The weather last Thursday was give-me-a-break hot, the sort of heat that makes you irritable because it’s already September, for cryin’ out loud and DO WE REALLY DESERVE 94 DEGREES? REALLY? Then a front blew through — and I do mean blew — and 15 minutes of horizontal rain later, it was fall. Justlikethat. The temperature on Saturday didn’t touch 70. Weirdest thing.
To me, it was perfect. I’m like a brick house at this time of year — it takes me a while to lose my heat. And anyway, it was only an early warning. Eighties again today. Then 70s, and then we march for real toward the dying of the light. At the Eastern Market Saturday I ran into Jim from Sweet Juniper. He said this was the peak weekend for the market; by next week the blueberries will be gone, then the peaches and tomatoes, and “before you know it, it’s six months of root vegetables.”
They should put that on our license plate, a special foodie edition: Six months of root vegetables. I’d buy that.
One of the things I did on my time away from the blog, and the internet, and all the rest of it was, well, two things, actually. I did some reading, and I did some thinking. I carried Laura Lippman’s latest, “I’d Know You Anywhere,” through Cedar Point, reading while the girls stood in line for the coasters. I went in with about half the book already under my belt, figuring these little intervals would be plenty to keep me covered for two days of coaster-waiting. It was not. I churned through the whole second half in one afternoon. Folks, we have a page-turner on our hands.
“Lippman’s best!” would be my blurb, but that’s just me. I think I wrote before, in discussing the disappointment of Scott Smith’s second novel (“The Ruins,” which featured an evil talking plant) as compared to his first (“A Simple Plan,” which featured evil talking people), that there’s little in life as mysterious and ultimately terrifying as the human heart, but it’s the hardest thing to write about in a world where crime fiction routinely features albino monks and deranged thrill killers. Readers who have been numbed by those “The Girl Who Owned the Bestseller List” doorstops might find Lippman’s main character, the hostage and sole survivor of a spree killer, a pale sister to Lisbeth what’s-her-name, but I ask you: What’s harder to write? A page-turner about a genius hacker who can sniff out buried urges, stage a hidden-camera rape (of herself!) to turn it to her advantage and crack the tightest computer security in the world? Or one about an average girl who survives a harrowing ordeal mostly by being sort of average?
Which is to say, Laura writes about real women in extraordinary situations, and still makes the action tense and complex. This is genre fiction, and certain tropes are expected, but they were in short supply here, or at least they felt integral to the story. An ordinary woman, behaving not like an ex-Delta Force commando, but pretty much like…an ordinary woman. And yet still you can’t put her story down. Read, enjoy, and try to figure out how she pulled it off. Not an easy thing to do.
Then I got home, and drew down my Amazon gift-card balance* with two purchases — “Freedom” and “Last Call,” both of which strike me as keepers. I read the NYT’s review of the former with my jaw steadily dropping toward my chest, and put it down thinking, jeez, get a room. But I still want to read it. I was one of those who read and loved “The Corrections,” Jonathan Franzen’s last novel, although I was equally entertained by the author’s ability to shoot his own foot off. This was the announced-and-withdrawn Oprah selection, after Franzen was a little too upfront with his ew-the-proletariat act. It was also, oddly enough, key to my first souring on post-9/11 blogger triumphalism. Jeff Jarvis wrote at the time that he’d bought the book, but couldn’t bring himself to read it in the Wake of the Day that Changed Everything, because he found blogs so much more satisfying and engaging. Show me a man who’d rather read Instapundit than Franzen, and I’ll show you a real idiot.
Which sort of leads to my second activity of the weekend — the thinking. I spent a lot of time marveling, “It sure is nice not being online this weekend.” (Although I was, but not much.) I considered how much I enjoy reading for pleasure, how refreshing it is to give your focus to lines on a page and sustain it for an hour or more at a time. Hank wrote earlier this summer about another book, “Hamlet’s BlackBerry,” that seems to capture this longing for just a little more time in the slow lane, ignoring YouTube and blogs and all the rest of it.
One of my favorite things Bill wrote (and apparently one of David Carr’s favorites, too) was about the onslaught of “Did You See?” that infected our culture in the mid-2000s. (I like to write it as Didjusee?) It was about the beginning of the Internet all-you-can-eat buffet and the end of people actually reading or considering all the links they were clicking on or re-linking (now called retweeting). It no longer mattered. The question was only “Didjusee what so-and-so wrote on Slate?” “Didjusee the Lindsey Lohan video on TMZ?” “Didjusee what Mitt Romney told the Times?” Didjusee? Didjusee?
Ah, but did you read it as well? Usually no.
I want to read more. I want to write different things. I want to stop caring about viral video or what someone wrote on Slate. On today, the first day of school, the first day of Adult Summer (this still-warm, kid-free few weeks we grownups can enjoy before the weather turns for good), the beginning of a new year, it seems the right time to make a few resolutions.
So, some bloggage:
While we’re on the subject of Laura Lippman, from her own blog, a few thoughts about physical vs. digital books, and the frankly creepy digital triumphalism that has a lot in common with? See above.
Something I did not know until this weekend: There’s a film version of “The Big Valley” in production right this minute, and it almost shot in Michigan. “The Big Valley” was very popular with my high-school crowd, and yes, I guess you could say we watched it ironically. We each had a role; I was Audra Barkley, a girl too tempestuous to tame. I still occasionally run across an episode on the Western channel, and while I can see its many flaws clearly, I still think it’s a hoot and I see now why it was the embryonic gay men in my gang who singled it out — it had Barbara Stanwyck and Lee Majors, attitude and sex. The former was always ordering bad guys off her place with a shotgun, the latter posed a lot in chaps.
We had a party every Christmas in its honor — the Barkley party, cowboy hats and six-guns required. I’d suggest one for the release of the film, but alas, Jerrod and Nick are dead, Heath lives in the U.P. year-round and no one knows where Victoria is these days. That leaves me, Audra. Guess I’ll get some false eyelashes and give it a go.
And now my work week begins. Enjoy yours. Enjoy Adult Summer.
* If I haven’t mentioned lately how much I appreciate those of you who order your Amazon through my store, earning me a small kickback, let me do so now: I appreciate you.
Deborah said on September 7, 2010 at 9:56 am
I bought the Franzen’s book “Freedom” this weekend while I was in St. Louis. I got it at Left Bank Books one of the last independent’s, the woman who waited on me asked if I was buying it for the event. It turns out that Franzen was speaking that night at the Schlafly Library branch (yes, really, Schlafly) in the Central West End. We had plans for that night, the reason we were in St. Louis, A good friend’s daughter is getting married and they had a big party. So I missed Franzen, I would have gone if I could have, I’ve liked every Franzen book I’ve ever read. As you probably all know he was a St. Louis boy, well Webster Groves if you want to get technical. I’m about halfway through the book, and I am enjoying it immensely. In fact I’ll probably read it again when I’m done, that’s saying a lot. I’m going to order the new Lippman through your store, Nancy.
Julie Robinson said on September 7, 2010 at 10:04 am
Happy to help in a small way, though I don’t buy very many books (librarian’s kid). Just arrived from Amazon: The Sonic Bomb with bed shaker alarm clock: http://www.amazon.com/Sonic-SBB500ss-Vibrating-Alarm-Clock/dp/B000OOWZUK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=hpc&qid=1283867670&sr=8-1. Although, dang! Since I ordered it last Sunday the price has dropped $6.
Time to think has become the real luxury in today’s culture. Done carefully, travel can provide this, and I’m already seeing this in our daughter after only a week abroad. As she observes ancient places and other cultures I can almost hear her synapses crackling from thousands of miles away. Could we send that hateful man from Florida who plans to burn the Koran over to live for a week with the gentle people of Denmark?
MichaelG said on September 7, 2010 at 10:29 am
We’ve had a cool (for us) summer this year. Avg # of days in triple digits is 22. This year we’ve had 12. Avg temp in July and Aug is mid 90s. We’ve had many days in the 80s. I’ll take it. No catastrophic fires in Northern California so far this season although Oct is the scariest month.
coozledad said on September 7, 2010 at 10:31 am
With the Big Valley film, I’ll probably do what I always do- wait for the Hustler parody. Nina Hartley as Victoria, “Richard” Long as himself.
They’ll probably call it “The Big Valleys.”
Bawdra-“The girl who jams cowboy into reverse?”
prospero said on September 7, 2010 at 10:34 am
Reading? I’m buried in 2666. Almost literally buried. It’s so dense and morbidly funny it’s like Bolano is an alter-ego version of Thomas Pynchon that wrote V. I’d pause and read my newly acquired Stieg Larssons, but I might forget something important. These books, or this book, is compelling and more user friendly than, for instance, Balano’s Savage Detectives, which I think is even longer, because you have to track back and read hundreds of pages you already looked at. So, I’m sort of seeing at as a marathon I won’t quit, and at the end, there’s a new cool-hunting book with Hollis and William Gibson.
I want the actual book in my hands. I love books, binding, cover art, lame author photos with hand to quizzical chin. They will have to pry my first edition HL The American Language out of my cold dead hands if somebody wants to make me use an electronic device to read books.
On this subject, Walter Mosley, it’s been too long, and isn’t about time for another Dave Robicheaux?
High Chapparal put Big Valley in the ground. But that wasn’t fair. The former had Cameron Mitchell. Who starred as a trumpet playing loser in the most memorable episode of Movin’ On, a TV show with Claude Akins and Frank Converse that was better than The Big Valley but like most good TV, died before it’s time.
Laura Lippman said on September 7, 2010 at 10:51 am
The Big Valley was just crazy-sick-decadent in a way I can’t quite put my finger on. The episode I always flash back to is the one where another family keeps Stanwyck in the basement (IIRC) because they want her to recant testimony that implicates a family member in a crime and her sons wrest a confession from the Chinese servant by making him swear on the blood of a chicken. There were so many layers of wrong that it ended up being kinda right. Also, was it me, or did it just seethe with subtextual incest? OK, just me.
Thanks, Nancy, not for praising me — although praise, like a Goldenberg Peanut Chew, is something not to be turned down — but for getting me. I understand why people like larger-than-life characters. I do, too, on occasion. But perhaps a life in journalism made me more interested in average-size people. I belonged firmly to the reporting camp that believed everyone has a story. (See TAL’s The Georgia Rambler show, inspired by the father of my friend Chuck Salter.)
Meanwhile, I am on a good reading streak: HAMLET’S BLACKBERRY, now MARY ANN IN AUTUMN, which I’m reading along with a manuscript, AND SHE WAS, which is also quite good. I will wait for the Franzen, as THE CORRECTIONS didn’t quite do it for me, but my taste is off, sometimes. Meanwhile, although I read it months ago, the Lionel Shriver novel SO MUCH FOR THAT deserved to be the kind of huge hit that I’m sure FREEDOM will be.
Sue said on September 7, 2010 at 10:59 am
Read more, write different things… resolutions? Are you trying to gently prepare us for something?
My brother the John Wayne fan could never watch Big Valley. He said Barbara Stanwyck was just too scary.
Did some escapist garbage reading this weekend. A British police procedural with all the standard cliches, and a cozy set in Minnesota ***With Recipes!***. I know, I know, I should know better.
nancy said on September 7, 2010 at 11:16 am
While I’m always pleased when Laura drops by and brings her Real Author sparkle to the room, I think we can all agree now that, once again, Coozledad wins the thread. Bawdra. I’m still laughing.
John said on September 7, 2010 at 11:30 am
My best book of the summer: “The Secret Scripture,” by Sebastian Barry, about a 100-year-old woman in a lunatic asylum who isn’t (or at least, wasn’t) crazy. Features one of the oiliest villains ever. What a writer.
MichaelG said on September 7, 2010 at 11:40 am
Prospero, the latest Dave Robicheaux is the Glass Rainbow, published this year. I haven’t read it yet. It’s buried in the reserve lists at the library.
prospero said on September 7, 2010 at 11:56 am
That was meant to be typed Bolano, please excuse. Amazing novelist. His poetic efforts leave me bemused. But poetry’s strange. Don’t most poets make up self-referential rules for themselves when they write poems? I tend to like poems with some discernible structure. Sonnets read well. Haiku is orderly but generally annoying as hell. WB Yeats, every single syllable is in the exact right place and the point is made with a vengeance without superfluous poetism.
Of course, there is the question of interpretation. I’ve got a good friend that has about 25 languages. She can read The Master and Margarita in Russian. I think <b Autumn Comes for the Patriarch is a great book, actually better than One Hundred Years. But what about translators? Particularly with poetry. I think these people are collaborative authors.
I think Jonathan Franzen is pretentious and overblown and entirely too convinced he has to be literary. Well, there’s the boring part. But you know, critics love him and he sells lots of books. How does smarmy translate? I suppose what I most look forward to is the next brilliant Michael Chabon escapade, because apparently Tom McGuane (who wrote The Sporting Club, the defining UP book, and he did the same thing for South Florida in Bushwhacked Piano) has retired for good from fiction.
I think there’s a lot to be said for being snide, not so serious, and not self-invested when you write a novel. TC Boyle has nothing whatsoever to do with his characters. Shit happens to them. He’s got nothing to do with it.
Catherine said on September 7, 2010 at 12:14 pm
So true, about the reading & thinking & getting off the grid.
My two best books of the summer: Blame, by Michelle Huneven, and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See. Blame is the story of a young, beautiful professor who apparently ran her car over & killed two people in an alcoholic blackout; but it’s really about remorse and redemption. It is both beautifully written and a page-turner. Snow Flower is set in 19th century China and has fantastic detail about the time period and nu shu, a secret women’s written language. Really, though it’s an exploration of women’s friendships.
Sounds like I’d Know You Anywhere will be my Adult Summer book… although it’s grey and 60 degrees here in SoCal.
Jolene said on September 7, 2010 at 12:18 pm
In case you missed it, here’s Laura promoting her book on Craig Ferguson’s show. Very charming interview on both his part and hers. From someone who spends too much time online and watches too much TV.
prospero said on September 7, 2010 at 12:27 pm
Good news. James Lee Burke is a ridiculously good writer. And for me, he’s Dave Robicheaux, like John D. was Travis McGee. Walter Mosley is an even better writer that’s whoever he chooses, not just Easy. Mouse, on the other hand, you can’t make that up’ but this guy did. “You didn’t want him dead, Easy, why’d you leave him with me?”
beb said on September 7, 2010 at 12:37 pm
“The Big Valleys”, Coolze, shouldn’t the Hustler veersion of The Big Vallet be called, The Big Vi-jay-jay”?
Jolene said on September 7, 2010 at 12:39 pm
Speaking of TV, tonight’s feature in the Scary Documentary category is My Trip to al-Qaeda, which is about the writing of The Looming Tower: al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book about how al-Qaeda came to be and organized its attacks.
Haven’t read the book, but it’s supposed to be both impressive and authoritative. Saw Wright talking about the film this AM, and was impressed w/ his expertise and insight.
brian stouder said on September 7, 2010 at 12:48 pm
Jolene, thanks for the tip about the show.
Get the book – it is fascinating, illuminating, and altogether indispensible to an understanding of what the hell happened 9 years ago. Despite its length, and despite that you know precisely how it will climax, it is a genuine page-turner.
If I had to name my favorite book of the decade (say), I don’t know what I’d say, except that I’d be torn between The Looming Tower and one of the Lincoln books, and Meacham’s Andy Jackson book, and Sean Wilentz’s Democracy.
I cannot give higher praise!
Connie said on September 7, 2010 at 1:21 pm
I just finished The Looming Tower and found it not only authoritative and impressive but also absorbing, as if the story it told were a compelling novel. I read it through in two days without a single fiction break. Read Laura’s new book last week and enjoyed it as well.
nancy said on September 7, 2010 at 2:26 pm
Let me pile in on “The Looming Tower,” too. It’s the first book in a long while where I closed it and thought, “OK, I just read the next Pulitzer winner. Next.” And I was right.
Dexter said on September 7, 2010 at 2:29 pm
Deborah at 1…Frank Rich today said that the new Franzen book was “the best novel I have ever read…”
That carries a lot of weight, I would say. He said he liked it better than “The Bonfire of the Vanities” by Tom Wolfe.
Julie Robinson said on September 7, 2010 at 2:33 pm
Yay for book recommendations! Y’all have pointed me to some excellent reading, and I will second Catherine on Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Lippman is in the chute as soon as I finish Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. Books I’m most looking forward to this fall: the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, and the new Kate Morton book, The Distant Hours.
Jeff Borden said on September 7, 2010 at 2:55 pm
HUGE NEWS OUT OF CHICAGO.
The Associated Press is running with a story that Mayor Richard Daley will NOT seek reelection. He’s been the mayor for my entire 21 years in Chicago, but the blush has been off the rose for quite awhile now. His favorability ratings are in the tank –close to W. territory– and the budget is in a shambles.
I’m not terribly unhappy to see him go, but he has been so single-minded in crushing anyone who ever seemed to raise their profile in city politics that there is no one I can think of who would be appropriate to the job.
Jolene said on September 7, 2010 at 3:00 pm
Jeff, that is huge news. Rahm Emanuel has said that he would run if Daley retired. Not sure whether he strikes you as a good candidate, but he has said publicly and repeatedly that he is interested in the job. That would, obviously, lead to some changes in the White House as well.
Sue said on September 7, 2010 at 3:00 pm
That is big, Jeff B.
Rahm Emanuel, of course. That would be a whole lot of fun to watch.
Jeff Borden said on September 7, 2010 at 3:10 pm
Rahm is smart and tough, which will be necessary attributes. His abrasiveness might actually be a plus if he were to take on the corrupt insiders, the bag men, the fat layers of bureaucratic bloat.
Several aldermen have been making noise, too, but all but a couple are lightweights. Jesse Jackson Jr. might’ve been the first name mentioned a couple of years ago, but he’s been tainted by the Blagojevich mess.
Dexter said on September 7, 2010 at 3:13 pm
Probably coincidence that the old man also served 21 years before he died just before Christmas in 1976. Richie is 68 and Richard J. Daley was just 74 when he croaked, so I understand why Richie wants a few years to devote to his wife as well as enjoy his Michigan bicycling weekends as he watches his city change with the new administration. I sense that this will be a scramble and Mr. Daley won’t have a compelling urge to power a protege into the mayor’s office on the Fifth Floor.
JayZ(the original) said on September 7, 2010 at 3:13 pm
“I spent a lot of time marveling, ‘It sure is nice not being on line . . .’ ”
I, too, had a glorious week in August without the internet, cell phone reception, TV, newspapers. Spent three days tent camping in Hetch Hetchy and another three at Tuolomne Meadows in northern Yosemite. There’s something about reading a good book while leaning against a boulder or tree in the great outdoors that enriches the literary experience.
Like Julie, I am grateful for the books discussion. Thanks for the recommendations.
MarkH said on September 7, 2010 at 3:24 pm
Yes, what everyone else said about “The Looming Tower”.
Back to TV for a sec: I saw that they were making the Big Valley movie last spring, when news erupted that Susan Sarandon was out as Victoria Barkley, so they hired…Jessica Lange(??). Lee Majors comes back, this time as Heath’s randy father, Tom Barkley, Richard Dreyfuss as evil Charles Crocker. Also showing up are Bruce Dern, Aidan Quinn and John Savage joining a cast of unknowns as the rest of the Barkleys. It’s really too bad they dissed Michigan, but, hey, they found another perfcet duplicate for the San Joaquin valley: Baton Rouge, LA.
Speaking of western remakes, I assume you all were aware that the Coen brothers (!!) already have in the can for Christmas release, True Grit, with Jeff Bridges as Rooster and Matt Damon in the LaBoeuf role previously mangled by Glen Campbell. Maybe more true to the Portis novel, it should be interesting.
And, Prospero, your varied esoterica astounds (again). High Chapparal, Cameron Mitchell, “Movin’ On” and Frank Converse all in one paragraph. Chapparal was more serious, believable and Mitchell was very underrated, underutilized. “Route 66” on 18 wheels but featuring lead characters with steady jobs, “Movin’ On” was well-written and could have had a couple more seasons, true.
beb said on September 7, 2010 at 3:32 pm
On Rahm Emanuel running for mayor of Chicago Jeff Bordon wrote:
His abrasiveness might actually be a plus if he were to take on the corrupt insiders, the bag men, the fat layers of bureaucratic bloat.
I impression of Emanuel was that he was a corrupt insider, bag man and fat cat bureaucrat.
Sue said on September 7, 2010 at 3:38 pm
From my husband: “Wow. The door is wide open for a tea party candidate!”
Now that would be fun to see in Chicago. Can you imagine? Take a combination of unions, machine politics and people who are inclined to discuss ridiculous comments and/or behavior gleefully and at length, and you’ve got a place where the likes of Rand Paul or Sharon Angle would find themselves shredded in a day.
Nancy, your friend Eric Zorn needs to check in and give you (us) the lowdown.
Peter said on September 7, 2010 at 3:40 pm
I second you on that one, Beb
Actually, I’m trying to decide who should be mayor: Oprah, Blago, or Ditka?
Joe Kobiela said on September 7, 2010 at 3:48 pm
Coach Dika!!!! ya got to say it without the T,
Jeff Borden said on September 7, 2010 at 4:03 pm
To the extent that all politicians are, to one degree or another, a bag man, Rahm fits the bill. I’m certainly not implying he is some kind of sparkling clean reformer. Rather, he’s distant enough from city government that he wouldn’t automatically replace one group of lazy, corrupt doofuses with another.
Whoever replaces Daley will have a tough time. The city is broke, the police department is as much as 2,000 officers short, the school system is still bad, etc. etc. etc. The city needs a smart, engaged and ruthless manager, not another politician. I doubt we’ll be lucky enough to get one.
Jolene said on September 7, 2010 at 4:10 pm
To go back to the print vs. digital issue that Nancy mentioned, I wanted to link to this article re the environmental impact of printing and distribution. I love my books too, but, as I get older, I find myself less interested in accumulating stuff of any kind. I haven’t bought a Kindle yet, but suspect I will before long–if only for the possibility of instant purchasing. I just downloaded a book today to my laptop using the Kindle for PC application. Although it’s not an ideal format for reading, it’s not bad, and I was quite taken w/ the possibility of getting the book w/ a keystroke.
Jolene said on September 7, 2010 at 4:12 pm
Jeff, 2000 police officers short? Good grief! Can that possibly be true?
moe99 said on September 7, 2010 at 4:21 pm
Guess what, the tea party is merely the most recent iteration of the “Know Nothing” Party.
Used to be that Catholics were filling the Muslim/hispanic roles of today. Read it and weep.
Jeff Borden said on September 7, 2010 at 4:35 pm
That’s generally what the police union cites. It may not be entirely accurate –the figure may refer to what they recommend vs. what the city can afford– but there is wide agreement we need more coppers on the street. The response times are pretty terrible these days and there’s been a horrific increase in killings of police officers this summer. One of the murdered was in uniform after leaving Mayor Daley’s protection detail for the day. He was killed while wiping down his new car, purchased in anticipation of his imminent retirement.
Morale in the CPD is reportedly at historic lows. They hate the superintendent, an ex-FBI guy who never worked the streets. The communities in which the most violent crimes are committed generally are unhelpful to investigators –the whole don’t snitch thing– while on the flip-side there have been some terrible examples of coppers getting away with things. The most egregious was a cop who walked on a DUI charge after he collided head-on with a car, killing both its occupants. None of his brother officers did a Breathalyzer, so when a lieutenant finally ordered one hours later, it was inadmissible.
It’s a real mess.
MarkH said on September 7, 2010 at 4:38 pm
Actually, Jeff B., I’ve been reading that Emanuel has had his eyes on the Chicago mayor’s job since at least last winter. Based on the job description in your last paragraph in #33, he’s your man and you may get lucky.
Deborah said on September 7, 2010 at 4:58 pm
As a Chicagoan I would definitely vote for Rahm, in fact I’d even work for his election in any way I can. It takes a tough guy to be mayor here, and I think Rahm has it. But I like Daley too, he did a lot for Chicago, it’s one of the best cities in the world. Period. I can say that because I’ve lived in other cities and traveled to quite a few. Chicago works.
Julie Robinson said on September 7, 2010 at 5:04 pm
Jolene, as your linked article points out, using libraries has always been green. It’s a constant amazement to me when people tell me they’ve never been to the library, especially since ours is so marvelous. I can’t think of any better use of my tax money.
That said, I’m intrigued by the e-readers and contemplating buying one.
brian stouder said on September 7, 2010 at 5:11 pm
”If I haven’t mentioned lately how much I appreciate those of you who order your Amazon through my store, earning me a small kickback, let me do so now: I appreciate you.”
And likewise, I’m sure I can speak for everyone here (other than Dwight, but he doesn’t count) when I say that if we haven’t mentioned lately how very much we appreciate all the effort you expend on this website, Ms Derringer, let us do so now: We appreciate you, our indefatigable Proprietress and media mentor, very much!
And indeed, when the day comes that you say something like “Friends, it’s been fun, and you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here” (or some such) – we cannot complain, at all. (If I had my druthers, I’druther that you say something like “check in once a month – or thereabouts – and I might have posted something” ; but of course I’m a selfish pig!)
Deborah said on September 7, 2010 at 5:45 pm
I second that Brian, this has been a great experience, and to be able to indulge myself with this community everyday is unbelievable. Nancy, you made this happen with your wit and talent. You are very much appreciated.
Jeff Borden said on September 7, 2010 at 5:45 pm
My sister, who hails from the Cleveland area, remarked this weekend while visiting her UC student son what a beautiful city we call home. I’m not arguing. I really love New York and always enjoyed the special pleasures of Los Angeles when I used to visit their regularly, but I have now lived in Chitown longer than any place in my life and it’s home. We intend to grow old here because we believe it is a much happier fate to be elderly in a large city than in a small town by virtue of proximity to so much, a great transportation system, world-class hospitals, etc. Perhaps my stance will change when the 80-year-old Jeff –assuming I’ve not done so much damage to my body that I make that age– slips on the ice.
My sense is that we could be even better if so much money weren’t siphoned off by the insider deals, cronyism, corruption, etc. That’s what frosts me.
Moe99 said on September 7, 2010 at 5:57 pm
Catherine, have you read the next book by the author of Snowflower? Shanghai Girls. About escaping China and coming to CA during WW2. Shows the current fear and prejudice against immigrants has many historical antecedents.
coozledad said on September 7, 2010 at 6:15 pm
Moe: A few years ago I read a book discussing how an anti-immigrant businessman’s group used the courts to railroad a prosperous Chinese merchant in Vancouver. Always the same rationale, the same M.O. If they weren’t going after immigrants, they’d have to be engaging in more direct warfare with blacks, and they have to be slightly more discerning on that front. More careful in picking their opportunities. But they’ll get round to it soon enough.
There’s always the stoking of resentments among lower class whites against each other if nothing else develops long-term traction, and as one of the commenters at Roy’s pointed out, Jay Gould said if the working class ever reached critical mass, he could pay half of it to kill the other half. That’s basically what happened in this instance:
paddyo' said on September 7, 2010 at 6:39 pm
Big Valley? Hmph. I watched occasionally, but grew up with the Cartwrights on the Ponderosa . . . but the Stanwyck-and-Majors pinups for the gay set is a delicious revelation.
I was going to say, before all you Windy Citians hijacked the afternoon discussion, that this is a printout-worthy blogpost AND array of comments, for the reading-list attributes alone.
But hey, I’ll admit that over here on the west edge of the prairie, in the Queen City of the Plains, we live vicariously through Hog-Butcher-to-the-World stuff, too. If fact, I think I’ve met more Chicagoans here than anyplace else. Chicago’s a fascinating place in spite of itself — so I guess I’ll print it all out just the same.
Print it out? OK, I try to lead a fairly “sustainable” life (faithful recycler, vanpooler, etc.) and so printing out something is, I realize, approaching a mortal sin to my green brethren. But I’ll recycle it when I’m done enjoying . . .
Which leads me back to Nancy’s Kickback Lounge, because I’m one of those troglodytes who still gets a kick (back?) from possessing a recording he can hold in his hands, not merely download for shuffling about on his iPod. (Hmm: Downloads are “digital,” but not touchable with human digits . . . )
Nance, I get my books whenever possible at Tattered Cover in Denver, one of the best two or three or four bookstores on the planet — but I most happily go through your lounge for all my Amazon.com CD needs, non-sustainable-plastic-jewel-cases-be-damned . . .
moe99 said on September 7, 2010 at 6:42 pm
I guess the whole experience of history will shift profoundly thanks to the internet:
Catherine said on September 7, 2010 at 7:01 pm
Moe, Shanghai Girls is getting toward the top of the stack next to the bed. Glad to hear it’s as good as her others! I am a fan of Lisa See’s writing and her interesting perspective on race and origin in America. She doesn’t “look” Asian but was raised in a strongly Chinese-identified family & finds many of her stories in the Chinese-American diaspora. More about it in her memoir, On Gold Mountain.
I was put in mind of her story while eavesdropping on a group of grad students having coffee this weekend. They were laughing about how strange it is hearing a strong Southern accent coming from a friend whose family is of Vietnamese origin. One of the women in the group was of Indian origin (I could tell from the conversation), and went right along with what I felt was kind of… racist? or just stupid? I don’t know exactly what to call it except that I felt like slapping them and saying, “He’s American, isn’t he? And so he can sound like an American from anywhere, right?”
Jolene said on September 7, 2010 at 7:37 pm
The kind of perceptual surprise those girls were discussing isn’t logical, Catherine, and it does, I guess, reflect some underlying assumptions about what people who look a certain way are supposed to sound like, but I don’t think it’s such an unusual reaction. James Fallows had a number of posts about such surprises a few weeks back. Some of the examples people sent in were quite entertaining–black people who sounded Swedish, a Korean-American comic who had made his Southern accent a part of his act. My own experience involved being in the midst of a conversation in English w/ a Dutch colleague when an Asian man came up to her and began to speak Dutch. Of course, people who live in the Netherlands speak Dutch, but I sort of forgot that all the people who live there aren’t tall, slender blondes.
These surprises do remind us that our conceptions of attributes that go together aren’t always accurate, but we’d be pretty odd creatures if we didn’t hold some generalizations like, “People from Sweden are more likely to be Nordic blondes than to be black.” Check out the examples from Fallows and his readers. They’re delightful, and he writes about them in his usual charming way. This link is to the last in his series of posts on this topic, with links to previous posts therein.
nancy said on September 7, 2010 at 7:53 pm
Speaking of blogger triumphalism, and printouts, and all the rest of it, Paddy shook loose a memory of the time — a fervently discussed project to collect the 9/11/2001 blog posts of All the Bloggers Who Matter between hard covers. It was a CAN’T MISS HUGE MONSTER PUBLISHING HIT, everyone agreed. All the proceeds would be donated to charity, ditto. It would be so TOTALLY AWESOME, because EVERYONE would want a copy.
As best I recall, they never got a contract, much less a sale.
basset said on September 7, 2010 at 10:21 pm
Chicago is my favorite large city so far… first went there for a college radio convention at Loyola (which, I know, is not actually in Chicago) freshman year so it would have been probably early 74. riding along in the back of a Chevy Vega and commented on how big a city it was… not realizing that we were still in Gary at the time.
Never been to New York City and don’t care to go. And it’ll be fine with me if I never get to Atlanta again, not to mention Gulf Shores, Alabama, and Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
Jolene, that Korean-American comic is Henry Cho from Knoxville, Tennessee, heard often on “Blue Collar Comedy” on Sirius. Thing I like about listening to him is that, although he has routines about being Korean, those aren’t all he does and he has a lot more to say. Unlike most of the Hispanic comics I hear on Sirius, Carlos Mencia comes to mind, whose whole act is some variation of “here’s what it’s like being Mexican (or whatever) in the USA.”
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 7, 2010 at 10:32 pm
Basset! Loyola National College Radio Conference, 1980 — I think I still have the t-shirt somewhere.
This is some serious thumbsucking for journalistically inclined folk: http://jayrosen.posterous.com/the-journalists-formerly-known-as-the-media-m
JayZ(the original) said on September 7, 2010 at 10:35 pm
Moe and Catherine
I agree with your favorable opinions on Lisa See’s fiction, but I consider On Gold Mountain, the non-fiction family history Catherine mentioned, to be her finest work. I have thought about it often during this recent anti-Muslim paranoia; many parallels to the hostility her ancestors endured.
Since you like her writing, I recommend you read anything by Gail Tsukiyama.
JayZ(the original) said on September 7, 2010 at 10:55 pm
Have to put in my two cents regarding Chicago. . . born and raised there; worked and lived in NYC after graduation from the U of I; eventually moved to L.A. Obviously I am a “big city” gal. But Chicago is still the best — all the vitality, culture, diversity that the other two offer, but with that warm, friendly midwest attitude.
Kim said on September 7, 2010 at 10:58 pm
Great notes on books, all. Some I have read, some are doing time in the bedside stack. I had a few days on Hatteras before our vacation turned into an evacucation for Hurricane Earl and just plowed through books. First up was Ted Kooser’s “Light on a ground of darkness,” which begins with this poem. He was a poet laureate of the U.S. and the book is a very quick, evocative nonfiction read about the Midwest (Iowa in this case)in the days before a cash economy, special education and everything else we brake for these days. I heard him read the poem some time ago on some NPR show (which one? Who knows, but must’ve been). Read the poem if you have something transplanted from a former home’s garden in your current abode. It’s short. Second book was “Tinkers,” by Paul Harding. I have no idea why I picked it up, but I did. And what a perfect folo to the Kooser. I’d never heard of it, but realized after I read it the Pulitzer folks had, too, and decided it was the best of the year. What a beautiful book and original idea. Loved it and didn’t even try to pretend to the family that I was bawling for any reason other than literary enjoyment. Which made the kids look at each other with a big “jay-zus!” eyeball roll.
One of the big reasons I responded to these books so strongly was actually the same as my response to a Lippmann book – it’s real and relatable. No superhuman abilities or predictable Scooby Do ghosts.
moe99 said on September 8, 2010 at 12:16 am
Amazon question for you Nancy–if you are taken by Amazon to another site–for example I was looking for a flannel sheet and was taken to the LLBean site–do you stil get a kickback if we enter through your magic door?
nancy said on September 8, 2010 at 12:22 am
Moe, I think it’s only Amazon. But don’t worry — I appreciate the effort, whatever you do.
moe99 said on September 8, 2010 at 12:24 am
Oh, forgot, I am now 52 of 135 holds on Laura Lippman’s book. They still have 32 copies in circulation so the wait should not be too long.
Denice B. said on September 8, 2010 at 12:29 am
Just finished ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ by Truman Capote. I loved it. So different from the white-washed movie.
Catherine said on September 8, 2010 at 1:11 am
JayZ, I read The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama and thought it was really good. What else of hers would you recommend?
Dexter said on September 8, 2010 at 1:27 am
Just as LBJ was driven from Washington by the bloodspill that was Vietnam, I wonder if years from now Chicagoans will say Daley was driven out by the daily murders in his city, which can’t even be contained in the West Side and the South Side anymore. Gang attacks on lakefront festival-goers this summer brought Daley to the public forum where he said he will increase police presence until that stopped, but Chicago is short on cops as it is, and most cities are always a few steps behind the criminals in appropriations of the latest weaponry.
Catherine said on September 8, 2010 at 1:29 am
Kim, both of those sound just lovely. I wish I were better at reading poetry, though.
JayZ(the original) said on September 8, 2010 at 2:14 am
Catherine, Women of the Silk and The Street of a Thousand Blossoms.
The former takes place in China; the latter in Japan. Her mother was a Chinese immigrant and her father was Japanese from Hawaii.
Dorothy said on September 8, 2010 at 8:26 am
I read Shanghai Girls in a few days in ’08 I think, and really loved it. Thanks for the tip about On Gold Mountain – I will look for that next time I’m at Half Price Books, or perhaps the library! No reading is getting done these days since I’m 8 days away from the opening of the play I’m directing.
And I have to chime in on what Brian said about how enriched we all are by this blog. I’d be truly lost if or when it comes to a close, and I’d need some guidance from you all to find a replacement for my daily fix of levity, laughter and good sense!
basset said on September 8, 2010 at 8:31 am
Jeff TMMO, that’s it exactly… was about 74 or 75 for me, though. I remember 10cc was one of the acts getting pushed real hard. Must have been after freshman year, that whole period seems to run together for some reason.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 8, 2010 at 8:37 am
Supertramp and Blondie were big my year; and my one and only experience with record company execs handing out hash and weed and free albums in crowded hotel suites. A glimpse of that world was all I needed.
Kristen, thanks for the tomato-corn pie recipe; my wife and I loved it even if I had no more luck than Nancy in getting my kid to eat it. Even emboldened me to make some mayo, which I hadn’t tried for a long time. But I have to note: Kraft’s Olive Oil Mayo is good for all kinds of purposes. I’m not going to make a habit of making my own with that around.