Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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


  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.
  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.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

"The Girls in Their Summer Dresses" Irwin Shaw


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


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. 


Todd Mason

Kevin Tipple 


Jerry House

Tuesday, February 13, 2024



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



(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.



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, 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


 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.