Monthly Archives: February 2010


Today, at 3 P.M. EDT, everything will stop in Canada. That’s when they’ll drop the puck for the Gold Medal game between Team USA and Team Canada. A week ago, the USA pulled an enormous upset, beating the Canadians 5-3. The U. S. Men’s Hockey Team hadn’t beaten Canada in the Olympics since 1960…50 years ago! Well, here we go again: the heavily favored Canadian team, yearning to avenge their loss of last week, will be skating as if they’re wearing jets. Ryan Miller, Team USA’s gritty goaltender, turned away 42 of 45 shots the last time these teams played. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Canadians fired over 50 shots at Miller today. If Team USA wins today, it will be as unlikely a win as the 1980 upset of the mighty Russians.


Dostoevsky is best known for his great novels The Idiot, Crime & Punishment, Devils, and The Brothers Karamazov but he also wrote short stories. This collection features three stories, “A Gentle Creature,” “White Nights,” and “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man.” Dostoevsky explores the inner lives of shy people, dreamers, and intellectuals living in a brutal society. Loneliness and estrangement from community are Dostoevsky’s constant themes. This edition is a modern translation by Alan Myers with an Introduction and useful notes by W. J. Leatherbarrow. If you’re interested in Dostoevsky’s short fiction, this is a good place to start.

(This completes the February 2010 portion of my Short Story Reading Challenge.  I will read and review one short story collection per month in 2010.  To find out more about the Short Story Reading Challenge, be sure to click: “”>Short Story Reading Challenge.

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #55: PREFERRED RISK By Edson McCann (Lester del Rey & Frederik Pohl)

In 1954, Galaxy and Simon & Schuster ran a contest inviting science fiction readers to write a novel. The winning novel would be serialized in Galaxy and then published in hardcover by Simon & Schuster. Well, a year went by and the editors at Galaxy and Simon & Schuster determined that none of submitted novels were worth publishing. They approached Lester del Rey and Frederik Pohl to write an acceptable “winning” entry. That’s how Preferred Risk by the pseudonymous “Edson McCann” came to be published. It’s the story of a future world run by The Company, an insurance agency. If you’ve read any of the C. M. Kornbluth and Frederik Pohl sociological SF novels like Gladiator-at-Law where the world is run by law firms, you’ll know what you’re in for. Preferred Risk doesn’t compare with classics like The Space Merchants, where advertising agencies run the world, but I found reading it great nostalgic fun. And, I love the wrap-around Richard Powers’ cover!


Everybody knows about Phil Spector and his “Wall of Sound” but Spector had a lot of help from Jack Nitzsche who was a key arranger and conductor. Nitzsche’s career spanned decades, but I think he did his best work in the Sixties. He worked with dozens of groups like the Righteous Brothers, Buffalo Springfield, Crazy Horse, the Crystals, the Rolling Stones, and the Everly Brothers. The Lonely Surfer is an oddity in the Jack Nitzsche oeuvre. It’s an instrumental album from 1963. Later in his career, Nitzsche wrote film music for several movies including One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and An Officer and A Gentleman. That film music owes a debt to “The Lonely Surfer.” To listen to “The Lonely Surfer” just click here.
Track list:
1. The Lonely Surfer (Album Version) 2:35
2. Puerto Vallarta (LP Version) 2:30
3. Stranger On The Shore (LP Version) 2:09
4. Theme From Women Of The World (LP Version) 2:56
5. Old Town (LP Version) 2:53
6. Ebb Tide (LP Version) 2:18
7. Theme From Mondo Cane (More) (LP Version) 3:08
8. The Magnificent Seven (LP Version) 2:10
9. Baja (LP Version) 2:20
10. Theme For A Broken Heart (LP Version) 2:49
11. Beyond The Surf (LP Version) 2:16
12. Da Doo Ron Ron (LP Version)


When I was kid back in 1955-1956, I wanted to be Wyatt Earp. Wyatt Earp was played by Hugh O’Brian who, like George Cooney today, radiated intelligence and class. AMAZON wants $32.49 for this set. I found it at BJ’s WAREHOUSE for $16.99! That’s for 35 half-hour episodes (on 4 DVDs)! Guest stars included Angie Dickinson, Mike Connors, John Carradine, James Coburn, and Louise Fletcher. Wyatt Earp was made when Hollywood still knew how to make Westerns. If you want to listen to the Wyatt Earp Theme Song, click here.


Amy Bloom writes stories in a sassy style that explore dysfunctional relationships. Like when a stepmother has sex with her step-son after her husband dies. Or two couples who break into an adulterous couple and a clueless couple. Clearly, there’s a market for this kind of fiction. Amy Bloom is an accomplished writer who handles her characters with confidence as their lives disintegrate. Raymond Carver and Bobbie Ann Mason wrote these kinds of stories too, but they usually deal with folks lower on the socio-economic spectrum. Bloom prefers middle-class Baby Boomers. If these kinds of domestic destruction stories appeal to you, you’ll like Where the God of Love Hangs Out. GRADE: B-

RECOLLECTION [3CD/1DVD] [Box Set] By k.d. lang

I don’t know about you, but I can listen to k. d. lang sing all day long. Her voice is crystal-clear and distinctive. You don’t have to guess who’s singing when a k. d. lang song is playing on the radio. This collection is more than a glorified “Greatest Hits” compilation. There are alternative versions of some of k. d. lang’s best known songs, plus some rare material I’ve never heard before–and I own every CD k. d. lang ever released. This collection comes in two versions: the “plain vanilla” (cheaper version) and this edition with the bonus live CD and the DVD. I recommend the complete edition. If you only know k. d. lang from her seminal renditions of “Hallelujah,” “Constant Craving,” or “Crying,” you’re in for the time of your life when you listen to Recollection! GRADE: A
Track List:
Recollection [3CD/1DVD] [Box Set]
Disc 1
1 Trail of Broken Hearts 3:25
2 Constant Craving 4:37
3 The Air That I Breathe 6:14
4 Helpless 4:15
5 You’re Ok 3:03
6 Western Stars 3:14
7 The Valley 5:30
8 Summerfling 3:52
9 Miss Chatelaine 3:49
10 I Dream of Spring 4:02
11 Hallelujah 5:08

Disc 2
1 Help Me 4:00
2 Hush Sweet Lover 4:06
3 Beautifully Combined previously unreleased 2:43
4 Crying 3:48
5 Love For Sale 5:26
6 Golden Slumbers/The End 4:17
7 Barefoot 4:17
8 Moonglow 4:34
9 So In Love 4:35
10 Calling All Angels 5:19
11 Hallelujah previously unreleased / New Version / Version 5:36

Disc 3
1 I’m Sitting on Top of the World 3:45
2 Sexuality 3:25
3 Skylark 3:48
4 Helpless Live 4:35
5 Western Stars Live 3:27
6 Wash Me Clean Live 3:58
7 Thread Live 3:37
8 \Once In a While Live 3:32
9 I Dream of Spring Live 4:14
10 Smoke Rings Live 3:36
11 The Right to Love Live 3:46

Disc 4: DVD
1 Constant Craving
2 Just Keep Me Moving
3 Hush Sweet Lover
4 Miss Chatelaine
5 The Mind of Love
6 Crying
7 You’re Ok
8 Summerfling
9 Love is Everything
10 Hallelujah Live
11 Helpless Live


Even if you’re not a big hockey fan, this game is worth your attention. The Canadians are under enormous pressure to win this game in front of their home crowd while the U.S. team is loosey-goosey. Ryan Miller, pictured above, is Team USA’s goalie and a Buffalo Sabre so, of course, my sympathies are with him. I expect plenty of hitting and scoring. NBC and the CBC are scheduling this game in Prime Time tonight so they must feel the same way!

2010 NEWBERY AWARD: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

“The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”  That’s what it says on the ALA web site.  And, if you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you’ll recall I reviewed When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead on December 14, 2009 and you can read it here.  This is just an update to say, “Can I pick them, or what!”  When You Reach Me won the Newbery Award as the best Children’s Book of 2010. Congratulations to Rebecca Stead! Drongo, Jeff, and I enjoyed this fine novel. You will, too!


From the moment when Roy Dillon gets smacked in the stomach with a baseball bat, you know Things Are Not Going To Go Well in this noir classic.  Dillon finds himself involved with his mistress, Moira, who tries to convince him to drop the small grifting and attempt a Big Con with her.  Meanwhile Dillon’s mother, Lily (who works for the Mob), has her own plans for her wayward son.  Jim Thompson is best known for The Killer Inside Me and A Swell-Looking Babe. But The Grifters offers insight into criminal minds that you won’t find in other noir fiction.  Jim Thompson is a master of capturing the life of small-time criminals and this book is one of his best.  The movie is pretty good, too.