THE WOODY ALLEN COLLECTION [DVD]


While organizing my books, CDs, and DVDs, I stumbled over The Woody Allen Collection. It was in a box of other stuff, unopened. I obviously bought it years ago and forgot all about it. Immediately I was seized by the impulse to binge on these movies. Here’s what I watched:
A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982)
Zelig (1983)
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Radio Days (1987)

I hadn’t seen these films since I first saw them back in the 1980s. These were Woody’s Mia Farrow years. He gave Mia a wide range of roles from the tough-as-nails Tina in Broadway Danny Rose to the sweet and innocent Cecilia in The Purple Rose of Cairo to ditzy Sally White in Radio Days where she gets to sing (so does Diane Keaton). Do you have a favorite among these films? GRADE: B+

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #423: BLACK MAN’S BURDEN By Mack Reynolds




In 1972, I read Mack Reynold’s Black Man’s Burden/Border, Breed Nor Birth, a cool looking ACE Double. I discovered the stories were reprinted from ANALOG and written a decade earlier. Yes, there are some politically incorrect aspects to these stories of a group of African-Americans who decide to unite North African countries by creating a mythical leader, El Hassan, to bring progress to suffering people. In the Introduction to “Black Sheep Astray” Mack Reynolds writes that John Campbell, editor of ANALOG , suggested elements of the series.

Later, I learned there was another book in the North Africa Series, The Best Ye Breed, where the Soviets, Japanese and Americans decide El Hassan must be assassinated because he and his group controls too many vital natural resources. Mack Reynolds may have come up with this idea because of the OPEC oil crisis at the time. Nation-building isn’t a common Science Fiction theme, but Mack Reynolds–a SF writer who wrote about politics and economics–delivers a thought-provoking series. GRADE: B+

North Africa Series:
1. Blackman’s Burden (1972) also appeared as:
Variant Title: Black Man’s Burden (2010)
Serializations:
Black Man’s Burden (Part 1 of 2) ANALOG (1961)
Black Man’s Burden (Part 2 of 2) ANALOG (1962)
2. Border, Breed Nor Birth (1972) also appeared as:
Serializations:
Border, Breed Nor Birth (Part 1 of 2) ANALOG (1962)
Border, Breed Nor Birth (Part 2 of 2) ANALOG (1962)
3 The Best Ye Breed (1978)
Blackman’s Burden / Border, Breed nor Birth ACE DOUBLE (1972)
“The Cold War … Continued” NOVA 3 (1973)
“Black Sheep Astray” Astounding: John W. Campbell Memorial Anthology (1973)

PORTRAIT OF A NOVEL By Michael Gorra


Henry James was 38 when he published Portrait of a Lady in 1881. Although James would continue to write and publish for decades, Portrait of a Lady was his most lucrative book and his most popular novel. Michael Gorra’s insightful Portrait of a Novel takes the reader step-by-step through the process of Henry James writing his great novel. Along the way, Gorra shows how George Eliot influenced Portrait of a Lady. Gorra also compares the original 1881 version of Portrait of a Lady with James’s revised New York Edition version published in 1906. I found myself delighted by Gorra’s analysis of Henry James’s death scene of Mr. Touchett: no prayers, no clergy, no crying–so unlike typical sentimental Victorian literature death scenes. The Spectator book review scathingly reported Portrait of a Lady was marked by the “cloven foot” of agnosticism.

Gorra also makes connections between other Henry James works: “Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors, and The Golden Bowl all turned on the question of sex outside of marriage.” (p. 157) If you’re in the mood for a well-written story of how a classic novel came to be written, I highly recommend Portrait of a Novel. If you’re a fan of Henry James, this is a must-read!
GRADE: A

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Prologue: An Old Man in Rye, p. xiii
Part One : A PREPARATION FOR CULTURE
1.: The Girl in the Doorway, p. 3
2.: A Native of No Country, p. 12
3.: A Superstitious Valuation, p. 31
4.: Along the Thames, p. 45
Part Two : THE MARRIAGE PLOT
5.: Her Empty Chair, p. 57
6.: Proposals, p. 68
7.: An Unmarried Man, p. 77
8.: A London Life, p. 95
9.: The Envelope of Circumstances, p. 105
Part Three : ITALIAN JOURNEYS
10.: Bellosguardo Hours, p. 121
11.: Mr. Osmond, p. 133
12.: Stranieri, p. 141
13.: An Uncertain Terrain, p. 155
14.: A Venetian Interlude, p. 165
15.: Fenimore, p. 174
Part Four : SEX AND SERIALS, THE CONTINENT AND THE CRITICS
16.: Maupassant and the Monkey, p. 191
17.: The Magazines, p. 208
18.: The Roccanera, p. 222
19.: The Art of Fiction, p. 239
pt. Five : PUTTING OUT THE LIGHTS
20.: The Altar of the Dead, p. 257
21.: “I Was Perfectly Free”, p. 268
22.: Working in the Dark, p. 280
23.: The Second Chance, p. 293
24.: Endgame, p. 309
Acknowledgments, p. 335
Sources and Notes, p. 337
Index, p. 365

ALL SYSTEMS RED By Martha Wells


Martha Wells’s new TOR novel, All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries, features the narration of a “security” cyborg (aka, “murderbot”). The nameless cyborg was hired to protect a small group of scientists and researchers who are surveying a planet. From the beginning, things go wrong. Equipment fails. Disaster strikes. Confusion reigns. I was on the edge of my seat as the tension in All Systems Red built. Martha Wells, who has written the outstanding Raksura series, displays her plotting and characterization skills in this slim book. Hopefully, this is the start of a new series. GRADE: A-

GOUNDHOG DAY: SPECIAL 15TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION [Blu-ray]


Groundhog Day is now a hit Broadway musical. But, it all started with this quirky 1993 movie about a selfish, narcissistic Pittsburgh weatherman who finds himself in a time-warp where he has to repeat living Groundhog Day over and over and over again. Along the way, lessons are learned. Bill Murray is ideal as the tortured weatherman. Andie MacDowell scintillates as Murray’s producer and love-interest. Special features include an audio commentary and interview with Director Harold Ramis (who has a cameo as a doctor in the film), a “Weight of Time” documentary, and Deleted Scenes. What’s your favorite Bill Murray movie? GRADE: A

SONTAG: LATER ESSAYS


Susan Sontag burst on the American literary scene with her controversial collection of essays, Against Interpretation (966). Since then, Sontag has been a bit of a cult figure. Her pronouncements about literature and culture carried enormous weight. This new Library of America volume (865 pages!) collects Sontag’s essays from 1980 to the 21st Century. Along the way, Sontag comments on artists, books, movies, novelists, philosophers, and social movements. AIDS and Its Metaphors (1989) might be her best known book from this phase of her writing career. Sontag’s opinions and analysis still have the power to generate conversations and arguments. I don’t always agree with Susan Sontag, but I’m almost always moved by her insights. GRADE: B+
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Under the Sign of Saturn (1980)
On Paul Goodman
Approaching Artaud
Fascinating Fascism
Under the Sign of Saturn
Syberberg’s Hitler
Remembering Barthes
Mind as Passion
AIDS and Its Metaphors (1989)
Where the Stress Falls (2001)
Reading
A Poet’s Prose
Where the Stress Falls
Afterlives: The Case of Machado de Assis
A Mind in Mourning
The Wisdom Project
Writing Itself: On Roland Barthes
Walser’s Voice
Danilo Kiš
Gombrowicz’s Ferdydurke
Pedro Páramo
DQ
A Letter to Borges
Seeing
A Century of Cinema
Novel into Film: Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz
A Note on Bunraku
A Place for Fantasy
The Pleasure of the Image
About Hodgkin
A Lexicon for Available Light
In Memory of Their Feelings
Dancer and the Dance
Lincoln Kirstein
Wagner’s Fluids
An Ecstasy of Lament
One Hundred Years of Italian Photography
On Bellocq
Borland’s Babies
Certain Mapplethorpes
A Photograph Is Not an Opinion. Or Is It?
There and Here
Homage to Halliburton
Singleness
Writing As Reading
Thirty Years Later
Questions of Travel
The Idea of Europe (One More Elegy)
The Very Comical Lament of Pyramus and Thisbe (An Interlude)
Answers to a Questionnaire
Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo
“There” and “Here”
Joseph Brodsky
On Being Translated
Regarding the Pain of Others (2003)
At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches (2007)
Preface by Paolo Dilonardo and Anne Jump
Foreword by David Rieff
An Argument About Beauty
1926 . . . Pasternak, Tsvetayeva, Rilke
Loving Dostoyevsky
A Double Destiny: On Anna Banti’s Artemisia
Unextinguished: The Case for Victor Serge
Outlandish: On Halldór Laxness’s Under the Glacier
9.11.01
A Few Weeks After
One Year After
Photography: A Little Summa
Regarding the Torture of Other
The Conscience of Words
The World as India
On Courage and Resistance
Literature Is Freedom
At the Same Time: The Novelist and Moral Reasoning

SHEILA G’s THINDULGENT DARK CHOCOLATE BARK


As a diabetic, I’m always on the lookout for tasty, low-carb snakes. While I was wandering the aisles at Sam’s Club, I found Sheila G’s Thindulgent Dark Chocolate Bark. Crunchy almonds, cranberries, and puffed quinoa covered in rich dark chocolate topped with pumpkin sees and a dash of sea salt! Only 17 carbs per 40 gram serving. Yummy!

Sheila G also offers other Thindulgent snacks: Milk Chocolate Smores, Milk Chocolate caramel Pretzel, Milk Chocolate Cashew Toffee, and Dark Chocolate Almond Sea Salt. What’s your favorite snack?

Here’s the nutritional information on the Dark Chocolate Bark:

Nutrition
Serving Size: 1.4 oz(s) – 40 g

Calories 230

Calories from Fat 140

Total Fat 15g

Saturated Fat 7.5g

Trans Fat 0g

Cholesterol 0mg

Sodium 100mg

Total Carbohydrate 20g

Dietary Fiber 3g

Added Sugars 14g

Protein 3g

Vitamin A 0IU

Vitamin C 0mg

Calcium 20mg

Iron 2.88mg

Vitamin D 0IU

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2 [3-D]


Baby Groot steals every scene he’s in. Guardians of the Galaxy takes a step back to fill in the story of Chris Pratt’s character, Peter Quill (aka, “Star Lord”). The origin story is impressive, but it weighs down the froth we expect in a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. There’s also some romance, some resolution of a sisterly feud, and a lot of emotional “family” moments. What isn’t here is a lot of the fun of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Elaborate action scenes save Guardians of the Galaxy 2. But James Gunn, the Director and Scriptwriter, jams even more characters onto an already crowded movie screen. The credits announce another Guardians of the Galaxy movie planned for 2020. Let’s hope there’s more fun and less drama in that one. GRADE: B

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #422: BEST DETECTIVE STORIES OF THE YEAR: 1945 Edited By David C. Cooke


Back in 1946, E. P. Dutton published Best Detective Stories of the Year, the first in a long series of “Year’s Best” anthologies. David C. Cooke in his Introduction says he read 1800 short stories to come up with these 15 stories. Cooke also addressed the attack on detective fiction by “eminent critic” Edmund Wilson who dismissed the genre as “dull,” “ill-written,” and “boring.” Wilson also concluded that paper should not be wasted on publishing “this rubbish.” Cooke’s spirited defense of detective stories in the Post-World War II years reminds us how low pulp fiction and popular magazine stories were regarded by the Cultural Establishment. Best Detective Stories of the Year is a time capsule of stories that shows what was considered “The Best” over 70 years ago. I liked Bruno Fischer’s “The Man Who Lost His Head,” Day Keene’s “The Case of the Sobbing Girl,” and “Norman A. Daniels’s “Slightly Perfect.” Yes, some of these stories are dated. But this anthology gives you a good view of the state of detective fiction in 1945. Recommended. GRADE: B+
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
David C. Cooke–Introduction 9
G. T. Fleming-Roberts–Married to Murder (In Argosy) 17
Royce Howes–Slick Trick (In The Saturday Evening Post) 54
Robert C. Dennis–Don’t Comp Back Alive! (In Detective Tales) 68
Q. Patrick–White Carnations (In Collier’s) 78
Walter C. Brown–Prelude to Murder (In Blue Book) 96
Bruno Fischer–The Man Who Lost His Head (In Doc Savage) 118
Margaret Manners–Body in the Barn (In Argosy 138
A. Boyd Correll–Press Agent for Murder (In Detective Story Magazine) 174
Day Keene–The Case of the Sobbing Girl (In Detective Tales 174
Marie Beynon Ray–Just a Minute, Dr. Marlowe (In Cosmopolitan) 203
Julius Long–Carnie Kill (In Black Mask) 220
C. William Harrison–Wish You Were Dead (In New Detective) 250
Henry Norton–The Booby Trap (In Detective Story Magazine) 282
Norman A. Daniels–Slightly Perfect (In The Shadow) 299

CALAMITY By Brandon Sanderson


Calamity (2016) is the third book in The Reckoners series. My reviews of the first two volumes, Steelheart (2013) and Firefight (2015), can be found here. The premise of this Young Adult science fiction series is that an “event” occurs that causes some people to develop Super Powers. However, these “Epics” find that the powers cause them to become psychotic and cruel. A group called The Reckoners arises to kill the Epics to preserve human life. The books are narrated by David, a clever teenager who has solved part of the Epic puzzle. In Calamity David and The Reckoners face their greatest challenges as the true nature of Epics threatens to destroy them. If you’re looking for a high-action adventure series, The Reckoners delivers. However, you’ll have to put up with some silly teenager dialogue that Brandon Sanderson must have felt he had to include. A movie (and/or TV series) is rumored to be in production. GRADE: B