Wednesday, December 07, 2022

First Wednesday Book Review Club: THE BLUEST EYE, Toni Morrison


My book group decided to choose a banned book for our November choice. THE BLUEST EYE is certainly on of the most of ten banned books. We read BELOVED years ago and had always meant to read another book by Toni Morrison. 

This was Morrison's first book and I can't imagine there are many stronger first novels. She tells us in the Forerward that the origin of the story lay in a conversation she had with another student when she was in elementary school. The little girl told her she wanted blue eyes. As Morrison thought about this, she was repelled by the idea. She saw the statement as "racial self-loathing." In America, beauty is measured against the dominant white race. How could a black child, especially a girl, have any self-esteem if they were constantly told they could never be beautiful or worthwhile because of the color of their skin.

Percola Breedlove prays every night for beauty, which she defines as blond hair and blue eyes. Possession of these attributes will help her to fit in with her classmates. This is a novel not easily summed up in a few paragraphs. Percola has even more indignities thrust upon her over the course of this story. The writing in this novel is exquisite, lyrical, enriching. The first few chapters make the book seem more difficult than it is. It settles into a manageable read although a shocking one. Set in Lorain Ohio, it might as well be the Deep South of a hundred years earlier. A truly amazing book.  

For more First Wednesday Book Reviews, visit Barrie Summy.

Short Story Wednesday: THE NEW YORK STORIES OF EDITH WHARTON: "Mrs. Manstey's View"


"Mrs. Manstey's View" was Edith Wharton's first published story. Although I've read several of Wharton's novels, I have not read many of her stories. This one, written at age 29, is already masterful. Although it may seem dated in its style and language, it is a slight flaw that in no way ruins a story.

Mrs. Manstey, an elderly woman, sits at her window, which overlooks several backyards, most of the day. She is content with this life--so content, in fact, that when visitors come it is hard for her to look at them instead of the Rear Windowish view outside. 

Her landlady informs her that their next door neighbor is about to build an extension on her house that will block Mrs. Manstey's view. Mrs. Manstey gathers herself up and goes to see the woman and offers her money to stop construction. It is half of all the money in her bank account. The woman agrees to consider the offer and promises not to allow the construction to begin the next day. But, of course, it does. Mrs. Manstey deals with it in the only way she can think of. 

Now I am an elderly lady that looks out my window from time to time. What I see though are high-end car dealers, a Walgreens, and a gas station. Also trees that make a nice green cover part of the year. There is nothing blooming though and no servants to watch preparing meals. If I had rented an apartment on the other side of the hallway, I would have a very different view, more small town and less urban.


George Kelley


Monday, December 05, 2022

Monday, Monday

 Two great movies via streaming services. The British magazine SIGHT AND SOUND ranked Jeanne Dielman as its number one movie, moving Vertigo to number two. They rank one-hundred films. Other changes added more movies from female and black directors and two animated movies. 

What movie would you put number one?

I watched Jeanne Dielman. At three and a half hours, it was long. It detailed three days in the life of a mother and her son. I'm sure it's not for everyone, but I thought it was fabulous. I don't mind watching people live their life though. Or read about it. 

I also watched the new version of Lady Chatterley's Lover on Netflix, which I also loved. 

Haven't seen that much sex in a movie in years. It was well-acted, directed and beautifully filmed.

Reading Mrs. Dalloway in preparation for seeing the opera streaming from Lincoln Center next Saturday. 

Celebrated Kevin's 16ht birthday. Impossible to believe. 

What about you?

Friday, December 02, 2022

FFB: IDENTICAL STRANGERS, Elysse Schein and Paula Bernstein (2007)



Jeff mentioned this book on here not long ago. I have always found "twins" an interesting subject. I know two sets of female twins. One identical, one fraternal. I have never known a male set of twins.

The same adoption agency that played the villain in THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS (Netflix doc) were involved in the adoption of these twins too. In their mid-thirties, Elysse and Paula learn of each other's existence. They quickly meet and their immediate elation is a feeling that comes and goes for each of them as they try to adjust to what they've lost by the separation and what they now have. Both women have had issues with mental illness, mostly minor but impactful ones. One has a husband and two kids (eventually), the other lives in Paris alone. One is more eager for a close relationship. There are similarities-they both have been involved with the film industry, but also differences. The two then try to find their birth mother and learn what happened to her--why she gave them up. An interesting book with its disappointments and successes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "Girl with an Ax" i(John Sanford) FROM SEA TO STORMY SEA and BEST MYSTERY STORIES of 2020


It is easy to see why this story was chosen for the best stories of 2020. Sanford is a master at character, atmosphere, place, all of it. Lots of readers especially of the mystery genre, claim they want action and yet there is no action in this story. It is all about the creation of a place and the people who inhabit it. Such lovely writing.

A woman finds her neighbor dead. She notifies the police, and the older woman's family comes and hires our protagonist to clean the digs out. They pay her almost nothing for her trouble and still she comes out on top because of their greed and haste in hiring her and selling the house. They want to beat the traffic home and sell the house in a quick sale. Great detail about the music business, the art of Thomas Hart Benton, and Hollywood in a few thousand words. 

Lawrence Block asked writers to choose a painting and write a story about it. This is not so easy to pull off. Sanford certainly excelled at not being driven by the painting he chose.

Kevin Tipple

Jerry House 

George Kelley 

Casual Debris 


Todd Mason

Monday, November 28, 2022

Monday, Monday

Reading IDENTICAL STRANGERS (Jeff clued me) and enjoying it although THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS topped it because I saw it first and there was a third child. And both adoptions came from the same agency, which was exposed on the documentary. How many other lives did that place screw up. Infants are not able to give their consent to experiments!

Still reading THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUBS. I like the characters more than the mystery but maybe it will pick up. 

Saw A GLASS ONION after our Thanksgiving feast. I think I liked it the most of we six. Everyone else seemed to expect a different kind of ending. But I thought there was enough twists ahead of it. Also saw SHE SAID, which I thought was well done although I guess no one else is seeing it. Third, THE MENU, which was pretty good too.

Kevin is binging BREAKING BAD. I can't imagine doing that with such an intense show. He is not usually much of a TV watcher so this was a surprise. 

GO MICHIGAN. The Lions almost did it.

Watched THE HOURS on TV. A better movie than I remembered. Rewatched THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, which was a lesser movie than I remembered. I adored John Irving for many years but maybe our time has passed. Certain authors seem to speak to you at certain times of your life. 



What about you?

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving

Fewer and fewer people probably remember the Waltons but I always loved them. From their house to yours (or your favorite restaurant) have a happy day.