Friday, September 20, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Books: Beautiful Ruins

BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jesse Walter does a very smooth job of juggling multiple narratives set in multiple time periods. We always know where we are and whom we are with. The prose is elegant, the scenes in Italy inviting. If that small village doesn't exist, it should thanks to the writing here.

The disaster that was CLEOPATRA was being made in the main narrative. A young actress in the film, believing herself to be dying, comes to a remote island where she is tended to by Pasquale, a young Italian hotel owner of a hotel so small that she is the only guest. Other stories intersect with this one.(Richard Burton is a minor player that we never see without a bottle in his hand. Surely we have something else to learn about him).Pasquale is being shaken down for protection money, but this story is also not developed.

Unfortunately many of the other minor characters in BEAUTIFUL RUINS didn't capture my interest and I was anxious to get back to the primary story rather than these less interesting ones.The book I would have loved would have focused on the young actress, the young hotel owner, and the circumstances of 1962. Of course it was not my story to tell.

We see the actress at various points in her life, but because they are not chronological it is often hard to invest in them. We also come to know her son, an producer's assistant, a writer trying to pitch a story, the producer himself who meddles again and again to disastrous consequences. Flash forward into the future and the romanticism of that small island in Italy is lost. If Hollywood is supposed to come alive, it never does. We know just how venal Hollywood is from so many other examinations. And the scenes in Spokane are even less involving.

This was certainly far from a bad book. But the pages didn't turn effortlessly.
I listened to this on audio. Perhaps that distanced me. Reading a print book always works best for me.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Had a great week in DC visiting my brother and his wife in Virginia and old friends in Maryland. Loved both movies, liked the play (Sondheim) had several great meals, went to an exhibit at the National Geographic Museum on the Queens of Egypt, saw two old friends from my childhood (separately) went to Leesburg (mostly restaurants now) and got lost in a park. All great fun.

What about you if you are not tired of telling it?

Monday, September 09, 2019

Friday, September 06, 2019


I had to do a little work to get myself a copy of Dan J. Marlowe's THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH (from the archives).  I just want to list what made it such a perfect book to me.

1) the complexity of the protagonist

2) the writing-lucid, tense, succinct

3) the way Marlow integrates a necessary back story into the plot. Now a lot of writers today would say, we don't need to know all of this about him. I disagree. Without this info, he's just a psycho. Now he's a psycho, yes, but with grounding.

4) the length of the book. Truly you couldn't take much more of this degree of excitement.

5) the atmosphere, which is just exactly right for the plot, character, etc.

6) the integration of the violent aspects with the prosaic ones

7) the motivation for what happens. Because of the back story, we get it.

8) the ending.

I could go on and on. What did you like about this book if you've read it? If not, what book would you nominate for a perfect little gem? And I guess what "little" means is under 250 pages.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

WHAT THE EYES DON'T SEE, Mona Hanna Attisha

In 2014, virtually with no one looking or investigating the safeness of the switch, the state of Michigan shifted the source of Flint's water from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Almost immediately citizens complained about the color or the water, the taste, but they went unheard.

Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha took the officials at their word initially and told her pediatric patients' parents that the water was safe. But over a brief period of time, children were getting sicker and early studies began to trouble the doctor.

This book details her fight to obtain undeniable truth that the water was full of lead and to get city and state officials to admit it and do something about it. Time after time, people who should be on the side of the citizens, turned a deaf hear, preferring to either ignore or uphold the lies being bandied about.

This is a very disheartening book because you know similar problems exist in other cities (Newark) and are especially prevalent in black areas. When this was first noticed in Flint, GM and state offices received water that was not from the Flint River. So even here distinctions were made by state officials.

The dire nature of the story is somewhat lightened by Attisha's story of her own family and their trip to the US from Iraq. They are a family of activists indeed.

For more book reviews, go to Barrie Summy's blog. 

Monday, September 02, 2019

Things That are Making Me Happy

Happy Labor Day!

Enjoying HUNTING GAME by Helene Tursten. I am always amazed when a writer is able to present a milieu as successfully as she does with a hunting lodge and hunting itself in Sweden. Of course, maybe it is her scene. Will have to try her other series.

I am sad to be finished MINDHUNTER, where I liked the personal stories as much as the Atlanta Child Killer plot. Although it was pretty brilliant all around. Also enjoying TRAPPED on Prime. Thanks, Jeff.  Still enjoying SUCCESSION on HBO.

Had a nice family dinner Friday night. Kevin is getting taller by the minute. He is going to play hockey, soccer, cross-country and tennis this fall. As well as begin to learn the bass guitar along with the one he's been playing for years. The music teacher says most guitar players can play more than one thing. Today's parents, at least ones that can afford it because no school sports are free nowadays) are so busy getting their kids to various events.

What about you?