THIS CLOSE TO HAPPY: A RECKONING WITH DEPRESSION By Daphne Merkin


“Lately I’ve been thinking about the allure of suicide again…” (p. 3). This is the first line of Daphne Merkin’s book about her battle with depression. Merkin was hospitalized for depression three times: once for childhood depression, the second time for severe postpartum depression, and later, when her mother died. Merkin shares her experience of depression beginning in her childhood. She isn’t shy about her sexual experiences (which sometimes lifted her depression…other times made it much worse) and her sadomasochism. I found it difficult to read about Merkin’s many therapists and psychopharmocologists. The litany of drugs and “treatments” also made me dispirited. I’ve read Daphne Merkin’s excellent articles in the New York Times, Vogue, The New Yorker, and a dozen other newspapers and magazines over the years. I admire Merkin’s courage in her struggle against depression. But I feel very sorry for her. GRADE: B+

RECORD THEATRE CLOSES



For over 25 years I bought music CDs at Record Theatre. As I wandered down the aisles of great music over the years, I had the feeling Record Theatre might end up being the last record store in Buffalo. When the Internet arrived in the 1990s with “file sharing,” music CD sales started to slide. When APPLE introduced iTunes, CD sales tanked. Record Theatre tried to diversify its product offerings by selling DVDs and Blu-rays in addition to music CDs. And, they always had a small section of the store devoted to vinyl records (that section would grow over the past five years). But even loyal customers like me ended up buying 90% of our music online, usually through AMAZON.com. So after along run of selling music, Record Theatre is closing its doors today. Like the closing of a book store, the closing of a record store makes me sad. Are any record stores still operating where you live?

SONY CFD-S70 PORTABLE CD/CASSETTE/AM-FM RADIO BOOMBOX


When I’m puttering around in my basement with my books, I like to listen to music. Up until last week I was playing CDs on Katie’s old Sony boombox from the 1990s. But the right speaker of Katie’s boombox stopped working. I played only mono CDs for a while, but decided I needed to buy a new boombox. By coincidence, the Wall Street Journal recommended a boombox: the Sony CFD-S70. You can read the review here. If you’re looking for an inexpensive ($59.95) boombox with plenty of features and good sound, this is the boombox you should be considering! GRADE: A

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #416: ONCE A PULP MAN: THE SECRET LIFE OF JUDSON P. PHILIPS AS HUGH PENTECOST By Audrey Parente


Audrey Parente started working on Once a Pulp Man back back in 1988. She interviewed Judson P. Philips (aka, Hugh Pentecost) several times and even spent three days going through his business records relating to his publishing activities. Then, a series of roadblocks prevented Audrey Parente from finishing her book as planned in 1995: the publisher, Starmont House went under when the owner, Ted Dikty, died. Audrey Parente’s next publisher for Once a Pulp Man, Borgo Press, went under, too. So Parente shelved her project and became a full-time journalist for The Daytona Beach News-Juournal for the next 20 years.

When Parente retired in 2012, she encountered Judson Philips’ son, Dan, and got re-energized to finish the Once a Pulp Man book. The book was published in 2016 by Bold Venture Press. If you’re a fan of the Hugh Pentecost mysteries (or the Judson Philips books) Audrey Parente supplies plenty of facts about the fiction output of a prolific author. Audrey Parente provides plenty of information about the pulp fiction industry. You’re not going to find a more complete bibliography of the Philips/Pentecost books and stories. I loved all the cover artwork! Books like Once a Pulp Man are labors of love. It’s clear that in this case, Audrey Parente loved her project. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
I. Meet Judson P. Philips: By Bernard Drew 7
II. Preface 13
1. Where Did the Pulp Man Go? 21
2. Who Was the Lonely Boy? 41
3. Hugh Pentacost Rises 73
4. Will the Real, Real Judson Philips Please, Please Sign In? 89
5. Women Troubles: The Loss of Hope 123
6. The Playhouse 155
7. The Editors 175
8. The Series Characters 193
9. On Foreign Reprints and Translations 201
10. The Newspapers 207
11. The Rest of Story 215
III. Bibliography 223
Pulps 223
Anthologies, Digest, Magazines, Periodicals, Misc 237
Radio, Scripts, Plays 271
IV. An Interestin g Prequel 275
V. About the Author 283

MARTIANS ABOARD By Carrie Vaughn


Carl V. Anderson raved about Martians Abroad on his blog. Here’s his review. Like Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine, Martians Abroad follows the tradition of Heinlein’s juvenile SF novels and Andre Norton’s early SF novels. Polly Newton is a feisty teenager born and raised on Mars. Polly wants to be a starship pilot. Her twin brother, Charles, is a genius at computers and strategy. Both Polly and Charles are shocked when their mother, Director of the Mars Colony, tells them she has enrolled them in the prestigious Galileo Academy…on Earth! Polly rebels at leaving the planet she loves, but in the end both kids are shipped off to Earth. Plenty of problems vex Polly and her brother. First, they have to adjust to dealing with three times the gravity of Mars. Earth teenagers can be mean and nasty. When “field trips” occur, surprising events happen and Polly shows how a true Martian reacts to adversity. If you like books like Podkayne of Mars you’ll enjoy Martians Abroad. Carl’s review is spot on about the thrills in this book! GRADE: B+

SOUTH AND WEST (From a Notebook) By Joan Didion

“In New Orleans in June the air is heavy with sex and death, not violent death but death by decay, overripeness, rotting, death by drowning, suffocation, fever of unknown etiology.” (p. 5) Deb will have to weigh in on the accuracy of the first line of Joan Didion’s first fragment, “South.” South and West are pieces Didion started but never finished. “South” is based on a road trip Joan Didion and her husband John Gregory Dunne took in June 1970. As with much of Didion’s work, you get a lot about her as well as whatever topic she’s writing about.

“As it happens I was taught to cook by someone from Louisiana, where an avid preoccupation with recipes and food among men was not unfamiliar to me. We lived together for some years, and I think we must fully under each other when once I tried to kill him with a kitchen knife.” (p. 8) Didion and her husband meander across the South aimlessly, making observations as they travel around. Didion interviews a white owner of a Black music radio station. “South” is 107 pages of this 126 page book.

That means that “West” is about 10 pages long. Didion told Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone that she wanted to cover the Patter Hearst trial in 1976. But once Didion got to San Francisco, a number of memories got triggered. Didion recalls her first airplane flight from New York City to San Francisco. She remembers the first time she walked across the Golden Gate Bridge. And…then the book ends. As much as I admire Joan Didion’s work, I found this book of fragments unsatisfying. If you want to read the Good Stuff Joan Didion has written, I highly recommend We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live. You can safely skip South and West. GRADE: C

THE FLASH: DUET [CW]


Yes, the impact of LA LA LAND can be seen in this musical episode of The Flash (Grant Gustin). This is one of those “cross-over” episodes with Supergirl (Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers). The episode features a musical crossover with Supergirl and reunites Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist with their former Glee co-star Darren Criss, who portrays the Music Meister, the Villain of the Week. The story will begin at the end of the Supergirl episode “Star-Crossed” on March 20, 2017, which sees Kara being comatose by Music Meister and Mon-El and J’onn J’onzz / Martian Manhunter bringing her to Earth-1 in hope that Team Flash can save her. Trust me, you don’t have to know the backstory to enjoy the dancing and the music in this episode.

Benji Pasek and Justin Paul, winners of the Academy Award for Best Original Song for providing the lyrics for “City of Stars” in LA LA LAND, wrote another original song, titled “Runnin’ Home to You”, which will be performed by Gustin in this episode. If you’re a fan of singing and dancing, this episode of The Flash should be a fun experience!

Simple: The Easiest Cookbook in the World by Jean-Francois Mallet


Jean-Francois Mallet has a best seller on his hands with Simple: The Easiest Cookbook in the World. The concept is…well, simple. None of the 200 recipes in this cookbook has more than four steps or more than six ingredients! And, this is one of the best designed cookbooks I’ve ever seen! Gorgeous photos of mouth-watering food! But…there’s more! AMAZON has this beautiful hardcover cookbook for the Bargain price of $10! Incredible! I liked “Macaroni Gratin,” “Bow Tie Pasta with Green Vegetables,” and “Fried Rice with Shrimp and Pork.” And there are still a dozen more recipes I want to try. If you’re looking for a no-nonsense cookbook with delicious recopies, give Simple: The Easiest Cookbook in the World a try. Check out the sample recipes below. GRADE: A

A MALGUDI OMNIBUS By R. K. Narayan


Generous Atanu sent me a copy of R. K. Narayan’s A Malgudi Omnibus. R. K. Narayan is one of India’s greatest novelists. This omnibus includes Swami and Friends (1935), The Bachelor of Arts (1937), and The English Teacher (1945). Narayan creates a world of Malgudi very much like Anthony Trollope did with his Chronicles of Barsetshire and William Faulkner did with Yoknapatawpha County. Within Narayan’s Malgudi, the entire culture of India exists to be explored. In Swami and Friends, friends–Somu, Sankar, Mani, and the Pea–find their relationship upset by Rajam, who is the son of Malgudi’s new police superintendent. Swaminathan joins a mob protesting the recent arrest of a prominent Indian politician in Malgudi, The mob’s nationalist fervor causes Swaminathan to shatter the windows of his headmaster’s office by throwing a rock. Swaminathan’s action causes a change of schools which changes his friendship with Rajam. Swami and Friends delves into the nature of friendship and change.

In The Bachelor of Arts a young man named Chandran falls in love with Malathi but Chandren is rejected by Malathi’s parents. Distraught, Chandren lives on the streets and finally undertakes a journey to flee from his rejection and pain. I liked the ending Narayan concocts.

My favorite novel in A Malgudi Omnibus is The English Teacher. An English teacher and lecturer at Albert Mission College, Krishna is confronted by a personal tragedy. How he copes with his tragedy and the decisions he makes brought me to tears. I found The English Teacher a very moving novel. If you’re looking for first-class fiction, I recommend R. K. Narayan’s work. A Malgudi Omnibus would be a good place to start. Thanks again, Atanu! GRADES: Swami and Friends: B, The Bachelor of Arts: B+, The English Teacher: A

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST


It’ hard to believe it’s been 25 years since the Disney animated version of Beauty and the Beast burst on the scene in 1991. Patrick, Katie, Diane, and I all loved it. The music was fun. A few years later, we all went to Toronto to see the musical version of Beauty and the Beast on the stage. Again, very entertaining! So I approached this live-action movie version with some trepidation. The original animated version was 84 minutes. This live-action movie is 129 minutes. Would it just be filler?

The answer is yes…and no. The movie provides some backstory to Belle and her family as well as an explanation of the Beast’s troubled past. Some of the musical numbers go on a little too long for my taste. And the Beast’s castle is a little too dark. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what’s going on in the shadows. But Emma Watson is fine as Belle. Dan Stevens (who I really like in LEGION) transforms into a marvelous, cantankerous Beast. Luke Evans plays a narcissistic, brutish Gaston to perfection. And, behind the CGI characters there are the voices of Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts), Ewan McGregor (Lumière), and Ian McKellen (Cogsworth). This movie includes three new songs (mostly forgettable) and a scary scene with wolves that might frighten younger children. All in all, I can recommend this new live-action movie of Beauty and the Beast. There’s enough newish story here to hold your interest. GRADE: B+