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. 




The Line King. The Hirschfeld Century.

When I was about twelve, I went to live with my father in NYC. One of the Saturday night rituals was walking to Broadway to his favorite newsstand, at midnight, to get the Sunday NYT, hot off the presses!!! Of the many things I learned from my polymath father – He introduced me to Al Hirschfeld on the cover of the Art & Leisure section;   more than the news and reviews within, I was given the gift of this genius and I learned how to find the Ninas. (Mr. H knew this too – I finally sent him a note and his wife replied).  When he laid down his pen and passed at 99 – the Arts & Leisure section still offered me some things of interest – but without him – the sparkle was gone.

I have numerous books with his drawings acquired over the years, and yesterday I opened the mail and found “The Hirschfeld Century” – which I had bought myself as a birthday gift, (after a long search for the best buy).  Oh the Ninas, the actors, the comedians, the stage and screen!!!  The sheer joy of so much of it all, right in my lap!  And it was even better because it brought my father into the picture and, as always I looked for the Ninas,  – to remember both of them.  So my pile of Hirschfeld books grows and the memories are there to be evoked always.

The “Hirschfeld Century” adds a little more because it chronicles the man’s work in order and the biographical detail is just perfect.  David Leopold edited it and wrote the text and was very close to Mr. H for the last 25 years. What a lucky fellow!  To be able to observe the evolution of his style year by year is another stroke of brilliance.  Hirschfeld stayed with what worked and kept working and still does. and there is a consistency that is amazing.

For the lucky folks who also counted the Ninas and couldn’t wait for the Sunday Times;  whose polymath fathers simply knew the right things to know – I join you and hope you will place this title on your shelf of Hirschfeldiana (is that a word?) for the sheer pleasure of the lines he created and  the indelible look he added to every person he drew.

PS  I have a friend who is a Hirschfeld subject and another friend whose wife is.  I was awed and a teeny bit jealous – but mostly awed.  What a wonderful thing to possess!










The NYT’s Effect on Man or It’s The New Sunday Book Review !!!

It was mentioned very casually a few weeks ago that the NYTs Book Review was going to have a new editor and that the long time editor was leaving.  Well she sure did and it sure is not the same old review.  Maybe a good thing.  The “bestseller list” did not seem to be overstuffed with James Patterson efforts and The Golden House made it on – a little late for my taste but it was there. Various things were up-graded or gone altogether (not the stupid shortlist – I love how US media loves to adopt as their own “British” terms.) I don’t believe – in those interviews any of those folks have any of those books on the bed tables.  Dostoyevsky and Shakespeare.  No they don’t.  Nor do I even imagine their perfect dinner would be James Joyce or Bobbie Burns.  But it has a certain “je ne sais quoi” (for real – I don’t know what) when given as an answer to the usual question.  Maybe the word is “classier” or “erudite”.  It irritates me too,  that they don’t or can’t come up with less pedestrian books to read. in bed.  And by pedestrian I don’t mean awful or worthless – just hackneyed.  It’s just a different Book Review.  If they lose Marilyn Stasio and her bi-weekly Crime” column I shall be very sad.  She has been at it for ages and she is very good at her job.  I do wish and ( I wish this very deeply and sincerely) that their “reviews” were not just book reports.  They take the joy out of enjoying the book by retelling the plot of the story without explaining why it’s wonderful or lousy or mediocre.  That lies in the reader and that tells us far more than a plot rehash.  And I don’t care who is doing the review.  They need to lighten up on the reportishness and add more opinion and whys to their reviews.  Maybe they will.  It is somehow fresher and for the most part a very fine change from the long time one they had. I would love to hear the thoughts of anyone who reads the Times and has noted the newness of this section.  Comments are always welcome.

Love travel? Visit These Sites.

This is an itinerary in progress.  Global. Add your own best sites by commenting.  I just started it in no specific order.  And adding new sites as I find them.

daedalus books

Pulitzer Prize

Your local Public Library

Your Favorite Author site(s)

Publisher sites

Prizes for Authors

Nobel Price for Literature

Book publicists (yes they do exist)


NYT Review Read

No disrespect to Monica Ali whom I have read and liked.  But why does her entire review  of “The Golden House” consist really of a short form version of the book?  Why.? There is so much more to this  novel than a book flap summary.  And I do agree Rene was kind of self-important and hardly drove the story for me, but still – there is no need to do a book summary (remember those in school) and call it a “book review”.  It seems lazy.

Cry the Beloved Rushdie Review

(subtitled “The Return of the Rushdie)

I wrote it.  I wrote it on Goodreads first.  I proofed it and poof.  Gone as gone can be.  I liked that revue.  It is not near any surface – it landed deep in a cyber cemetery hidden by the last shot of Cassini falling and the moon revealing the sun almost a month ago. I am beyond bereft.  My stomach roils.

Because I never takes notes when I read novels – “The Golden House” was a first.  Instead of trying to rewrite my deceased parrot of a review I will simply share the notes I made and hope it inspires you to read this book:

“Bippity bopping, name dropping, tangential direction and  hinting at pointless at times  (a clever device), over stuffed, polymathic.  Quotes by everyone and the personal conceit of a knighted, beknighted, fatwaed, word wizard worthy of Hogwarts.

Layers and layers of images, places, events locales and flights of fantastic meanderings that would not fall apart whether shaken or stirred.  So well constructed I smiled and laughed and fell into this Return of the Rushdie – almost sensing’ midnight’s children exhaling the moor’s last sigh’.

I loved it.  Just look at the mess of a commentary it inspired in me. My hair is standing on end.  The feeling was like a sudden rain with enormous drops. If you read it let me hear your thoughts.

Thank you Sir Salman.