Zeitbites: Being of sound mind and body (and NOT) . . .

For reasons too involved for a Zeitbites post, I’ve been working on a new will. Understand, dear ones, for me, “working” means reading wills other people have written, getting lost down the rabbit-hole of the web’s treasure trove of crazy will stories, and scribbling notes about fictions I’d like to make. There has been very little actual progress on a new will. Oh well – or – oh will – the few stabs I have made at the document all begin with “Being of sound mind and body” – which made me laugh. What EXACTLY constitutes sound mind and body and who gets to decide?

On many levels – thanks to my 87-year-old mom needing to move from one senior living place to another and my physician suggesting I’m pre-diabetic and should be taking statins, as well as my three months of dieting and having lost thirty pounds – I’ve been obsessing on soundness of mind and body and, well, here’s where I have been going . . .

BUT BEFORE I GET ALL GROUCHY – AND PLEASE SEE NOTE* AT FINISH OF POST – ONE OF MY DEAR ONES SENT ME THIS YOUTUBE – YOU MUST WATCH IT. I DEFY YOU NOT TO WEEP. IT IS SO FULL OF THE LOVE & LIGHT WE MIGHT ALL SHARE IF ONLY WE TRIED TO REMEMBER WHERE WE CONNECT INSTEAD OF WHERE WE SEPARATE . . . WATCH!

Isn’t that beautiful? Okay, back to being grouchy —

I’ve started Tweeting with hashtags #Curmudgeon and #GymTales because my life seems to consist of being annoyed by people; their behavior, their culture, their interpretation of the Zeitgeist. Then, in response to these assaults on my peace of mind, I head to the gym where I try to relieve my stress (and lose ten more pounds) by spending hours on the elliptical and weight-machine-circuits. Sometimes someone says something nice to me in the sauna, or, even better, someone does something nice in the sauna or shower – you know, like sing?

This is all well and good but then I have to deal with OTHER PEOPLE. Here it is, not yet 8a.m., and already my nerves are being tested.

ELDER ABUSE IN PUBLISHING – go set a . . . moral lowbar . . .

First of all, the New York Times – again. Enough with these endless damn articles about the just-published first-failed-draft of a book stolen from an eighty-something woman who long ago – when of sound mind and body – and in all the fifty years since – DECLINED to publish the manuscripts now claimed to have been “found” by a caretaker-type. This whole thing is – at the very least – skeezy and, in my opinion, ELDER ABUSE! That the ENTIRE book section headline scroll on the on-line version front page is about this book – it is pissing me off.

THE MEDICAL-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX – let me prescribe a great big FUCK YOU!

Second of all, the New York Times – again again. I’m not going to link their stupid article about stupid studies saying more ever more even more people should take stupid statins. Instead, I am again reiterating my stance that a medical industry which busily spends its time and resources trying to convince us all we are less than normal and require pricey drugs, pricey regular testing and office visits, and pricey this and that supplied by the medical-industrial complex is a structure of which we ought all be more than a little suspicious. If more than half of the adults in the country “require” statins (and psychotropic drugs and erectile dysfunction drugs and on and on and on) to achieve the medical-industrial complex’s notion of what is “normal” and of sound mind and body, then it seems patently clear to me a re-definition is in order. I’M NOT TAKING ANY DRUGS. I’m happy, my blood pressure is fine, and I’m sure if I ever have sex again I can get this thing to work.

AND BACK TO THAT DAMN BOOK AGAIN . . . but shut up about it, you!

I’m as irritated with the people on Twitter (and everywhere else) talking about this book as I am with Whoopi Goldberg and her defense of the serial rapist. This book is the same sort of taking advantage of someone who has less information and power as is the medical industrial complex scaring everyone into taking drugs they probably don’t need and the way men in power get away with everything from rudeness all the way to rape and murder without ever answering for their crimes. IF SHE’D WANTED THE MANUSCRIPT PUBLISHED, SHE HAD 50 YEARS WHEN SHE WAS OF SOUND MIND AND BODY TO DO IT!

POLITICAL CANDIDATES . . . too much SOUND, too little MIND, forget about other people’s BODIES . . .

The things these candidates say . . .  I can’t. I just can’t. And they are encouraged by the coverage, which skews toward the outrageous, which only ramps up their crazy and on it goes. So much noise. So much crazy and hate. So much obsession over what people do with their own bodies and hearts – as if my birth control methods, who I love, what gender I am, is ANY of ANYONE else’s business. And, honestly, to live in a country where that racist, bigot, blowhard comb-over can lead the polls of a major political party – EXCUSE ME WHILE I RUN TO THE NEAREST ELLIPTICAL TO RECOVER FROM THIS AND MAINTAIN MY SOUND (sort of) MIND AND BODY.

Love and Light, dear ones . . .until the next time . . .

*NOTE: I’m only a curmudgeon because, for some reason, despite decades of evidence to the contrary, I really and truly do believe there is – at everyone’s core – Love & Light; a goodness and beauty that cannot be eradicated. There is always hope (says he, who would be perfectly content to die this moment – but that’s peace, not sorrow. Well, not all sorrow.)

Zeitbites: The Lost Weekend (this is what happens)

Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend

Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend

It’s the Monday morning after my most recent Lost Weekend. Not Ray Milland-y, alcoholic haze lost, but, rather, an existential sort of wandering (and, thus, wondering) around: gym, coffee shops, bookstores, retail outlets, parks, here and there in order to afford some privacy and space to the people with whom I live, who put up with me. And, since most of my friends are fictional, virtual, long-distance, or busy, most of my pursuits are solitary. In the process, I become many different people: these are their stories.

Djokovic 1

Novak Djokovic – not bad for a man his age.

 

WIMBELDON & NOVAK DJOKOVIC’S ASS Serena won Wimbeldon again. I love Serena. I love watching her play. I love that she won. But holy crap, have we not evolved beyond the coded (and blatant) misogyny, sexism, and ageism that suffused the coverage of her win? The New York Times in particular should be ashamed. But, I’m a bright side kind of guy – thus, in an effort to spread the gender-bias-objectification-judge-y shit around, here’s some Novak Dojokovic objectification. He won Wimbeldon too. I was surprised the ass on a man Novak Djokovic’s age was so firm and juicy. Good thing too, because his shorts were tight. No doubt he wanted to show off his rumored-to-be very large package. He’s still hot for someone his age, and, wow, he can still play. Sadly, he hasn’t the Nordic-blonde-Aryan beauty of Lleyton Hewitt, or who knows how much money he’d be making from endorsement deals. (What? He’s worth in excess of 90 million already? That’s my boy! And Djoko – is that dick pic floating around the web really yours? If so, nice one.)

UNEMPLOYED & BROKE & NORMA DESMOND I AM NOT . . .

It’s July and I’m home … this is not good. Not good because the prevailing cultural norm suggests one ought to vacation during the summer months. Well, not only am I not vacating, none of my usual clients are vacating either. So, I am stuck in the batcave during the sunny (although, not so much with the sun this year) summer months generating zero income. But . . . (Another aside: I would be happy to discuss house sitting or pet sitting for you – all you people out there, my people, out there, in the dark.) It’s a life theme, that; Generating Zero Income. So, going with it, here I am, blogging for free. Why the hell not? I hereby promise to Zeitbite you more, darlings, meaning; I shall spread my particular brand – Sure, I have a brand, why the fuck not? – of Love and Light more often. Which means regular doses of dash & aside & idiosyncratically punctuated blathering; sometimes happy & funny & snarky, other times insightful & deep & contemplative, and other times dark & sad & suicidal. (See how I use ampersands/& when grouping adjectives but write out “and” when moving to a new-ish topic? That’s me – idiosyncratic. AND WITHOUT AN EDITOR BECAUSE I WOULD SURELY DRIVE ONE – or, a few – TO DRINK.)

JUSTIN BIEBER’S ASS (is this ass thing a theme?)

Bieber's ass - Summer 2015

Bieber’s ass – Summer 2015

Other things happened this weekend. Justin Bieber deleted his ass pic. He has feels. Listen:

“I deleted the photo of my butt on Instagram not because I thought it was bad but someone close to me’s daughter follows me and she was embarrassed that she saw my butt and I totally wasn’t thinking in that aspect. I felt awful that she felt bad. To anyone I may have offended I’m so sorry. It was completely pure hearted as a joke but didn’t take in account there are littles following me!”

Oh Justin, I know what it’s like to have Littles following you. In fact, just last night JustinBiebersLyrics followed me on Twitter. I blocked it, like all the other bots. Anyway, your Bieber-ass is pretty enough – but you’re no Djokovic. (Notice how easy it is to type the words “Justin Bieber” and “ass” close together? Poor Little Biebs – although – Biebs – is that dick pic floating around the web really yours? If so, nice one.

SPEAKING OF ASSES 3 (or, make that 15 now I think). . . . . .  insert here the name of any of the GOP Presidential candidates. I refuse to type them.

SPEAKING OF ASSES literary . . . . . . I am a book blogger – sort of – so I ought probably to write about the big release tomorrow but my feelings about it are all tied up in having spent a lot of time in my life with people in their eighties – especially those in assisted care, and having a lot of manuscripts and writing of my own packed and boxed away, and how I might be persuaded – should I live into my eighties (and please I do NOT want to) and have need of a trusted someone to manage my affairs, how I might be persuaded by that someone – no matter how good their intentions might be – to reveal/publish/share things I NOW, sound of mind and body (well, sort of, shut up) would choose NOT to share. The whole thing makes me feel dirty and I’m not going to read it. (Confession – I didn’t care much for TKAM anyway.)

SPEAKING OF ASSES . . . mine . . .

July 2015

July 2015

Yesterday at the gym a fellow who is in no way someone with any interest in any sort of shenanigans with me said, “You are really looking good.” That was nice. I have worked hard to lose nearly thirty pounds in a healthy way – a pound or two a week for months, exercise daily, good food. It was nice for someone with whom I have no relationship other than sharing a gym to tell me my consistent efforts were noticeable even to strangers. Thank you, Universe, for that Love & Light. (No ass pics nor dick pics of me floating around anywhere – that crazy I am not.) The pic was one I posted on Twitter. You should follow me there. I’m kind of funny (sometimes) and sad (other times) and I’ve been singing little snippets of songs for my darling, Her Grace, the Duchess Goldblatt (you should follow her, too, because she is the Queen of All Things.) In the past 24 hours I’ve talked about the gym, teens eating all my frozen diet treats, Chet Baker and how I love singing “My Funny Valentine”, my late night trolling of the Algonquin Hotel website, the thickness of mattresses on fold-out-couch-beds, Djokovic’s ass, Troubles by J.G.Farrell, new shoes I want, being judge-y about other people’s depressions, and more. I’m a renaissance man, a flaneur of the interwebs. FOLLOW+ME+DAMMIT+ (and re-tweet me and publish me and stuff – you don’t want to be an ASS entry, do you? Wait . . .  ass entry . . .  never mind. Love and Light, dear ones.

READING: “The Nakeds” A Novel by Lisa Glatt

THE NAKEDS, a novel by Lisa Glatt, 288pp, Regan Arts

Glatt, Lisa The NakedsFor many, many years, being naked terrified me. I wasn’t a boy who ran around shirtless; I can still recall the terror when forced to be “skins” in seventh grade gym, the already dreaded class where a passing grade required being fully exposed at least once a week, my completely inadequate private parts and wildly imperfect body bared not only to the other boys – all of whom from my perspective had superior genitals and muscles – but also to Mr. Trout, who sat with clipboard, each day, on a bench looking into the communal showers, making sure we performed the mandatory ablutions.

Nowadays such ultimatums would result in lawsuits and arrests. Rightly so. It is beyond cruel to command adolescents in varying stages of development to expose themselves to others for comparison; and make no mistake, comparisons were made. Who was developed where – male and female – was gossipy-common knowledge thanks to those masochistic phys ed rituals. Craig Z. was famous for his early sprouting of pubic hair and plump organ, while Blaine D. – though small of stature – grew a garden of pubes and low-hanging testicles that were the envy of all, except the legendary Bryan Y., whose enormous penis and strapping-lad body were gay-porn quality long before I knew what gay-porn quality was.

Those boys were happy to be nakeds. I yearned to belong to that stratum where one could commit such peeling and win approval, envy even. I wanted to be comfortable hanging out with it all hanging out with those guys about whom I fantasized. Well, it takes decades to learn that the Craig Zs – future alcoholic and felon; Blaine Ds – disappeared one night, never to be seen again, rumors of a drug-dealing mishap; and Bryan Ys – now rich and on wife number four; were just as unsure and panicked about exposure as the rest of us.

Everyone fears being naked, one way or another. And everyone has something they want to hide; a secret, a flaw, a scar, a truth not yet told, a lie not yet revealed. In Lisa Glatt’s novel, The Nakeds, we journey with barely post-high-school-age Martin who, morning after drunk, hits seven year-old Hannah and runs, leaving her with a crumpled leg requiring cast after cast and failed treatment after failed treatment and him with a gnawing secret-shame requiring self-medication with drugs, alcohol, sex, and a relationship killing emotional shut-down. Years pass as the two struggle with their parallel immobilities. Too, we watch their families, each member richly tortured with their own ambiguities and equivocations, on the peripheries of Hannah and Martin’s traumas. Hannah’s parents fall apart in the wake of their broken child while Martin’s parents cling together rather than drown in the vagaries of their far more damaged offspring. Friends and family fundamentally misunderstand Hannah and Martin, neither of whom seem able to get past their own issues enough to find real connection with others; the burdens Hannah and Martin carry take up too much space to allow others in.

All of Glatt’s characters are searching for connection, for a way to be in a world where uncertainty reigns, looking for places and ways in which to be, to control their realities. They grasp at everything from nudist clubs to eating disorders to bible-thumping to fingering sessions with the long lusted after hot boy in their quests to find purchase in a senseless world in which none feel completely at ease. In the novel, as in life, things and people are broken and look for ways in which to be repaired: some are put back together, some are not.

I found Glatt’s writing to be fast and easy to read, her switches in perspective well-handled and the close-third POV not as distancing as it can sometimes be when that thing happens where the narrative voice overtakes the character thoughts. I didn’t find it as funny as did some reviewers – or, rather, not as much a comic novel as the publisher’s marketing campaign would like me to have found it; it was more sad than funny. But, I’m okay with that. Life is sad. Often.

What I think was missing – for me, an older reader – was a little more hope, a little more perspective, that moment where we were given to believe that one of the characters had begun to understand – or, would one day understand – that the Craig Zs Blaine Ds Bryan Ys each had their own shattered limb, desperate sin they’d not confessed, daily struggle: that we are not alone in our alone-ness, that we are all naked together.

But that’s just me. (And, well, you too.)

I book-blog because I love to read. I love books. I worship writers. I am not remunerated, this was not an ARC or a free book. I decided to read this book and bought The Nakeds at my local independent bookseller, The Curious Iguana (click here).

 

Late Night Rant

What the actual holy hell? I am TRYING to figure out dates for my New York trip – a beautiful gift from a beautiful friend – and mentioned to a TwitLit pal that I wanted to see HAMILTON: THE MUSICAL while I was there. She told me tickets were going fast. So, I checked various dates in October – I’m hoping to go either 11-17 or 18-24 or some variation thereof and WOW – for lots of those dates, the only tickets left in orchestra for HAMILTON are $350 “Premium Seats”! Really? I think this has gotten out of hand. $350? For one seat? I mean, no one loves a musical more than I do – really and truly – but this sort of thing infuriates me. I’m kind of pissed off now.

Reading: June (and part of July)

I thought I was a book blogger, but, having read 18 books since the last time I updated you, it appears that I have, uhm, once more in my life failed to meet the expectations set for a particular label – who, me? – and so, oh dear, I guess I am NOT a book blogger – in the very same way I am/was not the pope, a Broadway star, recording artist, writer, brother, lover, friend. I live in a world where I am not. Even when I think I am.

That said, here’s what I’ve been reading – in date order because ratings are not really my thing. I am awash in mad admiration and respect for anyone who manages to get a book published, even if I end up not really loving the pages. I won’t be a hater on an author. Click on the titles for links to the books . . .

Mysterious deaths in a Long Island enclave where privilege and entitlement rule. A summer-read thriller with literary aspirations, enjoyable but I saw the twists coming. Then again, I’m a twist-kind-of-a-guy.

Really loved this gender-role, sexuality, family-life upending novel while reading it – in a “laugh-out-loud” sort of way. I highlighted and underlined and sticky-arrowed passages like:

Lee consulted his old friend Cary. They had grown up as neighbors. Cary was older and and richer and fey, with a hobby of arranging flowers and a habit of getting into difficult situations with straight men.

And this:

“Byrdie, I love you desperately. I want you to have more than I have. Meaning more than the shit nobody else wants.”

“I love you, too. But don’t touch me. There’s people watching.”

And others. Many others. There was a snark and a sneaky warmth. That said, a month after having read it, I had to go back and re-read to remind myself what it was about and so, there’s that. In addition to which, I found its punctuation problematic. I thought it needed commas. Pauses.

I read this because TwitLit people were talking about it. People talked about it being bold and courageous and I am not going to argue about the meaning of bold and courageous, but, I really don’t want to read details about children being sexually abused no matter how important the topic, the aftermath, and whatever else.

This was my only YA read for the past month or so. Gay teen falls for straight best friend. Nicely done debut. Nothing wrong with it. My sadness: how many times gay teens (and adults) fall for straight best friends, and, how many times people – of every stripe – imagine themselves in love with other people who are impossible matches. It isn’t, I think, about gay and straight and male and female and this and that, it is about the ridiculous fairy-tale level expectations we, as a culture, have created about and around “love” and the ways in which we all set ourselves up as failures. But, now, I’m not really talking about this book – which did not address those issues at all – instead, I am talking about my life and my failures and I need to get a grip.

Some of Merlis’s earlier novels – in particular American Studies and An Arrow’s Flight, are favorites of mine. This one was too sad for me, here where I am in my life right now. Full of family members disappointing and betraying one another, a man who lives without a sense of real belonging or being seen, it was all just not what I needed, and, too, I found the voices a bit strained and over-worked.

LOVED IT! Here’s the description from her publishers:

Mary Norris has spent more than three decades in The New Yorker‘s copy department, maintaining its celebrated high standards. Now she brings her vast experience, good cheer, and finely sharpened pencils to help the rest of us in a boisterous language book as full of life as it is of practical advice.

Between You & Me features Norris’s laugh-out-loud descriptions of some of the most common and vexing problems in spelling, punctuation, and usage—comma faults, danglers, “who” vs. “whom,” “that” vs. “which,” compound words, gender-neutral language—and her clear explanations of how to handle them. Down-to-earth and always open-minded, she draws on examples from Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, and the Lord’s Prayer, as well as from The Honeymooners, The Simpsons, David Foster Wallace, and Gillian Flynn. She takes us to see a copy of Noah Webster’s groundbreaking Blue-Back Speller, on a quest to find out who put the hyphen in Moby-Dick, on a pilgrimage to the world’s only pencil-sharpener museum, and inside the hallowed halls of The New Yorker and her work with such celebrated writers as Pauline Kael, Philip Roth, and George Saunders.

Readers—and writers—will find in Norris neither a scold nor a softie but a wise and witty new friend in love with language and alive to the glories of its use in America, even in the age of autocorrect and spell-check. As Norris writes, “The dictionary is a wonderful thing, but you can’t let it push you around.”

Yep. Read it. Love it. Let it make you a better writer and more appreciative reader.

I am unashamed to say I am a fan of thrillers. I read a lot of John Sandford and Harlan Coben and am always looking for other writers in this genre who have returning characters, histories, a soap opera sort of continuum to which I can retreat when I am in need of entertainment with a formula on which I can rely. It’s comforting. Slaughter is a new favorite, and the characters here – Faith Mitchell, Sara Linton, and Will Trent, are characters to whom I am happy to return (see later in the month).

I read The New York Times review of this (click here) which made me think I would love this book; its world, its milieu, its decadent, out-there wild Waugh/Mitford society whorl.

mad boy nytimes

I was wrong. It was far less interesting than I thought it would be. The story was riveting but the way in which it was told, less so. Difficult, even, to follow.

After somehow not having read Shirley Jackson, I am catching up. This novel is much touted by many very wise and erudite folk and I enjoyed it, but, confession – FOR ME – it pales in comparison to the memoir-esque Life Among the Savages, which I just read last month. Her next memoir-esque, Raising Demons, is on my to-be-read stack, but I’m delaying it because there are no more after that and, well, I want more.

I read about this in either People or Entertainment Weekly, and then someone mentioned on Twitter and I thought, “Okay, another erudite thriller and twins!” I’ve always had a thing about twins – not THAT kind of a thing, I just like stories involving them – not THOSE kinds of stories – jeesh, you people and your filthy minds. I prefer conjoined twins but one can’t have everything. I should have known when this book was compared to The Girl on the Train not to fall for it. I didn’t much care for that novel either. And, well, this wasn’t really my cup of tea, in particular, I am not fond of novels where one is teased with supernatural possibilities but then there is never an actual commitment – meaning, for me, it felt like this was a couple of different books with no final decision made about what book it really was meant to be. If only the twins had been conjoined.

Wow. Just, wow. I cannot do justice to this book. Atkinson has pulled off a virtuosic feat of authorial technique, imagination, and playing god (perhaps those three are all one thing, seen from different angles – wait – that’s this book!) with characters who die, but not really, and events that we see from different perspectives with very different endings. Is this a book about writing? About metaphysics? About psychic intuition? About one woman imagining who she might have been? About an author playing with her remarkable skills for the amusement of a faithful and breathless audience of readers? Doesn’t matter. It’s a brilliant story (a couple of brilliant stories) made more marvelous by gorgeous writing, fantastical structure, and the technique of an artist at her peak of power. Read it. Now. I beg you.

I read a lot of book bloggers and follow a lot of TwitLit types, so when Kerry McHugh at Entomology of a Bookworm (click here) said she was going to explore the Romance Genre, I followed along and decided I would as well. Not only would I follow her example, I would – in fact – read the exact books she decided to try. This was the first. I had a good time. It, like the thrillers I read, was a predictable, quantifiable entity. And I learned what HEA means – HAPPILY EVER AFTER. I know at the end of these books there will be a love match and while I am completely and one-hundred-per cent certain such things NEVER work out in real life and hopes for same are the root of most evil, I am totally okay with them in books.

This novel was getting loads of buzz everywhere. I heard about it on Twitter, in blogs, magazines, all over the place, everywhere I spend virtual-world-time it seemed to be coming at me. So, I bought it. So, I loved it a lot. First of all, it had a nun in it. If you know me (and some of you, thank you so much, do) then you know that despite my near pathological distrust of organized religion, some of my dearest friends work in churches and I have a long-standing thing about nuns – as in, I love reading about and watching movies about them. Let’s not get into it, let me just share a scene here in which Sister Tee has just handed Mazie a rosary. Listen to this:

I said: I told you this soul’s not yours for the saving.

She said: I’m not worried about your soul. I’m worried that you’re sad. You could just think of this as a pretty thing you could hold on to sometimes that will make you feel better. Sometimes that’s all it is to me. But please, Mazie, don’t tell anyone I said that.

I promised I wouldn’t. My promise is gold. I said she was my friend now, and she agreed I was hers, too.

And it is a pretty thing to hold on to, it’s true. I left it behind in the cage though. It’s becoming a home of a kind to me. I didn’t mean to get comfortable there. I didn’t mean to be there so long. But there I am. Here I am.

The cage to which Mazie refers is a ticket cage in a Depression-Era movie palace she eventually owns and opens up to the homeless. A mixture of diary, memory profile, gossip, research paper, and self-examination, this book is gorgeous and Attenberg turns many a beautiful phrase, by the ends of which you are caught breathless, full of “a-ha” and “I must read that again.” Glorious. Truly.

This one was another that had a lot of TwitLit buzz. And it was blurbed by Edmund White and Michael Cunningham. It is instructive, I think, to remember that Michael Cunningham – whose writing I worship – said that we should read James Franco’s book. I will leave it at that.

The second in my exploration of the Romance Genre – although this one I read about on a blog-post and I wish I could remember where, but, I can’t. I actually sort-of loved this book. It’s the third in the Wicked Deceptions series and I may just need to read the others. Sophie is a cross-dressing warrior for justice for the underclass, especially the underclass who serve under those of the upper class, if you get my drift. I don’t know why the sex in these books always catches me off-guard, but it does. Every time I read one of the throbbing passages, I am surprised – and delighted. And man oh man, along with the throbbing, I love me an HEA!

Follow up to Fallen, which I’d read a few weeks earlier. The history of Will’s boss, Amanda Wagner. Again, we know what we’re getting and we get it. The endings are not what I would call happy, but, the good people do usually come close to winning. Even though the win requires some loss. Which is, after all, usually the deal IRL.

Another fantastic, five-star kind of read for me. Once I read the NPR write-up (read here), I was hooked. (And I immediately followed Mr. Bakopoulos on Twitter – CLICK here he is.) Every character in this novel from the philandering main couple to the sage-ish with a twist older lady, Ruth, touched me on heart or soul level. I understood the whys and the sorrows of them. This novel better limns the journey from the joyful expectations of youth to the sad, mournful acceptance of age than anything I have ever read. Mr. Bakopoulos is a seer, a sage, a diviner of the million quotidian tragedies that amass in later life into a burden of despair and disappointment too heavy to carry, too complicated to parse, too eviscerating to forgive; here is a novel that shows how love turns into numbness, how expectations unmet become grudges unspoken. This book made me sad, made me recognize myself (and many others) and I could not put it down. Listen:

“I was alive and then I was dying,” Ruth says. “Who knows when that transition takes place? It’s different for everyone. And that would have happened anywhere. Everything else is insignificant.”

“You started to die when? When you got married?”

“I’ll sound terrible saying this, but yes. That’s when some people, usually women, start dying.”

And this:

Don Lowry has succumbed to the Shadow; he’s cast it over his children now,and they’ll feel it too for the rest of their lives. It is not something one can undo. He should have seen it coming, but even if he had, he would have felt powerless to stop it.

And this, oh dear god, this:

“It’s been too long,” she whispers behind them. “Why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we stay away so long from the places that make us whole?”

If you can read those three articulations of the dashed hopes and anguish of adulthood without wanting to weep, then you have a soul even deader than is mine. Such writing, such a gift, Mr. Bakopoulos is one of my new favorite authors.

(It was re-named The Murder Man for U.S. release – I got my copy for one cent from a British supplier via the demon, giant, on-line book-seller which shall not be named) Parsons is another author who falls into the thriller genre, this one of the British school. Enjoyed it. Twisty – although I called some of the twists including the final one, but, a fast read and gripping enough and with that ambiguous half-happy/half-fuck-you ending that means we’ll be seeing the main character, DC Max Wolfe, again. In fact, I believe another in the series has already been published. So, there.

Okay, caught up, and swearing (once again) that I will try NOT to allow a month to elapse between book-updates. Feel free to share your recommendations with me. I’m always looking for something wonderful to read.

Love and light, dears.

Long time, no C . . . wait . . .

I had a terrible nightmare last night. Much longer than this exegesis but its ending is I am stuck in an airport (about which I have dreamed before) where I have ended up after walking, wandering, wondering on long, scary roads, hefting ridiculously cumbersome baggage, without actually knowing I was headed for an airport and booked on a flight. I arrive and enter and search for help and am told (always) my plane is near ready to depart. Someone points me toward the departure area and I start to run but I never get there. In this dream, I did finally find a departure area door but wrong airline and they slammed it shut and locked it just as I arrived and wouldn’t open it, answer my questions, or help me.

I think this dream means I should have died a long time ago but keep missing my exit flight because I have too much fucking baggage.

Anyway . . .

I wish I could tell you the dearth of posts on this supposed book blog has to do with mad progress on a writing project or endless bookings of my personal concierge/house/pet-sitting services, but, alas, not the case. My writing is sucking. MY house/pet sitting bookings are sadly slim this summer. And my dearth of posts has to do with an ever decreasing will to live. As I said recently, I feel like a tire with a slow leak. I can’t find or patch the hole – perhaps all of my tread is just so thinned out it can’t contain air – and so, this slow, silent, invisible seeping goes on, and the tire gets flatter and flatter, making rolling along increasingly difficult. I need to stop. Park. be done.

This isn’t suicidal ideation, but, rather, existential fatigue.

I’m just tired of being alive. I’m exhausted by living in a world in which the majority of the accepted wisdom and cultural norms, the measures of success and love and normal, seem – to me – to be somewhere between idiotic and cruel. The world, I think, has missed the point.

And, when one feels that sort of disconnect – from nearly everyone and everything – and has to manage to keep going, to feign attachment and involvement, to avoid frightening one’s friends and family, well, it’s tiring.

So, I’m tired.

But, that said, oddly,as tired as I am – I go to the gym nearly every day and I’ve lost twenty-five pounds over the past few months and somehow, I am attractive to men in ways I’ve never been before. I cannot tell you (really, I can NOT) about the younger fellows at the gym who have hit on me when I was barely dressed. Just yesterday, in the sauna, gorgeous 20-something throws open his towel, walks by me and says, “Meet me in the showers.”

I’m not clear why these sorts of things didn’t happen to me when I was younger and might have had the energy for them. I’m too fucking tired. Or, wait – that should be funny somehow but . . . see. Too tired to make it work. And by it I mean . . . never mind.

I am tired.

Nevertheless, today, I am going to attempt to slap together a post about the books I’ve read since the last book post on May 26. No promises. But, I’m going to try. Because, there hasn’t been enough C lately.

(Can someone do something with that, please?)

Barbara Cook … a re-post from an old blog by an old man for an immortal talent …

July 2015: It was requested that I find a blog post from my old Typepad account in which I wrote about the legendary Miss Barbara Cook. I found it. I’m re-posting here complete with syntax and structure I would like to change . . . but I won’t, because it’s a re-post and hey, I’m human. Barbara Cook’s music has been a great comfort to me in my life; her voice embraces and reassures and rings with truth and light and love. I wish that I could repay her for all the times she has given me succor, support, and sustenance – because I think the depth of feeling she radiates, that gift she shares so freely, comes at great cost. Thank you, Miss Cook. I send you all the Love and Light and Joy and virtual embraces at my command. You have meant a great deal to me – and, I am sure, to many others.

FROM 06/16/2012

I saw Barbara Cook in concert last night. I want to talk about that. But first, this, because it is all so rich in synchronicity.

collage

Many Charlies, including nude shot with my long-lost father about to use me as an ashtray.

Had he not died fifty years ago when I was seventeen months old, today, the day before Father’s Day, would have been the ninetieth birthday of the man who sired me. Although I don’t remember anything about him, I can’t say he didn’t have an effect on my life. When he drove into that telephone pole (and I can’t call it an accident, because he’d driven into so many things, asleep, drinking, whatever, after a while it no longer qualifies as an accident) he forever changed the shapes of the lives of my family; one brother, four sisters, my mother, my grandparents, and the brothers and especially the sister he’d left behind.

That sister was called Sissie. She was my dear aunt, the woman who taught me some of my earliest lessons about unconditional love and acceptance, the woman who taught me what it felt like to have someone in your life who only ever saw the Light and Love inside you.

sissie

Sissie and Charlie

It was only in the past year as I have become closer to my mother, sharing long and extremely honest, no holds barred discussions, when she shared with me the shading of the truth about Sissie’s devotion to me. She said, “She could never face your father’s death, couldn’t accept he was gone, he had always been her favorite, and so she transferred all that to you and that way she never did have to believe it.”

Sissie wasn’t the only one who couldn’t face that he was gone. The entire family dynamic was, for years, constructed around his absence and maintaining a mythology about who he had been. I learned as an infant, pre-verbally, about men disappearing and loving ghosts and images I’d imagined into being, devoting myself to someone who wasn’t there. Too, I learned to fear that at any moment those who most loved would disappear.

I managed to create those patterns over and over again in my life.

I wrote my novel, LIBERTYTOWN, in a way, to exorcise those ghosts. It is not autobiographical in any sense, but it is built around a main character who suffers that same sort of longing to understand the emptiness he feels at his core, a man who mistakes absence for love and myth for truth, and who moves through his life accumulating experiences, people and things in a self-destructive effort to assuage the ache of that void.

I use the story of my father’s willful disappearance and its echoes in my novel. I also use some adventures I’ve had. One, in particular, has to do with when I ran looking for a life in California at seventeen. I auditioned for a production of SHE LOVES ME at a theater in San Francisco and while doing so the audition panel asked me if I would be going to see Barbara Cook in concert nearby. Though I fancied myself a musical theatre (yes – “re” not “er”) expert, I had never heard of Miss Cook. Such confession finished me for the flannel-shirted, mustachioed panel of judges (it was the late 70’s in San Francisco in a theater – I think you get the visual) and I was humiliated. On my way home I bought Miss Cook’s Carnegie Hall concert album. I was forever changed. I was singing along with that album when the earthquake hit. I often dreamed of feeling the earth move, but not like that, I soon returned to the east coast, chastened, and my Barbara Cook album skipped forever after.

(ADDENDUM 7/2015: It was Vanilla Ice Cream that skipped –  but not from the cast album, rather, from her concert album, which, of course, eventually, I replaced with a CD – but I kept the LP until I had to move in a quick hurry from a fallen-apart life, at which point in time all my hundreds of LPs were lost to me. But, you must listen to this song. Changed my life.)

It was years later when first I finally did what those flannelled boys had asked and saw her in concert. That night was a gift from a dear friend who wanted to do something magical and special for my birthday that spoke to my soul and my dreams. He did. It was one of the sweetest nights ever.

(ADDENDUM 7/2015: This is one of my favorite YouTubes of Miss Cook – her delivery of “He Was Too Good To Me” – good god – how can you not weep from the pain in it? At 2:22 her “He was too good to be true” and segue into “The sun comes up…” Holy holy shit – so much genius in one human – I want, so much, to be able to hold her and communicate to her how much joy, light, love she has brought to so many of us. Because, I think she has bought the ability to do so – that gift – by living through so much pain of her own. I love you Barbara Cook. I truly, truly do.)

Last night was another birthday gift from another dear friend who felt “If Barbara is singing, you should be there.” Again, it was magic. But tempered once again with reminders of mortality. Miss Cook is now 85 years old and when she came on the stage, she did so with a diamond handled cane. I began to weep immediately. Though her voice is still an awe-inspiring instrument and her delivery flawless, each song a complete three act play, she, like all of us, is aging. It struck me that there might one day be a world in which I was present and the possibility of seeing her sing was no more. It is already the case for too many people I love who have shaped me – and as silly as it may seem to someone who doesn’t understand how her voice and her genius and her will to survive and her artistry have saved me – well, I was overcome, repeatedly, and felt my aunt, Sissie, sitting with me, trying to re-assure me that it would be okay.

I suppose, yes. It will be. I survived the earthquake when I was seventeen in California with the help of Miss Cook, and I survived many other emotional earthquakes with the help of her music to soothe me, to both remind me that all humans sometimes feel pain and joy, and too, to take me away from my own and let her sing it for me.

She is part of my story, my father is part of my story, the earthquakes and the leavings and the absences and the myths, all part of my story, a story shaped by so many people I have never really known; my father, Barbara Cook; but who I have imagined into being, who I have allowed to have voices in my head and influences in my heart.

Which is what I started thinking about last night; all these ghosts I’ve let in – real and imagined – and the power I’ve given them to haunt me, to fill me with fear. These ghosts with which I’ve tried to fill the void inside me, never actually succeeding. It makes me a little sad to think that there might not be an exorcism powerful enough to free me from some of them.

So, I’m going to watch Miss Cook now on YouTube – look:

– this is how I stop thinking about the ghosts. (ADDENDUM 7/2015: Listen to her speak at 1:00; “There’s something nice about being older – it’s – there’s a kind of richness that life can take on when you’re older; it’s one of the compensations, I think . . . .” How right she is. There is compensation with age. There is the quiet peace of saying, “This day, this life is hard, but I will listen to Barbara Cook today and remember joy. Remember knowing. Remember what beauty and resilience and truth sound like – and try to live in as pure and melodic a way as Miss Cook sings.” Yes. There is that.)

charlie kennedy center

Me, Kennedy Center, 2012, Barbara Cook night. I hadn’t yet shaved my head.

Because, you can see from the picture attached of me last night on the Kennedy Center Terrace taken by my dear friend, Sue Green, I can still smile. And dammit, while I can, I will.

COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Paul G. DATE: 06/17/2012 10:16:20 PM
I came across your blog while looking for a review of Barbara Cook’s concert this weekend in Washington. For almost thirty-five years, Ms. Cook has been my favourite singer and muse. She is an absolute inspiration. I have followed her since a concert she gave in 1980 in Vancouver, after which I picked up the recording of the 1975 Carnegie Hall concert. In the years since Mostly Sondheim, I have listened carefully as her voice changed, the whole time being reminded of her (and my own) mortality. You probably know Barbara had a sister who died when she was a child from whooping cough (I believe). Based on something her mother said, she felt responsible for the death. Are you familiar with her recording of Errol Flynn (from the Live in London album)? Without becoming maudlin, it is a touching song which may have special resonance for you, given your father’s death fifty years ago. Thanks for sharing your story. And God bless, Barbara Cook! Paul G.

COMMENT: AUTHOR: Charlie DATE: 06/17/2012 11:14:00 PM
Thank you so very much Paul G. for finding my blog, reading and sharing your story. I am quite familiar with Errol Flynn (and love it)though my favorite of her brilliant set pieces are In Buddy’s Eyes – because it has such resonance in my life, and Time Heals Everything, because when I was a singer I always included that in my cabarets – for some 25 years, and most of all, This Nearly Was Mine, because she made it into a song about a lost love in a way that lifted a song my dear aunt – who was so important to my life and formation – had always loved into a song to which I could truly relate. Thank you for bringing a warmth to my Father’s Day.

COMMENT: AUTHOR: Lmartzinek DATE: 06/18/2012 03:35:19 PM
One of the best pieces I’ve ever seen written about BC’s work.

COMMENT: AUTHOR: Charlie Smith DATE: 06/18/2012 10:23:41 PM
Thank you Lmartzinek. Much appreciated.