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



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. 


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 


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


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


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


(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.