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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Writer's Life 6/20 - Big & Little Bucks

Here's something I've wondered about, gleaned from, edited by yours truly: As of May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median annual income of $60,250 for writers and authors. Those in the 90th percentile earned $114,530 or more, while the 10th percentile earned $29,230 or less per year. I must be in the last percentile. Here are 2017's world's highest-paid authors, according to
1. J.K. Rowling ($95 million) I have not read any of her books. Judging from the sales of the Harry Potter series at my floating book shop (fbs), she is not a flash in the pan. It seems her popularity will span generations.
2. James Patterson ($87 million) I read only one of "his" novels, a co-write, and didn't like it. I don't recall the title but it had a number in it. I suppose I should try one from early in his career, but I hesitate because I'm almost always disappointed by the mystery genre. His books go quickly at the fbs.
3. Jeff Kinney ($21 million) His Diary of a Wimpy Kid series sell fast at the fbs. I don't read children's books, so I have no opinion on the series.
4. Dan Brown ($20 million) I haven't read any of his work. I fell asleep watching the 2006 adaptation of The Da Vinci Code on DVD.
5. Stephen King ($15 million) I've read only Thinner, which he wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. I enjoyed it, although it was no more than light reading.
6. John Grisham ($14 million) & Nora Roberts. I read one each of their novels and didn't like either. The titles escape me.
8. Paula Hawkins ($13 million) I didn't read The Girl on the Train, but I enjoyed the 2016 movie.
9. E.L. James ($11.5 million) I've been tempted to sample her work, but the books are so long. If someone tells me they have actual substance, I might try one.
10. Danielle Steel ($11 million, tie) & Rick Riordan of the Percy Jackson series. I read one of Steel's long ago, a Hollywood saga, and was lukewarm about it. She, Rowling, Patterson, Roberts and Grisham are the best-selling living authors at fbs. Sidney Sheldon is by far the most popular of the deceased. I haven't read any of Riordan's work. A while ago a dad bought the entire box set for his son, who beamed.

In case you're wondering, here are the top ten best selling authors of all-time:
1. Agatha Christie - estimated between two and four billion copies sold.
2. Shakespeare - also between two and four billion.
3. Barbara Cartland (romance) - between 500 million and one billion.
4. Danielle Steel - 500 to 800 million.
5. Harold Robbins - 750 million.
6. Georges Simenon (French, chiefly Inspector Maigret mysteries) - 500 to 700 million.
7. Sidney Sheldon -370 to 600 million.
8. Enid Blyton (Children's) - 300 to 600 million.
9. J. K. Rowling - 450 to 500 million. (I'd bet she moves up to number three within a decade.)
10. Dr. Seuss - 100 to 500 million.

From Yahoo's Odd News, in my own words: What are the odds? While in a gas station's store recently, a waitress had her purse stolen from her car. A few days later a man she served tried to pay with a credit card - hers! She called the cops, who found her Social Security card and driver's license on the slimeball, who was arrested on the spot.

All the action came in the final half hour of operation today. My thanks to the gentleman who bought the huge pictorial on Native-American art; to Michael, who purchased two Catherine Coulter romances; to the woman who selected a large paperback on vitamins; to Matt, who chose The Spinoza of Market Street by Isaac Bashevis Singer, one of my favorite authors; and to Andy F-Bomb, who donated The Diary of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Writer's Life 6/19 - Rant

Man, I hate blogging about the infuriating cesspool that is politics. President Trump's approval rating inched up recently, and stands the same as where Obama's was at this time in each's presidency, 45% approve, 50% disapprove. Since the Stormy Daniels scandal has proven a flop, the left and its media acolytes are now ignoring her. They have moved on to the immigration issue, accusing Trump of separating children from parents. Where were they when the same was being done during the previous administration, which built the cages? Some of the pictures being used to damn Trump are from 2014 when you-know-who was in the White House. Factor in what several top FBI administrations did to impede Trump's candidacy and then to disrupt his presidency, and it will make anyone despair but those wearing blinders and the hardcore leftists who believe they are on the side of the angels and thus allowed harsh means to a just, as they see it, end. The actions revealed go even further than politics as usual, or maybe it just seems that way because its current. After all, there have been lots of scandals, Watergate the ugliest. There have always been rumors that the 1960 election was stolen by the doings in Illinois, but nothing ever materialized in the matter. And maybe that was right, as it would have undermined confidence in the government. As much as I want to see the sanctimonious miscreants exposed, especially that harridan the Democrats' higher echelon conspired to nominate, I want the scandal to end, to go away. Let's have firings and immediate pardons. Why waste time and money prosecuting hacks? Let's move on. As for Mueller's investigation - put up or shut down. Given all that went down behind the scenes, it is a miracle that Trump was elected and remains in office. Kudos to all who voted for him.

There was a refreshing breeze blowing along Avenue Z today, creating ideal conditions for the floating book shop. My thanks to the gentleman in the mechanized wheelchair who bought a bio of Mookie Wilson and Michael Woolf's anti-Trump rant, Fire and Fury; and to Barry, who overpaid for a Mel Torme bio; and to the woman who swapped four hardcovers in Russian for a Mary Higgins Clark mystery; and to Ludmilla, who purchased a huge pictorial on the ancient arts; and to the gentleman who gobbled up seven books in Russian. Not only was the weather ideal - no one talked politics.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Writer's Life 6/18 - Slivers

The late Ira Levin had a highly successful literary career. A native New Yorker, winner of two Edgar Allan Poe awards, he began by writing for radio and TV. He wrote seven novels, nine plays, a musical, and eleven screenplay adaptations, including of his own books. His most popular work was Rosemary's Baby. Almost as popular were The Stepford Wives, which has been adapted to the big screen twice, and Deathtrap, which had a long Broadway run and was adapted to the screen in 1982. A Kiss Before Dying, his first novel, has also been adapted twice. Several days ago I finished Sliver, a thriller published in 1991. It is the story of a 39-year-old female book editor just off a failed romance, who moves into a building that has been open only a few years. It is one of those oddities seen in NYC, built on a site where two brownstones had stood, rising 21 stories, referred to in the book's title. There have been several deaths at the place and the press has dubbed it "Horror High-Rise." Was there foul play? That will be obvious to just about any reader. Although only 261 pages, the pace is at first slow, despite a slew of truncated sentences. Levin takes the reader through the minutiae of daily life. It gets interesting about halfway through when the protagonist falls for the secretive owner of the building, who has installed state of the art surveillance that allows him access to every apartment. The climax is predictable and over the top. I was as disappointed as I've been with almost every thriller I've ever read. An intriguing idea was fleshed out only minimally. Those who've rated the book at Amazon disagree. 26 readers have forged to a consensus of 4.2 on a scale of five. I've added the 1993 film adaptation to my Netflix list, despite the fact that it was blasted by critics. I'm always curious as to what filmmakers do with a literary work. Levin passed away in 2007 at 78. Here's a 15-story example of a Manhattan sliver:

Hail Brooks Koepka, who won his second straight U. S. Open. He finished plus-one. No one in the field broke par, which has happened several times in the history of the championship. Reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed made an interesting comment in a TV interview. He cited two of Saturday's pin placements as unfair and responsible for most of the carnage. Probably so, but it was the same for the entire field. The ones who had an advantage had the benefit of the luck of the draw - an early tee time before the winds kicked up.

Lack of parking near my usual book nook led me to an alternate site. I have no idea what the temperature was, but it seemed nowhere near the record that had been predicted. Standing under a tree, I enjoyed the breeze blowing along Bay Parkway. My thanks to the middle age woman who bought two Sandra Brown thrillers and Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly; and to the other who selected a book on picking winning stocks; and the other who arrived as I was packing up and purchased two huge pictorials, a book on etiquette, The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, and a philosophy primer. I had a visit from Bad News Billy, who's been under the weather. He spent two weeks in the hospital, suffering congestive heart failure he believes was incited by his years as a roofer. He will soon be fitted with a pacemaker. He is also struggling with sleep apnea. Get well, sir. Mr. Conspiracy also spent time in a hospital - eight days - and doctors could not pinpoint what was wrong with him. He had lost weight, and seemed a ghost two weeks ago. I assumed his drinking had caught up to him. He seems to be recovering, although his voice is still thin. He asked for books on diabetes and pancreas issues. Unfortunately, I don't have any right now. Billy is my age, 68. Mr. C's a few years younger. I'm reminded how lucky I am - knock wood.
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Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Writer's Life 6/17 - Man Made

In an op-ed piece in today's NY Post, George Walsh defends President Trump's foreign policy. He includes a quote from a former British PM, Lord Palmerston: "Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests." Even a politician will say something intelligent once in a blue moon.

In the USA, gifted athletes are pampered from a very young age. An article in the Post by Brian Lewis profiles a young foreigner who traveled a tough road that would probably have led to the imprisonment of his parents on charges of child abuse had they lived in America. Dzanan Musa, from a small town in Bosnia, demonstrated an affinity for basketball. When he was eleven his mom and dad rented an apartment for him in Sarajevo - five hours away, where he lived on his own. They also paid for food vouchers at a local college. Understandably, he often cried himself to sleep and considered returning home. At 16 he began playing professionally in the EuroLeague. Now six-nine, he is waiting to see which NBA team selects him in the upcoming draft. Brooklyn, which picks 29th, is interested, but he is expected to be taken by then. Good luck, sir.

No one under par through three rounds of the U.S. Open - I love it! Phil Mickelson was so frustrated he putted a ball that was still moving, which is a two-shot penalty. He is plus 15. Now 48, the Open Championship has again eluded him. It is the only significant title missing from his fantastic career.

Last night the Svengoolie program, channel 33 on Cablevision in NYC, ran Man Made Monster (1941), starring Lon Chaney Jr. as the titular character electrified by mad scientist Lionel Atwill. Running only 59 minutes, it's fun in terms of nostalgia, of interest chiefly to fans of the old Universal horror movies. In researching the cast, I came upon a new leader in my unofficial tally of screen appearances. Frank O'Connor has 650 titles under his name at IMDb. Most are listed as "uncredited," where he was probably merely a background extra. What makes the total even more astounding is that it is comprised of single shots except for nine he did on Perry Mason and two on Dragnet. His career spanned 1915-1959, when he passed away at 78 . He also directed 23 films and wrote seven screenplays. All those titles are unfamiliar to me, no doubt B films. The previous leader had been Jack Mower with 620 appearances. Those two are alone in the 600 Club - at least so far. Here's a pic of O'Connor in character:

My thanks to the two young women who approached as I was setting up shop and purchased a huge pictorial published by the Audobon Society, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass; and to the young mom who bought two books for her kids; and to the elderly woman who selected a large hardcover on great religious leaders and Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time; and to the gentleman who chose Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball's Golden Age by Allen Barra; and to the elderly woman who donated four biographies of a Time/Life series and insisted on paying for Sacred and Profane: A Decker/Lazarus Novel by Faye Kellerman

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Writer's Life 6/16 - Out of the Mainstream

I will watch any film in which Jennifer Lawrence appears, so I added Mother! (2017) to my Netflix list. It was written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, a Brooklyn guy who takes chances. He has now done seven full length features. His breakout film, Pi (1998), went over my head. I enjoyed The Wrestler (2008), and was disappointed by the box office smash Black Swan (2010). I passed on his others. Mother! is obviously allegorical. What's it about below its chaotic surface? I thought it was a condemnation of the selfish artist whose loving wife has given him everything. That interpretation is addressed and refuted at Here's an excerpt from the piece, edited by yours truly: "According to the Bible, before God created Man, there was Paradise. JLAW is Gaia, or Mother Earth, defending the living, breathing organism she has built into a perfect home. She can’t handle or fully understand why people are so disrespectful. Her husband is God, Who out of boredom creates Adam (Ed Harris) and Eve (Michelle Pfeiffer); they invade her pristine world and the artist’s study (the Garden of Eden), which holds God’s perfect crystal (the apple). Their dueling children are Cain and Abel. And they bring in worshipers who feed God’s need for adulation. Those who sit on Mother’s unsupported sink eventually cause the pipes to burst into the Great Flood. God impregnates Mother, who gives birth to the Messiah, who is followed by an increasingly chaotic communion and Revelations..." This makes perfect sense. Kudos. 102,000+ folks at IMDb have rated Mother!, forging to a consensus of 6.4 on a scale of ten. It had mediocre results at the box office, returning $44 million worldwide on a budget of $33, which is understandable, since its appeal is limited to the most sophisticated movie-goers. Add DVD sales and rentals and streaming to the mix and the financial results aren't bad. Credit Aronfsky for having the nerve to fly way out of the mainstream, even when he creates something so abstract most people won't get it. I don't agree with the darkness of the message, at least not entirely. I think Man has done much that would impress the creator. His pluses significantly outnumber his minuses, even when it comes to the extraction of earth's resources. Here's a pic of the director and stars, minus Ed Harris:

Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy failed to make the grade at this year's U.S. Open. The cut line was plus-eight - LOL! The world's number one ranked player, Dustin Johnson, seems on the brink of a runaway victory. Will the Shinnecock gods lay traps for him? 

I've just begun a book by a shrink, written in 1952. The prose is eminently accessible, although two words and a German phrase within the first three pages were foreign to me.
Lithopedion: a fetus calcified in the body of the mother.
Epigonous: abhorrent, causing or deserving strong dislike or hatred (at least as far as I can figure out from
Am schlafe der welt geruhrt: Stirred in the sleep of the world (Huh?)

My thanks to the young moms who bought books for their kids, to the elderly woman who purchased two Debbie Macomber romances, and to the woman who selected two paperbacks in Russian. Here's what was inside one of the recent donations. At first I assumed it was a book marker. Note the price. These days the average cost for a balcony seat to the most popular musicals is $65. I guess the buyer missed the show.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Writer's Life 6/15 - Heavy

Conservative pundit Jonathan Podhoretz has lamented the Trump presidency since election night, which is ironic given that Trump has so far governed more conservatively than anyone since Ronald Reagan. Anyway, in his op-ed piece in today's NY Post, he used the term "Deep State" to describe the actions of certain execs at the FBI, particularly focusing on Peter Strzok. If he'd used the term previously, he'd done it with skepticism. He now considers what went down as world changing. I'll believe that when I see it. The swamp will circle the wagons to protect itself.

The first round of the U.S. Open is in the books and the winner is Long Island's Shinnecock golf course. Players struggled in the stiff wind that has been so refreshing in Brooklyn. Only four broke par. Many big names are in jeopardy of missing the cut. I love it when the course is merciless. It should be different from other tournaments were scores are well below par. This is for the national championship.

From Yahoo's Odd News, in my own words: A family heirloom has gone missing in Massachusetts. New tenants of an apartment assumed the frame of an old brass bed had been left as trash and put it curbside. The owner freaked and plastered the neighborhood with signs asking for its return, saying: "My mother will kill me." His mom explained the bed was one of the few items her grandmother had to leave to her 17 grandchildren.

I dreamed I had the measles and that it made me too weak to work. In actuality, I had it when I was in fifth grade, during the last two weeks of the school year. The teacher, Mrs. Sarno, felt so sorry for me she inflated my grades. It was the best report card I ever had. Meanwhile, I didn't feel at all sick. I was so restless I was jumping up and down on the mattress as if it were a trampoline - to the consternation of my poor mom. What triggered the dream? I'd guess it's the worry that I've taken on more books at my sidewalk shop than a 68-year-old guy should be handling. Fortunately, the car is in an ideal position and the weather has been cool. I barely broke a sweat this week. Most of the weight comes from art pictorials, which I placed in a large box I took out to the old Hyundai just before I went on my morning walk. It's heavy. I'm going to have to be very careful not to injure my back.

As I expected, the pictorials attracted attention. My thanks to the woman who bought six, and to Ira, who purchased who purchased one on Fabergé products and bios of Charles Laughton, Red Skelton and George Burns, and a collection of pieces on Hollywood by Garson Kanin; and to Gary, who selected a pictorial published by the Uffizi gallery in Italy, and a bio of Lilian Gish; and to the young woman who snapped up a pictorial on Picasso; and to the elderly woman who donated two works each of fiction and non. Despite all the sales of the pictorials, the box is still heavy.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Writer's Life 6/14 - Yul & Co.

Coming appropriately on Flag Day, the IG report is out. Let the left-right spin begin. Prediction: the five FBI execs in trouble will get a slap on the wrist and Hillary will skate as she always has. It will be interesting to see if congress has the balls to subpoena the rank and file agents who threatened to revolt because of the behavior of the upper echelon. That's the only thing that would take the matter to a level beyond politics as usual.

Here's some fun literary stuff gleaned from “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” – Kurt Vonnegut. Although I wouldn't describe my reaction as "terror," I remember how happy a dear friend was when Bill Clinton - "one of our generation" - was elected president. Although I was happy when the second Bush - another of our generation - was elected, he was a colossal disappointment. As for Vonnegut, he incorporated push-ups and sit-ups into his writing routine and, calling it quits around 5:30 each afternoon, unwound with a glass of Scotch.
“Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today,” said Mark Twain and, given each day's news, he was so right.
E.B. White, author of beloved children’s classics Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web never listened to music, which is unimaginable. Music is one of the things that keeps me sane or, at least, approaching sanity.
Leo Tolstoy's immortal character Anna Karenina was inspired by the daughter of one of Russia’s greatest poets, Alexander Pushkin.
What elevates genre writers above their peers? Here's a few lines from Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely, the second novel to feature Private Eye Phillip Marlowe: “I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun.” 
The first novel written and published by an African-American is William Wells Brown's Clotel; or, The President’s Daughter, which was published in England in 1853 and offers a fictional account of Thomas Jefferson’s slave daughters. And we all thought that wasn't known until fairly recently.

Also on the literary front: I was in the middle of my morning walk when I had a revelation concerning what will be my last book, which I plan to self-publish in January 2020. It's influenced by James Joyce's Ulysses, which I've read twice and understood five-ten percent of it, and that may be a generous assumption. I had nearly as much trouble with Virginia Woolf's works. They employ stream of conscious. I so love the idea of being inside a main character's head that I longed to create such a novel most folks would understand. Maybe that means mine is likely to be shallow. One of the titles I considered is Ulysses for Dummies, which, though amusing, seems a put down of the content. At one time I considered Ulysses of Brooklyn, which lacks smoothness. I was going to go with American Ulysses, although I wondered if people would think I was putting it on the same plane as Joyce's work. I also wanted to name the protagonist Ulysses, but there has probably never been an Italian-American with that moniker. That problem was solved this AM. His nickname will be Yul, short for Ulysses, dubbed so at at time when he sported a full beard and a friend had just seen a film based on the Greek hero of mythology. During lunch, the title occurred to me - Yulysses.

It was insanity today at the floating book shop. Rob, a local porter, came along with a shopping cart filled with books. Nearly every one is valuable. I rejected only those that were damaged. Whoever gave them up was a fan of the arts. There are beautiful pictorials of the works of many great painters, bios of Hollywood stars, books on Jazz, and a bunch of literary fiction. They took quite a while to sort. I stayed an extra hour, hoping the load would be reduced. My thanks to Barry, Boris and Steven, who bought five between them, and to the Frenchman, who'd selected eight earlier. My thanks to the other kind folks who made purchases, and to the gentleman who dropped off about 15 Debbie Macomber novels. Help!