Friday, April 12, 2024

FFB: ORDINARY LIGHT, Tracy K Smith

 

Tracy K Smith is mostly a poet but this is her memoir. It's a story about a mother and a daughter and the religion that bound them together and nearly drove them apart. Although I have read many novels about Black girls from poor and abusive families, this one is not that. Tracy's family is middle-class, her father is in the military for most of her childhood. The five children are well-cared for and loved. They don't face the kind of bigotry that many Black children face. But, of course, it is always there to some degree. (A white friend calls her Black Girl).

This was an amazingly honest and forthright book. Ms. Smith does not shy away from telling you about many facets of her life that most writers might skip over or at least dull the impact. She spends a lot of time on her religious life and how she grew away from it. I found it interesting and am going forward to read her poetry

She is in Michigan this week, speaking at the Marygrove Conservancy. Each year, it hosts a Black writer of note. Marygrove, a mostly Black college on the fringes of Detroit, no longer exists as a college. But the Conservancy has preserved some of its institutions.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, ed Sarah Weinman-A Case of Maximum Need, Celia Fremlin

 

This is pretty much the last story I read in this collection. I have read two of Celia Fremlin's novels and especially liked her first novel, (which won the Edgar) THE HOURS BEFORE DAWN. This story originally appeared in Ellery Queen Magazine in 1977. 

 

“No, no telephone, thank you. It’s too dangerous,” said Miss Emmeline Fosdyke decisively; and the young welfare worker, only recently qualified, and working for the first time in this Sheltered Housing Unit for the Elderly, blinked up from the form she was filling in.

“No telephone? But, Miss Fosdyke, in your–I mean, with your–well, your arthritis, and not being able to get about and everything…You’re on our House-Bound list, you know that, don’t you? As a House-Bound Pensioner, you’re entitled–well, I mean, it’s a necessity, isn’t it, your telephone? It’s your link with the outside world!”

And indeed it is, but not in the way you expect. Not many 87-year olds can hold our attention but Ms. Fosdyke does once the telephone's installed. A fine end to a fine collection. 


George Kelley

Kevin Tipple 

Jerry House


Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Happy Birthday, Josh


 May this be the year the Detroit Tigers brings you as much joy as the Detroit Lions did in the Fall.

Monday, April 08, 2024

Monday, Monday

Takoi is a fabulous Thai restaurant in Detroit. Tres elegant. We celebrated Josh's birthday here on Saturday night although his birthday is the 9th. Thai food is his favorite.

I don't get down to downtown Detroit very often and I am astonished at all of the new hotels, restaurants, businesses, shops, etc. And all of the people on the streets. We came here (1970) at a low point for Detroit. It was still reeling from the riots. There are still many areas that are poor and dangerous but the good parts are spreading.

The only thing that hasn't changed is the lousy roads. 

Loved the British series BOILING POINT, which I got through Kanopy (from my library). It's somewhat similar to THE BEAR but the restaurant is in London. It's based on the characters in a movie of the same title and starring Stephen Graham.

Also loved OF AN AGE, an Australian movie on Amazon Prime. Hoping to find more movies from this director.


Only watched the first episode of RIPLEY (Netflix) but it looks promising. So too SUGAR (Apple). Thinking of reading another Ripley book. I have only read THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY.


What about you?
 

Friday, April 05, 2024

FFB: DICK LOCHTE'S TOP 20


 (From Ed Gorman's blog, 2010) This also appeared in The Thrilling Detective just weeks ago. Funny how we synchronize sometimes.

Dick Lochte's Top 20 Private Eye Novels

Ed here: In addition to being both a fine novelist and short story writer as well as a very perceptive critic,  Dick's list is especially interesting to me because he includes novels I've never seen on any other list before. And now I want to read or reread them. (This was originally published in the PWA newsletter)


TOP 20 PRIVATE EYE NOVELS (in alphabetical order – one per author or Chandler, Hammett and Macdonald would use up the 20)


1. Charles E. Alverson - Goodey’s Last Stand
2. Lawrence Block – Eight Million Ways to Die
3. Howard Browne – The Taste of Ashes
4. Raymond Chandler – The Long Goodbye
5. Robert Crais – L.A. Requiem
6. James Crumley – The Last Good Kiss
7. Stanley Ellin – The Eighth Circle
8. Earl W. Emerson – The Rainy City
9. Loren D. Estleman - Every Brilliant Eye
10. Joe Gores – Dead Skip
11. Sue Grafton – ‘K’ Is For Killer
12. Dashiell Hammett – The Maltese Falcon
13. Arthur Lyons – Hard Trade
14. Ross Macdonald – The Way Some People Die
15. Walter Mosley – Devil in a Blue Dress
16. Warren Murphy – Trace # 1
17. Robert B. Parker – The Judas Goat
18. T. Jefferson Parker – Silent Joe
19. Brad Solomon – The Open Shadow
20. Jonathan Valin – Day of Wrath

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: "Neighbors" Zach Williams from THE NEW YORKER

 


The story. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2024/03/25/neighbors-fiction-zach-williams

 

 The author's discussion of his story https://www.newyorker.com/books/this-week-in-fiction/zach-williams-03-25-24#intcid=_the-new-yorker-article-bottom-recirc_0ab1a5b2-c2fa-4e9d-841d-04965ce33958_text2vec1

A couple trying to rebound from an infidelity rent a house in an area not far from SF, known for its fog and remoteness. A neighbor's son, comes to visit and asks the husband to keep an eye on his elderly mother. Of course, something happens and our hero goes to investigate. While there, a strange, shadowy figure moves around him as he hovers over the body. Whenever our protagonist moves, so does shadowy figure. Eventually he calls the police in and the shadowy figure disappears. 

I thought I had this figured out and that this shadowy figure was  a metaphor for the unknown man his wife had had an affair with. But from this interview, I don't think the author meant anything that concrete. 


George Kelley

Kevin Tipple 

Jerry House 

TracyK

Monday, April 01, 2024

Monday, Monday

 


I am ambivalent about PRISCILLA. It was so claustrophobic watching it, so dark, visually and thematically that I either thought it was great or I hated it. I had no idea why Elvis was the love of her life.  He borders on pedophilia for me. She was 14. Why do parents fall for these guys as much as their kid?

Also watched the fabulous SHALL WE DANCE (Japanese version) and WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION. Charles Laughton was terrific. So too Marlene and Tyrone Power.

Had an Easter brunch with the family. Very nice. I am lucky to have a son and his family 20 minutes away.

Reading ORDINARY LIGHT by Tracy Smith, a memoir of a poet who is coming to Detroit in two weeks to talk about her work.  

So gray here after California. This is supposed to be the place to live with the coming climate catastrophes but be sure you can stand gray skies seven months a year. 

Watched a four-part dramatization on LIFE AFTER LIFE (Kate Atkinson) and a 5 part series BOILING POINT. Both from the BBC but showing on KANOPY, which I get through my library. Both terrific. Still enjoying NORTHERN EXPOSURE and I found the Steve Martin 2 part doc really interesting.

What about you?


Saturday, March 30, 2024

Four Favorites

 


I keep track of the movies I see on the Letterbxd website. Right now if you type Four Favorites into you tube's search engine you will see dozens of answers from Letterboxd users. The diversity of answers is not surprising given the number of films to choose from (about 10,000)

My four favorite films (this week, at least) are THE APARTMENT, DO THE RIGHT THING, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and BRINGING UP BABY. 

What are you FOUR favorites?

Friday, March 29, 2024

FFB-Wednesday's Child, Peter Robinson

 

In an early book of his Inspector Banks series, two cases are presented. In one, a small girl is taken out of her mother's house on the pretext of an accusation of child endangerment. The second case concerns a young man who is viciously murdered in a mine. Robinson is a master at providing enough details to make the cases interesting and also in telling you enough about Banks' life that you can follow his trajectory from book to book. This book is especially memorable (or horrific) in that the child's mother has so little feeling for her. And the ending will leave you wondering what next? This was a nominee for an Edgar in 1995.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: "The Time Being" by Joseph O'Neill

 


from the March 18th issue of THE NEW YORKER

I initially read this story in the traditional way and although I enjoyed the writing did not get a lot out of it. It seemed very old-fashioned, like a story written by a European emigrant a half-century ago. In the story, a young man, who made a fortune in the nineties, takes over the care of a dog for a neighbor who is ill. He also reads to his neighbor in the hospital and various other things happen. He spends a lot of time thinking about the meaning of life (nota bene) I did not get much out of it. However, this story is available as read by the author and that version seemed like a skilled reader telling me a story that was charming and worth hearing. The voice in my head was clearly less worth listening to. 

George Kelley

Kevin Tipple 

Jerry House

Monday, March 25, 2024

Monday, Monday


 Hoping that spring come tomorrow because it's been cold. 

Saw a good play the ripple, the wave that carried me home by Christina Anderson at Theater Nova in Ann Arbor and then went out to dinner with ten people. Awkward number but fun.

Saw One Life, which wasn't Schindler's List or Zone of Interest but it was good. Anthony Hopkins was amazing. How does he do it?

Watching The Two Body Problem and The Manhunt, and Northern Exposure and Curb Your Enthusiasm, which might be the funniest season yet. Is it Carol Leifer that's bringing some new jokes?

Finished Wednesday's Child by Peter Robinson.  He was one of the best. I will miss him.

How about you.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: DEATH COMES TOO LATE, Charles Ardai

It's not easy to follow the work of a short story writer until they publish a collection. I have always admired the stories of Charles Ardai, which I have found in anthologies we shared stories in and a few Megan appeared in. He is very adept at writing different sorts of stories, but all of them are beautifully written. He is most well-known as the publisher of Hard Case Crimes' large collection of noir novels. But the stories are more than a hobby and he excels at writing them.

"The Home Front," opens this collection. It originally appeared in Death Do Us Part. It takes place during World War 2 and focuses on the rationing, specifically with gas. The protagonist is a federal agent with the Office of Price Administration. He catches a small-town gas attendant cheating, which leads to a car accident, which sets him on his doomed path. I really don't want to say anymore other than this is a terrific story with great details. What a clever concept and setting for a story. 

Another story I enjoyed was "Sleep! Sleep, Beauty Bright" Originally in Black is the Night, it tells the story of man whose wife is in a coma. Looking out his apartment window, he figures out the guy in the building across from them has a perfect view of their apartment. (Think Rear Window) He sets out to confront the guy over what he may have seen. Another fine story. I always like stories where basically decent people are lured into committing bad acts. If a character starts out evil, it is harder to win me over.

This is a large collection with all types of stories from the look of it. Many of the stories appeared in Ellery Queen or Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines. 

George Kelley

TracyK 

Jerry House

Todd Mason 

Monday, March 18, 2024

Monday, Monday

 Back home. Except it doesn't feel like home yet. Had a very nice time, especially enjoyed all the seafood and music we were able to take it. Had the best calamari I have ever had. Lots of walking-didn't gain any weight despite eating like crazy. We had 20/21 sunny days. It was 61 every day. Perfect walking weather. La Jolla is beautiful.


Reading Wednesday's Child, which I think I read before. It's early in his series. Watched Paris Murders pretty much exclusively. Awfully violent but the detectives are interesting. Also watched DOG HOUSE UK Season 5. Although I have never owned a dog, I find them fun to watch.


So what is new on your front?

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Short Story Wednesday

 (from 2013) (And long before the movie, PIG)

"Michigan Man’s Tastes Get Him Into Trouble"
by Patti Abbott


Daniel was not a gastronome at birth, but it wasn’t long before the word was applicable. Stories detailing incidents of his superior palate as a toddler were numerous. He learned his skills at the side of the finest cook he’d ever met—his mother. 

“Too much rosemary?” she’d ask him before serving the holiday dinner. 

The aroma of roasted poultry was intoxicating to her young son, even if the chicken was a tad over-infused with garlic. She held the fork out, having stolen the smallest tidbit from the underside of a breast. 


“More lemon. And a pinch more marjoram.”


“Brilliant,” she said, after tasting it.


Daniel’s early reading matter was the work of James Beard, and by twelve, he’d successfully replicated Beards’ recipes. He taught himself French to study the work of Escoffier, the author of Le Guide Culinaire, and inventor of the five mother sauces. Daniel aspired to the title bestowed on his mentor: roi des cuisiners et cuisinier des rois.(king of the chefs and chef of the kings). 

This was unlikely however since he rarely cooked for anyone other than himself. 


Eventually Daniel came on the idea of using the finest ingredients available to create a contemporary version of the five sauces. Quelle drole to confine oneself to ingredients as prosaic as butter, garlic and cheese. He would turn Escoffier’s codification on its ear. 

The first four sauces were unparalleled successes. His fruit sauce featured Dansuke watermelons and Yubari cantaloupes, the world’s most expensive melons. A curry was composed of Devon crab, Beluga caviar, Scottish lobster, and quail eggs. A topping composed of caviar and goji berries made his eyes roll with pleasure, and his penultimate sauce, a dessert concoction, used 28 different imported cocoas, some formulated personally for him by chocolatiers.

His final sauce would use white truffles, available only a few months each year. The best were found in Italy, and especially in Alba. Traditionally the truffles had been ferreted out by pigs that, mysteriously, had the nose for it. But pigs also had the inclination to gobble down the white gold, sometimes destroying the entire yield. So pigs had mostly been replaced by dogs that were satisfied to feast on pedestrian treats rather than the truffles. 

“I should like to go along,” Daniel told the importer at the Eastern Market in Detroit. 

“To the airport to pick up your shipment?” 

“To Roccafluvione.” 

This was the town in the Le Marche region his supplier identified as a viable source.


“You mean to the marketplace there?”


Daniel drew an impatient breath. “No. I want to hunt them myself. I should like to smell the earth, to inhale the scent I’ve read about since childhood.” He paused. “And I want to hunt with pigs rather than the dogs. I have a preference for traditional methods.”  

He’d waited a long time for this day and he’d be damned it some mutt was going to tarnish the image of striding amidst the oak trees, pig in hand.

“It’s mostly forbidden,” said his importer. “You’ll have to make special arrangements.”

“I’m prepared to do whatever it takes.” 


Daniel opened his wallet. And eventually his bank account.


And so it was on a dark October day that Daniel and his guide, Bruno, and the Marco, the pig, set out into the hills.


“No one knows you are here?”

Daniel shook his head. 

“You must never speak of this excursion to anyone. Normally I’d ask you to wear a blindfold,” his guide said in excellent English. “But I doubt you will make a second trip.”

“No,” Daniel agreed. “This will be my only outing. Truthfully I am not fond of fungi. They tend to disagree with me, in fact.” His stomach was already rumbling.

“Then why this trip? We have perfected the shipment of truffles, you know.” 

Daniel explained his lifelong desire to hunt for the truffles that would complete his final sauce.


The man nodded knowingly. “I detest red wine. Yet I always drink a glass or two at my local tavern. The owner makes a point of giving me the best red wine in the house because of my profession,” he said, waving his arm around. “I know it’s good, but I’d much prefer beer.”

The pig, trudged on, only occasionally giving a half-hearted snort. He was very large and far uglier than Daniel had imagined.


“You will know you are amongst the truffles when we arrive. It will remind you of locker rooms back in school. Feet, sweat, testosterone, earth.” Bruno drew a breath and his chest expanded. “Marco has the area’s finest sense of smell. Much better than those damned dogs.”


Daniel smiled.


“So you’re going to eat only enough to see that this sauce is up to snuff, and then never touch them again,” Bruno said, after a while.


“That’s about the size of it,” Daniel said. “Just enough to ascertain I have met my objective.”


The oak trees towered above them, the forest growing denser as they walked. At last, Bruno glanced at Daniel, indicating with his eyes that the rope had been tugged by the eager pig. Using the stout stick, he made Marco back away. The three of them stopped. A nice stand of oaks towered over a pirate’s bounty of the white gold. 


The odor was overpowering, and Daniel suddenly felt light-headed. Perhaps it was not just eating fungi that made him ill: it could also be the smell. Without warning, he plunged headlong into the swell of truffles. 

The pig, angry at this unexpected blanketing of his greatest joy, jerked loose of the rope, immediately gobbling away at both Daniel and the truffles. Within seconds, a piece of Daniel and a piece of the white truffles co-mingled. A piece of leg, a piece of thigh. And so it went.


Bruno stood dumbfounded, trying to decide what to do. There was little choice, he thought, looking at the earth beneath him. Knowing the trouble this affair would cause, he and his pig, beaten hard with a stick, ran all the way home.


Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: "Scab Painting" Yoka Ogawa


 https://www.newyorker.com/books/flash-fiction/scab-painting

 

This is one I would have expected by Murakami. Twins are born. One is initially smaller but over time becomes the larger twin. This larger twin collects newspaper articles on imposters and is an expert at removing scabs. His sibling indulges this activity until he is grown and no longer has scabs. The brother then learns how to hurt himself enough to produced scabs. Over time, he fashions artwork from his scabs and when he dies his sibling presents them to the mourners as tokens.  

Perhaps the flash fiction length produces stories like this that are more an idea than a story. I am not even entirely sure of the sex of the more normal twin. The writer never says they are both boys but in fact, refers to this twin as a tomboy. Or maybe I missed the reference. An odd one indeed.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: "My Cheesecake-Shaped Poverty" Haroki Murakami


 https://www.newyorker.com/books/flash-fiction/my-cheesecake-shaped-poverty-haruki-murakami

 Kevin, my grandson, has been reading Murakami in school. He even had to write a story in the style of Murakami. I would love to read it. I often wonder if they ever read the writers we read fifty years ago. It seems not. Certainly they are rarely white male authors.

This is a very ordinary story for a writer known for his unusual stories. A young and very poor couple rent a house on a triangle-shaped property well outside of the city. The reason for the very low rent is that trains pass by incessantly day and night. They cannot hear each other speak. They live here for two years.  This has to be a true story because I see no other reason Murakami would write it. I guess it's just to point out what poverty forces on people. Although most young couples lived a version of this.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Friday, February 23, 2024

Friday's Forgotten Books: SURVIVORS WILL BE SHOT AGAIN, Bill Crider

 (reviewed by Ed Gorman)



Bill Crider's new Survivors Will Be Shot Again may be my favorite of all the Sheriff Dan Rhodes novels for two reasons.


                                                                 1                            

  If you think Crider was funny before, wait until you read the scene where Rhodes walks into a convenience store and goes into a mental rage about how Dr. Pepper refuses to sell the original sugar DP online. Good thing he comes to notice that he has walked into a robbery. Ultimately he has to take the gunman's weapon away by throwing a loaf of bread at him. That's the first chapter.
  The regulars are at their best and or worst.
  The enterprising young woman who got laid off as reporter on the local weekly is back again with her very successful online newspaper of newish kinds of stories that  she sometimes "enhanced" for the sake of excitement. She has turned the mild mannered Rhodes into a local bad ass of heroic stature.
   Hawk and Lawton, the two elderly deputies who who make Rhodes' day miserable by trying to force information out of him by withholding other information ("in the loop") from him. 
   Seepy Benton, erstwhile community college professor and very very amateur crime solver, is pushing what was originally a ghost repellent spray but will also work if nudists are invading your domicile.
   Wal Mart-- there are so many references you get the feeling that Wal Mart is  the official church of the small Texas town.
   And lest I forget...the discovery of several illegal marijuana patches...guarded by junior sized alligators.   
  Then there is the A storyline. There have been break-ins on ranch and farm buildings. Curiously one of the men whose outbuilding had been broken into and robbed is found murdered in a building owned by another man who had been robbed earlier. Given the material that gets taken the robberies are peculiar indeed.
  Bill Crider writes some the finest traditional mysteries around. He is a first rate plotter who also knows how to pace his material. Such a mixture of mystery, humor and even an occasional horrific moment give his work its unique mastery.
                                                                    2
  I grew up reading the now mostly forgotten Sinclair Lewis  He frequently wrote about small towns and their social ways in the 1920s and 1940s especially. He was both brutal and hilarious. His one novel that is still taught in college (several famous workshops won't teach him because he was allegedly a bad writer line by line) is Babbitt. The storyline paints a portrait of a boorish "booster" who extols American virtues that are actually American vices. But there are three scenes in which Lewis forces you to at least understand Babbitt to some degree and after you read them you can't quite find him as repellent as you once did.  
   Bill Crider does the same thing here with his suspects. They are not likable. But as Crider reveals their back stories you see that in some way they are broken men.
   Perfecto.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

"The Girls in Their Summer Dresses" Irwin Shaw


 https://www.classicshorts.com/stories/dresses.html

 

This is one of the great short stories for me. A husband and wife, walking in New York, confront the issue that he cannot stop looking at women passing them on the street . The wife admits that this is ruining their marriage, breaking her heart. She says that he will eventually, if he hasn't already, act on it. And he cannot really deny this. He claims he is helpless not to look over any woman who comes into his view. They have planned a day for just the two of them: a football game, dinner, a French movie, but by the end of their walk they change their plans and go to spend the day with friends. 

I am very glad that I did not have a husband that did this. Or if he did, I never noticed. 

Kevin Tipple

George Kelley 

Casual Debris 

Jerry House

Monday, February 19, 2024

Monday, Monday


 I am pretty much moved in, but now I have to pack for CA. Sort of exhausting-I always overpack, taking everything that might be needed despite there being a CVS a block away. Have I ever used the bandaids, neosporin, list of passwords, address book, knee braces, multiple sunhats, eye glasses, etc. I take? 

Reading COCKTAILS WITH GEORGE AND MARTHA-about the making of Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe. Watching the finale of MONSIEUR SPADE and TRUE DETECTIVE tonight. Enjoying MR and MRS SMITH. Rewatching FREAKS AND GEEKS after listening to a podcast on it. Still watching NORTHERN EXPOSURE, which was such an original show. The third season is terrific.

Watched JIRO-DREAMS OF SUSHI. Jiro was 85 when they made this doc and 15 years later at 100 he is still massaging fish in his restaurant. It looks like good sushi is about the quality of the fish you can get and how long you rub it.



I will post MONDAY, MONDAY for the next three weeks although it will be empty, waiting for you. I will read it on my cellphone but I can never seem to get anything much on there. 


Friday, February 16, 2024

FFB: City of Nets; A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s, Otto Friedrich

 


Donating books for the last five years, probably exceeding a thousand by now, it's been hard to decide what is worth keeping if I have already read it. I discarded a biography of Raymond Carver but not a collection of his stories. Same too with John Cheever. Shirley Jackson's bio went, but I still have a few of the novels. I held on to most of the short story collections but not many of the novels. I got rid of TOM LAKE (Ann Patchett) immediately after reading it only to have to hunt it down when my book group chose it for their March read.

CITY OF NETS, one of the classics on Hollywood I kept. The first time I read this book, I found a large section of the book was missing. So in time I bought another used copy and was able to finish it. World War II makes the forties an interesting era in Hollywood. Especially the influx of talented actors, writers and directors escaping from Europe. Friedrich skillfully weaves biographical sketches with historical information. He is especially interested in the immigrants who came to dominate the film business very quickly. Also fun to read about how our new enemies (esp. Japan and German) made for the new villains in various films.

This, along with ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE, by William Goldman are two of the best books about the movies although the later is a bit dated. 

What I can't decide about is the many small literary and crime fiction outlets where my stories appeared over the years. Many of the stories are in my two collections but many are not. But realistically who is going to read them after I'm gone. I'm not Alice Munro or John Cheever. And they take up too much room.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

"The President of the Louisiana Live Oak Society" Ellen Gilchrist

 obituary 

Ellen Gilchrist was one of those writers who I read as soon as her book turned up in the library years ago. She wrote short stories, novels, and memoirs. They were set in the romantic South of the 70s-2000. And I had forgotten all about the pleasure she gave me until I saw her death notice today. I was able to download IN THE LAND OF THE DREAMY DREAM for $3 on Amazon. She is often funny. "He put up with a lot from Leila because she had been named to the list of Beautiful Activists two years in a row." (This is her hair dresser)

In this story, which is surprising, funny and sad, in turns, Robert, a teenager, has made friends with Gus, a boy who spends most of his time sitting under the town's huge live oak tree. Gus is black and Robert's white mother secretly disapproves of this friendship but considers herself too liberal to act on her fear. And they are up to no good, selling dope and using it themselves. This makes it sound like it's a cautionary or scary story. But mostly it is not either and it ends quite dramatically or oddly depending on how much latitude you give Ms. Gilchrist. 

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY

Todd Mason

Kevin Tipple 

TracyK 

Jerry House

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

THE UNLIKELY ESCAPE OF URIAH HEEP

 


Jane, a woman in my exercise group, was looking for an Ann Patchett book at the library. Because she is tiny, she couldn't reach the shelf Patchett was on and no step stool was nearby. But another book was eye level: THE UNLIKELY ESCAPE OF URIAH HEEP, by H.G. Parry. She can hardly put this found book down. Has a book you never meant to read, never heard of even, become a real favorite.?
I have this on my kindle already. The story of her find is worth the price

Monday, February 12, 2024

Monday, Monday

Finally moved in and it went well. Lots of pluses and only a minor negative-my fridge is smaller. Cost me a bit and it was hard work but I think it's worth it. 


Watching PORTRAIT ARTIST OF THE YEAR (Amazon), Season 10. Love this show. As someone who has zero talent in that area, I am always amazed. Plus I enjoy that they use British celebrities as models. Also watching a bizarre show about someone named Natalia Grace who is either 6 or 30 and is either evil or her parents are evil. Also Monsieur Spade and True Detective. I finished Loudermilk and would like another season, Netflix. All Creatures Great and Small-will Dr. Farnum and Mrs. Hall eventually get together.


Trying hard to read the Ann Cleves book but so far I fall asleep after a few pages every night. It is not the book, it's me. 

Saw Teacher's Lounge, the German film nominated for Best International Film. It was a knockout. 



So what's up with you guys.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Letitia Morrison Carter RIP

This is my cousin, Letty, whose memorial service I attended via Zoom yesterday. It is humbling to think of what I  have done with my life compared to she with hers. She was a rich woman due to an invention of her husband's for epoxying jewelry. But she was a poor child and a poor young mother. She wasn't born into wealth at all. She was a excellent cook, gardener, pianist and mother of four. At the service, the director of the RI Philharmonic extolled about the things she had done for her state. I am proud to have known and been related to her although I saw her only twice in my life. And oh, yes, they were fervent Democrats!


Letty Carter, age 89, passed away peacefully at her home in Little Compton, RI, on September 29, 2023. Letitia gave tirelessly to her family, community, and philanthropic endeavors. She was a leader, teacher, creator who touched and impacted many people. In her own words:

"My advice to you is not hard advice, but rather soft advice: Learn everything you can about what is going on around you. Volunteer, you'll meet some interesting new people. Attend some events and programs in Rhode Island. Be generous, not necessarily with money, but with your time and spirit. Read as much as you can. Catch up with your friends and family. Listen carefully. Say yes and thank you at appropriate times. Be kind. Know that a positive outlook often precedes a positive conclusion. Have passion for what you do."

Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have a groundwork for each of their lives built from Letitia's wisdom, kindness and guidance. Letitia was a visionary. She could see what had to be done, how to do it and then did it, enlisting and assisting others to completion. She was relentless when she took on or assisted in a project that enhanced her community and the state of RI. Letitia was one of the volunteers who opened Coggeshall Farm Museum in Bristol and served as its president. She is a founder of the Fiber Co-op at Slater Mill Historic Site, Pawtucket. As president of the board of Veterans Memorial Auditorium, she secured financing for major remodeling in 1990 and for the return of the Rhode Island Philharmonic's performances. She was a commissioner of the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority with special responsibility as chair of the Vets Foundation. She has been a board member of the Community Preparatory School for 10 years, three years as chair, and also has served as a director for WRNI Public Radio, Planned Parenthood, the Philharmonic, Rhode Island Mayoral Academies, the RI Philharmonic Music School and more. The philanthropic endeavors of Letitia and her husband John Carter have touched many lives, organizations and institutions in Rhode Island. Letitia's family extends heartfelt gratitude, thanks and love to each and every companion who lovingly dedicated themselves to caring for Letty. Letitia was preceded in death by her husband John S. Carter, Jr. She is survived by her four children: Kathy Martinez and her husband Alex of Colorado; John S. Carter and Nicole Peckham of Little Compton; Pamela Carter of Ringoes, NJ; Elisabeth Carter of Waltham, MA. Four grandchildren: Julia Martinez and her husband David Moskowitz; Maggie Foote and her husband Eric; Johnny Carter; Liam Rowe; as well as four great-grandchildren: Cash and Falcon Foote; Jonah and Zoe Moskowitz.

Friday, February 09, 2024

FFB: POIROT INVESTIGATES, Agatha Christie

 


(From Rick Robinson's blog TIP THE WINK.)

Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie, Delhi Open Books. Kindle ebook edition

This is a short story collection written by Christie and first published in the UK by The Bodley Head in March 1924. In the eleven stories, famed eccentric detective Hercule Poirot solves a variety of mysteries involving greed, jealousy, and revenge. The American version of this book, published by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1925, featured a further three stories. Those stories are included in this ebook.

Contents:

1. THE ADVENTURE OF “THE WESTERN STAR”
2. THE TRAGEDY AT MARSDON MANOR
3. THE ADVENTURE OF THE CHEAP FLAT
4. THE MYSTERY OF HUNTER’S LODGE
5. THE MILLION DOLLAR BOND ROBBERY
6. THE ADVENTURE OF THE EGYPTIAN TOMB
7. THE JEWEL ROBBERY AT THE GRAND METROPOLITAN
8. THE KIDNAPPED PRIME MINISTER
9. THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MR DAVENHEIM
10. THE ADVENTURE OF THE ITALIAN NOBLEMAN
11. THE CASE OF THE MISSING WILL
12. THE VEILED LADY
13. THE LOST MINE
14. THE CHOCOLATE BOX

My Take:
In the mood for something simple, light, a little old-fashioned, I picked this ebook of fourteen Poirot stories. As expected, Poirot’s friend and companion Captain Hastings appears in each of the stories, relating the story to the reader in all but one of them, the other told by Poirot himself in flashback.

In a group of stories like this, especially as I read them one after the other, the bumbling ineptitude and various foibles of Hastings are on full, brightly lit display, and time after time his theories and guessed-at solutions are proved wrong, oft to his chagrin. Poirot, of course, is his usual intelligent and insightful self, his little grey cells leading him to the correct solution to each puzzle.

I read this on a pair of rainy afternoons, and thoroughly enjoyed it. One caution, however: the editing and especially the paragraph formatting are full of errors, so that it often appears as if one character has said something when it is actually another.

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: "Challenge the Impossible: The Final Problem" Edward D. Hoch

 (Review by Jeff Meyerson, a few years back)

Edward D. Hoch, Challenge the Impossible: The Final Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne (Crippen & Landru 2018).

When I thought of which book to choose for the first of these short story collections to review, the choice was fairly easy.  Why not go with possibly the most prolific short story writer ever, a man who published over 950 stories, including one or more in every issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine for 35 years?  Ed Hoch created a dozen or more series characters of varying types, but my favorite remains the impossible crime specialist, small town Connecticut doctor Sam Hawthorne, who had some 72 recorded cases, published between 1974 and 2008, of a remarkably high quality.  Hoch did something interesting here, besides the ingenuity of the stories themselves, by setting them in a specific time and place, a smallish town in Connecticut between the doctor's arrival in 1922 and his final story, in 1944.  You always get a feel for what was going on in the world then, from the Depression to the Second World War.  Crippen & Landru has done fans a favor by publishing all 72 stories in five volumes (of which this is, clearly, the last), all with "Impossible" in the title.  From the first story, "The Problem of the Covered Bridge," in which a man drives into a covered bridge and seems to vanish off the face of the Earth, Hoch was a master at coming up with truly impossible-seeming crimes and then providing mostly brilliant solutions.  I'd recommend starting at the beginning and reading all five volumes, but you can't go wrong with any of them.
 
Jeff Meyerson
 

Monday, February 05, 2024

Monday, Monday


 
Well, I might be trading noise for light upstairs. My  floor to ceiling windows facing west showcase a blinding light at sunset. We have finally had a few sunny days to make this evident. I guess I will be lowering those shades a lot of the time. I have made about two dozen trips upstairs with my shopping cart filled with various things. There is one of those flat bed carts that carries more but I twisted my ankle the first (and last) time I used it. When you don't drive your skills in negotiating doorways in not great. Come Friday, this will hopefully end. The worst thing is the 25 (at least) address changes I have had to do despite only an apartment # change. Some of them are quite tricky. If I had it to do over....no, I probably still would. A worrisome thing is going to CA before it is clear that my USPS has made the change. Yikes!

Watched SELF RELIANCE on Hulu , a C+ movie. I am tracking the movies I see on Letterbxd, a website now. A handy place, where you can also get reviews of friends who have seen it. Watching MR and MRS SMITH (or is it Jones) on Amazon. EXPATS, which is strange but the critics tell me to hang in so I will. Enjoying MONSIEUR SPADE and TRUE DETECTIVE sort of. When I need to feel relaxed I watch ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL, where the problems of a lamb are tolerable. I enjoyed BARGAIN BLOCK on MAX, a show where they redo houses in Detroit. I never thought I would be watching redecorating shows again, especially since I will never do that again, but the Detroit aspect won me over.

Reading Ann Cleves RAVEN BLACK and Sigrid Nunez, THE VULNERABLES. 

Going to see a play (FORTUNE) in Ann Arbor today. I don't have high hopes because it's never been performed before.

Not sure how much I will be around or have Internet access this week. It's all up to the Gods.


Friday, February 02, 2024

FFB: LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER, Stewart O'Nan


 I have read this novel many times and it never gets old. I hope my book group likes it. I have never read a novel that so completely puts you in a setting as this one does. And the setting is the last night of a Red Lobster restaurant in Connecticut. O'Nan perfectly captures how a chain like this one works, what the employees are like, the regular customers too. What a failing mall that surrounds it feels like on a very snow night a few days before Christmas. Manny is the manager and he is presiding over the death sentence dealt to his beloved place. He will still have a job--at the Olive Garden--and he can take five people with him. He considers this during the long day too. I love O'Nan and this is my favorite. You can read it in a few hours.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: "The Year of the Rabbit" Alice Mcdermott


 (This story is an excerpt from McDermott's novel, ABSOLUTION. 

A young wife is in Vietnam in 1962 with her husband who is in the Navy. She discovers she is pregnant and comes under the care of a Navy doctor. One night, three months into her pregnancy, she feels cramps and sees a small amount of blood. Although she shares this information with her husband and he does summon the doctor, it is her Vietnamese housekeeper and her army wife friend who help her through this trauma of the miscarriage. Her new friend also shares the night terrors that are haunting her. The three women fashion a burial and ceremony for the fetus. There are other details about the US in Vietnam but they are really extraneous to this story but I am sure are relevant to the novel. I have always enjoyed McDermott's writing especially her novel CHARMING BILLY. You do feel in this excerpt that her marriage will not survive her husband's behavior during this incident. I will have to get the book and find out. 

George Kelley

Todd Mason

Monday, January 29, 2024

Monday, Monday

Really liked ALL OF US STRANGERS although I must admit I had to go home and google the ending. It's a bit tricky. THE BOYS IN THE BOAT was easy to understand but pretty much a routine production. Clooney used to be a better director, I think. And this was a book that I really admired. Could another director made a better picture with this material. I think yes. Somehow he emphasized the wrong things.

Reading:


About to begin Wednesday's Child and also reading Last Night at the Lobster (O'Nan) Lots of podcasts. I listened to a two-hour discussion of a one-hour episode of True Detective, for instance. Is that crazy?

About to begin Expats (Prime)(First episode was terrific)

 Not sure about Woman in the Wall  but I really got into on Funny Woman (PBS) and hope they do another season.

Mostly I am trying to organize my move three flights up and across the hall. 

How about you?

Friday, January 26, 2024

FFB: BEAUTIFUL LOSERS, Leonard Cohen (from 2011 reviewed by Deb)


 

Leonard Cohen’s BEAUTIFUL LOSERS



Leonard Cohen was born in Montreal in 1934, which makes him the same age as my mother. I don’t quite know how that happened, because he always seemed so much younger than my parents when I was a teenager obsessively listening to “The Songs of Leonard Cohen” LP. Today Cohen is best known for his vast catalog of music, including “Suzanne,” “Joan of Arc,” “First We Take Manhattan,” and the beautiful “Hallelujah,” which seems to have been covered by every singer with a recording contract. However, in the 1960s (after graduating from McGill University in 1955 and trying law school and some other career paths), Cohen published several volumes of poetry and two novels: THE FAVOURITE GAME (1963) and BEAUTIFUL LOSERS (1966). I discovered these books in the 1970s; I enjoyed THE FAVOURITE GAME, but it was BEAUTIFUL LOSERS I read repeatedly during my teen years.

BEAUTIFUL LOSERS begins with an unnamed (and undoubtedly unreliable) narrator who is living in utter squalor, unwashed and filthy. Despite his living conditions, the narrator is a scholar, a historian whose major field of study is a luckless Indian tribe whose name has historically been translated as “loser.” The narrator tells the story of a love triangle involving himself, his late wife Edith (one of the last members of the aforementioned tribe), and F, the domineering man loved by both the narrator and Edith. When the novel begins, F, like Edith, is already dead—although a “Long Letter from F” forms the middle portion of the book. Intertwined with the hallucinatory story of spiritual and sexual love, betrayal, drug abuse, mind games, religion, philosophy, politics (especially the Quebec independence movement), mental illness, and suicide, is the story of Catherine Tekakwitha, a 17th century Mohawk who converted to Catholicism, lived a post-conversion life of intense self-denial (one would be tempted to say masochism), died at a young age, and became a saint.

This brief summary does not do justice to the profound depth of the novel, the various voices within it (comic, tragic, learned, foolish, yearning, interrogatory), the richness of its language, the rapid shifts in perspective. Yes, it is a sixties time-capsule: veering wildly in tone, leaving so much ambiguously half-said, containing simultaneously so much intellectual heft and so many intensely-detailed descriptions of sex and torture; it seems to epitomize a certain sixties outlook and attitude. This is not a novel for the weak of heart, but if you know Leonard Cohen only from his music and you’re in the mood for a real change of pace, I highly recommend BEAUTIFUL LOSERS.

Incidentally, this is the novel which contains the passage that begins, “God is alive; magic is afoot,”famously used in a chant/song by Buffy Ste. Marie.