Wednesday, July 19, 2017
My recent post on the Literary Brat Pack, which has me searching for one I can be a part of, unless I am just one of my own, made me wonder about Jill Eisenstadt. How did she become a part of this exalted group, as I had never heard of her books, let alone read any of them? So, I picked up what is considered her breakthrough work, "From Rockaway." I found it readable, but when I was finished, what the hell was the point?
That this made some kind of a fuss astonished me. Eisenstadt had the good fortune to be at Bennington College with that high profile combo of Bret Easton Ellis, and the still brilliant--the only one of this group, as far as I am concerned, who is--Donna Tartt.
This coincidental collusion is the sole basis, as I can see, for Eisenstadt's success. Her entire novel reads like a collection of discarded material borrowed from Ellis. And how does a Jewish girl write about a group of kids, who are basically Catholic? One has an aunt, who is a nun, which accounts for some humor, and most have gone through parochial school out there! And no mention of "The Song Of Bernadette?" Come on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What she gives the reader are a collection of slackers doing what slackers do, only in Rockaway, Queens. She gets the milieu of the place right; having lived in Queens, myself, for fifteen years, I grasped the misery of the place she conveyed, which is what she is best at.
But the kids she portrays could be any group of youngsters, at any point in time. Who cares? What the hell did editors go crazy over about this readable, but otherwise mediocre work? Jill, baby, get a new beat, because Queens is beat. The Wicked Witch Of The West wouldn't even fly over it!
At least, I can say I have read Jill. Tama Janowitz? Not yet, but oh, God, when I do.................
And neither of these women can do a thing right, with their hair!!!!!!!!!!! Haven't they learned, over time, that hair is key to literary success??????????
Just look at a picture of Lauren Weisberger, dears!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Cass Elliot, known as "Mama Cass," had a gorgeous voice. I have been going through some spells of anxiety and depression, lately, (but not to worry, I can still write on here, and read, so I have not gone under yet. (No Sylvia Plath or Joan Didion, for THIS raving queen!)
In the 1970's, Westerns, for a brief time, incorporated pop songs onto the soundtrack to help define the story being told. Robert Altman, in 1971's "McCabe And Mrs. Miller," proved the best at this; he used the songs of Leonard Cohen. Even then, Altman was prepping for his masterwork, "Nashville," which appeared in 1975. The movie "Billy Jack: used Coven's one-time hit, "One Tin Soldier." But my favorite of these appeared in a 1973 film I never song, called "Monte Walsh." It featured an underrated song from Mama Cass, called "The Good Times Are Coming,"
The title is hopeful and affirmative. But what makes the song work is its counter balance of sadness and hope. The underscoring with the harpsichord, giving it a sad, circus sound, alerting listeners someone out there is aware of whatever sadness is being felt. But the poignant lyrics sung by Cass, give the sadness a hope, telling one not to let the sadness overwhelm you, because, after all, "The Good Times Are Coming."
I have been listening to this song a lot lately, and it has helped, as have meds, to make me feel better. So, I thought I would share it with those out there, who need a bit of hope.
Say a big Hello, and Welcome, everyone to Abrianna Scarborough. Is she related to Chuck Scarborough? Who knows? No matter; Adrianna, I am glad you found you way here, and I hope what you find continues to be informative and entertaining.
As I have said, this blog goes great with morning coffee, which is at my side right now, to get those creative juices flowing.
So welcome, Abrianna, and feel free to drop in here anytime.
Monday, July 17, 2017
I have two confessions to make, girls. First, I am not a fantasist. I have read the Harry Potter books, the Lemony Snickett series, and of course, the Tolkien trilogy. I mean, regarding this last, if one is alive, let alone somewhat, if not expansively, literate, how can one not have read it?
But this does not mean I hunger for the latest "Game Of Thrones" or the next Diana Gabaldon. My time is more valuable than that.
Second, I purchased this book, under false pretenses. Charmed by the presentation of the cover--which can often be a mistake--I thought both the illustration and the title were a riff on "All The Light We Cannot See," which I consider one of the gems of the last several years. I thought "All The Birds In The Sky" would be similar to Doerr's book.
So, it was with great trepidation, I picked this book up. I came to it after coming off of Emily St. John Mandel's "Station Eleven," and the thought of more dystopian science fantasy was not something I looked forward to. Then I opened the book, and got a surprise.
Pitting Magic against Science, Anders follows two characters, a boy named Laurence Armistead and a girl named Patricia Delphine, a more sophisticated version of Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, from childhood to maturity. Though Laurence is a Scientist, and Patricia a Witch, human issues such as fitting in with one's peers, or dealing with adversaries in Life, are sensitively explored. As is youthful human sexuality, once the hormones kick in, something the Harry Potter books wisely avoided. Though this novel is more suited for adults than Rowling's fan base, advanced Young Adult readers are encouraged to give it a try
The novel stands magnificently on its own, but I am wondering if there will be a series. I would not be surprised; I found myself wanting to know about Patricia and Laurence after I closed the cover. Even if never found out, the story here is good enough to stand alone, and a welcome breath of fresh air, in a year, that, so far, has not had any real literary events. Had I discovered this, when it came out, in 2014, I would have proclaimed it loudly. Nevertheless, if there are those, who, like me, keep a list of books read during the year, this would be found to be among the most cherished reading experiences one could hope for.
Thank God I reached for this to cleanse my palette, and not a Harlequin Romance. That is, if there are any still out there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I just love Gordo, the boxer in the Febreze commercial, who reminds me of my sweet friend, Cujo. I resent the ad's implication that Gordo is anything less than fresh and clean, because Cujo always is, and if Gordo's owners are taking care of him properly, he should be, too.
I have to wonder why this company's advertising staff is so fixated on scatological matters. Not to mention homophobic; even more insulting is the ad featuring the bearded man, looking so angry, because he wants SO MUCH for viewers to know that he is STRAIGHT, and does not really care at all what the interior of his car smells like, so one can imagine what his home/apartment smells like, especially the bathroom. Then there is that smirk on his face after the Febreze product has been installed in the car, with a woman seated next to him, making it clear the only reason he made this effort, the only thing he wants, is, of course, pussy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What kind of crass individuals do these advertisers think Americans are? Some of us have aesthetics and are literate, but it would not be gleaned from these ads! I just hope Gordo is getting his fair share of royalties, and gets a better gig soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Would Esther Drescher put up with this? No way!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sunday, July 16, 2017
I have heard a lot about "American War," by Omar El Akkad, so I have decided to give that a look.
Where are the books this year? When I scan for the Fall, when many anticipated tomes appear, I don't get a sense of anything. The big names--Tartt, Franzen, or Chabon--are all silent, probably because they are working on things right now. But what finished product does the serious reader have coming up to ignite passions, this Fall? And does anyone, save I, even give a damn???????????
I wish I had an answer for you, girls. But I fear the wait is going to be a long one. Meanwhile, I am working my way through an unexpectedly surprising and fresh novel, and then I am going to see what all the one-time fuss was about Miss Jill Eisenstadt.
Meanwhile, if any of you have Summer Reading treasures you would like to share, or know anything about Fall prospects, feel free to let me know on here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Life is not easy for us literary types. Reading and writing, and around that one has to work at living a life. Time is precious, and if it seems we are under more of an obligation to spend it wisely, that is just the way it is.
Read away, dolls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
C'ent Anni is gone. The Odeon is still there, but does anything happen any more?
Back in the day, there was a Literary Brat Pack. Remember some of them? How many have you read, and how many are actually still writing? Let's take a look.
1. Bret Easton Ellis
2. Jay McIneerney
3. Donna Tartt
4. Tama Janowitz
5. Jill Eisenstadt
6. Gary Fisketjon
Others have tried to integrate David Leavitt into this group, but where is he now? Brooklyn sort of has its own Hipster Group, with Jonathans Lethem and Safran Foer, Nicole Kraus, and the like. But they seem pretty much holed up.
As for the Brat Pack, well I thought Tama Janowitz was passe, even at her height. Is Jill Eiseenstadt still even alive? Or read? Ellis and McInerney dried out long ago, and I got tired of their whining. I couldn't stomach Fisketjon's "The Russian Debutante's Handbook," though I did like "Absurdistan." Only Donna Tartt survives and continues to engage; while I found "The Goldfinch" flawed, it was highly readable. Tartt's main problem, and it's one every writer wishes he/she could have, was hitting pay dirt with her first, and best work, "The Secret History," elevated now to a classic,
I have never been further than outside The Odeon. I need to go in. This is where the Literary Brat Pack used to hang out. Does anyone hang out anymore? More to the point, young or aspiring writers now--including me, who may not be young, but hey, I would not mind branching out--do they have a literary community they can call their own? Are there places these groups still hang out at? Do they hang out at all? And where? Or are they all holed up, like me, in their urban enclaves?
Once upon a time, there was a Literary Scene in Manhattan. People like these, and others not so successful, would gather in places to discuss not only their writings or those of others, but what they had been reading, and what they thought was worth reading. Does there now exist a place where such people now congregate? If so, I wish someone would tell me, because I feel I am missing out on something. Like the Literary Brat Pack, or even Patti Smith, in the Chelsea Hotel, I feel I should spend some part of my days sitting anonymously at a table, writing into a journal pad entries devoted to observations and ideas. What used to called gathering of material.
Before I retired, there was always my table at Ciprianni's. But who can afford that, on a fixed income?
Like Dolly Levi, I need a place to return to, a community to call my own, where, to quote Jefferson Starship, "thoughts and generations of my dreams are yet unborn." That quote speaks of my age; if The Odeon is still de rigeur, let it be staid; I am not interested in snorting coke, or scoring action in the bathroom. I might have, back in the day, but that day has gone. And so has the Literary Brat Pack that inspired it, but lives on in memory.
Somewhere, out there, an unknown and disparate group of people are waiting for opportunity or chance, to meet at some special place, and revive, or continue, the New York Literary Scene. If only there was somewhere to go.
I would meet you there, darlings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Saturday, July 15, 2017
The murder, this week, of AbbieGail Smith, 11, of Keansburg, New Jersey, triggered me, as well.
Another sleazy South Jersey killing. I could just tell, from looking at the Hancock Arms apartments, which were like a cheap motel--and looks like it had been, at one time--that AbbieGail and her mother and brother were struggling, and that lowlifes lived among them.
But, not since Bobby Driscoll, as Tommy Woodry, living underneath the Kellersons (Paul Stewart and Ruth Roman) has a killer been so geographically close. AbbieGail's killer, Andreas Erazo, lived just above she and her mother and brother. He lived with his mother, was known to be trouble, and smoked weed, with her. Nice, huh? A third rate Sante and Kenny Kimes.
This sick bastard (and I would bet he is racist) stabbed this poor child near her home. I don't think she was sexually assaulted--thank God!--but what this lowlife's motivations for doing this are unclear. Two possibilities come to mind--high on drugs, or killing to curb pedophile tendencies. Why, otherwise target an innocent 11-year-old girl? She was no Diana Ross bitch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Now poor AbbieGail won't get the chance to go beyond her realm. And Mr. Erazo is looking at a lifetime stint in prison!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Darlings, I haven't heard the name Cosmo, since first seeing the movie, "Moonstruck," and that was thirty years ago!!!!!!!!! Can you believe it?
This Cosmo, Mr. Di Nardo, along with his acolyte cousin, is responsible, around July 5, for the disappearance and deaths of Dean Finnocchiaro, 19; Mark Sturgiss, 22; Tom Meo, 21; and Jimi Tar Patrick, 19.
Let me tell you right away, girls, this whole thing triggered my inner Lily Rush. As soon as I heard the boys were gone, and farm in Bucks County was being looked into, I knew the scenario. Dead, buried, or eliminated by lye or fire. Look how right I was.
Allegedly, it was all over drug deal transactions gone bad, or unpaid. Well, let me tell you a thing or two; Di Nardo may have been a drug dealer, but he was more.
OK, he was a diagnosed schizophrenic. Perhaps he had been taken his meds, because in pics from 2016, he is actually decent looking, compared to his mug shot, which depicts a fat, ugly loser. Which he is, of course. The meds could have added weight--I know something about that, myself!!!!!--but schizophrenia is not an excuse for killing. Having this illness does not give one a propensity to murder. That comes from someplace deep in the psyche. Di Nardo was described as having violent tendencies, he was fond of hunting, and he killed animals. These are all textbook signs of a serial killer, which makes him more dangerous than being a small time, garden variety drug dealer. His family background ought to be looked into. Those parents.........
What interests me, and makes Di Nardo even more creepy, is that, save for one, his victims were all attractive, slender male youths. It would seem to me he has great issues with his sexuality, with a tendency to homosexuality he would rather not acknowledge, so he obliterates it, he thinks, by killing. Think back to John Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer.
Nothing more dangerous than a closet case, I say. As for cousin Sean Katz, he is just a pathetic acolyte. It is obvious from his delicate skin, and that weak look in his eye. He would do anything anyone tells him. This will come in handy, in the slammer, when the inmates order him to model crotch-less panties for them, or else he will be plugged. Hell, he will be plugged, anyway.
Speaking of Hell, Mr. Di Nardo is headed there. But not till he spends the remainder of his life in prison. If turned lose on society, I guarantee he will kill again.
Catching scum like this is always fortunate. It is just too bad it was four victims too late.
But no more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Fans of David Mitchell's novels--and I am one--should love Emily St. John Mandel's novel, "Station Eleven." This seems to be the age of dystopian fiction, so this work is right on the bandwagon, going back and forth in time, to a pre and post apocalyptic age, showing the world as we know it destroyed by a viral flu--credible--and all this seen by a disparate group of people, from an Olivier type actor and his wives, a child actress and her mature self, a friend of the actor's, and a paramedic. Each get separate stories, but all come together. Mandel's skill is keeping everything in focus. Her deficit is not knowing to end something; I started out loving this book, but, as well crafted as it is, the last thirty pages were a slog. The novel is just a wee bit too long winded, for its own good.
The title actually means something, and that revelation, and how it is tied together, is a brilliant literary stroke. So is the symbolic importance of a glass object with something inside. And just wait till it is discovered who "The Prophet" is. I was shocked and chilled.
"Station Eleven" begins, and ends, in a place I love--the theater. A company is performing one of my favorites--"King Lear,"--and what is fascinating is that the director adds something at the start. He has Lear sitting in profile, on stage, before the audience, prior to the action. Before the actual text begins, a trio of little girls play a clapping game. They are Lear's daughters as children, and, during the storm/mad scene, they come back to him as hallucinations.
This completely fascinated me. In her acknowledgements, Mandel states this was based on a staging, by James Lapine, at New York's Public Theater. I have to do some research. I wonder who those actual child actresses were, and whether they went anywhere. When I find out, I will let you know.
The depiction of the apocalypse may remind some of the movie "Contagion." It had my teeth on edge.
Yet individual parts are better than the book's whole. Mandel should get off dystopia, like a lot of other writers should. I know we live in a dystopian age, but must there be constant reminders, like this novel????????????????
When it came to acting, there was one thing Butch Patrick excelled at, in his portrayal of Eddie Munster. That was projecting the attitude that he was embarrassed by the role, and would rather be anywhere else than in front of that camera.
He had to dress, from the neck down, like an over aged Little Lord Fauntleroy, while his face replicated a prepubescent version of Sandra Harrison's glam look from "Blood Of Dracula. Except Butch/Eddie was not exactly pretty. Hell, he was not even cute.
His mother must have been a real Mama Rose. No looks, no real talent, and the kid got this far. It is clear, from his line readings, that he would rather live up to his stage name, being some dumb, obscure jock kid, playing sandlot baseball.
But when Eddie held his doll, Woof Woof, a mini-werewolf, he stole his scenes. Because of the doll. Even when he implored folks on the show to "kiss Woof Woof good night," his line reading projected disinterest and embarrassment. Woof Woof was actually a better performer than Butch. He should have been featured on the show more.
Was this doll ever manufactured? "The Munsters" created a toy and game franchise, for a time, but I cannot recall any Woof Woofs on the market. How I would have loved to have one. Anyone out there know anything, feel free to let me know.
I could hold him, while reading one of my favorite short stories, "The Young One," by Jerome Bixby.
Friday, July 14, 2017
Darlings, you know how much I love Madame Defarge, so what better way to honor Bastille Day, than with a portrait of her? Of course, the real portrait is that given by Blanche Yurka, in the 1936, David O. Selznick, movie. Who could forget the cat fight between Yurka and Edna May Oliver? Not until "The Turning Point," 41 years later, was this scene surpassed.
So, whether you are lighting fireworks, or having an elegant French meal, have a Happy Bastille Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Let me start, girls, by saying I just LOVE the Jaiya commercial, because it is such a hoot! Not since the Huntington Learning Center spot has a Long Island accent been so entertaining. The girl, center, is the one who speaks the line in the heading, but she is no ethnic babe; her manner and bearing are straight outta Lon-Gisland!!!!!!!!!!!! If she is ethnic, then I am Zita Johann.
I happen to enjoy Thai food, once in awhile, but, until this ad started airing, I had never heard of these places--one on Gramercy, the other on the Upper East Side--but I can tell you by the cheap looking ad, and the faux exoticism of the dishes displayed, I wouldn't set foot in this joint!
The fish in the special mentioned in the ad are fresh--straight from the Gowanus Canal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
At least this business has a good sense of humor, to provide viewers with as entertaining an ad as possible. And I hope that girl in the center is getting her residuals!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
But authentic Thai cuisine?????????? You have GOT to be kidding!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Darlings, Only Carson McCullers Could Get The Kind Of Dramatic Mileage Out Of The Material She Mines!!!!!!!!!!
Toward the end of "Reflections In A Golden Eye," there is one sentence that is not only a story in itself, but indicative of this writer's genius. The sentence refers to another soldier on the premises; an older Corporal, who, each day, writes, and mails off, a letter to Shirley Temple, offering a daily chronicle of his life. The novel takes place in the 1930's, when Shirley was at the height of her child stardom.
In lesser hands, this might have been camp, and pulpy. But Carson McCullers makes the reader brood on this sentence, pondering the major's story, and wanting to know more. Though every key incident from the John Huston film is rendered in the novel, McCullers' telling of things is more incisive than Huston's camera placement and pacing. The prose is languorous, in that Southern sort of way, and it is the little vignettes--like Captain Penderton having been raised by five spinster aunts, who invited other old maids to dinner, every Sunday; the revelation that Alison Langon's baby, a little girl, lived for about eleven months, long enough to be named Catherine, but was born with deformed fingers, two molded together on one hand, and a weak constitution, which caused the child to die, and Alison self punishing her womanhood by cutting off her nipples with the garden shears!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And, of course, there is the tender relationship between Alison and her house servant, Anacleto, only for the reader to learn that, following her death, even her husband, Major Langdon, pines romantically for the now vanished Filipino--that shows the true brilliance of this writer, and this work.
Had I, or anyone else, written such, "Reflections In A Golden Eye" would have either been hilarious camp, or lush pornography. I have to marvel that it was published in 1941; did anyone, save literate homosexuals, or the socially disenfranchised, understand the kinds of people she was writing about? That she was chronicling sexual torment and loneliness, as part of the human condition? I am not so sure, but it certainly registered with me, and I think it is even more revelatory in our own time.
During McCullers' time, this was a letdown, after the overwhelming success of "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter." That was her first novel, and its illuminating insights and poetic prose made the young author a sensation. 'Reflections' followed that sensation, so was not as well received. Today, I think it is one of her best works, vastly underrated at the time, psychologically ahead of its time, and yes, just gosh darn fun, because it is so unabashedly Gothic.
Was Carson McCullers winking to her readers, as she wrote this? I think she was. She was telling her readers to have fun with it, only to turn that fun on its head by turning its moments into episodes that are, simultaneously, deeply exploratory. And she pulls this off!!!!!!!!!!!
This work deserves a higher place in the McCullers canon. If I were an English teacher--AP, of course!!!!!!!--I would teach this work to students. Of course, some communities today would ban me from even suggesting such a thing, but there is more richness in "Reflections In A Golden Eye," than in more ponderous, overbearing novels.
I mean, Proust and tea as refernces to homosexuality! Would there was such literacy and sophistication today!
Oh, and make no mistake, darlings! Anacleto still steals the show!!!!!!!!!!!!
I know, girls, I know, you all want me to write about what is going on in Bucks County, PA. I wish I could go up there and poke around, but I have been forbidden to do so. Nevertheless, I am itching to set these fingers going on that topic, but am going to wait till more of the story is known, before I commit myself to a full length post.
So, this week, you will have to settle for your garden variety, White Trash bitch.
Colleen Walker--from Florida; I am sorry, but why does nastiness seem to come so naturally to that state? It is supposed to be the Sunshine State; maybe too much sun creates psychological dysfunction? I don't know--is the winner of this week's Raving Queen Bitch Of The Week Award. She is an unrepentant skank. Just look at her face. Drug addict, tramp, child abuser; you name it!
Earlier this month, she was hauled in by cops, for leaving her 5-year-old son in a locked car, minus air conditioning, in the sizzling Florida heat, while she and her 3-year-old daughter went shopping!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can you believe it????????????????
So many things are wrong here. For starters, leaving a 5-year-old alone is not appropriate; that is far too early for that kind of independence, and what if he had been abducted? Would a locked door stop a pedophile? Don't bet on it! And then, of course, the heat beating down on this kid; as the cops said, she was lucky he was not dead!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is one sick bitch. Because she maintains people should mind "their own fucking business" when it comes to her, and she actually--are you ready for this????????--demanded the cops, taking her in, turn up the air conditioning, as she was too hot, sitting in the back!!!!!!!!!!!!!
She is either the dumbest thing, or she has no conscience, which points her to psychopathology. This is one witch who needs to be taught a lesson. Stake burning is illegal, but I am telling you, if you lock this bitch in one of those Hot Yoga rooms for two hours, with the temperature at 120 degrees, she won't make the same mistake twice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
How come this BOTW did not make it to "Cops?" She is perfect, for that show!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
I have to confess I have never seen the entire film. I have seen the famous tiger attack scene, pictured above, and I know the show is stolen by Victor, the gorilla, who was probably the same guy inside the ape suit as in "Gorilla At Large," and "Konga." But, after what I tell you about "Black Zoo, " darlings, I guarantee you will run and track it down.
Michael Gough, knight errant of British horror for a short time--Christopher Lee was king, here, and don't forget it!!!!!!!!!--plays a zoo keeper who also heads an animal worship cult. You have to see the scene where they hold their meetings, each holding an animal in their hands. It's so cheesy, it is like an outtake from The Woman Eater!"
However, Gough doesn't like anyone going up against him, and when they do, his cute little tiger and lions turn monstrous and kill those he tells them to. Poor Elisha Cook, Jr., who must have badly needed the money, gets dragged into this one, playing a zookeeper who is, literally, thrown to the lions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This was supposed to be Herman Cohen's follow up to "Horrors Of The Black Museum." In fact, it was to be titled, "Horrors Of The Black Zoo." I have a feeling when the distributors saw the final cut, they realized what a camp fest they had, and went with the laughs!
The publicity for this film was as cheesy as the product, itself! It demands to be seen.
Let's talk about it, again, when we have, dolls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Girls, I am telling you, I am on a reading frenzy, this Summer. It is like I cannot read one book fast enough, before I am thinking about the next one I will be on to.
As someone said to me, recently, what would a Summer read be, without Agatha Christie. So, when I was presented with "The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd," I was pretty sure I had read it years ago, but so long ago, it wouldn't make any difference. And it did not.
Now, over the years I have read at least a dozen of Christie's works. In many cases--and this was one--with my background, and current "Cold Case" obsession, I can generally figure out who the culprit is, and I did here. But not while enjoying the opportunity of playing along with Hercule Poirot, or admiring Christie's plot construction. Though I have to say, the solution in her best work, "And Then There Were None," I never saw coming, and you simply have to read my favorite, "Crooked House," which precedes "The Bad Seed" by five years.
"The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd" is as tightly constructed as a game of Clue, something I owned when younger, and am rather familiar with. I kept picturing the novel's cozy, British settings, as a giant Clue board. And played along with Poirot, as we moved the pieces.
As well as arriving at the same conclusion. I love being stumped, but being able to solve the mystery should not deprive a reader of the pleasure of reading one, as long as that mystery is well written. And that is a certainty, with Dame Agatha.
Her greatest mystery of all was her life. What happened to her, during the time she vanished? There is absolutely no truth to the rumor she had tea with Amelia Earheart. And Elvis had not even been sighted, then!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I suppose we will never know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
How could I be, darlings, with my elegant pretensions, and Cecil Beaton gowns?
Now, I have not eaten Ritz Crackers since I was a child. I used to love them with peanut butter on them. But, recently, they have been turning up at our house, and I have rediscovered their buttery pleasure. That melting goodness is just unsurpassed as far as my almost addictive palette is concerned. But I do not want to be any Mama June! Mama Rose, yes!!!!!!!!!
Did you ever hear of White Trash Lasagna? Instead of pasta, the layers are Doritos! Can you imagine? I wonder how it holds all together. It also must be mighty salty. Not good for the blood pressure!!!!!!!!!!!!
So, I began to wonder about the possibility of Ritz recipes. I know, back in the "Bisquick" era, they were highly touted.
Pie crust can be made from Ritz crackers. So can topping for Macaroni And Cheese, as well as chicken batter. Of course, I cannot guarantee what this will do for one's health. Let alone, social status!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I bet Mama June served these dishes all the time. Fresh Direct never hit her table, back in the day! Maybe now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Maybe White Trash Cooking is coming back into your vogue?
But, at the age many of us are now, darlings, can we afford to risk health, for taste????????????????????
Ritz could be the pits!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
I have admired Jonathan Safran Foer, since he burst onto the scene with "Everything Is Illuminated," which I actually read twice. It was an impressive debut; even more so, on a second reading, which I encourage for everyone. His next book, "Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close," while widely anticipated was, for me, at least, a big let down. It was touching, but just too gimmicky, and all throughout it, I kept asking, "Jonathan when are you going to write THE book?"
Well, dears, he has. When I picked up the voluminous (579 pgs.) of "Here I Am, coming off of 'Extremely,' I was like Sisyphus looking at anther rock haul up the mountain. This continued, as I launched into it. But somewhere, long before page 100, something clicked, and I knew I was off on a hilarious, exploratory investigation, into a disastrous marriage, Jewish traditions, the state, both geographic and cultural of Israel, and other facets of our contemporary society. Jonathan Safran Foer has finally written the book I always knew him capable of writing.
It takes a lot for me to laugh outright at things on the printed page, but this book does that. It is not all intellectual pomposity or pretension; it is none of those things at all. It reads like a charm, and I could not tear myself away from the ups and downs of the Bloch family. Is this a Jewish riff on "Anna Karenina?" In the broadest sense of the word, yes. But it is much more--beyond Roth, beyond Bellow, though their influences prevail. Mr. Safran Foer, always talented, here comes into his own.
Which leaves me in a quandary. If this book is go good--and it is--how can his next one be any better? What will he do, beyond this? It may be too early for Safran Foer to ask these questions, basking, as he must be, in the success of this work, but readers and admirers of his cannot help, but be naturally curious.
Oh, I have to say this. Some sage critic compared this novel to "Middlemarch." Yes, George Eliot's "Middlemarch." I mean, are you kidding? The two have as much connection with one another as white toast has to Pop Tarts. I doubt whether the author of this statement has even read "Middlemarch." I have read it three times. Why bother comparing Safran Foer's book to anything, as it stands so well, on its own?
I had hitherto heard only comments like "OK," from my sources about this novel. What a pleasure to discover it is much more than that!
Keep writing, Jonathan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am now coming down the home stretch on "Cold Case," darlings! At Season 7, the show is beginning to seem tired, and the issues being examined aren't as fascinating anymore, maybe because they have been examined, already.
That's the way it has been, so far. I am not through yet. But, there was a glimmer of hope at the climax of "Read Between The Lines," when Alice Watson revealed herself to be some piece of Grade A motherfuckin' bitch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Butter wouldn't melt in Alice's mouth. The episode starts off with she and her husband, Ken, adopting two girls, a teenager named Donalyn Sullivan, and her preteen sister Meesha. They were daughters of some crack ho' and low life scum no one knows anything about. One would think, with Alice and Ken adopting them, they would be safe. But, hons, they stood a better chance on Philly's streets.
The Watsons have a secret. Ken is a trucker, and is on the road a lot, but when he is not trucking, he is shacking up in sleazy motels with underage girls. That is right, Ken is a pedophile, a predator, which explains why a seemingly healthy, 30-ish couple have no children, and Alice is one of those all-for-keeping-up-appearances types, so she looks the other way. But glass houses eventually crash, girls, as we know.
Donalyn is a teenager, and all that goes with it. She's not buying the Watsons' act. What is more, she has some talent, on the street, as a rap artist. The Watsons disapprove, but, the talent is there, and, when Donalyn discovers Ken's secret, after he comes on to her, she knows she has to get she and Meesha out of there.
This leads to a confrontation between Alice and Donalyn in a club where Donalyn is scheduled to perform. She is coming up in the ranks as "Sugar Dawn." Only, she never gets to perform, because bitch Alice reveals she is not going to sacrifice her illusion of her perfect life. She also reveals she cares more about the younger Meesha than Donalyn; the older girl was just part of a package adoption deal. What a stone cold bitch! But she gets colder, because, when Donalyn reveals the truth about Ken, what he did to her, and that Alice's marriage is a lie, the woman cannot handle it. She hits Donalyn over the head with a lead pipe, killing her. This bitch is right up there with Miss Diana Ross!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
But, remember, dolls, this is "Cold Case," and Alice gets hers. Lily, looking perfect as always, drags Alice's sorry ass off to the slammer, where she will spend the rest of her life. No more manicured lawns for her!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And the grown Meesha sees her older sister's ghost!!!!!!!!!
See what happens when one constructs a life, based on illusions? It falls apart. Like Alice Watson. Or Blanche Du Bois.
Blanche did it more poetically. Alice wasn't any better than the skank trash she thought she was so high above.
Down the prison hole you go, Alice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Monday, July 10, 2017
I was just writing recently about the worlds of deformity and grotesqueness in Carson McCullers. Karen Russell, whose novel, "Swamplandia," I loved is fascinated with the magical and mythological. This is a short story collection, and let me assure readers, she is as comfortable in this form, as she is with the novel. In fact, some inform the other.
The first story, about Ava Bigtree, and the Alligator Theme Park, lays the groundwork for what became Swamplandia. She gives the Westward Expansion movement a mythical variation by having the carriage literally pulled by its patriarch, who is--I kid you not!--a Minotaur! But it is the last, and titled story I found most moving. Not since Jerome Bixby's short story, "The Young One," has so poignant a tale been rendered of lycanthropic victims trying to assimilate into modern society. And Russell explains what happens when they can't, or don't.
This is an almost perfect short story collection, yet I cannot wait for her next novel, as I am sure there will be. Meanwhile, if you haven't, try this collection, or sink your fangs into her other, "Vampires In The Lemon Grove." I am anxious to read that one, now!
Russell may not have McCullers' poetic lyricism, but she explores fascinating terrain not many authors do.
Keep it up, Karen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
"The birds like tender babies, in your hands,
And the old men playing checkers, by the trees."
--Jimmy Webb, "MacArthur Park"
Long before Donna Summer discoed it, this song was a part of my life; to my 12-year-old self it was the epitome of romance, and awakened something in me sexually, though I did not realize it then, with its orchestral interlude, which sent me rolling down the side hill of my house, in abandoned ecstasy.
Flash forward, a half century later. Yes, dolls fifty years later. Having listened to the song recently, which still makes me swoon, I am forced now to ask myself--Now that I have retired, have I become one of those old men playing checkers, by the trees? Is that what I am now reduced to?
Observing over the weekend, I came across many parks, with people playing checkers. There are still even fake cement checkerboards pressed into the pavement. There are actually more game boards than trees, so finding a shady spot to do this is not as easy as the song would have it seem.
Am I actually ready for this????????? Do I want to be????????? No!!!!!!!!!!!!
Games are fine. I loved them when young, and still love them now. But I will be damned if I will be labeled as some old codger, whose days are defined by this.
Personally, I would rather wear that "yellow cotton dress, foaming like a wave, on the ground around my knees."
Coffee and my readers define my days, darlings! Or, at least, kick it off!!!!!!!!!
Friday, July 7, 2017
So often, dolls, do I write on here about commercials that annoy me that it gives me pleasure to write one I actually like. It is the Dairy Pure commercial, featuring the Dairy Pure cow!!!!!!!!!!!! Isn't he cute? Not since Elsie, has there been such a bovine mascot!!!!!!!!!!!!
By the color blue, I am guessing this cow is a male. But I think all cows are cute. If anyone can sell milk, it is this cow. TV stardom is coming his way!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
More cows on TV, darlings! Bring back "Petticoat Junction!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Daniel Magariel's "One Of The Boys" is short enough to be considered a novella. Too bad it is derivative of Cormac McCarthy's "No Country For Old Men." But where that story satisfied, this one does not.
Magariel offers up a tale of two boys done in by poor parenting--a trampy, abandoning mother, and a psychotic, drug-addicted father. The story, like these poor boys, go back and forth between them , as does the reader, like a bunch of yo yo's. They plan an escape which I kept hoping for, but it is the author's not highly unique idea to leave them high and dry, where they are, with us knowing the boys will ultimately turn out to be as no good as their parents.
If this book makes any Ten Best lists, at year's end, well, gag me with a spoon! Hope springs eternal with me, when it comes to offering up something to say, So, let Mr. Magariel write something else, and prove it. Or prove me wrong!
Hey, Daniel, Zadie Smith finally did it, and so, I bet, can you!
But not on this first try!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Take a good look at the woman on the right. That is Violet Kemble Cooper, in her signature role as bitch spinster Jane Murdstone in Selznick's masterful 1935 adaptation of Dickens' "David Copperfield." Her sister, Lillian, got to play Bonnie's Nurse in "Gone With The Wind."
Jane Murdstone is a perfect Bitch Of The Week. There is not a feminine, maternal bone in her body, and I have always believed, though it is never hinted at, she and her brother, the equally monstrous Edward Murdstone, are having some kind of incestuous relationship. Or, maybe, she is just psychologically attached to him, because, face it, girls, with her looks and personality, what man or woman would tolerate her?
The Murstones' appearance forms some of the grimmer pages and scenes of this story. But they finally get theirs, when exposed by Aunt Betsey. Dickens piles it on thick, yet he cannot help in being funny, also, because Miss Murdstone retorts back to Aunt Betsey the famous line, "I never heard anything so elegant!"
What the hell does that actually mean? It reveals Miss Murdstone for the dumb bitch she is. Written out, the words plainly indicate a complimentary remark. Yet, she spits them out with such vitriol they turn into a hateful epithet.
Not much different from the idiots one sees on "Judge Judy." Jane Murdstone prides herself on her intelligence, when really she has none to speak of. And Aunt Betsey knows exactly what kind of woman she is.
If anyone was wired for Spinsterhood, it was Jane. She was probably hateful, as a child.
Dickens never tells how she ends up, but I can tell you. She later becomes Dora's governess, and David rescues her from Jane. In the end, she is probably left out in the sun to dry, like a wrinkled prune!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
She hasn't got far to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Ever since this book came out in paperback, I have been eyeing it in the stores, wanting to read it, but afraid to do so. From the cover, and the back, I feared that this novel would be, like Matthew Thomas' "We Are Not Ourselves," one of the most depressing novels, ever. Let me say, outright, that, compared to both, "The Bell Jar," by Sylvia Plath, is upbeat.
I admired Adam Haslett, ever since his short story collection "You Are Not A Stranger Here." I wanted to see if he could tackle the novel form, and he certainly can. No one will respond to this book the same. I can only offer mine, from personal experience.
I have been on Klonopin for over ten years. I take the most minimal dosage, and, still I have no tolerance. My dosage has never been upped, and I see a difference in myself, without it.
I have Anxiety Disorder. The family in Haslett's novel deal with more than just that. Father John is clinically depressed, culminating in suicide that, while tragic, was not, in any way, engineered.
But, then, there is older son, Michael, inheriting his father's mental illness gene, for worse, as opposed to his siblings, Celia and Alec. The youngest, Alec is gay, which automatically made him interesting, for me, though his overall portrayal is that of a Gay Republican. And we know how dangerous they can be, don't we, darlings??????????????
Michael is so ill he cannot function in society. Outside of a medical text, I cannot recall a book where the word Klonopin is used so much. Michael is on mega-doses of this, and many other drugs, including Serotonin. Already in his late-Thirties, he cannot even function in grad school, and his mother supports him. Fearing for her, and themselves, siblings Celia (a psychotherapist) and Alec (basically a Guppie!!!!!!!!) come up with an intervention plan to wean Michael off the drugs. A month, alone in a country house, with Alec running the show. Sounds easy? Well, it is not, and this is where I have issues. Deprived of the mood enhancers, cold turkey, Michael sinks into a deeper hole, culminating, basically, in his suicide. Which I cannot help thinking--though many will disagree with me--was unconsciously rendered by Celia and Alec, who wanted to be rid of Michael's problems, which they did not want to have to go on and face. They also wanted to release Margaret, their mother, from the burden Michael has been on her, since birth.
I was not depressed, when I finished this book. I was flat out angry. As a therapist, Celia should have known better. Only a doctor can wean a patient off drugs; I have experienced this myself, and it works beautifully, when done properly.
What kept me from throwing this book against the wall was Haslett's compelling rendering of character and situation. This may be how one family dealt with mental illness; I am not sure Haslett is saying this is the right way; it is just the way this family chose.
Upon finishing this book, I pondered my own mental health. I realize I have had Anxiety Disorder my entire life, only to have it dealt with in the last ten years.
Reading Haslett's novel made me realize I have to monitor it extra carefully.
Though it has been referenced and mentioned so many times, since I started this blog, I do not believe I had sat through a full screening of "Meet Me In St. Louis" in all that time. So, last Saturday, upon discovering it was to be the Channel 13 movie, I told my beloved we just HAD to watch.
The film is perfection. It elevates the ordinary into art. A year in the turn-of-the-century lives of the Smith family is what the film is about. But how those lives and that era is portrayed is what makes the film.
Start with Vincente Minnelli's artistry. Not only does he elicit brilliant work from the actors, but each frame, in color, detail, composition, and camera placement, is a work of art in itself. Simple scenes, like Garland and Lucille Bremer positioned at the piano, singing the title tune, or the lighting during John Pruitt's proposal to Esther, are visually breathtaking.
Add Judy Garland at her vocal peak. Each song gets better and better, culminating in "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," leading to a moment that just keeps the tears flowing.
Then there is an Academy Award winning performance from Margaret O'Brien. How this darker exploration of the childhood psyche was elicited from her at so young an age, and that it made it to the screen, is remarkable, for its time. Many consider Tootie's Halloween adventure to be the film's high point, but, for me, it is the entire Winter sequence, culminating in Tootie's smashing of the snow men, that not only turns the film on its dramatic heels, but shows how capably children could be used in films. O'Brien won her Oscar deservedly.
The great Joan Carroll plays Agnes, and her start of the singing of the title tune, as it runs throughout the household, establishes this movie's structural flow. But it the quiet moments that stood out for me--Lucille Bremer's hand gestures in the "Skip To My Lou" number, Garland and O'Brien facing each other, arms raised, in "Under The Bamboo Tree, and, loveliest of all, turning the lights off in the house with Tom Drake, as John Truett, to Garland's poignant rendering of "Over The Bannister, Leaning," which set my tears to flowing.
Have hankies on hand, because, oh my, God, darlings, this film will elicit tears in places not expected. Save plenty for the Christmas sequence, commencing with Garland dancing with Harry Davenport ("Gone With The Wind's" own Dr. Meade) as Grandpa, where he leads her over behind a gorgeous Christmas tree, and out she comes on the other side, in Tom Drake's arms! A candlelit tree, a tender scene, and that red dress! Oh, my God, that dress! Where else would one find such perfection? Then, just as the eyes are drying, comes her singing, to O"Brien, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," and not since "Over The Rainbow," five years before have I heard a song sung so tenderly. The transitions on O'Brien's face throughout are spot on brilliant, and then the following--"The Snow Men Scene" has to be seen, if you can see through the mist of tears it elicits. By this point, I am an absolute mess, sobbing and gasping, like Tootie.
This was MGM's biggest money maker since "Gone With The Wind," and deservedly so. What is more, in the two dance sequences, in staging, lighting, and camera placement, one can sing how that earlier film influenced this one.
"Meet Me In St. Louis" is the midpoint of the Garland Triptych, flanked on the left by "The Wizard Of Oz," and "A Star Is Born," on the right. How many film stars can boast a Triptych Of Perfection?
As Tootie says, early on, "Wasn't I lucky to be born in my favorite city?" If already seen, watch it again. If never seen before, well, girls, come on, now!
You will be so lucky to see one of my favorite movies, to borrow from Tootie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
I would be completely remiss, if I did not drop by, and wish all my readers a very happy, and safe, Fourth Of July!!!!!!!!
One could argue for "George M!" as today's musical. It has its virtues, darlings, but how more grounded can one get than "1776????????"
I wanted to play the Original Overture for you. But here is the opening to the 1998 revival, which I saw, at the Gershwin, on opening night!