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Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Writer's Life 1/19 - Interpreting a Master

Literary giant Anton Chekhov died at 44 in 1904. In that brief span he produced hundreds of short stories, 16 plays, a novel, five novellas, and three books on travel. His big four stage works, The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard, continue to be produced worldwide. His writing has been translated into just about every language known to man. Like most great authors, his focus is the human condition. Last night I watched the latest film adaptation of The Seagull (2018), courtesy of Netflix. It features a stellar cast. It is set largely at a country estate, the home of a famous middle age actress, her unmarried brother, and her son, who has literary ambitions. The young man stages an unorthodox play in the backyard, attended by family and friends. Conflicts abound. Saoirse (pronounced Sur-sha) Ronan, a Bronx girl of Irish descent whose picture seems to be in the paper every day, plays an aspiring actress instantly smitten by a famous writer, the lover of the older actress. The often unreasonable selfishness and obsessiveness of not only of artists but people is captured perfectly in the play, one of the reasons it is a magnet for serious actors. Everyone in the cast is solid, but Elizabeth Moss stands out as a hard-drinking victim of unrequited love, another of the play's themes. The person one loves loves someone else. That's happened to me and, I'm sure, to many, many others. Annette Bening brings her usual excellence to the role of the older actress, as does Corey Stoll his as the author. Veterans Brian Dennehy and Mare Winningham inject much needed life and humor into the proceedings. The UK's Billy Howle is affecting as the young writer. The screenplay was adapted by Stephen Karam. Michael Mayer, who has worked mostly in TV, directed. 1000+ users at IMDb have rated The Seagull, forging to a consensus of 5.9 on a scale of ten, too low in my opinion, although I realize the work appeals largely to artists and fans of Chekhov. The tone is mostly downbeat. Anyone unfamiliar and curious about the work of the Russian master should take a look. It seems Ronan, not yet 24, is headed for greatness. Here she is:

After reviewing the third proof of Inside Out, I made 24 changes to the Word file, only a handful actual corrections. I've approved the book and await its posting on Amazon. I will then buy a copy, along with three of Close to the Edge, which has been sold out since summer. If that copy has not suffered mishaps on Amazon's end, I will announce its availability.

My thanks to the woman who purchased two paperbacks in Russian. I spent almost all of today's session of the floating book shop in my car, out of the cold. The forecast predicts the coming snow will change to rain. It's so cold I won't be surprised if it's all snow. I parked my car on the left hand side of the street in a spot where it should get a lot of sun - just in case.

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Writer's Life 1/18 - Words & Pictures

In a great op-ed piece in today's NY Post, Kevin Williamson comments on the current, often erroneous labeling that's occurring in society. The most famous was the recent accusation by a CNN "reporter" citing a black commentator as a beneficiary of white privilege. Also, a Jew has been dubbed an anti-semite, an atheist a fundamentalist, and a homosexual a homophobe. Williamson uses the following quote from Voltaire to emphasize his point: "I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it." Kudos.

From Yahoo's Odd News, edited by yours truly: The Kutztown, Pa. Police Department sought three volunteers to drink hard liquor to the point of inebriation so officers could be trained how to administer field sobriety tests. A call for volunteers on Facebook attracted hundreds of responses and more than 1000 shares in less than a day. Volunteers were required to have a clean criminal history and have someone to take care of them after the session. The slots are filled. These guys didn't make the cut:

The owner of an Australian eatery spotted an iron bar she hadn't noticed previously in her coffee maker. It was a non-venomous snake. Here's a pic:

The appropriately named Ocean Ramsey is an intrepid photographer. Here she is beside a Great White Shark nearly 20-feet long, estimated as weighing 6000 pounds.

The floating book shop enjoyed some sales for the first time in three days. My thanks to the woman who bought a paperback in Russian, and to the gentleman who purchased short story collections by Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Carver; and to the young man who selected non-fiction on Tai Chi, nutrition and dog training; and to Ira, who chose a book on business.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Writer's Life 1/17 - Theorist

No luck selling books in a session abbreviated by the cold for a second straight day. With the news seeming blah, blah, blah, here's an excerpt from a story in The Billionths of a Lifetime collection. The title is Miller's Time. The clip is approximately a few minutes read:

   He turned left from the elevator and immediately spotted a note taped to the door of his apartment just below the large UFT decal. He scanned the message, crumpled and threw it to the floor.
   “I will not be bought,” he muttered indignantly.
   His bushy beard and what remained of the hair on his head were largely gray. He was of average height, about 50 pounds overweight. He wore wire-rimmed glasses.
   “Mr. Miller! Mr. Miller!” someone called.
   Miller recognized the voice and sneered as he let go of the doorknob and turned to the middle age man in a suit. “I’ve got nothing to say to you, Costas.”
   “Have you seen our latest offer?”
   “I’m not joining the plot to rid Manhattan of the middle class, to make it a playground of the rich.”
   “We’ll give you a studio right here in the building.”
   “The maintenance fee would be more than my current rent. What kind of deal is that?”
   “But you’d own the apartment and you’d be able to sell whenever you want. You have a nice pension and great benefits. You’d have no trouble keeping up.”
   Miller eyed him with suspicion, seething. “How’d you find out about my finances?” No doubt the banks were in cahoots with real estate agents and building owners.
   “Please, sir. You’re alone. You don’t need five rooms.”
   “What if my wife comes back? Take a hike. I’d never trust someone like you.”
   He entered the apartment and set one of the three locks. The interior was in the middle stages of disarray. Ashtrays filled to the brim were everywhere. His wife had always seen to the upkeep. He hadn’t the time or patience for it. It’d been a year since she walked out and moved to Florida. He was surprised she was able to live outside of Manhattan. Both had been born and always lived in the borough. They’d spent their entire married life, raised their children in this rent-controlled flat. He’d expected they would die here. He felt betrayed.
   Without removing his coat, he lit a cigarette and sat at his cluttered desk, on which there were several books, a few open. He scanned a paragraph in one, closed it and returned it to its proper place on the top shelf of the case, which held books on the Kennedy assassination. The second was devoted to 9/11, the third to the McCarthy era. All were alphabetized.

Art by Tim Ernst.
My Amazon Author page:

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Writer's Life 1/16 - Dolly & Others

RIP Carol Channing, 97, that bundle of positive energy. Dolly has gone away, but her fans will never forget her. Her page at Wiki lists 28 Broadway shows in which she appeared, most of them as the star. She won a Tony in 1964 for her signature performance. In an awesome bit of trivia, she was the first celebrity to perform at a Super Bowl halftime show, 1970. Thank you, madam.

So Chris Christie has written a book. I'll be very surprised if it doesn't flop. According to an article in today's NY Post, he blames Jared Kushner for his being frozen out of the Trump administration. Talk radio host Mark Simone, a personal friend of the president, says it is bull. He attributes the banishment to when Christie went MIA during the Billy Bush scandal. During a past visit to Trump Tower, Simone noticed a sheet of paper that had a list of names on it on Trump's desk, and asked what it was. It was those who went missing when Trump went bankrupt in the early '90's. He doesn't forget betrayal... Also from Simone, he is referring to Jeff Bezos' new woman as "The Sir Edmund Hillary of Social Climbers."

I use the word "alright" a few times in Inside Out, the novel I will be publishing soon. I wondered whether it should be "all right," so I googled it. The reply was something like "It's not all right to use alright" in prose, but it is permissible in dialogue. I've used "awright" through the years for those characters with heavy Brooklyn accents... Through 157 pages of the third proof of IO, I've spotted seven errors, the latest a missing quotation mark at the start of a sentence. I've also found another paragraph that needs to be broken in two.

No sales today, but I received donations on three fronts. My thanks to the woman who gave me a mix of soft and hardcovers in Russian and English, and to the gentleman who forked over a number of paperbacks in Russian; and to the staff of our co-op, who put aside a cache that includes classics, which were in short supply in the current inventory, which is once again as good as it gets.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Writer's Life 1/15 - Years

Already, seven police officers have been killed in the line of duty in 2019. Where is the media outrage? The following pic was posted to the Facebook page of a fellow LHS alum, Roni, NYPD retired.

Palestinian Authority President is now in the 14th year of his four-year term.

Ten years ago today Sully landed the jet in the Hudson, saving everyone on board.

For the first time in 30 years L.A. teachers, 30,000 or so strong, are on strike.

Since 1999 opioid deaths in the USA have increased 633%.

RIP Mel Stottlemyre, 77, a class act who had a long run as a player and pitching coach in MLB. In 1964, the Yankees last hurrah before the organization went on a long slide into mediocrity, Stot went 9-3 during the second half to help lead the Bronx Bombers to yet another World Series, which they lost to the Cardinals. He went one-one in the series, his only post-season appearance as a player. He won 20 or more games three times, impressive given the club's struggles during his playing career. He finished 164-139, stellar ERA of 2.97. He coached for 23 seasons for several teams, including stints with both New York teams, winning three titles with the Yanks, one with the Mets. Well done, sir.

I've been writing since November 1975. I've lost track of how long it takes to complete a novel. Each goes through umpteen drafts and proofs. Inside Out, which I will be self-publishing shortly, was first written sometime in the '80's, five drafts then, several rounds of revision and proofs recently. In the first 99 pages of the third proof, I've found six errors. The latest corrections are the dropping of the last two letters of usually, replacing distant with distance, and adding a d at the end of determine.

I was back at my usual nook today, expecting it to be a bit warmer. I closed shop an hour early, my toes starting to go numb. My thanks to the gentleman who bought the book on the popular TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory, and to the woman who purchased three paperbacks in Russian; and to Cabbie, who did a swap and buy of thrillers. I had a visit from Barry, professor of criminology at John Jay College, an avid fan of The Sopranos. He related how thrilled he was to have met Tony Sirico, aka Paulie Walnuts, yesterday in the parking lot of a diner.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Writer's Life 1/14 - Role Reversals

Trump continues to be the most transformative president ever. Recently, his proposals to withdraw American troops from Syria and Afghanistan turned doves into hawks, and now, regarding the latest uncorroborated NY Times accusation involving Russia, he's turned the left into McCarthyites. Laughter is stifled by sadness.

While NYC prospers despite high taxes and regulatory burdens, the rest of the state continues to struggle, as manifested by the following from the Fast Takes column in today's NY Post: Since 2010, census shows that population has fallen in 42 of 50 upstate counties.

What was that about the Patriots being dead? And now on to Kansas City and Andy Reid's dismal playoff coaching record. Let's not forget that somehow Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning beat Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, arguably the greatest ever in their respective roles, not once but twice in the Super Bowl. I'd love to see the Pats lose, but I would not be at all surprise if they win ... Lady luck, so cruel to the Saints in last year's playoffs, was very kind to them yesterday. Nick Foles almost pulled out another victory. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles handle their QB situation. They may have to stick with the injury prone Carson Wentz, who has a long term contract. The Giants should make a serious run at Foles, who I believe is a free agent.

I've found two errors in the first 44 pages of the third proof copy of Inside Out, an unnecessary comma and the lack of "ed" at the end of a word. If I don't spot many more, I will make corrections to the Word file, resubmit, and immediately approve the book for publication, and buy a copy. I will buy a few copies of Close to the Edge at the same time to qualify for free shipping. It has been sold out for months. I will wait until the books arrive to see that nothing weird happened to IO in what I hope will be the final submission. If it looks good, I will then announce its publication. At the risk of jinxing myself, the end is in sight.

No luck selling books on this gorgeous winter day.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Writer's Life 1/13 - Salt of the Earth

Observations on youtube highlights of yesterday's playoff games: Sometimes it seems defenses don't know that Chiefs' TE Travis Kelce is an eligible receiver. KC had one punt blocked for a Colts' TD, and another nearly blocked that resulted in a baloney roughing call. I expect Belichick to exploit this next week. It seems the Chiefs are now completely recovered from the mid-season suspension of RB Kareem Hunt. His replacement, Damien Williams, is doing very well. Even all-time greats have an occasional bad game. Indy PK Adam Vinatieri's two bad FG misses were painful to watch... As for the Rams, RB Todd Gurley is one of the most impressive players in the league, a touchdown machine. When he was injured several weeks ago, management brought in C.J. Anderson, a mainstay on the Broncos last Super Bowl winner. Only 27, for some reason he was on the scrap heap. He has three straight games of 100+ rushing yards, even though he appears overweight. I'm never impressed by QB Jared Goff, but he gets the job done... The Cowboys appear to have a lot to build on.

From Yahoo's Odd News, edited by yours truly: About 600 people blow off steam in an anger room each month in Beijing. A half-hour session costs the equivalent of $23 American. People can bring their own stuff to smash. They wear protective gear while pounding away. An average of 600 folks a month are participating. Here's a pic:

From, edited by YT: Army Sgt. Trey Troney, 20, witnessed a car crash near Sweetwater, Texas shortly before Christmas, and immediately sprang into action. He removed his sweatshirt and wrapped it around the victim's head wound, stopping the bleeding. When he realized the guy had suffered a collapsed lung, he inserted the tube of a ballpoint pen into a chest wound, which restored breathing. Said  Sgt. Troney: "... It was a chance I had to take." A full recovery is expected. Kudos.

When I got home there was a package at my door. The third proof of Inside Out has arrived way ahead of schedule, delivered on a Sunday. I'd expected it Wednesday the earliest. Post Office employees must love Amazon.

The benign NYC winter continues, the storm passing to the south. Only a dusting fell, but the geniuses who run the city had the streets salted. Maybe it was a practice run. Vehicles are grinding it into a dust that has coated everything, probably even our lungs.

There was just enough sun to make today's session of the floating book shop tolerable. My thanks to the woman who bought two paperbacks in Russian.