Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Short Story Wednesday "Debarking" from BARK by Lorrie Moore


I listened to this story via Hoopla through my library and it was read by the author. I really like listening to an author read her story because you are more sure of getting the meaning, I think. Another reader can make something sincere seem too sentimental for instance. Or too sarcastic. 

"Debarking" is a very ordinary story but written with such verve and terrific word choices that it made me appreciate a time when stories were easier to understand. Ira is recently divorced and sharing custody of a daughter. He meets a pediatric oncologist with an annoying son or is it her relationship with him that's annoying? Ira is the third wheel on most of their dates and he lands somewhere between thinking he loves her and thinking she is nuts. The invasion of Iraq forms the background for this story, which has everyone on edge. Kinda like now.  

Moore reads it so well that it felt like just the right way to experience her stories was to hear her read them aloud.

There are eight stories in this collection from a decade or so ago. I have read about three of them. Am always amazed at how insightful Moore is and in a clever way. 

Halfway in I am going to amend this a bit. Moore tends to read every story in the same voice I think print might suit these stories better.

Steve Lewis

Kevin Tipple 

Jerry House

George Kelley 


Casual Debris 


Monday, November 27, 2023

Monday, Monday

 After enjoying THE HOLDOVERS so much, I went back and watched a few of Payne's earlier movies. I had seen them before but watching how he puts together a film was fun. 

I think I have seen SIDEWAYS quite a few times but it was probably only my second watching of THE DESCENDANTS, which was just terrific and both films had lots of similarities to the THE HOLDOVERS. I am not sure why Clooney put his film career aside but he brought a lot to this film. 

Watching THE NIGHT MANAGER from a few years back on PRIME. Also OBITUARY (Hulu) which is very amusing, still enjoying FOR ALL MANKIND (Apple), JULIA (MAX) and THE CROWN (NETFLIX), which is pretty heartbreaking and better than Season Five. Funny to see Elizabeth Debicki in THE NIGHT MANAGER and THE CROWN. At 6'3 that has to be the first thing anyone will ever think of about her.  FARGO (HULU) started well.

Reading short stories from BARK by Lorrie Moore and THE FIRE-KEEPERS"S DAUGHTER for my book group. 

Had a nice Thanksgiving. Hope yours was too. Looks like we're going to get a bit of snow today.

GO University of Michigan. Getting worried about the Lions.

What about you?

Friday, November 24, 2023


Stoner, John Williams

John Williams' remarkable 1965 novel has recently been reprinted by The New York Review of Books and is now available to us again.

William Stoner, a farm boy in Missouri, is sent to university by his father, who tells his son it will be helpful to the family for him to learn more modern farming methods. But instead Stoner discovers the great passion of his life—literature and the teaching of it—and he goes on to earn a doctorate in the subject. He meets and marries a local girl, has a child, and teaches at the university for the rest of his life. He is under-appreciated in this and in most things.

This description makes it sound like nothing much happens in this book—and in a sense, it does not. This book is about choices we make, and Stoner’s choice to put his love of literature and teaching on such a high pedestal both makes and destroys him. He is passive when he should be active in nearly every instance in this book. He is so deeply afraid of being deprived of teaching that he loses everything else instead.

This was a marvelous book. Written beautifully and making its points with the utmost subtlety. Williams (1922-94) won the National Book Award for AUGUSTUS in 1973.

If you want to read a book that makes you think about the choices you make, this is a great choice.


Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: "The Beauty Contest" Yoka Ogawa


Yoka Ogawa is the author of two novels I greatly enjoyed in the last few years, THE MEMORY POLICE and THE PROFESSOR AND THE HOUSEKEEPER. This short story was in THE NEW YORKER this month.

At eight months of age, our narrator won a beauty contest and since then her mother has retold the story of her victory many times. She signs her up for another contest and she agrees to it with the promise that her mother will buy her an expensive ice cream treat when the contest is over. She meets another girl during the competition and become interested in her story of her dog dying that morning. Neither girl wins. Other story elements include an opal ring of her mother's that she likes to try on and a news article about a family poisoned by mushrooms.

Now both of the novels I read by Ogawa were especially engaging and unusual. But I have to confess I did not get much out of this story. All of her work is in translation so it is possible there was more to the story than I got. Or perhaps she is a better novelist than short story writer. 

Todd Mason

Kevin Tipple

George Kelley 


Jerry House 

Casual Debris 


Monday, November 20, 2023

Monday, Monday

 Loved both May-December and Killers of the Flower Moon at the theater. Strange because both films made me very uneasy, queasy. But the acting, directing, score, set design and everything about them just sang. I especially admire Charlie Melton in May-December who managed to steal the show from two terrific actresses (Moore and Portman).

Also The Killer (Netflix) a David Fincher film was pretty good although it may take a second look to get all the references. Michael Fassbender was away too long.

Liked the series Better on Hulu. Great ending for me, but I see other people didn't agree.  Lessons in Chemistry (Apple) changed so many things from the book, I am not sure why they bothered making it. Watching For All Mankind on Apple. And rewatching Six Feet Under (Netflix). I had forgotten how strange it was. 

Still working on the Tana French book, The Searcher but boy, it is a slow one. Beautiful writer though. 

Went to a Brunch with Bach today which was terrific. They played Beethoven's late quartets.

The Detroit Lions are 8 and 2. The first time they have had that record since 1962. What a game. 

How about you?

Friday, November 17, 2023

FFB: SOMEONE IS BLEEDING, Richard Matheson, reviewed by Ed Gorman

from the archives


While Richard Matheson would go on to become a major figure in the fields of fantasy and science fiction with such distinguished works as I Am Legend and his The Shrinking Man, his first novel was solidly criminous — a book whose influences ran heavily to James M. Cain and Hemingway.

Someone Is Bleeding is the devious tale of writer David Newton who meets a lovely but deeply disturbed young woman named Peggy Lister and falls into tormented love with her.

Peggy is surrounded by men whose overwhelming desire in life is to possess her. As we learn, Peggy's psychological problems are enough to scare off all but the most dedicated lovers. She has an understandable but pathological distrust of men because she'd been raped by her father.

For its era, Bleeding was a surprisingly complex psychosexual tale. Peggy, a dark goddess who literally rules the lives of her men, is all the more chilling for the sympathetic way in which David sees her for most of the book. She is the helpless, beautiful woman-child that many men fantasize about and long to protect as proof of their own masculinity.

As the novel rushes to its truly terrifying climax (it is an ending that must rank, for pure horror, with the best of Fredric Brown and Cornell Woolrich), we see how much Peggy comes to represent the pawn in a quest. Her men are willing to scheme, lie, and die to have her.

Matheson also gives us an exceptionally good look at the Fifties and its snake-pit moral code, its demeaning view of women, its defeated view of men. He packs an icy poetry, a bittersweet love song, and moments of real terror into this debut.
Someone Is Bleeding is a satisfyingly complex, evocative study of loneliness, romance, sexuality and pathology.

(Oh, I miss Ed)

Wednesday, November 15, 2023



(from the archives)

This has been one of my favorite collections of stories since I came across it in the nineties. Marly Swick, now a retired English professor in Missouri (I think), seems to have written all of her stories and two novels in the nineties and early 2000s. Since that was the time I was writing mainstream short stories too, I bought a lot of collections. Swick's are very straightforward, easy to read stories. 

The title story is about the breakup of a marriage and much of it takes places during a trip to see the Beatles that the mother takes her daughters on. When she leaves the hotel room in the night and her slip is returned in a paperbag the next day, it drives the older daughter out of the house. It also changes the daughter's taste in music overnight from the Beatles to the edgier groups. 

The second story "Ghost Mother" is a favorite of mine. Two screenwriters are adopting a baby from a mid-western teen, who moves into their house for the end of the pregnancy. It is a very poignant yet not sad story and some of it is framed in how the writer might write it in a screenplay.The reader expects the surrogate mother to be exposed in some way and this never happens to our relief. 

Todd Mason

Kevin Tipple 

George Kelley 

Jerry House

Monday, November 13, 2023

Monday, Monday,

 When I began doing this Monday thing, I should have included a date on the title each week.
Anyway, enjoying BETTER on Hulu, NADA on Hulu, LUCKY HANK on AMC and DARK WINDS(AMC) (not so much). Lucky Hank paints a realistic picture of academic life although the professors in his department hang around a  lot more than any I saw at Wayne. It is sort of more like a high school department where teachers have to be in all day than a college one where they are supposed to be off doing scholarship. Great cast though and Odenkirk is perfect in the lead.

NADA is lots of fun if you get HULU. He is a octogenarian who suddenly has to take care of himself. I can really relate to that. 

Reading THE SEARCHERS by Tana French. The last five books I have announced on here I didn't finish so I hope this one breaks a bad habit. She is a terrific writer though. 

Reading a lot of poetry. I have to take something into my writing group and this is a lot less effort than a short story. Probably I am not a poet though. They all seem like outlines for a poem.

I rewatched for the fourth time at least THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. I am fascinated by Streep's performance in this. It is so specific. Sometimes Streep feels too ordinary ONLY MURDERERS IN THE BLDG) but not in this one. Hathaway and Blunt are also terrific. 

Lots and lots of podcasts. That seems to be my way of experiencing the world. 

Love my chair yoga class. Hate the limbering up one. 

U of Michigan won despite no Harbaugh. Hope the Lions do the same today. 

What are you up to?

Friday, November 10, 2023

FFB: HUSH, HUSH Laura Lippman

A welcome return of Tess Monaghan in a fine addition to the series. Tess is now a mother and that role makes her both suited and ill-suited to looking into security issues for a woman, Melisandre Dawes, who murdered her infant daughter on a hot day one August.

Dawes got off, suffering from Post Partum Depression, but her return to Baltimore more than a decade later stirs up trouble for her two surviving daughters (now teens), her former husband, now remarried, and his new wife and son. Throw into the mix an attempt of Melisandre to tell her story via a documentary film maker and someone who seems to have it in for Tess. This is a well-populated tale, but Lippman is skillful in keeping it sorted out for the reader.

I enjoyed seeing Tess cope with motherhood in a palpably loving yet very human way.  I love Lippman's standalones, but this novel functioned as both. We had a nice mix of Tess and her gang along with the gaggle of girls who occupied this case.  A very fine novel indeed.


Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: "The Finger" Stewart O'Nan from his collection IN THE WALLED CITY

This is on Amazon right now for $1.99 and worth it. Of course, he is one of my very favorite writers. I especially liked LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER, A PRAYER FOR THE DYING, SPEED QUEEN and SNOW ANGEL. He had a misfire when he tried to write a story about Fitzgerald, who is just not his sort of character.  But on the whole, he's terrific.

In "Finger" a recently separated man with a young child works at the city dump. He spends his off hours with two elderly men who sit on lawn chairs and debate things like whether a frozen mastodon is edible. And drink.  One days he finds a decent bureau at the dump and decides to refinish it for his ex-wife. At first this seems to win him some leverage with her, but then it does not. There is hope at the story's end, he might be able to move on. Great writing. 

Kevin Tipple

George Kelley 

Jerry House 


Casual Debris

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

From a Safety Seminar

Put your car keys beside your bed at night.
If you hear a noise outside your home or someone trying to get in your house, just press the panic button for your car. The alarm will be set off, and the horn will continue to sound until either you turn it off or the car battery dies.
This tip came from a neighborhood watch coordinator. Next time you come home for the night and start to put your keys away, think of this: It's a security alarm system that you probably already have and requires no installation. Test it. It will go off from most everywhere inside your house and will keep honking until your battery runs down or until you reset it with the button on the key fob chain. It works if you park in your driveway or garage.
If your car alarm goes off when someone is trying to break into your house, odds are the burglar/rapist won't stick around. After a few seconds, all the neighbors will be looking out their windows to see who is out there and sure enough the criminal won't want that. And remember to carry your keys while walking to your car in a parking lot. The alarm can work the same way there. This is something that should really be shared with everyone. Maybe it could save a life or a sexual abuse crime.
P.S. Would also be useful for any emergency, such as a heart attack, where you can't reach a phone. My Mom has suggested to my Dad that he carry his car keys with him in case he falls outside and she doesn't hear him. He can activate the car alarm and then she'll know there's a problem.
This may save a life!


Monday, November 06, 2023



I guess a movie (NYAD) with two older actresses (Benning and Foster) just won't get picked up by theaters anymore and maybe it is just too narrow a focus. But I enjoyed both performances, especially Foster's who played the more lovable character, I guess. Can't wait to see her in TRUE DETECTIVE in January. Sad to be finished with ANNIKA, great cliffhanger though. Finally figured out how to get rid of Peacock and Paramount and immediately subscribed to AMC and got LUCKY HANK and the last season of HAPPY VALLEY if I can manage to take Tommy Noyce for another season. I thought I would rewatch SIX FEET UNDER but then remember Nate died of an AVM and since I may have one, thought it best to forgo it.

Saw THE HOLDOVERs with a huge crowd at a large theater. It was pretty terrific. 

Did not care for the Meg Ryan movie (WHAT HAPPENED LATER), which seemed to have a budget of a few hundred bucks. A two-hander set in a deserted airport. 

Going to hear Stravinski's PETRUSKA today. (NOT FIREBIRD. Sorry)

Reading TRANSCRIPTION by Kate Atkinson. I chose it on the basis of the size of the font and the weight of the book. Listening to Minnie Driver's memoir. She is an excellent writer. 

What have you been up to? 

Why when we gain an hour am I more tired?

Friday, November 03, 2023

FFB: UNCLE PAUL, Celia Fremlin


Uncle Paul was put into prison fifteen years ago and his sentence is about up. Three sisters take a beach holiday together and all of them are dreading his return. The early part of this book is amusing and clever in how well Fremlin captures a holiday in a slightly seedy British resort. But as the book moves on tension rises as all three of the sisters grow wary of the men in their lives. Could they be Uncle Paul, who none have seen in years? Or are they just like him in some ways? The book took a long time in introducing the tension and a long time in explaining it at the end. I had read another book (THE HOURS BFORE DAWN) and liked it quite a bit, but this one, despite the eerie atmosphere in the second half, just didn't hold my interest. Why do these women all involve themselves with men they hardly know. I guess this is the impact of Uncle Paul on them.

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: "Winter Father" from SELECTED STORIES, Andre Dubus II


Someone mentioned this story somewhere recently and luckily I have the collection. Dubus, along with Alice Munro, and a few others is a favorite. Although I have to admit since reading his son's memoir, TOWNIE, he does not come off as well as he does in this story. Or perhaps he is writing the father he wished he had been.

A couple divorce and the father has the children on Wednesdays and on the weekend. As you might expect it is very hard for him to entertain the kids every weekend. He doesn't exactly explain why these weekends have to be so elaborate with sledding, movies, restaurants, music. But he doesn't like having them at his apartment. Nothing they do ever feels quite right to him until summer comes and they can go to the beach where finally all three find peace much more simply. 

This is a leisurely story, where you really get inside his head as he tried to create this new family and how it will operate. There is a new woman in his life, but she isn't all that interested in his kids or any permanent relationship. 

Andre Dubus III is a very fine writer but his father was a master short story writer. 

The last story in this collection, "A Father's Story" is thought to be one of the finest short stories every written by an American.

George Kelley

Kevin Tipple 

Casual Debris 

Jerry House