Friday, July 03, 2020


The Elizabeth Stories, Isabel Huggan

Eight stories tracing the growth of the child, Elizabeth Kessler, over a ten-year period (ages 7-17) during the 1950s was published as The Elizabeth Stories by Oberon Press in 1984, and in 1987 by Viking Penguin in Great Britain and the United States, where it won the Quality Paperback New Voice Award in 1988 as well as the Best Fiction Prize from the Denver Quarterly. Huggan has won many awards for her writing.

I read the book in 1988 and enjoyed these stories about a girlhood in a small Ontario town very much. Elizabeth has a difficult mother who regards propriety as overly important. She is often misunderstood, often plays a subsidiary role in these stories but never plays a victim. I see this book is now categorized as YA but I don't remember it as anything other than a book of related stories about growing up. Are we not meant to take childhood seriously as adults? Huggan is a lovely writer and this is a model on how to write related stories.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Books read in June

Kerry Smith always posts the books she's read each month as do a few other bloggers. This was the most books I have read in a month in some time. Perhaps it is because I am not writing very much. I am trying to start a memoir although I have no experience in writing one. So far I am mostly writing history rather than my history. Anyway these are the books I read. Reading the NYT takes me an hour most days. I can't remember that in the past.


Poet of Tolstoy Park, Sonny Brewer

Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith

These Hills Are Made of Gold, Pam Zhang

Eight Perfect Murders, Peter Swanson

Nothing to See Here, Kevin Wilson

Born a Crime, Trevor Noah

Between Them, Remembering My Parents, Richard Ford

 Two crime novels, one old, one new; two memoirs; three mainstream novels. I also read some scattered short stories. And I started at least four books I gave up on. I started one last night and gave up after 25 pages. It's usually the voice with me--just can't picture spending time with that person. Or the setting-in this case the Chicago World's Fair-I've been there already with Erik Larson (Devil in the White City). I will try it again in daytime. Sometime that has an affect on my reading.

How often do you put a book aside and then return to it?

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Shelfy Selfy

Not sure how much longer I am going to do this because most of the rest of my books probably wouldn't interest you. They are picture books or biographies or literary story collections, journals I have stories in or straight novels. Anyway, I have only read two of these books: STRAIGHT MAN by Russo and ROSEANNA by Sjowal and Wahloo. I love both of those writers but STRAIGHT MAN is Russo's funniest book, especially for those who are college teachers.

I have skimmed THE NOIR THRILLER, which was fun. I have tried to read ADELE by Slimani and found it too dark. I just bought the Pochoda book. Phil always said COME CLOSER by Sara Gran was too scary for me. I loved DOPE by Gran but haven't read any of the Claire DeWitt books.

I still might try it. The Nesbo I picked up in Florida just a few months ago but it seems more like years now. And DEEP WATER by Highsmith has been recommended by Megan and Phil but I don't seem to get to it. DODGERS I picked up free at Bouchercon. Phil liked it but I haven't gotten to it. Let's face it, Phil was the better reader, especially after he retired and before he was too sick. Who is the better reader in your house?

Monday, June 29, 2020

Still here

I had forgotten that back in January I agreed to read and write a short introduction for a Canadian reprint of a book from the fifties entitled I AM NOT GUILTY, Frances Shelley Wees. Last week the book arrived along with a catalog, mentioning my introduction. Had forgotten all about it after so much time had passed.
Wees, a Canadian, was better known for her novel THE KEYS OF MY PRISON, also published by Vehicule Press. This task came my way via Brian Busby. So I am knee deep in that, trying to find something interesting to say beyond a plot summary.
Watching DEAD STILL, about a Victorian photographer who photographs the dead. Sound familiar? So far I haven't really gotten into it. I am kind of in a lull, having finished several viewing projects.
Read THE OTHER MRS. by Mary Kubick. Still working on BORN A CRIME by Trevor Noah. Also reading some short stories from Sarah Weinman's first anthology of domestic suspense.
Watched the Spike Lee movie DA FIVE BLOODS which was rather spoiled by the NYT opinion piece by Viet Nguyen who scolded Lee for being attuned to the problems of black soldiers, but oblivious to the ones of the Vietnamese. Nguyen had spent his whole life watching US Vietnam films that use the native Vietnamese as victims or murderers or servants and not real people.
Sad week. This virus has us by the throat! This needed to be handled at a federal level not state by state. Great piece on Michigan gov, Gretchen Whitmer in the NYT magazine.
How about you?

Friday, June 26, 2020

FFB-City of Nets, Otto Friedrich

Not quite finished this history, but it is long. And really great. If you are interested in Hollywood in the forties, this is the one to read. It begins with the influx of talent (composers, directors, actors) flooding into the country following Hitler's aggression in Europe in '39 and follows the story up to the Cold War, the McCarthy Hearings, etc.

It is not a celebrity gossip book although there are lots of juicy stories in it. It details the union struggles, the writers who came seeking a paycheck they could count on (Faulkner, Dreiser, Hemingway, etc) the composers whose talent was extremely misunderstood by the studios, how the war affected both the content and cast of Hollywood, the goofiness of many of the studio chiefs in handling and mishandling talent.

City of Nets is the work of a gifted historian and writer. Highly recommended

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Another Shelfy

A PRAYER FOR THE DYING is a terrific account of another plague if you have the guts for it. A doctor returns from duties during the Civil War and finds his entire small town is dying from a disease. He has to decide who to treat and how. Great book. Told in poetic language. O'Nan has said he alternates short books with long ones and this like Last Night at the Lobster is a shorty. I have most of Woodrell's books but this is one (Tomato Red) I haven't read. Winter's Bone is my favorite. Two books from Hard Case Crime, both with Jason Starr.

I don't hear much from HCC anymore. Are they still publishing? The Awakening, read it for a course. And, of course, it is a classic. Memento Mori, now I know I read this on a Muriel Spark binge, but I have little memory of it. It seems like it's about a person who makes unpleasant phone calls to a group of friends. Seems like it's worth reading again. Name of the Game is Death, Dan Marlowe. A terrific noir. Pretty terrifying if I remember it. Woman on the Roof, Helen Nielsen, never took it out of the plastic cover. I bought it when I was supposed to be on a panel about forgotten female writers. I think I ended up not going to that conference so I never read it.

Have you read any of these?

Also: DNR can mean a range of things, which I didn't realize. For instance, if you come off of a ventilator, putting you back on one constitutes resuscitation. This may differ from state to state or even hospital to hospital, but check it out before putting that bracelet on a wrist.