LINES OF THE DAY

". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Reading and Watching History -- Warrior Women

     . . . . A few mornings ago I woke from a dreaming of Warrior Queens.  I was baffled as to why I should have been having such an interesting historically epic dream (no, I wasn't a protagonist in the dream, but an observer).

Archeology and Newspapers

It was the newspapers that caused the dream!

I recalled that the day before, I'd read the Guardian's September 12th's report of a Viking era grave located in Birken, Sweden, which held the remains of a woman, a mare and a stallion, and her weapons.

From the Guardian:
. . . . not just any warrior, but a senior one: she was buried alongside a sword, an axe, a spear, armour-piercing arrows, a battle knife, two shields and two horses. Gaming pieces – perhaps from hnefatafl, a sort of precursor to chess – suggest the female warrior from grave Bj581 was a battle strategist.
Since the Guardian became accessible online, it seems to periodically provide coverage of history's powerful women, many of whom, if not most, have been written out of history. (Not a coincidennce one thinks that the Guardian provides a lot of column space to women historians and writers such as Mary Beard -- who are reliably excoriated by the male commentators.) Thus the Guardian followed up the Birken grave and its contents with this story on Friday, September15th:
How the Female Viking Warrior Was Written Out Of History -- "What Bj 581, the ‘female Viking warrior’ tells us about assumed gender roles in archaeological inquiry"
Then, just two days ago:
The recent discovery of female bones in a Viking warrior grave is yet another indication that we’ve only scratched the surface of female history -- "How Many More Warrior Women Are Missing from the History Books?"

Predictably, all three stories were illustrated with images from the History channel's thoroughly non-historical scripted historical drama, Vikings's resident female warrior, Legartha.*


Equally predictable, were the plethora of comments in response to these Guardian stories, so many of which were jeers at the very idea. This way the readers learns that the only reason there were the bones of a woman in a warrior's burial site is because 1) the archeologists lied, don't know what they doing, are mistaken, she's really male; 2) she was the wife of a warrior who is a man, who died somewhere else and thus couldn't be interred in his own grave, or who was removed later; 3) animals put some woman's bones there.

Television's Role in the Warrior Queen Dream


Surely television via netflix streaming also played a role provoking that dream.  I am continuing to watch the Turkish historical 13th century epic of Diriliş: Ertuğrul, the founding ancestor of the Ottoman Turkish empire. As these series are, it's very long, nearly 80 episodes -- I'm barely half way through, though I began watching this before summer.  But by now we're seeing the Kayi's tribe's women training for a battle - assault they are sure will be coming from the Aleppo region's reigning sultan. Aykriz, is in charge of their training.  Trained from birth in the tribe's martial arts, who is the beloved of one of the tribe's most heroic and skilled warriors (alps, they are called), she's the daughter of the blacksmith, who manufactures the tribe's weapons. What Aykriz can do with a bow and sword, whether from the ground or riding a horse at full gallop are some thrilling scenes.

Though the history of Diriliş: Ertuğrul is probably as much fiction as the Icelandic sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok from where Vikings received its inspiration, the details of these nomads' tribal life, clothing and relationships, are more than true to historic life.  There are at least as many women characters as male, and there is no question among either the characters themselves or how they are portrayed in the series that they are equally important and significant to the action, whether dramatic or historic. 

Additionally, the relationships among the humans and their horses is unlike anything I've ever seen in such productions no matter what country they are depicting.  These horses interact with the people who are their 'owners' and 'riders.' Even when they are functioning as scene dressing they pay attention to the action that is centered.  There is prolonged, painful scene in which one of the Heroes, Torgut, beaten and tortured by the order of the Templars' Grand Masters, has a horse tethered in the background. This horse does not belong to Torgut, but during the entire scene the horse's head and neck are turned toward the action, its ears are pricked toward the action.  And there was hay on the ground at the horse's feet.  Whether this is planned or not, nothing else could so honestly tell the viewer that these are above all, people of the horse.

Books - History



The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire is a 2010 book by Jack Weatherford, which I just finished, ahem, bookends brilliantly with Diriliş: Ertuğrul. Not least among the reasons this is so, is that it too begins in the 13th century, the same as in which Diriliş: Ertuğrul is located. Weatherford reads and writes Mongolian, and has spent a great deal of time living in Mongolia. The story of warrior queen, Mandukhai, the woman who restored Genghis Khan's ideals for the Mongols, is enthralling -- and she's not the only one.  It also show how easily and quickly such women, even when their rule is the law of the land, can be overthrown and utterly erased from the historical record -- at least the official record.  This includes literally tearing the accounts of their lives out of the official record. 

Among the many elements of his book that I appreciated is how much of the cultural practices, from religious to jewelry and clothing of these tribes who populated such a vast region of central Asia for millennia, are found all across eras and regions -- from the Hittites and Scythians, China (the interactions between the kingdoms that became China are ancient, and the Mongols supposedly ruled a large part for a while), to the Tartars of Russia and the tribes that became the Ottomans. One can see it most particularly in the headdresses of the women.  Why these are they way they are, Weatherman explains.  These connections and continuities I've always felt, but never knew how or why. Nomadic pressures and conquest were the driving forces for all of it -- and smart, fighting and ruling women were always integral.

Weatherford's The Secret History is the source for the counterpart novels in recent days with  Mongol settings and characters, which includes The Tiger's Daughter (which is the title for one of the sections in scholar Weatherford's history) and even parts of Guy Gavriel Kay's China duology, Under Heaven and River of Stars and even for the Netflix original two seasons of Marco Polo. This series had more than one warrior woman based on historical figure in Secret History, which, judging by their sneers of disbelief and dislike of these characters on discussion forum I visit, male viewers hated.




The first biography of 16th - 17th century African warrior queen, Njinga of Angola,by our friend Prof. Linda Heywood, has just been published by Harvard University Press,   It's hard to describe how thrilling it is to read a book bout such a fierce and successful woman, faced with such terrible odds, written by another fierce and successful woman -- whom I actually know!  Moreover, this is set in the same era as the last sections of Weatherford's history of the Mongol Queens, which feature the brilliant fighting woman, general and ruler, Mandukhai.   (Let us not forget another great, powerful and successful ruler of the era, Queen Elizabeth!)



Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity, and Afro Creole Consciousness 1570 - 1640 (2003) by Herman L. Bennett is helping prepare for the October Veracruz American Slave Coast Jazz Festival.  As one can see from the dates covered, this is a pair with Njinga of Angola. 

These colonial Mexican Africans were brought as slaves from Njinga's region by her enemies, the Portuguese.  This is also the period of the Iberian Union, the peak of Spain's power, when Spain and Portugal were under the same crown. 



The other two new books we have here are Hillary's What Happened (there are more than one way that a woman can be a warrior queen) and Le Carré's Legacy of Spies (more fictionalized history).

Reading and watching are so rich these days, no wonder I am having action adventure epic dreams of Warrior Queens.

------------------------------

*  Alas, after about two and a half seasons Vikings devolved into preposterosity, lacking even a pretense of plot plausibility, characters behaving like idiots for not reason, and a distinct lack of Lagertha, showing that men (meaning in this instance the guy who show runner, writer and director) have no idea what to do with a female character who can take care of herself.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Leslie Jones Most Glamorous of 2017 Emmys!

     . . . . My one and only Emmy vote goes to Leslie Jones, for the most stunning and glamorous at the Emmys of 2017.

Here is why:


Few could carry this, but O Lordessa, can Leslie Jones ever!

Runner-up, Jane Fonda:


Front

And

Back

And

Side

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Primary Day + Irma + Cuba

     . . . .  El V says voting together makes him feel all warm and fuzzy.  It makes me feel like we're part of the community.  Our polling place is in the basement of St. Anthony's Church.  The elections workers are neighborhood people we interact with on a regular basis for a variety of reasons.  One of the poll watchers is a Cuban, now a citizen, who also happens to be a splendid musician (piano), whom el V has hired and gotten hired by others often.  That was fun.



We vote in the basement of this church, which  for generations has been the anchor of the neighborhood, as community and neighborhood, providing a sense of place and safety. It has been providing this and other services since long before we arrived, and I would guess will be doing so long after we are gone, as long as there remains a Manhattan anyway, that can support human life.
Voting is still the easiest way to get a happy buzz, one of participating with one's neighbors and as well as the civic duty.  It isn't fattening or in any way bad for one!

But -- I do wish we had better choices for mayor.  I don't like any of them, including the present mayor.  At least our district had some excellent young, committed candidates, who are working hard on the local level to protect our neighborhoods from being completely eaten by the global oligarchy of the obscenely wealthy global corrupt criminals.

El V will bring back cigars for the Church staff from his quick Cuban trip next week.  The Jose Martí Airport re-opened today.

More to the point, what he's taking down there -- everything he can pack into a single piece of luggage.  People need everything.  As with all the other islands damaged and / or destroyed -- it's really hard right now to get things in or even impossible to get to them, or to get off them.

We're trying to figure out an agenda and call a meeting very soon among some of our friends, as to how to begin ramping up donation efforts.  For people here in the US just providing money into the hand is the very best thing to do. W have the the entry and connections to do that, meaning that the money goes to those who need it and the person bringing it won't be keeping or skimming.


Remember -- the last place anyone should be donating to is the Red Cross.  They keep the largest percentage for themselves -- and sometimes all of it.  That actually hasn't changed since the scandals of Katrina.  The reality is that the Red Cross is in the business of selling your blood for their profit.  They may not have started off that way, but that is what they have become.

     . . . .UPDATE:  The Havana Music Conference has been postponed, we have just learned, due to the extensive flood and wind damage and all the rest of the damage in Havana and other parts of of Cuba.  El V will probably go to Havana next week, even so.  Lots of things to bring, and a general survey in terms of the Cuba group visits should be accomplished.


Monday, September 11, 2017

9/11 On the Heels of 9/11 + TASC On Television

     . . . . This is a weekend I would like not to experience again.  My stomach is just starting to unclench.  Mostly, relatively, the news is good about our friends in the Caribbean and Florida.  The people who have had it hardest in our circles are the Cubans.  This includes Havana, in which swathes were pummeled by the wind and flooded.  For some time el Malecon entirely disappeared under water, lashed by waves over 36 feet high. This doesn't usually happen to Havana, which is on the north, the Atlantic side of the island.  The juracan usually loses power and / or goes around Havana after hitting the unpopulated  southern, Caribbean coast -- unpopulated for this reason, because this where the storms make Cuban landfall

Today, after spending so much of the previous four days glued to my computer, trawling constantly for updates and news I have a headache, and my skin feels too tight, as if I have a bout of flu coming on. And it is the anniversary of 9/11, which does not help matters.  Gads, I hate this time of the year.  So many anniversaries of catastrophes.

But, for pete's sake, Fox, come on! This is nothing compared to what the people who really went through all this and are now facing trying to put their lives and homes and communities back together.

Still, even though none of this is about me -- who was spared this bullet from barreling right up the Atlantic Coast and hitting my home -- this was welcome news --

     . . . . From CRP's marketing manager:

In the fourth episode of the second season of Tig Notaro’s show, One Mississippi, Tig’s step-father, Bill, has a collection of books he's reading to educate himself more about race in America. Included in the stack of books is Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between The World and Me, and Ned and Constance Sublette’s The American Slave Coast.
The book isn’t mentioned by name — he’s listening to the audiobook for The New Jim Crow when the scene happens—but the TASC spine is very easy to spot in the picture I took below.


The American Slave Coast in a scene from the television series, One Mississippi.


We can see it's a recent purchase, because The American Slave Coast is this year's trade paper edition.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hurricane Irma - Hurricane Jose On Her Heels + Reading Wednesday

     . . . . Hurricane evacuation looks to be in our (near) future.  This morning's models show the trajectory of Category 5  Hurricane Irma has again changed eastward, to head straight up the Atlantic coast.  This could very well include us.  But it's too early to know.

Computer models showing Hurricane Irma's projected path on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. (Photo: tropicaltidbitscom)

This is the strongest Atlantic hurricane in the history of tracking Atlantic hurricanes.

Cuba is in the middle of the Caribbean portion, but they know how to do hurricanes there. (El V is supposed to be in Havana 9/20 through 9/24 for the WOMEX Etc. Cuba Conference.)

Maybe Hispaniola  will be just further enough on the northern side to not get creamed.

But Puerto Rico, dear, battered, broke Puerto Rico . . . . 

As with Florida (and Houston) we have so many friends about whom we are intensely worried. E-mails and phone calls have been flying back and forth, particularly among friends who have children who recently graduated and have begun their first jobs, have just moved, to say, for instance, Miami and Orlando.  Some have moved back to Cuba.  Others have joined other relatives in Puerto Rico.  To one and all, el V says, "Get them out of there, NOW!"

Everybody within the Atlantic coastal regions should be thinking of their own hurricane plans right now, not next week.

I wonder where we will go, if / when we need to leave.  We've been discussing possibilities for several days already -- and that was when Irma was still small, though already strong.  Now she's grown, and is stronger too.  Needed to take into consideration as to whether to go or not, is that NYU's classes began yesterday.  So -- cancel class or stay with the idea that we get only a glancing blow and the university as a whole will remain open?

Tropical storm Katia on the far left, Irma in the center, followed by Jose on the right.

Hurricane Jose is on her heels, likely to follow the same track as Irma.



And Katia is clobbering Veracruz and eastern Mexico, where we are supposed to be in a few weeks.

     . . . . I did read two more novels.



First, Brian Freeman's appropriately titled Season of Fear (2014) (and appropriately read while again experiencing the Season of Fear myself), set primarily in the present of Tampa, on Florida's Gulf Coast -- during a the approach and hit of a hurricane.  It features cops, investigators, thugs, politicians and their dirty tricks, oppo research and old murders. It moves as a fast as an approaching storm for which one is not prepared. It's also a joy to read fiction (and watch television and films) set in such a location in which there are a variety of latinos in prominent roles -- and not all of them Cubans --  with nothing made of these matters of fact. This is the second of Freeman's books to feature detective Cab Bolton: extra-ordinarily tall and attractive, and very well off because his mom, recently retired, was a very successful film star of the old-school sort.






The second novel read happens to have been the second Vera Stanhope in the crime series by Ann Cleeves, Telling Tales (2005). Unlike Cab Bolton, however, as we all know, while Inspeactor Vera Stanhope isn't the child of a glamorous movie star, her series has become a television star., one that I very much enjoy.  In her second vehicle, as in the first, Vera doesn't show up until quite some after the narrative gets going, and again, as in the first, she is introduced to the reader through the eyes of one of the several protagonist - narrators for the first time. Unless the reader is already in the know, the reader knows no more than the novel's characters who Vera is at that time -- but they will learn, up close and personal.  Whereas this is only the 4th Vera Stanhope I've read, I have read all her Shetland murder mysteries featuring Detective Jimmy Perez (also an excellent television series).  In both series Cleeves pulls off what cannot be easy -- several pov-protag-narrators -- including Vera herself.  However, these early Veras faintly show the signs of what becomes Cleeves the writer's besetting sin, which is most visible in the later Veras and too many of the Shetlands: she takes far too long to set-up, and this reader anyway, starts to grumble about how dull looking at peat under grass and wind and sky for 20 pages can be. However, in these first two Veras, things move along briskly from the first paragraph until the last.  And what one will appreciate most in these, as with all of Cleeves's novels, the reader will not guess who did it until Vera does.

     . . . . Non-fiction


I am engrossed by Stark Mad Abolitionists: Lawrence, Kansas, and the Battle Over Slavery in the Civil War Era (2017) by Robert K Sutton, former chief historian of the National Park Service.  This is the first historical study I've read of the Kansas-Nebraska battles, that is dedicated only to the who, what and why in this long trajectory of violent terrorism that opens the War of the Rebellion.  The anti-slavery actors in these years, other than the martyr, John Brown, or the CSA-abetted criminals, Quantrill, Colter and the James brothers, tend to be forgotten.  But figures such as Amos Adams Lawrence and Eli Thayer are more than worthy to be remembered for their own heroic dedication to making anti-slavery the fact of the Territory.  Not only did they sacrifice their health -- they gave up their fortunes to make Kansas a free soil state.  As the pro-slavery actors were who they were, this is also a shoot 'em up, which the bad actors such as Quantrill and Jesse James did not give up even once the War of Southern Aggression was over, so to speak, making this another memo showing us that even the shooting part of that war was not really over when 'peace' was declared.


Monday, September 4, 2017

Male Blockheads To Gender Flip the Script of Lord of the Flies

     . . . . People have rightly been snarking the idiotic idea some Hollywood GUYS have announced to the world, that they wish to remake Golding's novel, The Lord of the Flies, into yet another film, Why is theirs so special? Theirs is going to be all mostly naked girls instead of all mostly naked boys on an island without grups. 

Themyscira, where girls eat well, without killing each other.

Come on guys! Surely you know this has just been done, within these summer months even?  Fellas, I hate to break it to ya, but remember where Wonder Woman Diana and her all lady fam live, on that island of Themyscira, without any males?  

Silly me! O of course you don't remember, -- even though it was the only summer action comics blockbuster (or any of the tentpole blockbusters for that matter), to actually make a profit and be a blockbuster.  Coz it was a woman director and action protagonist.

There really is No End to male arrogance, ignorance and blockheadedness in entertainment and media --  And Elsewheres, for that matter, ya, D.C. we are lookin' atchu.

Friday, August 25, 2017

August 25th - Hurricane Harvey

     . . . . When the year cycles around to August, as the month gets closer to the 25th, my anxiety mounts.  Imagine how it is for those who literally lived through and evacuated from Katrina? 

Radar image of Hurricane Harvey at 9:05 am CDT Friday, August 25, 2017; See Dr. Jeff Masters of The Weather Underground, here, for descriptions of what is likely
to happen.

This is the biggest week of the year for hurricanes.  The season kicks into high gear about the second or third week of August and stays at that level at least through early October.  Recall, the official hurricane season for North America runs from June into November.  There's a reason why the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew is this week -- which all the media seemed to comment on.

Today Harvey is barreling into the North American Gulf coast. Meteorologists are saying they've never heard of or seen such an amount of rain in their entire experience, as it appears Texas and the related Gulf regions are going to be drowned by.  (Presumably they are not including natural, annual, cyclical events such as the monsoons of southeast Asia?)

Texas won't recover for years, They Are saying. This is basically, Katrina, all over again, but over there, mostly, perhaps, as opposed to Louisiana's Gulf, which has been, btw, receiving unprecedented amounts of rain within unprecedented short periods of time already for much of the summer.

The one thing we know for certain, whatever money due to Harvey that can be gotten out of the feds that can be got for anything, somebody in Texas aleady rich is going to get it. As anyone who lives in or knows New Orleans well, and as David Simon's Treme showed with those guys coming to grab it in New Orleans, the Texan developers, etc.  already got the experience, the connections and the greed. 

One wonders too if the media will come with the same stories of African American chaos, crime and looting that they did for New Orleans?  After all, the media MUST HAVE LOOTERS. Dang, if those black people ain't looting they got to be made up looting!  We must have looters!  They make the best tv!

At the same time of course, I personally am deeply distressed by what's about to happen, on behalf of very many friends, people I do not know, and the environment.  The cone of the 'cane hitting the Texas coast includes just about all of its refineries, pipe lines, not to mention all those rigs out there off shore.

This is an environmental and economic disaster slamming right into the US and we know what's running the show these days.  The Evil Orange Demon may not get any legislation passed, but he's running the government and EPA is gutted, and what running of it is being done is about further dismantlement by people who don't want any regulation and any justice, just as with the State Department, the DOJ, the FBI, HUD, etc.

If any time soon we get to go to work to clean up these disasters, just in the Gulf it will take years, if not decades, while in the meantime environment and environment and climate continue to deteriorate and become ever more dangerous for ever more people, globally and locally.

Hurricanes are politics too.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Five Best Selling Novels

     . . . . It must be summer all right.  I've read 5 novels already, and August still has 8 more days to go!

The historical fictions first . . . .

Martha Conway. (2017) The Underground River. Touchstone, New York.

Set on the Ohio, 1838, in a Floating Theater, featuring a seamstress, who finds herself by helping enslaved people escape from Kentucky to Ohio. The problem, however, is this is 1838, deep into the Panic of 1837. Van Buren is POTUS, inheriting  the consequences of Andrew Jackson’s ignorant, thus destructive economic policies, which the concentrically related conditions he created plunged the USA into the deepest and longest economic depression in the constant cycle of boom and bust economy of the country until the Great Depression of 1930’s. By 1837 - 38, businesses of all kinds, great and small, in the US and abroad, particularly England, from banks to leather shops are failing and have failed everywhere.  There is no, none, nada, credit to be had by anyone, except the very few richest individuals in the country. 

So then this reader cannot help wondering how these poor people along the Ohio River between Kentucky and Ohio find the bit of coin to pay admission to the Floating Theater, which isn't even a steamboat, but a barge? How in the world does the Floating Theater on such margins already, keep going? 

From the Ohio History Connection -- 
. . . .  In Ohio, many people lost their entire life savings as banks closed. Stores refused to accept currency in payment of debts, as numerous banks printed unsecured (backed by neither gold nor silver) money. Some Ohioans printed their own money, hoping business owners would accept it. Thousands of workers lost their jobs, and many businesses reduced other workers' wages. It took until 1843 before the United States' economy truly began to recover. . . .
IOW, the author did a lot of research into many areas, which show up delightfully in her pages, but missing are the economic milieu of the period, which should be crucial to the story she wants to tell -- slavery is always about economics.

This is too bad for this reader, let me emphasize, as everyone else who has read and reviewed this novel appear to have never even heard of the Panic of 1837. But for this reader, this knowledge flowed constantly into the story, creating a great deal of interrogation of character and storylines. The book's characters are for the most part are interesting and vivid.  But this lack of inclusion in the story of this crucial event of the 1830's and 1840's showed equally vividly the author's contrivances, which resulted in a sense of the plot becoming almost glib and as nearly as flimsy as the scenery of the plays presented by the Floating Theater.



It also got this reader recollecting Edna Ferber's Showboat (1926). which was anything but flimsy.  It is set during in the post-bellum era of the Gilded Age.  Every shiver in the economy, every part of racism,  affects the people working on the floating theater steam boat, The Cottonblossom, over the three generations of the characters in this substantial work of historical fiction. 

Linnea Hartsuyker. (2017) The Half-Drowned King. HarperCollins, NY.

Cold climate fiction 9th century Norway, which this reader looked forward to, as the perfect book for that very hot, polluted and humid first week of August.  

Enthusiastically positive review in the historical fiction sections.  Multiple foreign rights sales.

This is first of a trilogy set in the same sort of chronotype as Nicola Griffith’s Hild.  This is the author's first novel since retiring from tech and achieving an MFA from NYU, thus the author isn't yet as skilled as Griffith.  The first sections are somewhat muddy slogging, as the reader attempts to locate where, when and why.  This is made more confusing by sudden switches in protagonists and their limited 3rd person point of view.  The novel  improves about half way through, just about where this reader was going to jettison it. 



The novel's titles are different in different countries.  Seeing the title for the Dutch version perhaps explains some of my initial difficulties with the novel, trying to figure out who and what it was about.  We open with the brother, Ragnvald, so one tends to think he’s the ‘real’ protagonist (and nothing changes one’s mind about that as the book progresses).  But the sister, Svanhilde, gets pov as well --  except when they are in scenes together we get them from his pov.  But the title in Dutch is De Legende Van Swanhilde -- so is Svanhilde the actual protagonist?

I’m guessing at least one of these two siblings will be in Iceland in the second volume.


Sarah Perry. (2016) The Essex Serpent. Serpents Tail – UK / HarperCollins, NY.

Set between January through November in a single year of the late Victorian era, this is a 'literary' historical fiction, which received glowing reviews in all the venues that review such fiction. For this reader though, the various parts do not connect thematically, and did not meld via the laborious and labored metaphor of the serpent of the title.  This serpent writhes throughout the text in the guise of several visions: prehistoric, i.e. scientific of the real, material world, superstition of the infernal, mystical vision of the divine, creative impetus of the imagine. These and more meanings of the serpent cycles into the consciousness periodically of the people who live in a village upon the Blackwater River in Essex, close to the sea. 

For someone who has read enormously in the great century of Victorian fiction, the characters felt as lesser shadows of all the Victorian characters we already know -- particularly those out of historical fiction -- rather than original figures in their own right.  Except they are given to thinking as if they are no different from thos who in the 21st century, which is how the author has taken pains to tell her readers they are not.  There is an exception of one of the peripherals, Naomi Banks, a motherless child with a hard drinking fisherman father.  It's her story that is the interesting one, but we don't get much.

This reader got very impatient before the end arrived.  The book felt about 60 pages too long, and it felt as though nothing amounted to much at all -- which is perhaps where it is like so many people alive today?

Contemporary fiction . . . 

Don Winslow. (2017) The Force. HarperCollins, New York.

Police thriller suspense in New York City, glowing reviews, hailed frequently as "the perfect beach read." This reader naturally then expected it to be perfect for hot humid summer nights, of which this month there have been many (with respites, thank goodness!) 

But what it did it feel like was one of those grey and dreary, interspersed with violence of weenie-wag over testosteroned New York City types from the later part of the second decade of the 21st century. However, the protag keeps telling us we're on the mean streets of  present day NYC, though, naturally, mostly we're in the supposedly still Fort Apache neighborhoods of uptown baby and the 'jects and kingpin drug dealers of heroin . . . . 

Narrated from the strictly limited point of view of the leader of the narcotics special forces protagonist, it sounds like something written no later than the last decades of the 20th century, with that hardboiled consciousness and narrative tone that was common for such fictions.  Never fear, however, the pages are well laced with whinings about how unfairly the cops are regarded and treated by those they keep safe -- while they, particularly the protag -- committing one hideous crime after another from stealing and dealing and getting big moola by selling the drugs they take from the criminals -- not to mention spending sprees with the most expensive hookers going, and other infidelities to wives and families who are too protected and selfish to understand their special pressures. 

This reader did not like this book, so skimmed from the middle to the end.  At least protag dies. He dies, moaning, "All he ever wanted to be was a good cop."


Julia Glass. (2017) A House Among the Trees. Pantheon – Penguin USA / Random House. New York.

Ta -Dah!

This one is by far the winner of  this reader's August's fiction reading. Despite the NY Times's snarky review by David Levitt, this reader gobbled Glass's novel down in two long nights of reading, from first word to the last word.  Levitt does concede that though he despised the novel yet it was pleasing enough that one reads happily to the end -- and yes, not only does this novel provide a happy ending, but it provides several happy endings, all skillfully and plausibly wrapped together, rising out of who the multiple characters are. 

Other reviewers have observed that if one likes Australian novelist, Liane Moriarty's books, and I do (the recent HBO series, Big Little Lies, was adapted to Malibu from one of her books) one might well like this novel too.  But ultimately this reader doesn't see that they have much in common. For one thing, it's about the world of children's publishing.  But Glass gets in so many threads of our current entertainment media, including computer games, movies and television, biking, and even museums. 

It was almost like having another of Sue Miller’s splendid novels from the 90’s, (her first novel, The Good Mother, was published in 1986) when she was at the top of her form. Miller's the more graceful writer by several percentage points, but Glass's novel moves even more effortlessly than Miller's, which means I shall look out for Glass's previous novels.

Will I get in another novel before August melts into September and the fall's crazy schedule, including traveling to Cuba and to Mexico, kicks in? These last few weeks, as hot and unpleasant in some ways as they've been, have been the most relaxing I've experienced in years. It's kind of like being on vacation.  Books are good for that too.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thinking About Charlottesville

     . . . . No illustrations to this as such gross, contemptible, ugly hatred should be left to the starkness of unadorned language.

It's a miracle there wasn't a full shoot out this weekend this weekend in Charlottesville. 

First -- the people that romperitler says are just the same as the white nationalist neo nazi, neo confederates, white supremacists, etc. were not, surely by choice, not armed with military weapons. They did not bring the violence.  The above named groups came deliberately into someone else's home and brought it.

Second, one guesses an armed shoot-out didn't happen because the intimidation of those who brought being so heavily armed worked. The cops were afraid of the nazis and confederates (though the chief? superintendent? of Charlottesville police later walked back from that implication which he'd put out in his first comments).

But just barely did the shoot-out not happen. The itchy fingers of those white men standing fully armed in front of the Charlottesville synagogue on Saturday during Sabbath services -- terrifying, as the night before of those gangs of armed white men carrying torches marching past, and yelling, "There's the synagogue!"

Ultimately one thinks, however, that the confederate nazis were still, barely, sane enough to realize if they really did start shooting it would go all over the world and they'd lose the pr war that they were hoping this would be, i.e. capturing hearts and minds of we 'norms.' OTOH, however, these guys are now insisting that they were the victims of violence, so if shooting happened it would be the fault of liberals and black lives matter. 

But for the weekened they feasted adequately upon their armed, infantile cosplay. They LOVE rolling around, doing a public strut and fondle of their guns, where all eyes are forced to see their circle jerks, like the guys who masturbate on the subways where little girls are forced to see “it." *

So maybe that was enough for them, barely, at the synagogue, for instance, to keep them from opening fire. 

As well, Virginia has legal open carry, unlike Massachusetts and Boston (which demo for Saturday, isn't supposed to be the same people as in Charlottesville, They Say -- and we'll see), so the authorities in Charlottesville weren't obligated to challenge them. Yes, as many have described, this event was very well organized and their target location for the opening of Act 2 of the take-over of Us All was carefully, consciously chosen. This demonstration could not legally have gone on in a non open carry state. 

Murdering by vehicle was not in the planning. It did set off an aghast, horrified fire storm world-wide, fanned by the romperitler a$$holery. They have attempted to pretend otherwise. Living in their bubbles one suspects they'd over-estimated the support in the US for genocide and slavery.

One rather suspectls that Car Murder Guy couldn't afford the guns and outfits that so many publicly masturbated with in Charlottesville's public and not so public spaces -- they are expensive. He evidently couldn't even afford the shirt that neo-nazi group, Vanguard America wore with their spears and shields, so a shirt was donated to him. Car Murder Guy had to do something to show he was worthy to be one of them. And this, with all the pumped adrenaline sent him ramming into the protesters -- no doubt howling Yeeee Haw! Until he saw what he had really done and then, like every other bully, shyte himself.

But the shooting will come unless these armed demonstrations of hatred, racism and ignorance are shut down by the authorities, right now! Open carry laws are making it inevitable, one thinks. But then, that was a big part of the objective in the push for open carry laws by the ugly white politicos in the first place.

---------------------------------
* The photo of Car Murder Guy even looks like the pervert that during one period in my life when on my way to work in the mornings would hide in the men's toilet on the subway platform (the toilets were still unlocked an available then -- no longer).  He'd run up to me, masturbating.  If he hadn't infuriated me so much, for interrupting my reading, I would have fallen down laughing at how he looked, trying to jerk off and hold on to his pants at the same time. But I got more and more infuriated because, you know, my privacy, my precious moments of reading before getting to work, and thinking about what I was trying to write

This went on for most of the fall, at least three mornings a week.  The MTA attendant wouldn't bother calling the cops. The cops didn't care when I called them myself (no cell phones yet!)  It didn't stop until the morning I was ready and waiting with a barely screwed closed thermos of very hot coffee which ooops, I poured all over his ugly member.

This was in the days when nobody in my neighborhood of retirees and artists, musicians, and musicians, except me) had 9-5 jobs, there were no kids and parents taking them to school, and tourists never came here -- too scared -- so the platforms were always empty at rush hours.  I was always there by myself.  Almost impossible to remember that now, when the whole world is always on the platform at all times of the day and night, all year 'round.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Black Nerd Problems GOT + Slavery Fanfic - Make Alternative America Great Again!


     . . . . This recap of Got's season 7, episode 4 is wonderfully funny. It goes beautifully with Leslie Jones's hilarious "Game of Jones Thrones" with Seth Meyer.




 Link to Jones Thrones -- The G-OT- Is MEEE is here.
Brienne asked her how she learned that shit, and Arya hit her with “No One.” I wasn’t ready, fam. I just wasn’t. Also, NEITHER WAS SANSA. My god, Sansa look like she just showed up to the city wide science fair with a potato clock. That shit was rouuuuugh. Jon got fucking murdered, but became King in the North. Bran got paralyzed, but became an Omega Level Mutant. Arya has had to run to every corner of the continent and lost her sight to become Agent 47. And Sansa was betrothed to not one but two monsters, got brutally assaulted, and gained a stalker so that she could fill out TPS reports on grain inventory. That’s fucked up man. Everybody else went away to college and became experts in their field while Sansa rotted away at a terrible MFA program and left with a degree she ain’t gonna do shit with and even more student debt. Life ain’t fair, yo.


What Black Nerd says about D&D's HBO slavery fanfic is penetratingly wise, rather than comic.  It goes well with Ta-Nehisi Coates' piece on Confederate in the Atlantic and the radio interview with the #noconfederate activists -- links to both these are here. 


Let’s not stand on ceremony here: as great as Benioff and Weiss are as visionaries, their blind spots as two cis white men shows up too often for me to be comfortable for a show with slavery as a major component of the story. The gratuitous display of sexual assault (well past showing how brutal the world is), and the reluctance of having any pivotal POC character or venturing into the very natural lines they have drawn around color (the Unsullied army is almost, if not all, POC as former slaves, but is only explored as a class differentiation) gives me little confidence that this will be a new awareness taken on with this new venture. There aren’t many scenarios I see this working: 
- Slavery is minimized and a smaller part of the plot: So… we minimizing slavery now? Yeah, no.
- Slavery is more than just Black people in this alternative world: So… we just minimizing Black slaves as a narrative on some all slaves matter stuff? Nah.
- The flip of that being Black people or other POC own slaves as well: Sigh, come on, man.
These are all alternatives to the possibility that it’s not just a continuation of slavery from the very real world brought into a modern era. Even if these cats have the tools to do this, then Game of Thrones has been a terrible dress rehearsal because we haven’t seen it.
The only way this holds any significant interest for me is if there is a slave revolt in the first episode and the third civil war is about the Black people taking over the America. Das it
. Make Alternative America Great Again. 
. . . . this has a lot to do with agency. About who gets to tell who’s stories. Would I feel differently if Black creators were behind this show? Probably. Not like, Lee Daniels though, but still. These stories can exist in the world, either based on real life narratives or alternate universes, but the voice and the trust in the identification of the producer counts for something. Handmaiden’s Tale, Underground, shows like those, where the writer reflected the identity of the marginalized people in those stories, relays a faith that those characters will be handled with a caring and understanding befitting the human portrayal we expect. Game of Thrones is excellently written and thematically beautiful, but it is also spectacle. It is decapitations and rape and little girls burned alive. I’m fatigued on stories of a time period (or time period carried over, in this case) that attempts to justify racism and racial violence as a tool of the day, but I’m also fatigued on the spectacle of “back in the day” racism. There’s no reason to have confidence this won’t continue under Benioff and Weiss, and they have had several years with the highest visibility prove otherwise.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Words From Me Not Needed

     . . . . From Ava DeVernay's twitter feed, August 5th, 2017, 

 https://twitter.com/ava/status/893872487716585475   





Thursday, August 3, 2017

I Read Books, Wednesday, Thursday, Who Cares? + The American Slave Coast

     . . . .  As I'd hoped, I did manage before July finished, to have read the 18th century Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York. (2016; published in US in 2017 )set in post Dutch, pre-Independence  1746 NYC, by the Brit author, Francis Spufford. The novel has been praised by literary lights and is --

WINNER OF THE COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD
WINNER OF THE RSL ONDAATJE PRIZE 
WINNER OF THE DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE
NAMED “NOVEL OF THE YEAR” BY THE UK’S SUNDAY TIMES



I should have liked Golden Hill better than I did, it having so much of my stuff in it, from colonial NYC, politics, class, finance, race, slavery.  Not to mention that there is more than a little modeling of the novel from the famed 18th century fictions of  Fielding, and the set piece illos of Hogarth. 

However, the stumbling block for this reader was that Tabitha, an obligatory female interest - conflict was unnecessarily unpleasant, mean and nasty, though very smart and competent.  Why was capable, talented Tabitha such a bitch, hmmm?  Just so she can be the narrator decades after the adventures, regretting and opining upon the events of the in her early life when this stranger, Mr. Smith, from London shows up in York (not yet called 'New' York, but York City) with an order that he be paid a thousand pounds in cash (cash hardly exists in the colonies, even among merchants and money changers). The author's choice entirely, to make her mean. It's his imagination.  Argh.  There is a twist, of course, for the picaresque Mr. Smith, which I shall not reveal -- despite me not necessarily buying into it.  Again, this is all the author's choices, which feel arbitrary, not imaginative.  But maybe this is just me.

     . . . . Golden Hill made a whole six novels read last month, more fiction than in a long time.  I do confess, however, that more nights than not while reading Golden Hill I put it down in favor of my re-read of amigo Ted Widmer's biography, Martin Van Buren (2003)  (my goodness, I just recall it was either July or August 2003 when we attended the publication party for it on the upper West Side, and our hosts' daughter was not able to partake of the festivities, but had to stay mostly in her room, having been discovered recently infected with Lyme Disease), from The American Presidents Series, General Ed., Arthud M. Schlesinger, Jr.

Martin Van Buren's birthplace. 1782, outside Kinderhood, NY.

As seen on this map, Kinderhook was a splendid spot in which to have a tavern, located on the post road to Albany.  So, though Van Buren's father wasn't a wealthy man (particularly compared to the old Dutch patroons), he was doing far better than those who weren't patroon, which included owning  nine slaves.

The astonishing life of Mr. Van Buren, born to a Dutch family in New York, in the middle of the War for Independence, the first President of the United States not to have ever been a British subject, really happened, and ultimately felt so much more interesting than those fictional figures of an imaginary "old New York."



     . . . . In the meantime, in the midst of mind-boggling cascades of derangement out of D.C. and across the country, we were informed that the audio CD package of The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-breeding Industry, had not only earned out, but earned royalties!  Boggled again, but this time in a good way.  It was only made about a year ago, and out some time after that.  As it is not inexpensive and it's a lot of hours, one rather presumes these were mostly library sales?



Saturday, July 29, 2017

"When Greeks Flew Kites" - Sarah Dunant's BBC Podcast Series

     . . . . This morning I subscribed to Sarah Dunant's podcast series, "When Greeks Flew Kites," the first podcast series I have ever subscribed to;  it's already in my Overdrive audio download folder, and I'll be able to hear it for five days, starting tomorrow. 
‘The answers history gives us depend on the questions we ask it’
A new radio podcast will look at present-day anxieties through the prism of the past . . . .
When Greeks Flew Kites takes some of our present-day anxieties and looks at them through the prism of the past. The first programme explores our current fears about the future; how the older, never-had-it-so-good generation is handing on a wasteland of debt and insecurity to its children. It is as if a long-established pact – that each generation should do better than the last – is breaking down. How did we get here?
We focus on the rise of the nuclear family; race and the American dream; and British myths; how those of who grew up in the postwar era were led to believe that the future would continue to deliver social mobility and improvement.
For those old enough to be our own history now, how do our memories square up with reality?

Why did I subscribe to this series when I've never had an inclination to do so for any of the thousands of others out there, from every venue from our public radio system to every online news venue, to all the independents? This one is about the value of history from a very good writer of historical fiction, who is as comfortable writing for and presenting with a microphone to an audience as she is in archives and libraries.  As the other genre she writes in includes thrillers, and has a background in theater, she has a strong sense of pacing and rhythm too -- which so few writers do.

So, perhaps writers setting themselves up as podcasters have it backwards? The podcasts are to attract readers to their books, but in this case it was the books (and the content of the occasional Dunant article I've encountered, such as this one) that attracted me to her podcast.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Emily Dickinson, Poetry is Not A Quiet Passion

     . . . .  The film, A Quiet Passion (2016), is a psychological biography of the poet, Emily Dickinson. 

There are many Emilys in this film, as she, like Whitman, contained multitudes. The first one we meet is the schoolgirl Emily, steadfastly refusing to declare religious conversion and a born again, saved, experience. This Emily is played by Emma Bell, who, then, in a subsequent sequence of family portraits subtly ages and becomes Cynthia Nixon, who performs the star turns of acting as the adult Emily Dickinson. 


Cynthia Nixon as Emily Dickinson and Jennifer Ehle as her sister Vinnie.
I saw the film months ago but the thoughts it provoked about the poet and the times in which she lived, the people among whom she passed her passionate, and often painful life -- exterior and interior -- remain riverlets winding through my ongoing mental preoccupations.

A Quiet Passion is an exquisite film, with the exception of allowing Mabel Todd Loomis to actually see the poet, which she never did.  But here the meeting is, in a terrible pitch of highest plausible drama, a moment when Austin, Emily’s brother, is discovered by her in – not flagrante, exactly – but in a passionately incriminating intimacy -- in hers and Vinnie's home! This is so many violations simultaneously that the infuriated Emily literally spits out the words (not the first time in this family drama, in which all members can and do give as good as they get, when these terrible moments blaze up between them.  This is not Austin's house, he's betraying Susan, her sister-in-law, whom Emily and the whole family love tenderly, and -- Austin has fallen from the place of  perfection and moral arbiter where Emily and the family had so fondly placed him.

Emily's life is so much about family.  The Dickinsons are tied and bonded as closely in affection and intelligence as a family can be. As we know, not all is smooth all the time. The fallings out are passionate and the barbs thrown are cruel and to the exact bulls eye, just because they do know and love each other so well, and are such equals in passion and self-knowledge.  Yet, except for Austin's Grand Treachery, whenever the members fall out, once the poison has erupted, they are horrified, not with the person toward whom the violence was directed, but at themselves.  They are horrified by themselves, and see where they are unfair, and wrong, and always apologize sincerely, at once, and are ashamed.  The apologies are always accepted.

These days I miss that old puritan tradition of constant examination of soul, the authentic desire to be honest with God, to care at least as carefully for the soul as the bank account, and that death and the after life are always in mind. Abigail Adams was fully possessed by this, but like Emily, it never interfered with her sharpness of intelligence and commentary.

In this film the trajectory of the poet's mind is beautifully evoked over time. Death takes one to God, who is the beloved passionate anonymous Byronic lover eagerly awaited, but whom never quite enters the bedroom, the father, the Brontëan brother, like life, death, infinity and heaven, merging one into another. The Brontës' novels, Wuthering Heights particularly, and Jane Eyre, with whose narrator, Emily closely identifies, painfully convinced that she, like Jane, is unblessed by the beauty and charms that attract men's love, while passionately desiring it -- and equally, believing that love is death for a woman -- are deliriously invoked with delighted consciousness of committing female transgression at every turn in these women's earlier lives.

Vryling, Emily, Vinnie, happily making fun of men who take themselves so seriously while knowing nothing.
Some have evaluated the dialog in the earlier parts of the film as too much admiration for Jane Austen – which writer, importantly, unlike the Brontës and George Eliot --  Dickinson did not like. or admire. Thus, intelligently, throughout the film,  admiration of the Brontës is expressed by many of female characters. Perhaps these critics got it wrong -- they are English after all, and there are areas of the trans-Atlantic mind that seem to remain forever veiled to their sight. All these sharp, quick quips and ripostes among Emily, her sister, Vinnie, and their friend, Vryling Buffam, are accompanied by continual happy prolonged laughter. They are happy young women, thoroughly in love with each other’s intelligence, personalities, characters and language brilliance. Their pleasure in each other is so gracefully expressed by the actors (the cast is splendid even beyond the tour de force that Cynthia Nixon achieves), that the viewer participates equally in their pleasure.

After Buffam's marriage vows; Emily does not join the other guests outside the church congratulating the newly married couple.
This joy begins to fade with death of friends and relatives, and particularly the marriage of her beloved friend Vryling Buffam's religious conversion, and her subsequent marriage a pastor. Thereafter the friendship, as Emily feared, disappears entirely. It may be Emily deliberately disappeared the friendship, as she was as passionately convinced that marriage had to destroy the only kind of friendship that she could sustain, that of passionate intimacy. Now too disappears the laughter, as her partner in transgressive wit enters the grave of wife and motherhood.  Her terrible loneliness begins to manifest, chosen as deliberately out of anger with the world she's been given, her place in it as a woman, as an artist with a soul as large as the universe, physical maladies and pain, and -- a mind that cannot be contained within a single world, much less house and garden, and which possesses an intimate, passionate relationship with God.

I do wish the film had included the witnessed incident of Emily drowning unwanted newborn kittens in a bucket of water. I had to make due with another acclaimed incident of her father, while waiting to be served his dinner, calmly complaining his plate is not quite clean, and she calmly picking up the plate to smash it into pieces against the table. She explains,  “Now it does not matter.”

Most of all though, I wish the film makers had resisted and not manufactured an event between Emily and Mabel Todd Loomis, her brother's adulterous lover, and the woman who took over Emily after her death and created out of whole cloth all the phony mythology of the eternal Maid of Amherst, and herself as the only intimate of the poet.  Loomis never saw Emily in the flesh, never exchanged a word with her, and never got a glimpse of her poems.  She stole them from Emily's sister, Vinnie, then went on tour 'acting' Emily, and reading her poems, which bowdlerized to fit better with her phony Emily.  Which is a 19th century tale in itself!

Nevertheless, in terms of Emily herself, and her family, these decades of the 19th century from the 1830's to post the War of the Rebellion, the picture of the finest and most progressive and liberal minds of New England, and thus of our nation, and just how much passion and imagination fueled such minds -- there's never been a film like this.  It is joy to watch from the first scene, to the last.

Though all the actors are superb, in the end, such a film succeeds or fails according the actor who is Dickinson.  Cynthia Nixon is magnificent.  No one can doubt that the poet would be in heaven to see herself as Nixon has portrayed her.  Poetry is anything but a quiet passion.



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wednesday in July Is For Fiction

     . . . . I may have read more fiction this month of July than in all of 2015 - 2016 and the first half of 2017 put together. 

This means novels that I started and read straight through, completing them to the last page.  I pick up a lot of fiction and give up on the book by the end of the first chapters, as well as many others where I get about half or two thirds through and quit due to do not care, and also, why is this so much longer than it needed to be? 

So July's fiction reading is much more than usual, that’s for sure.  Staying home alone during the brutally hot, polluted and humid 8 days that el V was off to hot and humid Cuba, and feeling physically crummy is probably responsible -- that, and maybe some novels I wanted to read.  

Brookmyre, Christopher. (2016) Black Widow.

Right after finishing this novel, which I'd picked off the shelves without any prior knowledge of either the book or the author, I learned Black Widow was just won the UK's Crime Writers' Association Golden Dagger award for 2016.

Nerd pop culture references all the way through, which gets wearing and doesn't wear well for readers of the future. The investigator of the mystery, and primary narrator is really too old for this stuff, so it was annoying as hell.  But since many of the other  characters were nerds and young and live in that culture I kept page turning / reading, until fairly close to the end I got all too familiar sensation that comes with trying read fiction, which is "Isn't this over yet?????" -- "gads, this is at least 50 pages too long!" --  so skipped to the end to find out who did it and why. Spoiler alerts! 

SPOILER CONTENT HERE

The conclusion was disappointing: two rich sibs caught in flagrant incest, cut out of the money by their outraged father, had concocted an elaborate plot to fake a murder, create a false identity for the sake of a life insurance policy and getting married in France.  But they needed to find a woman who would be plausible as a husband killer to take the rap. She is subjected to gaslighting to the highest degree. It this character, a brilliant women who is a surgeon, that kept me reading almost all the way through. It was fine, except for the incest. 

SPOILER CONTENT ENDS

Pop culture / nerd culture, you bet he does GOT too.  Feh.  He and his ending let me down, as endings so often do.

However the following books all have satisfying endings.

Cleeves, Ann (2016) Cold Earth.

The latest of her Jimmy Perez Shetland series.  It was slow-going, particularly in getting going, in an almost exact replication of the first Jimmy Perez - Shetland Islands book I read. In fact, the location is where the first one took place even. This in an on going problem in almost all of her Shetland books. though not in the television adaptations.

One of the many pleasures I receive from reading Cleeves (she's the author of Yorkshire's Vera Stanhope novels too -- the first one of which, The Crow Trap, originally published in 1999, I finally got to read last month!  And it was the very best of the Vera novels I've read so far), is how different the television series are from the books.  Both the Vera and Shetland tv series are among my big watching pleasures.  These provide good lessons in how to adapt successfully from print to screen. The first lesson, may well be the most important -- the casting makes all the difference, and when it's perfect, the visual adaptation may well be more compelling than the print, without being in the least faithful to the plots or even who the characters are -- but then television has its own rules, which may not be necessary for the page.  As said, an education in writing.

French, Tana; (2008) The Likeness.

I’ve read all of Irish writer French’s novels almost as soon as they were published in the US, except this, her second one.  It was involving, though the pretext, that divine, insulated group of college kids who are interested only in each other is rather more than tired. But so talented a writer as French (rather like the great talent that was Daphne Du Maurier for our age)  did something fresh with it. The problem, though, is is that they really aren’t kids, and don’t even feel in the early 20’s. So how does this undercover female detective protag manage, since, even though older than the 'kids', still her experience seems too deep for her early 30’s, as she says she is, even though she supposedly looks a lot younger.

But hey, it’s hot, I read in the bed, with the a/c cranked until deep into the night.  I turned the pages compulsively. This passed the hours most agreeably until I could relax enough and sleep while el V was in Cuba.

Leon, Donna (2016) The Waters of Eternal Youth: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery. 

Venice is drowning in tourists and their crap, immigrants, the mob and general corruption of everything.  But still, despite everything being online these days, the Commissario and his family continue to read the classics and eat the most wonderful meals at least three times a day.

Rankin, Ian. (2016) Rather Be The Devil.

Rankin's hard drinking, chain smoking, 60's rock and roller, rule breaking, ass kicking, Scott's cynic Rebus is retired from Edinburgh's police force. It's all caught up with him after many books in the Rebus series.  He's not smoking, but coughing disgusting crap with a shadow on his lung, trying to cut back on drinking.  But he’s still dueling with Big Ger, frustrating Siobhan Clarke and everyone who cares for him, but going to the center of what has happened in the past that has bled into the bloody present. Another change in Rebus --  the proverbial lone wolf detector, he's one of three -- and actually cooperating as much as Rebus can cooperate with them. This means the narrative provides additional povs beyond Rebus's in this convoluted case, which is about – what exactly? The disappearance of a banker, who seems to be connected to all sorts of nefarious financial deals, drugs, gambling, homicide – and, well, not Russians, but Ukrainians, laundering money in and through Scotland. But then Rankin's Rebus has never about the case, really, but about the wild ride he takes you on..

In the end, again, Rebus's nemesis, and in these later novels, now at least a frenemy, if not friend, Big Ger Cafferty’s back, old as he is -- as old as Rebus, but he's not over the hill yet, any more than is Rebus. But Rebus has learned to work with others, as much as Rebus can: Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke, and the male officer promoted and moved over her, to international crime, Malcolm Fox. They all get what they want. Further, Rebus still has his girlfriend from the previous book, Deborah Quant, who works post mortems for Edinburgh, has since the last book acquired a dog named Brillo – and he’s lost weight.  Neither Big Ger nor Rebus are anywhere near down for the count yet, and they glory in it -- and that they have both proved they are both still at the top of their intersecting game.

It was good reading for a hot and humid July weekend in NYC.

Today the weather is splendid, a perfect July summer day.  There's enough July left that I may be able to get in yet another novel.  Tonight I begin an historical set colonial Manhattan of 1746. I've been looking forward to this one. 

Spufford, Francis (2017) Golden Hill.

 If I am able to finish this one (it's not long) it would make a grand total of six -- 6 -- novels, I read this month!