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.


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 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.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: Louise's Ghost, Kelly Link


This was a bit of a slog story for me bit it  may well be my failing. I always think I will enjoy a less conventional story but I often don't. Link was mentioned as publishing her first novel (after many stories) this year on the New York Times Book Review Podcast so I looked online for a sample of her stories and the title appealed to me so I read this one.
Two women, both named Louise, are having lunch. They are accompanied by one of their children, Anna, who only eats green food, dresses in green and plays with green toys. You get the idea-although that idea gets tiring quickly. As does sorting which Louise is which. One of the Louises' confesses to having affairs with multiple cellists and the other confesses she has a male ghost living with her. He is naked and hairy and she never knows where she will find him curled up. 

Louises' friends give her ideas on how to get rid of him, none very effective. So the story goes on with the annoying green child, the affairs with cellists, and attempts to get rid of the ghost. Naming both women Louise was a gimmick to me and tiring. I will try another of her stories because she is well-thought of and this one was too long and bereft of any ideas beyond this. 

Anyone else read her? I bet Todd knows her and recommend a story. 

Kevin Tipple


George Kelley 

Jerry House 

Steve Lewis

Monday, January 22, 2024

Monday, Monday

 Hoping there's a smile on my face because the Lions won. And maybe the Bills too.

Probably bad luck to even write that.

Have hardly been out of the apartment all week (cold & snow) although that has given me time to get another couple of hundred books ready to donate and several bags of clothes. And shoes. Some of these shoes haven't been worn in 20 years. Moving again gives me the chance to go over what to keep yet again. And I am not keeping books I haven't read in over thirty years or big books or books I have read several times. So mostly I am keeping the books the family has written and collections of short stories and recent purchases. Oh and the 30 or so journals I have stories in. Would like to pitch them but maybe someday Kevin might read them.

Liked AMERICAN FICTION although it was more a story about family than one about writing to me. Wright and Sterling K Brown were terrific. I am tired of the dementia elements though. If there is an older person, you know that is going to happen. As it also did in the last season of BREEDERS. Great show but finished now. FARGO finished up too. So too REACHER although I haven't watched the last episode yet.

Started TRUE DETECTIVE (Max) and MONSIEUR SPADE (AMC). Watching NORTHERN EXPOSURE (PRIME), which was very creative for its day and had more sex in it than most shows today. 

Reading LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER for my book group and A HAUNTING ON THE HILL (Hand) for me. Also listening to THE GIRL WHO DIED (Ragnar Jonasson) via Libby. And a million podcasts as I fill bags with the things I should have gotten rid of two years ago. 

So what are you up to?

Sunday, January 21, 2024

On what would have been the 57th.


The photographer didn't show up so thank goodness someone had a Browie camera.

Friday, January 19, 2024



Normal People is the story of two teenagers, who fall in and out of love through the last years of high school and the first year of college. Connell's mother is a housekeeper for Marianne's family so there is a class difference. In high school, Connell is popular and Marianne, a loner. This changes over the years. Both are very smart and their relationship is sophisticated for their years. It is also about intellectual and political discussions and not just a sexual attraction. Both of them have periods teetering on mental illness. We root for them to find a way to be together and successful in their studies and happy in their friendships. The writing is beautiful and it's always fun to spend time in Ireland. There is also an excellent TV series based on this book on Hulu, I believe.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Short Story Wednesday' DANCE OF THE HAPPY SHADES-title story


Munro's first collection of stories won the Governor's Award in Canada. The stories are set in southwestern Ontario. The title story concerns a teenage girl and her mother who attend a recital at her piano teacher's house. Much is made of this yearly event among the adults especially. How it has become tiresome and shows a decline in the teacher. The food is not appealing and haven't they all done this so many times. At the end of the poorly-attended recital, a new group of children enter the house. It is clear they are from some sort of institution and their appearance suggests they are Downs Syndrome children. The final pianist is very talented, which seems to put everyone on guard. It seems like a trick,, perhaps to embarrass the audience in some way. It is not acceptable for such a girl to have this gift. Except to the piano teacher. (The title was the title of the song she played). A wonderful collection, many of the stories are about Munro's father. 

Kevin Tipple

George Kelley 


Todd Mason

Casual Debris 

Jerry House

Monday, January 15, 2024

Monday, Monday

Since Tracy and Jeff have occasional problems posting here, please copy your comments before posting and send them to me if they don't post ( I certainly miss it when I don't hear from all of you. 

Well, Winter arrived this week. It is 8 degrees here today. We had snow off and on for a few days and although it didn't amount to much, it was horrible for driving as it switched from sleet, to snow, to rain and the winds are ferocious. Of course, I don't drive so I look out here from the 8th floor and worry about accidents.

Watched MASTER GARDENER last night. This is the last of a trilogy by Paul Schrader about men who have committed terrible crimes but then sought to redeem themselves. I like this one but not as much as FIRST REFORMED or THE CARD COUNTER.

Finished up FOR ALL MANKIND (Apple), and although I will probably watch another season, I am tired of watching men floating about in space. And REACHER (Prime) has become disappointing with way too many scenes of extreme violence. Waiting for MONSIEUR SPADE and TRUE CRIME tonight although I will have to watch the Detroit Lions too. A show I have always enjoyed is BREEDERS on Hulu, although I think this is its last season. I will certainly miss SLOW HORSES (Apple). I am catching up with BEEF (Netflix) also.

Finished the SISKEL AND EBERT book, which somehow didn't spend enough time on some things I expected it to. Like looking analytically at why they so often differed in their opinions. I can't imagine there is enough to say for another book though. Still struggling to finish THE FIREKEEPER'S DAUGHTER, which is way too long. 

How about you?

Friday, January 12, 2024

FFB: MY BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORY. Edited by Margulies and Friend

 (from the archives: reviewed by Bill Crider)

Forgotten Books: My Best Science Fiction Story -- Edited by Leo Margulies & Oscar J. Friend

Is anyone but old guys like me interested in the history of certain genres these days? I've seen blog posts from whippersnappers who don't have any interest at all in reading the older books in their area of interest.  I can understand, however, since I have little interest in reading the newer ones.

But for somebody who does care about the history of SF, this would seem to be an essential book. It's fun because of the stories, of course, but each writer provides a short introduction to explain why a particular story was picked for the collection. (My favorite line in these is the final one in Henry Kuttner's intro: "Anyway, my wife wrote it.")

You have to wonder, considering the date of the collection (1949) if the writers would have chosen different stories later on in their careers. Too bad they're not around to ask. Cheap copies abound around the Internet, so why not pick one up an give it a try. See if you agree with the authors' choices.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: "A Conversation with My Father" Grace Paley


In this story, a daughter is visiting her 86-year old father on his deathbed. He asks for a story but is dissatisfied with the one she gives him, a one with many possible outcomes. He asks for one like Chekhov or another Russian writer would write. He wants the details that make the story come alive for him. She is unwilling to propel her character into an old-fashioned type plot. She wants her character to be free. 

Her story is about a woman whose son has become a drug-addict and how she takes up drugs to share his experience. As the daughter provides more and more of the details that her father craves, we see her unwillingness to tell the whole story is related to her father's dying and his willingness to hear it all signals his acceptance of what's ahead. A very post-modern story but lots to think about.


Jerry House 

Kevin Tipple

George Kelley  

Todd Mason

Casual Debris

Monday, January 08, 2024

Monday, Monday


Snow has arrived and I live in fear now of falling and breaking something so I won't be outside much. The drug I take for breast cancer really wreaks havoc with bones.

Went with a friend to see NABUCCO (Verdi) piped in from the MET in NY. The theater was sold out in Detroit and it's a big place I wonder if it's relevance to Israeli politics today was the reason. Usually the theater is a quarter full at most for these operas. It is fun to see the singers' faces close up and have subtitles too. 

Went with another friend to see FALLEN LEAVES (Karuismaki) and at first I was not sure what to make of it but after reading about him (a Finnish director)and watching another of his movies (THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE) I liked both a lot more. Most of his films are on Criterion. 

Still working on my book club book (THE FIREKEEPER'S DAUGHTER) and the Siskel and Ebert bio. We watched their show (SNEAK PREVIEWS) religiously throughout the nineties. 

NORTHERN EXPOSURE is back on Prime. Not sure if I will watch more than a few episodes but it's nice seeing the old gang in Cicely, AK. Also a fun show LOUDERMILK (with Ron Livinstone) is back on Netflix. Looking forward to TRUE DETECTIVE (Max) (also set in AK apparently).

My brother, Jeff, wrote a nice piece about Mathias Nase's trip to Philadelphia in the 1600s for a little book put out by his genealogy group. I had to keep reminding myself that the Nases are not related to me. A shame because they have an interesting history. Doesn't look like the new family is nearly as much fun. 

What's new with you? 

Friday, January 05, 2024

FFB: KILLER IN THE RAIN, Raymond Chandler

 (from the archives)

Killer In the Rain by Raymond Chandler (reviewed by Richard Robinson)

Killer in the Rain by Raymond Chandler, stories originally published 1934-1941,
this collection © 1964 – copy shown is the Ballantine Books 1977 paperback

This short story collection contains 8 stories: “Killer in the Rain”, “The Man Who Liked Dogs”, “The Curtain”, “Try the Girl”, “Mandarin’s Jade”, “Bay City Blues”, “The Lady in the Lake”, “No Crime in the Mountains”.

These stories by Chandler are both less and more than they seem. Every one of them was cannibalized by Chandler and became part of a novel. Sometimes it was a character or two who made the transition, more often it was whole pieces of plot, in some cases (The Lady In The Lake) the entire story was used and became a novel by added plot and a few name changes.

In his informative introduction to this collection, Philip Durham traces the publication and cannibalization of these eight stories, part or all of which became The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely and The Lady in the Lake.

None of the stories in this collection appears in Chandler’s 1950 “official” short story collection The Simple Art of Murder. Once Chandler cannibalized a story he believed it should be buried, so the stories were left to fade away with the pulp magazines in which they were originally published, thus none of these stories was published by Chandler during his lifetime, though three were published in collections, which Chandler maintained were published by mistake and without his permission: “No Crime in the Mountains” appeared in Great American Detective Stories edited by Anthony Boucher (1945), “The Man Who Liked Dogs” appeared in Joseph Shaw’s The Hard Boiled Omnibus (1946) while “Bay City Blues” appeared in Verdict (1953).

This collection was my introduction to Raymond Chandler. I was wowed by the writing, and I was hooked. I read this, the collection The Simple Art of Murder and the collection Pickup On Noon Street before I ever got to one of Chandler’s novels. When I did start on the novels – with The Big Sleep if I recall correctly – I was so enthralled I didn’t notice there were pieces of the short stories I’d already read. If I had, I wouldn’t have cared. Or perhaps I noticed and just don’t remember now, after I’ve read all of Chandler so many times.

While these stories are not in the two volume Library of America set of Chandler’s works, they are to be found in the 1,300 page Raymond Chandler: Collected Stories published by Everyman’s Library, which contains all of Chandler’s short fiction, mystery and other. Whatever the source, it’s worth seeking these out. You just can’t go wrong with Raymond Chandler.

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: "Blue Island" Stuart Dybek


Stuart Dybek reading

Stuart Dybek writes almost elusively of  blue-collar Chicago, where he grew up. In this story, an older mentor (Romy) gives him advice on how to win back a girl. "Just ask her to go walking," he advises. And the narrator does. Dubek perfectly captures the city with all its smells, sights, tastes. Although he has lived in Kalamazoo, MI for many years where he teaches at Western Michigan University, he still walks the streets of Chicago. He has many collections of stories and poems. 

Todd Mason

Kevin Tipple 

Jerry House 


George Kelley 


Monday, January 01, 2024

Monday, Monday


I forgot it was Monday until five minutes ago. So this will be brief. Had a nice time with the family. Saw Ferrari, Iron Claw and Poor Things. All three were good. Reading THE OTHER EDEN by Paul Harding, which is wonderfully written although sad. Two more good movies on TV Scrapper and Afire. Also liked the doc American Symphony. Finished Slow Horses and will have to look for something new to watch. What are you guys up to? I am sick of winter, how about you?