Here is Ron Scheer reviewing Ed Gorman in 2014. R.I.P. buddies.
Ed Gorman, Riders on the Storm
Here is Ron Scheer reviewing Ed Gorman in 2014. R.I.P. buddies.
It begins when a young man, working his way up in the plastic industry, is sent to fire a man well above him in the pecking order. What he sees at the man's apartment embarrasses the man who manages to pull himself together and then fires Johnny as a witness to his disgrace. Johnny is very given to feeling sorry for himself, is estranged from his mother, and somewhat at odds with most everyone. Now struggling to keep up his life-style, he robs his next door neighbor of his wallet. He does this at night while they are sleeping in the same room as the wallet.
Johnny thinks a lot about money, about his privileged childhood, about the unfairness of what's happened to him. When his birthday comes and his children give him a ladder, he immediately ties it into his being a second-story man although of course, the kids don't know about that. His poor behavior sparks a fight with his wife. The story ends with his returning the money and almost getting caught by a police car.
Now there is a lot more to it than this but so much of it is interior thoughts it is hard to sum up. Some of it is amusing and some of it is pathetic. It is both a defense and a critique of the banlieue. Cheever is a master of the literary short story.
"Shady Hill, as I say a banlieue, and open to criticism by city planners, adventurers and lyric poets, but if you work in the city and have children to raise, I can't think of a better place."
Banlieue is the French word for suburb.
Jack Livingstone wrote four (to my knowledge) books about his deaf detective, Joe Binney, which I quite enjoyed in the 1980s. The series was brought to mind after seeing THE SOUND OF METAL, about a musician going deaf. A deaf musician is certainly a more serious handicap than in a detective but Joe had to work around his deafness too. He was not born deaf but acquired it in the Korean War. Anyone else read him?
1982: A Piece of the Silence
1984-Die Again, Macready
1986-The Nightmare File
1987 Hellbent for Homicide (also known ad Hellbent for Election)
April 23, 2019
Two years gone
and you missed the world mutate
how strange to imagine you
out on the road among the masked
trying to parse
what can't be understood
weaving through contesting slogans
inked during curfews
washed out by moonlight
seeing men scale hallowed edifices
unchecked and mercilessdefiling doctrines once sacred
Two years and the world you knew
is more gone than you.
William Maxwell wrote one of my favorite novels, TIME WILL DARKEN IT, but despite having his collected stories I have read none till now. He has divided the book into traditional short stories and something he calls improvisations. This is what he says about the improvisations. "I wrote them to please my wife. When we were first married, I would tell her a story in the dark. I had no idea where they came from. Sometimes I fell asleep and she would shake me and say, "What happened next?" I would struggle through the layers of oblivion and tell her."
That is perhaps my favorite story of all. How nice to make up stories for your wife.
"My Father's Friends" is about a visit made by a man after his father's death to two friends who were not well enough to attend the funeral . The first friend was man his father fished with and our protagonist finds much in common with this friend and they become friends. The second man golfed with his father and he is a harder man to like. He is critical of the man's now dead father, claiming he liked women too much. The story ends with an aunt telling our protagonist that as the second friend's wife lay dying she told him he was the dearest husband any wife ever had. So this statement helps the man to find goodness in the friend. The story is very well written but more a memory perhaps than a story. I will have to read more of them.
Watching THE ACCIDENT on Hulu, which is pretty scary. Also scary is the Swedish doc series on HBO, PRAY, OBEY, KILL. Until COVID I never knew how many cults there were in the world. Why are so many documentarians attracted to cults?
Still really enjoying the Mike Nichols biography. I have two books to pick up at the library because the six hundred unread books on my shelves never seem to get read. It's sort of like when I was a teenager and always liked the boy I wasn't dating. What does get read is my bookclub books though. We discuss BUDDHA IN THE ATTIC, Tuesday night. Next comes THE OVERSTORY.
Got to see Megan interview Willie Vlautin this week. Most of these interviews end up on you tube a few days later so if you are interesting in any author on a virtual book tour you can catch him/her that way. I think these interviews work very well, better than seeing the author just talk about their book at a bookstore. Megan, a big Vlautin fan, knew the book so well, it was like a college class. A lot of writers are not particularly good at just giving a book talk but by having another author interview them and discuss the book, it really becomes vivid.
Now play readings I have been watching are less successful in many cases. Most plays need movement and some costume changes and scenery to succeed. Also some actors are much better than others at not seeming to read the script.
Enough about me, what about you?
When I learned it was a YA book, I groaned.
When I learned it was about the Second World War in Germany, I groaned again.
Then I found out it was about a ten-year old girl orphaned and sent to live with a foster family. Jeez, I thought. Can't we ever read a happy book?
THE BOOK THIEF was not a happy book. But it was a highly original book-much more so than most adult novels I read. I don't even understand why someone classified it as YA. Is every book with a YA hero classified as YA? But this is a book teachers might choose for teens. I think my grandson read it in seventh grade.
The narrator in THE BOOK THIEF is Death and he tells the story from the standpoint of someone overwhelmed with his mission during the war. Death has his hands full.
But THE BOOK THIEF is even more the story of a young girl who loses her family and is sent to live with a foster family in a small German town. She can't read at first but values books greatly and collects them in whatever way she can. Her foster father reads to her every night from the improbable books she finds or steals. The family is kind, both to her and to a Jewish man fleeing the Nazis who is hiding in their basement.
This book certainly humanizes the German people. We watch them starve, freeze and die. Certainly its portrait of Nazis is acute. But with THE READER and this book, the trend is now to understand the Germans were victims of Hitler and fascism too. Maybe it is time to think about this.
It's really hard to do that though, knowing the smell of gassed bodies was mere miles away. Still, THE BOOK THIEF is a book worth reading.
This was s National Book Award Finalist in 1999. It's not hard to understand why. Thompson writes gorgeous short stories. She has several other collections as well as a few novels.
A heart attack drops the price of the house and the couple buy it. The widower still stops by to see what improvements they are making. The wife is tolerant of this but the husband finds it irking--perhaps because it makes him doubt their ability to have a long and happy marriage. Great story. Great writer.
Willie Vlautin's virtual book tour for The Night Always Comes lands at City Lights Bookstore in S.F. tomorrow and Megan will be interviewing him. Here is the link. It is free but you have to register. http://www.citylights.com/info/?fa=event&event_id=3762
You can also catch him at other book stores. https://www.willyvlautin.com/post/virtual-tour-dates-the-night-always-comes
Once registered you will get information on how to link up. These links usually work well.
I read the book a few months ago and enjoyed it as I have all of his books. One of the few writers who writes about everyday people.
Reading LUSTER, which has to have some of the best reviews of a debut novel I have ever seen. It is the story of a young Black woman who gets drawn into a white family who've adopted a Black child. The writing is extremely sharp, you feel like every word has been honed--perhaps too much at times. But I certainly am in awe of such a prodigy. On her cover picture, she looks about 25. It is not my kind of book exactly. Do you feel like you have a particular kind of book that is likely to speak to you? Maybe she is just too young but Rebecca was very young and that books speaks to me. Maybe she is too much of this time and place. I am not sure but although I certainly admire Leilani's use of the language and her complex thoughts, it is not a book that draws me in.
Enjoying Happy Hour, a five-hour Japanese movie on Kanopy. They have broken it into three parts and it concerns four 37 year old women in Japan in 2015.I get Kanopy through my library as well as Hoopla.
Also plugging away at the Mike Nichols bio, which is very well done.
We celebrated Josh's birthday this weekend. Nice to be together without masks since we all have had our shots. Interesting learning how gym was conducted in Kevin's virtual school. Virtual gym turns out to be his Mom filming him doing various things like sit-ups and playing catch. How much this generation is losing with this pandemic going on and on. Half of Michigan has just given up on any sort of social distancing. And you can guess who they voted for.
How about you?
I mean no disrespect when I say that I imagine Graham Greene conceived of Loser Takes All (one of his self-described "entertainments") as a film before he decided to write it as a short novella. It's big and colorful and hangs on two cunning twists that neatly divide the piece into curtain act one and curtain act two.
REMAINS OF THE DAY is the story of a butler, one that heads a very large staff for a very prominent English gentleman. He takes his position so seriously that he allows his father to die in an upstairs room alone while he handles an important affair for his employer. Although Stephens seems like a highly intelligent man, he gets most everything wrong in this story. He puts so much faith in his employer that he believes following the lead of Germany in the 20s and 30s is the right step. He fires housemaids because they are Jewish, he allows a possible romance with the housekeeper to go off course. In fact, he often treats her dismissively. And most of all, he doesn't understand that he is not irreplaceable, that he is just a small cog in a wheel that he can never have a hand in turning. The most superficial tasks in running a house become his entire world. And so he misses what he might have had and instead supports a Nazi supporter for the duration. He has constructed his life around performing tasks at the highest level. This gives him far more pleasure than it should.
This is an unusual book for a young man to have written because it is filled with tips about the life and duties of a butler. You feel sorry for what Stephens has lost but understand that his father, a butler before him, has made the man. But you also despise often his behavior and pomposity. A very complex character.
For more First Wednesday reviews, see Barrie Summy.
Every once in a while you get a story where the detail is so specific and so well rendered that you feel you are with the characters. In this story a brother calls his sister to give him a ride home. He has been watching a snuff film that he is way too young to have seen. (No one should have seen this one). Begrudgingly she comes to get him, questioning what he is doing way out in the country. On the way home, they hit a deer. They stop the car, not knowing at first what they hit. The deer is already dying but when the sister puts her hand on the animal, she feels something moving around inside. The two try to save the baby but, of course, fail.
Now this isn't much of a plot, but what makes it really work is how well the writer describes everything they see and do. You not only feel that the author must have experienced this, but you wonder how she was able to take in the details so exactingly. The details of what the night was like, what the road was like, what the car was like, the things they did to try and save the baby. And, of course, that snuff film plays with the brother's emotions as he watches his sister fail. Excellent.
Megan got her first shot and is coming out right after her second. It will have been a year and a half since I saw her. Only for two days, but I will take what I can get gladly. Not too long ago we were figuring it would be July so May looks pretty good.
I saw my first Jerry Lewis film--in maybe ever--this week.It was as goofy as I imagined but it has a kind of charm. Lots of singing. Lots of totally improbably sequences.
As I am reading the Mike Nichols bio, I watched CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, which held up well. I saw it last in the theater at age 21 and was pretty mystified by it. Still am a bit. The bio is very good btw.
So what's new with you?
(from the archives)
COMPULSION by Meyer Levin