Friday, October 30, 2020
If anyone hasn't read it (or seen the excellent Hitchcock film) it is the story of a young woman who is serving as a companion to an older woman. She meets Max DeWinter at a hotel in Monte Carlo, has a whirlwind romance with him, marries, and goes off with him to live at the fabled Manderley. There she stands in the shadow of the first Mrs. DeWinter: Rebecca, who died a year earlier. Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper, does much to keep her in in the shadow.
Things I have noticed on reading this as an adult: Max and the unnamed young woman, don't really have a whirlwind romance at all. He adopts her as you would a stray puppy. The second Mrs. DeWinter is somewhat annoying in her insistence on being a passive onlooker. She seems to want to stand in the shadows. She constantly belittles herself to the reader. And why does she love Max? Is he the father figure she craves?
And why doesn't she find something to do with herself? People constantly suggest various past- times like bridge, golf, riding and she tells them she doesn't do these activities. Well, can't she learn? She is only about 20, not too old to learn any of these things. Why doesn't she do something beside sketch, which she claims to be not very good at it. Her main occupation is patting the dog and drinking tea.
This is not to say I'm not enjoying REBECCA. It is beautifully written and boasts four enigmatic characters. And I don't mind reading about a passive character really. Life is full of passive people.
It is just that I have always thought of this unnamed character as victimized. And she is, but she does little to avoid it. Which makes her interesting, I suppose. Do most victims have a hand in their plight?
I also remembered Mrs. Danvers as hovering over every scene and actually she is around very little. Same with Max. Mostly we have our unnamed young woman trying to make sense of it all. And the reader trying to make sense of her.
I will let you know how it all turns out.
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
"Out There in the Darkness" Ed Gorman from 1999's THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES" also published in Robert Bloch's PSYCHOS.
Although, to my embarrassment, I am choosing my third story by a male writer, I am disappointed that in this collection , Ed McBain, the editor that year, chose only one story by a woman and that was the ubiquitous Joyce Carol Oates. Twenty years later, women seem to dominate the crime fiction field. I am glad times have changed at least somewhat.
This story by Ed succeeds as both a crime story and a character study. Four men get together weekly to play poker. Of course, they enjoy the conversation, snacks and ribaldry as much as the game. Their small town has been experiencing a series of robberies, some of them quite violent. They have begun a neighborhood watch to keep an eye on things. When the poker players hear noises, they investigate. Somehow they manage to capture one of the burglars. And then begins the debate on what to do with him. The host wants to call the police; others suggest they try to get information from him first. Things get out of hand as they do with men who have been drinking and men who have differing ideas about the right behavior.
The story goes on to have lots of twists and turns. Ed used this title on one of his story collections and it seems to have appeared in several places. So because you might want to read it, I am going to end this review here. You don't hear much about neighborhood watches anymore. I am sure they often turned out to be more trouble than help to the police. This story captures just what that trouble might be very nicely.
I miss Ed so much. And Bill Crider, Randy Johnson, Ron Scheer, Sandra Seamans, and probably others I am forgetting. Certainly Richard Wheeler. Although I have spent time with Bill, the others I knew only online. Yet, they mean as much to me as people I see quite regularly. Many people in my real life are quite amazed and mystified by how this can be. But you guys get it.
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
Monday, October 26, 2020
Enjoying QUEEN'S GAMBIT. Although with streaming, a show like this comes and goes so quickly that it becomes a distant memory fairly quickly. Scott Frank, who is directing this, directed GODLESS, which I quite enjoyed last year but now has little resonance for me. I guess this has always been true of books and movies, but tv used to give one a longer experience. Mary Richards from Mary Tyler Moore was with us for years for 25 episodes a year. You can binge Queen's Gambit (6 episodes) in a day. Not that I like to watch that quickly. I am glad HBO still shows one episode a week. What's the hurry. If this goes on for a long time, won't the content be used up.
I am trying the ONE-DAY UNIVERSITY idea but it isn't really working for me. Either I know more about the subject than the audience they are lecturing to (Alfred Hitchcock) or far less and I need more of an introduction. Well, it is only $8.00 a month so if I cancel it before the month is out, I didn't lose much.
My book club (Z00M) met to discuss LAB GIRL. We all loved it and I highly recommend it.
Nearing the end of BORGEN, which was so good. I hope the fourth season comes soon.
Listening to REBECCA, reading a great Cary Grant bio, and DEEP WATER by Patricia Highsmith.
Watched THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO SEVEN. Frank Langella stole the show. What a horrible judge Julius Hoffman was. The last hour was quite riveting as the defense tried to outflank him.
So what about you?
Friday, October 23, 2020
Thirteen-year old Lizzie Hood and her next door neighbor, Evie Verver, are inseparable. They're best friends who swap bathing suits and field-hockey sticks, and share everything that's happened to them. Together they live in the shadow of Evie's glamorous older sister, Dusty, who provides a window on the exotic, intoxicating possibilities of their own teenage horizons. To Lizzie, the Verver household, presided over by Evie's big-hearted father, is the world's most perfect place.
And then, one afternoon, Evie disappears. The only clue: a maroon sedan Lizzie spotted driving past the two girls earlier in the day. As a rabid, giddy panic spreads through the Midwestern suburban community, everyone looks to Lizzie for answers. Was Evie unhappy, troubled, upset? Had she mentioned being followed? Would she have gotten into the car of a stranger?
Lizzie takes up her own furtive pursuit of the truth, prowling nights through backyards, peering through windows, pushing herself to the dark center of Evie's world. Haunted by dreams of her lost friend and titillated by her own new power at the center of the disappearance, Lizzie uncovers secrets and lies that make her wonder if she knew her best friend at all.
*I am not sure I wrote this back in 2010. It may have been Megan or perhaps someone from Little Brown. But here it is, one of my very favorite of Megan's books.
Mr. Verver is one of my favorite characters from Megan's books.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
"Doctor Jack O'Lantern" is the first story in Richard Yates' ELEVEN KINDS OF LONELINESS, which is one of my favorite story collections by one of my favorite authors. Yates also wrote REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and EASTER PARADE. All three are excellent.
This is a poignant story about a young teacher trying very hard to be a good one and a student who fails both to please her and to fit into his new school. Vinny has come from the City and Yates captures Vinny's part of the city so well by describing how it is the part of NYC that you whizz by on your way to Grand Central and the real New York.
Vinny is a foster child and his new town is not a good fit for him. The teacher has her students tell about their weekend activities and his account is cobbled from the other children's stories. (Actually he shows more talent as a writer than the rest of them). Scorned by his classmates and sad to have disappointed his teacher, he scribbles four-letter words on a wall. There is a point in this story when he almost bridges the gap between the other boys and himself, but his well-meaning teacher derails that moment and his rage will be his downfall.
For those who don't get a chance to read it, Doctor Jack O'Lantern is his misunderstanding of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Monday, October 19, 2020
Not since second grade have I heard a voice calling out "Patricia, please be still." But that is what I heard when I attempted to do an MRI this week. I got through that one but bailed on the additional two. I have to find an wide open MRI before I can do it. Too claustrophobic for me and it seems like you are gliding into a crematorium. And having to wear a mask makes it that much worse. All of this because my brain is wired a bit differently and they are not sure if this is a problem or not. Enough about that.
Enjoying hearing REBECCA read on audio. Also reading LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND, a very good book but the title is too hard to remember. It could be MAKE THE WORLD GO AWAY, WHEN THE WORLD GOES AWAY, a million other choices. Book titles are hard. I think the best ones are very short. It is one very scary book.
Still enjoying BORGEN, CRIMINAL-GERMANY, not a lot else though. The BLY MANOR show is too dense in characters and too short on scares. I think the offerings are beginning to be lesser works although I am looking forward to QUEEN'S GAMBIT beginning Friday.
Signed up for ONE- DAY UNIVERSITY. You get a lecture on a different topic every day for $7.95 a month. Looking forward to learning something that is not political.
So what's up with you.
Sunday, October 18, 2020
Friday, October 16, 2020
THE EXPENDABLE MAN, Dorothy B. Hughes
A resident at UCLA hospital reluctantly gives a teenager a ride on a deserted road near Phoenix. Right from the beginning, he seems guilty, worried, and we wonder if he perhaps is an unreliable narrator. His actions seems blameless so why the fretting. The girl comes to his hotel room later that night, demanding an abortion, which he refuses to do.
But after 50 or so pages of his fretting and pacing, we find out why he is overly concerned and it changes everything we have thought about him until that point. Irritatingly, many reviews will give this away so if you plan on reading the novel, stay away from other reviews. I think this moment in the novel is far too important to be divulged. Written in 1963, THE EXPENDABLE MAN was one of Hughes' last works and it reflects much of what is coming in the later sixties. Although she didn't die for another thirty years, her only other writing seems to be a biography of Erle Stanley Gardner.
I found this to be a moderately exciting read although I must confess that Hughes' progressive thinking in some areas is undercut by her judgmental attitude in others. Perhaps this reflects the time, but she comes down very hard on doctors who provide abortions and girls who need them. It is well-written and the characters are deftly drawn. We get a good sense of Phoenix at the time. All in all, a good if not perfect read.
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
You can hear the Lauren Grof read "The Midnight Zone" here. https://www.wnyc.org/story/lauren-groff-reads-midnight-zone/ although I read it in her collection of stories called FLORIDA. It is also available to read in a May 2016 issue of the New Yorker.
One of Groff's greatest strengths (for me) is her ability to make a landscape come alive. And in this story, it's a woodsy, primitive area of Florida filled with sink holes, wild animals, dangerous men, snakes, etc.
A panther has been spotted just before the father of a young family is called away. Immediately, we are on the edge of our seats as readers. He will be gone two days, leaving his wife with two small boys, no Internet, and even getting the cell phone to work is iffy. The mother has already admitted to not being the most engaged mother in the world. And it seems like she may now be ill with an unnamed malady.
Very quickly things spin out of control, and in trying to change the sole light bulb, with her son holding the stool, she falls and suffers a nasty head injury. She wakes to find her two boys looking down at her and they try as best they can to care for their injured mother. She comes in and out of consciousness and fantasizes roaming the woods around them, seeing the dangers awaiting them. The boys tend her and when their father returns, she can see from his face just how dire her situation was.
I very much admired that Groff never allows the reader to be off the hook in terms of awaiting a panther's arrival or some similar dire fate. She creates a threatening environment although the boys seem unaffected by it. It is the mother who is terrorized. A great story for me.
Monday, October 12, 2020
Don't forget Wednesday is short story day if you can participate. Send your story to me at email@example.com if you don't blog.
Still watching BORGEN, but also CRIMINAL UK, which is quite good and THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR, which is scary but not too. Reading the books mentioned above, which are also good reads.
Had a lot of porch visits this week, which will soon wind down I fear. Had an emergency visit to the dentist-my history with teeth is a sad one. Went to Josh's for dinner and a bonfire in their yard. Don't know when this bonfire thing started, but it is nice on a slightly cool night.
The Michigan Terrorists are very frightening. Don't call them a militia because that implies they are around to aid good causes and they are not.
Kevin goes back to in-class school tomorrow. Very worried about that. It is going to be hard indeed to avoid Covid over the next six months.
How about you?
Friday, October 09, 2020
QUEEN'S GAMBIT by Walter Tevis
I am not sure what drew me to this book. I know nothing about chess and the book was chock full of chess matches. I was unable to follow the moves and,
in fact, had never heard of terms like the "middle game" before.
an orphan, is taught chess by the janitor at the school/orphanage where
she lives. She begs him to learn and at once excels. Once adopted, her
adopted mother uses (in a benign way) her ability to support them. Both
of them are in flight from any real world.
We follow Beth from match to match across the years. She picks up some bad habits in terms of substance abuse along the way. An interesting book about a child prodigy and how she makes the jump to an adult champion. Highly recommended especially for those who play the game.
Tevis also wrote THE HUSTLER and THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH.
And look, here's the trailer for the Netflix series. https://youtu.be/CDrieqwSdgI
Wednesday, October 07, 2020
British woman and the Danish professor are brought together over their
shared interest in the Tollund Man, a anthropological find that resides
in a Denmark museum. Both have had disappointments in their life and
their attempts to overcome them brings them closer together. The
"niceness" of these people might have been too sacharine in other times,
but right now it was a tonic.
Youngson does a very good job of slowly opening each of them up, not rushing things but also not belaboring them. You can probably guess the ending but would the reader want it any other way.
You can find more reviews on Barrie Summy's blog.
Tuesday, October 06, 2020
We seem to be facing another long winter and I couldn't help but notice how many of you were reading short stories and I thought why not share them. Just a very short review or anything you want to say about the collection, the author, your history with it. Maybe we'll do it every Wednesday. No one should feel obliged to do one each week, but if we alternate we'll always have to figure out if this is the week.
Anyone that doesn't have a blog (Jeff, Steve, Gerard, etc) can send me their review and I will post it. Also if you know of anyone else that doesn't frequent this blog, please invite them. I will look for your links and post them. What do you think? If it's good, let's start next week, October 14th.
Monday, October 05, 2020
LAB GIRL Hope Jahrens,
skillfully combines the "making of a female scientist" with the science she studies. Dirt seems her major interest, but leaves and trees come after. I chose this book for my book group because we had never really read science before but not sure it was a good choice.
Anyway, what is new with you?
Friday, October 02, 2020
Apparently Bill Crider reviewed it when it came out last year but somehow his review did not make enough of an impression on my brain until I read his review of the sequel a few weeks ago, linking back to his Dead Anyway review. Then I thought, this sounds good. And it is.
Thursday, October 01, 2020
The Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa-*
The Teagirl of Hummingbird Lane, Lisa See
The Oral History of the Office, Andrew Greene
The Redhead by the Side of the Road, Anne Tyler
Seinfeldia, Jennifer Armstrong
The Housekeeper and the Professor, Yoko Ogawa
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Ann Patchett
Meet Me at the Museum, Ann Youngson
This is the longest list of books I have read in a while. No crime books unless you count THE MEMORY POLICE. More than half of these were audiobooks, which I borrowed from the library. Walking, cooking and cleaning allows me to get through them quickly. A certain kind of book works best on audio for me-one with a very clear plot and not too many characters. If the writing is very descriptive, it's not a good fit for me because I will miss too much. Two of these books, I read while eating--you do that when you are alone. (the office book and the Seinfeld book). I probably wouldn't have finished TEAGIRL but it was for my book group. My favorite was Ann Patchett's essays although I liked most of them quite a bit.
How was your September reading?