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Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Writer's Life 1/20 - Translated to the Screen

Several months ago I read John Fante's Ask the Dust, a novel about a struggling writer in 1930's L.A., one of the first significant literary works by an Italian-American. The protagonist, Arturo Bandini, was the author's alter-ego in several books. Last night I caught up to the 2006 screen adaptation written and directed by Robert Towne, a highly successful screenwriter whose work at the helm has been undistinguished. It is very faithful to the novel until the last half hour, although, understandably, it leaves out a few elements. The bartender's role is the most reduced. The real difference occurs when the narrative moves away from the difficulties of young love and to the romantic tragedy of fare like Alexandre Dumas' (the son) Camille and Erich Segal's Love Story. I prefer the mystery of the novel's ending. I doubt a serious artist like Towne was thinking about how to make the project more commercial. If that was the case, it didn't work, as the film brought in less than two and a half million worldwide. I was unable to find how much it cost to produce. I'd be surprised if the price tag was exorbitant, despite the period sets and the 1933 Long Beach earthquake sequence. And as talented as Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek are, they do not command the salaries of top stars. I thought Hayek was perfectly cast. Farrell's role was much more difficult, and there is something lacking in his performance. Two screen veterans made appearances in the flick. Donald Sutherland added to his impressive canon as the alcoholic down the hall, as did Britain's Eileen Atkins to her own as the owner of the boarding house. Idina Menzel does a good turn as a psychologically damaged beauty who briefly enters the writer's life. That was my favorite part of the book, not so on celluloid, being usurped by my interest in Hayek. 8000+ users at IMDb have rated Ask the Dust, forging to a consensus of 5.8 on a scale of ten. It's appeal is strictly for fans of Fante and Towne, and to those interested in how a book is translated to the screen. The film falls even shorter of greatness than the novel. Here's a still of the leads:

My thanks to the gentleman who purchased The Power of Positive Thinking: 10 Traits for Maximum Results by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, first published in 1952; and to the young woman who, gym bag in tow, bought Fit for Life by Harvey Diamond and Marilyn Diamond, first published in 1985.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Friday, January 19, 2018

The Writer's Life 1/19 - Crime Blotter

From Yahoo's Odd News, edited by yours truly: Tobacco smugglers are using ice-flows and GPS technology to transport goods into Lithuania, where an estimated one in every six cigarettes smoked in 2016 was imported illegally. They attach packs of cigarettes to the bottom of the ice and set them flowing downriver, where their partners in crime track them using GPS. They will now have to go back to the drawing board, as the ruse has been discovered. The Lithuanian government claims it lost 50 million euros in unpaid taxes in 2015 due to such smuggling. Although I hate smoking, I hate the tyranny of tobacco taxes more.

Also from YON, edited by yt: a former leader of the Montana House of Representatives, a Republican who once supported funding for an anti-drug campaign, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his central role in a methamphetamine trafficking ring. It is another case of a politician practicing the philosophy "Do as I say, not as I do." Is there any other kind?

NY Jets WR Robby Anderson has been arrested in Florida. The 24-year-old faces nine charges, including reckless driving, harming a public servant or family, resisting arrest and eluding an active siren. He drove as fast as 105 mph in a 45 mph zone, ran two red lights and eluded the officer in pursuit. Once stopped and arrested, he allegedly initially refused to get into the back of the police car. The report said he made vulgar sexual threats against the cop's wife: Last May he was arrested at a concert in Miami on charges of resisting arrest with violence and obstruction of justice. The arresting officer was later relieved of his duties for conduct unbecoming. Anderson’s trial for that incident is scheduled for March 19. The undrafted free agent out of Temple was one of the Jets' bright spots the past two seasons. In 2017 he had 63 catches, 941 yards and seven touchdowns. And what was his college major? You guessed it - Criminal Justice. He learned well.

My thanks to the young woman who purchased Elemental by Antony John and to the gentleman who bought a huge bio of Josef Stalin. I wonder if it contains the names of all those he had murdered... I meet a lot of interesting people while operating the floating book shop. Lou has become a frequent visitor. He just turned 65. He worked as a driver of cabs, trucks and school buses. Diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, he retired. He seems well. He does not buy books. He simply needs to talk. I don't mind except that he goes on for a long time, at least an hour today. Like many people our age, he talks about the past. The funniest story he related today was of a time his dad took him fishing. All the bait shops were closed, so he used a bit of a hot dog. No one around him was having any luck when suddenly he reeled in a little snapper. Everyone asked what he was using as bait. It sounds like a fish story, but it was fun - and harmless.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Writer's Life 1/18 - Here & There

A  few words on two TV series. Episode three of season eleven of The X-Files was a second straight step in the right direction. It's good to see Mulder and Sculley succumbing to a relationship. Given all they've been through together, it's only natural... Seal Team is an interesting mix of action and the domestic life of its members. I have no idea if such squads undertake clandestine missions so frequently, but I love how the stories transition from peril to the mundane. Imagine being in a life or death situation and, hours later, having to think about household problems.

The unemployment rate among black Americans has fallen to its lowest rate in 45 years, 6.8%. Among Hispanics it's 4.7%, the lowest in more than a decade. Usually, a president receives credit for good economic news that occurs on his watch. Like Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump is an exception.

Coaching at the top collegiate and pro levels, although lucrative, is unforgiving. Pittsburgh Steelers' management has fired its offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, despite the fact that the team ranked third in yardage and eighth in scoring out of 32 NFL teams.

From Yahoo's Odd News: A paper cup allegedly used by Elvis Presley six decades ago in Oklahoma is up for auction. Bidding has surpassed $1200. I've said this before - if  someone put E's or any of the Beatles' poop in a bag, crazies would buy it.

I made a tactical error regarding the floating book shop today. I set up at my regular nook, the wares in the shade cast by the scaffold. It was a lot colder than I expected, even standing in the brilliant sunshine at the corner of East 13th. The wind was just stiff enough to be a factor. I should have gone to Bay Parkway. I couldn't blame people for not being enticed. Only a few stopped to take a look. It was my first goose egg in a long time.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Writer's Life 1/17 - Discoveries

Lost and Rediscovered Literary Works by Famous Authors, from an article at by Claire Cock-Starkey, edited by yours truly:
Temperature by F. Scott Fitzgerald: 8000-word short story, written in 1939, features a hard-drinking writer who has a heart problem. Just a year after he wrote it Fitzgerald died of a heart attack. Found among his collection at Princeton, his alma mater, it was published in The Strand, a British literary magazine that has been around since the late 1800's.
What Pet Shall I Get? by Dr. Seuss: Discovered by his widow in 2013, published by Random House in 2015. It is believed to have been written between 1958 and 1962. It features the same brother-and-sister characters found in the 1960 bestseller One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.
The Field of Honor by Edith Wharton: Nine-page short story found among the author's archive at Yale. It centers on WWI and is critical of the women who only superficially helped with the war effort.
Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Thing by Percy Bysshe Shelley: Written under A Gentleman of Oxford when the author was a freshman in 1810/11, it was not attributed to him until 50 years after his death. Believed lost forever, a copy was found amidst a private collection and offered for auction. 172-lines, 20-pages, the pamphlet is critical of the Napoleonic wars. It was purchased by the Bodleian Library in Oxford, adding to its world-famous collection of Shelley works and papers, the twelfth millionth book it acquired. It is available online for all to read.
The Early Stories of Truman Capote: Found among the author's papers at the New York Public Library, they were written before he reached the age of 20. While four had been published in The Green Witch literary magazine, the rest were new to the public. Penguin released them in 2015.

Will the fact that Donald Trump has received a clean bill of health physically and mentally stop the all out assault on the President by the mainstream media? Yeah, right. He's 71 and his BP is 122/74 - without medication! Great genes.

From Yahoo's Odd News: The American Meteor Society suggests a space rock penetrated deep into the Earth's atmosphere before breaking apart. The U.S. Geological Service says it registered as a 2.0 magnitude earthquake in Michigan. Residents reported their homes shaking. Here's a pic:

The floating book shop was snowed-out today. Fortunately, none of the white stuff stuck to the ground in Brooklyn. Back in business manana.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Writer's Life 1/16 - Voices, One Stilled, Another Probing

The music world suffers the death of many young performers. The passing of Dolores O'Riordan, 46, of the Cranberries is particularly shocking. She seemed to have recovered from back problems and had returned to live gigs. In 1994 she and her mates took planet Earth by storm with a powerful anthem on the Irish "Troubles." Zombie was a worldwide #1, fueled by O'Riordan's passionate vocal. I heard it on the radio just yesterday and, as always, sang along to "It's in your head, your head..." Here's a clip of the band's performance of the anthem on SNL. Thank you, Madam. RIP:

I received an email from Amazon this morning encouraging me to offer one of my books in a free Kindle giveaway at Goodreads. I hadn't logged into the site in ages, so long ago that my 2009 email address was my moniker. I just changed it to my current one and hit the link for verification. Of course, no email has followed - at least not yet. Just as in the formatting of my ninth book - why should it be easy?

While the mainstream media focuses on getting President Trump, it ignores a scandal that may be, in the words of a former secret service agent: "Watergate on steroids." Sara Carter has been investigating the Clinton Foundation's purchase of the fake Russian dossier on Trump for more than a year. That dossier was used by the Obama administration as justification for spying on Trump. I have no idea where this will lead. I suspect the swamp will close ranks to keep a lid on the specifics, as the public's opinion of politicians is at an all-time low. When I hear what may have gone down, I shake my head. It's the stuff of fiction. I have to check my partisanship, my desire to see all the accused pay the price for the alleged treachery, and President Trump vindicated. If the parties were reversed, the mainstream media would be all over the story demanding answers. Here's a picture of Carter, who seems one of the few genuine reporters left in this country:

Given the cold and forecast for precipitation, I wasn't expecting to operate the floating book shop today. Fortunately, the snow/rain held off and there was no wind, which enabled me to put in a couple of hours at my regular nook, despite the lack of sunshine. My thanks to the 30-something couple who purchased vinyl compilations by the Everly Brothers, Paul Anka and Andy Williams, and to the gentleman who bought a book in Russian.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Monday, January 15, 2018

The Writer's Life 1/15 - In the Shadows

Since I've been concentrating intently on the publication of my ninth book, Present and Past, I've needed light reading diversion on those days I've waited for a proof copy to arrive or for the file to be approved by Create Space. I found a perfect fit in Twilight Zone Revisited adapted by Walter B. Gibson, a large hardcover edition with illustrations by Earl E. Mayan. First published in 1964, it contains 13 stories. I recognized five. The teleplay of each of those was written by Rod Serling. I doubt he wrote any of the stories in the collection. Many are long, almost all are over-written. The only entry that rises above average is Beyond the Rim, which was titled 100 Yards above the Rim when it appeared on the series, and starred Cliff Robertson, whose character leaves his wagon train to search for water, and walks into the 20th century. I was curious about Gibson, so I googled his name. He has quite a history. According to Wiki, he was born in 1897, and graduated from Colgate in 1920. At first he worked as a reporter and creator of crossword puzzles in his native Philadelphia. After submitting pieces for Detective Story Magazine, he was asked by its publishers, in 1931, to produce the first print adventure of The Shadow, who at that stage was merely a voice, the mysterious narrator of radio crime dramas. He fleshed out the character and invented the alter ego, Lamont Cranston. It became a sensation. At least 283 of the 336 novels in the series are attributed to Gibson. He also worked on the comic strip, movie and parlor game offshoots. He was a writing machine, churning out 15,000,000 words on The Shadow alone - in some years 24 books! And he wrote others as well, children's adventure fiction, non-fiction on magic, psychic phenomena, true crime, rope knots, hypnotism and games. When did he sleep? He was the ghost writer for Houdini, Harry Blackstone and other magicians, and performed tricks himself. He did one Batman comic, DC #500. He is also a character in several works of fiction. Here's a picture of this amazing man, followed by the cover of one of the magazines:

I submitted an updated file of Present and Past and received approval from Create Space this morning. I downloaded a copy of the interior reviewer and have gone through 75 pages. I have a feeling I will be approving it for publication - finally.

My thanks to the young woman who purchased The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, to the young man who overpaid for a Webster's Dictionary in only fair condition, and to the middle age woman who asked for something on meditation and bought Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Writer's Life 1/14 - Never Give Up the Dream

Here's another example of why no one should ever give up on a dream, culled from an article in today's NY Post, edited by yours truly: "A year ago Bill Hudson, 70, was singing doo-wop with a group of seniors at the 34th Street Herald Square station. Now the Bronx resident is fronting the 12-piece John the Martyr, performing in hip clubs like Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory and gearing up for his first record. He sang with bar bands in his youth, but put aside his ambitions when he got married and started a family. In 2010 he joined the a cappella group Spank, performing on cruises and as part of the MTA’s Music Under New York subway-platform program, which is how young JTM songwriter Kyle Ridley met him. At first Hudson wasn’t sure his soul stylings would meld with the band’s blend of rock, New Orleans jazz, traditional Japanese music and funk. He now loves playing with the 20- and 30-somethings in the group." Here's Hudson:

Michael Goodwin included info from the NY Times in his op-ed piece in the Post: "Your
government at work. ...the IRS paid private companies $20 million to collect $6.7 million from tax scofflaws." This is one of the reasons I support a flat tax and a dramatic curtailing of that
woe-begotten department. I hope its detractors never give up the dream of putting it out to pasture.

Jacksonville has shocked the Steelers in Pittsburgh, despite the return of WR Antonio Brown, out several weeks due to a calf injury. Do things always seem to fall New England's way, or am I just imagining it? Then again, recall that the Tom Coughlin led Giants beat the Patriots twice when it counted most. He is now GM of the Jaguars. Dream on, Patriot-haters.

While I was setting up the floating book shop today I didn't think I was going to last very long in the cold, despite the sunshine and diminished wind. Then I realized the breeze coming through Chase's drive-thru, so I moved over a bit and stood with my back to the bank's side wall. That did the trick. My thanks to the gentleman who gave me two bucks. I usually don't like to accept charity, but I wanted to make sure the drive to Park Slope and standing in the cold wasn't completely worthless. My thanks also to the guy who purchased one of the books in Tom Clancy's Net Force series. I thought that would be it until one of my recent admirers showed up walking his dog, saying: "There's the bard of Bensonhurst." He read Killing about a year ago and bought Five Cents a couple of months ago. He said "it really captured the era" ('70's). I was touched. His praise was greater than last time. Perhaps having read a second novel of mine proved to him the other was no fluke. He dubbed my work "significant." This time he chose A Hitch in Twilight, which I always tell customers is "just for fun." He added it to a bag of books he'd just purchased at Barnes and Noble, then stepped into the bar next door. As I was just about to break down the display, a young dad came along, his adorable one-year-old daughter strapped to his chest, and bought a Roy Orbison collection on vinyl. If I ever complain about bad luck, slap me.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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