Monday, May 30, 2022

Monday, Monday

 Hope you guys have more to say than I do today. I am floundering with starting and stopping both books and TV shows. I did watch OPERATION MINCEMEAT which was fine but spy dramas have never been my favorite.  I tried TEHRAN, (HULU) which seems good but my focus is frayed. Not sure why. Maybe it is the world we live in that is sucking everything out of all of us. I do like HACKS very much and am sticking with THE STAIRCASE although having watch the doc a few years ago and the podcast, it feels like a rerun. Off to visit my brother and friends in DC on Thursday  But I will post it here for you guys next Monday and catch you up when I return. 

Operation Mincemeat

Friday, May 27, 2022

FFB: DIRTY WORK, Larry Brown


More and more it is this sort of novel that attracts me. Not exactly crime novels but novels that chroncicle the lives of the sort of people who commit or become viictims of crimes. Books by Larry Watson, Willie Vlautin,  Larry Brown.

DIRTY WORK is the debut novel from Mississippi writer, Larry Brown, and it seemed appropriate to read it around MemoriaL Day since it's about two vets. I picked it up a decade ago and just wish I had picked up more of them. I have RABBIT FACTORY around somewhere and will dig it out now.

Walter James and Braiden Chaney are two Vietnam Vets lying side by side in a Vet hospital 20 years after the war. Chaney has basically spent the entire time in a hospital since the war left him with no arms or legs. James is newly admitted with some sort of brain trauma from a bullet lodge in his head. He has also been badly scarred from his years in Vietnam. 
The two men eventually trade war stories, but this book does much more than that. It painted the lives of the sort of men who couldn't dodge the war--the down and dirty life they led in northern Mississippi. Much of Chaney's thoughts are dream-induced and almost biblical in theme. Who could spend 20 years in a bed and not retreat to such a place?

The two men do a lot of drinking with the beer Chaney's sister smuggles in.  They also smoke a lot of pot. Their stories are different and the same. It was men like these two who served in Vietnam and never recovered from it. They either died in body or died in spirit. An amazing and thought-provoking book.

What is your favorite book about Vietnam or its aftermath? Mine would be IN COUNTRY by Bobbie Ann Mason.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Wednesday Short Stories" Nighthawks" Michael Connelly from In Sunshine or in Shadow, ed, Lawrence Block

A masterful story. Boy it helps a short story immeasurably when you, as a reader, have a history with the protagonist as most of us do with Harry Bosch. Things can go unsaid that other stories would have to tell you. 

Bosch is in Chicago at the Museum sitting in front of the Hopper painting "Nighthawks" (which Connelly is able to cleverly connect to both Harry and the girl taking notes in front of it). A client believes the girl to be his daughter and wants Bosch to verify it. 

The girl engages Bosch in a conversation and by the end of it, Bosch has decided not to complete his assignment. The story has so much texture and familiarity if you have read the series. He inserts just the right details but not too many. Not a wasted word and every detail builds this tale. A great one. 

Kevin Tipple

Jerry House


George Kelley 

Casual Debris

Monday, May 23, 2022

Monday, Monday


This is the view here today. (The other side is the race track) It will look pretty much like this until November. You can only exit in the rear of the building where the dumpsters are. In my case, I get picked up there, which means people have to dodge delivery trucks to get to me.

This goes on for about ten blocks. People I had dinner with Friday night suggested that the management should have warned me this was going to happen, but truthfully, I probably would have rented it anyway because I was so eager to be gone from where I was. A few people are suing the city though, claiming that it is unsafe for anyone with disabilities. And it surely is. The narrow path we have left to us is potholed and there is nothing to grab on to.

A mix of weather this week but more good than bad. I used my gym here finally but had to listen to Fox News while I treadmilled. Awful The stack of WSJ on the table in the lobby was my warning. But I had a book on my cellphone to listen to, thank goodness.

HAPPENING was a shot from the past to the future. It's a French film about an abortion in France in 1960. Terrifying to think this sort of thing is coming very quickly to a neighborhood near you. Also watched three films directed by Billy Wilder, LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON, THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR and ONE TWO THREE. My favorite will always be THE APARTMENT. Megan had discussed lesser Wilder films on a podcast and although I had seen LOVE, I watched it again too. 

Watching HACKS, BARRY, THE STAIRCASE, UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN. Can't watch PBS until I figure out why my Passport is not working with the new Roku.

Reading a book about Billy Wilder as you may have guessed. CONVERSATIONS with Cameron Crowe.

I lost a hearing aid. It will cost me $2500 to replace and I am sick but the combination of mask, glasses and a hearing aid has always been troublesome. It has gone flying a dozen times. I sent away for masks that have elastic rather than go around the ear. But I doubt that will completely solve the problem because I know on my knobby head the elastic will slip and end up at my ears. 

What's up with you? 

Friday, May 20, 2022

FFB: LET HIM GO, Larry Watson

I am a big Larry Watson fan and LET HIM GO did not disappoint. It is a great followup to books like WHITE CROSSES and MONTANA: 1948.

After their adult son is killed in an accident, his widowed wife marries again and leaves the Blackledge's home to go with her new husband to Montana. She takes their grandson with her, of course, and therein lies the problem.

"With you or without you," Margaret Blackledge insists, and at these words George knows his only choice is to follow her to Montana.

George takes to the road with Margaret by his side, tracking down the Weboy clan quickly. When Margaret tries to convince Lorna to return home to North Dakota, bringing little Jimmy with her, the Blackledges find themselves mixed up with the entire Weboy clan, a horrific family determined not to give the boy up without a fight. It's more about possession than love with a family like this. 

This slim volume contains a heart-pounding story, unforgettable characters, terrific atmosphere and some of the most beautiful prose you will ever read. I liked it almost as much as MONTANA: 1948, making it still one of my favorite books. Oh, to write like Mr. Watson.  

This was made into quite a decent movie with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane a few years ago. 


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "Just a Little Fever" Sheila Heti


I have subscribed to THE NEW YORKER since I was a teenager. I also subscribed to THE NEW REPUBLIC and a few teen magazines then. Over the years, there were times when we subscribed to 25 magazines. Phil liked cooking and gardening magazines as well as many scholarly ones. We got THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, THE ECONOMIST, THE LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS, ATLANTIC, HARPERS and many more. Now it is just the one.

The short stories used to be my favorite part of the magazine. That was back in the day when the stories tended to be by Updike, Cheever, Munro, Carver, Beatty, etc. Those were stories I understood even though I didn't come from that milieu. 

Now I rarely read the stories because they puzzle me. For instance in 'Just a Little Fever" a young woman washes her hair in cherries, goes to work at the bank and becomes interested in a customer old enough to be her grandfather. It is a long story about their courtship, which never explains her attraction (or his) beyond a degree of comfort she experiences in his company.  The story ends, many words later, with their breakup which appears to relieve her. The writing is fine, but shouldn't we understand by the end the point of the story. Is it enough just to offer a portrait of a relationship?

This is the knock on a lot of literary stories. That nothing happens. But in a good one, things do happen or you come to a greater understanding of the human condition. This offered none of that for me. Both characters were unknowable. Was that the point? Another thing: I am reading more and more novels and stories with a quirky central character . Or an autistic/aspergers character. When did we become to fascinated with this? Was it Sheldon on THE BIG BANG that started this trend. The other trend would be characters with dementia. Hardly a story goes by without a character with dementia.

Kevin Tipple


Jerry House 

George Kelley 

Steve Lewis

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


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



 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


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?