Author Archives: george

SEE WHAT CAN BE DONE: ESSAYS, CRITICISM, AND COMMENTARY By Lorrie Moore


Lorrie Moore is best known for her short story collections (1985 – Self-Help; ISBN 0-446-67192-4, 1990 – Like Life; ISBN 0-375-71916-4, 1998 – Birds of America; ISBN 0-312-24122-4, and 2008 – The Collected Stories; ISBN 978-0-571-23934-4. 2014 – Bark; ISBN 0-307-59413-0). Lorrie Moore also wrote dozens of book reviews, essays, and articles over the past 30 years. See What Can Be Done collects much of this material and as you might expect there are some hits here–and some clunkers. My favorite essay was “Steven Stills” from 2017. I’ve been a Steven Stills fan since the Sixties, but Lorrie Moore told me a lot about the performer and song-writer that I didn’t know. Naturally, Moore’s reviews of short story collections–“V. S. Pritchett’s A Careless Widow,” “Ann Beattie’s New and Selected Stories,” “John Updike’s The Early Stories–provide key insights into the art of short story writing. I enjoyed Moore’s essay on The Wire. Many of Lorrie Moore’s notions of artistic creation show up in her essay “On Writing.” If you’re in the mood for some intelligent, insightful writing then give See What Can Be Done a try. GRADE: B+
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Publication Acknowledgments p. xi
Introduction p. xv
Nora Ephron’s Heartburn (1983) p. 3
Kurt Vonnegut’s Galápagos (1985) p. 6
Malcolm Bradbury’s Cuts (1987) p. 9
Anaïs Nin, Marilyn Monroe (1987) p. 13
John Cheever (1988) p. 18
Bobbie Ann Mason’s Love Life (1989) p. 24
V. S. Pritchett’s A Careless Widow (1989) p. 29
Stanley Elkin’s The MacGuffin (1991) p. 33
Don DeLillo’s Mao II (1991) p. 37
Election Day 1992: Voters in Wonderland (1992) p. 41
Charles Baxter’s Shadow Play (1993) p. 44
Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride (1993) p. 48
On Writing (1994) p. 54
Amos Oz (1996) p. 63
Christmas for Everyone (1997) p. 67
Starr-Clinton-Lewinsky (1998) p. 69
Ann Beattie’s New and Selected Stories (1998) p. 71
JonBenét Ramsey by Lawrence Schiller (1999) p. 77
Joyce Carol Oates’s Broke Heart Blues (1999) p. 82
Dawn Powell (1999) p. 89
Best Love Song of the Millennium (1999) p. 95
Titanic (2000) p. 98
Claudia Roth Pierpont’s Passionate Minds (2000) p. 102
Philip Roth’s The Human Stain (2000) p. 112
Matthew Klam’s Sam the Cat (2000) p. 118
Legal Aide: My First Job (2001) p. 126
Frederic Cassidy (2001) p. 129
Alice Munro’s Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2002) p. 132
Edna St. Vincent Millay (2002) p. 139
Darryl Pinckney and Caryl Phillips (2002) p. 152
Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003) p. 161
John Updike’s The Early Stories (2003) p. 167
Nicholson Baker’s Checkpoint (2004) p. 179
Alice Munro’s Runaway (2004) p. 184
Joan Silber (2005) p. 190
Eudora Welty (2006) p. 199
Alice Munro’s The Moons of Jupiter (2006) p. 212
Shakespeare: The Modern Elizabethan (2006) p. 216
One Hot Summer, or a Brief History of Time (2006) p. 221
Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (2007) p. 228
Peter Cameron (2007) p. 234
Donald Barthelme (2009) p. 243
Clarice Lispector (2009) p. 252
Barack Obama (2009) p. 260
The Wire (2010) p. 262
Memoirs (2011) p. 273
Friday Night Lights (2011) p. 282
9/11/11 (291)
GOP Primary Debate (2011) p. 294
Werner Herzog’s Into the Abyss (2011) p. 297
Suzzy Roche’s Wayward Saints (2012) p. 301
Lena Dunham (2012) p. 305
Wisconsin Recall (2012) p. 309
Richard Ford’s Canada (2012) p. 314
Ethan Canin’s “The Palace Thief” (2012) p. 320
Homeland (2013) p. 322
Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake (2013) p. 329
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013) p. 335
Bernard Malamud (2014) p. 341
Miranda July (2014) p. 343
True Detective (2015) p. 350
Making a Murderer (2016) p. 361
Helen Gurley Brown (2016) p. 370
Ezra Edelman’s O.J.: Made in America (2016) p. 380
Thoughts on Hillary Clinton, December 2016 (2017) p. 393
Stephen Stills (2017) p. 398
Acknowledgments p. 409

THE INCREDIBLES 2


It’s been 14 years since The Incredibles burst on the scene. Why it took Pixar so long to come up with a sequel to the original hit movie is a bit of a mystery. Holly Hunter is back as the voice of Elastigirl, Craig T. Nelson voices Mr. Incredible, Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner) are back with their baby brother, Jack-Jack. In 14 years, the technology has advanced so The Incredibles 2 looks fabulous. My quibble is that the storyline borders on predictability. All the cool special effects and family angst doesn’t make up for that weakness. In Bill Crider’s famous words, The Incredibles 2 is good, but not great. GRADE: B+

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #480: THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES: 1953 Edited by Everett F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty


The 1953 anthology of The Year’s Best Science Fiction Stories demonstrates the increasing diversity of science fiction from that era. Zenna Henderson makes her first appearance with “Ararat.” John Jakes, who would later find fame writing the historical Kent Family Chronicles, explores the drama of “Machine.” John D. MacDonald, who would be best remembered for the Travis McGee series, plays a “Game for Blondes.” Of course, veteran SF writers like Murray Leinster, Erie Frank Russell, Fritz Leiber, and Alfred Bester are represented. But Brits like John Wyndham and William F. Temple make their presence known with strong stories. I continue to be impressed by these Bleiler & Dikty anthologies. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Trematode, a Critique of Modern Science-Fiction, by Alfred Bester
“The Fly”, by Arthur Porges
“Ararat”, by Zenna Henderson
“Counter-Transference”, by William F. Temple
“The Conqueror”, by Mark Clifton
“Machine”, by John W. Jakes
“The Middle of the Week After Next”, by Murray Leinster
“The Dreamer”, by Alfred Coppel
“The Moon Is Green”, by Fritz Leiber
“I Am Nothing”, by Eric Frank Russell
“Command Performance”, by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
“Survival”, by John Wyndham
“Game for Blondes”, by John D. MacDonald
“The Girls from Earth”, by Frank M. Robinson
“Lover, When You’re Near Me”, by Richard Matheson
“Fast Falls the Eventide”, by Eric Frank Russell
About the Authors

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME


The play version of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is based on the best selling novel with the same title by Mark Haddon. The story concerns an autistic 15-year-old named Christopher John Francis Boone. Christopher appears to be a mathematical genius, but he struggles with dealing with people. Christopher hates to be touched. He hates metaphors (which confuse him). Christopher loves Sherlock Holmes and when a dog is killed in his neighborhood, Christopher decides to investigate and solve “the murder.” Christopher’s parents are stressed by their son’s autism. Director Marianne Elliot creates an innovative set which allows the audience to experience second-hand what autism is like. Within these demanding conditions Luke Treadaway, playing Christopher, projects confusion with frustration as he tries to solve the mysteries of his Life. This National Theatre production was broadcast at our local Regal Theater as part of their Fathom Events series. Excellent! GRADE: A

VIZIO 29” 2.0 Sound Bar | SB2920-D6


About a month ago, I purchased a Samsung TV for our computer room. I like to have MORNING JOE or CNBC on in the background while I’m working on the computer. But, as we all know, the sound of flat screen TVs is tinny and weak. The Wall Street Journal recently featured an article on sound bars. They loved the Polk Command Bar ($300) and the new SONOS Beam ($400). But I was attracted to their review of the VIZIO 29″ 2.0 SOUND BAR. It lists for $99 but you can order it from AMAZON for $75. It’s perfect for a TV you occasional use. You’ll want better sound for your main 4K HDTV, perhaps a surround sound system. But, for TV in a guest room or computer room, the VIZIO 2.0 SOUND BAR improves the sound at a bargain price! You can read the Wall Street Journal article here. GRADE: B+

LEGION, SEASON TWO FINALE (FX)



This second season of Legion upped the ante with surrealism and Time Travel. Dan Stevens plays David Haller, a powerful mutant who has been treated as a schizophenic since childhood. He had also been infected by an alien presence who calls itself Amahl Farouk or Shadow King. David managed to oust Shadow King at the end of Season One, but now Shadow King is searching for his body which will restore his full, terrible powers.

I like the women in Legion. Jean Smart plays a telepath. Rachel Keller plays Sydney ‘Syd’ Barrett, David’s girlfriend in the present and the Future. Aubrey Plaza plays the psychopathic Lenny Busker. There’s also a guy with a basket on his head protected by female cyborgs with mustaches. Yeah, go figure.

If you’re looking for something far, far from ordinary, you might give Legion a try. It’s brilliant, confusing, and frequently baffling. But fun! Legion has been renewed for a Third Season. GRADE: B+

SHARP: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion By Michelle Dean


Michelle Dean Dedicates Sharp “For every person who’s ever been told, ‘You’re too smart for your own good'” Dean’s chapters about Dorothy Parker, Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Renata Adler, and Janet Malcolm present women who challenged the System and advanced the cause of women’s rights. Some, like Dorothy Parker, achieved her successes by using sardonic humor and wit. Yet, bad personal choices left her destitute. Hannah Arendt, who coined the term “the banality of evil” in her writings about the Eichmann trial, conducted a long affair with German philosopher Martin Heidegger (who was active in the Nazi Party). Rebecca West had a stormy relationship with H. G. Wells. As you can see from these examples of Michelle Dean’s focus, opinions don’t factor as highly as personal problems. I learned Dorothy Parker’s first husband was an alcoholic who introduced her to gin. Later, he fought in World War I and picked up a morphine addiction, too. Parker’s second husband might have been gay, according to Dean. Edmund Wilson, while drunk, punched Mary McCarty when she was two-and-a-half months pregnant. Susan Sontag had Stage 4 breast cancer. Michelle Dean provides plenty of information on personal relationships, literary feuds, and affairs. So Sharp is a bit of a mixed bag. I enjoyed learning about these women’s lives, but their opinions take second place to other factors. GRADE: B
Table of Contents
Preface ix
Chapter 1 Parker 1
Chapter 2 West 31
Chapter 3 West & Hurston 59
Chapter 4 Arendt 65
Chapter 5 McCarthy 92
Chapter 6 Parker & Arendt 122
Chapter 7 Arendt & McCarthy 132
Chapter 8 Sontag 146
Chapter 9 Kael 175
Chapter 10 Didion 203
Chapter 11 Ephron 229
Chapter 12 Arendt & McCarthy & Hellman 253
Chapter 13 Adler 260
Chapter 14 Malcolm 284
Afterword 309
Note on Sources 313
Bibliography 315
Notes 317
Index 349

OCEAN’S 8


Sandra Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, Danny Ocean’s sister. Debbie decides to rob the Met Gala to get the famous Cartier diamond necklace called the Jeanne Toussaint necklace (worth $150 million). Debbie recruits her old partner in crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett), jewelry maker Amita (Mindy Kaling), a fence Tammy (Sarah Paulson), a pick-pocket Constance (Awkwafina), a computer hacker Leslie (Rihanna), and a fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter). Beating the best security system in the world is child’s play according to Gary Ross and Olivia Milch’s screenplay (Gary Ross of The Hunger Games also directed this movie). This is my major quibble with Ocean’s 8. It’s too easy.

In classic capers (both novels and movies) we see the team prepare for the crime, we see them commit the heist, but then…something goes wrong! The team has to improvise to overcome the unexpected problems. In Ocean’s 8 nothing goes wrong. There’s also the question of how Sandra Bullock and her crew will sell hundreds of millions of dollars in diamonds in a market controlled by the Diamond Cartel. I thought Ocean’s 8 had an excellent cast, but a flawed script. GRADE: B