Monday, May 31, 2021
Some of the areas that need work
Now I am knee-deep in gardening and it really is too much for me. There are beds everywhere that need lots of weeding and planting. I ordered 8 bags of mulch not realizing how heavy they are. Oh, well, there's always next year.
Reading KLARA AND THE SUN, which I am not enjoying much sadly. The flat writing style he uses for his AI characters seems to be catching because the human characters use it too.
I did enjoy Megan's book, THE TURNOUT,
which is getting great prepublication reviews. It comes out in
August.She will be doing a virtual tour that I will post on here before
it happens. Also reading THE OVERSTORY for my book group.
Still enjoying FOR ALL MANKIND and just started THE FRENCH VILLAGE. IN TREATMENT looks promising. Hpefully MARE ended well last night. Also found a show called LOUDERMILK with Ron Livingstone on Prime, which is pretty good.
I am going to get hearing aids. Anyone have any recommendations for me?
And what about you?
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Short Story Wednesday, "The Best of Everything," Richard Yates
Richard Yates wrote two of my favorite novels, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and THE EASTER PARADE, but he also wrote this fabulous collection of ten short stories (among others). Written in the fifties "The Best of Everything" almost seems like a story written earlier. Were people in their twenties this naive? This innocent? I have to assume some were.
It is the story of a couple on the day before their marriage is to take place in Atlantic City. The point of view switches between the two of them and you can't help but notice how drastically different they are from each other once you are in their heads. You also realize they don't know each other at all and that their marriage will probably fail quickly.
The woman is a typical middle class young woman working as a secretary. She speaks well and is respected in her office. The man is a step or two down the socioeconomic ladder and has a poor grasp of English, which the woman's roommate makes her constantly aware of, calling he and his friends, "Ratty little clerks."
But for whatever reason, Grace goes forward with the marriage plans although we sense her worry. Her roommate, feeling badly about the things she has said about Eddie, leaves her alone the night before the wedding and Grace plans an early consummation, feeling this will set things right.
But Eddie has been the man of the hour with his friends at a bachelor party and he is stunned by their good will. You get the feeling he has never been the center of attention before this night. He hurries to Grace's apartment to tell her he is going back to the party and her attempt to seduce him goes to naught.
We understand now that Eddie will always choose his friends over his wife and that will destroy their marriage quickly. She goes so far to put his hand on her naked breast. Nothing.
There is a lot of discussion online about this story. One teacher said it was the cause of a female student in his class dumping her boyfriend. Yates' real gift here is capturing the mind and language of both characters so clearly and with sympathy. Eddie is not a bad man and Grace is not a snob, but they certainly don't belong together. They seem to have reached an age when they believe it is time to marry no matter to who.
Here is a nice piece by Stewart O'Nan pondering the fate of the writing of Richard Yates. He had an unhappy life and an undeserved disappearance from the shelves. His resurgence in the early nineties quickly died out. A real shame.
I will be back in three weeks with more short story reviews but don't let that stop you.
Monday, May 10, 2021
Megan has been here for a few days and what a gift that is after 16 months. We saw a fairly bad movie (NOBODY), went out to lunch, went out to dinner, had dinner at Josh's house, and had a pedicure, my first ever. Also watched 1934's DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY with Frederic March, what a strange film.
Crazy about the Apple TV series FOR ALL MANKIND. Odd to feel affection for an alternative history of the space program but it is so interesting to envision the changes that would happen if the Russians had landed on the moon first.
Back into the horror show of THE HANDMAID'S TALE. My interest is waning.
Been listening to a lot of the music (soundtracks) of Nicholas Britell (Succession, Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk)
I will be a bit sparse here for the next two weeks.
What's happening with you?
Friday, May 07, 2021
FFB-SQUEEZE PLAY, Paul Benjamin (Paul Auster)
(From the archives 2009)
Kent Morgan writes a sports column for a paper in Winnipeg, Manitoba, but spends most of his time puzzling over what to do with all the books piled on his furniture and floor and stored in his garage. More bookcases are not the answer as he has no room for them.
Squeeze Play - Paul Benjamin - Avon 1984
Five years ago third baseman George Chapman had an Alex Rodriguez-type season as the New York Americans won the World Series. Unlike Rodriguez, he seemed to be the perfect hero at a time New York City was dealing with strikes and political scandals. The following February his career came to an end when he lost his left leg following a car accident in upstate New York. He disappeared from sight for awhile, but then returned to the limelight as an advocate for the handicapped. Now a possible candidate for a US senate seat, Chapman contacts PI Max Klein as he has received a letter threatening blackmail and possible death. The pair played college baseball against each other and after graduation from Columbia, Klein worked as a lawyer in the D.A.'s office before switching to his career as a gumshoe. Klein's law school friend Chip Contini, the son of east coast mob head Victor Contini, recommended Klein to Chapman. Chapman claims he has no idea what he has done that could lead to blackmail or why anyone would want to kill him. Squeeze Play turns out to be a pretty routine PI novel with Klein getting beat up several times by thugs who he believes work for the older Contini. Chapman is found dead early in the book and soon his attractive widow, who had a rocky relationship with her husband, is making a play for Klein.
The author actually is Paul Benjamin Auster, who went on to write several novels loved by the critics including the New York Trilogy: City of Glass (1985), Ghosts (1986), The Locked Room (1987), which have been described as "surreal variations of the urban detective story." Auster supposedly wrote this book while living in France in the 1970s during a period that he needed money. While the Avon edition often is listed as a paperback original and offered at high prices by book dealers, an earlier edition was published in 1982. In his memoir, Hand to Mouth; a Chronicle of Early Failure (1997), Auster does not identify the publisher and writes, "production of my novel dragged on for two years. By the time it was printed, he had lost his distributor, had no money left, and to all intents and purposes was dead as a publisher. A few copies made it into a few New York bookstores, hand-delivered by the publisher himself, but the rest of the edition remained in cardboard boxes, gathering dust on the floor of a warehouse somewhere in Brooklyn. For all I know, the books are still there."
Andy McCue, the current president of the Society for American Baseball Research and author of Baseball by the Books: a History and Complete Bibliography of Baseball Fiction (1991), has added to the story. "I have never seen a hardbound copy of Squeeze Play, but do have a 1982 paperback. This could explain the 1982 copyright on the 1984 Avon reprint. The trade-sized paperback has a highly garish pinky/purple cover, with a series of shapes breaking up the cover into several sections, most of them filled with drawings. The drawings are fairly amateurish, as are the production values of the book as a whole. The publisher is listed as Alpha/Omega Book Publishers, Inc. of New York."
An interesting history to a book that likely is not on the radar of anyone other than Auster completists and baseball fiction collectors.
Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Short Story Wednesday: THE DAEMON LOVER, Shirley Jackson
This story could be read as a realistic tale of a woman who is jilted on her wedding day. But it is also easy to see it as eerie and unsettling. The story begins with a young woman (age 34) trying to decide what to wear for her wedding that day. Her fiance has come into her life recently and the proposal seems to be unexpected. When the time he was supposed to appear comes and goes, she sets out to find out what befell him. She visits the apartment he claims to live in, the florist where he might have bought flowers, the shoe shine man who might have polished his shoes. Eventually she works her way to a building where someone reported seeing him. On the top floor are two doors. One gives way to a dilapidated room. but she can hear laughter behind the other door. She knocks but no one answers. She returns on occasion to this place but he is never there.
Was he ever there? Although she claims to be 34, you can easily see her as much older given the way she is treated. I really expected to find out this had all happened fifty years earlier and she was locked into a Groundhog Day scenario.
Her lover's name is Jamie Harris. Maybe Jackson is establishing a link to this.
"The Daemon Lover", also known as "James Harris", "James Herries", or "The House Carpenter" (Roud 14, Child 243) is a popular Scottish ballad dating to around 1685. Roud records the title as A warning for married women and identifies the woman in the song as "Mrs. Jane Reynolds (a west-country-Woman) born near Plimouth who having plighted her troth to a Seaman, was afterwards married to a Carpenter, and at last carried away by a Spirit."
As always the excellent writing carries this story.
Monday, May 03, 2021
Reading a really fun book, A MAN NAMED DOLL (Ames). I am sure you would all like it too. Also reading the Philip Roth bio and watched a doc about him on TV. He was probably the writer I read most in my life so even the his biographer is a horrible person, I will read it. Roth was probably a bit of a jerk too, but his work was not. Also reading HOW TO WATCH A MOVIE, David Thomson.
Watching the twenty seasons of SILENT WITNESS, which is good although too many of the cases concern accidents (murders) with multiple victims and it is hard to keep track of them all. It is a well-done show though (Prime). Also watching MARE OF EASTTOWN and ATLANTIC CROSSING. I seem to watch more documentaries than anything else right now.
Rewatched RACHEL GETTING MARRIED after a podcast discussed it. I do listen to a lot of audiobooks from my library and podcasts. When you live alone, I think, you need to have something on: tv, radio or audiobooks.