Tuesday, November 30, 2021

A Little Good News

My pathology report finally came back and there is no cancer in any of the lymph nodes they checked and the margins are clear. So hopefully three weeks of radiation once my surgical wounds have healed and then one of the estrogen fighting drugs. I am still hoping to go to California mid-January but it will be tight. I go to the surgeon today to see how healed I am.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Monday, Monday

 Imagine celebrating Thanksgiving in a week where you also saw two productions of your plays and then dying at age 91. (Maybe Jeff was at the same performance). What a blessing. 

Sondheim has always been a bit of a struggle. I think music in general is a weakness for me. So although I can admire his versatility with lyrics/words I still yearn (too much) for a tune to hum. I watched Sweeney Todd for the first time last night and was astonished at how dark it was. How Sweeney never got to redeem himself, right to the end. Is there a darker story? I downloaded a biography of him (by Meryle Secrest) and am determined to get him more. He actually lived in the same town as Phil for a while.

Reading ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE by Elizabeth Strout. Just can't seem to get enough of her. 

Watched KING RICHARD, which I liked more than I expected to. What a strange and interesting man.

Listening to DEAD EYES, a podcast about an actor who was fired from a Tom Hanks miniseries because Hanks claimed he had dead eyes. This is is exploration of that comment. I listen to podcasts a lot. Mostly ones about books, movies, TV. I have given up on all the political ones. 

A nice Thanksgiving, playing games and laughing although I ran out of steam. Apparently that surgery a week ago takes longer to recover from than I expected. 

What about you? Tired of turkey?

Monday, November 22, 2021

Monday, Monday

Not too much to say here. Watching a show called THE GULF on Acorn and also watched Tic Tic Boom on Netflix. Boy, no one writes many memorable tunes anymore. The music largely seems to advance the plot and it is not something anyone will ever hum as they leave the theater (or sofa).
Still Andrew Garfield was good in the role. Enjoying the TCM podcast on Desi and Lucy. Hoping you have more to say than me.

 My DIL and father.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Give thanks!

 Everything went fine!

Monday, November 15, 2021

Monday Monday

I have been in a lockdown in preparation for getting a Covid test today. If I test positive, everything will be delayed and I have a terrible fear of what happened to Jeff Meyerson last year happening to me. I know I don't have Covid, but what if the test gets mixed up. I have to take it at a hospital and I dread walking through one in Michigan right now. What an insane country we live in and I would move to Canada in a minute if they would let me in. 

Anyway, lots of TV since I can only read 2-3 hours a day and walk for one.  I absolutely loved OH WILLIAM by Elizabeth Strout. I am now rereading some of her earlier work that shares characters with this one (MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON). Ready to begin the new Gary Shytengart book next.

Netflix's PASSING has to be the best movie I have seen this year. Hard to believe it is Rebecca Hall's first directing job. I admired the novel (Nella Larson, 1929) and was worried it wouldn't work as a film, but it is entirely faithful to the book, gorgeously filmed, incredibly acted and the music is sublime. Can't recommend it highly enough.

On a much lighter note, I am also enjoying JOE PERA TALKS WITH YOU, (HBO MAX), LOVE LIFE (HBO MAX) and SOUTH SIDE (HBO MAX). Waiting for the last episodes of DALGLIESH and then I may cancel Acorn because I can't find much else I haven't seen on there. Maybe Brit Box is better. Also enjoying DOCTOR BRAIN on Apple but waiting a week for each new episode to drop is trying my memory. 

Megan has been long listed for the Joyce Carol Oates Literary Prize along with about 35 other writers. 

This will be a difficult week so I probably won't be here again until my procedure is over.  Stay safe and well.

What are you up to?

Friday, November 12, 2021

Friday's Forgotten Books, THE EXPENDABLE MAN, Dorothy B. Hughes


(from the archives)


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, November 10, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: In the Garden of North American Martyrs, Tobias Wolff " An Episode in the Life of Professor Brooke" and "Next Door"

Some years ago, I went to an event where both Wolff's brothers, sitting beside one another in front of a gorgeous fire place, dressed casually, discussed their lives and works. When they were children their parents divorced and Tobias went with his mother, Geoffrey with his father. Both have written about their childhood and a very strange one it was. (Duke of Deception and This Boy's Life) These are very fine memoirs and This Boy's Life was made into a film with a young Leonardo DiCaprio.

Wolff's short stories always feel like this very event surely happened much as it is written. There is a looseness about them, a lack of a strong central theme, that gives me this idea. In "Next Door" a couple listen to the the horrible fight going on next door. The wife asks if she can sleep with her husband in his single bed that night. (We don't know why they are sleeping apart) but when her husband tries to initiate sex she rejects it. This very short story ends with him thinking how he would rewrite a movie he'd been watching: El Dorado. The contrast between the noisy violence next door and the passionless stiffness of the couple is stark. You can't help but wonder if what he would really like to rewrite is his life.

"An Episode" concerns a professor at an MLA conference.  He meets a woman who is helping with the catering and has a one-night stand. He believes he's gotten away with this but a colleague knows and his wife smells the woman's perfume on his shirt. There are a lot of other strands here: the backbiting of professors at a conference, the annoying colleague he gives a ride to, cancer, the enjoyment of poetry that is less than scholarly, how hypocritical so many of us are. And it surely paints a harsh picture of those in the academy. 

Jerry House

Kevin Tipple 

George Kelley 

Richard Robinson

Monday, November 08, 2021

Monday, Monday

Saw two movies at the theater last week. Last Night at Soho was awfully dark for me and French Dispatch too light. I must have an very small sweet spot.  I have never been that much of a Wes Anderson fan although I have seen most of his movies. I guess my favorite is Moonrise Kingdom.

I watched The Electric Life of Louis Bain on TV, which was oddest movie of all. Louis Bain was the world's most popular artist of cats. Benedict Cumberbatch was excellent in the role but it was sooooooooo weird.  Filmed in a strange way and about a family of eccentric people. 

I signed on for Acorn to get the new Dalgliesh series which seems good based on the first two episodes. 

I talked to a friend today in the hospital with a stroke but she also caught Covid despite being vaccinated. The nurses in her section were told to go into patient rooms as little as possible so she had horrible care. I am so sad that the people not getting shots have brought this sort of treatment about. I wonder if they know or care what they have wrought.  

Have no attention for reading novels right now. Didn't even finish the Krueger one which seemed like it was dragging out the plot for far too long. First time I noticed that with him so it was probably me. I have the new Jonathan Frantzen here so maybe I will try that. 

How about you?

Friday, November 05, 2021

Friday's Forgotten Books

 (From the archives)

Mack Lundy grew up in an Air force family whose travels included a posting to Pretoria, South Africa (1952-56) where he acquired an English accent, a fondness for ginger beer, and exposure to his first mysteries, Enid Blyton's Famous Five series. Alas, he lost the accent but still likes ginger beer and mysteries. He is a retired systems librarian at the Swem Library of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. His non-work interest is the study of crime fiction, particularly noir and hard-boiled.

HAVE SPACESUIT, WILL TRAVEL. Robert A. Heinlein, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958.
TUNNEL IN THE SKY. Robert A. Heinlein, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1955.

For my forgotten books I want to go back to the time when my reading habits had started to firm up. Along with reading everything in the school library by John Steinbeck, science fiction was my preferred genre. The 1960s were a remarkable time for science. The launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957 started the Space Race which gave us cosmonauts and astronauts in space by 1961. It is little wonder that a teenager would find himself obsessed with hard science fiction and off-world travel. I loved science fiction and adventure stories and one author really stood out, Robert A. Heinlein. Sure I read Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke but it was Heinlein's juvenile science fiction that could combine pulse pounding excitement with hard science.Several decades ago I acquired seven of Heinlein's juvenile science fiction novels that were being discarded from a school library. They remained boxed while I moved from job to job. When I got them out of the attic for this post, I found that two of the titles I most fondly remembered were there, Have Space Suit - Will Travel and Tunnel in the Sky. Being a librarian I wanted to see if there was some way to measure if these qualified as forgotten books. We have a very active public library in Williamsburg, VA and they were able to tell me that Have Space Suit - Will Travel has circulated 72 times since 1985. That doesn't make it entirely forgotten but it is by no means a Harry Potter or Twilight. Tunnel in the Sky, on the other hand, has been checked out once, making it a truly forgotten book.Have Space Suit- Will Travel (anyone else remember Paladin) is the story of teenager Kip Russell who who wins a functional space suit as a consolation prize in a soap company jingle contest. Making the best of his disappointment at not wining the grand prize of a trip to the moon, Kip restores the suit to space worthiness. He goes out for a walk in the suit one night, answers a distress call on his suit radio, and quickly finds himself a captive of aliens who view humans as a food source along with an eleven year old human girl genius named Peewee and an intergalactic cop that Kip and Peewee call the Mother Thing. The story has an amazing escape attempt on the moon, heroic acts of self-sacrifice on Pluto, and, along the way, Kip and Peewee save the earth from destruction. Heady stuff, I get goosebumps just thinking about it. One of the cool things about this book is that Heinlein makes science a part of the story in a non-pedantic way. I would have thought that staying warm would be a problem on the moon but no, I learned, it's how to get rid of excess heat.Tunnel in the Sky has another teenage boy who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances. In Rod Walker's world, an interstellar teleporter is used to establish colonies to ease earth's over crowding. The colonies have to be self-supporting and the colonists move through the teleporter in a high-tech - but still pulled by horse or mule - version of the old west Conestoga wagon. Rod wants to lead these expeditions but that requires completion of a solo survival exercise as part of a class in advanced survival. Along with students from various high schools which gives the plot the necessary mix of ages and abilities, Rod is dumped on an unknown planet with only the gear he can carry. Something goes wrong and the students find themselves stranded with no way of knowing when, or if, they will be rescued. The students struggle to form a community in which Rod becomes a leader.Where Have Suit - Will Travel features hard science, Tunnel in the Sky deals more with the societal demands associated with creating a community and the politics of leadership. More so than Have Space Suit - Will Travel, for me, Tunnel in the Sky is in the "how would I act in that situation, would I survive" school of adventure fiction. It made me think and I remember coming away from the book wishing that I could carry a knife.With the benefit of hindsight I can now see that Heinlein, in his juvenile science fiction, was developing the character types and philosophies that would mark his adult works. I was also struck by how readable these books remain. They are dated in many ways; slide rules are high tech. and the guys wear crew cuts. But despite the bits of patronizing sexism (mild for the day), Heinlein provided strong, independent female characters. At the core these are still solid, relevant, stories that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to a young person.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Short Story Wednesday

I started to review this story of Megan's myself and then decided to let Kristopher's review stand in for mine. The story is very strong on atmosphere. You are filled with dread reading it.

Vintage Hollywood and Megan Abbott is like Chocolate with Strawberries – a perfect pairing. Megan has already shown readers that she can write damn fine novels (such as Dare Me, The Fever, and Bury Me Deep) and she has written one of my favorite overlooked short stories, “My Heart is Either Broken.” Now with “The Little Men,” she has contributed to The Mysterious Bookshop’s great series of Bibliomysteries.

“The Little Men” is set in 1950’s Hollywood. It is the story of Penny Smith, a failed actress who is now making a living by doing makeup on the movie lots of yesteryear. Struggling to make ends meet, when Penny finds an affordable bungalow for rent in Canyon Arms, she thinks her prayers have been answered.

Sure, the landlady – Mrs. Stahl – is a bit odd and maybe more that a bit nosy, but beggars can’t be choosers. It’s only when Penny makes friends with the eccentric gay couple next door in Bungalow Number Five that she starts to learn more about the history of her new abode.

It seems that Lawrence, one of the previous tenets committed suicide in her cherished bungalow. Larry was a bookseller who shared his love of literature with Mrs. Stahl. Is it possible there was more to that relationship? An inscription in one of Mrs. Stahl’s treasured books might just hold the answer.

All of this becomes more complicated when Penny finds out that Larry was seeing the exact same visions of tiny little men scurrying across the bungalow floor in the wee hours of the night that she has started to see since moving into Bungalow Number Four. Is Penny following Larry’s path to madness?

Megan Abbott keeps the suspense high in this short story. Readers will run through the gamut of possibilities before what is really happening – and what really happened – is finally revealed. You can always count of Megan Abbott to tell a satisfying story featuring strong female characters and “The Little Men” is just further proof. This one is a fine new addition to the Bibliomysteries line of books.


More about Otto Penzler's bibliomysteries   Briefly, every Christmas he publishes one in a small book form.

 THE LITTLE MEN won the Anthony Award for Best Short Story in 2016.   

Todd Mason

Kevin Tipple


Richard Robinson

George Kelley 

Jerry House 

Monday, November 01, 2021

Monday, Monday


There is no way Paul Newman had the build this poster represents. Men just didn't work on their bodies that way in 1958. But I enjoyed this movie in spite of that. And he still is about the best looking man I have ever seen. Although Orson Welles, in some very strange makeup stole the show. 

(THE BIG CHILL) This is a movie I rewatch often because the music is so wonderful and also the cast. Jeff Goldblum always is the coolest guy in the room, isn't he?

Also went to see DUNE, which I liked but didn't love. Not my favorite genre but they did a good job with it.

Watching THE ALIENIST, which I didn't catch a few years ago. 

Reading LIGHTNING STRIKES by W.KK., which is terrific so far. Why am I drawn to stories about boys of the last century growing up in small towns with Indians among them? If I had a fault to notice, it is that WKK's kids are just too darn polite. I was a kid then and only Eddie Haskell was that polite to adults. Other than that, I love it.

Got to have a few meals out with friends and went to breakfast with my family so despite my health issues it was a good week. 

What about you?