Hot Stuff

TV: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is back. Tituss Burgess dominates. Maybe too much this season. House of Cards. Needs two views. After second watch, some of the plot and character deficits are filled in better. But. Still. Uneven writing this year. Frank & Claire remain compelling. Speaking of Kevin Spacey. Fun host of the otherwise lackluster Tony’s.

Book Treks. 2011 – 2017.  ** Favorites.  ! Liked A Lot.  # Worth the Read.

This summer try The Honeymoon about George Eliot, The Last Painting of Sara De Vos, The Woman on the Stairs, A Gentleman in Moscow, Swans of Fifth Avenue, Paley’sCapote.

Literary Mind Craft

The Night Ocean, by Paul La Farge. I’m not sure. It kept me rapt. Author clearly had lots of things to work through. Personally. Maybe. Literarily many unfinished stories found their way into this dense work. Sprawling disjointed tales of several complex people in different times and places. Spaces. Told from a woman’s point of view, Marina the shrink, working out her own issues. The author gave her an authentic voice. It begins as her husband Charlie disappears into Agawam Lake in the Berkshires. H.S. Lovecraftian fandom less clear. More context necessary for those not acquainted with this cult of science-fiction-horror genre. Nonetheless. Worth the meandering page-turning journey. Lots to think about. La Farge’s New Yorker view.

Speaking of mind-bending. Twin Peaks so far is a self-indulgent David Lynchian acid trip with no redeeming plot value. Vomitaceous. Literally.

Layered Literary Canvas

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, by Dominic Smith. A beautifully written history which brings the reader into the art guilds of the Netherlands in the 1600’s. New York’s gritty Brooklyn, isolated rich on the Upper East Side in the later 1950’s. Australia in 2000. The stories are built in layers as is the painting depicted. Sara De Vos’ last oeuvre brings a poignantly perfect masterpiece of an ending to all of the disparate lives affected by her work. Prose is gorgeous. Characters provocative and real. Learned a lot about oil on canvas. One of the best reads this year.

Femmes Fatales

Women. Murder. And such. The Feud had promise. Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford. Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis. But. Acting so bad. Not campy bad. Just bad. Couldn’t get through the first episode. Big Little Lies. Nicole Kidman. Reese Witherspoon. Ditto. Derived from a typically insipid Liane Moriarty book. Girls. Lena Dunham’s best season yet.

Little Deaths, a murder mystery novel by Emma Flint. A Brit who has been obsessed with crime stories since she was a girl. An okay read with with a bit of a feminist agenda. Baileys Prize Longlist. Used to be Orange Prize. Both sponsors have since ditched. Why a segregated genre for women authors? Lots of women winners of Man Booker. Good writing is good.

Spring Book Treks

The Woman on the Stairs, Bernhard SchlinkBeautiful gem of a read. Sweet reckoning. Irene, the young woman on the stairs in a painting brings three men together to confront old age and their disparate pasts in Germany. Each evaluates his life as Irene reunites them on her isolated island in Australia as she faces death. All of them loved her in different ways. Possessive, obsessive, unconditional. It’s the third that is an intimate poignant connection. A story of loneliness, regret, then peace. Subtle mysteries, but not a thriller by any means. It’s a translation from the German, yet well done.

The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead. The story of Cora. A young slave who runs away from her Georgia plantation. The plot follows her harrowing life as she is pursued by an obsessed Javert-esque slave catcher. Her travels take her on a real underground railroad in dark boxcars to different cities as she tries to make it to freedom. Violent and gory scenes. As was realistic. Yet. An allegorical journey. Being black in America is fraught with peril. From Cora to Trayvon. Kindnesses and horrors along the way. Stations of the Cross? To be made into a movie by Moonlight director Barry Jenkins.

Book Treks

Books for Winter’s Return

Two modern mysteries for cold and windy March days. Both good in different ways.

Dark Rooms, Lili AnolikBilled as a Secret History prep murder redux. Not that at all. Set in (West?) Hartford, Connecticut, the boarding school itself never came to life. Grace’s sister Nica is found dead from a gunshot wound in the nearby cemetery. Plot twists yes. Many reviewers had issues with the so-called “rapist” in the plot. Not. It portrayed a mother’s extraordinary evil.

The Girl Before, JP DelaneySad that so many recent best-sellers have ‘girl’ rather than more accurate ‘woman’ in the titles. Gone Girl. Girl on the Train. Anyway. Another back and forth- this one between two women. Emma then. Jane now. A device that worked well here and even melded the two when it was right to do so. An austere technocratic architecturally-renowned house in London the setting for this psycho-drama. Soon a Ron Howard movie.

The New Abnormal

Global warming? Balmy February in New York. Rowboats on the Lake. rowboats-in-feb

Bannon’s economic nationalism. Dismantling administrative state. Trump golfing with Els and McIlroy. The new abnormal.

Books are still normal. Just finished a good one. The Honeymoon, Dinitia Smith. A novel about literary icon George Eliot’s life and last honeymoon. Which was a doozy. See review here. Oscars. Ho-hum. This year.