Sunday, May 31, 2009

Land of Marvels

Hi Flower!

How wonderful is it to read the latest book by an adored author and ---whew---you loved it!

Ahhh...a new Barry Unsworth novel. This is thrilling! Have you ever read anything by him, Flower? Unsworth is one of my top 10 favorite authors. I look forward to a new book by him with the same keen excitement that I await my siblings return to their own homes after holidays. He isn't a book a year writer so each new reading experience must be made to last. Also, he's 80 years old and hey I know older people but at 80 how many more finished novels does he have in him? I don't know but it's not as many as I want him to have in him I'm sure.

Unsworth has written a great many worthy reads. My favorites are:" Sacred Hunger" (1992 Booker winner), "Morality Play", "After Hannibal",  "The Greeks Have A Word For It" and "The Ruby In Her Navel". You aren't going to like my boy Barry if you are a page turning, card carrying member of the fan club of James Patterson. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

However you are going to love, adore and pray for at least 10 more novels and for a never out of print backlist if you are a fan of: storytelling that does not exclude questions of morality, the power of vocabulary, proper grammar and writing that allows you to discover verses writing that flat out tells you everything you need to know to understand why John doesn't marry Jane at the end of the book.

The new book is "Land of Marvels" (available at independent bookstores across the globe) and it is fabulous. It's the spring of 1914 and all that will happen soon to the greater world has already long been set in motion, but near the Euphrates in the Ottoman Empire this novel's smaller world is looking to the past. An amateur archaeologist named Somerville is running a dig that he hopes will uncover a major find. Something that will put him on the same level with the heroes of his youth.

Of course into this arena will come a variety of people with an even greater variety of agendas. "Land of Marvels" is a thriller at it's heart and in most hands thrillers offer up the good, the bad, the ugly, the prize and nothing else. Unsworth presents all those elements but because he is such a gifted writer he is able to shift your loyalties around this unsettling Edwardian game of Clue as easily as he makes Assyrian history and the geology of oil fascinating and understanable. "Land of Marvels" tells many stories and Unsworth's abilty to juggle them all with economy and elegance is very impressive.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hello Flower!

That is a nice smattering of celebrity-ness. I recognize all the names but I wouldn't have recognized Allen or Chaka in person. Now if they had been on screen for at least 15 seconds in only one movie made between 1920 and 1960 I'd have their face print permanently placed in my brain file, but without that...I'm pretty hopeless.
I do have one celeb story. I've met Paul Newman. Oh yeah. Met and talked with Paul Newman. His movie "Nobody's Fool" was filmed here and my friend D had an on set job on the project. At one point I went to where they were filming (it was an outdoors scene) because I was going to pick D up and we were then going down to NYC for a couple days. D came over to where I was waiting, told me that she was going to be longer than expected and invited me over to watch the filming.
It was extremely exciting! I was way, way, way over by the food area and I could not see a thing related to the filming, but hey it was show biz, right? Then I suddenly had my moment! Mr Newman came over to get a cup of coffee and he said hello to me. Ah!!! I few seconds later D was there and introduced me. Yup. Hand shaking was involved.
Mr Newman asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee and I said...YES! Of course I said yes. It didn't matter that I had only tasted coffee one other time in my life and I hated it. It was Paul Newman. If I had said no to that first question there might never have been a second question. And oh yes there was a second. He said, "Do you need cream?" Isn't so nice how after only just meeting me he already cared like that?
Of course I took some cream and I drank that entire cup of foul coffee standing next to Paul Newman. It was my first and last cup.

If I think about it I guess I have met other celebs. The bookstore I worked at had some big, big name authors over the years: Toni Morrison, David McCullough, Stephen King, etc. and for the most part they were friendly and pleasant if not interesting. But. Sorry. They were not Paul Newman.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dear Happy,

You know I am a celebrity whore. To my credit, I'm not the sort who makes a jackass of herself when in the presence of a famous person, nor would I pull some bush-league stunt like interrupting someone's dinner or private moment. Still, I confess I have long kept a running list of celebs I have met, interacted with, or at least been in the presence of, like:

1. Paul McCartney

Needless to say, he remains the most famous person I've ever met and probably always will be. It was at a party that Linda McCartney's American publisher (she authored a series of vegetarian cookbooks) hosted in her honor at an art gallery in Chicago. Now, Paul was not mentioned on the invitation, but My Beloved and I knew that they always traveled together, so right away I had to fight the hope that he'd accompany her to this thing. The gallery held maybe 150 people and we arrived on time, but Linda had yet to put in an appearance. MB and I were chatting with some people near the front door and then suddenly there they were, framed in the doorway, and I am not exaggerating when I say that all the oxygen in the room was instantly depleted by the audible collective intake of breath as everyone realized it was Really HIM. He had on a suit with sneakers, and she had on a long dress, no bra, no makeup, and hair still damp from the shower. Shortly thereafter, we were introduced to them and got to actually speak with them for a few minutes. I shook the hand that had played the piano on "Hey Jude," Paul told me he liked my skirt (a teeny-tiny flowered satin Betsey Johnson mini which I no longer wear but will keep forever), we talked about not eating meat, and that was that. It was so emotional for me that I had to wander off into another room of the gallery so I could quietly cry. It was Paul McCartney! Paul McCartney who had burst onto the world stage and into everyone's lives with his pals and changed the world forever, like when in "The Wizard of Oz" everything snaps from black and white to color, in an instant.

I still have the party invite with both Linda and Paul's autographs, framed, on my dresser, to remind me of one of the best moments of my life.

2 Allen Ginsberg

At a publisher's luncheon, I finagled a way to get myself seated next to my favorite American poet who, along with Jack Kerouac, was a founding member of the Beats, as you know. Oddly, I have no recollection of what we talked about during lunch, but it was in his later years and he was already ill, although I wasn't aware of it at the time. Actually, I had been to a reading he gave a year earlier, where he not only signed my copy of his collected poems, but also made some little drawings all over its title page. What a thrill it was for me to sit beside this quintessentially American poet and cultural force of nature. I'm ever grateful to the person who switched seats with me that day, so that I could have that unforgettable honor.

3. Chaka Kahn

Ok, I know. WTF? But I have to throw her in here for comic relief, not that I dislike her or anything. 'Member her big hit, "I'm Every Woman?" So, MB and I were at a national booksellers' convention that I guess she was attending to promote her autobiography (!!!) or whatevs. Now Chaka is a big gal who is not about to let that stand in the way of her sporting some flashy, skin-tight, revealing togs, bless her heart. Anyway, we're walking down one of the aisles at the convention center when suddenly I see her approaching from the opposite direction. Sotto voce, I say to MB, "Wow, that's Chaka Khan......she's every woman!" "Yeah," replies MB, "and several of them are in those pants."

Peace Out.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dear Happy,

Oh, I could not agree more. In fact, I hate any occasion of forced joviality OR solemnity. Circuses, parades, fetes, lawn parties, funerals, minutes of silence, whatever - hate 'em all. Plus, I have clear, visceral childhood memories of standing on parade routes in the town where I grew up and, as the marching bands went by, feeling the booming percussion of the drums in the pit of my stomach. A most unpleasant sensation. No thanks.

I don't have much military service in my family, with the exception of my brother-in-law, who was a West Point grad and an officer in Vietnam during the years I was protesting it. That made for some interesting family get-togethers, and by "interesting" I mean fraught with barely-repressed hostility. Later, he and my sister joined this Catholic cult called Cursillo Go ahead, read the definition of it and see if you can suppress your gag reflex. It was as loony and awful as it sounds. Anyway, at the same time that they were going goo-goo for gah-god, he was teaching a course on advanced weaponry at West Point. No disconnect there, cause, y'know, who would Jebus target with precision missiles? Alarmingly, they saw no incongruity.

Later, their son, my nephew, attended West Point briefly, I think because he felt pressured into following in his dad's footsteps. To say he was ill-suited to that environment is an understatement.....he threw himself out a second-story dormitory window there in his freshman year (not seriously hurt) and that was that.

And my mother's brother served in WWII. I have this silver bracelet- actually, I think it's aluminum - that he gave my mother when he came home, with the words "Loving Sister" engraved on it, and on the inside is stamped "GERMANY 1945." My mom told me it was made from melted down German aircraft, but who knows? I still wear it sometimes.

My Beloved has decided that since it's Memorial Day, what better way to celebrate than by listening to John Phillip Sousa marches? As I type, brain-jarring bursts of staccato, horn-heavy melodies are reverberating through the house. It's a drum majorette's wet dream. Please make it stop. Still, it's easier to listen to than Louie Prima, another of MB's inexplicable faves. I think they use his "music" at Gitmo, a clear violation of both national and international law.

Enjoy the sun, Happy.

Peace Out,
Happy Memorial Day Flower!

This is so not a top 10 holiday for me. Not that I'm not incredibly grateful to every man and woman that has chosen to serve. My Father and his cousins saved Europe and Asia, 2 two oldest brothers were drafted, one brother in law patrolled the seas in a sub for 8 years, another brother in law was in the National Guard for 25 years and one of my nephews is a doctor in the army right now.
It's the parade.
I hate parades. Always have. Rose Parade, Macy's Thanksgiving and my little town's 15 minute parade it doesn't matter. I go because little people in my bloodline are in it and I need to be a good Aunt and because I feel like why live in Tiny Town if you aren't going to participate in things like this?
So. I'm going to clap and cheer my heart out for our vets, the volunteer fireman, the ladies auxiliary, the boy and girl scouts, the little league, the elementary school band and whoever else strolls by and I'll mean every clap, but I'll still hate parades.

Oh Flower I have failed!
The laundry has won---again. Damn you to hell dirt clothes, sheets and towels. Especially you towels you're the ones that get me every time.
It's always the same. I have a couple loads to do and I have an undeniable urge to get them all done, folded and away before I need to use any other heretofore unused potential laundry item. I can't help it. I'd understand it if I had to do all the work of going to the laundromat or if I had the laundry of mutilple people to do but I don't. My washer and dryer are right in my kitchen and I'm the only one creating laundry. I can relax while the agitation is happening. I can knit, read, maybe even blog and yet it's the same thing again and agian. If I do not have to use a wash cloth or towel or something before laundry completion----Victory! If not----defeat.
Today it was defeat. I had to use a dishcloth to wipe my hands prior to the second load even spinning out. I feel so beaten down, such a failure. That dishcloth is hanging over the fawcett mocking me. Losing is tough, losing to fabric is unendurable.
Oh well.
Laundry, we will fight this battle again. I will return and my dirty unmentionables and I will crush you!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Oh Flower!

I looked at "Dance Flick". I cracked up too!

Why don't I see David Alan Grier in something every day? Man is he funny. I don't need Tivo I need Grier-Vo. Some kind of device built into my TV where I could press a button and --Ta Da--on tonight's episode David Alan Grier will be playing the part of Jack on "Lost", Blanche Devereaux on "The Golden Girls" or maybe Ming-Ming on "The Wonder Pets". Can we get Dreamworks or my cable company or Macgyver working on that? Thanks!

Flower, today I came across an organization (it really seems like a company but I'm not sure I can all it that since they are trying to save the world) called Traidcraft. It looks like they are trying to wonderful things to help people escape poverty. Very impressive.
Now there's going to be a but--so to speak.

This is one of their products:

I do want to buy this. However saving the planet is pricey (I know, can you afford not to?) and I can't afford to buy this toilet paper at roughly $30 a package. It's making me sad. Not only would I be greener than anyone I know if I had this but every time I "flushed away unfair trade" I'd hear trumpets and feel like a super hero. Not a bad way to round out taking a crap.
Dear Happy:

I'm not proud of this, but I just read the review in today's Times of the Wayans's new movie, "Dance Flick," and I almost choked laughing. Yes, it's the Wayans and I think it's safe to say that subtlety is not a color on their cinematic palette, to grossly understate reality. Yes, it's a parody of the all the other faux-inspirational dance movies of the last few years and yes, the pop-cultural references apparently fly at a dizzying speed, but the opportunity to see the hilarious David Alan Grier dancing in a fat suit is - please don't think badly of me, Happy - a temptation I simply cannot resist.

There's also a character who's an unmarried teenage high-schooler (I know, not inherently a knee-slapper) who simply stows her baby in her locker before heading off to class. Will you please look at this? . I almost snorted my Corona Light out my nose!

Of course, convincing My Beloved to go see this with me will be like negotiating the seating at the Paris Peace Accords . I may have to go alone and save my bargaining chips for the Big One: UP.

Peace Out,
Flower, Flower, Flower!

Yikes. If you don't already know this you might be excited to know that Juliet from Lost will be castaway no more! She's in next season's remake of V! V! V! V! Man oh man did I love that show back in the day! Even then I knew it was cheesey but it didn't matter. I'm sure the (undeserved) success of the new Battle Star Galactica is the reason that some suit loaded up the Wayback Machine and brought V back to today but who cares? The preview looks terrific and it has the potential to be my next TV obsession which I'll need since Lost is ending.
I have awoken to a golden day!

Dear Happy: You'll have to pardon me if I seem somewhat out of sorts today, but I am fairly vibrating with rage over the one-two punch of the intolerable travesties visited upon me in the brief span of less than 24 hours. I refer, of course, to last night's stunner (and not in a good way) Idol finale and this morning's"speech" by - and that vein in my forehead is throbbing as I type this - Dick Cheney.

Ok, first things first: Seriously, America?? You chose Kris "Sanitizied For Your Protection" Allen over Adam "You Will Bow To My Charisma" Lambert?? WTF? I had dared to believe we were over the era of rewarding mediocrity at the ballot box, that we had begun to mature as a nation, but apparently after the country finally collectively bestirred itself to haul ass to the polls in November and make a long overdue Sane Choice, we're back to electing the lame candidate we might like to have a beer with. My prediction: Allen will land in the dustbin of Idol history within six months ('member Taylor Hicks? Reuben Studdard? Christ, Fantasia for the that matter?) and Adam will set out on a vibrant, lucrative career. He's already a star, baby (insert jazz hands here), whereas the other guy is another cookie-cutter, vaguely pretty face with a personality as exciting as store brand vanilla extract.

I know what you're thinking, Happy "Mmmmm....vanilla cookies." Pay attention!!

What was that second thing I was irate about? Oh yeah, another nausea-inducing whistle-stop on our former Torturer-In-Chief's interminable Cover My Ass Summer Tour. Why are the cable channels giving this monster air time as he continues to attempt to undermine the President of the United States, who is working overtime trying to make some headway in cleaning up the catastrophic mess that worthless blob of rancid flesh Cheney was key in creating? They're ginning this up like it's some kind of mano-a-mano smackdown.

Happy, I tell you: I can't take much more. Can't you make it stop?

Peace Out,