Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween

Joan Didion documentary on Netflix: THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD

Joan Didion chronicled much of American life from the sixties till fairly recently. She wrote novels and two memoirs: both about the deaths of the two people in this picture. Her nephew Griffin Dunne, attempts to capture her life and work in this documentary. And although she fully cooperated with  him, she remains something of an enigma at the end. A life as rich and full as her is difficult to put on film. Their are so many avenues to explore and only so much time. But this was a mostly successful attempt. Certainly the biographical ticks are covered. If there is a hole, it would be in not having a literary critic sum up her contribution to the modern essay and literature itself more fully. Why are SLOUCHING TOWARD BETHLEHEM and THE WHITE ALBUM still revered? What is it about her writing that enthralls most literary students?

In this photo, she is the onlooker. I think that sums her up fairly well. Highly recommended.

Monday, October 30, 2017


The Halloween edition.Or almost.
Not since 400 BLOWS have I seen a film as good about childhood as THE FLORIDA PROJECT. Amazing performances in a story of welfare hotels just outside the Magic Kingdom. Interview with the director credit his love of THE LITTLE RASCALS in getting the sort of performances he wanted.

Some ambivalence about THE MINDHUNTER on Netflix. It may be just a bit more graphic in its detail than I want. But STRANGER THINGS starts out well. And THE GOOD PLACE does not disappoint me although my husband is not a big fan. Nor a big fan of BETTER THINGS, which I also like,

Not much family stuff. Kevin''s hockey game was canceled and he lost a tooth (baby) in PE. I envy those of you who have so much interaction with your family. Ours is small and spread out.

Speaking of which, my nephew in VA had a baby girl so I am now a great aunt. Welcome Marley Nase. How beautiful you are.And Marley has a beautiful mother Michelle. Congrats to them all.

And what about you?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, October 27, 2017

 (Read in 2007)
When was the last time you read a book so compelling you couldn't put it down? What was it?
For me, it was this novel. It takes a long time in Pick-Up for the reader to understand the protagonist and what he's all about. Why he's in the fix he's in. Maybe you won't understand the full story until the last line. And yet, Willeford is able to tell his story lucidly, making even the most mundane details riveting.
This is basically a story about two drunks. Why does it work so well? Better for me even than Kennedy's drunks in Albany. Because the characters are interesting, the narrative pull inescapable, the writing excellent.
Even when the plot turns a bit unlikely in the last third--the characters remain true to themselves, so you go along with it.
What turned you on this much?

Sergio Angelini, OMNIBUS, Carter Brown
Yvette Banek, THE PALE HORSE, Agatha Christie
Elgin Bleecker, WOLFSHEAD, Robert E. Howard
Brian Busby, THE NEW APOCALYPSE, John Daniel Logan
Bill Crider, FOUR UGLY GUNS, Ralph Hayes
Martin Edwards, TIME TO CHANGE HATS, Margot Bennett
Curt Evans THE SECOND SICKLE, Ursala Curtiss; THE STAIRWAY, Ursula Curtiss
Elisabeth Grace Foley, UNDER FIRE, Charles King
Richard Horton,  Times Without Number, by John Brunner/Destiny's Orbit, by David Grinnell
Jerry House, THORKOL, LORD OF THE UNKNOWN, Edmond Hamilton
Margot Kinberg, THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS, Eric Ambler
Rob Kitchin, FLASHMAN'S LADY, George Macdonald Fraser
B.V. Lawson, THE CHINK IN THE ARMOR, Marie Belloc Lowndes
Evan Lewis, THE DESPERADO, Clifton Lewis
Steve Lewis/Dan Stumpf. THE GHOST OF OLD MOVIES,
Todd Mason, Various short story publications
James Reasoner, THIRST OF THE LIVING DEAD, Arthur Leo Zagat
Gerard Saylor, WARLORDS OF MARS, Edgar Rice Burroughs
TomCat, GROANING SPINNEY, Gladys Mitchell
Kerrie Smith, HARBOUR STREET, Ann Cleves
TracyK, CLOSE QUARTERS, Michael Gilbert
Westlake Review, ASK THE PARROT 
Zybahn, THE LAMP OF GOD, Ellery Queen

Thursday, October 26, 2017


 I have never been a huge Harry Dean Stanton fan although he has been used pretty effectively in his long career. I especially remember him from BIG LOVE where he played the evil polygamist in a cult of Mormonism. Also in the David Lynch movies. and in TWIN PEAKS

But LUCKY was a grace note to end a career on. At age 90+ it suddenly becomes clear to Lucky, an eccentric fellow living in the southwest, that he is going to die...eventually. Apparently other than a flash of the abyss at 12, he has given no thought to this before. LUCKY details his life before and after this insight. Wonderful to see James Darren, playing a bar buddy. Still handsome and still my teenage heartthrob. Lynch himself does a great job as does virtually every player in this film. It's a small world they live in but is populated like a neighborhood in LA or New York.

Well-directed, well-shot and enough of a story for me, I highly recommend it if watching a guy wander around for 90 minutes is your bag. It sure was mine.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Brief Encounter

Okay, not really a forgotten film. But I bet many men have not seen it. And Phil had to admit at the end, it was a superb piece of cinema. Even if it was a love story. But a love story only the British could tell because of its restraint, its sense of honorable behavior, its dignity.
Two middle-aged people, both unsatisfied in some never stated way with their marriage, meet in a rail station around 1945. Beautifully shot, directed (David Lean) and acted, this is the love story where two people act honorably despite its cost. So sad. The intensity of unacted upon love may have never been equaled.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

Huntington Woods is having "the best scarecrow contest". It's fun to travel around, mostly on foot, and look at them.This is by my friend, Jenn. It is quite large.

Really happy to share some good times in Toronto with friends. Especially gratifying for a parent to see their child experience such acknowledgement from her peers. And we got to spend more time with Megan than we have in ages.

Enjoyed LOVING VINCENT, which is a film composted almost entirely of Van Gogh's artwork. Any Van Gogh fan will enjoy it.

So much terrific weather to enjoy. Love walking through HW and listening to podcasts. My favorite is FILMSPOTTING where they can spend an hour on which characters in Noah Baumbach films are the best. Glad podcasts have come along to replace the radio shows I once listened to.  And I very much enjoyed THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES on Netflix.

And speaking of Megan, she sure wrote a terrific episode of THE DEUCE, which aired last night. 

How about you?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Any Street Corner in Philly in the early Sixties, some guys were singing this.

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, October 20, 2017

 (From the archives)

I am reluctantly finishing this book, which I have so enjoyed. I can't imagine any of you would not. More than 100 current writers choose a crime fiction book they admire and write an essay about it. Each one approaches it a bit differently. Some of the essays are scholarly. Some are personal. Some discuss the author more than the book. But nearly every one is worth reading. It is interesting to see how one writer has influenced another's work too. Some of them make perfect sense. With some the connection is less clear.

I had a hard time thinking of a book I would have included that wasn't here. In a review in the Washington Post, the reviewer asks where is Nicholas Blake and a few other golden age writers, but on the whole there are not too many great books not represented. Most of the books chosen do not come from the cozy sub-genre though.

I had read only half the books essayed here. Some I had never heard of. A few of the essayists were new to me too. But I sure went over to my TBR pile for three books I own but haven't read.

What book would you have chosen for your "book to die for?"

I would have chosen THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY. Although Highsmith is remembered for STRANGERS ON A TRAIN-a very clever novel, I think Tom Ripley is a more memorable and important character. Perhaps a book of characters to die for would be fun. 

Sergio Angelini, SINGLE AND SINGLE, John LeCarre
Yvette Banek, THE FRIGHTENED STIFF, Kelly Roos
Elgin Bleecker, TRUE GRIT, Charles Portis
Brian Busby, BLACK FEATHER,  Benge Atlee
Bill Crider, THE BODY LOOKS FAMILIAR and THE LATE MRS. FIVE, Richard Wormser
Richard Horton, MR. FORTUNE'S MAGGOT, Sylvia Townsend Warner
Martin Edwards, TOO MANY COUSINS, Douglas G. Browne
Jerry House, CHASING THE BEAR, Robert B., Parker
George Kelley, SECRET AGENT X, Paul Chadwick
Margot Kinberg, THE BLIND GODDESS, Anne Holt
Rob Kitchin, A DANGEROUS MAN, Charlie Houston
B.V. Lawson, WIDOW CHERRY,  Benjamin Leopold Farjean
Steve Lewis, WHO IS SIMON WARWICK, Patricia Moyes
Steven Nester,(THE RAP SHEET) THE BIG FIX, Roger L. Simon
Matt Paust, Maigret Double Feature, Georges Simenon
James Reasoner, SLAVE RUNNER. Gordon MacCreigh
Richard Robinson, TIMELESS, Armand Baltazar
Gerard Saylor, THE HIGHWAY KIND, ed. Patrick Milliken
Katherine Tomlinson, AN EXCESS MALE, Maggie Shen King
TracyK, THE NIGHTRUNNERS, Michael Collins
Westlake Review, ASK THE PARROT

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Oh, if every book was only as charming as this one. Set in Paris, a book shop owner finds a handbag and sets out to find its owner using clues from the items found in the bag. If I told you more, I would lessen your pleasure. Short, sweet, perfect for an hour or two's read. Have you read a charming book recently?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Taking a Week Off: Behave Yourselves.

                                                             Wish me luck.I will need it.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, October 6, 2017

Todd will have the links next week. Thanks, Todd.

from the archives of Randy Johnson.

I’ve posted about Pono Hawkins before HERE.He’s tilting at Wind mills again, literally. This time on the other side of the world. Maine. He’s there to help an old comrade who’s in jail for murder.
Buddy Franklin is his name and Pono doesn’t even like him. He once testified at a trial where Pono was accused of shooting an Afghani girl. He did, but the fifteen year old had been set on fire by her husband for daring to lay eyes on another man, an honor killing. Dying anyway and begging for someone to kill her, he’d ended her pain. The Bush government made him a scapegoat and Pono got twenty years, a sentence vindicated a few months later. Franklin had also married the woman Pono loved.
Why help him then?
A thing called honor. Franklin was Special Forces like Pono and the testimony was by rules of law. One didn’t desert a comrade in trouble. Oh, forgot to mention, Franklin had saved his life in a firefight as well.
The Wind Mafia was at it again in Maine. Pono had managed to beat them in Hawaii and they were now making billions, off the public dollar, building useless wind turbine towers, blotting the landscape, killing wildlife, ruining property values, and getting obscenely rich, along with the politicians, judges, and cops they paid off.
Pono was only there for a few days before the harassment started, shots were fired at him, and the cops were trying to pin murders, arson, and destruction of property on him.
A wonderfully written novel that wouldn’t let me stop until I finished it. Read the whole thing in less than a day.

Sergio Angelini, THE MANNY DEWITT TRILOGY, Peter Rabe
Yvette Banek, Classic Book Covers such as A SHOW OF HANDS, Erle Stanley Gardner
Les Blatt, Two by George Bellairs
Elgin Bleecker, ROUND TRIP, W.R. Burnett
Brian Busby, "Advice from Stephen Leacock
Scott Cupp, RIVER OF TEETH, Sarah Galley 
Martin Edwards, THE BORNLESS KEEPER, P.B. Yuill
Curt Evans, Roger Scarlett reissues 
Richard Horton, MIDDLE MARCH, George Elliott and AMAZING STORIES review
Margot Kinberg, CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK, Elizabeth Peters
Rob Kitchin, WHISKEY IN SMALL GLASSES, Denzil Meyrich 
B.V. Lawson, ONE NIGHT'S MYSTERY, May Agnes Fleming 
Evan Lewis, THE LONG RIFLE, Stewart Edward White
Brian Lindenmuth, THE TWILIGHTERS, Noel Loomis
Todd Mason, MAGAZINE OF HORROR and GAMMA, 1963
Matt Paust, A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, John Kennedy Toole
James Reasoner, THE HELL-BORN CLAN, Phil Richards
Gerard Saylor, SHOEDOG, George Pelecanos
TracyK, THE EMPEROR'S SNUFF BOX, John Dickson Carr
Prashant Trikannad, SNIFF, THE DETECTIVE, Richard Scarry
Westlake Review, NOBODY RUNS FOREVER, Part 2

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

First Wednesdays Book Review Club: MORNINGSTAR, Ann Hood

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

MORNINGSTAR, GROWING UP WITH BOOKS is a favorite type of book for me. In it, novelist Ann Hood relates the details of her formative years through the books she chose to read at various ages. I am not going to tell you the books she chose because you will enjoy seeing what she read yourself  from her first books onward. We learn a lot about her middle-class family and the town of Warwick, RI. where she watched the decline of the town through her formative years. Mills and factories closed, better stores moved out of town or disappeared. A familiar story by now.

All of the books she talks about (and it's not all that many) were books that meant something to me too. And the thing that I liked best about it was her choices were original, realistic, different. Not the sort of books found on BY THE BOOK in the TIMES each week. But instead what a girl might stumble on herself when her family were not readers. This was also the case with me. No one ever guided my reading so I read inappropriate books often. No one told me to read books like FROM THE TERRACE or BABBITT or THE DEVIL IN BUCKS COUNTY or THE IDIOT, but I did.

This is a short book and Hood confines her discussion to about a dozen books, all which resonated with the times she lived in, her age at the time, and the country itself. . I would have like a list at the back of other books she read but did not include here. Especially childhood favorites.

I enjoyed this short book, almost more memoir than literary discussion but that is just fine. 

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Tuesday Night Music

Two Movies I Have Seen This Week: BATTLE OF THE SEXES and BRAD'S STATUS

Neither of these films was a complete bust, but both of them were disappointments in a way. BATTLE OF THE SEXES was a Hollywood biopic and thus, despite very fine performances from Emma Stone and Steve Carrell, made the film duller than it had to be. The female tennis players, struggling to achieve equality in pay and respect with the men were presented as a mass of quasi-cheerleaders. Very few were even named. And how many Sarah Silverman performances must we endure before it is clear she always plays the same part. Both King and Riggs were poignant figures: he having become a clown to support his gambling addiction, and she for discovering her sexuality at the same time she was battling for women's rights. But neither is given the attention it deserves. Instead we spend too much time on meaningless scenes.The characters that evoke the most sympathy are their spouses. B-
BRAD'S STATUS presents a father who has no idea his son is a great student and has a good crack at a Harvard education despite having devoted his life to non-profits. You expect him to be a better man than he is. Are we supposed to feel sorry that his friends have greater success? Are we supposed to dislike him? But how can we when his son, a great kid, feels so sorry for him. Ben Stiller just never seems to play anyone but himself. His conversation with an older friend of his son's, a musician, is painful. "How can you be fifty and not know the world doesn't revolve around you?" she asks. Exactly. And yet you feel the movie feels sorry for him too. Again the character evoking the most sympathy is his wife. C+

Monday, October 02, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

I really enjoyed my trip to DC where we saw a terrific play set in Detroit (THE SKELETON CREW), went to a marvelous sculpture museum and garden in Maryland, saw a great exhibit of photographs of Marlene Dietrich at the Portrait Gallery (as well as portraits of the presidents)  and a great movie COLUMBUS. It was nice to see our friends there and also enjoy a visit with my brother, about to become a grandfather in two weeks. Another Nase will enter the world.

We had lovely weather although very hot. And some great meals. A much needed getaway for us. And thanks to Todd for helping out yet again.