Reading: Falling Behind

Oh dear, I’ve done it again. Ten books read since last I book blogged.

There’s been an awful lot going on, although, from the outside — even sometimes from the inside — it might not look like much has happened, there have been fundamental changes in my life, my outlook, my time management. As I said in my last post [click here], I have deactivated Twitter, which begs the question: How will anyone KNOW I am posting? Such musings are for another category of blog post. This is about books. So, let me share musings about some of what I’ve been reading, as in, bring your attention to those I really loved. I am not going to shove everything into one super-long-ridiculous-length post. Nope. Short and sweet multiples. Hit and run. Blow and go. Wait … that’s another app I deleted … anyway … here goes.

The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai, Hardcover, 421pp, June 2018, Viking

I loved this book. Five star loved. And, truth, when I posted my love for it on Twitter I was come at by one of those bitter types whose exclusionist vitriol, bias, and unwarranted, unfounded, unreasonable attack of me and — far worse, the author who I had tagged in my Tweet — was the beginning of my serious consideration about leaving Twitter. The irony is, I joined Twitter to connect with the literary world, and so to have my departure first prompted by some asshat vilifying an author (and me) and then, the final straw being another member of the book-world making it clear by their response to me just how much they were certain I did not belong there, it’s funny. And a little (or, maybe a lot, but again, another category of blog post) sad.

Where was I? Yes, The Great Believers. Great, indeed. 1985, the novel begins at a funeral that Yale, director of a Chicago art gallery, is attending. He has begun to lose his cohorts to the AIDS epidemic, this funeral being for his friend, Nico, whose younger sister, Fiona, was the only family member not to have disowned him, and had become a vital part of Nico, and now Yale’s, adopted family of friends.

Part of the novel happens during that era of unbelievable loss and fear and fury, in tandem with a plotline taking place thirty years later when Fiona is searching for her estranged daughter in Paris. But, like a diamond, the novel has many facets, each surface reflecting light and love and memory in a unique way; another of those being the story of Nora, now aged and facing death from a failing heart, reflecting back on her time in Paris between the world wars when she was muse to multiple artists, the products of which she means to will to the gallery for which Yale works.

Rebecca Makkai, too young to have lived through the early years of the AIDS epidemic, manages to capture its horrors, along with the ways in which it bound together the community of societal outcasts, making of us both pariahs and heroes. The untouchables joined forces in the face of an extinction the government and much of the world seemed happy to allow, even to welcome, and in doing so became a political and social power as never before.

All in the midst of horrific mourning and discrimination.

Timely, that, now that we again face a loud minority of haters who have wrested control of the government and infect the zeitgeist with their bigotry and violence toward all those not them. Sad that we’re back to this.

But, essential to remember, every day, we survived the worst parts of that plague and emerged stronger, wiser, and empowered. We’ll survive this current plague of hate, too, and emerge with more wisdom, freedoms, caution, and union.

And so, it is so very, very important that the stories of before are told, and told compellingly. Rebecca Makkai is a gifted writer, she works in delicate brush-strokes of complicated intricacies and paints a cohesive, coherent whole of great beauty. It is staggeringly moving, I was many times left breathless, the echoes of aches from the scars of that time in my life brought back, reawakened.

But, as Nora says to Yale while telling him the story of her liaisons with those artists who made of her paintings and sketches and history: “When someone’s gone and you’re the primary keeper of his memory, letting go would be a kind of murder, wouldn’t it? I was stuck with all that love.”

Rebecca Makkai has made of many kinds of love and memory a novel of great import — both as an historical document and description, and as beautifully worthy literature. She deftly juggles multiple time frames, myriad characters, and a complication of themes and emotions with brilliant dexterity, making a heartrending, true to the bone tale of loss and love and commitment and the many ways in which we deal with and make choices in the face of all of those emotions and life challenges. What could easily have been polemic or cloyingly manipulative, is, instead, like truth etched in glass by the diamond of her talent and insight and gift.

Read it. Five very enthusiastic stars.

Be-longing. So-longing.

From Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady;

The desire to succeed greatly — in something or other — had been the dream of his youth; but as the years went on, the conditions attached to success became so various and repulsive that the idea of making an effort gradually lost its charm.

I’m deactivating my Twitter account. In part, to be a measure of the protest against its corporate refusal to stop facilitating hate speech and serving as a platform for promulgating the corrosive forces which assisted in installing 45, the illegitimate president, and handing control of the government to him and his fascist, bigoted cronies. And, too, perhaps more-so, because it became clear to me from a recent Twitter-exchange that I have been using it as another in a long line of serial-distractions/self-delusion-tactics in my never-ending quest to prove to myself I’m somebody who has managed to successfully find a niche in which I am one who matters, who’s wanted, who belongs.

Belonging. Belongingness. That human, emotional need for intimate acceptance, for a relationship to a cohort larger than one’s self, to be seen, valued, included, to have healthy, affirming reciprocal attachments, a cognitive merging with others of like mind and intent, a connection which serves as reflection and confirmation and balancing of one’s self-image and truth; a spiritual, emotional, intellectual bond that is one part of how one defines the self.

That’s the definition of  healthy belonging.

I am afraid, for me, too often belonging has meant I’ve managed to find my way proximal to a group of people I feel are superior to me — intellectually, morally, socially, economically — and  my entire time there is spent fearing the day my conterminous state will be pointed out and no longer tolerated.

For me, belonging has been how I’ve measured success; and by that measure, I have never really succeeded. I’ve never really found my cohort. I was given the message very early in life that who I was needed to be hidden, the way I walked, spoke, felt, was not the way I was supposed to do those things; I was somehow flawed and wrong.

I know people get tired of hearing these stories about the damage done to a child from hearing that sort of message. And, too, as I’ve said myself: that was decades ago. Get over it.

I work every day to be over it. And that’s why I’m deactivating. It’s why I’ve turned off Grindr. It’s why I know I need to detox from looking for affirmation from Twitter-likes and retweets, and Grindr-taps and hookups.

And, let me be clear, I am not blaming anyone on Twitter, or Grindr, or society, or the administration, or anyone or thing other than myself. I am the one who wants to be valued for something I am not, and/or have not, at the same time eschewing the cultural measures of success and beauty as arbitrary and intolerant patriarchal hogwash.

I need to work on that. With me. And I love many people on Twitter, and I loved how it once was, and I worry about how I’ll keep in touch about books and the goings on in the publishing world, because Twitter was as close as I got, being allowed to stand on this side of the glass and look through, but, I’ll have to figure that out.

And, too, I know myself well enough to know that I will, in all likelihood, reactivate it before the 30 day-permanent deletion happens. But, then again, when I turned off my Facebook — which, now that I think about it, I did because of a similar personal affront —  I thought it would be only temporary. That was five years ago. Don’t miss it. No desire to go back.

So, I don’t know where this will lead. I only know, while I am figuring out where I belong, if I belong, and how to deal with my desires around and about belonging, I need to be so-longing, and so, today, here I am, going.

(I can still be reached at MiracleCharlie@aol.com, and am happy to email correspond with anyone so inclined.)

 

 

 

I am tired . . .

. . . of the wish I had beens

. . . of the should haves

. . . of long, sleepless nights full of why didn’t I

. . . of twitter curating my sadly too often absent of loved ones timeline

. . . of pop-up ads

. . . of dieting and hating myself for not dieting

. . . of five adult decades worrying about money

. . . of re-living rejections from school-day peers, performing art schools, theatre auditions, boys when young then men when older, literary agents, friends, and family

. . . of every day since November 9, 2016 living in old-fears re-born and suspicions of extant, just-barely-below-the-surface, wide-spread hate and bigotry having been correct all along

. . . of being called when no one else answered

. . . of my body betraying me, wearing out, like a dick that sometimes won’t answer the call, and hands that now hurt like fire when I do things I love most like holding a book, cleaning a room, cooking a meal

. . . of things like talking to (and never meeting) a person for weeks, Cyrano-ing for them & facilitating their hook-up with a long wanted friend, all the while being a back-up bud and then . . .

. . . of being approached by a beauty on social media app, chatting for hour, being semi-seduced and propositioned, the “when my family goes to sleep I wanna meet you” talk from this beauty, and mentioning the Cyrano-d buddy (see above) is close by the beauty just as Cyrano-d buddy messages me having had no success that night on their hunt, and so mention new beauty to him, talking about my nearing success — introduce the two, neither of whom I have met in person, neither of whom has yet actively asked me to — and within ten minutes, the two of them are meeting one another and fucking

. . . of things like that; because I’m old; because I’m less than; because my days were wasted in wish I had beens and should haves and why didn’t I and letting other people curate my experience and not dieting enough or getting rich enough or being good enough to be chosen for the team or taken into the school or cast in the show or hired for the job or published or

. . . of being this person I am

. . . of being tired.

Reading: July-ShortTakes (and a teaser)

July 23rd and all is not well, even so, or perhaps, because of this, thus far this month I have read only 8 books — which is not a lot for a July filled with house/pet-sitting, during which I often devour a book a day. But, the world right now . . . I’ll leave it at that since this is a reading post, not a personal post like the last two, which, inevitably, kill my stats. It’s almost as if you all are saying, “Shut up about YOU, Charlie, and talk about the BOOKS!” I get it, and so, I’m going to talk about 7 of them here, but I’m saving for later the 8th, Idra Novey’s delicious Those Who Knew — due out in November. My friends, I was lucky enough to be trusted with an arc which I five-starred; and unlike some four and five stars, this one I really and truly, enthusiastically meant. Idra Novey writes the kind of books that remind you why you LOVE reading. So good. But, you’ll have to wait until September for me to share my in-depth feelings about  Those Who Knew, which needs a post all its own. Maybe a few posts. Now, onward.

The Lonely Witness, William Boyle, Hardcover, 272pp, May 2018, Pegasus Books

“Gritty noir” seems to be the consensus on this one. I read it because somewhere, someone compared it to Ross Macdonald, a comparison I think not fully apt. While both have in common exploration of twisted, tortured relationship and family dynamics, Macdonald’s main characters — mostly Lew Archer — have a compassionate approach, a hardboiled that encompasses both the hard and the boiled — as in warm, heated, passionate; Boyle’s characters are markedly colder which also makes them — almost every one in this novel — unlikable and thus unrelatable. Well written, yes. Well plotted, mostly, although requiring a level of suspension of disbelief bordering on asking too much. But, for me, a bit too bleak and sorrowful, which may well be the point as it is as much a study of a decaying and dying neighborhood and way of life as it is a crime story.

Circe, Madeline Miller, Hardcover, 349pp, April 2018, Lee Boudreaux Books

Okay, confession, I know next to zero about mythology. I read Circe not because I knew anything at all about Circe — in fact, other than the name, I knew nothing at all of the story — but because I LOVED the author’s Song of Achilles. Seems Circe was the first witch. Also turns out — no surprise here — she was in need of MeToo and NoMore. It’s not only hetero-human men who suck, but, too, the gods and demi-gods; which, pretty much figures since such myths have been — by and large — told and re-shaped and re-told by hetero-men. Madeline Miller is making strides to remedy that, which is great, but for me, this was a bit overlong. Perhaps, if I was more familiar with or more interested in mythology, it would not have seemed so. But, with Song of Achilles, I knew not much of the origin tale either and I found that book riveting and compelling. I think, maybe, this one — in an effort to continue in the genre groove of the first novel — felt as if the author tried too hard with a story that interested her not enough.

L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home, David Lebovitz, Hardcover, 368pp, November 2017, Crown Publishing Group

Funny story; at the library one day to pick up my reserved books, I walked by the new releases shelf and saw this book. I picked it up, perused briefly, almost checked out, but reasoned that I already had way too many books checked out and more on reserve, and since this was a compilation of recipes and a rehabbing a home story — two things I love — I decided I would go to my local indie, THE CURIOUS IGUANA [click here] and use my gift cards account (I have a lot of very good friends) to order it. I get there, the next day, and cannot remember the title, the author, the anything except the cover was sort of tan and it was about an American chef who decided to buy an apartment in France. Don’t you know, Lauren, one of the brilliant, helpful booksellers there, got on the computer and found it for me. I love my indie store, its employees, and book-people in general.

Now, was it worth all the trouble Lauren went to for me? Yes. And no. It was not enough of either thing: recipes or rehab story, and while the rehab was in large part an adventure in one misfortune and people behaving badly after another, it is hard to sympathize with a fellow who can afford a Paris apartment, has a supportive French lover, and a book contract. And, when things go disastrously, he can then afford to have it all re-done, this time by a competent contractor. And, all of it, like the rehab, took too long, and like a recipe with ingredients sloppily measured, it just doesn’t taste right.

The Perfect Couple, Elin Hilderbrand, Hardcover, 466pp, June 2018, Little, Brown and Company

This is my second Elin Hilderbrand novel, the first having been The Identicals, which I read in February and enjoyed. These are the equivalent of Lifetime Movies, in fact, as you read them you can picture the pretty unto plastic B-actresses and actors playing the fairly-predictable circumstances to breathless conclusion.

Summary: dead maid of honor, a bad-girl-party-girl, maybe murdered, washes up on the beach on the morning of the wedding of her best friend, a good-girl from modest background with a fatally ill mother, devoted daughter now set to marry into a wealthy family with a sketchy-behaving dad and a somewhat pretentious author on the down-trend mother. Rich groom, salt of the earth and too good to be true, whose best man/buddy, a should-have-been heir screwed out of his inheritance who is a sort-of party-boy but not really, even earthier and saltier than his buddy, the groom, and there are crossed attractions everywhere, and much uproar and secrets and hiding things from the law enforcement fellows, and true love and all that in 466 very fast, quite entertaining pages.

Caveat: I hated the ending. But up until then I was having a great time reading just what I expected, done quite nicely. Yeah, a beach read.

Clock Dance, Anne Tyler, Hardcover, 304pp, July 2018, Knopf

I confess, eyes to the ground, a little shamed, I have often found Anne Tyler’s books to be a bit twee for me, and her last, A Spool of Blue Thread, I put down early on. So, I was wary coming at Clock Dance, but determined to keep an open mind.

Surprise, I enjoyed it and wondered if perhaps I should re-examine Anne Tyler’s oeuvre now that I’m older and dealing with the theme in this novel and what, in retrospect, I realize has often been her theme; giving one’s self permission to live one’s authentic life, letting go of cultural expectations, the past, and the roles one has played for loved ones, sometimes — often — to the detriment and compromise of one’s own happiness.

In Clock Dance, we follow Willa from childhood, young adult betrothal and marriage, motherhood, widowhood, and, finally, the real gist and glory of the novel, her service as mistaken-identity grandmother to Cheryl, the nine-year-old daughter of one of Willa’s two equally neglectful and distant sons’ ex-lovers. When Willa flies from her home with her second husband in Tuscon to Baltimore after a phone call from a stranger who is a neighbor of Cheryl and her mother, who’s been shot, she enters one of the quirky worlds at which Anne Tyler specializes, with a cast of characters riddled with peccadilloes and peculiarities, stumbling, tripping, and — as Cheryl’s mother, released from hospital but still having difficulty getting around does — scooting up the steps on one’s butt, a stair at a time, trying to reach one’s own space.

And also, as is often the case with Anne Tyler, while the characters are comical, the dialogue and narration often funny in that offbeat-observation sort of way, the underpinnings of the lives are built on foundations of compromise, disappointment, dishonesty, secrets, and the ache of the mistakes and missteps made in the effort to somehow make bearable the painfully and always fatal quotidian slog of survival.

As I said, coming to the end of my sixth decade and owning a few offbeat-quirks of my own, finding peace with being who I am as the slog winds down, the clock readying to stop, I am now appreciating Anne Tyler more than I did before.

History of Violence,Édouard Louis, translated by Lorin Stein, Hardcover, 208pp, June 2018, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

I read this author’s buzzy and much-anticipated The End of Eddy in 2017. It, like this, was a blend of biography and fiction,the degree to which either applies unknown to the reader. Many novels fall into the roman à clef category and many biographies and autobiographies — most, even — contain elements of fiction, whether those be fabrication, supposition, exaggeration, the altering of names or combining of people, messing with timelines, imposing motivations and meaning where there are none, on and on.

And so, we go into this telling of Louis’ rape and near murder on Christmas Eve, its nearly equally brutal aftermath, and the cold unto horrifyingly unsympathetic and homophobic description of it Louis overhears his mostly-estranged sister delivering to her husband, knowing that at least the seed of repugnant tragedy at its core is Édouard Louis reality.

Even as short as this book is, it is too long. From the racism and disregard shown by the police, to the tortured self-examination Louis subjects himself to as if searching for a way to blame himself for the violent crime and the inadequate response to his reporting of it, sharing of it with others, this book is am appalling, gruesome experience. It is especially disheartening and terrifying in this age of a resurgence of — hell, almost a celebration of — bigotry and homophobia and the election of a serial sexual assaulter to the presidency.

It breaks the heart. And, too, if it’s mostly a novel, shame on the author for using such an execrable premise, and if it’s autobiography, then, dear god, aren’t we better than this by now?

I guess the answer is no. We’re not. And that, I guess, is what broke my heart even more.

A Scandalous Deal, Joanna Shupe, Mass Market Paperback, 373pp, April 2018, Avon

Lady Eva Hyde has three dead fiancés, one rapidly deteriorating, famous-heralded architect father who has wasted away his fortune, and a determination to be respected for her own work as an architect. She sails for New York where Phillip Mansfield is building the most luxurious hotel possible from a design he thinks is by Lady Eva’s father, but which is in truth her work. She must convince him to allow her to serve as her father’s representative on the job until he recovers — which she must not let Phillip know is never going to happen. She faces all the problems one might expect her to face in the Gilded Age in New York when a woman in her early 20’s is assuming a position of any authority.

Okay, here’s the thing: fast, fun read. Entirely too modern of dialogue and situations. It defies belief and/or reason that the most expensive hotel ever built would go on without face to face meeting with the assumed architect. Even more unbelievable, even in 2018 unbelievable, that a woman (or man) in their early twenties — no matter the level of genius — could or would be allowed to be the main architect on, again, the most expensive, luxurious hotel ever built. That’s no just a scandalous deal, it’s a freaking ludicrous deal.

So, fun, fast, and utterly ridiculous. But, well, I liked it anyway. Except for all that heterosexual sex. I mean, really, okay straight people should have equality I suppose, but  enough they have opportunity to do it, must they also flaunt it in our faces? Enough already.

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So, there they are, the seven July-so-far reads about which I can currently speak. I’m in the middle of three more, but I’ve a lot going on, coming up, looming, and who knows from day-to-day whether or not some orange dumbass in the oval office will manage to get us all blown to bits, so I don’t count on finishing any books. Just gotta roll with the endless assaults by the serial-sexual-predator installed by the russians.

Thank you for taking the time to read me, and here’s wishing you happy book-loving, and here I am, going.

 

Profile No Longer Available

Two more of my favorite people have left Twitter, it having slowly transmogrified from a virtual-reality Algonquin Roundtable/Violet Quill/Bloomsbury Group/February House/Beat Generation platform to which anyone with an appreciation and respect for literature and its community could belong (or, could at least stalk those inside from along its fringes) into yet another outlet for the horror show/battleground that national/world politics have become.

I get it. Really, I do. Events of November 2016 occasioned, after five decades of resisting, my acceptance that I needed medication to help me cope with my depression. Too, I have increasingly avoided the news in an effort to cushion myself from all the awful of the world.

But apparently it’s viral; real life has been more and more invaded by people behaving cruelly with vigorous glee. The gop/45’s brand of manufactured hate and disregard for decency has encouraged and enabled the same sort of targeted and exuberant vitriol and viciousness throughout the country. Horrible.

When Secretary Clinton called them “deplorables”, she was being kind. I’ve experienced this out-of-the-closet bigotry in person, as have others I know. And this surge in hate-speech, homophobia, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and all the other phobias, isms, and hateful energies, is not anecdotal; it’s quantifiable. Since 45’s installation by russia, hate crimes against minorities (as listed above) have increased by incredible percentages, and the numbers continue to climb.

This, in addition to truth becoming more and more fungible as the party in power speaks in a gaslight-tongue of roy cohn-esque “if I say it enough it becomes true” and richard nixon-esque “when the president does it, it isn’t illegal” makes maintaining some grasp on sanity, some hint of hope, almost impossible.

Which is why people leaving Twitter upsets me so. My Twitter community plays a large role in sustaining the happier, better parts of me.

I know I am hardly the only one having difficulty keeping afloat and sane and maintaining some hint of hope for the present, let alone the future. It feels as if every new bruise inflicted on the national/global psyche might be the one that causes internal bleeding enough to end me, end us. I try to talk myself down, but my everyday, in-real-life world is mostly populated by one group of people who are either MSNBC addicts and in a worse, and more constant panic and frenzy than even I am, and another group who simply refuse to engage AT ALL with what is going on, insisting it is not much different than it has ever been, and always, eventually, turns out okay.

I don’t think either approach of hysteria or denial are of particular benefit mental-health wise, proof being, members of BOTH groups come to me for reason and comfort, as if I am the steady one in all of this.

I am not steady.

Certain, yes. But not steady. And, honestly, no longer certain of what I am certain of, except that I cannot — no matter how hard I try, no matter how hard I want to, no matter how much evidence I see to the contrary — I cannot STOP believing that under it all, in all that is, in all life, from plant to humanity, in every moment, there is a striving toward the Light and Love, the Good.

I know. I hear you. Yes, that striving may be confused and warped and morphed into something we register as hate, unkindness, stupidity, but we MUST — or, I MUST — in order to believe I am a good person, struggle to find at least the possibility that somewhere, way back, in a place we maybe can’t see, this ugliness being displayed started as a kernel of that striving for Light and Love and Good.

We — or I — have to believe that all that is, every moment, no matter how awful its awfulness, had to have started from the same Love and Light and Good, that all that is, in fact, is made of that same energy.  Yes, much of what we’re seeing now has become horribly distorted along the way.

Can we get back to the garden?

I wish. I want to believe we can. We will. But, I am more and more afraid (if not quite certain) that it will not happen while I am alive. And that is sad, as it ought to have been done by now.

I started performing in local theatre when I was twelve. After years of feeling a freak, at home among my family and in school, I found a place where I belonged, where I was accepted. A show cast and production team is a family. There is such intense bonding and shared vision and effort, real purpose and affection, a world built and presented in eight to twelve weeks. But then, in local theatre anyway, the show ends.

In the weeks following a show’s end, when I did not have someone else to be, somewhere to go, lines to learn, characters to research, a group to embrace me and appreciate me, from whom I could learn, on whom I could depend, with whom I could be myself — all of myself — without those things I went into an angry depression. I was both tearful and furious and hyperactive and lethargic; a huge mess of emotional energy I’d been expending in rehearsal and performance that now had no outlet.

I was so bad after a show closed, my mother threatened to stop letting me do theatre because she couldn’t stand me in the weeks after closings. But, just the threat of cutting me off from theatre sent me into such hysterics, she quickly withdrew it.

It wasn’t just the character I missed, or the applause. It was the people. The milieu in which we’d found one another, become the selves we were with one another; it was special. We were those people only with each other in that context, there, where unique parts of our truths were operating, where we felt alive and ourselves in ways that happened nowhere else.

And after shows, no matter how we promised to keep in touch, without the context and medium of the rehearsals and the constant daily togetherness, we drifted.

Apart.

For me, who had stopped doing shows by my late 40s, and had always dreamed of being a member of a literary community, Twitter was that place where the best of MiracleCharlie — after much striving toward the Light and Love and Good — had finally bloomed.

And now, its’ fading away. Person by person. A little at a time. And I feel that MiracleCharlie drooping, starved for sun and water, as if my spring and summer are over, and here it is, fall, coming into winter.

And of all the things I despise the perpetrators of November 2016 for, it is their seemingly intentional destruction of so many worlds of safety and love and belonging, worlds like my Twitter community.

And with that atmosphere of destruction and despair they’ve initiated, they’ve made it so very much more difficult for me to find in the moments of real life the energy to believe that somewhere, somehow, this shitshow we’re in started as a striving for Light and Love and Good.

I’m afraid. I’m lonely. And I’m wilted. I don’t know that here, where I am, going, is a place I can ever bloom again.

And this, for the last few days I’ve been talking to someone on social media. A he. He’d reached out to me. We did the dance of “I like” and “have you ever” and “what do you do” and on and on, and, too, the more private, personal sort of social media I like and have you and would you-isms. And then, today, we had finally reached the moment of deciding to meet, he was going to give me his address, and suddenly, this: “THIS PROFILE IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE”

I’d been disappeared. He was either never real, a catfish, or, he’d been fucking with me. Or, at the last minute, decided I was not at all what he was looking for. All this disappearing, in so many ways, on so many levels, and, like I said, it’s difficult for me to keep believing.

I don’t have the show, the context, the Twitter, the energy I had to be the MiracleCharlie I was, and with ever more of the world I’ve known and the people I’ve loved disappearing into this tragic fog of hate enveloping us all, I don’t know how much longer it will be before you look for me only to find: Profile No Longer Available.

Thanks for listening.

 

It’s (knot) personal…the hell you say

Trigger warning: This isn’t about books. It’s about the knots jacking my gut, my shoulders, my psyche, my heart, and my mind, and my efforts to untie them, or, understand them, or, ffs, find a way to live with them.

If this is to you, you know who you are. Or, maybe you don’t. If you’re wondering, then chances are, it’s for you.

“The personal is political” ideology was birthed by second wave feminist heroes, giving voice to a truth lived on a cellular level by anyone in this country who is not a *white-hetero-cis-male, which group invests much energy and wields much power (economic, legal, political, weapons and arms based) to insist that this country is a meritocracy where anyone and everyone has an equal chance to succeed if only they work hard and follow the rules. We others know this to be bullshit.

I leave to sociologists and historians the analysis of why the inequities of such privilege have wreaked levels of havoc and despair upon the country that make collapse and/or civil war seem every day more likely. I can only explain where I am, and why my knots are personal.

My experience as LGBTQ since childhood has been one of affronts to my selfhood, dignity, and freedom, about all of which I have long been ranting, which rants have often been dismissed by people who knew me, even loved me, as overreaction. When pointing out inequalities and slights and micro-aggressions resulting from culturally-embedded assumed-white-hetero-cis-male-superiority, not infrequently I was scolded with some version of, “Oh Charlie, you see homophobia/racism/sexism/religious bigotry EVERYWHERE.” And there was its accompanying admonishment and dismissal, “It’s not personal/about you.”

Again, I say, we others know this to be bullshit.

It certainly was about me when one of my sisters voted for Romney whose platform expressly denounced marriage equality and LGBTQ rights. That’s personal. Affirming a party wishing to encode into law my second-class citizenship is PERSONAL, no matter how you insist it’s not about that, but rather about the economy and taxes, and no matter how vociferously you smirkingly and dismissively snark at me that they don’t really mean those homophobic, misogynist, racist, xenophobic things they propose.

Uhm, have you noticed that same party you defended for those economic policies has repeatedly decimated your financial well-being and continues to do so, and while they consistently lie and gaslight about many things including their criminal complicitness in throwing the 2016 election, it turns out they’re honest about one thing; their bigotry. You see they DO really mean those homophobic, misogynist, racist, xenophobic things they sent out in campaign flyers and spoke from podiums, as you can see by their continued inching toward destruction of health care, repeal of reproductive rights and affirmative action, kidnapping and caging of children, slander and demonization of Muslims, and their promise to overturn marriage equality, all of which goals they are stacking the supreme court to achieve.

That’s personal. And you enabled it.

And I recently heard this from one of those people who regularly pooh-poohed and scolded me because I kept trying to explain how it was all, every day, personal;

I used to think you were crazy and hysterical-conspiracy-theory paranoid when you refused to eat at Chick-fil-A, or consider voting for any republican, or ranting about the roman catholic church or salvation army stuff — but it looks like you were right. I get it now. All those little daily things that seemed to me like they didn’t matter, mattered and now here we are. I’m sorry. You were right.

I wish that made me feel better. But it doesn’t. Being right is far less rewarding than one imagined when what one is correct about is the widespread soul-rot, hypocrisy, and venality of much of the human race. I wish I was surprised, but, when you’ve lived as LGBTQ in redneck/white boy land (i.e. most of america), the horror of the tide of hate and bigotry and white-hetero-cis-male atrocities which are the content of current events are nothing new.

And, too, this apology comes only when that person’s privilege is being threatened. Too little. Too late. Your “you were right, Charlie, and I’m sorry” spoken only after your personal piece of the privilege pie is being threatened doesn’t absolve you of having enabled all the awful leading up to it; awful you were perfectly happy to deny was happening as long as it was happening to someone else. Like your brother.

Apologies brought on by late-blooming, self-serving awareness of the fact you’ve long been duped by the gop into working against your own interests, does absolutely NOTHING to undo the damage you’ve done.

Or, undo my knots.

So, where do we go from here?

Well, first of all, it’s not that I don’t accept your apology, it’s that it’s not my place to accept it. It should go to all those who marched and fought and contributed and worked to achieve the smidgen of equality won for all we others, crumbs now threatened because of you. It should go to all those children, those children who fall into “others” categories, who we thought would have an easier time, a smoother transition to adulthood than we did — we others who did the fighting, and were — at least in the case of my other-ness, called f*gg*t and all the ugly terms meant to inflict pain and shame (it worked, I still struggle every day with the years I hid, the fear with which I lived, the jobs I lost, the beatings I took, the rape I suffered) — you need to apologize to them.

Apologize? No. You need to actively work to UNDO what you have done. Because understand this; Allowing it to happen, sitting by and watching while it happened, it’s the same as having done it yourself.

Every kidnapped/cage child is there by your hand. Every bashed LGBTQ youth is bleeding from wounds you inflicted. Every wrong perpetrated by these demons, and because of the tenor or their propaganda and hate speech belongs to YOU.

You need to work to undo the 2016 election: it was illegitimate and stolen by a foreign power with the complicity of the gop, and all those involved should go to prison. 45 is NOT the president, so impeachment is not the answer or option, since he didn’t legitimately win the election, his title is irrelevant, and for his collusion with russia he is guilty of treason as are mcconnell and ryan and all the others who were in on it.

Once he and his bigoted illegitimate vp are jailed, then Hillary Rodham Clinton must be seated, and all of his appointments — including scotus seats, are null and voided as he was never legitimately entitled to make those appointments in the first place.

At that point, President Clinton can undo all the undo-ing and do-ing the asshole 45-pretender has done, begin to repair our international reputation, and continue to move the country in a forward direction as did President Obama before her.

And first and foremost while this is going on, you can save your apology until all the kidnapped and caged children and decimated families are reunited and compensated for their loss, treated for the psychological and emotional damage done to them, and the country again becomes a welcoming, embracing, loving nation — in fact, becoming better than we were before. Because we have been shit to immigrants for years under both Democrats and republicans.

AND, you can dismantle the gop. It’s criminal collusion and treason at the highest levels disqualify it for continued participation in a democratic society.

Too, you can reach out to the families and loved ones and communities of those who have been killed, deported, bashed, and otherwise abused and terrorized since the brand of bigotry 45 espoused gave permission to ignorance and hatred to not only come out of its dark cave, but celebrate in the streets and pillage, beat, and murder freely we others. The increase in hate crimes since he and russia and gop committed their treasonous stealing of the election speaks for itself.

And this is especially important; You can listen instead of talk.

Except, you must talk every time you hear someone defend ignorance and bigotry — even in its shadow forms — and explain to them how wrong they are because you know how wrong you’ve been and the damage you’ve done.

That’s a small start at a list of what you can do.

Here’s what you can’t do: undo the part of my heart you broke. Undo the damage your complacency about these issues — despite my pleas to you — has done to my life. You can’t undo how that has made me feel about you, how that has made me see you, how your actions and inaction have kept me considered a second (or third) class citizen, unworthy of equality and decency.

I have to live with that. Always have had to. And, so, too, now that you finally see and believe, you’ll have to live with what you’ve done, too.

And believe me, this is personal. Knot-personal.

*I hereby stipulate and concede that economic inequality resulting in de facto class-divisions unseen since leaving the British Isles have affected some lower-economic-echelon white-hetero-cis-males, however, they are STILL born with and wear throughout their lives a mantle of assumed privilege, armed with which they batter and battle all “others” as less than. Even the poorest, least-educated, least privileged among them (in fact, often, especially those who are have-less-es) use what they (and the culture and political/economic/power structure) assume to be their birthright of entitlement to oppress, derogate, abuse, and, increasingly, imprison — both metaphorically and literally — those of us who are not white-hetero-cis-males.

Reading: Southernmost

Southernmost, Silas House, Hardcover, 352pp, June 2018, Algonquin Books

Full Disclosure: I bought Southernmost from my beloved local indie, Curious Iguana [CLICK HERE], because it was blurbed by Garth Greenwell, whose novel, What Belongs To You, remains one of my lifetime favorite books. I did not get a free copy. I do not know the author. I am just a reader devoted to good writing.

Full Disclosure Part 2: To read a novel in which many actions are motivated by anti-LGBTQ bigotry in the current atmosphere when a major political party has embraced legislating hate, bigotry, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia into law is, for me, terrifying. I appreciate some people still think gentle education is the answer and cure, I was once a proponent of said approach myself. Now, however, I believe more and more with every passing day and new despicable action committed by the gop and the illegitimate dictator-wanna-be occupying the white house along with his criminal family and jackbooted cronies, that the only answer is revolution. In addition to which, having suffered the results — physical and emotional — and compromised existence resulting from such prejudice as is being promulgated by these fascist-republicans, I am, perhaps, more impatient than most with the gentle treatment of the bigoted-villains in this story.

Synopsis: A flood destroys a Tennessee town in tandem with the Supreme Court ruling affirming gay marriage equality. Pentecostal preacher, Asher Sharp’s nine-year-old son, Justin, runs toward the dangerous rushing waters in search of his beloved dog, Roscoe, and is rescued — sort of — by Jimmy and Stephen, a gay couple recently relocated from Nashville. When Asher offers shelter to the couple whose home has been destroyed, his rabidly-hypocritically-pious wife objects, worried what the congregation will think. Jimmy and Stephen leave, unwilling to stay where they are unwanted, and Asher begins to be plagued by doubts, further exacerbated by memories of his gay brother Luke’s departure a decade earlier when their mother held a gun to his head saying she’d rather see him dead than gay, and Asher, too, turned against him in cruel, bigoted judgment, twisting religion into hate.

When Jimmy and Stephen try to join Asher’s congregation, its members insist Asher reject them. Asher determines this to be un-christian and cites biblical passages to insist they be welcomed and accepted. When the congregation then votes to oust him as minister, Asher makes an impassioned speech about acceptance which goes viral. He leaves his wife, who sues for and wins sole-custody of Justin thanks to a prejudiced judge and backward court system.

Asher, increasingly disturbed by the abusive brainwashing his son is being subjected to, forcibly removes Justin from his grandmother’s home one weekend, inadvertently injuring her in the struggle, and runs with him to Key West putatively in search of Luke, the brother he’s not seen nor communicated with in a decade. Along the way they rescue a stray dog, who Justin names Shady, who can’t replace Roscoe — whose body Asher found, never telling Justin he had done so — but does give Justin something to take care of, a confidante.

In Key West, Asher and Justin and Shady settle in at a guest house owned by Bell, an older semi-recluse, and begin working there along with Evona, another emotional recluse with a mysterious and sad history. Now and then Asher asks someone if they’ve heard of his brother, and he Vespas the streets of Key West in a magic-realism, less than sincere effort at finding long-gone Luke.

What happens then, what’s happened until then, is a story about the shape and the power of beliefs, the cost of constructing one’s own personal morality and faith-based on experience and heart-truths, disregarding the droning cacophony of “should must right wrong black white yes no” of many traditional, conservative religions; a system of beliefs all too often used to bully, frighten, and control people in ways that grow hate rather than spread love, using faith as a weapon of punishment, terrorism, and division rather than praise, acceptance, and inclusion.

Asher questions his past and contributions to that culture of despair, and the damage such teachings and preachings have done. At the same time, he sees that forcing Justin to live in hiding, removing him from his home and others he loves is also doing damage. Asher struggles with questions of faith and accountability, and, too, the many shapes of love and the lengths to which people will go in the service of that love, lengths and actions that distort that love into an unrecognizable force of destruction and harm.

Well then. Okay. I get it. I do. And here’s what Josh Inocéncio in Spectrum South: The Voice of the Queer South [link to entire review, click here] has to say:

And this is why House’s novel is critical, particularly to southern literature. Written in third person, the story is about a conservative, heterosexual man who must challenge everything he knows to pursue a new sense of what is right.

… and this …

With Southernmost, House brings a much-needed message from a palatable point of view. It’s a novel that every gay southerner should read, and then hastily send to any of their kin still struggling with acceptance.

Palatable point of view? I say, fuck that noise. At this point in history, when our freedoms are daily abrogated, our lives quite literally threatened, all with the approval — nay, the cheering on — of a major political party and 62 million bigot-voters — for an LGBTQ writer to approach a story from the point of view of a cis-white-male-hetero-villain’s perspective in an attempt to mollycoddle the bigoted into considering behaving like decent human beings is nothing less than Uncle Tomism, or, I think we’ll call it Uncle Bruce-ism.

Like I said, FUCK THAT NOISE.

I think we’ve had quite enough stories told from the point of view of straight white men. And when man-of-so-called-god Asher suffers pangs of conscience ten years after calling his brother a faggot and disowning him, and then has his life inconvenienced for taking baby-steps toward decency, steps mostly self-serving and ill-conceived, none of which constitute actually DOING anything to undo the damage his actions and preaching have done throughout the years, well, you’ll have to excuse me if I am less than sympathetic.

Like the brother he finally finds who says that none of what Asher did can be undone, I agree. And so, this isn’t me saying the book is poorly written — that’s not the case at all. It moves quickly, speaks in evocative, simple language and Southern-patois with the ring of authenticity, and despite some diminishment of action into cliché and, too, a nine-year-old who is described as an old-soul but who is prescient and empathetic beyond belief, the novel is quite readable.

But, it’s a Lifetime-movie in a time when we need a Tony Kushner play. It is appeasement when we need to storm the barricades, and as such — for me, at least — it, in part, excuses the inexcusable and unforgivable behaviors and attitudes of the haters, without the hater-in-chief main character doing anything other than feeling a little bad about what he’s done. And, in the meantime, managing to hurt his son, his mother-in-law, his brother, and his fellow runaway, Evona, in the process. Typical. The angst and suffering of the cis-het-white-man infects and damages everyone with whom he comes in contact.

Enough. Too much. Rabbit has run one too many times, and Portnoy’s complaints are just privileged whining, and everything Franzen induces furious-gag-reflex now. So, out with the perspective of the oppressors, please.

And, one more time, fuck that noise.

 

 

Reading and Writhing; Things Fall Apart

In this post I discuss The Pisces by Melissa Broder, and Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton. But mostly, I talk about myself and my place (or lack thereof) in the world today.

If you want JUST the book talk, skip down to the red headlines and book-jacket photos below. It won’t hurt my feelings. I get it. I’m not always in the mood for 800 words of someone’s personal journey either.

Trigger Warning: This reading recap is more personal than most of my book musings. I find it increasingly difficult to suspend my disbelief when daily life is more implausible and unthinkable than any fiction could be, and as the balance of vileness versus decency tilts ever more toward the despicable, it’s difficult for me to see or write anything through any lens other than that of my horror at the wretched, stinking, sleazy, vulgar bigotry and hatred being promulgated by 45 and his jackbooted supporters, they who are the creations of the last fifty or so years of republican strategy to assure that hetero-cis-white-men maintain power and keep the rest of us in subjugation.

So, there. That. I don’t apologize for my rage. I apologize for having quieted my rage through the decades when I saw this coming, experienced it in micro-ways day after day, but allowed myself to be cowed into silence and complacency by those with more power and privilege scolding me for my over-reactions and paranoia.

To all those who insisted things weren’t that bad, I told you so. I wish saying that made me feel better, but, somehow, the threat of my human rights being further abrogated and children being torn from their parents and sold from concentration camps to adoption racketeers undoes any satisfaction having been right all along gives me.

Satisfaction on any front is difficult to come by lately. Things. Fall. Apart. The center does not hold. The best lack conviction and the worst are full of passion without mercy.

So, why am I reading? Why am I not constantly marching? Protesting? Resisting? Good question, and one with which I have been struggling since November 2016 when the russians installed this criminal family.

If you area regular reader of this blog you know events of November 2016 caused me to spiral into a depression so extreme that after many years resisting medication, I began taking bupropion, the result of which was relief from the dysthymic disorder I had been suffering for decades. I’d had no idea just how depressed I was, it having been a slow, creeping invasion of sorrow consuming more and more of who I was, my thoughts, my energy, but in such small increments I didn’t know the fullness of it. I thought I was a naturally melancholy person. I was not. It was an illness and it was kicked over the edge into manic depression with suicidal ideation by the horrors of November 2016.

So, ironically, in what is easily the ugliest era politically and for humanity in my lifetime, I am more balanced and able to reason and cope than ever I have been. I no longer feel responsible for the entire world because I have come to understand the world does not revolve around me. I rarely ever become angry with anyone for their actions or words because I only spend time and love with people who I trust are coming from a place of love and light, whatever they do, even if it seems to me at first glance to be hurtful. And, equally important, they offer me the same grace. It is as powerful a medicine as the bupropion, after far too long spending time with people who were always finding me coming up short, a disappointment to them, not fulfilling the role they’d written for me, this blessing of knowing I have a tight-knit circle of loved ones amongst whom there is no need for forgiveness because we don’t judge in the first place. We believe in and see the light in one another.

It is incredibly liberating to let go of feeling as if everything you do, think, or say might be misconstrued, might be used against you as evidence you are less than, flawed, wrong.

It has also changed my behavior. I no longer do things I don’t want to do. I don’t do things because I fear someone will become angry with me if I don’t go to their party, or begrudge me my introvert-preference to stay in with a good book.

A good book. There’s the key. Because this new me doesn’t feel obligated to finish every book I start. This new me doesn’t think he has to agree with the literati’s opinion of a book. This new me reads what I want, as I want, and write about it only if it in some way pleases me, or, in some cases, brings to my attention something I feel like sharing. Which is the case with this post, which, since last I talked about a book, I have finished reading two and cast aside two more after 35 and 50 pages. Here are the ones I finished.

The Pisces, Melissa Broder, Hardcover, 270pp, May 2018, Hogarth Press

Okay, up front I say, if you are going to kill a dog in a novel I want a trigger warning on the cover. And if the death is going to be result of neglect and/or abuse, I am not going to read the book.

No one warned me about The Pisces, so, I’m doing a public service and warning you.

I suppose it only fair to tell you I spend a great deal of my time dog-sitting, so, reading about someone who is dog-sitting and finds it okay to not walk the dog when it needs to be walked, lock it in a pantry and tranquilize it so she can get it on with a merman — look, you don’t do that. You don’t bring strangers into someone’s home AND YOU DON’T TREAT A DOG BADLY.

And what is it with everyone falling in love with fish lately?

Anyway, that said, there were some really lovely lines in this novel and it was sometimes funny and here and there touching, insightful about loneliness and lust and longing and self-delusions, so, had it not featured dog-abuse, I think I would have very much liked it. But, as a wise woman in publishing once said to me; “Life is too short and ugly enough. I implore you, if a book has an ugliness that makes you miserable, stop reading it.”

So, despite lines like:

I heard myself talking to the dog, and it reminded me that I existed. Existence always looked like something other than I thought it would.

And this, when the main character is trying to get drugs for the UTI she’s gotten from merman-sex, she tells the doctor that she and her husband have been having a lot more sex lately in order to conceive a child. Then this, from the doctor:

‘Any chance that he could have been exposed to any sexually transmitted diseases?’

Was she implying that my fictitious husband was unfaithful? How dare she!

‘Absolutely not.’

I did laugh out loud there, but it was only page 97, before I began suspecting the dog was going to meet a bad end. And, like I said, despite lines like that and some exquisite passages about aching loneliness — and some very uncomfortable passages about longing for someone because they don’t want you — there was not one truly likeable character in the entire book; they were all, to one degree or another, horrible, mean, selfish, unkind people. So, wish I hadn’t read this book.

If you’re okay with dogs dying from neglect, go for it. Also, never get anywhere near me.

Social Creature, Tara Isabella Burton, Hardcover, 273pp, June 2018, Doubleday

Dear literati-lords, please, I beg you, stop comparing novels to Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. And for good (bad) measure, these blurbs threw in Edith Wharton, Bret Easton Ellis, and Donna Tartt. Now there is a goulash certain to have at least one ingredient to turn everyone off.

Again — and these things seem to come in bunches — there is not one pleasant character in the entire novel. They range from being emotionally dishonest to committing murder.

It’s very fast. I read it in a day. But, honestly, when we already have an illegitimate president who is utterly lacking in any redeeming qualities, who surrounds himself with equally contemptible sleazeballs, I seriously don’t need that kind of repellent goings-on in the things I’m reading to escape the real world.

I suppose I ought be grateful no dogs were murdered. Better to kill off haughty, unkind, wealthy socialites and their milquetoast, obsessed devotees.

So, there it is. I’ve seven more library books stacked by my bed, waiting for me to dive in. All I can say is, nice it up people. Life is full-to-overflowing with assholes as it is, let’s not revolve novels around them.

And on that note, here I am, going.

 

 

Reading: Heartseeker: Truth or Despair

Heartseeker, Melinda Beatty, Hardcover, 336pp, June 2018, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Full Disclosure: I know Melinda Beatty. I know her because she is a bookseller at my glorious local indie, The Curious Iguana. We have never spent time together outside that context: book lover who sells (and writes) books and book lover who buys (and writes about) books. And, to be clear, I bought my copy of Heartseeker. Gladly. I will likely buy a few more for relatives and friends.

I’ve been lamenting of late the lack of books with electric plotting, memorable characters, and artful prose, the kind of books that grab hold of you, pull you into their universe, and stay with you for more than five minutes after you’ve finished them.

Problem solved.

Melinda Beatty’s debut (DEBUT!) novel, Heartseeker, checks all of those boxes and more.

Only Fallow, six years old, lives in small, simple Presston, youngest of three in a family whose father’s cider is favored by King Alphonse, bringing jealous attention to Only and her brothers, Ether and Jon. Feeling like an outcast, Only is drawn to Lark and Rowan, two children of the Ordish, the traveling folk rumored to have gifts of cunning and magic, who help Only’s father each season with the harvest and are much looked down upon, distrusted, and discriminated against by the subjects of King Alphonse, whose agents have been kidnapping Ordish children, using them as slaves until their relatives can raise the ransom for their return. Only feels especially akin to the Ordish when she discovers, with the help of her grandmother, Non, that she has a cunning of her own: she can see lies. Too, her gift comes with a price: if she herself lies, she is stricken by great pain, a seizure-like blacking out. Non advises Only to keep her gift hidden, but through twisted-misadventure, rumor of Only’s abilities reach the King, who believes such an ability to discover liars will help him save his kingdom which is in disarray. But truth being told and liars being revealed are the last things some in the kingdom want to happen, and they attempt to stop Only from taking her place at court in the enormous city of Bellskeep, a role she has only agreed to in order to save her family.

I am rat-rotten at synopses, but that’s a rough-ish outline of 336 pages chockful of adventure, plot, surprises, and fascinations. Melinda Beatty clearly has a cunning, herself. She has built a world utterly unique and wonderfully believable. Her introduction of its specific vocabulary, traditions, belief systems, and social structures is seamlessly, skillfully done by using context and dialogue. There is no pedantic, dull-as-dirt back-story-ing to interrupt the action, the world is made and the characters come to life through the telling of the story.

And what a story! Only Fallow is a likeable, trustworthy narrator and you want to go with her, warn her, stop her, help her, urge her on, hug her, protect her. Her Ordish pals, Lark and Rowan are also attention-grabbing and vitally alive, worthy of their own tales. The there’s the court intrigue. And the love story Only’s brother Jon is one half of (I don’t want to give any more away than I already have). And grandmother, Non, I can’t wait to spend more time with her.

Heartseeker, labeled Middle Grade, is also wildly enjoyable for adults. Enjoyable as in: remember that feeling you had as a child when you discovered Harriet The Spy, or Little Women, or Portnoy’s Complaint (I was a very precocious child)? Heartseeker draws you in with that same entirely other yet also totally familiar world, as in, it’s clearly outside your day-to-day reality, but the emotions and behaviors are on-point, from the heart, as if the author had culled her story from inside your head and dreams.

Melinda Beatty has that cunning of gifted authors who can fabricate riveting, riotously readable tales that elucidate real-life emotions and experiences.

I eagerly await volumes 2 and 3. And, in fact, anything else Melinda Beatty writes. I suspect she will be too busy soon inventing other worlds to sell me any more books, but that’s okay, she’ll be selling lots and lots of books in a new and exciting way by sharing her work with the world.

 

Reading: 3 Novels (and writers) to Enjoy

In this post I will be discussing Susan Elia MacNeal’s THE QUEEN’S ACCOMPLICE; Mariah Fredericks’ A DEATH OF NO IMPORTANCE; and Allison Pearson’s HOW HARD CAN IT BE?

Before I get to the book-talk, one of my usual pre-ambles. I promise this one will be briefer than the last, but I warn you, it is what some would consider political in nature, while, to me, it is not about politics, rather, it is about the criminals and bigots who are taking over the world.

I know it’s the thing now to bash social media, and it does most definitely deserve much bashing for the role it played in the thieving of the 2016 election and installation of the illegitimate and criminal 45 and his gop-jackbooted-cronies, those usurpers of the SCOTUS seat which ought to have gone to President Obama’s nominee, Merrick B. Garland, who the treasonous lot of rot-sucking no-good goppers, in an unprecedented move, wouldn’t even bring to the floor for consideration thus taking their evil to new heights — but I digress. Yes, Facebook (which I quit five+ years ago) and Twitter are in some part responsible for the decline of civility, the epidemic of tribalism, and targeted-marketed-brainwashing, BUT . . . it is because of Twitter and the Literary crowd who hang there that I have discovered some of my favorite reads and authors. And people.

All three reads in this post are the direct result of Twitter connections, friends, and recommendations; so, even though I have cut WAY back on Twitter, I just can’t give it up and risk missing reads like these.

The Queen’s Accomplice, Susan Elia MacNeal, Paperback, 368pp, October 2016, Bantam

How do I love Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope Mysteries? I would say “let me count the ways” but I have never been good at math and the list would reach numbers with which I am unfamiliar.

In this, the sixth of the adventures, a lunatic serial killer — or, as Maggie’s misogynistic co-investigator, Detective Chief Inspector James Durgin of Scotland Yard insists, sequential murderer — is copycatting Jack the Ripper’s brutalities, especially targeting those women who have been recruited to work as Winston Churchill’s spies, like Maggie herself.

And in 1942, as has always been the case during the horrific war, change and danger always await our heroine. Early on she is surprised by friends with the repair of what had been her grandmother’s home, damaged by blitz bombs. In no time, the same night as the surprise party in fact, Maggie’s dear friend, Chuck and her infant Griffin are moved in, having narrowly escaped being blown to bits by a gas explosion in their residence.

Meanwhile, Maggie’s half-sister, Elise Hess, is being tortured in a Nazi camp, having been captured working for the resistance. Near death, she is mysteriously released thanks to the influence of her conductor father, but there is a price to be paid if she wishes to remain free; she must denounce a patron of the resistance or be returned to the camp, and if she disappears, her fellow prisoners of whom she has grown fond will be murdered.

And, too, the mother of Elise and Maggie, the famous opera star and more infamous Nazi collaborator, Clara Hess, is, perhaps, not as dead as originally thought? And Maggie’s father is in hospital, having lost his …

I’m not giving you any more information. I want you to enjoy the layering of characters and situations, the intricate and ingenious weaving of plotlines, all expertly juggled by Susan Elia MacNeal, whose cunning disposition of storylines is also full of period detail and historical information, fascinating facts and particulars that enrich without distracting. Susan Elia MacNeal is one of those writers whose words create a film in the reader’s mind: You can see EVERYTHING she writes about so clearly, the characters are alive, the locations close enough to touch. She takes you there, into a very specific time and place, peopled by well-developed, wholly human, believable people.

Especially notable in this, number six in the series, the parallels with now. Maggie is assaulted — physically and socially/culturally/verbally — repeatedly by sexism and misogyny, there are men in power, with power, who are actively horrible, and, even worse (and still, so so so common), men who have no idea they are being horrible, who think it is their right to belittle others — women, in particular — and believe them to be less than. As horrifying as it is that seventy-five years later women are still dealing with this crap, it is absolutely terrifying that the methods and behaviors and words of the Nazis are being so closely recreated in the world now, especially here in the United States, where a wannabe oligarch/dictator has been illegally installed in an office not rightfully his, and has gone about destroying what makes this country this country, with collaborators everywhere.

So, while The Queen’s Accomplice is even better than the previous installments; unlike some series, in this one, each installment gets better rather than weaker, there is NEVER anything thrown-away/by rote in Susan Elia MacNeal’s writing. In addition to which, her writing is extremely entertaining, distracting even, it is also a warning about what we ought be resisting daily so as to avoid a repeat of the goings on making it necessary for Maggie Hope to undo these mysteries, and work undercover to sabotage the bad men’s plans about which Susan Elia MacNeal so skillfully writes.

I can’t wait to read number 7, The Paris Spy, which I have, and which I am, as I did with this, delaying until the next is released, which will happen on August 7. Yes, number 8, The Prisoner In The Castle, comes out this summer. Speaking of coming out, I worry that Maggie’s gay friend, David, will be outed and treated in the horrifying way gay people were then. But, I trust Maggie will handle that and protect him, as I trust Susan Elia MacNeal with my reader’s heart.

If you have not started reading Maggie, do. Go on, get busy.

A Death of No Importance, Mariah Fredericks, Hardcover, 288pp, April 2018, Minotaur Books

I read this because Susan Elia MacNeal blurbed the front cover calling the novel suspenseful and complex, and, as I’ve said, I trust her.

I wasn’t disappointed.

This is the first in a series of mysteries to feature the lady’s maid, Jane Prescott. It deals with the upper crust of society in New York City, 1910, and has wastrel, wild playboys, nouveau riche social climbers, anarchists, and a plethora of fascinating characters involved in a carefully plotted tale, rich in historical points, a vivid picture of a changing culture and a rip-roaring mystery. I might have figured it out before the ending, but I read a lot of mysteries. I’ll read a lot (I hope) of Jane Prescott tales, because, like Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope, Jane Prescott is a character you like, with whom you’re comfortable, who is often better than her surroundings and culture allow her to be, and you want her to win. And you want more of her. Wonderful character debut.

And, last but certainly not least, a novel which is not technically a mystery but, one could call it a comic/social issue thriller. My connection to this is that it was edited by the incomparable Hope Dellon who brings us Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series, and M.C.Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series, to both of which I am devoted. This is a sequel (of sorts) by Allison Pearson to her earlier novel, I Don’t Know How She Does It. This one:

How Hard Can It Be, Allison Pearson, Hardcover, 352pp, June 2018, St. Martin’s Press

This is the second novel about Kate Reddy, whose aging children and out-of-a-job, self-help guru-wannabe-in-training husband necessitate a return to the workforce after an extended absence during which she raised a family and turned forty-nine, an age not much in demand — one might even say shunned — in the workforce. Kate fudges her age and her resumé and ends up being hired on a temporary basis by the very same hedge fund she set up years earlier — unbeknownst to those now in charge.

This very, very funny novel hits on so many hot-button growing older, getting through adulthood experiences: the morphing body staring at you from the mirror when yesterday you were tight and twenty; the skin which is now crepe-papery and surrendering to gravity’s pull; the kids from one side pulling at you with their growing up pains and the parents pulling at your from the other with their growing old pains and you, in the middle, with everyone else’s pain to deal with leaving you little time to take care of your own, let alone the misbehaving spouse who is a different person than the one you married, and, maybe, the new version is a not very pleasant sort.

Kate has all of that with which to deal, plus a dilapidated “new” old home in the suburbs which her husband didn’t want in the first place, and the new job where she needs to maintain her semi-false identity and navigate the office politics, which, years later, are still rife with misogyny and backstabbing and credit-grabbing, and add to this list the onset of menopause, her own body tripping her up as she struggles through a return to the workplace and the changing shape of her family and relationships. And herself.

Oh, and then her long-absent near-lover with whom she is lustfully enamored, and who returns the feeling, shows up again.

Allison Pearson has a wicked sense of humour, and a finger (or, more-like, a fist) on the pulse of the Zeitgeist, and delivers a novel both breezily easy to read and recognizably, relatably today in its heroine’s concerns and conflict between her own needs and the demands of those around her/the world, as well as that universal conflict between how we see and think of ourselves versus the box into which the world and culture wants us to fit.

Funny, and without giving anything away, a happy,triumphant resolution — so,good on you Kate. And good on Allison Pearson for giving us a heroine whose humanity includes admitting and owning her flaws and errors with a sense of humour. I wish I were more like her.

So, there it is, my second book post in as many days after a month away. And, just like I had a Twitter connection with all three of these, coming next both a Twitter (two connections there, actually) and personal connection — a fantastic new Y.A. novel, first in an exciting new series by debut novelist Melinda Beatty, Heartseeker. I started yesterday and were I not struggling with the aging, fall-asleep-in-a-chair issue myself, I’d have finished it last night.

Now, off I go. It’s father’s day and so I need to take my dear mom out to lunch and give her the “you raised us alone so you get a father’s day gift, too” card/present. It’s a gift card to Boscov’s because a person can NEVER have too many blouses and earrings. I know this because my mom told me so.

So, here I am, going.