No Heat. Read in Bed.

Our heater broke.  Our owner is not concerned so we are chillin’. Pissed off, but still chillaxing.  Our little town is usually very good about setting things right.  So there is much reading and  blankets

The Innocent Man by John Grisham is a very real and ugly example of small town corruption that resulted in a very mentally ill man spending years on Death Row while he was being swallowed into the bedlam of his mind.  Eventually The Innocence Project ( a simply incredible organization – I could write paragraphs) found the foxes in the legal henhouse of Ada, Oklahoma (Oklahoma in this and many similar cases is NOT OK.) and Ron Williamson walked to freedom.  He was clinically insane and stayed that way, despite treatment. He finally lost his battle with the bottle and died of liver disease and a life stolen.  Freedom is, in this case, was just another word for nothing left to lose.  Painful and in these times a very cautionary tale.

Got lucky and got John Sandford’s latest Virgil Flowers.  A good yarn. Deep Freeze.  Wear mittens.  Minnesota is cold, cold, cold in the winter. Murder, lies, greed, chilblains in ice.  A lot of driving on icy roads. And an icy river running through it. The usual mixed drink of the genre – but it was a keeper.  Short term loan thus read in a day or so – perfect with no heat. But not in Minnesota.  Better in Los Angeles.  Our version of cold is not that of the Land o’ Lakes. Highly recommended. I cannot miss a Sandford. And now am off the damn wait list.

Snagged Hilton Als second book White Women (I have the first – he is stunning – in the New Yorker and on his own pages).  Not done.  It is a small dose ,wild ride. but worth the time.

Glitter and Greed – about diamonds of course – very curious about alluvial diamonds and those found Kimberlite mines. STOP THE MUSIC. Gemsploitation TELL ALL. (small type – cheesy design, mostly promo for the author’s doc on diamonds – mentioned on every page). Nasty history – in India and Africa. The important info:   Apartheid?  You betcha’.  Ugly, vile bigots. The Boers get most of the blame for apartheid but vile, white, horrid Cecil Rhodes is the baddes, bad guy (very bad); Oppenheimers (bad continued) and now deBeers holds the gem hostage to the world.  Enslaves Africans, exploits  ALL workers  including children (no surprise); so you may rethink that rock you are wearing.  Diamonds.  Not a pretty picture. ( FYI:”Diamonds are Forever” coined by Ayers Advertising in 1948.   And this:  Maurice Templesman; Jackie O’s constant companion, tops the list for BIGLY BADDY.) Politics, racism, child labor, rich white people, mesothelioma. They sparkle, they entice, they cost – they cost in ways I never knew.

The novel Broadchurch – a great refresher since Gracepoint was weird (US rewrite) and The BBC America’s two seasons of the original Broadchurch w/Dorset  locations were a while back.  Nice to have it all laid out in front..  I loved the show – maybe because of David Tennant.  Well written and captured the entire story by Erin Kelly.  If you loved the show you will enjoy the book.

Still no heat, many covers, many titles yet to  read. Thrift stores finds – maybe next time. Brrr.

 

 

 

 

Better Than Turkey

Ah the joy of the holiday season.  Loud, volatile and exhausting.  One can get too old for it – especially when they realize they were too old for it at about ten.  Growing up in New England is worse than having creamed onions shoved down your throat.  Or squash pie.  Instead, I read.  My, my, my – the many I read.  All of which were fulfilling in ways a meal simply isn’t.

The first was a never heard of  John Grisham “The Racketeer”.   Blew me away!  I hated to get to the end.  Plot plotting, twists, turns and sheer genius – I did not figure out the direction of the story which made it even better.  Read it!

I had plenty of titles from which to choose after the monthly book sale last week .   “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” was next in line and my hilarious attempt at “getting it”.  So I spoke out loud to the damn book and kept asking Neil deGrasse Tyson – “but what was there before all this?” I did know what the Large Hadron Collider and Cern meant and I knew the bosons were named for a Bengali.  But I continued to ask “but what was there before?”  No reply.  I haven’t given up yet but I was never meant to be a astrophysicist.  As my daughter pointed out “These are very special people”.  And truly, what they know came with the package.  They have always known.  I love  Neil Tyson and his writing and his approach to this dark  territory  (black hole dark).  Check out Wiki and  go see about honest genius.  Go see about Neil.

Somewhere in there I slept.  Seriously.  But as the afternoon approached,  so instead of tea, I dug out “A Place at the Table” about a torn Chassidic teen who has grown away from his distinguished dynastic rabbi-filled family. It lets the reader see how he struggled to figure out how to have both without having to choose either. Without tragedy or defiance In some cases, alas, choosing is what MUST happen.  I always welcome books from this community because it enlightens me and makes me appreciate even more my Lubavitch friends and their open attitudes and divine humor. If this is your gleisel of tea- you will enjoy a well written and endearing novel; a place few of us see close up.  The author, Joshua Halberstam, did grow up in this same atmosphere and his insights are excellent. (I very much liked the fact  too, that he never specified which group he came from – discreet and very caring.) Take a short BMT ride to Boro Park. And don’t miss your stop.  You will find your place at the table (and a bissel Yiddish couldn’t hurt either.)

My house is filled with books  yet it always comes as a surprise to me how many I have read and how many I need to read.  And it’s like picking a kitten from a litter.  Or a puppy.  So that’s how I got to  Avery Duff’s “Beach Lawyer”.  Yes – that is the name and it was pretty entertaining for a first novel and a very juicy, well written lawyer tale.  Intricate plots told simply are a sign of something – and it takes more than a so-so writer to do it and when it happens – it is a delicious ride.  And of course lawyers can write.  Part of how they lawyer is their writing.  This one was set near my part of town and I did notice a couple of location errors* toward the end.  But…a wonderful hot day thriller.

Waiting for me are two books about diamonds – largely post alluvial stones from India and bag of new ones from today’s library run. Some are actually non-fiction!

A shortlist of authors that should be noted – Caro Fraser, Janet Gardam, new names from India and an entire array new, post holidays.  Darkness is falling, it’s not as hot today and there are books to open.  See you soon.  Comments always welcome.

 

*This is what happens when you copy edit as you read.

A Wait List Too Long

I am on a wait list that is trying my damn patience.  Not only that,  the “new books” shelves are not even appealing.  James Patterson is about to have his own Dewey Decimal number.  As a result of this tiresome wait I have been reading fascinating books I ignored at home and in the library.  A mystery (where eating and lots of drinking was featured) was formulaic but the subject was diamonds and I learned a great deal about diamonds.  This led me to more books about diamonds and seriously – aren’t diamonds a great subject?  They just never get old.

The ever prolific (does she ever sleep)? Joyce Carol Oates writing as Rosamund Smith showed up in a book called The Barrens -{which I happen to know about from The Sopranos}  that was so weird and mesmerizing I almost lost the plot line until she whipped it all together in a neat little package.  Mystery, madness, suburbia and a serial killer.  She nailed it in such a strange way I have to suggest you find a copy and see what you think.  And an author new to me – but one with a long title list – Suzanne Berne.  A Perfect Arrangement was very, very good.  Borderline obnoxious couple with kids I would have left in a bus station and the perfect nanny.  Not axe-murderer perfect – but impaired perfect.  I tend to really savor this type of couple story (many of which are not very appealing by page 20) when it’s good. It was so satisfying a little thriller that I got another of her titles.  A Crime in the Neighborhood is what I would be reading right now if I weren’t writing this.  Why does no one mention her?  Why didn’t I?  And Gwendy’s Button Box.  Just find it and read it.

I have figured out that I do like fiction or non-fiction equally.  Neil de Grasse Tyson (the Brilliant) arrived with a way (he thinks) to explain astro-physics to a fool like me.  I am going to read it when I can find a mindset that may help me try to get it.  Fermat’s Enigma has the same effect on me. But I keep trying.  Pythagoras had a lasting appeal but only for his “Commandments”, which I still regard with a smile.  Look them up.

Slowly working through Ta-Henisi Coates Eight Years We Were in Power.  Coates bears very serious reading time.  He does not waste a word and he does not suffer fools gladly.  Adam Gopnick’s newest is waiting – I do love his entire oeuvre – but mostly “Paris to the Moon”.  Patric Kuh on food in Los Angeles ( of which I was a very big part in the 80’s).  Unread MFK Fisher, books about French oysters and in closing ,I should mention  book I read about “Eels” was one of the most memorable natural histories ever.  If I had been on “Who (doesn’t) Want To Be A Millionaire”, I would have nailed an eel question for big bucks.

Why do I not include more details about authors and titles?  Because hopefully it leads you on a search that will help you see other books you may not have considered.  And I read so many  I don’t keep track.  Goodreads is great for this shortcoming.  So I strongly suggest you join the page and at least have a gander at what I want to and have read for more specific information.

Comments are always welcome.  Thank you for reading the blog.  And check out my other one; Voolavex.com

 

A Yawner in the Rye

I recently read a book I bought by mistake online and thought it still might be a good change from my usual titles and genres.  I won’t mention the name because it turns out it got RAVE reviews all over the whole creation.  I cannot agree with any of them and I found it work.  Set in 1914 England – it regales us with the poshspeak of the “betters” and their little town.  In over 400pp.  It is not Downton by any stretch of the imagination and I could not keep the characters straight no matter how I tried.  And tried how I felt.  I made it through three-quarters of this quiet and then suddenly hysterical tale of the war and how this little burg rose to meet the Hun.  I thought I might find some list of who’s who in the book online but did much better than that.  In one of the many “retell reviews”,  I got the whole plot and the spoilers and in doing so, shed a tear for Blighty and reached The End.  It was reviewed so well, but I think Julian Fellowes hit a better play between upstairs and downstairs and what was the done thing and the never done thing.  Frankly if the upper crust actually spoke in such euphemism it’s hard to imagine how anyone ever was born.

Waiting very patiently for the holds in my library to arrive – being on a massive wait list for all of them, but editing my own shelves I have found some overlooked titles and before they go to the Little Free Library belonging to a friend, I have found some good reading. And room on shelves for those orphans in piles on the floor.

The New York Times New Book Review awaits.  As long as they keep Marilyn Stasio busy with her “Crime” column I will be happy.

As a comment with little relation to anything so far – why can’t I love Orhan Pamuk as others do.  I tried again with “My Name is Red” and couldn’t do it.  Anyone else?

In fact I would love to have a list  of “books  readers simply cannot finish”.  I suspect we all have many. Send your titles and I will blog a list when we have enough.  Do it.  It should be fun

 

 

 

Watch This Space – Consider These Books

WordPress insists one must have a title before one can blog.  This “one”  blogger is fresh out but has many comments – so watch this space. And consider these books!

To start:  My local library book sale was a good one – nailed a Karsh 50th Anniversary signed 1st edition – cover was dodgy but the photos were divine and it was only $5.    Who would ever donate such a treasure?  He was my mother’s  epitome of portrait and wedding shots of the 40’s and 50’s.  She wasn’t a buff, but she commented on photos that were not Karsh (wedding announcements in the “Women’s Section” mainly) with a shake of her head.  So I knew from a young age that Karsh was very special.

This past week I have read several books that are almost indescribably brilliant.

Inferno by Steven Hatch, M.D.  What to say except I could not put it down? His thorough and graphic description of his own time in Liberia during the Ebola outbreaks there and in Sierra Leone was astonishing for its humanity, honesty and dedication to his profession.  His description of this virus was important and necessary to the book – in very basic and available terms.

He also elucidated much of the pre – Emancipation history of the creation of Liberia and its founding.  Dispelling myths about “happy slaves who set out to create ‘Negrotown’ back home in West Africa”. (I use Negrotown in a serious salute to Jordan Peele and Keenan Michael Key for their remarkable sketch on Key and Peele).  The story we have learned was propaganda and revisionist history.  Overall Africa and its people as individuals and fellow humans may be one of the most exploited and assaulted continents on earth.  Sub-Saharan Africa suffers most and in ways he revealed,  that “we” have never been told.  This is an important book and should be read widely by medical professionals and laymen. It offers an historic record of past and present importance. (The screaming and publicity that accompanied the outbreak was inaccurate and it was propagandized to spread fear and anger.) It was not a true pandemic but the numerous deaths in the regions of West Africa were fast and hideous.  Dr. Hatch and his small group of medical personnel were simply put, heroes.  And I also truly believe that had this filovirus epidemic happened in any anointed First World Country – it would have been turned into a conspiracy, a nightmare, a weapon and of course a cash cow.  I shall not rant further – but this is a book that needs to be read. Steven Hatch is not just a doctor but a unique humanitarian.  His name should be known globally for his actions.  I salute him.

And then on to India – and another member of my short list of Indian mystery writer has joined – Arjun Gaind.  He has created and promises to continue his Maharajah Mystery series and he had better do it!  As I approached this first one I was fearing a bodice ripper with jewels but it was no such thing.  The entire story was a page turner, a great mystery and an invitation to learn much more about the Princely States of India and the smug and obnoxious British who “ran” India .  Plotted and visual and sparkling ( there were indeed lots of large jewels).  I loved it.  Mystery fans will too I suspect.  He joins Vaseem Khan and Abri Mukherjee for coast to coast Indian whodunits.  So well written.  I cannot wait for the next three titles nor can I wait for Sujata Massey’s Malabar series.

I have said before, Indians and South Asians write the way Haitians paint.  They just do it as an almost genetic gift.  It is stunning to see the ways of telling unique stories of South Asians at home and abroad as they have dispersed throughout the world. No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal delivered a tour de force.  Layers and tranches of characters whose paths crossed in not only clever but believable ways in and around Cleveland.  Sattal is a brilliant writer whose uncharted landscapes add light and a shining to his characters.  His dialogue is pitch perfect.  Pitch perfect.  I am a devoted reader of Indian fiction and this is one of the endless list of favorites.  (I also have a Rakesh Satyal moment I will share – years ago in a used bookstore I found “Blue Boy’ – Satyal’s first novel.  I was ecstatic and it must have shown because the books person said to me in a very small voice,  “You know this is about …well…men.” Considering it was an AIDS charity store – I had to suppress my laughter.  Was he warning me or what?” LOL). I loved Sattal’s first book and I loved this one ( caution: it has men in it too!!). I just started “The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam.(author of The Blind Man’s Garden) and thus crossed the Line of Control and entered Pakistan. Watch this space.

Note: I am growing to despise the NYTime’s Book Review on Sunday.   I feel the same way about the L.A. Jewish Journal – feh.  It’s not so much change itself but stupid change.

It’s also the fiftieth anniversary of my cherished New York Magazine and there will an estimable volume of the same name on sale very soon.  I cannot wait.

Comments welcome.  Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading With A Map

First – Congratulations to Kazuo Ishiguro for winning the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature.  Although he is not an author I have been successful in reading, now  I shall give it another try.  This is a stellar honor.  Kudos.

I read a lot of foreign locale crime fiction and I especially read anything about India.  I sincerely wish publishers included maps of their novel’s locale.  Before you tell me I can Google a map of anywhere,  let me simply say that I read actual books in bed.  No devices in the room.  And therefore I read with paper maps.  Guidebook maps, atlas maps, map books, (in the case of Bombay, I have some serious books of street maps). Scott Turow, who has created Kindle County in his  crime novels (love them) has devised his own map of Kindle County.  I love this!  Invented locations would do well to have  maps – if you can think it up, some creative sort at your publishing house can draw it.

My map requirement creates piles of map books that live in more piles around the books I haven’t yet read.  Places I have lived or visited are easy because I can picture the location, but Helsinki was a challenge, Riga, parts of the Middle East, especially Israel, Asia  – well you get the picture – but I am happy to say that once I nail them – they stay in my head.

It took a little looking but I finally found a map that works (old Pan Am atlas) .  A new author (to me) Anglo-Bengali  writer named Abri Mukherjee has created Captain Sam Wyndham , Scotland Yard transfer to the Imperial Police, Calcutta, in the 20’s.  He and his partner, Surrender-not  work slightly outside the box.  I thought his first book started a tad slowly,  but I stuck with it (thank you Vaseem Khan) and now I have his second one and cannot put it down.  He’s got game.  The titles in order are “A Rising Man” and “A Necessary Evil”.  I am starting  to like Calcutta and now I MUST read more about the “Princely States, of the Raj” and Indian diamond mining.  MUST

Another reason I love having maps that put me in the picture sort of creates my own cinema as I read (perhaps a reason I no longer watch many films – that and living in Hollywood).  It seems like a natural for publishers to illustrate inside covers with maps and some do – my appreciation and your input may give them a hint.

My current challenge is Calcutta at the time of the mid-Raj. Not my favorite Indian city. Two holds awaiting at the library – and a long weekend. Good times.

And this:  Just read “Y is for Yesterday”.  Ms. Grafton must continue her Kinsey series with diacritical marks or punctuation symbols. (commas, question marks, umlauts). “Y” was a tour de force.  Ten+ stars for this one. And the stack of reference tomes I read in slices and have many  meals ahead.  Non-fiction is a pleasure to read because one starts with a premise of facts.  I love bibliographies in the back of the book and annotations.  But then I read labels for fun – so  it figures.

 

The Radium Girls

I just finished a book – a history – of the “Radium Girls” as they came to be known.  If you are old enough, you’ll remember the fabulous glow in the dark, radium dials in watches, alarm clocks and other devices as well.  It was a lucrative business not very long after Marie and Pierre Curie won their Nobel Prizes for the discovery of radium and polonium. The Curie’s discoveries followed the discovery , by  Henri Becquerel of radioactivity  with whom they shared their first Nobel.  The changes it brought us are part of our lives to this day.

The moving, engrossing and rage provoking bio by UK author Kate Moore, tells us a complete and detailed history of the hideous and fatal damage caused by the high paying, deadly work offered  to young women in the 1920’s, when the realization of how very profitable the use of radium could be.  How the use of  this glow in the dark killer, became lives taken and lost from radium paint. It uncovers corporate greed of a devastating ugliness that infects and grows without an end in sight.

Marie Curie died at sixty-six from aplastic anemia caused by radioactivity.  She died for science and research.  The women who became the “Radium Girls” died for good pay and work for women at a time neither was in great abundance. And as radium became a revenue stream in the corporate floors of commerce, the Radium Girls  walked to work in a New Jersey factory (another was in Ohio) and painted the dials of watch and clock faces with radioactive paint.  Moore details the techniques used and foretells the scope of this tragedy. Yet as they left work  each day, these were happy, laughing women who glowed in the dark.  It all seemed quite magical. It was the late teens and early 1920’s -and this was a job that seemed too good to be true.  It was too good to be true.

Radium is carcinogenic quickly.    (Remember all those 50’s celebs with Geiger counters looking for Uranium in the Nevada desert (same place Cheney found the yellowcake) and the rapid clicking?  These actors walked in a similar radioactive neighborhood as the Manhattan Project.)  If the juggernaut companies knew in the 1920’s – they never told and the very young women died hideous deaths.  Young, vibrant women who made good money, went to church; some mothers, others making bridal plans and  ALL sentenced to death.  The bigwigs never said a word.  There was no workers comp and these were the days of miracles and wonder – glow in the dark dial timepieces one of the many.

There is no wonderful happy ending.  There was no cure for radium poisoning and the action the element takes in a human body, has a half-life of 1160 years. But it can work quickly and the hideous symptoms announced an almost inevitable and painful death.

Eventually compensation was reluctantly given to survivors children and families but corporate guilt was not part of it.  No company admitted guilt.  Little has changed in that respect.  You can probably tell this book shook me to the core.  It broke my heart.  It confirmed all I knew about the reasons for tort law.  It amplified the story of Karen Silkwood.

I fell in love with these women. I ask that you read it.  You will never be the same.   Kate Moore,  a very fine writer and a natural storyteller,  has written a cautionary tale that is as relevant now as it was in the 1920’s.   I hope to  see more from her.

 

FYI: It is fully footnoted, has a bibliography and photos.

Additional info on radium, results of exposure and in-depth bio’s of the Curies and Becquerel require only a Google Search.