Reading: Recent Reads (and those in progress)

WARNING! This is not a foreword- this is a warning: I am trying to work on many projects – writing projects – which means I am forcing myself to be in front of my laptop for a certain amount of time, pecking and plucking away at the words, crazy with the effort to get the story told, to find the words, the rhythm, the way to say what is inside me DEMANDING to be said. In addition to the fiction projects, I’ve been trying to write a blog entry for days – it still isn’t happening. Here’s the thing – I am something of a mess at the moment. I am dysthymic – so I have ups and downs – and for whatever reason, right now, very down – and when I am like this, everything hits me the wrong way. I am currently terrified of a couple of things I am SURE are going to happen (they probably won’t – but being rational also flies the coop) and a few other things I think already have happened (they probably haven’t – but you can’t, I can’t, right now, convince me of this – not really) and to top it off – I have been pretty sick (for me) for about ten days. BeenRaybourn SILENT IN THE GRAVE to the doctor. Done the drugs. Getting better but still, not myself. Not myself. So, that’s the context for this book blog – I am not myself, and I am in a very bad place – mood/emotion wise. I am in that place where I hear the words, “And, I’m done,” over and over in my head, like a chant, like a mantra. This too, it will, it shall, it does, right? pass. Yes. Ok. Fair warning complete.

When last I briefed on my recent reads I had just started Deanna Raybourn’s “Silent in the Grave”, the first in her Lady Julia Grey series. Unlike most of my reading, I did this on an e-reader. I keep trying to like reading on a device, but, I have to say, I am just not very good at it. And while I liked the book – Ms. Raybourn skillfully took me out of my IRL-world to a different time, a fantasy, and for that I am grateful – I still think I’d have better liked the book had I been holding real pages in my hand.

After I’d finished my regency romance foray, I moved on to a recommendation from my friend, Sue. I take her advice quite seriously now since I ignored for years her insistence I read Ann Patchett’s “The Patron Saint of Liars” only to finally pick it up and become an evangelical fan of its brilliance. So, I looked forward to “Brother of the More Famous Jack” by Barbara Trapido. I was not as smitten with this as so many people (including Elizabeth Gilbert, who blurbed its front cover) – many of those people being authors citing it as one of their reasons for becoming a writer – seem to be. I kept thinking, “I should be liking this Beaton, Love from Hellmore,” and feeling guilty that I did not. Oh well, to each their own.

After that, I wanted some quick, reliable comfort and so turned to Continue reading


I’ve had another birthday.

Wednesday of last week. It was quite lovely, beginning with touching wishes sent via Twitter, stretching all the way into a Thursday night dinner with dear friends during which I was presented with a week-long stay in a Manhattan apartment, travel and expenses included.

I’ve been awake with little surcease ever since.

Last night (Saturday into Sunday) was particularly painful. Being as I earn what little living I make in the service industry of house/pet sitting, I am frequently sleeping in a bed not my own. For longer-term jobs, I bring along my personal pillows, but this being a one-night – 36 hour – stand during which I did not intend to leave the house once I’d arrived, I descended on the mountaintop home in “nobody’s going to see me” sweats, lugging my basic needs: the books I’m currently reading, back-ups, my lap-top and notebooks/journals required for writing projects in process. I also brought a tooth-brush and, stuffed into the gym bag I always have in my car, an extra pair of jeans, underwear, socks and a Henley.

I was already feeling slightly doped-up when I arrived. I’d not slept well after the dinner with friends Thursday night, tossing and turning, more awake than asleep, semi-feverish, not asleep enough to rest and not awake enough to reach out and drink from the glass of water on my bedside table in order to soothe the dry-mouth, uh-oh-a-cold is coming, sinus-drainage, throat soreness. I spent much of Friday exhausted, trying to write, medicating myself and drinking enough water to flush away whatever it was that was trying to grab hold of me – or, so I hoped. Alas, after a long day of having accomplished only a few hundred words, I forced myself to the gym where I felt so out-of-sorts and not myself I could barely be bothered to notice the naked and near naked beautiful young men who are the highlight of any gym visit.

It was then I knew for certain I was unwell.

Friday night’s attempt at slumber was as tortured as Thursday’s; a semi-fever state during which I could neither fall into restful sleep nor manage to wake enough to stop suffering the delirious chimera that if I didn’t right that second plan my New York sojourn, I’d be unable to get tickets to see The King and I and Hamilton and my life would be ruined.

So, by the time I arrived here at my Continue reading

That awkward moment when . . .

disappearThat awkward moment in conversation about current or recent events when you realize someone you thought kept up with your blog, followed your Tweets, and was somewhat invested in the goings on of your reality, has not, does not, and is not. All of which is fine. All of which has happened regularly to me. The world is full of a lot of blogs. I Tweet a lot. I’m neither famous nor of much benefit, as in, there is little advantage to following/reading me. I can’t get anyone anything or anywhere anymore. So, thinking, (that’s me, always thinking) I should, maybe, change my name from MiracleCharlie to MagicalCharlie, because the talent I seem to have is making people disappear.

My Year in Reading, Sort of: 2014 Highlights

Looking back at my favorites from 2014 – inspired by Rafe Posey’s recent blog highlighting his 2014 faves – now, in 2015, I’ve so far read 36 books – some of which are going to be on my forever list. Until the December round-up, here’s a review and re-visit of last year.

here we are going

reading falneur


Reading is my passion.

I’ve found great comfort and solace in reading. Reading took me to worlds I longed to visit but could not otherwise reach. Reading educated me. Reading saved me by making me aware of  possibilities and lives and loves I could never have imagined on my own. Reading gave me New York, the Algonquin Round Table, the Bridesheads, Jane and Paul Bowles, Helene Hanff, gay men, Fran Lebowitz, Andy Warhol and Studio 54, the Beats, the Bloomsbury Group, the Violet Quill bunch, and, holy of holy, as is Stephen Sondheim to my musical theatre jones, so is Joan Didion to my reading addiction. I actually think that without Joan Didion — and all the others — I would…

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Family Dinners: Here’s the thing (or; Here are the many things)

Some things matter. Some things last. Some things are remembered. Some things are history. Some things require that attention be paid.

I made a family dinner last night. Well, I served a family dinner last night on which I’d been working for two days. There are five of we six brothers and sisters left alive, we were all in Frederick, Maryland yesterday, and so, we all ate together with my Mom, because, well, since my sister died two years ago, it seems, while we five and my Mom are still living, on those occasions we can be together, we are compelled to be so. Some things, right?

I was going to cant and rage about a few things like the fact that they spent fifteen minutes talking about books and didn’t bother, at first, to ask what I was reading, and then, did bother to ask IF I HAD BEEN READING ANYTHING – uhm, this blog, this Here We Are Going, in which I write regularly, it’s sort of a FUCKING BOOK BLOG.

But, here’s the thing . . .

It’s a week away from Helene Hanff’s, George Platt Lyne’s, Leonardo da Vinci’s, Bessie Smith’s birthdates, as well as the death date of Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Genet, and Greta Garbo, which is not to forget it also as the date on which Abraham Lincoln had a bad seat at the theatre, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball, and the Titanic sunk. But, the very most important thing that ever happened on April 15 was the publication of Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language in 1755. So, that’s more important than being an atheist and getting a card that has a quote about god on it.

And, here’s the thing . . .

Kramer, Larry 2Larry Kramer’s latest work – a thing that matters, a thing that ought to last, about things that ought to be remembered, things that are history, things to which attention needs to be paid – The American People: Volume 1; Search for My Heart (A Novel) [CLICK HERE] was released yesterday. It matters. He matters. To me. When I was younger and had run away from home (again) to New Haven, to try to find a life of my own, in the long journey to find a way to matter to myself, it was the early 1980’s and there, in the slums of Connecticut near the wealth of Yale, I waited on tables in a restaurant run by violently homophobic Sicilian mafioso, one of whom raped me, and read Larry Kramer shouting in the New York Native about some new disease that had been released on my people, a virus(?) maybe developed by a military research lab; Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland?! What the actual fuck? MY HOMETOWN? THE TOWN FROM WHICH I’D RUN? That’s a thing that matters . . . and that I would take one of my children to New York thirty years later to see The Normal Heart, about those times, on Broadway; that’s a thing that matters. Larry Kramer matters more than being told, implicitly, by crazy people, that you don’t matter. Not much.

And here’s the thing . . .

You can get upset about not being included in the in jokes, about the revision of history in an effort to marginalize and demonize you and make you and your story invisible, or, you can re-write it to tell your truth. Like Larry Kramer has. Does. And while you’re doing that, and while people you’re eating with are telling you that Dave Barry may be misogynistic and homophobic but he’s still “really funny” and also telling you that the fraternity at UVA is right to be spending its time suing Rolling Stone when, in fact, they’ve a long history of unpunished assaults on women, gays, minorities, and, well, come on people, fraternities and sororities are built on excluding others, marginalizing others, celebrating that somehow its members have escaped being “not our kind”, and still, the people with whom you are eating, for whom you’ve spent two days cooking, are telling you “oh, I think you’re over-stating that” – you can get upset about all that but —

Here’s the thing: another policeman shot another un-armed person of color and then handcuffed the corpse.

Here’s the thing: people donated almost a million dollars to a pizza parlor that refused to serve Gays.

Here’s the thing: bigots and haters in Springfield, Missouri voted to repeal an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance.

Here’s the thing: a MAJOR political party has as declared candidates all bigots and no one seems to think that odd?

Here’s the thing: a dear one asked me, “Why do you do all this?” It was in reference to the effort spent on family meals, but, elided into my life, in general, being, as it is, outside the boundaries of acceptable history to most people I know — my life, in general, looking like it does to most people I know as if I need to find peace — my life, in general, looking like it does to most people I know who are far more invested in pretending to be happy than I have any interest in pretending, those people I know who hold on so HARD to their delusions, to a set of beliefs that have not worked out AT ALL, but which they insist HAVE INDEED – “I am happy dammit” – sort of thing — so, WHY DO I DO ALL OF THIS?

Here’s the thing: Some things matter. Last. Are remembered. History. Require attention. My dear aunt, Sissie, she made a lot of family dinners and I remember them with great fondness. So, it’s part of being close to her, it’s part of living up to her legacy. Too, Sissie was always kind. And,  I can honestly say that — other than one unfortunate incident as a young actor when I broke up with a co-star on opening night because he had more talent than I did and I knew dumping him would destroy his performance — I have NEVER been deliberately cruel to another person; that I have tried, always, to do the right thing, to operate from Love and Light —

— and, so, I might not know exactly why I do what I do, all of this, but I do know that everything I’ve ever done — the reading, the writing, the cooking, the loving, and even (especially) the leaving —

— it comes from the voice inside saying, “Walk toward the Light, Charlie.”

Happy Wednesday. One week from dictionary day.

Reading: Recent Reads (and more Ann Patchett)

Trying to honor my promise not to allow twenty-plus books to accumulate before I blog about my reading again [click HERE for that LONG post from March 27 – Books Are My Religion and a Lesson from Ann Patchett], here is my Recent Reads round-up.


Again, I am a lover of genre reading. For me, a quick, fun, fast book from which I know what to expect is like sitting down with some really good chips, con queso, and salsa and digging in. I can’t do it all the time, but I must do it regularly because it tastes good and it’s great fun. I have visited with a number of my regulars of late.

CAUGHT by Harlan Coben and THE FOOL’S RUN by John Sandford were two of my not-so-guilty pleasures in the past few weeks. I’d go into plot summaries but you are either a Coben/Sandford type (which I now am) or you’re not (and I get that as I long eschewed both, myself – without ever having read one) so there’s little point in plot-precis; they are what they are. MY TRIGGER WARNING: Fool’s Run is from 1996 and about 2/3 of the way through there is casual use of the derogatory gay-slur “F”-word which very much upset me. I didn’t think it was required or character driven, so, you’re warned. BUT, I especially enjoyed the Coben, full of twists and surprises.

I also read another in the Agatha Raisin series, the tenth; AGATHA RAISIN AND THE FAIRIES OF FRYFAM. I’m a great fan of M.C.Beaton and this series though Continue reading

Reading: “Bettyville” by George Hodgman

Bettyville by George Hodgman, Viking, 279pp


Click on pic to go to Mr. Hodgman’s website.

George Hodgman accidentally vacated his Manhattan life to serve as caretaker – and, equally, abuse-taker – for his aging but irascibly independent, ninety-one year old mother, Betty. After a relationship constructed of the sort of intimate distancing, that mutually agreed-upon silence often mistaken for American-stoicism, and having shared many kinds and levels of love too reticent and inarticulate to dare speak their names, George and Betty battle and banter through fear, anger, and their history of silence to achieve a loving, laughing balance of resolved acceptance.

With mordant, self-deprecatory wit, reluctant and never mawkish warmth, Hodgman delivers more than memoir; Bettyville is also cultural commentary. Not only has Betty faded, but the town to which Hodgman returns has changed at least as much since the young George, who knew he was different and suffered for it, left to find a place to belong, a people with whom he could be home. In the intervening decades, as he explored his Continue reading