GLORIOUS THEATER, BOOKS, WRITERLY THINGS

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I had a week of an embarrassment of riches, starting with Wolf Hall, Part 1, on Wednesday night, a gift from Canadian critic friend Slotkin (The Slotkin Letter). Very different from the PBS version, but same dialogue, plot. How different? The wit. The theatricality of the lighting. A stage audience responds, responds to being there, in the moment. This is not to say the PBS version isn’t brilliant. It is. And I think Mark Rylance can do no wrong. But on stage, it’s gloriously Shakespearean.

On Saturday, it was The King and I at Lincoln Center. A rich and beautiful revival. A real overture. Wow. The sensational score. Kelli O’Hara was perfect as Anna. And Ken Watanabe? His great performance, washed away all memory of Yul Brynner. The audience cheered when “Shall We Dance” began. I found myself a little teary. As the theater filled, and it was packed, I saw a lot of grandmas with mostly little girls. Before the curtain, Fathers took children down to see the orchestra pit.  The proscenium was gorgeous as were the house curtain, the costumes, the supporting players, the voices. This is theater as it should be. Thrilling. A major event. Congratulations to director Bartlett Sher and Lincoln Center Theater.

Read Euphoria for my book group, which meets tonight.  It’s not something I would have chosen, but I liked it. Good writer, Lily King. And while there wasn’t really anything graphic in it, I found the atmosphere sensual. Now reading comfort food: Lee Child’s Never Go Back, which I plucked out of the pile. I also found Bethlehem Road Murder, one of the late Israeli crime novelist Batya Gur’s novels. Probably bought it after I read one of her earlier novels. I like translated crime novels. They are much denser and while the murder does turn up early, they don’t get right to the point and zip along as ours must for our readers.

My short story “Wang Dang Doodle” (along with 22 others by terrific writers) was published by Three Rooms Press this week in the anthology Dark City Lights, edited by Lawrence Block. On May 7th, 6:30, at the Mysterious Bookshop, there is to be the official “launch.”

Books, NY Times Magazine (again), Rejection, and Puppies

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Finished Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. It’s totally absorbing. So much so that I have not been able to get far into Rachel Cusk’s Outline. But I have to say that Outline is a writing lesson. No dialogue, all narrative from point of view of the narrator. I admire it. I couldn’t do it.

And speaking of writing … a small press publisher called me, said he’d heard through a mutual acquaintance that I had a new book, and could he read it. I said, okay, it’s not one of my series, it’s a standalone. A few weeks later, he told me his reader said it’s not “edgy” enough. Edgy? Edgy? I don’t write edgy. I just said, thank you, enclosing my website with the list and plots of my 18 non-edgy novels. For edgy, read I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, a terrific thriller.

Haven’t gotten very far into my book group’s next selection, Euphoria by Lily King, but it’s good.

The New York Times Magazine, March 29, had an article on nail polish. Really? I thought I was reading Cosmo.

I have been thinking and thinking about getting a dog again. It’s a dilemma. Because of allergies, I am limited and will probably have to get a puppy. A puppy is a lot of work. Puppies chew on things like cables, don’t respect rugs … or sleep. Stay tuned.

 

Snow, The New Yorker, and Books

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It started snowing again, almost tentatively, about noon on Friday, and came down thick and dry well into the evening, covering the brownstone rooftops I see from my window as I write this. Snow again after this terrible winter deadens the brain. Everyone walking around saying or thinking, oh, no. On, no. Still, I was invited to dinner three blocks from here and the too-soon packed away snow boots came down from the shelf and off I went.

After I finished Richard Price’s The Whites (loved it), I roamed through the stack of books on the night table and the bureau, bookshelves, and the floor of a closet.  I like change of pace, so I read  American, then Brit, then translation and back to American.  So I was looking for a Brit, and on the floor of my closet I came across Robert Galbraith’s (we know who that is) The Cuckoo’s Calling.  I thought, oh, well, let’s give it a look.  I’ve read about 25 pages, and will read on.

But, I also thought I might as well set up the next translated novel, and I found Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend.  Took it with me to read on the subway to dentist, and I was hooked.  I set aside The Cuckoo. 

I’d mentioned a few weeks ago that the new version of the NYTimes Magazine is unreadable, but that I would give it a little time.  I’ve given it a little time, and it’s unreadable.  What has happened to The New York Times?  Even the book review is a bore. What would I do without The New Yorker?  When I was in high school, we couldn’t wait to see if the current issue had a Salinger story.  The New Yorker was the only writing course I ever took.  My short stories, I think, reflect the style.  Amusing note: I saw the amazing fellow Upper West Sider David Remnick on the subway a few mornings ago.  He was reading the NYPost.

Two Books and a Play

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My book club decided to read Ian McEwan’s The Children Act, chosen because not one of us seven had already read it. As I’m not a fan of McEwan’s writing and I didn’t want to buy it in hardcover… I went to my neighborhood library, the St. Agnes branch.  I haven’t been there in years.  I found a line of 30 people at the desk and no one to answer questions.  The first floor was all children’s books and there was an endless staircase upward – and I mean endless – but no sign saying what was to be found upstairs, and no sign directing to an elevator, and did I say, no one to answer a question.

I left, making myself a promise that when I give my annual donation to the New York Public Library, I will never again mark it for the St. Agnes branch.

Okay, what to do about The Children Act?  Download to your Kindle, you say?  Well, I don’t own one.  I like to turn real pages when I read at night.  I like to hold a real book.  Enter my tech friend Leonardo.  She says, “You can download the Kindle software to your computer and read the book when you want to. Don’t you remember I told you?”  I’m sure she must have told me, but when she talks to me about technical stuff, I only retain what is currently important to me.

So, I downloaded the free software, and read it on the computer.  And, surprise, I really liked The Children Act. 

I also read Jenny Offill’s Department of Speculation (in trade paper, at night, turning the pages).  It’s a gem. A gem.

My Canadian theater critic friend Lynn Slotkin (The Slotkin Letter) and I went to Lincoln Center to see The Mystery of Love & Sex at the Mitzi Newhouse.  A rave in The NYTimes.  Author, Bathsheba Doran.  Great resume. Name actors in it: Diane Lane and Tony Shalhoub.

Eeeeeks!  Of course, all art is subjective … But really, I don’t get it.  Why was this mounted, and by Lincoln Center Theater, no less?  At the very least, workshop it. My friend Slotkin is kinder than I am. Her review will be up on her site very soon.

The luminous Diane Lane, who has not been on stage in years, totally disappears.  Tony Shalhoub plays Tony Shalhoub.  Maybe it’s the director’s fault.  No question, it’s the director’s fault. Afterward, Slotkin and I went to Rosa Mexicana and sat at the bar eating guacamole, while I ranted.  I had a glass of red.  I needed it.

From frozen tundra of Upper West Side …

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The New Yorker, Feb 25-Mar 2 issue, has an essay by New Yorker copyeditor Mary Norris that delighted this former high school English teacher. It was a treatise on the comma. What joy. Reminded me how I insisted on teaching my college preps how to diagram a sentence.

Last Saturday night, I was listening to Jonathan Schwartz on NPR, as he celebrated the 100th anniversary of Frank Sinatra’s birth. He played Sinatra, then he said that Bob Dylan had recorded some Sinatra songs as a tribute. Dylan fanatics, turn your eyes away. Dylan singing Sinatra? Ghastly, beyond ghastly. Like listening to an emery board. Made me shudder. Had to turn off the radio. Hey, does anyone remember the jazz musician Chet Baker? Trumpet. Vocals. Died too young. Drugs. But oh, how he could sing My Funny Valentine.

I just finished Danish crime writer Jussi Adler-Olsen’s :A Conspiracy of Faith. It’s the second of his Department Q series that I’ve read, and it was pleasure. The writing is eccentric and unique. I am now settling (?) down with Richard Price’s The Whites. I love his writing.

Today in New York

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I am a huge fan of British crime writer Mo Hayder. I buy her books in hard cover when they come out. I don’t get to read them right away, so I’m a little late in reading Gone. This one is a knock-out, the best crime novel I’ve read lately. And already sitting on top of the stack of books to read next, Poppet.

I am a sucker for American history (not shocking if anyone’s read the Maan Meyers’ novels). So when the History Channel did a three episode miniseries on the beginning of the Revolution, The Sons of Liberty, I recorded it, but it took this long, cold winter, when ghastly weather kept me locked in the apartment, for me to finally watch it. Yes, it’s a little corny, but I love our early history. It’s dismaying how little young people know about it. I’d like to see this miniseries played in every school.

The New York Times decided to update their Sunday Magazine to attract, I think, younger readers, who probably don’t buy and wouldn’t read it. I say this because I have the Times delivered every day and read it through, the paper version, not the online version. I am not a millennial. The much advertised first issue last Sunday was unreadable. I’m holding out hope for the second issue.

Welcome to the blog!

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A blog. Good grief. Here I am, finally. I’ve wanted to have a blog for years, and asked my friend Leonardo to help me. But I couldn’t get the name I wanted – ranting lady – and life moved on. So, when my new website designer asked me if I wanted a blog, I said, Oh boy, do I.

I’m going to talk (write) about what I read, what I see, life in general. I may even rant a little.