Reading: Ann Patchett’s COMMONWEALTH

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COMMONWEALTH, by Ann Patchett, hardcover, 336 pages, HarperCollins

After many years of much noise and bustle, I made a decision to redefine myself. I now lead a life of quiet observation; mindfully uncluttered, simple of purpose: to find meaning in being present, unfettered by restrictive societal presumptions and biases, apart from the culture of acquisitiveness and achievement, resisting the urge to collect and accumulate stuff.

That said, there are some things I feel I must own, like new releases by Ann Patchett. So, despite my determinedly (and necessarily) reduced and frugal life-rejiggering, I pre-ordered Ms. Patchett’s latest novel, Commonwealth, from my dear, local indie bookstore, The Curious Iguana, who lovingly saved me a signed first edition.

So much for me not being acquisitive. But readers, forgive me. It’s Ann Patchett. And so you understand what this choice means, the cost of a hardcover book is almost as much as I make for a day of house/pet-sitting. That said, I understand the ability to buy a book at all means I’ve a life of privilege many other people in the world do not have and I am extremely grateful for that.

Now, on to the novel. Here is what is Continue reading

Deciduous Me: Finding the Miracle in the Marble

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MiracleCharlie, Autumn 2016 Edition

Even as I ready to press PUBLISH on this post on which I have been working for 3 days (Not non-stop. I don’t write like that.) I am certain I will come back to it and edit (again) and add (I know, it’s already 3000 words) and delete (I know, thank heavens, you say) and — but, I am putting it out there because it is where and who I am in this moment. And a friend has STRONGLY suggested I give up writing fiction, re-visit all my blogs, and shape it into a memoir. Alas, I fear the only people interested are either dead, or already read my blog, so, anyway, Here we are. Going!

Fall began Thursday, September 22nd. I started house/pet-sitting at a gorgeous mountain retreat Friday, September 23rd. That night the television series version of “THE EXORCIST” debuted and like a fool, I watched it. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to write this, which started out as a memory about my brother, L, taking me to the movies, and somehow transmogrified into a meditation on marble and naked trees and gender and Michelangelo and … my usual babbling bullshit. So here we are, going.

THE FALLING LEAVES/OCTOBER APPROACHES

Autumn is my favorite season. I love the peeling away, the gift of being encouraged to lay bare the bones, disrobe and denude and divest and uncover, to have permission to abandon maintaining the adornment and artifice of the colorful and too often noisome business of being, to be allowed the enchantment of sloughing off, encouraged to welcome stillness, a peaceful, quiet, fallow resting, inside of which is the promise of renewal and spring.

Providentially, for these first ten days of Fall 2016 I am house/pet-sitting in a lovely mountain location just distant enough from the nearest town to afford an extra chill in the air, foliage making visible the breeze, brilliantly unfettered showers of sunlight, and silence enough to hear the birds, insects, and chattering leaves saying their goodbyes before they flutter and flitter and fall to the ground in the glorious quietus of release in which resides the covenant of resurrection.

But first, before we rise again, comes the letting go.

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MiracleCharlie 1962-63 Edition, being held by brother, L.

As I’ve aged, life has turned out much differently than I had planned, imagined, hoped. And as I accumulated experiences and disappointments I lost the smiling, optimistic, embracing, believing, open MiracleCharlie I was as a child. Now, after what began as a forced letting go and continued as a prolonged Continue reading

READING: Nathan Hill’s THE NIX (and a few others)

I’ll be talking about four books today; IN MIKE WE TRUST by P.E.Ryan; HOME BY NIGHTFALL by Charles Finch; THE WOMAN IN CABIN TEN by Ruth Ware; and my favorite of this post, the very good THE NIX by Nathan Hill. You can click on any of the titles in red below to be taken to either the publisher’s page or the author’s page for the books. Enjoy.

in-mike-we-trustIN MIKE WE TRUST, by P.E.Ryan, hardcover, 366 pages, Harper Teen

After having reveled in the glories of Patrick Ryan’s The Dream Life of Astronauts, I worried the next author I read would be at an unfair disadvantage. So, what did I do? Followed up with Mr. Ryan’s — this time writing as P.E.Ryan — young adult novel, In Mike We Trust.

15-year-old Garth and his emotionally and financially stressed Mom are adjusting to a smaller life when the identical twin of Garth’s deceased father, Mike, a sort of prodigal brother/mysterious black sheep, arrives on the scene. Garth has recently come out as Gay to his best friend, Lisa, and to his Mom, the latter of whom wishes him to keep it quiet until he’s older, refusing even to discuss it with him. Mike shakes up the fearfully circumscribed world in which Garth and his Mom have mourned themselves into in ways that alarm Garth’s Mom, Lisa, and finally, Garth himself who is also falling for Lisa’s friend, Adam, further complicating matters.

This is a very fast read (with a slow-ish start) and, like I said, after The Dream Life of Astronauts, nothing stood a chance with me. I liked this well enough but something about Mike felt unfinished to me, as if the author meant him to be more, or to go in a different direction originally, but was convinced not to. In general, the characters and the story felt underdeveloped and too plotted and planned at the same time, unlike Astronauts, which was full of surprises and breathtaking realities, this felt predictable and not really from the truth of a heart.

home-by-nightfallHOME BY NIGHTFALL (Charles Lenox Mysteries #9), by Charles Finch, Hardcover, 304 pages, Minotaur Books

I have read only one other in this series, a much earlier installment. The aristocratic Mr. Lenox, in 1876 London, having Continue reading

Why I Blog. Why I Write. Why I?

I need to understand things.

I cried in the gym parking lot Wednesday morning.

Why?

A few days ago I messaged this sentence to a friend; “Especially since she seems no longer to have any use for me.” I was confessing my sadness for envying another who was being showered with attention I no longer receive from someone whose approval and approbation have become part of my measurement of self-worth.

My friend mentioned being struck by my choice of the word “use” which made me think. A lot. The “get off Twitter, stop texting people, shut the hell up” kind of thinking brought on by the suspicion (fear?) that something foundational in my cosmological makeup might be flawed, and before I disappoint or chase away anyone else (as in, the person I was messaging): Shut the fuck up.

All these decades I thought I was Continue reading

September Mo(u)rnings

Many loved ones who know me well, and some who know me just by social media, have inquired as to my well-being. Thank you, I am fine. September is a rough month for me. And my health challenges are exhausting me right now, but I will be fine. I am fine. Just tired. I am always fine. But if I am quiet right now, it is because: reasons. And me, being me, being prone to sharing TMI and with so few walls and so little fear of revealing anything anymore, felt that an explanation would help me cope, and let those of you who wanted to know, know. So, here it is . . .

Oh September.

September 1962: The Beginning Ending

It is fifty years later, after my mother and I have worked through so many losses and back to one another, finding our way first as mother and son, then, to the surprise of both of us, becoming friends, and finally, when I who she carried and for whom she sacrificed became the one doing the carrying and caring, she offered me the warmest embrace: her unguarded truths. I asked her about what had happened when she’d answered the door that night.

As she told me her story, I saw it in black and white until she started to describe the officer who’d been sent to change her life. He was, she told me, very young, boyish, and fifty years later she did that deflection thing she does where she makes what everyone else is going through more important than whatever is happening to her; “I feel so sorry for that policeman, there I was, answering the door, seven months pregnant out to here, and I knew what he had to tell me and he just didn’t want to say it. But I knew. As soon as I saw that boy in that uniform; I knew.”

Her husband, my father, was dead.

And in my head, as she told me about that young officer, that boyish looking man, in all the past and black and white of her sorrow, I saw A., in color.

September 2003

Stephen was recovering from a routine hernia operation when I went to his apartment to drop off the script for Batboy: The Musical, for which I’d gotten the rights for the premiere Maryland production. Stephen and I had worked through so many losses and back to one another, finding our way again as dear, hysterical friends who shared a predilection for horrible men, bad choices, and financial ineptitude. After years of dueling theatre companies and classes, he was going to be in my Batboy, and I was going to be in his Dracula, and we had been discussing our plans to rid ourselves of the dross and offal in our lives, excited to re-bond and support one another in this purging of people who didn’t deserve all we’d done and did for them and who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) appreciate the joy we got from waving at strangers and taking chances. We laughed like loons that Saturday morning at all the stupid we had been, the silly we had done, and love, until he stopped, stopped breathing it seemed and said:

“I hate to be the one who has to tell you this, but Continue reading

Reading: Finding Patrick Ryan

Over the holiday weekend I read three books, 2 of which I will describe in brief at the end of this:  SCREAM, by Tama Janowitz; and PALE FIRE, by Vladimir Nabokov, and then, one of those books that fill a reader with joy, the pages of which introduce you to a new author to whom you can turn when you need to say, “AHHH, this is what writing is and reading should be!” I start with this:

THE DREAM LIFE OF ASTRONAUTS, by Patrick Ryan, hardcover, 272 pages, Dial Press

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Click on cover to visit Patrick Ryan’s website

Behold the first thirty-four words of The Way She Handles, the opening story in Patrick Ryan’s collection, The Dream Life Of Astronauts:

“Late one night during the summer of Watergate, I was in bed reading a Hardy Boys novel by flashlight when a car pulled into our cul-de-sac, its headlights sweeping the walls of my room.”

That sentence tells the reader at least ten things about the narrator and one thing about the writer; he’s incredibly gifted. I was so enraptured by the promise of the opening line, I hesitated to read on, fearing disappointment. Instead, I found a new favorite author.

I suppose I ought to have expected as much since the book was blurbed by Ann Patchett, no slouch in the writing department herself. And I then discovered a chat between the two on her Parnassus Books site. Click here for that. 

The Way She Handles is about four lonely people, isolated together, which is less oxymoron than miracle of writing, managing to capture the damage people do to one another just by virtue of proximity. Like many of the stories in the collection, members of these fractured, fragile families Mr. Ryan so vividly captures, resent one another, often for an absence — whether it be physical, there is much abandonment herein, or emotional, in that those others we love seem never to appreciate enough how we love them, what we do for them, what we’ve sacrificed for them.

The title story, The Dream Life Of Astronauts, is one of the finest, most moving, layered stories I’ve read since Elizabeth McCracken’s Thunderstruck collection. In it, space-nerd Frankie, who is sixteen, almost seventeen, is awe-struck by an almost astronaut he thinks he is stalking; but who is pursuing whom and what they both gain and lose in their misapprehensions about one another make for a tale both hilarious and horrifying. When we meet Frankie again, much later in the collection in a treasure called Earth, Mostly, well, I wept.

Part of the genius of this collection is that while each story stands alone, they all take place near Cape Canaveral and some of the characters reappear, having changed (rarely for the better) in the way people do when you’ve known them for long years but haven’t seen them for ages; upon recognizing them and realizing who they were and what they’ve come to you gasp the “Oh, shit, that could be me,” sort of panic.

Like Bonnie Jo Campbell in her glorious collection, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters [click here], Mr. Ryan imbues his characters with a native wisdom and a real-life, real-people, day-in-day-out acceptance of their lives and realities. They may have tragedy, they may have regret, but they go on, they trudge, they cope through the terror of life in lower-middle-class America, where all the dreams and possibilities politicians are always blathering on about are pretty much acknowledged to be the things that happen to people not like us; happiness is a thing mostly out of reach.

I loved this book. I cannot recommend it enough. Which was a nice feeling after the two books I read right before it.

SCREAM: A Memoir of Glamour and Dysfunction, by Tama Janowitz, hardcover, 304 pages, Dey Street Books

This was a terribly depressing memoir to which I was led because a few people I know on Twitter were talking about it. But, yuck. I quote;

“I found rotten people to be more interesting. What made them the way they were? Thankfully, I found that even nice and decent human beings are pretty rotten as well.”

One can imagine the sort of unhappiness and bleak existence experienced by someone with that cosmology. I feel sorry for her. I’m sorry I read this. And, not only was it unpleasant, but it was poorly edited with many repeated lines and fragments of semi-stories and bitternesses. Just — no.

And then, in my never-ending quest to prove autodidacticism is a viable alternative to a degree, I decided I just had to read what was recently called in print “Vladimir Nabokov’s genius gay classic”;

PALE FIRE, by Vladimir Nabokov, Hardcover, 239 pages, Everyman’s Library, 1992

Clearly, my lack of formal education has rendered me unable to appreciate what others (many, many others) have called an ingenious masterpiece of form and structure. Well, okay. But, let me tell you an embarrassing little tale about my writing. Once upon a time I wrote a weekly column and theatre reviews for a small on-line magazine. Its publisher invited a former New York Times editor to workshop with us and he said to me; “Do me and all your readers a favor, confine your masturbatory urges to your private time. If you’re working that hard to prove to us how smart you are, we’re never gonna believe you anyway. Dial it back.”

Of course I got furious. Of course he was right. Now, I am NOT comparing myself to Nabokov, but it strikes me that Pale Fire wasn’t written for — as Dorothy Parker called us — The Common Reader, but rather, for other writers and graduate students enthralled by the technical aspects of literature and rubbing-one-another off about how clever and intellectual they all are.

Listen, I’m not much interested in flipping back and forth and deep-deep delving into a book to appreciate its genius. Truth: I’d rather jack off myself.

Later kids, Love and Light.

 

 

 

Wilde and Bosie and loving unwisely, but profoundly

It’s a beautiful, clear, breezy, near 70 degree Sunday here in Frederick, Maryland, United States, the day before Labor Day. I am listening to author, Neil Bartlett, live from Reading Gaol, reading De Profundis, Oscar Wilde’s 50,000 word letter to his dear one, his betrayer, Bosie.

Wilde bosie colorizedI am weeping. As is Mr. Bartlett, periodically. One catches one’s breath, one recognizes in these lyrical lines one’s own experience, that unfortunate accident of an uncontrollable and ill-advised attraction to someone within whom one recognizes all the love, all the light, all the good, all the possibility, someone within whom one imagines there to be all the might have beens one missed out on, someone onto whom one projects all the fantastic future that might have been made of one’s own failed past; that attraction which has the unhappy ending of being attacked by that same loved one with a despairing hate, a purposeful, contemptuous darkness, a calculated and pointed evil, and nothing but the willful urge to destroy, all the might bes scoffed away, the future which — no matter its shape — will always bear the scar of a past in which one was heedlessly, pointedly, deliberately cruel.

Since my own Bosie-experience, I am less able to love. It isn’t bitterness or anger, it is an absence. The sorrow of having watched a loved one choose to ravage and deny eviscerated a part of me. The ultimate essence of who I am was surgically altered, changed when someone I loved with near-complete disregard for my own well-being or good, made the choice to negate, forsake, and slander with lies and twisted narrations the truth of who we were, what we were, who I am, who they are.

But, that is just my story. My experience.

Wilde knew this, too. He wrote about the difficulties of finding the truth and essence of things via a translation of a translation; there is no way for language to capture the individual experience of love. Wilde and Bosie, their society, historians, we readers now, all have unique ideas about what and who Wilde and Bosie were, what their love was worth or what it meant.

So, what miracle and magic is it that Wilde’s words do manage to evoke so much of the horror, shame, pain, and regret of having loved unwisely? The sorrow and the anguish, the heartfelt cry of his deepest feelings made mockery; the need to find a way to come to terms, come to peace with the love one gave so freely having been so hatefully rebuked.

The same miracle, I think, as is this beautiful low-70s breeze caressing me today, all the windows open, and through them to see such a gorgeous blue sky, and to find myself content, accepting, without rage or anger, and, slowly but surely, doing away with regrets.

I have lived a life much-examined. And while I will never be as profound or insightful as Mr. Wilde, I am blessed with the luxury of time and freedom to consider what is, what was, what might have been, and what still might be.

I want to visit New Orleans and eat Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s. I want to see Falsettos on Broadway. I want to forgive myself for the things I failed to recognize until it was too late to save myself, and, I want to understand why.

Not much, right? And here I am, going. Love and Light, kids.

 

 

 

 

Reading: 33 Books Of My Summer

From June 1 to August 31 I moved for the third time in four years, did six (or was it seven?) house and pet-sitting gigs, visited the doctor repeatedly for a gastrointestinal disorder that has been going on for three years, and read 33 books.

And you know what? I hate moving but I love my new apartment, love living with my sister, am grateful for the house and petsitting jobs, and today visited a gastroenterologist who seems to be determined to help me, which would be enough in itself, but, too, he is almost a dead-ringer for Raza Jaffrey—

 

— after whom I have lusted since I first saw him wasting himself on Katharine McPhee on SMASH, (FULL DISCLOSURE — I was ALWAYS Team-Ivy, and have seen Megan Hilty in multiple Broadway shows as well as in concert — a lot — twice in one night, in fact, when she did THIS —

–holy shit I love her so MUCH! And I am scheduled to see her again with my dear Team-Ivy and gastrointestinal distress cohort, A, in December — I LOVE YOU SO MUCH, A!!!!) and, my dears, to have the luxury of a life in which I can read 33 books over the course of a summer — I am NOT complaining, in fact, I am expressing my gratitude to the universe and to you people for reading me.

And, since this is SUPPOSED to be about the books I have read this summer, ha, here I am, going, offering short summaries of my summery-reads arranged by date read.

Think TwiceTHINK TWICE (Rosato & Associates #11) by Lisa Scottolinethis was my first Lisa Scottoline and I wonder how I have missed her up until now? On the other hand, grateful I now have a lengthy backlist to savor. Well done, fast paced, nicely plotted, moves like a bullet-train.

THE ASSISTANTS by Camille PerriA fast read about those living privileged lives which are not privileged enough; explores in a satirical way the damage done by sexism and classism, but, almost admires the capitalist destruction of self. Torn about it. But, funny, well structured, and, again, very fast.

THE NEST by Cynthia D’Aprix SweeneyMore privileged people dissatisfied with their level of privilege. Why are all the “summer reads” this year so obsessed with the haves who feel they haven’t enough and act execrably because of it?

MOST WANTED by Lisa ScottolineMy second Lisa Scottoline read since “discovering” her earlier in June. This, a plot involving sperm donor being a serial killer and mother-to-be determined to get to the truth of it all. It moves. It goes. It does what you want it to do and gives you what you want. I like that in a sperm donor and a book.

Our Young ManOUR YOUNG MAN by Edmund WhiteI have read almost everything Edmund White has written from A Boy’s Own Story to City Boy to The Joy of Gay Sex to the Proust and Genet biographies. He is a part of my history, a part of the history of all gay men of my generation. He broke ground. He pushed. He pulled. He succeeded. He failed. He blazed trails. And I will honor him and every word he writes for as long as he writes.

THE GIRLS by Emma Cline I liked this. I marvelled at the insight of an author so young, in particular her ability to capture the feeling of the late sixties and early seventies, and the lamenting, ennui, and patina of regret & disappointment coloring the remainder of the lives of survivors of the radicalism & extreme believing of the time. That said, not quite sure it was worth all the summer-buzziness it got, but, there it is. I have come to think nearly all buzzy-books have more to do with who is marketing them as opposed to how well they read, if that makes sense.

Then and NowTHEN & NOW: A MEMOIR by Barbara CookIt’s Barbara Cook, who is such a part of my life, so integral to my experience and the stories of who I am, it is as if she is a close, personal friend. She is that sort of talent, that sort of love, and so whatever she sings, says, offers, acts, writes will always be a five-star event for me.

THE CHILDREN by Ann Leary Fast summer read. I found the ending a bit less than satisfying and the characters’ traits seem sometimes pasted on and pat rather than earned and true, but, all hail a writer who has a plot and moves things along and doesn’t indulge in MFA-fuckery.

THE DEADLY DANCE (Agatha Raisin # 15) by M.C.Beaton

I love Agatha, and in this episode she begins her own detective agency, which has given her a welcome increase in the bite and spark which was very much on display in earlier installments and which had faded into a less interesting near-nastiness in the last couple — although I still loved visiting with her in those, too. But, hoorah for this turn!

GRACE: A NOVEL by Natasha DeonThe writing was well-calibrated in that “I’ve been workshopped a lot” sort of way, but I found it difficult to follow the time-jumping narration, its back and forthing, perhaps because its voices were all too much the same, needing more individuation. And I thought it went on longer than it needed to. And it was very hard to take, its tragedies were painful to bear.

THE UNDERGROUND MAN (Lew Archer # 16) by Ross MacdonaldMy first Macdonald, though this is 16th in Lew Archer series. It transcends the faux-detective-noir-ish sort of genre: he is a true pro at this, a master. The plot was twisty, the characters well-defined, the writing phenomenally evocative. Had I not read Eudora Welty’s review of it, and known her fondness from MEANWHILE THERE ARE LETTERS — the brilliant collection of the correspondence between the two — I’d have missed Mr. Macdonald’s work.

They May Not Mean to But They DoTHEY MAY NOT MEAN TO, BUT THEY DO by Cathleen SchineI loved this book. Quite the brilliant exploration of the love, guilt, manipulation, anger, joy, forgiveness, and insanity of being family. The insight into an octogenarian main character was a refreshing change of pace from the usual senior character portrayals in fiction. Read this if you have parents. Or kids. Or, a family.  ONE OF MY TOP SUMMER PICKS.

THE GIRLS IN THE GARDEN by Lisa JewellWell constructed, suspense-thriller-ish novel, fast read with a young adult vibe, great for a hot summer day. Again, though, maybe a little more media-buzzed/hyped than warranted.

SWEETBITTER by Stephanie DanlerA very fast read & well done, the writing is lovely, here and there one comes across a stunning insight, but, in the end, it felt cheated and posed, like one of its major characters, Simone. Somehow not all it was pretending to be, a little pretentious and too much muchness. Still, I do recommend you read it, but, again, buzzy-hype warning.

Some Enchanted EveningsSOME ENCHANTED EVENINGS: THE GLITTERY LIFE AND TIMES OF MARY MARTIN by David Kaufmanmy dear aunt, Sissie, adored Mary Martin, and thus, so did I. She was and is a legend, the likes of which we won’t see again. Annoyed this book did things like call Rose in GYPSY Mama Rose, and misspell Minnie in HELLO, DOLLY! as Mini. Sloppy for a book about musical theatre. And the author seemed determined from the outset to prove that Mary Martin really wasn’t as nice as she pretended to be, making sure to find lots of people who had issues with her. A bit bitchy, I think, but, still, I devour anything with old-Broadway gossip so, I loved it, though it felt somewhat disrespectful to do so.

THE INNOCENTS (Quinn Colson #6) by Ace Atkins

I didn’t read the first 5, nor have I read any previous Ace Atkins, but this was a great noir. Dark, full of uncomfortably real, small-town, small-mind ignorance and hate to which Quinn Colson stands up. I liked it. Fast read. Well done.

MODERN LOVERS by Emma StraubThis is an easy read, short chapters, many interesting characters, well constructed. What kept me from 4-starring was its lack of exploration of the possibility of happiness outside coupledom, or, the absence of an examination of how that cultural assumption might be a kind of bigotry/hindrance. But, as far as buzz-hype-y summer books, this one came rather closer to deserving the noise than did most of the others.

Excellent LombardsTHE EXCELLENT LOMBARDS by Jane HamiltonI am a fan of Jane Hamilton; reading her is akin to hearing a great & beloved friend share a personal story. I enjoyed this book very much, until the last few pages, by which I was a bit confused and then felt abandoned, as if the story had no ending, as if I’d been left hanging. I needed (wanted?) more closure, which is perhaps more about me than about the book, and even with that I am saying ONE OF MY TOP SUMMER PICKS.

CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK (Amelia Peabody #1) by Elizabeth PetersI liked this but I did not love it the way I expected to. I expected to because so many of my Twitterati pals love this series. I will probably try the next one at some point and see if it grows on me.

TRYING TO FLOAT: COMING OF AGE IN THE CHELSEA HOTEL by Nicolaia RipsFurther proof one should wait until one is older to write a memoir. I expected from copy and write-ups it would be about characters in the hotel, but, not really. It was about a young girl’s journey, which is fine, but not how it was marketed.

AN INNOCENT FASHION by R.J.HernandezI began to suspect about halfway in this novel of mordant wit & fashion publishing industry insider roman a clef surface, was a much deeper look at society, class, and the illusions and delusions of millenials (and all of us) which would turn out to have a less than happy ending. I think, in fact, it is one of the saddest stories I have read in some time. Well written, yes, but ultimately bleak.

ROBERT J. PARKER’S KICKBACK (Spenser #43) by Ace AtkinsI am newly addicted to Ace Atkins. He is smart, witty, and moves a story. Things happen and the voices in which he writes always interest and amuse and compel. Nice work.  

BELGRAVIA by Julian Fellowes I wanted it to be Downton Abbey. It wasn’t. A bit predictable and it felt, to me, and I’m sorry to be negative, calculated: a formula written for reasons other than the author being compelled to tell a cracking good tale.

IMAGINE ME GONE by Adam HaslettA family, a history of mental illness, well written. Moved when I read it, three weeks later I had forgotten the plot and had to read reviews to remind myself. Maybe the intense relationships/actions within a family destroyed by depression caused me to block it out. Maybe not.  Nice cover design.

LOST GIRLS: AN UNSOLVED AMERICAN MYSTERY by Robert KolkerRecommended by a number of people I follow on Twitter. I found it confusing — the structure and jumping about was extremely difficult to follow — and, finally, it felt as if the whole enterprise was without thesis or point, really. As in, whatever he meant to do, didn’t — for me — get done. And I think it would have benefitted from stronger editing.

SWEET LAMB OF HEAVEN by Lydia MilletNot for me. I read books from every genre, and I am fine with authors playing with those, but this seemed an ill-conceived mish-mash of indecision about what it ultimately wanted to be and say, what story it meant to tell, and I ended up feeling disappointed and annoyed.

YOU WILL KNOW ME by Megan AbbottAnother hot-buzzy-summer read, especially because it came out during Olympics season and was set in competitive gymnastics milieu. I worked around competition parents for many years; those kids, those teachers, those parents, nuts and totally capable of murder. Fast read. Fun. Sad. The real crime is the ruination of kids for distorted, so-called American dream.

DAMAGED (Rosato & DiNunzio #4) by Lisa Scottoline –  Obviously, this summer I became a fan of Ms. Scottoline’s. Her plotting, pacing, and characters are reliably fine and this novel also offered lots of relevant information about the foster care system; and, perhaps slightly unbelievable but much welcome happy endings for everyone. I’m good with that.

THE LOST GIRLS by Heather YoungI wanted to like this more than I did. I wish I had an in-depth understanding of why it didn’t capture me as it ought, but I don’t. Taking nothing away from the writing, which really was quite good, but somehow I knew too early what was going to happen & I felt a bit emotionally manipulated, and maybe by August 21, when I read it, I was exhausted by so many “buzzy” summer reads being just not nearly as fun and hype-worthy as I’d been press-repped into believing they’d be. Which is maybe why my next book was —

perfect paragonTHE PERFECT PARAGON (Agatha Raisin #16) She is one of my reliable loves, Agatha Raisin, as is her fabulous author, M.C.Beaton. I have all of the books, up through 25 waiting to be read (I’m saving up for 26 and soon to be released 27) but am rationing myself. It’s a real comfort knowing 17 awaits me when next I need a visit with someone on whom I can count, and my dear Agatha is always SUCH A DELIGHT!

UNDER THE HARROW by Flynn BerryA promising debut; I like being unable to tell whether or not the narrator is reliable; I thought the ending was a bit unearned, as in, perhaps too facile. But so admire the ability of authors to build mysteries, what a gift.

Penny, Louise A Great Reckoning 2A GREAT RECKONING (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #12) by Louise PennyI cannot briefly express my love for this book, for all the Gamache books, for the artistry of Louise Penny, so, check my blog earlier this week for a complete review, just click here: A GREAT RECKONING — my appreciation. ONE OF MY TOP SUMMER PICKS.

PARADISE LODGE by Nina StibbeThis was — sorry to use such overused words — a charming and delightful read. Funny. Touching. Lovely tale of a fifteen-year-old young person coming into her own while working in a home for the elderly. Truly enjoyable.

So, there it is. I’ve managed to write about 33 books in under 2500 words, which, if you know me at all, must be some sort of miracle at work. Oh, right, I am, after all, MiracleCharlie. One day I’ll talk about how I got that name, but for now, here I am, going, off to finish reading an old Nabokov I’d missed and a new Tama Janowitz memoir which is — so far — delighting me. Happy Labor Day, dear ones. Much Love and Light and HAPPY READING!