masters of the games
I’ve read all of Joseph Epstein’s essay collections over the years. I consider Epstein one of the best essayists alive. Since March Madness begins this week, I thought this would be the perfect time to celebrate Masters of the Games, Joseph Epstein’s new collection of his sports essays. Cast your eye on the range of subjects below. Not all of them deal with basketball, but that sport is well represented (and I like the cover). If you need an intelligent sports fix, I highly recommend Masters of the Games. GRADE: A
Introduciton: Obsessed with Sport
A Boy’s Favorite Author
This Sporting Life
Confession of a Low Roller
Ep, the Bills Are Six-Pont Dogs
The Thrill of Defeat
Open Another Can of Quarterback
The Old Ball Game
Wrigley Field
Red Smith
Joe DiMaggio: Where’d He Go?
Michael Jordan: He Flies Through the Air
Hank Greenberg: Designated Mensch
Bob Love: The Unknown Superstar
The Goldin Boys
Danny Montoya
Out of Action
Hats Off
A Sartorial Double fault
The Running of the Bulls

TITLE By Meghan Trainor (Deluxe Edition)

I ordered Meghan Trainor’s Title CD after reading a story about doo wop in the Wall Street Journal. You can read that doo wop article here. I listened to Meghan Trainor’s album and enjoyed the Fifties feel to it. Yes, some of the songs have doo wop elements. If you’re looking for an entertaining retro album, I recommend Meghan Trainor’s Title. Take a listen below. GRADE: A
1 The Best Part (Interlude) (0:24)
2 All About That Bass (3:11)
3 Dear Future Husband (3:04)
4 Close Your Eyes (3:41)
5 3 A.M. (3:06)
6 Like I’m Gonna Lose You (3:45)
7 Bang Dem Sticks (3:00)
8 Walkashame (2:59)
9 Title (2:55)
10 What If I (3:20)
11 Lips Are Movin’ (3:01)
12 No Good For You (3:36)
13 Mr. Almost (3:16)
14 My Selfish Heart (3:47)
15 Credit (2:51)

THE MORAL IMAGINATION By Gertrude Himmelfarb

the moral imagination
I’ve read all of Gertrude Himmelfarb’s books and am in awe of her range. Take The Moral Imagination as an example. Himmelfarb’s essays span Edmund Burke, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Disraeli, Winston Churchill, Dickens, Fielding, John Stuart Mill, Walter Bagehot, Michael Oakeshott, and Lionel Trilling. Clarity sparkles in Himmelfarb’s essays. That which was once obscure becomes understandable. She has a wonderful sense of history. If you’re in the mood for some insightful essays on political writing, The Moral Imagination will reward your efforts. GRADE: A
Edmund Burke : apologist for Judaism? —
George Eliot : the wisdom of Dorothea —
Jane Austen : the education of Emma —
Charles Dickens : “a low writer” —
Benjamin Disraeli : the Tory imagination —
John Stuart Mill : the other Mill —
Walter Bagehot : “a divided nature” —
John Buchan : an untimely appreciation —
The Knoxes : a God-haunted family —
Michael Oakeshott : the conservative disposition —
Winston Churchill : “quite simply, a great man” —
Lionel Trilling : the moral imagination

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #311: LOVECRAFT’S LEGACY Edited by Robert E. Weinberg

Last year a dozen faux-Lovecraft anthologies were published. But it all started in 1990 with Lovecraft’s Legacy edited by Robert E. Weinberg and Martin H. Greenberg. Robert Block’s informative Introduction puts Lovecraft into perspective. Each of the writers in this collection includes a short note at the end of their stories where they tell how they first encountered Lovecraft’s work and which story most affected them. My favorite story in Lovecraft’s Legacy is F. Paul Wilson’s “The Barrens.” If you’re a fan of Lovecraft, you’ll really enjoy these stories.
Introduction: An Open Letter to H. P. Lovecraft By Robert Bloch
A Secret of the Heart By Mort Castle 1
The Other Man By Ray Carton 33
Will By Graham Masterton 53
Big C By Brian Lumley 71
Ugly By Gary Brandner 97
The Blade and the Claw By Hugh B Cave 109
Soul Keeper By Joseph A Citro 142
From the Papers of Helmut Hecker By Chet Williamson 159
Meryphillia By Brian McNaughton 173
Lord of the Land By Gene Wolfe 190
H P L By Gahan Wilson 211
The Order of Things Unknown By Ed Gorman 251
The Barrens By F Paul Wilson 269


If you put 24 and The Di Vinci Code in a blender, you’d get something like Dig. I watched the first episode last week and like most critics I wondered, “What the hell is going on?” Several plots are swirling around. FBI agent Peter Connelly, played by a wooden Jason Isaacs (he played Lucius Malfoy in the HARRY POTTER movies with more energy) , is sleeping with his boss (Ann Heche–what does she see in him?), and almost has sex with a redheaded college student who is subsequently murdered (what did she see in him?). There seems to be a plot by a Jewish cult that involves a young boy who must be “pure” in order to bring about…something. I’m guessing the Apocalypse. Dig was created by Homeland executive producer Gideon Raff and Heroes creator Tim Kring. Hopefully the confusion clears up or Dig will lose a lot of its audience fast.


beyond the first draft
John Casey has plenty to say about the “Art of Fiction.” In the essays included in Beyond the First Draft Casey writes about how he became a writer, what he found useful, what he found useless, and who helped him succeed. And, succeed Casey did. In 1989, John Casey won a National Book Award for Spartina, a story about a struggling fisherman in Rhode Island who’s trying to build a boat. I had Spartina on my shelf for 25 years so I finally read it. There’s plenty of nautical information in this book, nearly as much as in a Patrick O’Brian novel. The struggles of the fisherman are compelling. Much of what John Casey talks about in Beyond the First Draft can be found practiced in Spartina. If you’re interested in the writing process, both books are worth a look. GRADE: B+ (for both)
Table of Contents:
Dogma and anti-dogma
If I were a flower, what kind of flower would I be?
What’s funny
Sex and violence
Me me gab
Meanwhile back at the ranch
So alert a language
In other words
Childhood reading
Mentors in general, Peter Taylor in particular


This sequel to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel adds Richard Gere to the mix. A group of British retirees reside in a run-down hotel in India to make their meager retirement savings last longer. There’s crusty Maggie Smith, confused Judi Dench, love-sick Bill Nighy, and Dev Patel who “operates” the hotel. My main quibble with this movie is the multiplicity of plots. There’s a wedding, a series of romantic involvements, and a panoramic tour of glorious India. Yes, it’s a geezer-fest, but I enjoyed it. GRADE: B+


jim beam kentucky fire
“Tastes like Heaven but burns like Hell” is the advertising slogan for Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey. It’s the most popular brand of “fire” alcoholic beverages. But I’ve found something better. Remember those Atomic Fireball candies you enjoyed as a kid? Well, Jim Beam has turned their world-famous bourbon into a liquid equivalent. Jim Beam Kentucky Fire gives you that Atomic Fireball candy sensation but also goes down smoothly. Jack Daniels has entered the “fire” competition, too. Jack Daniels Tennessee Fire was in limited release in 2014 but sales must have been good because now it’s available in all 50 states. Obviously, a “fire” drink isn’t for everyone. But, if you like hot stuff, you’ll get a kick out of all three of these beverages. My ranking:
1. Jim Beam Kentucky Fire
2. Jack Daniels Tennessee Fire
3. Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey


I watched the new CBS cop show, Battle Creek, and it was good enough for me to recommend it mildly. It’s basically The Odd Couple with cops. Dean Winters (the “Mayhem guy” in those All-State commercials} is a scruffy home-town Battle Creek cop. He’s partnered with a slick FBI agent played by Josh Buhamel who seems to know all the answers. Patti Abbott says Battle Creek is “not half bad.” That’s about the size of it.