Monday, October 28, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

A nice week. Went to an event at the best comic book store I have ever seen (Green Brain). (They even had copies of Megan's NORMANDY GOLD) The event included music, an artist with slides of her origami, a poetry and a prose reading. How nice to spend a rainy night with such talent.
Had a friend over to watch BILLY LIAR on Criterion, which did not hold up at all for me. I am doubtful I ever saw it before although I thought I had
Saw the movie PAIN AND GLORY, which was gorgeous to look at and Banderas was terrific. I have often found Almodovar difficult-a lot of subtitles to read quickly and not always clear what he's saying, but this one was pretty easy to follow. And ultimately extremely touching.
Reading NORMAL PEOPLE by Sally Rooney, which is very good. Did not finish 1222 by Anne Holt. About 75% through I realized I just didn't care about anything other than the protagonist, who was a great character. It was probably me but a hotel full of characters who were never drawn out enough to be real for me sunk it. 
Watched WATCHMEN a second time and am now up to speed.
Looking forward to Bouchercon although sad that I will be going alone for the first time.
So happy though to see some of you there. 


Friday, October 25, 2019

FFB-THE WIDOWER, Georges Simenon

THE WIDOWER tells the story of a  designer named Bernard Jeantet who returns to his home in Paris from work one day to discover that his wife, Jeanne, is missing.  They met eight years earlier when he rescued her from her abusive pimp. They’ve lived a quiet life since then. A life that, at least in Bernard’s mind, was one of happiness until she wasn't home to greet him one day. When Bernard learns what has become of his wife, his entire life is turned upside down. When he learns of how she has spent the eight years, he is astounded.

 The Widower is a character study.  We grow more and more astounded at how a man could know so little about his wife, seemingly never interested in any life beyond their own. Does he love her or his idea of her? And what are her feelings toward this rescuer or perhaps imprisoner?

The Widower is a  pageturner. Only 143 pages and not a page of that is wasted. It begins with a mystery,but then opens up to answer the real questions that Simeon is concerned with. How little we know each other.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Glad to have last week behind me. I managed to keep busy enough to have it go by. I saw DOWNTON ABBEY again with a friend looking forward to it. And she made a lovely dinner to thank me for going for the second time. Another friend went with me to see FIRST LOVE, a Japanese film. We walked out. Just too violent for us but we had a very nice Lebanese dinner. That is the great thing about Detroit. We have the best Arab restaurants in the country. Had lunch with Josh. Read THE WIDOWER by Simenon, which was terrific. Boy, how could he spin these stories in a matter of weeks. Also liked THE BODY IN QUESTION by Jill Ciment.
Watched the last episode of SUCCESSION (HBO), which was pretty amazing. These are not nice people but they are interesting.

How about you?

Friday, October 18, 2019

FFB: APRIL EVE, John D. Mcdonald

April Evil, John D. MacDonald

I think this is the first novel, other than those in the Travis McGee series that I have read in many years by John D. MacDonald. I had truly forgotten what a great writer he was. There is not a page of this book when things don't happen, when the story isn't speeding along, when you will want to put it down. It is truly a manual for how to write a crime story.

Three men, one newly out of jail, and a woman converge on Flamingo, a Florida town. Their plan is to rob an old man who keeps all of his money in a safe in his house. There are at least a dozen other players who make things hard for this trio for various reasons. This story has three critical female characters. And a kid who noses around too much. It is vicious in spots, but also tender, observant, and clever. The atmosphere is excellent. I can't think of one good reason not to read this book.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Mostly taking a break this week as I try to get by what would have been Phil's 75th birthday on the 18th. I did go and march with the UAW strikers and I enjoyed MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER. Also enjoyed COME AND AWAY. So it isn't all bad. But pretty hard indeed. And I have dental surgery on Wednesday. Yes, damn bad week.

Tell me what you're up to.

Friday, October 11, 2019


Amor Towles wrote this book back in 2011, before he wrote A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW. It is set entirely during the year of 1938 and mostly takes place in Manhattan. Katie Kontent, formerly Katya, is in her twenties and making her way in the city. Her close friend, Evie (Evelyn) and Katie are out on the town for New Year's Eve when they meet the glamorous and  mysterious, Tinker Grey. An automobile accident ensues, which takes them all on different paths than they might have imagined.

This novel is sometimes as frivolous as this setup sounds. A lot of the time is given over to the pursuits of the wealthy or wannabe weathy. But like Gatsby, it has other ambitions. Perhaps life is not as
glib and glamorous as it seems. Certainly our characters do not find bliss as they inch up on the war.

The writing is gorgeous. Towles can really put you in a club or a car or a country house. I think A GENTLEMAN was the better book but this was quite a first novel. Towles had already had a career in finance when he wrote it and his maturity works to his advantage. Good but not great for me.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Lots of cloudy weather and rain this week. Enjoyed RULES FOR VISITING although the protagonist remained enigmatic to me. Do you mind that in a book? Does it bother you if you never quite understand why a character's life is like it is and what their motivations are? Also enjoying MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER.It tales place in Nigeria, which makes it all the more interesting.
I am watching PRIME SUSPECT from the nineties. It holds up so well. Mirren creates an indelible character. Also enjoying DERRY GIRLS although I really need closed captions to understand this one.
Had lunch with my son on Tuesday. Nice to have him to myself. Really wished I had a bigger family.
Saw JUDY. Renee Z was excellent but the movie dragged and was flat in many sections. Such a sad life. Her years at MGM amounted to child abuse.

What about you guys?

Friday, October 04, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Books, THE IMPERFECTIONISTS, Tom Rachman


THE IMPERFECTIONISTS is a debut novel that reads like the work of an experienced master of the genre. Is it me or are first novels growing stronger all the time? Perhaps since Mr. Rachman is himself a journalist and editor he is following that sage advice to write about what you know.

More like a series of short stories than a traditional novel, THE IMPERFECTIONISTS tells the stories of some of the personnel at a small newspaper in Rome. Here we have the story of the copy editor, a reporter, a stringer, the editor in chief and various other personnel including a devoted reader. A sort of Canterbury Tales.

In between these delightful, insightful, humorous and sometimes painful personal and intersecting stories, we also get the story of the Ott family, the newspaper's founders and how the family eventually slid into obscurity and the newspaper folded.

It is hard not to swoon over such a elegant writer. Each story is original and very much written with its own tone. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019


Of course, you all have seen this one. I never saw it on the big screen before and consequently never paid such close attention to it. Some observations: it was a lot funnier than I remembered, Bogart sure had a lot of tics, Mary Astor was very good and very beautiful, Lorre and Greenstreet were quite a team. I can see why they used them again in CASABLANCA. Hard to understand why Sam Spade was so attracted to a woman who was clearly up to no good. But I have never understood that about men, in general. The story is an exercise in how to tell a story with no let-up in tension. Was there ever a more minimal use of sets?  Amazing how little back story was necessary.