Monday, May 16, 2022

Monday, Monday


 HACKS is back, picking up where it left off. The chemistry between these two women make it zing. Also enjoying UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN

and BREEDERS.

Went to see a terrific MAMA MIA at a local theater here. I guess if you like the music of ABBA, which I do, you won't find much to dislike.

I doubt I have ever seen a cast enjoy themselves more than this one. Say what you want about musicals amateurs are much more likely to be able to sing than act. And this one had many good singers.

We have had a gorgeous week here. Although things are closing down to the left and right of me as construction begins, I can still sneak out. This was a good move for me. I feel calmer than in years despite all of the COVID and bad politics around me. Not sure why but I'll take it. 

Reading THE LIONESS by Chris Bohjalian.

What about you?

Friday, May 13, 2022

FFB POWER OF THE DOG, Thomas Savage


 

 POWER OF THE DOG was a 1967 novel written by Thomas Savage. It concerns two brothers on a ranch in Montana in 1925. They have reached the age when most would consider them confirmed bachelors when the younger, George, falls in love with a widow, upsetting the balance on the ranch. Phil, the alpha male of the family and ranch, is incensed with this and is cruel to both the new wife and her son. Rose starts drinking and her son despairs in how to help his mother. His solution is a drastic one.

I liked the movie of this work well enough to read the novel. We get a lot more insight into Phil especially in the novel.  He is a closeted homosexual who has probably only once been able to act on his desires. So he has turned that love to his brother and can't bear losing him to Rose. Rose is a timid woman but her son who seems to be at first is not. We have four interesting characters here and the author makes us sympathetic to each of them.  Phil may be a monster in some ways but the writer makes him understandable. A great book. Savage wrote many others, which I will seek out.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: Two stories from TROUBLED DAUGHTERS, TWISTED WIVES, edited by Sarah Weinman


 "Everybody Needs a Mink" by Dorothy B. Hughes 

There is no crime in this story. A woman shopping at an upscale department store and wishing she had the money to buy some of the beautiful goods she sees is asked by a clerk to model a mink coat for an elderly man standing nearby. She agrees and the mink is a perfect fit. Joyfully she dashes to a mirror to see herself in it. The clerk comes over and asks her initials for a monogram and her address to have it delivered. Of course the woman thinks this is all a gag but gives her the information. 

The coat is delivered and when she tells her family about this they are befuddled too but her husband says, "Wear it. Everybody needs a mink." When later on TV she sees a man being carted off to prison and somewhat similar to the man in the stores, she tells them this was the man. And she wears it after that, wishing she could properly thank the man but glad he saw her joy in modeling it.

"The Purple Shroud" Joyce Harrington

Every summer the Moons go to an artist colony where she weaves and he paints. He also recruits a young woman to be his consort for the summer. Finally having had enough of this, Mrs. Moon weaves a shroud and murders him then sews him into the shroud and dumps him into the lake. As the story ends she is headed out to Minneapolis where this summer's consort lives. This is a gorgeously written story that takes its time with her weaving...and murdering. No one will mourn the death of this womanizer.

 Kevin Tipple

TracyK

George Kelley 

Richard Robinson 

Todd Mason

Monday, May 09, 2022

Monday, Monday

 

Lots of stuff to watch. BOSCH, LEGACY is a solid return to form although the commercials are a mood kill. How did we ever tolerate them.

THE STAIRCASE-well, it will be hard to top the excellent docu-series of a few years ago. So many children to keep track of.

Saw two movies at the movie theaters: THE DUKE. Charming and well done if a bit too cute. So much a flaw in many British productions. SECRET CITY with Sandra Bullock was fun if slight. She certainly looks great at age 57. 

Speaking of 57, Gary Cooper was 57 in LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON, playing opposite a 27 year old Audrey Hepburn. He looked older than 57 too. It was a bit creepy but since she always seemed to play opposite older men, it wasn't as scary as it might have been.  Megan did a podcast about Billy Wilder's lesser known films and this was one of them.

A few lovely days here although the race track outside my windows is hard to take on a Saturday night. Some state ordinance is holding the local cops from ticketing these hooligans. They have fixed their


exhaust systems to make a lot of noise.  Can't bear the thought of the Woodward Dream Cruise in August.

But this has already started for me. I have a front row window onto it. 

The legs problem is a result of the estrogen-blocking drug I am taking. So I will have to try to get used to it. Thirty percent of the women taking it suffer leg pains. The side effects are considerable but how can I not take it. 

LOVED THE POWER OF THE DOG by Thomas Savage. Also enjoying HOMEGOING. Hard to read about the suffering of the Black people but the story is too powerful not to read. 


What about you?


Sunday, May 08, 2022

Happy Mother's Day

 

Miss you every day, Mom.

Friday, May 06, 2022

FFB: American Wife, Curtis Sittenfeld

AMERICAN WIFE by Curtis Sittenfeld is fictional account of a wife much like Laura Bush. Sittenfeld had always been interested in Mrs. Bush and she does a bang-up job of capturing her. Laura/Alice grows up in a Wisconsin town, a typical midwestern girl. You have trouble understanding what she sees in George/Charlie beyond money and charm. But love is strange and Sittenfeld is good at giving him just enough charm to persuade you a nice girl might marry him. The Bush family is even less likable. It's all here: the car accident when she was a teen, the drinking, the combination of ambition as an entitlement more than something you work for with little feeling for the people he will serve. In light of our current president, he doesn't seem that bad but like Will Ferrel reminded us on SNL, he was. And there are some striking similarities.

I am an admirer of Sittenfeld's writing and this is some of her best although the last third is far too ruminative. And no, he never comes off well.

Four years later, and there is a SHOWTIME series on three first ladies. Laura Bush would have been an interesting inclusion. I am pretty sure neither she nor her daughters are Trumpers. 

 

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

SHORT STORY WEDNESDAY, "Public Transporation" Lee Child from Phoenix Noir

 


Either the twist makes a story or sinks it. In this case, it sunk it for me because the twist with no buildup to why it would happen just is irksome. A journalist is asking a cop about a murder in Chandler, AZ. The cop doesn't want to tell about a unsolved murder  but eventually gives the journalist the details. How the cops determined due to the GPS on an iphone (fairly new in 2009) that the perpetrator had to be on a bus. Except he wasn't when they got there. His phone was though. 


SPOILER: So it turns out the journalist is the perp. Now why would he murder a fourteen year old girl and why would he introduce himself to cops that worked on the crime. The writing is good, the setup is fine, atmosphere great, but that twist gave me wrist burn. 

Kevin Tipple

George Kelley 

Richard Robinson 

Steve Lewis

Monday, May 02, 2022

Monday, Monday


Took a few nice walks this week with friends although my legs have been bothering me a bit. Hope it's temporary. Everything is blooming at once. We are usually warmer by now.

Finished off PACHINKO and SEVERANCE, (Apple) which were both very good. Having trouble with SLOW HORSES though.

Reading HOMEGOING for my book group and having considerable trouble getting into it. Each chapter moves forward in time with a new character. Most of them are women being tortured. Awfully hard to read. Still enjoying THE SHOOTING OF MIDNIGHT COWBOY but I am reading it too slowly.

I booked tickets to DC for the first week in June and it literally took me four hours because Delta will not talk to you. I needed to change my address, credit cards, etc. Why is spending all that time with someone on online chat app better. than a phonecall  She told me if I want to talk to someone, I had to come to the ticket desk at the airport. I eventually figured it out by erasing all the old information except my frequent flyer number. My age  is three years off but they wanted a passport downloaded to fix that.  

Well, they are tearing up my street this summer for new sewers' lighting, landscaping etc.I am sure it will look nice in the end but a difficult summer for parking, shopping,etc.

Big book sale at my new library in two weeks. Do I start refilling shelves or exercise control? I will have to exercise control because I have no shelf space left. 

What's up with you?


Friday, April 29, 2022

Friday's Forgotten Books" MOTHERING SUNDAY, Graham Swift

 


First the movie, then the book. This happens more than you'd expect. I suspect for most people it goes the other way if at all. 

Jane is an orphan who is put into service at age fourteen. Very soon after that she begins a seven-year affair with the son of a neighboring family. Both the house Jane works in and her lover's home have suffered multiple deaths in the first World War. So death is very much a factor in the atmosphere here.

Of course, Jane's lover is not not to marry Jane but instead the wealthy daughter of another family. On the day of a luncheon just before the marriage, he rings Jane and they agree to meet. She has the day off because on Mothering Sunday, servants are given time off to visit their families. Although Jane has none she is sent off to read or enjoy her freedom. 

The two lovers enjoy themselves and then he leaves and Jane spends some time wandering naked through the house, admiring books especially. She is a great reader, especially enjoying Joseph Conrad. Since her household was one composed of boys and men, all of the books are "boys" books.

Later she becomes a renown writer and enjoys a marriage with a philosopher.  

This novel was very good at capturing the sensuality of its two young characters. It is also persuasive in its depiction of a writer in the making. The young man is trapped by his social class but also by what the war has done to his family. How can he let his family down again? He is not taking advantage of the servant girl. A nice change from so many stories about this period.

This was a terrific book and a terrific movie. It's rich in atmosphere, plot and character. I have liked other books by Swift: LAST ORDERS and WATERLAND,

Monday, April 25, 2022

Monday, Monday

Two beautiful days in a row. 



Went to see THE BAND'S VISIT, which was okay. My problem with it is personal and probably why I know much less music than the rest of you. I was unable to make out the middle-eastern accents and the lyrics. And now I realize I have not heard lyrics since my teen years.  I needed closed captions to make out what was going on. Looks like this is some kind of auditory processing disorder. Understanding what is sung is more difficult than understanding what is said. My hearing aids make everything loud enough but still not discernible. I remember George having issues with this too. Of the four of us who went, three of us missed a whole lot of dialog.

Went to see REAR WINDOW. Had never seen it on a big screen before and it was just great. That set is so masterful.This is my favorite Hitchcock film. The ticket seller's was THE LADY VANISHES. Although mostly for those two actors who play characters on their way to a cricket match.

What is your favorite Hitchcock?

Finished SHETLAND, which ended the season on a cliffhanger, which I really dislike. It might be a year or more before it returns. It isn't about remembering it so much as it is about finishing a plot off in a timely manner. 

Looking forward to BARRY tonight.


Reading MOTHERING SUNDAY. Love it. 

What are you up to?

Friday, April 22, 2022

FFB: THE MARTIAN, Andy Weir

 

The Martian began as a series of self-published chapters on Weir's personal blog. Then Weir decided to put the book on Amazon, selling it for the website's lowest possible price ($0.99). And that's when things snowballed. It topped Amazon's bestselling list of science fiction. It became a major motion picture.

This was chosen as my book group's book for April, 2022. Someone's husband had read it and we were looking for something different. Reading it was a struggle for all of us because so much of it is scientific information about how one might survive if left behind on Mars.  Although the central character is somewhat interesting and we certainly root for his success, we don't get much of a back story on him. We are in the moment instead. 

For those who haven't seen the Matt Damon movie or read the book, an astronaut is believed to have died and is left behind on Mars by his mission members. The book concerns how he survives and how he is eventually aided by NASA and his former team mates. 

Is this really science fiction? For me it's a novel that uses a lot of science to solve its problems, but I always thought of science fiction as less grounded in reality than this book was. Everything that happened in THE MARTIAN could easily happen in our current space program. 

So that became our biggest discussion. What is science fiction? Isn't this really an adventure story?

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: FIVE TUESDAYS IN WINTER, Stories, Lily King

 

I like Lily Kings' writing style very much. It is very straightforward. That doesn't imply however that I always get her point on first read. My favorite story in this collection was called "When in the Dordogne" and concerns the summer a fourteen year old is left in the care of two college students when his parents take a trip to try and heal the father's health. The boy, a late child in his parents' marriage, gets more attention from the two older boys than he does from his parents. They discover he has a crush on a girl and help him pursue her-to a good end. The boy has such a good time, he imagines his parents never returning. "I can look back on that time now as if rereading a book I was too young for the first time around. I see how in love Grant was with Ed, how Ed knew and needed it even if he couldn't return it, how Ed was nursing a badly broken heart."

 The last paragraph, the one after this one, is a real keeper for a romantic. 

Two more favorites were about a grouchy bookstore owner who finds a way out of his sadness and a young mother who finds the will and confidence to write through a magical intervention. I really enjoyed this collection. 


Jerry House

George Kelley

Monday, April 18, 2022

Monday, Monday

 



Saw MOTHERING SUNDAY, a film based on the novel by Graham Swift. It has the longest nude scene I have ever seen and I wonder how anyone in life or film can walk around naked and seem completely at ease for so long. After a while, nudity loses its eroticism or sexuality. I wonder if this was the intention. 

Watching SLOW HORSES, THE GREAT POTTERY THROWDOWN, SHETLAND, SEASON 6 and WHY DON"T THEY ASK EVANS.

Reading stories by Lily King, and the non-fiction, SHOOTING MIDNIGHT COWBOY. 

What about you?



Friday, April 15, 2022

FFB: PICKUP, Charles Willeford

From 2007

 


Pick-Up by Charles Willeford


When was the last time you read a book so compelling you couldn't put it down? What was it?
For me, it was this novel. It takes a long time in Pick-Up for the reader to understand the protagonist and what he's all about. Why he's in the fix he's in. Maybe you won't understand the full story until the last line. And yet, Willeford is able to tell his story lucidly, making even the most mundane details riveting.
This is basically a story about two drunks. Why does it work so well? Better for me even than Kennedy's drunks in Albany. Because the characters are interesting, the narrative pull inescapable, the writing excellent.
Even when the plot turns a bit unlikely in the last third--the characters remain true to themselves, so you go along with it.This is a very different story than the one Willeford tells in Miami Blues.

 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Short Story Wednesday, "Barbara, Detroit, 1966" Peter Orner, THE NEW YORKER


On February 12, 1966, Rabbi Morris Adler, longtime leader of the Conservative synagogue Sha'arey Zedek, in suburban Detroit, was shot in front of his congregation by a mentally disturbed young member, who then turned his gun on himself. Adler died four weeks later.

Peter Orner takes the facts above and writes a flash fiction piece about it. Barbara is eight months pregnant and bored with the sermon and service at her synagogue. As the sermon winds down, a man rises up from the congregation and fires a shot. He makes his way to the podium and rails against the war and all of the other issues troubling young people in 1966. He ends his tirade by shooting and eventually killing the rabbi. Barbara is not entirely repulsed by his actions. In some way, they energize her. She will speak in defense of the deranged shooter a few months later. 

You would like to think this somehow changes Barbara-for better or worse, but she remains with the husband, she thinks of as a racist, and goes on with her life. How many sixties activists did much the same?  As we settled into a middle-class existence, we forgot the things that raised our consciousness once upon a time. Or most of us did. 

Kevin Tipple 

TracyK 

George Kelley 

Richard Robinson 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Three Albums That Formed You.

Jennifer Egan (A VISIT TO THE GOON SQUAD and CANDY HOUSE) was on the New Yorker Radio Hour today. Both these novels owe a lot to her love of music and she was asked for three albums that formed and informed her. 

She chose The Who's QUADROPHENIA, Patty Smith's HORSES and Eminem's RECOVERY. 

What three (just three) would you choose? It is very easy to pick ten, more challenging to pick three. 

Mine would be very mundane if I was honest. They are not concept albums but the music I listened to most at the time. Carole King's TAPESTRY, The Beatles, RUBBER SOUL and the MAMAS AND THE PAPAS, DELIVER. TAPESTRY in 1971 saw the beginning of my exit from rock music, I think.



Monday, April 11, 2022

Monday, Monday




Two friends came over with food and we watched BELFAST, They had seen it at the theater but were happy to watch it again with closed captions. I thought it was a good movie, at least as good as CODA. Although the story is somewhat familiar, it was beautifully shot, written, acted. I still would have voted for  the POWER OF THE DOG or WEST SIDE STORY if offered a ballot.

Saw EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE and cannot say I really enjoyed it despite the universally good reviews. Way too much martial arts for me. And its frantic pace made me jittery. However, the fault is in mine, I think.  The quiet parts, the message, was lovely.

Josh's birthday celebration was postponed because Kevin has a double ear infection. International travel has a way of exposing you to brand new bacteria,. 

Still watching PACHINKO, SLOW HORSES, STARSTRUCK, JULIA. Ready to dive into TOKYO VICE. Waiting early for the return of the Great Pottery Throwdown. I have to say though Netflix is really fading away for me. Way to many reality shows and foreign imports of dubious quality. Anyone find something good to watch there?

Reading SHOOTING MIDNIGHT COWBOY and the new O'NAN book. 

Looks to be a beautiful day today, thank goodness after so much cold, wind and rain.

What about you? 

 



Friday, April 08, 2022

Friday's Forgotten Books: THE SEARCHERS, THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN LEGEND, Glen Frankel



Megan highly recommended Frankel's new book on the MAKING OF MIDNIGHT COWBOY, which reminded me of how much I enjoyed this one ten years ago.

Most western-lovers would rank this film among the top five westerns of all time. Perhaps even the very best. And THE SEARCHERS: THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN LEGEND by Glenn Frankel does much to help you understand why.

Frankel begins his story with the real life story of Cynthia Ann Parker. In 1836 Cynthia Ann Parker was kidnapped by Comanches in East Texas. Other family members were killed, but Cynthia was taken and spent years among the Comanches, never really adjusting to the life of a white woman after her return.

Frankel goes on to explore Comanche culture, the fate of the Texas families who came into contact with the Comanches and the story of the people who took Cynthia Ann, in particular.

He then turns his focus to Alan Le May, the author of the novel that told the story, providing a nice biography of his career and how he came to write this book.

And finally we come to John Ford and the movie. He paints an interesting picture of Ford, of Hollywood at the time, and of course, of the movie's star, John Wayne. He explains to us why the film is such a great one. And how Wayne created such an indelible impression in it.

This is a terrific book. The author has a knack for telling you exactly as much as you want to know and presenting it in a interesting way. I have read books like this one before--how they made CASABLANCA for instance. This is by far the most erudite and comprehensive study of a movie I have read. Highly recommended.

 

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Short Story Wednesday "Men's Club" from the collection, POTATO TREE byJames Sallis

 

My late husband, Phil, often taught an undergraduate college class on utopias. As you might expect, it was hard to find novels and stories about utopias but easy to find ones about dystopias. A story he often used was "The Ones Who Walk Away from the Omelas," by Ursula Le Quin. I'm sure most of you have read this story, but for those who haven't it was about a utopia whose existence relied on the towns people's ability to stomach the torture of one small girl so that the rest of them could lead a utopian life. 

In the "Men's Club," James Sallis lays out a somewhat similar situation. His story is a mere two pages and Le Quin's is longer, but he manages to capture the thrust of it in all its horror very quickly. 

In Sallis' story, a teenage girl is chained and held in a squalid room where men seek pleasure in awful ways.  Having this girl at their disposal makes them kinder to their wives, evokes a camaraderie between them. As they wait their turn, they share liquor, jokes, business deals. Over time the party-like atmosphere subsides, the girl ages, the room deteriorates, and there is nothing pleasurable about what remains.  

This story is tough to read and I doubt anyone would justify the situation here as some justify the Le Quin scenario. If the majority find happiness at the sacrifice of one, isn't it worth it? No one would say it was in the Sallis story. He is excellent at any length he chooses to write.

POTATO TREE is a collection of short stories from 2007. Many are very short. Many were published first in other outlets but not "Men's Club." 

Kevin Tipple

TracyK 

George Kelley 

Richard Robinson

Monday, April 04, 2022

Monday, Monday

 




So much to watch. All three of these are off to a promising start. So promising that I am reading too little. (SLOW HORSES, PACHINKO, JULIA) Having one of those patches where I can't settle into a book.

Saw an interesting but troubling Israeli movie at the Detroit Film Theater, AHED'S KNEE. Is Israel about to lose its democracy too? Is there this much censorship? And yet this film was made in Israel so I am not sure. I should be more up to date on this. 

It was a cold, windy week and I am not getting outside enough. Have to do better.

What about you?

Friday, April 01, 2022

FFB QUITTING TIME, Robert J. Conley


(from the archives, Ron Scheer)

Robert J. Conley, Quitting Time (1989)

This short novel is a curious cross between a standard western and an Agatha Christie murder mystery. The central character, Oliver Colfax, is something of a range detective, with a license to kill, should he be so inclined. But he’s grown weary of the work that has been his livelihood and is looking to retire from being a gunman for hire. It is, as he says, “quitting time.”

Considering a job for a Colorado cattleman who believes he is the victim of rustlers, Colfax travels to a small frontier town, drawn in part by the opportunity to see a touring theater company perform Shakespeare’s bloody tragedy, Titus Andronicus. Agreeing with the cattleman to find out who, if anybody, is rustling his stock, Colfax gets to work and determines before long that a gang of cowboys at a nearby camp are the only likely suspects.

But matters take a sudden turn when the traveling actors begin being brutally murdered. One mystery solved, Colfax begins tying to figure out who has reason to be knocking off thespians. The resolution, though a bit implausible, is an interesting one and calls to mind accounts recorded elsewhere during this period of unexpected behavior from theater patrons not used to stage illusion.

Scene from Titus Andronicus
Colfax is an enjoyably urbane character, if you can get past his history as a contract killer. Having changed his ways, he no longer wishes to be a gun for hire for men wealthy and powerful enough to simply exterminate others who get in their way. 

He likes good whiskey and a hot bath poured for him in his hotel room. He knows how to do business and can skillfully handle an awkward client. Socially progressive, he demands that a black actor be served at a hotel with the same consideration as whites. Meanwhile, his apparent appeal to the opposite sex wins him the welcome interest of one of the actresses in the touring company.


 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "Kill the Cat" Loren Estleman

 



Loren Estleman has written 90 novels and many short stories and essays. He is an old-school crime fiction writer, telling a story much like his contemporaries, Michael Connelly and Elmore Leonard, wrote. He even resembles writers of an earlier generation, such as Ross MacDonald and John D. Many of his stories are set in Detroit and many feature Amos Walker, P.I. The story in DETROIT NOIR, "Kill the Cat" is a fairly generic story, but it is well-written and certainly uses the city of Detroit as a character. This was pretty much the intention of the Noir series by Akashic Press.

Amos Walker is hired by the wealthy Childs' family to locate their missing son and notify the parents so they can have cops get him off the streets. Walker finds the kid too late. He and three other kids (all college students)are dead by the time he arrives. The rest of the story concerns Walker finding out what really happened. 

I have found many of the stories in this series to be uneven. Some of the writers are not fiction writers but journalists and their stories are rarely satisfying. Some also lean so heavily on the city they are set in, they don't tell much of a story. In this case, it is a story that is too familiar. Something you might see on the Rockford Files. Still you can see Estelman's skill. Detroit is not the same city it was in 2007. But as he notes in the story, Detroit has a way of reverting to a particular place. Hope that isn't true this time. 


Kevin Tipple

TracyK 

George Kelley 

Steve Lewis 

Todd Mason