Friday, May 29, 2020


(from the archives)

 I saw that the movie version of this with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane is due to be released so I thought I would post this again.

I am a big Larry Watson fan and LET HIM GO did not disappoint. It is a great followup to books like WHITE CROSSES and MONTANA: 1948.

After their adult son is killed in an accident, his widowed wife marries again and leaves the Blackledge's home to go with her new husband to Montana. She takes their grandson with her, of course, and therein lies the problem.

"With you or without you," Margaret Blackledge insists, and at these words George knows his only choice is to follow her.

George takes to the road with Margaret by his side, tracking down the Weboy clan quickly. When Margaret tries to convince Lorna to return home to North Dakota, bringing little Jimmy with her, the Blackledges find themselves mixed up with the entire Weboy clan, a horrific family determined not to give the boy up without a fight. It's more about possession than love with a family like this. 

This slim volume contains a heart-pounding story, unforgettable characters, terrific atmosphere

Thursday, May 28, 2020


I used to have a lot more movie/tv related books than this. But I have weaned them down over the years. Most of these I have not read but intend to. PICTURE is Lillian Ross' story about the making of THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE, which she was witness to. The four I have read and loved are PICTURES OF A REVOLUTION, THE MOVIE MUSICAL and the bio on Rock Hudson. I am rereading CITY OF NETS now, It's about Hollywood in the forties. I have read at MOVIE LOVE IN THE FIFTIES and MAD MEN.

FIVE CAME BACK is the story of five directors who went off to war and came back to make a new kind of movie. EASY RIDER, RAGING BULL is about how the summer blockbuster changed Hollywood. ELIA KAZAN, A LIFE is the one you can't read.

Do you have a collection on any particular subject? I have a few more.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Beatnik Beach (from MURDER-A-GO-GO'S)

                                    This is posted here as the request of Holly West, who edited this anthology.
                                              Beatnik Beach
                                                                      Patricia Abbott                                                                                   

Katherine watched from a picnic table as Ava seized control of the playground’s merry-go-round — or that’s what they called the thing in her childhood. And this was a playground from the eighties, she thought, eyeing the dented monkey bars, the finger-pinching swings. A thousand tiny feet pounding circles produced dirt as hard as stone.
Looking at Ava in the too-short dress she’d insisted on wearing, red-faced and panting as she ran faster and faster, Katherine was reminded of her mother's doggedness. Her daughter's stance when she huffed to a stop to let a toddler climb on was not a six-year old's. Even her feet splayed like her grandmother's. It was as if she too endured years of standing while she stamped metal in the Chrysler auto plant.
“Careful, Ava!" Ava's feet were lifting as the spinning disk's speed increased.
Katherine had visions of a child flying off, a limb getting mangled. She looked around, but the other adults seemed oblivious to the danger. Grateful, in fact, for a few minute’s peace, few of them even were watching the spectacle.
A woman sitting on Katherine’s right put her paperback down, saying, “She's a mama bird, isn't she? Your kid, right?"
"Still …” Katherine began, “she shouldn’t—"
 “Watch how she slows it down whenever anyone wants to get on or off,” the woman interrupted. “What is she anyway—seven, eight?”
“Six!” The woman shook her head in disbelief. “Now my kid….” The woman looked in the direction of a boy on his belly pushing a hot wheels car in figure 8s in the dust beneath the speeding apparatus. “Billy,” she shouted suddenly, “you’re gonna lose a hand doing that." She raced off to rescue Billy from certain amputation.
Ava was helpful—helpful to a fault. Like her grandmother, she was always the first to jump in. Why did it rub Katherine the wrong way? Why did the similarities between them annoy her? Maybe she needed a therapist to figure it out. Her mother seemed born to be a grandmother and perhaps Ava was too. Bunny never had the time to be the mother Katherine longed for.
“About ready to go?” Tom asked, sneaking up. His new longish hairstyle made him look fifteen. He slipped in beside her, bumping his knee on the table leg and wincing. Looking up, he caught his daughter helping a smaller child off the ride. “No one has to tell our kid to play nice.”
“Don’t you think it’s odd she never takes a turn herself?”
Tom laughed, his face crinkling. “So what if she gets a charge out of running the show! I mean how entertaining is whirling around on a rusty old plate?”
“She did the same thing on the swings! And after that, she planted herself at the bottom of the slide to be sure no one got hurt.”
“She’s just bored by this outdated playground.” Tom's face shone with pride.
Ava, catching sight of her father, waved. “Hiya, baby!” he called, his grin wide. “Look, no one’s bothered to put down a measly layer of mulch to break a fall. I thought the city checked out that kind of thing."
“Maybe not around here. We should have waited till we got closer to home before stopping. It looks like the sort of place child molesters frequent.” They both looked around warily.
Tom stood and began gathering up the last items of their impromptu picnic. “Are you going to finish your sub?” he asked, holding it up.
Katherine shook her head.
 “No, of course you're not. The calories might turn up on the scale tomorrow." Katherine looked at him quickly, but he was smiling. "Ready, kid,” Tom shouted to Ava.
“Can we stop for ice-cream?” Ava asked, dashing over and taking a hefty swig of a half-empty cup of lemonade. Avoiding her mother’s eyes, she added, “I’m gonna order a purple cow.” She squinted. “I like purple cows, don’t I?”
“Let me comb your hair first,” Katherine said, pulling a comb from her purse. Her daughter held still for a few seconds before tearing away. Katherine watched as she ran after Tom. She'd toss that dress in the Goodwill bin at church. Ava wouldn’t mind a younger child getting her outgrown clothing.
 “Nearly a quarter of my patients are overweight,” the pediatrician said as he helped Ava down from the examining table at her checkup last month. “When we were kids, it was less than ten percent. We’re stoking our kids instead of stroking them.”
 “Is anyone writing these pearls down?” she asked. Luckily, he was an old friend of Tom's and didn't take umbrage.  
“She takes after me,” Tom said when she told him about Ava’s checkup. “I was a chunkster. She’ll outgrow it.”
“No, no— she takes after my mother. And it’s not the kind of weight that goes away!” At 5’4” Bunny weighed in at 170, tending to be soft and squishy through the middle, though her limbs were muscular.
“I wish you’d check with me first,” Katherine said now as she hurried after him toward the parking lot. “She’s already eaten half a box of animal crackers.” Drop it, you idiot, she commanded herself. Don’t ruin a nice day. Be glad she has a father who adores her.
"Anything for you, Kit?" Tom asked her when they got to the ice cream stand. She wrinkled her nose in response, and he turned to order two Purple Cows. "You don't know what you're missing," he said, digging in. "I've never saw a purple cow."
"I never hope to see one," Ava chimed in.
"But I can tell you anyhow," Katherine added.
"I'd rather see then be one," Tom finished laughing.
She wished she'd had a Dad like Tom. Katherine’s father took off when she was four, and after that, it had been just Katherine and Bunny. Or Kitty and Bunny, in Bunny’s parlance. Bunny didn’t badmouth her former husband much despite his desertion. She never shared much about her childhood either. She had a sunny disposition that pointed her toward the assets in her life—namely her good health, her loyal friends, and firstly, Katherine. Katherine had no doubt Bunny would give up her life without a second's hesitation for her. Such devotion was sometimes smothering.
“I don’t know why you can’t see the resemblance,” Katherine whispered to Tom later that evening, watching Ava tote the watering can from the faucet to her own garden. Ava’s flowers, Katherine noticed, were doing better than hers; the sunflowers, in particular, were nearly a foot high and the second planting of lettuce ready to eat. Except it would never be eaten.  
“I like how it looks,” Ava had said when Katherine suggested harvesting the leaf lettuce. “Can’t you just buy lettuce at Krogers? " Wrinkling her nose, Ava pinched back her marigolds, her fingers already strong enough at six.
“I’ll have opportunity for a closer comparison next week,” Tom joked once Ava was tucked in, flipping the page of his Sports Illustrated. Bunny was coming along for their week at Cape Cod. She lived half a day away from them nowadays in Traverse City so it was hard to deny her an extended visit. But Katherine tried to for some reason.
 “You know you’ll end up babysitting most of the time!”
“That’s exactly what I want to do.” Bunny sniffed. “Of course, if you don’t want me tagging along….”
  “Ava would be crushed if you didn't come.” And that was true. Only later, she realized she should have included herself in that statement.
“Ava’s hired someone to water her garden,” Katherine informed Tom the next day, stifling a yawn. She was working too many hours at the design center but couldn't cut back. Not with the week at the Cape looming.
He put down the newspaper. “Who?”
“That kid who tags after her at school. Birdy something.”
“Berty. Berty Taggert." Tom was a school district social worker and knew all the kids. "How much is she paying him?”
“They have a sliding scale worked out—depending on whether it rains.” Katherine had heard the transaction from the next room, jumping in only when Ava was about to take the spare key out of the kitchen drawer.
“Why does he need to come inside the house while we're gone?” Katherine asked, sliding the drawer closed.
 “He’s gonna feed the Little Mermaid,” Ava explained. “We’re gonna be gone nine days, Mom!” Berty, underfoot to look the place over, stared at Katherine disdainfully, no doubt thinking she was one of those mothers who flushed inconvenient things down the toilet.
“We can put aquatic plants in the bowl for the Little Mermaid. Just like we did when Aunt Helen died and we had to go to Ohio."
Ava nodded agreeably after a moment, but Katherine put the key in another spot anyway. She’d been fooled by Ava’s apparent acquiescence more than once. In this regard, Ava took after her father.

At the beach at Truro a week later, Bunny was digging in the sand with Ava, wearing one of those matronly swim suits that came in two pieces. A good idea, but the top rolled up to exhibit her sizeable breasts every time she bent over, exposing her slack and sizable belly.             “Mom!” Katherine said, throwing her a spare tee shirt. Both Bunny and Ava looked up from their sandcastle. Bunny shrugged and pulled the shirt over her head, stretching Katherine’s size four to a sixteen in seconds. The crab on the tee shirt's front took on the proportions of something zapped by nuclear fallout in a disaster film.
Tom stood over them dripping. “Water’s great,” he panted. “Anybody wanna try the raft.” All three women looked toward the crashing waves, the necklaces of seaweed, the sharp stones and broken shells—and declined. 
“I told you we should find a bay beach,” Katherine reminded him. “Ava’s not used to such big waves.”
 “I don’t think Kitty saw the ocean till she was grown,” Bunny said to Tom, shielding her eyes. “Funny, since I grew up only thirty miles from the ocean in Maine.” She perked up. “But most years, my mom and me came down to the Cape to Dennisport to stay with my aunt and uncle and their kids. He ran a religious bookstore in town.” She wrinkled her nose. "He was a true believer. I guess everyone in my family was."
“I saw Dennisport on a sign we passed, Grandma,” Ava informed them, wetting the drying sand carefully with her pail of water. “I can read now, you know."
 “And I loved the story you read last night. The one about the duck.” Picking up someone’s discarded straw, Bunny stuck it on the highest tower of the castle. “There!”
“Where did you go for your vacations when you were a kid, Mom?” Ava asked. 
Katherine only remembered one—a weekend at Mackinaw Island in Michigan. She remembered eating enough pink fudge to make her sick and riding in a horse-drawn carriage with Bunny chattering away to the driver. The cost of a cottage for a week was too much on Bunny's salary. Vacations were for other people. But now she was one of those other people.
“We went to different places,” she answered evasively. “Daddy and I went to the Caribbean for our honeymoon. We spent every day on the beach.”
“When you weren’t busy elsewhere!” Bunny added, wiping her sandy hands off on her suit. Exchanging an amused look with Tom, she asked, “Want to go up for a clam roll?” She directed her question toward Ava. Then she glanced at Katherine and Tom, adding, “How ‘bout it, you guys?”
Katherine looked at her watch. “It’s not even noon, Mom. And we brought sandwiches along.” Bunny had actually helped prepare them, insisting on adding pickle relish to the tuna, lavishing mayo on the bread, throwing in the chips she had harpooned at the grocery store. “Remember?”
“How often do you get a chance to eat clamrolls, Kit? Why don’t you three go? Girls lunch out.” Tom nudged her and she acquiesced, standing up and jamming on her hat. Bunny and Ava were already half way up the beach, neither looking back.
“Can I bring you something?”
His eyes were half-shut. “I’ll eat the tuna. And relish it.”
“Very funny But you just…Oh, never mind.” She caught up with Bunny and Ava a few minutes later. Walking in dry sand was a chore and their progress slow since Ava stopped every few seconds to add another shell to her  pail.
 “Go wash your hands off, Ava,” she told her daughter as they approached the shanty, motioning toward an outdoor spigot. Both Bunny and Ava were covered in sand. She'd like to tell  her mother to do the same. How could a grown woman stand it? Plus they'd get it all over their booth. It was one thing for a child not to understand, another for a grown woman.
“The trouble with you …” Bunny said suddenly, surprisingly her. She pulled her sunhat off and blinked blindly as they walked inside.
“The trouble with me… is what?” Katherine asked.
 “Never mind.”
“No, go ahead.” Inside, they found an empty booth by the window. Katherine looked out and saw her daughter washing off every shell along with her hands.
“Okay then,” Bunny said, anticipating Ava’s seating preference and sliding over. “The trouble with you is—you don’t know how to have fun.”
“Oh, and having fun is spreading sand all over a restaurant, Mother.” The thought of adding that maybe she didn't learn to have fun at the right age flitted through her head.
Bunny rolled her eyes. Katherine grabbed a napkin from the holder and swept some sand off the table.
"It's all about the sand here, honey. You can't fight it." Bunny covered Katherine’s hands with her own to still them. “Maybe my idea of fun isn’t yours? Hey, did I ever tell you about the summer I became a beatnik?"
This was rarity. Her mother hardly ever talked about her past.
"You mean a hippie?"
"Nope, a beatnik." Bunny straightened up, preparing for a long reminiscence. "We were at some beach on the Cape--I don't even remember which one now. It was dusk and I was headed home from some activity--maybe just a walk, but probably eating ice cream. There was this great little dairy stand..." She sighed. "Anyway, I heard this strange music coming from the beach--music I'd never heard before--and I saw a bonfire lighting up a bunch of kids. Must have been ten or fifteen of them."
"Aren't you too young to be a beatnik?"
"Just listen to my story, Kitty. Hippie, Beatnik, who cares? Well, I walked out onto the beach and in that second, it was like there was some cosmic shift in the atmosphere. It was magic, pure magic. These kids were different from anyone I'd seen before. Dressed different, different hair, different music. I swear they even smelled different, but maybe that was the pot."
"What year was this?" Katherine was still focusing on the hippie/beatnik question.
"I was probably fourteen," Bunny said, after a few seconds. "So say '62."
"I guess it was beatniks then," Katherine acknowledged. "Hippies were more like 1968."
"So anyway, a couple of them had instruments. Guitars and some bongos. maybe that round thing with bells on it. I am drawing a blank on the name."
"A tambourine?"
 "Right. And castanets, I think. And this one girl--well, actually she was a woman more than a girl--was singing this song about the wind."
"Mariah," Katherine guessed.
"Maybe. Well, anyway, she had long blonde hair. People I knew didn't wear their hair like that yet. And she had a sort of Mumu on, an outfit I'd never seen before. The only thing I could think of was that guy on Dobie Gillis."
"Who's Dobie Gillis?" Katherine asked.
Bunny shook her head. "Never mind. Let's keep on with the story here."
"That's a funny name, Grandma," Ava said, rejoining them, hands clean and held out for inspection. "Dopey. Wasn't he one of the seven dwarves?"
"Dobie, honey, not dopey. You two can sure get a girl off track. Anyway, one of them wore a beret and another a porkpie hat. Now, never mind what that is, Ava. We can look it up later. Next, they were doing the limbo with a sand rake someone had found."
"What's the limbo?" Ava asked
Bunny rose, started to demonstrate, and then stopped. " I'll show you that later too. Or you might have to, Kitty. Limbo's a young person's game." She paused. "I forgot how different things were then. We had a president we loved, didn't know we were polluting the world, we all seemed to get along. Sorry, now I'm getting off the subject."
"And then what happened?"Ava asked.
"Well, actually, they did something bad next. They pulled out some grass and started passing it around."
"You mean like the grass on the lawn?" Ava asked, puzzled.
"Cigarettes," Bunny said, looking over her head at Katherine. "They were passing around a cigarette."
"I am never going to smoke," Ava said, crossing her heart.
"I certainly hope not," Bunny said.
"And I supposed you partook," Katherine said.
"It only seemed friendly."
"And you hung out with these beatniks the rest of the summer?"
"I did. When I could manage it. I was mesmerized. They treated me like their very own Gidget."
"That was Sally Fields?" Katherine asked.
 Bunny blinked her eyes. "Or Sandra Dee. Wow. I just remembered the end of my story. Which wasn't so much fun. Remember, I told you we always stayed with an aunt and uncle in Dennisport? The bible hawker."
"Right, go on." Finally Katherine was engaged in the story.
 "One Sunday night, my cousin and I were supposed to be attending a Luther League swimming party."
"What is Luther League anyway? It features heavily in your childhood reminisces.  It sounds like a Hitler Youth group."
"Nothing that incendiary. It was a church group for teenagers. The Brewsters were a real religious family as I said. That always put a damper on things when we stayed with them."
"So you didn't go, did you? To Luther League."
Ava laughed. "Ooh, were you a bad girl that time, Grandma. Smoking and then not going to Luther League."
Smiling down at Ava, Bunny said, "Nope, I didn't go. They were having a luau on the beach that night. Roasting a pig or something crazy. So I talked Peggy, that was my cousin, into going. I didn't usually invite her to come out with me because she was barely thirteen, but it wasn't too hard to get her to ditch church. We went to the luau and that's about it. We ate some barbecue. Listened to music. Tried to get the older guys to notice us. Nothing really happened. Not then, at least."
"Then when?" Ava asked.
"Anyway, when we got back to the cottage," Bunny continued, "my uncle was waiting outside on the street. It wasn't late but he was pacing. 'Guess who I just had a call from?'" he asked Peggy, but I knew he was really asking me," Bunny said.
"Cause Peggy wasn't a good listener, right?" Ava had made a face on the table out of spilled sugar and turned the smile into a frown. "My teacher tells me that sometimes."
Bunny sighed and patted Ava's head. "No, he knew I was the one who convinced Peggy to ditch church and go to a party. Peggy would've have never done it on her own. " She looked at Katherine. "She was a lot like you, Kitty. Virtuous."
"Ava, you need to wash your hands again. They are full of sugar and who knows what else." Katherine pulled her daughter to her feet.
"But, the story..."
"You can hear it another time."
Giving a big sigh, Ava went outside to the spigot.
"Did you hear this story before?" Bunny asked. "Is that why you sent her away?"
"I remembered it suddenly. You must have told it to me when I was that age. Anyway, he pulled off his belt and whipped Peggy across the backs of her legs, didn't  he?" Katherine looked white.
Bunny nodded. " I can still hear the sound of the slap of that belt on her legs now. And when I tried to leave, he stopped me, told me my punishment was having to watch. My mother wasn't there to stop him or she would have. She'd gone bowling with my aunt. And, of course, I stood there frozen. It seemed like it went on forever but it was probably only a minute."
"A minute's pretty long to have your legs switched. And you've always regretted not doing anything?"
"It's worse than that. That night, once Peggy fell asleep, I pulled the sheet down and looked at the back of her legs."
"And they were full of cuts?"
"Yeah, but beneath the marks from that day, there were lots of silvery scars. I was sure he beat her regularly. I thought about pulling the sheet up higher to see if her back was scarred too, but I didn't."
Katherine shook her head. "And this was your uncle?"
"Uh, huh. But it was his wife who was my mother's sister. We left the next day. I think that was the last time we stayed with them. Maybe the last time we saw them." She paused. "Peggy didn't cry out once, didn't try to get away, didn't even beg him to stop. I could never forgive myself for not saying something. For not telling my mom at least."
"Don't you think she figured it out and that's why you left?"
Bunny shrugged. "I never had the heart to ask."
"I wonder what happened to the beatniks?" Katherine said.
"Ha. I heard later they got caught robbing a house. I thought they were up to something because they never dressed the same way twice. And such food they brought to those bonfires. Fancy stuff." She took a sip of iced tea. "Not the kind of stuff kids buy. Of course at fourteen, what did I know?"
"Poor Peggy."
"I should've done something. Saved her somehow."
"Mom, you were a kid. You couldn't have saved her. Oh, here you are,” Katherine said as Ava slid in next to her grandmother. The waitress returned with their food a few minutes later. Bunny and Ava chattered on about making a tunnel from their castle while Katherine munched absentmindedly on her own clam roll. Ava was done soon and out the door.
"Day's been kind of exhausting, hasn't it? I forgot how tiring walking in the sand is. And the sun wears me out." Her mother rubbed a foot and stood up.
"And poor Ava getting the bum's rush."
Bunny looked sleepily toward the window."That spigot got a workout all right."
Katherine peeked out. "Hey, wait just a minute. Who's that going up the beach with Ava? It's certainly not Tom."
"Where?" Bunny said, on her feet at once.
But Katherine was already out the door, her flip-flops slapping the sand as she ran. "Ava!"
"Kitty, Kitty. It's okay," Bunny yelled. "It's the man we rented the cottage from. Ava's probably following him back to Tom. Kitty!"
But Katherine didn't hear her and before Bunny could catch up, Katherine had tackled the man from his waist and brought him to his knees.
"Just where do you think you are going with my kid?" she asked, her hand gripping his pony tail from behind. His head was pulled back far enough to make his mouth fall open.
Ava, dumbstruck from what she'd witnessed, stood frozen.
"Kitty, calm down," Bunny said, arriving at the scene."It's Jack Owens. The guy who rented us the cottage. Remember, he helped us carry in the bags. Guess being far-sighted came in handy for once." Bent over, hands on her knees, she struggled to catch her breath.
Slowly, Katherine climbed off the man's back, stood, and wiped the sand off her shins. "Sorry, Jack. Without my glasses, you looked like Jack the Ripper to me"
He rose, laughing. "Wrong Jack."
"You sure ran after us, Mom," Ava said, her speech returning. "You were like that old wind Mariah coming down the beach."
"My story put you in that kind of mood," Bunny said, "Seeing danger everywhere."
"I think I came to that myself," Katherine told her.

"You guys were gone a long time," Tom said, sleepily opening his eyes. "Were they out of clam rolls or something?"
"Daddy, you'll never guess what happened."
            "What happened?" he said sitting up. The two women looked at each other.
"Grandma met a bunch of beatniks on the beach near here. They sang songs, did the mambo, and wore funny hats that she's gonna show me later."
"It was a long time ago, Daddy," Ava said chuckling."When kids did olden things."
"But you got your clam rolls, right?"
The three of them nodded.
"Anyone up for some ice cream?" Tom asked.
"I sure am," Katherine said.
"Mommy, I've never seen you eat ice-cream," Ava shrieked. "What kind do you like?"
Katherine looked at her mother. "What kind do I like, Mom
Bunny paused. "Something green, I think. Maybe pistachio."
            "But if could be chocolate mint, right?" Ava smiled. "That's my third favorite flavor. I hope it's  that        flavor. You could take after me sometimes."

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Nases's Balsam Apple Salve

I think I have posted this on here before but I ran across it again yesterday. This is the cover of a four page pamphlet on my grandfather's business. The rest of it are "testimonials" mostly from neighbors and family members. A balsam apple is not a real apple.

"The Balsam Apple is a tropical vine grown as a garden annual with bright yellow flowers followed by curious, oblong, yellow-orange warty fruits that burst open when ripe, and has attractive, glossy green foliage. It is native to the tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Australia.
Although the pale yellow, deeply-veined flowers have a subtle beauty, its round, somewhat warty, bright-orange fruits, or "apples", are its most distinguishing feature. When ripe, the fruits burst apart, revealing numerous seeds covered with a brilliant scarlet, extremely sticky coating. The Balsam Apple was introduced into Europe by 1568 and was used medicinally to treat wounds. Most of it is poisonous to eat, in fact.

Monticello has a lot of these vines. Or did.

Laura Nase, Herman's wife, gave birth to nineteen children, many dying in the first year or two. I think they ended up with thirteen surviving childhood. Herman worked in a cigar factory so any way to add to the income was probably welcome.

I never met either of these grandparents who were very much country people. Whereas my mother's family were very much city people.

I think it was probably not uncommon to sell salves like this at country fairs and stores. I wonder if it's still around. Any entrepreneurs in your family? Anyone ever seen a balsam apple?

Monday, May 25, 2020

I'm Still Here-Memorial Day Version

Happy Memorial Day. Hard to remember anything before this plague though.

Watched lots of movies this week: ALL ABOUT EVE, AS GOOD AS IT GETS, GROUNDHOG DAY. I think I am getting burned out on watching series right now. Messes with my brain keeping so many narratives straight. Watching THE GREAT by the same people that made THE FAVORITE though and it is fun and well-made but very vulgar and violent. Can those adjectives go together?

Reading CITY OF NETS, Otto Friedrich which is about Hollywood in the forties, HOW MUCH OF THESE  HILL IS GOLD, Pam Zhang, about two Chinese sisters in goldrush California, and listening to STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (Highsmith) Again a lot of stories to keep straight.

Had friends over in the backyard several times this week. Of course everyone must visit me since I don't drive. And right now using Uber seems too risky.  Who knew when I decided to ditch the car, something like this would happen. I thought I had it all thought out: uber and lyft would do me. Ha!

It sure helps to see a face ten feet away though. Although my backyard has at least two robin nests and they are not happy when we are out there.

Very hard yesterday to open the NYT and see the list of names of only one percent of the Americans who have died. So chilling and so much of it unnecessary. It's as is someone decided to clear out the people collecting social security and medicare. I lost a friend this week to Covid. Paula Wood was the Dean of Education at WSU and had a very successful career. She was 71 but in poor health. She knew it was coming for her. Talked about it for several weeks. Scary. How many of those in nursing homes or senior citizen houseing especially live with this fear.

How about you guys?

Friday, May 22, 2020

FFB-Time Will Darken It, William Maxwell

Time Will Darken It. William Maxwell

William Maxwell is one of my favorite writers. He died about a decade or two ago leaving a handful of novels and many shorts stories and essays. My favorite of his novels is TIME WILL DARKEN IT.

When the King family is paid a visit from distant Southern relatives, Austin King, eager to impress a female cousin and repay their kindness to his father, behaves in such a way as to threaten his marriage, his law practice, and his reputation as a young attorney. His pregnant wife is especially torn asunder by his actions.

Maxwell makes every character in this seemingly ordinary story come to life. I can't think of many books I closed so reluctantly and yet with such complete satisfaction. His novels include:

  • Bright Center of Heaven (1934)
  • They Came Like Swallows (1937)
    • An autobiographical novella about the cruel impact of the 1918 flu epidemic, as seen through the eyes of an 8-year-old midwestern child and his family
  • The Folded Leaf (1945)
  • Time Will Darken It (1948)
  • The Chateau (1961)
  • So Long, See You Tomorrow (1980) (Winner of the William Dean Howells Medal and National Book Award for Fiction)
    • An aging man remembers a boyhood friendship he had in 1920s Illinois which falters following a murder.

     I used to have a few of these but somehow most have disappeared.

Thursday, May 21, 2020


New York is certainly the city of her heart. 


What a perfect still from a near perfect movie. I can't think of another scene set on steps like this one.

Except maybe this one but very different.   (Bonnie Butler in GWTW) GWTW made a great  use of stairs.
One more

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Shelfy Selvy No 7?

I made this photo extra large because it is hard to read. Soon I will work my way out of my room and into the living room, which has books in much better condition but perhaps not as interesting to you. Anyway HARDBOILED has fabulous stories by Ed Gorman and James Reasoner in it as well as many from other true greats in the crime fiction field. I have read some but not all of them.

LAURA, I read years ago and it is one of my favorite noir movies. I don't think it was this copy I read though because it is very fragile. I really love Grace Paley stories. I think I have another collection somewhere.

THE MALTESE FALCON-I saw the film recently on a big screen and wondered again if I had read the book. Not sure. (Maybe I am more of a movie person than a book person) Liked Wilkie Collins' THE WOMAN IN WHITE more, but THE MOONSTONE is the one I own. I read both when Masterpiece Theater did them way back when. They have done them again since.

Love THE THIN MAN and because I saw the movie first, of course, I picture them as William Powell and Myrna Loy. Asta is pretty much the same in either version. You can see what horrible shape this one is in. When they are this bad it is because I saw them in a used bookstore and couldn't resist. I am not that hard on books although I do eat lunch reading so there is often mustard on them.

THREE BY FLANNERY O'CONNOR include WISE BLOOD and THE VIOLENT BEAR IT AWAY but also my two favorite shorts by her: "A Good Man is Hard To Find' and "The River." Have read everything in this collection at least once.

THE BURNT ORANGE HERESY, Charles Willeford. This is my least favorite Willeford and set in the world of art. I think there is a recent film made of it. Not sure why it didn't work for me. Maybe because it wasn't funny like the Hokes or scary like some of the rest.

DREAM STORY is apparently the novel from which Stanley Kubrick drew inspiration for EYES WIDE SHUT. I can't remember if I found that to be true. But since my interest in the work of both Cruise and Kubrick faded, I don't much care now.

I had a friend that loved the works of Orwell and he kept after me until I bought these two books. I am sure they are great but I never read them. But since my friend is gone and I miss  him I feel like I might need to try these some day.

THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, James Cain. One on my favorites, for sure. Seen both movie versions too, but the book is far and away the best. There is a coldness the movies couldn't capture, I think.

What's on your shelf this week? Which of these have you read?

Monday, May 18, 2020

I'm Still Here

I have been able to have a few people in my backyard. Since my garage is empty, they can park in the driveway, walk though the garage, out the door, and into the yard. A friend said my directions sounded like something out of a spy novel. But it works, except there is a robin's nest right next to the chairs and the robins dive bomb us every so often. When do those eggs hatch?
No way I can do any gardening until the shelter in place is lifted. I think it will be minimal this year. 
If we could get any sustained nice weather, this could be easier. It is too cold and too rainy for May. More like late March most days. I manage to get a walk in most days but there are so many people out walking, it is not that pleasant, diving into the street every few minutes.
Watching NORMAL PEOPLE, which is so very depressing. Trying GREAT, which is about Catherine, the Great and in the style of THE FAVORITE, which is half ludicrous and fairly vulgar, and half somewhat interesting.
Also watched THE EXTERMINATING ANGEl (Brunuel), which resonated with our current situation. It's about people at a party who cannot seem to leave. I've had a few of those over the years. Once a guy came to play tennis with Phil at eleven am and didn't leave till midnight.
On You Tube, I watched Andrew Scott do the play THE SEA WALL, which was great. I think it it gone now though.
Looking for the right book to read. I cannot land on it. Too many books have print that is too small or too light for aging eyes. Why don't they consider that since it is folks our age who do most of the reading.
I wish I could write. Another thing to do would help. But there is a wall there that has been up since Phil got sick.
What's up with you?

Friday, May 15, 2020

FFB-How's the Pain, Pascal Garnier

Thanks to Steve for recommending this little gem. Reminiscent of Simenon or Highsmith, set in France, it concerns the final days of a hit man.  But the murders are coming to an end and so is the life of our protagonist, Simon, as he hires a young man to assist him with his last death. But things change for a nice interlude when Bernard meets a young woman with a child, and then they meet a taxidermist of a certain age. A family is born. This short novel is filled with humor and darkness. The writing is superb and the characters each interesting in their own way. You can finish it an hour or so and will consider the time well spent.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Shelfy Selvie 6-Phil's Books

These are the books Phil wrote over his career. Not the last one on Abraham Lincoln though. He had a chapter in that book and it drifted into this photo.( And  he had many other chapters in books).

Well, I discovered something while I was putting these books in order. ONE WAS MISSING. Kind of crazy but I went online and ordered it. It just seemed wrong not to have one of every book he wrote.

His first book was his dissertation revised. THE SHOTGUN BEHIND THE DOOR. It looked at reasons for obeying the state. Philosophical reasons laid out by writers such as Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, etc. Very much his training in grad school and in fact, I got an email recently from his dissertation adviser still lamenting that Phil had drifted away from traditional political theory. Phil did drift. His books concerned such diverse subjects as American inventions (ie. the quilt and the motel), discussions of famous American texts (i.e. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," the evolution of the American family, American biographies, and his last four books on the American Presidency.

My favorite book was LEFTWARD HO! and the reason I liked it so much was because I came to New York with him many times in the late eighties and early nineties and helped him go through boxes at the NYPL and copy information on V.F. Calverton, a left-winger in the thirties and forties who slowly transitioned to a right-winger in the fifties. The contents had to be looked at very carefully and notes could only be taken in a certain way. Getting into the room required all sort of protocol. And getting out was not much easier.
A whole box was his love letters to his wife, who lived in the same house he did. He wrote her several letters every day despite spending every night together.  Calverton (not his real name) was an obscure figure but darn if another book on him didn't come out just as Phil's did.

I always like Phil's fanciful titles: Seeking Many Inventions, Leftward Ho!, Furious Fancies, States of Perfect Freedom, Exceptional America.

Monday, May 11, 2020

I'm Still Here

Debated going to Josh's yesterday but decided against it. Just too hard to social distance inside and rain was forecast. And I really don't think I could wear a mask for any length of time. I know it could easily be my last mother's day but venturing out just makes that more possible. It is all too terrifying to think of the chaos and madness going on at 1600. There has got to be a way to get him out of there and get someone who can handle this virus in there. NOW. November is too long to wait.
Watched a few old movies: Lean on Pete and Here Comes, Mr. Jordan, with Robert Montgomery and Claude Rains stick out as the best.
Reading The Red Lotus by Chris Bohaljian. Set in Vietnam today. Still wading through Hidden Valley Road, which has got to be the most depressing book I've ever read. Imagine having eight kids with schizophrenia. Finishing up Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro and she is a genius. Well deserved the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Watching a few series I like on TV. Normal People on Hulu and The Eddy on Netflix. The Eddy is about a jazz club in Paris. Each episode concentrates on another character. Great atmosphere and music. And Paris!
And I close out each day with an episode of Schitts Creek. Good way to go to bed. I need to find another show soon.
How about you?

Friday, May 08, 2020

FFB: LEAN ON PETE, Willie Vlautin

This is my second Willie Vlautin novel and I can't wait to read the next two. Of course, I am ordering way too many books lately. The libraries being closed is a real hardship.

Anyway, Charlie's life is a hard one. His father is more interested in women and drink although he is not abusive. But an altercation, puts Charlie on the road and he finds work (he is fifteen) at a racetrack. Lean on Pete,  is not really a race horse but is pressed into racing to support his owner. When it looks like that owner is going to sell him off, Charlie and Pete take off to try and find Charlie's aunt in Montana. It is a long trip and filled with bad men, loose women, hardship, and low-paying jobs that often end up not paying at all. A runaway has little to bargain with. More than once, Charlie is caught and put into foster homes, detention centers, police stations. And Pete's fate isn't any better.

Vlautin has a great writing style. It is plain and  perfectly captures the thought process of Charlie. Charlie tells the reader everything he eats, thinks, does. Although there are few descriptive passages, we know exactly what he is seeing on the long road to Montana. He tells us what people look like down to the socks on their feet.

A second winner from a great writer.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Selfie Shelfy

This stack is hard to read. Some of these are so old and dilapidated I really should get rid of them.  I will never read Rabbit Run again so why am I holding on to it. I am going to have to tell you most of these titles because I can't read them myself on this photo.

I don't know how much longer I am going to do this because truthfully it would take an awfully long time to go through every shelf. And I still have all Phil's books too. As I am sure it would for you to go through your shelves. And is it even interesting?

Black Wings Has My Angel, Elliott Chaze. I don't think I read this. It is pretty new and it sounds good but unfamiliar.
Phantom Lady, Cornell Woolrich. This I read and liked. I think I used to have Waltz Into Darkness too. Another very fragile book.
The Third Man, Graham Greene. I am not sure if I have read this or just seen the movie. The movie was so good and I seem to have two copies of the book. So maybe I read it.
So Long See You Tomorrow, William Maxwell, One of my favorite writers. And one of his best novels. Reading the first page, makes me want to read it again. I love to have a first person narrator tell me his story. And I like it when he/she is a child at the start. It starts with a tenant farmer being killed. It is not a crime novel but a crime is a good place to begin with a lot of stories. What is more dramatic. I may have to read this again.
Falling Angel, William Hjortsberg, I did read this but have little memory of it. It was turned into the movie Angel Heart. It is identified as a horror novel and has a blurb by Stephen King.  Another book that I would have to read very carefully because it is fragile. I think I bought it used. So many of my books were bought at used bookstores.
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. I have probably read this five times. This shelf is really a mix. I don't know why some of these books are classics and some are classic crime novels. I think it comes from moving and consolidating book cases. And then I never get around to organizing them. And now I don't like crawling around and lifting books so they will probably stay like this. In some things I am organized but apparently not with this.
All of my books that are in really good condition are in the living room. This bookcase is my study/office.
The Stories of William Trevor, One of my favorite short story writers.

And then we have four crime books, none of which I have read. Highsmith, Armstrong, Thompson and Goodis. I have four or five Highsmiths but not this one.
All of these were picked up at used bookstores over the years too. I got a lot of them at a used bookstore in Ann Arbor called Dawn Treader. I wonder if I will ever go to Ann Arbor again. It's only an hour away but it seems too far now. 
 If I went into a used bookstore now, I wouldn't buy any of these books probably. The days of "collecting" are over. I only buy books I am pretty sure I will read.

Monday, May 04, 2020

I Am Still Here

Planting the tulips in this space will not be repeated. In the dark, people, like the newspaper delivery guy, trip over it And with all the deliveries now, it just makes their trips to the door awkward. I would like to have two concrete squares laid here but not sure if that can happen this year. So I will drag out some big pots until.

The landscaping service came and did their work. Hate to see the bill for three guys for two hours. But it is too much for me to do alone. Never buy a corner lot house.

We are sheltered through May now and although the nurseries are open, I have no way to get to them. You can't drive with anyone you are not sheltered with.

Finished Lean on Pete and am vacillating on what to read next. I always have two books going but need to have one that is not hardback to read in bed.

Today is a gorgeous day. Hard to believe what is going on from the looks of it.

I am very troubled by the obits in the Freep. You would think that there was nothing but white people in their eighties and nineties dying in southeast Michigan. Where are the African-Americans dying in Detroit? Why not obits for them? And this is pages and pages of obits. It takes me back to the AIDs deaths.

Enjoying some live stuff on you tube. They did a short play based on the Apple family saga by Richard Nelson, which has played at the Public Theater.  Very clever too in navigating the actors being in separate zoom boxes. Also watched the Sondheim tribute and some of Coriolanus from Stratford. If you have you tube on your TV there is so much to watch.

Also watching Mrs. America and Normal People on Hulu. Found Deadwater Fell disappointing on acorn. And apparently I no longer have the focus for Bosch.

What's up with you guys?