Author Archives: george

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: NOTES OF A CHRONIC RE-READER By Vivian Gornick


I confess: I’m not a big re-reader. In fact, I might reread only a couple of books per year. I do know a couple of prodigious re-readers: Art Scott and Steve Stilwell have reread the entire Nero Wolfe series over 50 times!

Vivian Gornick calls herself a chronic re-reader in this slim volume (161 pages) that mimics a memoir. I’m surprised at the books Gornick feels compelled to reread. Here’s a sample of what Gornick rereads:
Chapter One: D. H. Lawrence especially Sons and Lovers
Chapter Two: Collette especially The Vagabond and The Shackle
Chapter Three: Marguerite Duras especially The Lover
Chapter Four: Elizabeth Bowen especially The Death of the Heart, The Home in Paris and The Heat of the Day
Chapter Five: Delmore Schwartz especially The World is a Wedding and the short stories of A. B. Yehoshua
Chapter Six: Natalia Ginzburg especially Voices in the Evening and Family Sayings
Chapter Seven: J. I. Carr’s A Month in the Country and Pat Barker’s Regeneration
Chapter Eight: Doris Lessing’s Particularly Cats
Chapter Nine: Thomas Hardy especially Jude the Obscure

Interspersed with Gornick’s feelings about these books are details of Gornick’s life: her marriages, her divorces, her jobs, her travels, her cats. Gornick makes her case for re-reading, but it fell on deaf ears in this house. Are you a re-reader? What do you re-read? GRADE: B

THE GREAT CONCERT OF THE NIGHT By Jonathan Buckley


The Great Concert of the Night blends memory and obsession into an odd novel. The narrator, after watching Le Grand Concert de la Nuit, a film in which his former lover – Imogen – plays a major role, begins to write about Imogen. For the next year, the narrator writes something every day about his lost love. The narrator’s journal becomes both a remembrence and an investigation of the character of the mysterious Imogen and her other relationships: with the narrator, with her family, with friends, and with her other lovers. Imogen emerges as a difficult and cryptic subject.

The Great Concert of the Night blends incidents from the writer’s memory and the present day, mixes scenes from Imogen’s films with aspects of Life. Sadly, Jonathan Buckley lost me when he introduced the visions of female saints, the history of medicine, and the festivals of ancient Rome into the already muddled narrative. The obsession with Imogen leads to a meditation on Life, but confusion and doubt prevail. I had to struggle to finish this book. How often do you think about the Past? GRADE: C

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #582: ARE SNAKES NECESSARY? By Brian De Palma & Susan Lehman


Academy Award winning director Brian De Palma, with the assistance of Susan Lehman, delivers a high-octane political thriller just in time for Super Tuesday. Philandering Senator Lee Rogers opens the door to seduction and political peril when he accepts the offer of a beautiful young videographer to join his campaign. The Senator’s wife suffers from Parkinson’s disease and her medical problems allow Rogers to roam from one sexual experience to another. But Fate has the Senator in its cross-hairs as a shocking incident occurs atop the Eiffel Tower. Fans of De Palma’s movies know what to expect: suspense, thrills, and a surprising conclusion! Don’t miss this Hard Case Crime original! Do you have a favorite Brian De Palma movie? GRADE: B+

FORGOTTEN MUSIC #96: LIVING IN OBLIVION: THE 80s GREATEST HITS (5-CD SET)


This 5-CD set dates from 1994. For starters, I found many of the songs on these collections obscure. For every “She Blinded Me With Science” there’s a “Shiny Shiny.” Plenty of oddities! And even for “name” artists like Debbie Harry, the songs chosen are…strange. I found these CDs at a Salvation Army Thrift store priced at 49 cents each. Given the blend of hits vs. “obscure” songs (aka, misses) I’d say these CDs were priced about right. Do you remember some of these songs? Any favorites here? GRADE: B
Track Listing Volume 1
1. Too Shy – Kajagoogoo
2. Always Something There to Remind Me – Naked Eyes
3. Talk Talk – Talk Talk (Remix, remix)
4. Kids in America – Kim Wilde
5. Turning Japanese – The Vapors
6. Politics of Dancing, The – Re-Flex
7. 19 – Paul Hardcastle
8. Homicide – 999
9. Romanticide – Combo Audio
10. Guilty – Classix Nouveaux
11. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself) – The Stranglers
12. 2-4-6-8 Motorway – Tom Robinson Band
13. C30, C60, C90, Go! – Bow Wow Wow
14. (She’s) Sexy + 17 – Stray Cats
15. She Blinded Me with Science – Thomas Dolby
16. Chant No. 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On) – Spandau Ballet
17. I Eat Cannibals, Pt. 1 – Toto Coelo
18. Shiny Shiny – Haysi Fantayzee
Track Listing Volume 2
1. Mickey – Toni Basil
2. Get It on (Bang a Gong) – The Power Station
3. Lay Your Hands on Me – Thompson Twins
4. Let Me Go – Heaven 17
5. Love Plus One – Haircut 100
6. Heart and Soul – T’Pau
7. Just Got Lucky – JoBoxers
8. It Ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It) – Fun Boy Three & Bananarama
9. Jam Was Moving, The – Debbie Harry
10. Love Missile F1-11 – Sigue Sigue Sputnik
11. 88 Lines About 44 Women – The Nails
12. Only the Lonely – The Motels
13. Living in a Box – Living in a Box
14. Walking on Sunshine – Katrina & the Waves
15. Running up That Hill – Kate Bush
16. Church of the Poison Mind – Culture Club
17. Destination Unknown – Missing Persons
18. Never Ending Story – Limahl
19. Mickey – Toni Basil (Spanish version)
Track Listing Volume 3
1. (Keep Feeling) Fascination – Human League
2. Perfect Way – Scritti Politti
3. Cruel Summer – Bananarama
4. Life in a Northern Town – The Dream Academy
5. Election Day – Arcadia
6. Shattered Dreams – Johnny Hates Jazz
7. Sunglasses at Night – Corey Hart
8. Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades, The – Timbuk 3
9. Make a Circuit With Me – The Polecats
10. Rock This Town – Stray Cats
11. Sidewalk Talk – Jellybean
12. It’s My Life – Talk Talk
13. (I Just) Died in Your Arms – Cutting Crew
14. Hanging on a Heart Attack – Device
15. Poison Arrow – ABC
16. Aeiou Sometimes Y – Ebn Ozn
17. Are You Sure – So
18. Way You Are, The – Tears for Fears (previously unreleased)
19. What Do All the People Know – The Monroes
Track Listing Volume 4
1. Dance Hall Days – Wang Chung
2. One Thing Leads to Another – The Fixx
3. True – Spandau Ballet
4. Come on Eileen – Dexys Midnight Runners
5. Digging Your Scene – The Blow Monkeys
6. Sister of Mercy – Thompson Twins
7. Under the Milky Way – The Church
8. Lean on Me – Red Box
9. Since Yesterday – Strawberry Switchblade
10. You Don’t Know – Scarlett & Black
11. Some People – Belouis Some
12. Shock – The Motels (Single Remix)
13. Belly of the Whale – Burning Sensations
14. Tenderness – General Public
15. Get Out of London – Intaferon
16. Go! – Tones on Tail
17. Slang Teacher – Wide Boy Awake
18. Lawnchairs – Our Daughters Wedding
19. Mexican Radio – Wall of Voodoo
Track Listing Volume 5
1. Major Tom (Coming Home) – Peter Schilling
2. Hyperactive – Thomas Dolby
3. Promises, Promises – Naked Eyes
4. Promise, The – When in Rome
5. Vienna – Ultravox
6. Enola Gay – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
7. King in a Catholic Style (Wake up) – China Crisis
8. Steady – Jules Shear
9. Our Lips Are Sealed – Fun Boy Three
10. Pleasure and Pain – The Divinyls
11. Birds Fly, (Whisper to Scream) – Icicle Works
12. Honeythief, The – Hipsway
13. Souvenir – Rubber Rodeo
14. I Wanna Be a Cowboy – Boys Don’t Cry
15. Captain of Her Heart, The – Double
16. When Your Heart Is Weak – Cock Robin
17. Love Changes (Everything) – Climie Fisher
18. More Than Physical – Bananarama (single remix)
19. Vanity Kills – ABC (USA single remix)
20. We Close Our Eyes – Go West .

THE SECOND SLEEP By Robert Harris


I’ve read and enjoyed several novels by Robert Harris. I liked The Ghost about a ghost writer and some shenanigans (you can read my review here). ¬†I’m a fan of Harris’s novels about Cicero–Imperium and¬†CONSPIRATA– (you can read my reviews here and here).

But I was not pleased with Robert Harris’s new novel, The Second Sleep. A young English priest named Christopher Fairfax is send by his Bishop to the small village of Addicott St. George to perform burial ceremonies for the village priest, Father Lacy, who recently died. This simple mission becomes complicated as young Fairfax discovers the old priest had a collection of banned books hidden away. Burying a suspected heretic in the church cemetery becomes problematic in these medieval times. And, as Fairfax investigates the old priest’s death–termed an accident–suspicions form that foul play may have been involved. So far so good.

But The Second Sleep goes off the rails as Fairfax enters a relationship with the local Lady Dunston who is engaged to Captain Hancock. Captain Hancock’s obsession–like that of another Captain…Ahab–leads to destruction. There’s a mystery in The Second Sleep but it’s not enough to save the novel. Downbeat and depressing. GRADE: C

EMMA [BBC 2-DVD Set]


No, this is not the new Emma (2020) directed by Autumn de Wilde and starring Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma and Bill Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse. This 2009 version was broadcast on PBS’s Masterpiece Theater but somehow we missed it. In the lukewarm review of the new Emma, the Wall Street Journal raved about this wonderful version so of course I had to pick up a copy and watch it.

The BBC Emma the episodes were written by Sandy Welch, writer of previous BBC series Jane Eyre and North & South, and directed by Jim O’Hanlon. This version of Emma stars Romola Garai as the spoiled Emma Woodhouse, Jonny Lee Miller as Emma’s loyal, lifelong friend Mr. Knightley, and Michael Gambon as Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse. I enjoyed the talented cast and the detail from Jane Austen’s 1815 novel. Yes, Emma is a brash, pampered socialite, but she learns some hard lessons by the end of this series.

Are you a Jane Austen fan? Do you like Emma? GRADE: A

RAGE BAKING: THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF FLOUR, FURY, AND WOMEN’S VOICES By Kathy Gunst & Katherine Alford


Kathy Gunst first got the idea of RAGE BAKING, a collection of Recipes and conversations for our time, while watching the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. As Kathy Gunst grew madder and madder at the hypocrisy of the hearings, she decided to channel her rage into baking. Several of her friends agreed to join her in this project and Rage Baking is the result. There are essays about women interspaced with the delicious recipes. My favorite is Chocolate Raspberry Triple-Layer Cake (p. 101).

If you’re looking for an excellent cookbook, Rage Baking fits the bill. The bonus is the thoughtful essays on our current state of affairs. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Foreword by Stephanie Schriock xi
Introduction by Kathy Gunst xiii
Raging Ingredients xix
A Greener Kitchen xxv
Sugar and Spec and Done Being Nice: Cookies, Bars, and Bites 1
Whisk, Fold, Knead, Rise Up Breads 39
Bake Down the Patriarchy: Cakes 73
Comfort with a Helping of Righteous Rage: Puddings and Custards 117
No More Humble Pie: Crumbles, Pies, and Tarts 131
Mail-Order Rage 163
Acknowledgements 165
Authors’ Note 167
Contributors 168
Credits 173
Index 174

WITH CHILD: LEE CHILD AND THE READERS OF JACK REACHER By Andy Martin


Last year I read Andy Martin’s Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of MAKE ME (2015) where Martin played Boswell to Lee Child’s Samuel Johnson (you can read my review here). If you’re interested in the writing process, you’ll find plenty of details about Lee Child’s method of writing novels in this book.

In With Child (2019) Andy Martin follows Lee Child around on a book tour and then chronicles the writing of Night School (2016). As a bonus, we get Lee Child’s reaction to the Jack Reacher movie, Never Go Back (2016). Needless to say, Child is not happy with Tom Cruise’s “interpretation” of Jack Reacher…but he did take the money. Yes, With Child is a step up from fan writing, but I found the chemistry between Martin and Child delightful! Are you a Jack Reacher fan? GRADE: B+

NEW HP OFFICEJET PRO 8025 ALL-IN-ONE PRINTER


My HP OFFICEJET 6978 printer died so I replaced it with a new HP OFFICEJET PRO ALL-IN-ONE printer that was on sale for $99 (list price $169.99). The HP instructions said EASY, FAST INSTALLATION! FALSE! The printer installation was neither easy or fast. I followed the instructions to go to the HP installation web site. I downloaded the software. I ran the software. Then I tried to print. Nothing happened.

I repeated the steps. Reinstalled the software. Still nothing. With frustration mounting, I went to the HP Tech Support web site and started an online CHAT with Manish Kumar, a tech support representative. It took about a half an hour, but Manish Kumar finally got my new printer to print. The problem was caused by conflicted software issues.

Once upon a time, you could just plug a printer into your computer, plug the printer into a power source, run the installation software and the printer would print. Now, in this Wi-Fi, wireless printing world we’ve slid backwards. More complications, more issues, less reliability. How are you and your printer getting along?

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #581: DOUBLE FEATURE By Donald E. Westlake


Donald E. Westlake’s Double Feature first appeared in 1977 under the title Enough. In Charles Ardai’s Introduction, the title change is explained which makes sense to me. Double Feature consists of two novellas. The first–the longer one–is called “A Travesty” and features a clever (perhaps too clever) movie critic, Carey Thorpe, who “accidentally” kills his girl friend, Laura Penny. Thorpe thinks he can escape Justice, but then he finds out Laura Penny was being followed by a private detective, John Edgarson. In his surveillance, Edgarson records Thorpe’s presence at Laura Penny’s place…and finds a damning clue. Edgarson blackmails Thorpe. But, things get more complicated. The police detectives investigating the murder, Staples and Bray, include Thorpe in some other murder investigations and we discover Thorpe is a gifted sleuth (maybe because of all those crime movies he watches). I particularly liked the Lock Room murder mystery. Donald Westlake takes us on a wacky ride through a tangled web of lies and deception. Marvelous!

The second novella, “Ordo,” is much more serious fare. Ordo is a sailor in the U.S. Navy who discovers one of the hottest female stars in Hollywood, Dawn Devayne, was once his wife. Estelle Anlic, after divorcing Ordo after a brief marriage, goes on to transform herself into another persona. Ordo’s quest to find the Estelle he once loved leads him to dark places. These two novellas show the versatility of Westlake’s talent to write comedy…and tragedy. Highly recommended! Are you a Westlake fan? Do you have a favorite Westlake novel? GRADE: A