I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink

Pick-Up
(Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s, A Library of America Volume)
Charles Willeford

While you’d be forgiven for not remembering why I put this multi-title volume down, I can’t. Part of me thinks such behavior would be more understandable if the book contained works of a single author. I can even offer proof: one of the several Henry James volumes from the Library of America sits across the room, daring me to pick it up Continue reading

Missin’ Like a Cuckoo Brain

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Ken Kesey

This is not my first encounter with this book. The classics, the things you’re supposed to read when you’re young because you’ll never take the time to read them later in life, those I avoid until they turn up in this space.

Kesey, though,  suffers from the opposite problem with me. There he is,  smack dab in the middle of the great Continue reading

The Pain of the Scars That Won’t Heal

The Book of Daniel
E.L. Doctorow

I grabbed this book as I walked out the door for what, to date, is only the second Jersey shore vacation I’ve ever taken. During the first, way back in 1976, I heard a priest (my mom didn’t believe in suspending Catholic rules) deliver a sermon built around E.L.Doctorow‘s recently Continue reading

A Supersonic Honeymoon

The Glimpses of the Moon
(Four Novels of the 1920s, A Library of  America Volume)
Edith Wharton

Come with me to a favorite locale: Wharton country. There’s no reason you’d know that; supporting evidence isn’t exactly abundant.

I may even be overstating the case. A better, though dated, analogy might be a certain type of uptown resident who Continue reading

Raise Your Voice up to the Sky

The Way to Rainy Mountain
N. Scott Momaday

There’s been so much noise lately that I needed a
quiet book.

So I went hunting in the unread stash I keep in my basement, the acquired-but-unread treasures of a life-long booklover. And I found exactly what I was looking for.

Look this book up–on Wikipedia, say, or on a bookseller’s website–and you’ll find a synopsis. Perhaps Continue reading

The Gravity of the Situation

Slapstick (or Lonesome No More)
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Now I remember why I stopped.

Reading novels, that is.

You might not know that from the list of books discussed in this space.  But for at least a half decade the only craftsman I trusted with story-telling was Continue reading

Life is In a Spin

Passing
Nella Larsen

Fifteen or so years ago I found myself on Main Street in downtown Flushing, NY at midday. The sidewalks were filled with crowds, some jostling their way between errands, some in search of lunch.

It’s an experience I can recommend because Flushing, which in my childhood had Jewish and Italian enclaves, is nowadays more than 50% Asian. To be in a crowd and be Continue reading

Days of Miracle and Wonder

Goodbye Columbus
Philip Roth

This week I’m revisiting a modern classic. You didn’t think I’d lived this long without reading Roth, did you?

Roth is Philip Roth, the one-time enfant terrible of American letters, a man who long ago crossed the great divide into the land of literary writers. This volume, originally published in 1959, contains the title novella and Continue reading

Hello Old Friend

A Man Without a Country
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

amanwithoutacountryI hate giving up on people although I’m not quite sure why that is. I suspect that it verges on hopelessness and I have this deep, abiding belief that hopelessness is the greatest sin.

Still, you must know what I mean. Everyone has, lurking in their past, a person or two they were once close to and Continue reading

An Old Man Kind and Wise with Age

Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year Old Author
Herman Wouk

Wouk_SailorAfter my mom died my dad took on more charitable activities. Already involved in Parish Outreach, he adopted, seriatim, a string of what he sometimes referred to as his “old ladies.”  The first of these was Ida.

Ida lived about 5 blocks from my dad, in a tiny house on a neat lot that I remembered from my childhood because my grandparents lived across the street. I have no childhood Continue reading