Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Painted Veil

I have agreed to be part of a group called movie bloggers. They found me due to the frequency of movie mentioning that goes on here. There is a link on the side if you want to check them out. I am not in any way claiming I have the credentials to review movies. I But I do see a lot of them.

The Painted Veil. I didn't expect to like it much because it seemed like it would be the predictable Masterpiece Theater sort of story--and it was to some extent. But it happened to hit upon one of my weaknesses as a movie watcher. I love movies where people learn to be good. This may never happen in life but I like to think it does. And it certainly does in literature and the movies. That's why Groundhog Dad is one of my favorite movies. Bill Murray learns to be good--and not just to attract Andie McDowell. He eventually finds satisfaction in being a good person.

The Painted Veil was also good for its exotic location, its acting and its lush production values. My only caveat was that it seemed like the Naomi Watts character should have been about ten years younger. Still she's such a spendid actress, she made it work. And Edward Norton is always compelling.

What kind of movies do you cut a little slack?

Monday, January 29, 2007


My husband and I have decided to collect vintatge crime paperbacks and picked up four this weekend-all under $3.50 and consequently not very valuable. We got a copy of Laura, The Thin Man, a Vin Packer novel and an Ed McBain.
This is not our first collection. Over the years, because we like to prowl around junk shops, we have collected everything. For instance, we collected postcards of Ocean City, Jersey briefly. Ones that had been sent to someone. My favorite read "Dear Myrta, I am still intact. Cold but fine weather here. Best wishes, L.C.
We also collected photographs of weddings for a bit and displayed them in a fan-shaped holder. I got tired of people asking if they were my parents and looking shocked when I said I had no idea who they were. It just seemed such intimate pictures needed rescuing from a junk shop. But it turned out, they can't be rescued by strangers.
We have also collected Mexican pottery, white candlesticks, water pitchers, Frankoma pottery, old cook books, books by obscure poets, carnival prizes, stones.
The main criteria has always been it must be cheap. We've never paid more than ten dollars or so for anything. Usually under five.
What do you collect? Or are we the only ones?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Music to Excercise To

Or in my case, not music. At my gym, and I use that word loosely, most of the rats like to exercise to 1) Fox News 2) ESPN 3) the Golf Channel.
Me, I usually prefer old sitcoms like Raymond, Friends, Seinfeld, King of Queens. Shows that make me laugh. But last night I found the perfect accompaniment. So perfect, I hardly knew I was walking my mile. Humoresque. Watching Joan Crawford emote made me forget all my aches and pains. I had never thought of watching TCM at the gym. normally preferring to watch movies in their entirety. What do you watch?

Also-be a pal and come out and see Megan and Theresa in their book swing on the west coast. Here are the dates.

TexasMurder by the BookDate: Thursday, January 25, 2007Time: 6:30 pmLocation: 2342 Bissonnet Street, Houston TXContact: (713) 524-8597

Southern California
Mysterious Galaxy with Theresa Schwegel
Date: Friday, January 26, 2007
Time: 7 pm
Location: San Diego
Contact: (858) 268-4747

Mysteries to Die For with Theresa Schwegel
Date: Saturday, January 27, 2007
Time: 10:30AM
Location: Thousand Oaks, CA
Contact: (805) 374-0084

Mystery Bookstore with Theresa Schwegel and Charlie Huston Date: Saturday, January 27, 2007
Time: 2:30PM
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Contact: (310) 209-0415 Book Carnival with Theresa Schwegel
Date: Sunday, January 28, 2007
Time: 1PM
Location: Orange, CA
Contact: (714) 538-3210 Northern CaliforniaBook Passage with Theresa Schwegel
Date: Monday, January 29, 2007Time: 1PM
Location: Corte Madera, CA
Contact: (415) 927-0960 M is for Mystery with Theresa Schwegel
Date: Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Time: 7PM
Location: San Mateo, CA
Contact: (650) 410-8077 SeattleThird Place Books with Theresa Schwegel and Naomi Hirahara
Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Time: 7PM
Location: Lake Forest Park, WA
Contact: (206) 366-3316 Left Coast Crime
17th Annual Western Mystery Fan Convention
Date: Thursday, February 1 through Sunday, February 4, 2007
Location: Renaissance Seattle Hotel
Panel: Noir: It's the New Black
Date: Saturday, February 3, 2007
Time: 10 am
Panelists: Con Lehane, Megan Abbott, Cornelia Read, Edward Wright,
Moderator Tim Wohlforth Seattle Mystery Bookstore with Theresa Schwegel
Date: Saturday, February 3, 2007
Time: 12-2PM
Location: 117 Cherry Street, Seattle
Contact: (206) 587-5737

Monday, January 22, 2007


Maureen Corrigan (Washington Post and NPR) has written a book about her life with books. Her father read compulsively, her mother not at all. My childhood experience with books centered around my local library in Philadelphia. Every Friday I went there and took out the five books I was allowed. The librarian was an African-American woman named Mrs. Robinson and she led me away from exclusively reading series like Trixie Belden or Nancy Drew and into books with more literary aspirations or at least books not written by committee. Not in any strong-arming way, but in a good one. She also blocked by repeated attempts to enter the adult section and read John O'Hara et al. until I was eleven or twelve.
At home, we had one small bookcase with books written by Francis Parkinson Keyes and the Readerss Digest books. Not much to read there because money was scarce and the library close. The books I loved most were the Betsy, Tacy, Tib series by Maude Hart Lovelace and All of the Kind Family by Sidney Taylor. Of course, Nancy was right up there too.
What did you read? Was the library the center of your reading?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Movies to Cheer You Up

What movie are you likely to choose to cheer you up? With me, it's the movies of my childhood. In particular, it's Pillow Talk. Is Pillow Talk a guilty pleasure? I'm not really asking about guilty pleasures though. More just a film that will take you our of yourself for two hours.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Story into novel--or not

I am mulling over the idea of trying to turn an unpublished short story of mine into a novel. Actually it was published as a flash and may still be published as a short story. I asked on DorothyL for examples of this being done and got several answers. One, in particular, is available right on my bookshelves.
My short story is about a photographer that begins taking pictures of dead men in Detroit. Her "procurer" is a mortician. I like the ending so if I expand it, it would be from the middle out. Advice is welcomed. The thing I need to avoid is writing it as stories instead of chapters. I have the results of that last time I did that wasting awawy on my hard drive. Why is it so hard to see the forest?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Check out the Rap Sheet

Where Megan is divulging family secrets about her childhood. Is it true we sat around and watched noir movies around the clock? Is it true we took her and her brother to double features of foreign and noir films at the old Punch and Judy theater outside Detroit when they were six years old. You betcha. How else do you raise a prosecutor and a crime fiction writer?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Notes on a Scandal

Maybe the Oscar race this year will be between two actresses over sixty because Judi Dench's performance is Notes was nearly as good as Helen Mirren's in Elizabeth. I so admire peformers who don't try to rise above their character and say --this unattractive person is not really me. It's expecially brave in these instances when their appearance and their character traits were so unappealing. Only the English seem willing to put on some wellies, an old pilled sweater (vest?) and slog around in the muck, never needing to tip off the audience that they are really film stars. In both films, their hair was especially unlovely. I would have had to grab a comb.

Reading the new Alice McDermott book and I amazed at how she feels confident enough of her aiblity to have nothing happen in the first 60 pages. I read mostly crime fiction nowadays, but I can't picture a chapter that describes a trip to the beach where the biggest event was a tiff between two children. Yet in her hands, it works beautifully.
Do you feel you have the luxury of starting a piece this slowly, of describing and evoking an atmosphere with very little plot? McDermott's That Night is one of my favorite novels. Just brilliant.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Several blogs recently had talked about dreams. I only have (or remember) two kinds of dreams and pretty prosaic ones they are. The first type features various versions on the idea that I realize it's the math final and I haven't attended class all semester. The second type has me hunting through various rooms of a house, secret rooms that I hadn't known were there. Generally the rooms are old and dangerous. I never go outside.
My husband, on the other hand, has fabulous dreams. He's usually in a foreign country, often eastern European, and is often called upon to do valiant acts. I think he's channeling Olen Steinhauer.
Certainly lying next to him has not influenced my dreams at all. I never travel, never save the world. Only last night, he traveled across the ocean on the back of a whale, sitting in a deckchair.
I wonder if writers use up their imagination in the daytime. Do you have prosaic or exciting dreams? Do you remember them?

Monday, January 08, 2007


Megan Abbott and Theresa Schwegel's New York Dates: Come see the two sweetest crime fiction writers on the planet.

Partners & Crime Bookstore with Theresa SchwegelDate: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 Time: 7PMLocation: 44 Greenwich Avenue (corner of Charles) Contact: (212) 243-0440

Black Orchid Bookstore with Theresa Schwegel
Date: Thursday, January 11, 2007 Time: 6:30PMLocation: 303 East 81st Street (Between 1st and 2nd)Contact: (212) 734-5980

Manly Things

It's finally cold again in Detroit and once again I am reminded of the manly rules in dressing for the weather. My husband tells me he can't wear a hat, boots, or an umbrella. (He can however nudge me out from under my umbrella). Such clothing would define him as a sissy, I guess. Now are these the rules from 1965 or do they still hold today? Do all men have such a stringent manly code?
Oddly enough, my husband does wear pink/lavender shirts quite regularly. It isn't about color apparently. Just your willingness to let the elements pour down on you.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Children of Men

Although I didn't enjoy this movie, it was very good. Quite the contrast to The Holiday, which we saw two nights earlier. I haven't read the book and wonder if things were spelled out more thoroughly in the novel. I wasn never sure exactly what forces were at work other than totalitarianism and chaos
Clive Owens was terrific--never gave into doing a Harrison Ford imitation. He was the hero, but in much the way Philip Marlowe was the hero. Only by default.
Interesting how in so many dystopias, there is a magical place that the protagonist et al must get to to be saved. I guess that conceit is the only way we can tolerate the mayhem. I know James is generally judged to be a Thatcherite and conservative but I couldn't quite work out her philosophy here except in the reverence for motherhood. Still good movie.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Another word on writing groups

As I have probably mentioned, I belong to two WGs and each serves a useful function for me. The first group operates in the traditional way; we email the stories/poetry/plays, critique them at length and meet to discuss it. Great help. The second seems less helpful on paper. We read our work aloud, no exhange of material.
But I have noticed something in the last few months. Reading the story aloud really points out sections that go on too long, dialogue that sounds wooded or unrealistic, characters that seem like stock figures. The critiques given are seldom very deep or thoughful but the reading it aloud itself helps.
Long ago, I have a MAC which had a fuction that read my stories aloud and that was a great help. Since then, I have experimented with taping stories, but it is just too much work and I hate the sound of my voice more than Rachel Ray's so listening to a tape is agony. But just reading it, points out deficiencies without such pain.
What do you find helpful?Do you ever read your work aloud before publication?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Baby Books

The last time I bought books for babies, there were only a few and they were written on stones. Well, almost. Anyone have a few suggestions from the newer batch. What did your baby like? Or for Bryon and his peers, what did you like? (Only kidding.)