Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Unplugging...



...but only for a while.

In the meantime, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and a holiday season filled with joy and love.

See you in 2015.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review: Premiere by Tracy Ewens

Premiere by Tracy Ewens

Genre: Fiction

Sub-Genre: Romance

“‘Do you ever notice...how they stop the movie before you see the complications of the romance?’” This question, posed late in Tracy Ewens’s new novel, Premiere, by the book’s heroine, Samantha Cathner, serves as a knowing wink to both the title, and its theatrical focus—an unfinished play written by the throb in Cathner’s broken heart,  Peter Everoad.  Like all good romances, Premiere begins by challenging Samantha’s certainty that she has gotten over Peter by thrusting him back into her life with his return to their home town of Pasadena to supervise the production of his new play. Once she sees him, she finds the old attraction rekindled, and all her old hurts and doubts about him resurfacing, especially when he decides to pursue her.  It is the kind of situation one finds in many of the classic film romances Cathner adores. Yet despite the similarity, Premiere is a modern love story, the kind that does give readers a look at the “complications of...romance.” Samantha and Peter flirt, dance around each other, come together, and pull apart.  And as they do, they try not to lose themselves. Ewens has pulled off a delightful feat in Premiere, a work which has more in common with Richard Linklater’s Before… film trilogy, than An Affair to Remember. She has created characters as witty, childish, irritating, and engaging as any two people who are deeply in love and trying to navigate through the challenges in their relationship. The fact that she accomplishes this within a dramatic framework makes every minute spent with them all the more enjoyable. Don't miss this chance to fall in love.

Buy Premiere

Monday, October 27, 2014

Alternative Chills



Halloween is coming. And with its approach, have come the abundance of lists with recommended reads. While I am a fan of many of the books appearing on those lists—The Haunting of Hill House, Turn of the Screw, Ghost Story, The Shining—I thought I'd offer a few alternatives....

The Portrait of Jennie (Robert Nathan) — While the film version of this novella about a struggling artist who finds his muse in a rapidly aging girl is lovely, melancholy, and romantic, it does not convey the foreboding of time out of joint that Nathan's writing does.  Ray Bradbury said it best, "It touched and frightened me when I was twenty-four. Now, once more, it touches and frightens."

The House Next Door (Anne Rivers Siddons) — One of the best evil house books I've ever read. This one packs a wallop as a new home claims owner after owner while the neighbors who witness their fates are brought to the brink of madness.  Read it for the horror, and come back to it for its deliciously biting sub-text.

The Little Stranger (Sarah Waters) — A doctor is called to treat a young maid in the decaying English estate where he lived as a child. Gradually, he comes to suspect a malevolent spirit of invading the structure and targeting its inhabitants. With obvious nods to Poe ("The Fall of the House of Usher") and James (The Turn of the Screw), this post WWII tale will keep you riveted.  One note: much has been said and debated over the "importance" of a likable protagonist in fiction.  Waters's main character, Dr. Faraday, is neither immediately nor consistently likable.  But, as a product of his upbringing, time, setting, situation, and flaws, he is, at all times, fascinating.

The Other (Tom Tryon) — Brilliant psychological horror about identical twins (you know I have a fondness for twin stories), with one exerting an increasingly dark and dangerous influence on the other.  Oh, my...this one was the cause of many sleepless nights, during the read and after. You may want to save it for the daylight hours....

Mickelsson's Ghosts (John Gardner) — A dense and multi-layered tale about an alchoholic philosophy professor who buys a house with a history. Fair warning: if you're looking for a fast read, skip this.  But if you want a novel you can dig into, Gardner's book will reward you with intricate and complex characterizations, a wealth of images and symbols, significant allusions to Nietzsche's Also Sprach Zarathustra (you may want to read or re-read Zarathustra after you finish), local myths, and, yes, ghosts, too.   As close to a masterpiece as any book can come.

Happy Halloween.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Monday, September 8, 2014

Off Balance

Quick update 10/9/14: The house will not be torn down. It's going to be moved. Post to follow. :)



It's the scent in the air—of one season encroaching on another. The heavy quilt goes back on the bed. Sidewalks and driveways become obstacle courses laden with acorn landmines, some whole, some blasted to pieces by omniscient squirrels. It's impossible to walk without making something crunch. The tree tips and leaf points are burnished bronze, brass, copper, showing more metal than earth in the angling sun.  It all seems too soon, too soon.

Yet the cicadas, who have been unnaturally quiet all summer, finally, frantically decide to sing. What can they know that squirrels and trees and leaves do not? That a delayed song is better than none at all?

Something is amiss.

A house is coming down. A fixture in the neighborhood. Prairie style, Japanese influences. Not Wright's—an associate's. One of those come-hither houses you walk by and wonder about—what it's like inside, what its secrets are, if you could live there.

A couple of years ago, it was for sale. And, even though you never had any interest in buying it, you had to satisfy your curiosity and explore. What you found within made you wish you could buy it—a balcony in a central living space resembling an organ loft, rooms with alcoves and twisted hallways, hardwood trim. These were details that made you overlook the dulled tile and shabby fixtures in the bathrooms, the old appliances and chipped counters in the kitchen. There had to be hardwood under that flooring. It could be torn off, the tar paper beneath stripped away. What mattered was the structure, the foundation. It was sound. It would withstand work on its rooms.

But, of course, yours was a fantasy. One that was easily entertained on a walk through a dream. And you left the house hoping it would fall into the hands of someone with endless energy and funds, someone who would see its beauty, its potential. Someone who would love it.

Then, one day, the "For Sale" sign disappeared. And you were happy. In an area where small, sweet, perfectly good homes were being torn down to make way for monstrosities, at least one escaped destruction. At least one was deemed valuable.

For a while.

Because now it has been condemned. A fence isolates it, the way fences always do before demolition. And this time, the signs do not invite. The property does not beckon. It weeps.

To the cicadas' furious accompaniment. 






Thursday, August 28, 2014

Guest Post: Jerry Lewis by Sherri Rabinowitz

For those of us who grew up in the '50's and '60's, Labor Day will forever be associated with Jerry Lewis and the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.

Today's guest, Sherri Rabinowitz, offers a loving and nostalgic post about her memories of the man, his telethon, and his work.

So, in honor of the approaching holiday, It's my pleasure to offer: 
 
Jerry Lewis: He is part of the fabric of my life…
by Sherri Rabinowitz
 
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Jerry Lewis has always been rather special to me. When I was a child,  I remember seeing him in Cinderfella. I loved that movie. We also saw the telethon in my home every year. I would watch it Sunday night 'til my folks made me go to bed, then wake up early on Labor Day to see what was happening and if he made his goal that year.

I had gotten up really early one Labor Day morning when I was about 8 years old and called the telethon, I told the lady I wanted to give my whole savings, which was five dollars. I was really proud of myself. The lady on the phone could tell I was a child so she asked me to get my Mommy.

So I jumped on my parents bed and said I had Jerry Lewis on the phone. My two sleepy parents looked at me like I was crazy. My Dad said, “Jerry Lewis is on the phone?” “Well one of his ladies.” I answered.

My folks just stared at me, but my Dad picked up the phone by his bed and said very carefully, “Hello?” The lady, who was working the telethon explained what happened. My dad’s big blue eyes got watery, he called me over with his hand. I crawled over and was pulled into a one-armed hug. He said, “Yes, put down her donation and add a $20.00 donation from our family.” He explained to my Mom that I had donated all my money and she hugged me too. I felt very special.

My next Jerry encounter was several years later. I always watched the telethon, including when Frank Sinatra brought Jerry and Dean Martin back together. My Mom was so excited because she had watched them live when they were together. Back in the day, when my Mom was a teenager, they used to have a show with the stars of a movie before the movie. You could spend all day in the theater, watching it over and over again with a picnic lunch and snacks.

Apparently my Mom and her friend with their picnic lunches grabbed the stars' attention. Jerry called out to them asking for part of their lunch. They became a part of my Mom’s memory forever so she was excited when my brother was a part of a bowl-a-thon for Muscular Dystrophy and the Man himself was going to be here.

I was about 15 years old, and stood watching my brother bowl with my family.  After the first line was over for the bowlers, Jerry took a mike and did one of his amazing comedy routines. We all laughed and applauded then I went to the ladies room. When I came out I saw the poster child.  I love kids so I chatted with her about her school, and Jerry. Suddenly someone was tickling my ribs. Thinking it was my Dad,  I was going to slap him on the arm. But about half way around I realized it was Jerry.

He had a huge smile and said, “Didn’t mean to scare you.” I explained I thought he was my Dad, because my Dad used to tickle me like that. He nodded and then asked me about school, and my brother’s bowling. We also talked to the little girl. It was a really great five minutes. I never forgot it.

I have now seen every movie he made, and really have supported his cause all my life. So it was with great sadness when he left the Labor Day telethon forever. It broke my heart.
Jerry-Lewis-9381122-1-402
 I was excited to watch him on PBS this weekend though in his special, “An Evening With Jerry Lewis; Live from Las Vegas.” Jerry is now 87 years old so I was very curious about him headlining a show at his age. Well, I was very pleasantly surprised. He still has it! He is still current and funny. No curse words or shock comedy. He was just purely funny, just as I remembered him. He remembered his life with pictures, films and routines. There were surprise guests and it was really amazing. If you get a chance to watch it on PBS, I recommend it. I also recommend watching his old movies, yes even the ones in black and white because The Errand Boy is a true classic.

He is a special man, who brings special memories. Cheers Jerry.
 
About Sherri:
Sherri has been writing since she was a small child. She was inspired by Ray Bradbury and Agatha Christie. She had always loved writing but has had to make a living in a varied number of ways. She worked as an actress, a travel agent and in several forms of customer service. Her passion though has always been writing. She loves and enjoys both reading and writing fan fiction. Fantasy Time Inc. was nominated for The Global eBook Award!
Visit Sherri's blog

Monday, August 25, 2014

Fertile

I have never been able to grow African Violets.

Or, rather, I should say that I have never been able to keep them alive.

Once a year I walk by shelves of these lovely, colorful plants at the grocery store, bring one or two home, and within a month they are dead.

This year, staying true to a futile tradition, I picked out a sweet purple and white variety and placed it in my kitchen window hoping it would like the southern exposure.

Within a couple of weeks, its blooms dropped off, and I resigned myself to another failure.

But then, a week later, I noticed, within its velvet leaves, buds.

I turned the plant to the sun, made sure it had adequate moisture to draw into its roots, and praised it like a fool.

We've had good luck with that exposure, and the long garden bed that borders our exterior southern wall.

Bearded irises bloom there, along with variegated hostas, tulips, daffodils, and clematis, which has overgrown its original trellis, and reached out for new territory. Next year, we will have to provide it with a second.

When we first moved into the house, our neighbors said, "Plant what you love most along that wall. Everything thrives there." And to prove it, they supplied a few of the iris bulbs from their garden.

Along the way, we've had to thin out a few plants, and remove a blue spruce that had tripled in size and blocked part of our driveway.

We were sure there was something magical about that wall, beyond the sunlight.

And then one year, one of our sewer lines blocked up and had to be rodded out.

Since the only access to that particular line is in our basement, the men dragged their equipment downstairs and got to work.  After a few minutes, I heard the machine noise stop, and one of the men yell, "Lady! Could you come down here?"

He didn't look happy. Neither did his assistant. They were wiping their brows and shaking their heads. "We just hit dirt."

"Ummmm," I said, "That's not good, is it?"

"No. It means the line's broken."

Indeed. A seweroscopy, conducted the next day, revealed that the line had broken under our patio and was dumping raw sewage...where?

Into the garden bed on the south wall.

We've continued to joke about our fertile ground. There's no telling when the line broke, how long it was "nourishing" our plants. But the truth is, years after the line was repaired, everything I plant there grows...like mad.

I could say this is due to whatever remains of the constant effluence, but that doesn't explain this new small miracle, which  never had any contact with it.....



Perhaps it is the sun, after all.