Monday, September 30, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

It looks like the good weather is on its way out after two plus months of terrific days. I actually turned my heat on this morning, which was very self-indulgent. Something tells me the near future will not allow such actions.
Reading I LIKE TO WATCH by Emily Nussbaum, the New Yorker TV critic, which is loads of fun and also RULES OF CIVILITY by Amor Towles, I find the writing odd but can't quite say why. It's like there are two writing styles used. My book group chose it. They really loved A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW last year and were attracted to this  his earlier book.
Saw AD ASTRA, which seemed like an overly elaborate way to tell a withholding father story. I expected to like it more. I didn't expect to like DOWNTON ABBEY and I didn't much. I think I have made my feelings about rich people known more than once on here. Although I have to admit, Fellows used a clever device to tell the story and the downstairs group most got the better story here.
The third and best movie I saw was THE MALTESE FALCON on a big screen. It is part of a series called FLASHBACK CINEMA, which brings old classics to a big screen. It does a pretty poor job of publicizing it though. If you want to see if it's available in your area, it
I finally got Kanopy to work on my TV, which gives me access to what my movies my library has. You might want to check that out too. Quite an array of stuff on there.
And what are you up to this week? 

Friday, September 27, 2019

Forgotten Books, BROOKLYN, Colm Toibin

Brooklyn, Colm Toibin

This is a very fine novel that I was resistant to reading for a long time. It sat on my shelf despite the urging of several friends who loved it. But after seeing the movie, I wanted to read the book. And I am glad that I did. 
There are no jobs to be had in Eilis Lacey's hometown in Ireland. Reluctantly she sets sail for New York where a priest has secured her a job and place to live. She is nearly overwhelmed by homesickness--and I don't think I ever read such a great description of it--but eventually settles into her new life and finds a beau. A sudden death calls her home again and she must decide where her future lies.
What makes this novel work so well is how much inside the head of his character Toibin gets. And I am truly amazed at how well he does a female voice. And how well he seems to understand how a girl feels about a multitude of issues.
Eilis is utterly believable as a very nice girl with very nice friends and a very nice family. The descriptions of Brooklyn life in the fifties are terrific. 
If I found one flaw in the book, it would be there was so little conflict or strife for Eilis. I am sure an immigrant coming here with no friends of family to succor them would find life a lot harder. And the ending is perhaps too swift.
But this is a small flaw in a wonderful novel. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

But now my garage door will not go down. 

Yay, My new tag and new Michigan registration arrive today. Somebody up there likes me.

Two days ago I wrote a cheerful post that said I was beginning to be happy, at least some of the time. That my fifty years of happiness with Phil had given me muscle memory to revert to happiness. That I was looking forward to new books, movies, TV, dinner and movie with friends, taking walks.

But yesterday a number of problems to be solved sent me back to my earlier state of anxiety. So I took that post down.

Lots of the issues concern the car I don't drive. My plate registration did not yield me the required tab for instance. It is lost in the mail, I guess. And I have to have the car serviced even though I don't drive it. And one credit card is still pulling money from the wrong account And at two in the morning, I woke up thinking I didn't know how to stop payment on a check should I need to.

And how do I feel about going to NY for Thanksgiving and staying at a friend's vacant place. Can I navigate NY on my own? Will I be nervous hailing cabs without a man beside me? Will I be able to handle walking back from the subway alone at night?

 Even though I was the one who always figured out where we were going and how to get there, Phil drove or was by my side in NY or wherever.  This is one of the selfish reasons for missing him. Another one: he looked at the mail and decided what to do with things. Now I must look at every piece of mail and determine what is to be done about it. Now I must open every jar, even if I use a wrench. I have to decide who to call about every problem. Selfish reasons but ones that occur every day.

I won't list the less selfish reasons. You know what they are.

Still it is better than five months ago. Some days. 

What's new with you?

Friday, September 20, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Books: Beautiful Ruins

BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jesse Walter does a very smooth job of juggling multiple narratives set in multiple time periods. We always know where we are and whom we are with. The prose is elegant, the scenes in Italy inviting. If that small village doesn't exist, it should thanks to the writing here.

The disaster that was CLEOPATRA was being made in the main narrative. A young actress in the film, believing herself to be dying, comes to a remote island where she is tended to by Pasquale, a young Italian hotel owner of a hotel so small that she is the only guest. Other stories intersect with this one.(Richard Burton is a minor player that we never see without a bottle in his hand. Surely we have something else to learn about him).Pasquale is being shaken down for protection money, but this story is also not developed.

Unfortunately many of the other minor characters in BEAUTIFUL RUINS didn't capture my interest and I was anxious to get back to the primary story rather than these less interesting ones.The book I would have loved would have focused on the young actress, the young hotel owner, and the circumstances of 1962. Of course it was not my story to tell.

We see the actress at various points in her life, but because they are not chronological it is often hard to invest in them. We also come to know her son, an producer's assistant, a writer trying to pitch a story, the producer himself who meddles again and again to disastrous consequences. Flash forward into the future and the romanticism of that small island in Italy is lost. If Hollywood is supposed to come alive, it never does. We know just how venal Hollywood is from so many other examinations. And the scenes in Spokane are even less involving.

This was certainly far from a bad book. But the pages didn't turn effortlessly.
I listened to this on audio. Perhaps that distanced me. Reading a print book always works best for me.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Had a great week in DC visiting my brother and his wife in Virginia and old friends in Maryland. Loved both movies, liked the play (Sondheim) had several great meals, went to an exhibit at the National Geographic Museum on the Queens of Egypt, saw two old friends from my childhood (separately) went to Leesburg (mostly restaurants now) and got lost in a park. All great fun.

What about you if you are not tired of telling it?

Monday, September 09, 2019

Friday, September 06, 2019


I had to do a little work to get myself a copy of Dan J. Marlowe's THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH (from the archives).  I just want to list what made it such a perfect book to me.

1) the complexity of the protagonist

2) the writing-lucid, tense, succinct

3) the way Marlow integrates a necessary back story into the plot. Now a lot of writers today would say, we don't need to know all of this about him. I disagree. Without this info, he's just a psycho. Now he's a psycho, yes, but with grounding.

4) the length of the book. Truly you couldn't take much more of this degree of excitement.

5) the atmosphere, which is just exactly right for the plot, character, etc.

6) the integration of the violent aspects with the prosaic ones

7) the motivation for what happens. Because of the back story, we get it.

8) the ending.

I could go on and on. What did you like about this book if you've read it? If not, what book would you nominate for a perfect little gem? And I guess what "little" means is under 250 pages.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

WHAT THE EYES DON'T SEE, Mona Hanna Attisha

In 2014, virtually with no one looking or investigating the safeness of the switch, the state of Michigan shifted the source of Flint's water from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Almost immediately citizens complained about the color or the water, the taste, but they went unheard.

Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha took the officials at their word initially and told her pediatric patients' parents that the water was safe. But over a brief period of time, children were getting sicker and early studies began to trouble the doctor.

This book details her fight to obtain undeniable truth that the water was full of lead and to get city and state officials to admit it and do something about it. Time after time, people who should be on the side of the citizens, turned a deaf hear, preferring to either ignore or uphold the lies being bandied about.

This is a very disheartening book because you know similar problems exist in other cities (Newark) and are especially prevalent in black areas. When this was first noticed in Flint, GM and state offices received water that was not from the Flint River. So even here distinctions were made by state officials.

The dire nature of the story is somewhat lightened by Attisha's story of her own family and their trip to the US from Iraq. They are a family of activists indeed.

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

Monday, September 02, 2019

Things That are Making Me Happy

Happy Labor Day!

Enjoying HUNTING GAME by Helene Tursten. I am always amazed when a writer is able to present a milieu as successfully as she does with a hunting lodge and hunting itself in Sweden. Of course, maybe it is her scene. Will have to try her other series.

I am sad to be finished MINDHUNTER, where I liked the personal stories as much as the Atlanta Child Killer plot. Although it was pretty brilliant all around. Also enjoying TRAPPED on Prime. Thanks, Jeff.  Still enjoying SUCCESSION on HBO.

Had a nice family dinner Friday night. Kevin is getting taller by the minute. He is going to play hockey, soccer, cross-country and tennis this fall. As well as begin to learn the bass guitar along with the one he's been playing for years. The music teacher says most guitar players can play more than one thing. Today's parents, at least ones that can afford it because no school sports are free nowadays) are so busy getting their kids to various events.

What about you?