Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "THe Blue Lenses" Daphne DuMaurier

"The Blue Lenses" is another story from DON'T LOOK NOW. a collection by Daphne Du Maurier. This story so much resembled a TWILIGHT ZONE episode I was convinced I could find it online. But the somewhat similar TZ episode was THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER and not this story.

Marda West is in the hospital following surgery on her eyes. At first her eyes are completely bandaged and she lies in bed with nothing to occupy her days. The doctor and hospital staff care for her, feed and bathe her. Her husband visits when he can get away. 

When the bandages are removed, her temporary lenses, make the staff and doctor looks like various animals from the head up. Her surgeon has a dog’s head. Her day nurse has the head of a cow. Nurse Ansel has the head of a snake and her husband Jim, that of a vulture with a “blood-soaked beak.” At first she thinks the nurses are playing a cruel trick on her, but eventually she comes to realize  she has been granted the  ability to see those around her as they really are. The lenses have removed blindness both literal and metaphorical. 

She is frightened, of course, especially when she sees that people on the street resemble animals too. Marda manages to insult everyone with her terror of their looks and eventually attempts to run away. She is captured and endures another surgery to correct the problem. This time she awakes to normal faces on everyone around her. There is one final scene you can read for yourself. You might guess what it is.


George Kelley

Monday, January 17, 2022

Monday, Monday


If you've never seen his yearly tribute (David Erlich: I hadn'T) here is 2021.

I enjoyed the Signature Theater's tribute to Stephen Sondheim's music this weekend. It was on you tube for two days and they did quite a number of his most famous songs. Especially from MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, which was a flop when first produced. In Merrily the characters age from old to young and as we speak Richard Linklater is making a movie where just that happens. Unfortunately the movie won't be out until 2040 when the young cast (Beanie Feldstein, Ben Platt) is old enough to play the older cast--must as he did with BOYHOOD. I saw one production at the Signature Theater (Arlington VA) in 2019 of ASSASSINS and enjoyed it but I knew very little about Sondheim then. The last two years have caught me up a bit.

Listened to GOODBYE COLUMBUS again. I have probably read this novella half a dozen times. It is a sort of touchstone to my youth. Also still reading HAMNET (excellent) and APPLES NEVER FALL by Liane Moriarty.

On TV I am watching the Jerry House recommended BEFOREIGNERS, which is very clever and YELLOW JACKETS, which I don't like as much as the reviews promised me I would. In my rewatch of CHEERS I am on the last season and after two great seasons, the last two have fallen off in quality. 

It has been very cold here but sunny and no snow in two weeks. Today it might be warm enough for a walk. I try to walk around my house to get some exercise but it is difficult. What do you do for exercise in the winter and what else are you doing? It must be great to be in FL or CA and be able to walk every day.

Friday, January 14, 2022


Reviewed by Ed Gorman in 2016 

  THE INNOCENT MRS. DUFF Elizabeth Sanxay Holding

One of the more familiar knocks on mystery fiction is that it rarely treats death seriously. That too often murder is simply the device that propels the story and not much more. I think that's a fair criticism and I certainly include my own work as being guilty of that particular sin. Murder, even literary murder, should HURT.

I'd also add to that criticism the various addictions common to the genre, namely alcoholism and drug addiction. Only Lawrence Block and a few others have taken us into the real world of recovering alcoholics. For the most part addiction has become just another keystroke common to the world of mystery fiction.

I've read three novels in my life that have described accurately--in my experience as an alcoholic--the horrors of being drunk most of your life. Certainly Under The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry, After the First Death by Lawrence Block and a novel you've probably never heard of, though alcoholic Raymond Chandler pushed it as one of the finest suspense novels of his time.

For some reason, much as I've pushed her here, I'd never read THE INNOCENT MRS. DUFF by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding. It is remarkable in many ways, not least because the protagonist, Jacob Duff is drunk for virtually the entire novel. And we see 95% of the book through his eyes. Functionally drunk for most of it but also falling-down drunk in places. Holding's genius was to sustain a sense of dread that I don't think even Ruth Rendell has equaled. There are times in her novels when I have to put the book down for a few minutes. They are that claustrophobic in mood and action.

That's the first most remarkable aspect of the book. The second most remarkable is the fact that we see the book through the eyes of one of the most arrogant, self-involved, cold and self-deluded man I've ever encountered in fiction of any kind. I hated the bastard so much--I'm not enamored of the upper-classes, alas, and Duff embodies everything I loathe about them--I almost gave up after chapter three. I wasn't sure I wanted to learn anything more about this jerk,

But Holding has the voodoo, at least for me. She makes me turn pages faster than any best-seller because what you're rushing to discover is the fate of her people. All the good folks in this one are women, especially Duff's younger, beautiful and very decent wife. He constantly compares her unfavorably to his first wife, though we soon learn that he didn't care much for his first wife, either. At age forty he's still looking for his dream woman. God have mercy on her soul if he ever finds her.

As always with Holding, as with much of Poe, what we have is not so much a plot (though she's as good as Christie) as a phantasmagoria of despair, distrust and suspicion that consumes the protagonist. Is his wife cheating on him? Is she setting up his death so she'll inherit his estate? Is she turning his young son against him? Has his wealthy aunt, his life-long mentor and mother confessor, taken the side of his young wife? Has his drinking disgraced him in his small town and are all those smirks aimed at him? And finally, is he a murderer? And why does he have to sneak around these days to drink?

If you're curious about Holding, this is a good place to start. Anthony Boucher always said that she was the mother of all psychological suspense novelists. What's interesting is how few, fifty-some years after her death, have come close to equaling her enormous powers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "Kiss Me Again, Stranger" Daphne DuMaurier


The link above is to a filmed version that played on SUSPENSE in 1953.

Our narrator tells us that he has never had much interest in women, preferring a quiet regular life. He has found a job in a garage and has a bedroom with an elderly couple, which suits him fine. He eats with them and even visits friends along with them. He likes his boss and sends money to his mother. But one night at a movie theater, he meets an usherette who changes all that. His immediate attraction seems reciprocated and he finds himself on a bus trip to the end of the line. Walking back, she notices a cemetery and encourages him to come sit on a gravestone with her. He tells her about his life: he spend the war in the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) and she tells him how her parents were killed by the German flyers. She sends him home eventually and the next day he buys a piece of jewelry for her and goes back to the cinema. Of course, she is gone.

This seemed like a ghost story until the end. I won't tell you anymore in case you decide to read it. It was a very absorbing story and the two characters were well fleshed out. 

Kevin Tipple

Jerry House


Frank Babics 

George Kelley 

Monday, January 10, 2022

Monday, Monday


An odd week. Lots of sun, which is unusual for Michigan in the winter, but cold so sidewalks are icy with the last snow still. The number of sick grows in Michigan, but driving past restaurants last night, filled with patrons, it's like most people have shrugged and are letting fate take its course.

Three great movies this week. Loved THE LOST DAUGHTER, because the issues it examines: motherhood and a woman having a career are so seldom looked at. Hard to believe this is Maggie Gylenhall's first directing/writing job. It reminded me so much of a movie by Eric Rohmer or Bergman, perhaps a bit of both. And yet the subject is so much Ferrante, who wrote the novel is it based on.

Also loved the philosophical NINE DAYS. You can rent it on Amazon for $6. Sort of a combo of WINGS OF DESIRE and DEFENDING YOUR LIFE although no humor in it. 

THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH was so well directed and filmed. Although I didn't quite buy a Macbeth and Lady this old, it was credible. And so many lovely supporting roles. Saw this at a theater where there were perhaps 25 people on a Wednesday afternoon at 2.

Reading HAMNET for my book group and it is terrific. It is the story of the death of William Shakespeare's son from the Black Death. I think this is one we will all like and finish. 

Anxious to see the last episode of STATION ELEVEN this week. Then I will hopefully watch it all over again to pick up the many things I missed. It is not a show to watch with your phone in hand because you miss to much. Just started YELLOW JACKETS on SHOWTIME. I can't believe how many streaming channels I have now. But what else is there beside books and TV.

Megan made reservations to come out the last weekend in January. It seemed like things would calm down by then but I am not sure. The largest hospital group had a full page ad in the local paper saying they are at capacity and so you better do what you need to to say out of the hospital. But nothing seems to stop these people from going bare-faced and vaccinated wherever they want. Sad that Michigan went right from Delta to Omicron.

What's new with you?

Friday, January 07, 2022



At age seven, Frank Rich became addicted to the theater. Living in D.C. he saw a lot of shows on their way to Broadway, and ones that never got there. To me, watching a boy find his niche so early and pursue it so ardently was fascinating. His interest in theater also saved him during his parents' divorce and subsequent remarriages. His stepfather is a brute in some respects, but he also loved the theater and supported Rich's ardor for it. Rich's ambivalence becomes ours.

Although the memoir ends before Rich found his way to reviewing plays for the New York Times, most people who picked this book up in 2001 and later know that. It is too bad he didn't write about that in a second volume but maybe it is not as gripping a story as this one. Highly recommended for theater lovers.