Monday, February 27, 2023

Monday, Monday

 Enjoyed a performance of the DSO Friday night. They played NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN, a piano concerto by Grieg (soloist was Gavrlyik and he was terrific) and a third piece by a female composer I was not familiar with. Mask wearing is almost non-existent now. Started SNOW GIRL on Netflix, a Spanish crime series. I've been watching some old episodes of MOONLIGHTING. As I expected the characters are much better than the plots.

Still plugging along with LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY, which is pretty original. Also started a Ruth Rendell book, NO MAN'S NIGHTINGALE. What a great writer she was. 

Lots of podcasts, mostly political ones. 

How about you?

Friday, February 24, 2023

FFB-ITALIAN SHOES, Henning Mankell

 This is a standalone novel from 2010 and not a mystery at all.  The main character is a surgeon who made a terrible error in surgery and retreated ten years earlier to a remote island off the coast of Sweden. One day he sees a handicapped woman across the inlet. It turns out she is a woman he ran away from forty years earlier. She is dying now and comes to try to discover why he left her in the manner he did. 

This is a terrific character study and the story of a man that finally sees he needs to seek redemption both from the woman he left and the woman he injured grievously in the surgery. He must wrestle with his ego to come to terms with what he did. A very fine book but perhaps not for those seeking a lot of action or a typical Mankell mystery. I love his Wallender series and the same fine writing is here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023


May be an image of book and text

Short Story Wednesday: ALL THE DAYS AND NIGHTS, William Maxwell "Young Francis Whitehead"


William Maxwell was one of my favorite writers, especially the novels, TIME WILL DARKEN IT and SO LONG, SEE YOU TOMORROW. But his short stories are very fine too and this volume collects some of his best, along with some of his "improvisations" which were very short pieces he stuck in people's cards or Christmas stockings. I have discussed other stories from this collection on here and hope this was not one of them.This story, just a few pages, begins with a seamstress, coming to drop off some work she has completed and being caught in the middle of a college-age son telling his mother he was not going back to school and also he'd not be living with her any longer. A dog, brought home from college by the boy, breaks up some of the heartbreak here but some of us remember the day when it was clear that our children had left home for good and know some of what she is feeling. In this case, she's a new widow so his departure is doubly painful. How clever to insert the dog and the seamstress to bear witness to the pain and give the reader a break from it.

Kevin Tipple

George Kelley 

Jerry House 

Todd Mason

Monday, February 20, 2023

Monday, Monday


Been reading ANGEL by Elizabeth Taylor in small increments. It is a satirical novel about a woman who fancies herself as a great writer. Her purple prose sells well but even her editor laughs behind her back. If she wasn't so pretentious you might pity her. Well, I still do because what writer doesn't want to look kindly on herself. On some days at least,

I am just about finished writing a short story, which has taken all kinds of unexpected twists and sent me down 1968 Philly sports teams more than once. It is the first I have finished in its entirety since Covid. 

Went to a lecture at Oakland University on the Tulsa Race Riots, which are different from how WATCHMEN portrayed them. Amazing how they were buried by the townspeople for almost a hundred years. And if the Republicans have their way will be buried again. We ordered the book in hopes of persuading our book group to read it for March.

Going to the Detroit Film Theater's Animated Oscar/short subjects nominees today. (Too long but enjoyable). Big crowd.


How about you?

Friday, February 17, 2023

FFB; THE SOLOIST, Mark Salzman


Renee Sundheimer was a cello prodigy who lost his gift at age eighteen. Now he teaches at an university, a man broken by his childhood. A Japanese child comes to him for private lessons and at the same time he is chosen to serve on the jury in a murder trial where a man, possible insane, has killed his zen buddha master. The cat on the cover doesn't make an appearance until the last chapter so readers lured by the idea the cat will figure heavily into the story may be disappointed. But I really enjoyed this book. Written more than twenty years ago now, it is slower and quieter than most novels. I have read one other book by Salzman, LYING AWAKE, about a nun. Also a terrific story. The jury politics play out heavily in this novel. Salzman had written several memoirs about his travels in China, kung fu, and Zen Buddhism. 

Salzman is such a likeable writer. That doesn't always come though but in his case, it does.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

 After saying to Todd that he should consider renting, I felt obliged to post this. While I was in CA, a sprinkler went crazy on the 11th floor and flooded most of the floors beneath it. For the first few days, fans ran all the time, giving someone like me the fear there would be a fire. That did not happen, however the corridor is pretty ripped up. So renting is not the complete solution I hoped for. Luckily, my apartment is just before this photo and there was no damage.

I am not wild about having walls ripped out and exposing who knows what for who knows how long however. 

Short Story Wednesday: Elder Jinks, Edith Pearlman

 I finally found an Edith Pearlman story (Jeff recommended her stories) in a collection called LOVE STORIES FOR TURBULENT TIMES (2018). My library had nothing else and although HONEY DEW was listed in the catalog, it wasn't there and was not available to get through their inter-library loan system Mysterious for a writer that won awards a decade ago. This story was first published in The Antioch Review in 2007. 

"Elder Jinks" concerns the whirlwind romance of two older (but not elderly) people and how their marriage procedes when neither of them has been very careful in making their choice and the story is full of their wonder at the other's behavior, habits and choices. When Gustave is on a trip, Grace has questionable evening guest(s), which brings things to a halt. But perhaps they will mend their fight now that they know each other better and seem willing to tread more carefully. An unusual story, both in style and story. I will read more of her--even if I have to buy it. 

Kevin Tipple

George Kelley

Jerry House


Casual Debris 

Todd Mason

Monday, February 13, 2023

Monday, Monday

 I saw PILLOW TALK in  large theater down the street and I was the only one. It seems like I am wasting energy to do this, but I have a hunch they would play it to a totally empty theater. What if someone came in fifteen minutes late. It would be better to be fifteen minutes into the movie than start it late and screw up the later shows. I have seen this film many times but I don't think it was on a big screen. Or perhaps my parents, who didn't pay much attention to such things, would have let me go. If I went it would have been with my friend, Karen. We would have gotten quite dressed up and took the bus and subway to downtown Philly and seen it at one of the movie palaces that were still in business in 1960. We would have had lunch  down there too. I don't know if I would have let my eleven year old daughter make such a trip. And an old man in an alley once exposed himself to us. Anyway, this viewing was far less glamorous. Movies like PILLOW TALK formed my view on what adult life would be like. I have heard Megan say in interviews that movies starring Jean Harlow and Jimmy Cagney formed hers. So her view of adult life was all about night clubs and mine was about flirtation.

Enjoying THE LAST OF US, ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL, SHRINKING, and POKERFACE. SHRINKING isn't great but Harrison Ford and some of the other supporting cast are. Not quite the right fit for Jason Segal. 

Going to see NO BEARS today, an Iranian movie. 

Finished THE SOLOIST, which I enjoyed very much. It is nice to swept away by a novel. It doesn't happen that often, but it is happening again with ITALIAN SHOES by Henning Mankell. This is not a crime story. I didn't know he wrote mainstream novels, but I will look for more. 

We have had two sunny days in a row and that really does pick up my spirits. How nice it must be to live in a place where it is sunny most of the time. Don't take it for granted. 

How about you?

Friday, February 10, 2023

FFB From 2013, WILD WILD WESTERNERS, Tom Weaver -review from Bill Crider

Wild Wild Westerners is subtitled A Round up of Interviews with Western Movie and TV Veterans.  It's not forgotten, since it came out in 2012, but some of you might have overlooked it.  If you're at all interested in western movies and TV, that would be a mistake.  It's a great collection and Tom Weaver has interviewed some wonderful storytellers.

It would be hard for me to pick a favorite, but if forced to do so, I might settle for Andrew Fenady's memories of creating The Rebel, writing the theme song, working with Nick Adams, and so on.  Or maybe Paul Picerni's wild tales of working on The Scalphunters.  Shelley Winters!  Wow.  But there are lot of others, all well worth your time.  June Lockhart talks about her many guest appearances on western TV shows.  Richard Kline remembers Charles Starrett.  Robert Colbert tells how he became a third Maverick brother.  And on and on.  There's a long interview with Fess Parker, and his summary of his proposed movie about Davy Crockett after he survived the battle of the Alamo is great stuff.  There's a lot more.

The interviews collected here all appeared in Boyd Magers' Western Clippings magazine.  I'm not familiar with it, but I think I should be.


Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: Wednesday's Child, Yuyan Li (from THE NEW YORKER)

Li is the author of ten novels and many short stories. She's won prizes for her writing. It seems like grief is her specialty. She came to this country from Communist China, where she gave speeches extolling the regime but came to regret her support. I expected this to feel like a story written by a Chinese woman, as her novels seem to center that, but it is could be a woman from any ethnicity.

Rosalie is a photographer traveling from Amsterdam to Belgium. There is a very pregnant woman on her car and this and other things brings back memories of her own child, who took her life at age 15. She also compares her relationship with Marcie to her fraught relationship with her mother. Only a few years have passed since the suicide and her grief is palpable. Marcie was very smart and a motivated student and she wonders if she should have encouraged her to be less so. 

A sad story but well written. You feel she had to have been a good or at least good enough mother and so too her husband. Sometimes something else must be going on in a young girl's head. Of course, that she didn't see it will haunt her forever. 

Todd Mason

Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang 

George Kelley

Jerry House 


Monday, February 06, 2023

Monday, Monday

 Although colder than usual, and rainier than usual, we had a great time in La Jolla. It is such a gorgeous place it is hard not to. And showing it to two new people was fun. I did miss Phil--it was the first time I have been there since his death. But on the whole, it was tolerable after four years without him. We saw three musical events-the best being the Montreal Jazz Festival with Kurt Elling, Dee Dee Bridgewater and three younger performers. San Diego is struggling with a homeless epidemic and we were wary of walking the streets near the theater-in fact, a man warned us not to. But La Jolla is a world away so we could forget real world problems a few hours later, which makes me ashamed off and on. Friends from DC came in for five days, she with a broken foot from a hike in Tucson. Saw a good series that played on BRITBOX-BROKEN. Watched AFTERSUN on VOD-terrific movie. Saw several movies at the theater-all good: LIVING, MISSING, WOMEN TALKING. After starting and putting down several novels, I am now reading THE SOLOIST by Mark Salzman.

How about you?