged a career with such bland parts. And I don't get that either.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

THings That Are Making Me Happy

Kevin got a dog! His name is Walter and he is 1/1/2 and part Corgi and part something else. This has been a long time coming.

Liked THE MUSTANG a lot. Bruce Dern stole the movie. Along with the gorgeous skies and mustangs.

Started watching THE OA. Not sure if I like it or not. Liked SHRILL (Hulu).

Thanks to the friends who  helped me out this week. None read my blog so I won't bother naming them. But boy, what would I do without the occasional lunch out, breakfast out, shopping trip, etc?
You can never have enough friends. I can testify to that. Special thanks to Karen who took Phil and me to see THE MUSTANG. A long drive for her, but boy there was nothing else to see.

Lots of nice walks. Wish Phil was with me but it's been a long time since that happened. Sort of horrible getting used to bad things.


Friday, April 05, 2019

FFB, GO WITH ME, Castle Freeman

Go With Me tells the story of a young woman's quest for help in dealing with an extremely dangerous man almost entirely in dialog. And what dialog it is, managing to be utterly natural and wholly poetic at the same time. I don't think the vagaries and parlance of conversation have even been put down on paper more convincingly.

This lean book is funny, scary, touching, and unpredictable. It reminds me of both Daniel Woodrell and Cormac McCarthy. But in the end, it's Castle Freeman's totally unique voice and humanity that makes this such a fine book.

Isn't it terrific when you discover a new writer? What was the last book someone recommended to you that was as good as promised?

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

First Wednesday Book Review: MAISIE DOBBS, Jacqueline Winspear

I read this book when it was first published in 2003 and suggested it to my book group a few months ago when they wanted to read a mystery. This is a mystery with some heft to it in terms of setting, character, plot.

It opens with Miss Maisie Dobbs setting up shop in England in 1929. She's not exactly the typical PI, but instead specializes in helping people solve psychological issues, especially problems related to the war. She has been a nurse in France and seen many of the issues confronting people even years later. She has also experienced some herself.

Most of the book is devoted to her background, how she became a servant in a rich household, and how her intelligence and ambition won her the freedom to acquire an education. This is a delightful book, which manages to portray almost every character with sympathy. Highly recommended. A slew of books have followed the first. 

More reviews are at Barrie Summy's blog. 

Monday, April 01, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

We had a quick visit from Megan although she was either on the phone or writing scripts most of the time. They begin shooting in two weeks so she is even more harried than usual. Being a show-runner means there is no detail of any aspect of the show she is not involved with. They are using almost entirely female directors and writers. Since most of the characters are women, it makes sense. USA moved the show to January so it and BRIARPATCH could debut together.
Rereading MAISIE DOBBS for my book group. What a self-assured first novel that was. Although there is very little mystery in this first book.
Really liked the movie TRANSIT if it comes your way.
Started watching HANNA, which seems okay but maybe not terrific. Phil liked the three seasons of BILLIONS he watched.
Enjoyed THE HIGHWAYMEN. Costner and Harrelson make a good team. Maybe TRUE DETECTIVE 4. 
What about you?

Here's the story on Margot Kinberg.