News of the Words

It has been a reading week.  And on my nightstand – for real – are The Widows of Malabar Hill, Uranium, The Outside World, A Fatal Grace, Still Life, American Prometheus (and Uranium is like a companion volume to AP), Kardamom Kisses, and (drum roll) arriving today Fire and Fury (Escapades of a Shit in a Shithole). and am trying to decide if it’s going to  be Malabar Widows (my heart is beating very fast – this promises to be a fantastic start to another India mystery series by a killer writer Sujata Massey.)  Or shall I dive into the slurry of Fire and Fury.  I suspect I will not be able to put it down.  And having started Uranium last night – I have fallen into yet another considerable tour de force by Tom Zoellner my new favorite non-fictionist.  I realize that books about specific ‘things’ (one subject that turns out to be dozens along the way) are very enticing.  In any subject, but especially in subjects I have little knowledge of and this is an education + great reading.  So Zoellner is a do not miss.  He is a wonderful writer and his notes and facts are so well checked.  Check him out. He is at Chapman U. in Orange County, California and worth a Google.

Kardamom Kisses was a surprise.  Shinie Antony is a very prolific yet under mentioned Indian writer. Outside India that is.  Her book(s) are published in India, in English, by Rupa (Delhi) –  so this can mean no glossary in the back.  She is extremely funny and a sharp and accomplished writer.  This is her debut novel  and I found myself laughing out loud often as I read – and was often confused because the story jumped around in terms of regional languages.  Malayalam  to Punjabi and English and a visit to her website didn’t help much.  Shinie Antony.net   FYI. From Kerala to Delhi and names and characters were the same but not in each place they lived.  The Baby Auntys were very funny and I am trying to get one of my Indian authors to help me sort this all out.  I recommend it but wait until I get a better glossary in hand. Shinie is active in Malayalam writing events in South India and her website is ShinieAntony.net.  If I get some info on terms – I will post them here.  (BTW – the last book that made me laugh so hard I had tears down my face was The Luminous Heart Of Jonah S. by a great favorite of mine, Gina Nahai. Magical Realism appeals to me bigly – and she has it nailed. Not to leave out Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and most South American and South Asian fiction writers.  Sometimes I actually think there is more truth than poetry in the genre of Magical Realism.

The Penguin Papers is wonderful and sad and I sobbed.  So if you read it, this is my only caveat.  It is a tender and lovely true story and you will want a penguin of your own to love.  You will want Juan Salvado.  I do.  Read it – a good cry never hurt anyone.

A brilliant WISHLIST idea emerges in the form of the book catalogues I receive. I use them as a wish list of what and where the books I like will be from.  Check them off with some to borrow and some to buy.  Some are L’s and other are $s – and from this list I can order online from the best price site or even cheaper, the L.A. Public Library {that’s the ‘ L’.}  Never fail to look on Amazon.   So, next time a book catalogue drops into your mail – try this method to get your reading wishlists in a row.  Get catalogues (paper) from university presses, Daedalus, regional stores and UK and Aussie  titles.  My university press list I like best are Chicago, Yale, Harvard, Oxford, University of California and it is easy to find them online.  Daedalus has a very varied catalogue that I love, but any catalogue you receive is a new world of titles.   Snail-mailed orders allow you to use paper checks.  Not everyone has credit cards.

The NYTimes Sunday Book Review was better this week.  Of course my favorite crime critic, Marilyn Stasio, led off and that is never a bad sign. The sacrosanct “Best Seller” list is still largely ‘nom nom’ novels – bowl of salted snacks and your drink of choice.  They sell well largely because they require little thought and are better (to me) than movies. And fast.  Some I have already read some and a few more are on my list.  The staff picks can also be very good but the pretentious “Shortlist” still annoys me.  And speaking of the shortlist – The Man Booker is 50 years old and is having a celebration and  a contest.  Check their website Manbooker.com.  I am ashamed to say that of the fifty winners I have only read a dozen, but I may have done better on their short lists.   I will check for next time.  I love this entire competition because their finalists are so eclectic and smart and the Booker’s inclusion of global entries is even better.

MAIL DROP JUST NOW:  Fire and Fury.  Not opened yet  (that’s next) but when I am done – I will tell you why it was incredible or that I knew it all anyway.

And…although I prefer printed books, don’t forget e-books, audible books and almost daily new ways to read books.

 (As promised, I have kept my library receipts).

 

Holidays . All Over.

 

Added some thoughts to this post, corrections and additions. Also discovered a renewal of interest in the Sunday Times crossword. The loss of the Jerusalem Post Puzzle still grieves me, but I am indeed happy to enjoy the Times again

Lazy over holidays and many posts ran through my mind but never made the cut.  Excuses.  Doesn’t matter.

What have I read?  What am I waiting to read.  And why doesn’t Goodreads have a status of  “trying to read” or “tried but failed”?  Teach your algorithm to sense slow progress and then use it.

I am  slowly reading American Prometheus. The bio allows this and it’s best tasted in small bites.  J. Robert Oppenheimer is a fascinating man who had OCD, spectrum disorder and he understood Quantum Physics – therefore the first don’t matter much.  I can’t say it is slow going – it is interesting going but  lots of it and I expect I will read it in chunks. And I expect it will blow up real good at the end.

Neel Mukherjee is one of my favorite authors.  I finished his new book; A State of Freedom” and he did not fail me as usual.  Five stories tied together that cover the many India’s that carry on and co-exist simultaneously daily.  Five tales that look very astutely into how freedom is defined and how it is perceived.  And how they become a tartan of life in a country that lacks unity.   It is a wonderful piece of fiction but I do believe a love of India and its stories is a good idea for many readers. who haven’t explored this body of fiction.   His writing skill is amazing to me. It moves cautiously throughout and yet delivers on each page.  No spoilers , but I wished a better life for Raju.

I started The Penguin Papers.  I am still trying to decide whether to read it to the end or not.  I read “Wesley”– a hand raised owl and wept so much at the end I still think of him and wish he had simply lived forever.  I have a feeling about Juan Salvado (the penguin question).  I am starting to think beautifully written, true accounts humans and animals should have a caveat about sad endings.  This has always been a problem for me – As a kid – seeing Bambi I wailed in a crowded Boston theatre when Bambi’s mother died and grieved after Fantasia , during the part when the dinosaurs were wiped out.  Across the board, my soft heartedness still exists.  So The Penguin Papers sits – partly read.  I would be very happy if anyone knows about its ending.  Sad or not sad is all I ask.

Fire and Fury is on its way.  Due to snow, deliveries are now delayed but I expect it within another day or so.  I love Michael Wolff and I would like a peep at the bedlam at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  I suspect dementia that is gaining speed, a stroke of some size or tertiary syphilis.   It requires immediate attention and hopefully this book will give that attention momentum.  After reading Blitzed and discovering how Der Fuehrer and his pack of goons and bigots were dosed daily on speed and other narcotics – nothing would surprise me.   (Add to this, the good Dr. Jacobsen of NYC keeping the JFK circles awake.  I bless the fear I have of needles.)  And frankly I love a good tell-all – I pity those who believe they are above it all and smug about it to boot.

And a very quick read – The Prisoner in His Palace ,the last days of Saddam was predictable, fast yet a very astute peek at this maniac.  Are the mental deficiencies of power mad men and occasionally women (Indira m’dear) a result of nature or nurture?    This is why we read everything.  Knowledge madness seems far more enriching.

Back to Oppenheimer and I suspect a cautionary tale within a very long story – not a hard read but slow going. This is illustrates how our alleged bad acts (being a Red back then) disguise brilliance and accomplishments.   American Prometheus is worth the time. Read some more Oppie  last night late. The fatal flaw was of course Marx and Lenin – the late 30’s and 40’s were characterized by many things, but Liberal and Red  urges created lasting woe for many intelligentsia in those days.  Long after the Red Peril And Joe McCarthyism came to a halt; great scientists, writers, actors and many, many others were ostracized, maligned and blacklisted taking remarkable achievements with them denuding in terms of honor.  I suspect as I plod through some more of this huge and complicated bio, I will finally get to the Manhattan Project and Los Alamos. I shall keep reading.

I am losing my pleasure in the NYTimes Sunday Book Review.  It started before the editorial changes, but the pretense has been honed and is so apparent and the cockiness of the writing is very sad.  I do love the best seller list however, a barometer of the crap written, published and then bought.  Meanwhile those eruditiees interviewed, all still have Euripides or the Odyssey on their bedside tables as their favorites.  Get out.

Such loss and sadness – rest in peace Sue Grafton.  Left us in late December 2017.  I loved her.  I loved Kinsey Milhone. Aharon Apfelfeld, a beloved Jewsih voice silenced this week as well.  Life is a trial – death is the loss of those who bring light to it.

Looking forward as the Twelfth Night comes and goes; new pages of Phantom Trades by Lister Martin (part of a new draft) and a much-needed book on the subject of slips and falls and why they must be avoided at all costs. Not just by the aging but everyone.  Until then – stay balanced.  Stay warm. Stay tuned. 

And comment!  Please.

 

 

I had To Stop.

Piu Eatwell marries titled men.  I think she has an OBE too. Okay – this is a talent some have. But as an author?  Not so talented.  I had to stop reading Black Dahlia, Red Rose to stay sane.  She solved nothing.  She re- explained her 276 footnotes in the disguise of cluttered, repetitive back of the book notes and this is still a damn cold case.  I cannot imagine who edited it and now I don’t care.  It was simply annoying.  And it’s a done deal.  I couldn’t finish it nor did I want to.  And this is a mystery I find intriguing. The story was far better told by James Ellroy.  Even Steve Hodel  posited a fascinating theory.  Piu.  Not so much.  Read it and see if I am wrong  Your thoughts would be appreciated.

What are we going to do without Henning Mankell?  I just read  one of his last books – After the Fire and realized he is a writer I will miss very much. The book is not a Wallender, but it does have a mystery and alluring characters that will take you, regrettably, to the last page.  The weather is cold and you will shiver with him.  Quicksand is the last book he wrote and I shall order it.  His saddening diagnosis of lung cancer was the end of a wonderful teller of tales. If you loved Kurt Wallender – read this last novel and say good-by.  I thank him for so many hours of wonderful reading.

Back to another look at diamonds “The Heartless Stone” (another author)- and I must emphasis this is a nasty business and so controlled I can only hope a secret group of  diamond “pipes” and C-10 garnets will appear and that one lucky person will get to mine them all.  These are not a fair traded commodity.  And are a large part of Black Africa’s tragedy. This book atkes another view and I am curious to see what else I need to know about a girl’s best friend (which I thought were birth control pills).

My daughter sent me the 50th Anniversary tome of New York Magazine which I remember from before it became a magazine; in the New York Herald-Tribune.  This magazine has kept me sane for 50 years and I am reserving a quiet, solitary block of space and time in which to read it and weep.  I loved living in NYC.  It is massive volume and requires a quiet time to take it all in. I still get it every two weeks and devour it.

Beginning January 2nd, I plan to save my library receipts as I borrow books so I will remember what I have read and maybe even why.  I should have done it years ago.  But I am very good at hunting titles in the library computer sites before I go hog-wild and buy them.  Some just are keepers, but others are like popcorn.  You eat your fill and then you relax and wait for another bag at another time.

Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve and fingers crossed, we will have a better year in 2018.

I Just Can’t Seem to Stop.

Oh I have read and read and read some more. After this last depressing year of being a native born, US citizen and watching that grow scary;  I stayed warm and read til my eyes crossed.  I believe I mentioned my read of Sleeping Beauties and it still is on my mind. Read it.  You may weep; but the Kings kicked some ass.  I read an Alex Cross because I like the character – Patterson – feh.   And then there was The Rooster Bar.  It is not quite his direction and of course was well written but personally I wanted to beat the three main characters like a gong. Mr. Grisham  – I hope you will abandon this type of silliness.  You are better than the Rooster Bar.

I may have mentioned my casual interest in diamonds – when in need of a best friendsthey can work quite well.  I had read a galley of a book on the subject in the early part of the ‘aughts and  it stayed with me.  I found the final edition  recently and oh what a nasty business it is to discover  Greedy, ruthless, competitive and utterly fascinating.  The players are first and foremost deBeers who struggle more to continue to be the biggy.  And the baddy and the monopolists; something that is changing rapidly.

I know quite a lot more than I ever expected to know and it is a fascinating enterprise.  The Oppenheimer’s hold it tightly, wheel and deal and sadly were very instrumental in supporting apartheid for cheap labor and because they could.  The tech end is fascinating and I was so damn fascinated I have another title to expand my ken.  I wear little jewelry – but a bit of sparkle can be enticing and what I do have is a very little sparkler. Diamond by Matt Hart reads like a whodunit.  Check it out.

Between the gems and Grisham , I found a James Ellroy I hadn’t read – ‘Because the Night“.  All the expected L.A. police, bad guys, the grift and the graft – but it was step well away from precious stones.and a good little break .  Ellroy has always been a favorite – a flawed man and a damn good writer. He gets down and dirty because what he writes takes him to some very down and dirty places. I like the opium beds of another era in Chinatown. They showed up a lot in Perfidia.  Just a damn good book to use for a break.

Which brings us to the strangest book I have read in a long time.  My lasting fascination with the Black Dahlia is not a secret and I have read quite a few, well written books of theories and man hunts and of course it is still unsolved. And still fascinating.

Piu Eatwell, another theorist enters with Black Dahlia, Red Rose.  The crime is not a news flash but each author’s take on it fills in gaps that add allure and ideas that are newer or more creative than the last ones  Eatwell has done her homework and gives us lots of information – not exactly new info, but presented well and worth taking it in.  But she does make mistakes, some of which seem to reflect the American idioms she gets wrong.  Irritating minutiae that creates a little itch and a tendency to look for more. This is distracting to me. She may have edited the book herself because a competent editor would indeed have caught them.  None of this would really be bothersome but she has embraced the asterisk and the annotated footnotes passionately and it is truly annoying.  Truly.  One can see ways the info could easily have been part of the text and it is driving me bananas.  She has notes as well and a quick glance at those was not a treat.  But she was published by a reputable house – WW Norton;  but I still would love to know who her editor was.  They need a stern chat.  All this filigree and distraction make the book harder to read, but the entire story is such an interest of mine – I shall go the distance.  If it turns out okay – those of you who like old true noir  should check back.

Christmas and New Year are upon us.  Packages have arrived and I know there will be books.  I can’t wait. I wish all of you who check out this blog a wonderful time in the next week and a better, happier, calmer 2018.I promise my new inventory next week.

I should also mention that very few on the “Best Books of 2017” appealed to me and would not have been on my list. And I am getting less enthusiastic about the NY Sunday Times Book Review – after all these years.  And exception is Marilyn Stasio whom I look forward seeing every two weeks.  She is the crime lady.

Enjoy your holidays and wish for 2018 to be an improvement.  I know I do.

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