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We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas.  A highly touted, notable book.  I read it through to the end and when I finished, I wondered why.  I just kept thinking there must be a reason it was called outstanding.  I thought it was good in the beginning, but stopped caring. I had to quickly go to a Joseph Finder crime novel for relief.  Found an old one in the pile, Buried Secrets.  I am not an intellectual and maybe that’s why I couldn’t get We are Not Ourselves.  Cheers for Joe Finder.

I haven’t blogged in a long time, so I never mentioned a beautiful book my book group chose: The Girl From the Garden, by Persian writer Parnaz Foroutan.  I loved how she drifted back and forth between yesterday (a Jewish enclave in Iran during the Shah) and today (Los Angeles) without double spacing or an *.  The transitions seemed smooth and lovely to me, but my book group found them confusing.  Maybe it’s because I am the only writer in the group.  I am filled with admiration.

We are now reading the NYTimes notable Fates and Furies.  I hate to disagree with President Obama, who says it’s his favorite of the year, but I have read 75 pages and I’m at a loss again.  It’s twee and arch. Full of parentheses and brackets so the author can comment on the characters’ behavior.  And I have to finish it before the next meeting in January.  Eeeks.

I was really disappointed in Rutgers when it became one of the Big Ten. I don’t like football.  It’s a gladiatory “sport.”  My academic friends assured me that it was good for the university and would bring in money and students. Well, no money and how about a coach, who pressures professors not to fail players, and players who break the law?  Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.

Ruby will be 9 months old on December 17th.  Amazing.  I bought her a 3-step to the bed from Bed Bath & Beyond and last night, taught her with treats how to go up and down.  Today she was running up and down, even when I moved the steps away from the bed.

A&E dropped “Longmire” from its schedule and put on “Unforgettable.”  Why?  Why?  Why?

Speaking Volumes has made The Kingsbridge Plot available as both e and Print on Demand and the covers for this and The High Constable coming soon are gorgeous.

I am still upset by a careless, or not so careless writer named Lisa Q. Mathews’ using characters called Smythe & Westin in her first book.  I chalked it up, at first, to her being a new writer and unaware, but guess what?  She’s been in publishing for many years with major houses.  Not so unaware.   Coal in her Christmas stocking.



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Our Souls at Night, Kent Haruf’s final novel is wonderful, beautiful.  I am now reading We are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas.  This is a much denser novel, an Irish family saga, and very good.  Wow.  Two novels in a row without a crime.  I am starting to feel the need for another of Joseph Finder’s thrillers …

Bernie Sanders, stop yelling at me.

Ruby was spayed two weeks ago and after a couple of uncomfortable days, is back to her feisty, ragamuffin self.

Bernie Sanders, stop yelling at me.

The NYTimes noted recently in their “Arts, Briefly,” that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has enlisted 36 playwrights to translate Shakespeare into modern English.  Oh, come on. This seems insane to me.  This has to be the craziest theatre project ever.  They’re going to take the beauty out of Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter.  What’s next?  Maybe 36 poets to translate Shakespeare’s sonnets into modern English.

Bernie Sanders, stop yelling at me.

Hose, stockings, pantyhose, socks, knee highs, all gone.  Women are bare-legged now, no matter the weather, the cold.  Everyone except me and very few others.  I see women passing me on the street on their way to the synagogue a few doors down from my building.  Bare legged.  Bare legged in the synagogue for the High Holy Days?  Just saying …

The New York Board of Health, our gutless politicians, including our unpopular mayor caved in on a significant health issue: a controversial circumcision ritual that is practiced by the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, all because the ultra-Orthodox vote in one block, on order from their leaders.  For shame.

Bernie Sanders, stop yelling at me.  You are a one-trick pony.  There’s something condescending about what you say and how you say it. Am I the only one who sees it?  I don’t understand how you’ve come this far.  On the other hand, when I look at the Republican presidential hopefuls it’s hopeless.

I support Hillary 100%.



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Fallen leaves crackle underfoot in Central Park as Ruby chases scents. There’s a welcome chill in the air. Ruby is 9 pounds, 6 months old, baby teeth gone, still a chewing machine.

The other day a friend said she had to print a birthday note for her nephew because children can no longer read cursive. Is that not insane? Penmanship is no longer taught in school. Can we let this happen?

A few weeks ago the NYTimes had an article about Joan Weill (the financier Sandy Weill’s wife). She and Sandy have been donating large sums of money over the years to Paul Smth’s College in the Adirondacks in Paul Smiths, NY. She has now offered to give them 20 million if the college changes its name to Joan Weill-Paul Smith’s College. Wow. What arrogance. Donald Trump anybody? She has to add her name to the name of an existing college? Really? This would be like: Warren Buffet-Yale. I hope they are able to tell her she’s gone too far. They’ve already named the library for her.

I had to explain to a writer friend what “fan fiction” is. She was horrified. I agree with her, I find it horrifying. Someone can take your copyrighted characters and write stories and novels using them. I have heard some writers think it’s okay and can actually help sell books. I don’t think it’s okay. Ever. Ever. Ever.

I have read the first 3 of Elena Ferrante’s Naples series and bought the 4th and final novel, The Story of the Lost Child. The books and characters are totally absorbing, but I am giving myself a break before I read the last. Was looking through the stack for a thriller break. Picked up Charles McCarry’s latest, The Mulberry Bush. Haven’t read him before. Friend gave me the book. I’ve read about 75 pages, way more than I would ordinarily read. I put it in the give-away pile. Though the reviews have been great, it’s not for me. It’s flip with no depth or suspense. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a guy book. Just started Kent Haruf’s final novel, Our Souls at Night. This is a gem.

Carly Fiorina. Mary McCarthy once said of Lillian Hellman something like: “Everything she writes is a lie including and and the.” The same quote can be applied to what Carly Fiorina says, on any topic.





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It was so hot in my study a few weeks ago, when the temps stayed at 90ish, that I had to give in and buy an air conditioner.  My whole life has changed since Ruby.  She’ll be 5 months old next week, and is now 6 pounds and looks like a ragamuffin.  She’ll have her first grooming at the end of the month.

I didn’t like The Secret Place by Tana French, though I finished it.  It took me a long time because I kept putting it down.  The characters were not believable and the male detective never sounded like a man.  I am now half way through Elena Ferrante’s second book in her Naples series, The Story of a New Name.  I thought it was a trilogy but it appears a 4th will be published in September.  Her characters stay with you from the first, My Brilliant Friend.  I’m also reading Jo Nesbo’s Phantom.  He never fails.

I have just finished proof reading The Kingsbridge Plot, which was the 2nd in the Maan Meyers NY historical mysteries.  It will be an e-book very soon.

The NYTimes has lost its integrity.  A front page story a couple of weeks ago about Hillary full of misinformation and untruths by a journalist (?) called Michael Schmidt.  His work was defended by the Exec. Editor, stating that the reporter was fed this misinformation and wrote the article, which Exec. Editor approved.  Good grief!  Does no one at The Times remember Judith Miller?  And when the story was held up as false, The Times put that information on an inside page.

My political rant: AIPAC, the American-Israel lobbying group made up of very wealthy, mostly right wing Jews, is fighting fiercely against the Iran deal, taking out frightening ads full of inaccuracies, lobbying Jewish senators and representatives.  It’s vote with us or else.  Very ugly.  They got to Chuck Schumer.  Schumer says we should go back and negotiate a better deal.  Is he crazy?  He knows better.  This is the deal.  The UN has approved.  Europe will.  Sanctions will be lifted and we will be left holding on to our sanctions.  He’ll never get my vote again.  There’s a really serious, respected pro Israel group called J Street that approves the deal.

And while I’m on this rant, the Orthodox minister of religion in Israel says that Reform Jews are not Jewish.  Even if there should be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, there will never be peace in Israel.  The Orthodox now run the country and the radical ultra Orthodox see nothing wrong with assassinating anyone who disagrees with them.

I don’t know why I’m still a registered Republican.  The debate on Fox was embarrassing.  And not just Trump. The callow Marco Rubio judged the winner?  Carly Fiorina?  Really?  I hate to say I agree on anything with Trump, but she does give me a headache as soon as she starts speaking.  I am a feminist, but that doesn’t mean I support all women candidates.



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So I’m later than usual. Blame Ruby now 3 months old and almost 5 pounds and a joy. She has a hate fixation on the wee wee pads. She shreds them. She much prefers The NYTimes and the Wall Street Journal. She had her first play date with the Hall’s Nellie, a 50 pound Porti. They sized each other up and ran like crazy around the apartment. I’m glad it was the Hall’s apartment.
I saw Preludes, an amazing, brilliant play, Saturday night at the Claire Tow Theater in Lincoln Center. It was stunningly original. Rachmaninoff’s writer’s block, which people who love classical music know about, but the “telling” here is what makes the play a creative wonder.
I’m about half way into The Secret Place by Tana French. I liked Broken Harbor more, but I’m enjoying this one. Coming up: We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas.
The NYTimes had a horrifying front page article about how English teachers in NY are teaching Common Core. I have to admit that I’ve paid little attention to what is called Common Core, but I am now standing and shouting against it as a way of teaching literature. Imagine teaching an excerpt, AN EXCERPT, from The Catcher in the Rye, and matching it with articles on bipolarism. Holden Caulfield is a lonely adolescent. He is not bipolar. What a travesty. An excerpt from Tom Sawyer followed by articles on teenage joblessness. Seriously? Who designed this? Certainly someone without respect for literature, or teaching.
My political rant: Joan of Arc is now in the US Senate. She is so sure she is right about everything. She rides a high horse. She castigates those who disagree with her, tells her followers to remain fast. I no longer admire her.
And then there’s the clown car of what used to be the Grand Old Party, seeking the nomination. Look specifically at the governors of Wisconsin and Louisiana. Are they not perfect examples of the Peter Principle? When I see the former governor of Florida, I think Terry Schiavo, Terry Schiavo. The senator from that state makes believe his family fled Castro, when they arrived in the US well before. I could go on, but I’ll save it for another blog post.


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So Ruby arrived a week ago and oh, my, a world of change. She’s a Havanese, now 9 weeks old and weights 3 1/2 pounds. I was going to call her Sadie, but when I first saw her at the breeder’s, she wasn’t a Sadie. My friend Jane Dentinger insists she’s named for Barbara Stanwyck, whose real name was Ruby Stevens.

The Four Seasons, the famous restaurant in the Seagram’s Building, is being kicked out when their lease is up next year by a very greedy (Mr. “fair market value”) landlord who has no sense of New York history. He applied to the New York City Landmarks Commission to make extensive renovations (would you believe?) of the site, and he was turned down. I sometimes think the Landmarks Commission goes overboard, but not this time. Mr. Fair Market Value was even going to toss out the Picasso tapestry which hung at the entrance, until the New York Historical Society took it. I feel particularly attached to the Four Seasons because Smith and Wetzon interviewed brokers there and because it was there I set my first ever murder in The Big Killing.

I’m not even going to comment on Night Train to Lisbon, which was my book group’s last choice. An exercise in navel gazing. Read 149 painful pages. Also read 102 pages of Camilla Lackberg’s The Preacher. She is wildly hailed as the new Stieg Larsson. The Washington Post reviewer thinks she’s terrific. I don’t get it. I didn’t get it. After 102 pages of Lackberg, I needed an antidote and went to my stack of books looking for a Joseph Finder. Found Vanished. He never fails me.




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I read A Dark Adapted Eye, in 1986. Ruth Rendell (writing as Barbara Vine) was new to me. I still own a tattered copy. It was beyond brilliant, inspiring for me as I had begun working on what would be my first novel, The Big Killing. I went on to read Rendell’s wonderful Wexford books. After 9/11, like so many other writers, the shock and grief made me unable to write and I couldn’t concentrate on anything I read except for the Wexfords.  They were in my language though slightly foreign, they were home cooking.

Good news: my 6th Smith and Wetzon, These Bones Were Made for Dancin’, is now available as an e-book, thanks to Speaking Volumes. Coming up is the 7th in the series, The Groaning Board.

I didn’t finish Batya Gur’s Bethlehem Road Murder. It got lost in philosophy and I couldn’t hold onto the plot. I moved to another translated crime novel: The Preacher, by Swedish writer Camilla Lackberg. And just started the new choice, translated from German, of my book group: Night Train to Lisbon.

I’d never heard of Tom Brady and this week I’ve have heard more than enough. So his people may have “abused” a football? A football? In the NFL? Seriously?

Carly Fiorina. Just like some male executives, she ran a major company into the ground, fired thousands, and finally was fired herself, with a golden parachute. Now the Republicans (alas, I am still registered as such) seem to have put her out front as a shield, so that she can say all the nasty personal things about Hillary Clinton. And that’s exactly what she’s doing.




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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.