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Friday, March 31, 2017

The Writer's Life 3/31 - In the Shower

The floating book shop was rained out today. March went out exactly as it came in - a pain in the butt. Here's an excerpt from a novel I plan to self-publish three years from now. Two others will precede it - should my good health continue. This one is titled American Ulysses, inspired by James Joyce's epic of the unconscious, of which I understood perhaps ten percent. I'm thinking about subtitling mine Ulysses for Dummies, as I intend to make it highly readable to anyone interested in following a single character, mentally and physically, through an average day. Of course, it will be based on myself and will reveal plenty of embarrassing tidbits. By then I will be pushing 70 and - hopefully - finally mature enough to handle any blowback.

He stepped into the tub and put a hand under the spray.
Too hot. Little cold water. Come on already. There we go. Perfect. Ah, that’s good. Shit, look at those stains. Spray foam next time, Brillo pad. Too late now. "In this smoking gun existence/ It gets harder to unwind...."* Ssssh. Neighbors. Can’t even carry a tune in the shower. Bad. If this’s ninety-nine-and-forty-four-one-hundreths soap, what’s the other fraction? Wonder if it says on the wrapper. Who cares? Pure as anything gets in this world. Not even God got it completely right, ‘less this’s the way He intended it to be. Still great, though. Every greatness has its flaws. Even The Brothers Karamazov and The Possessed aren't perfect. Disappointed first time through that. Expected a pro-revolutionary tale. Shocked to see ‘em depicted as pathetic or diabolical, not heroic. Actually wanted revolution back then, before you realized it was you who needed revolutionizing and not the country or life. Anybody healthy can survive, even thrive, despite the abuses of power, ‘specially in a country that allows the freedom this one does. Let the corrupt have their perks and kickbacks – what’s it matter? Long as there’s equality of opportunity, or semblance of it. Only demeanin’ themselves. Maybe cheatin’s justified. Wouldn’t happen if the other person was payin’ attention. Own fault if he’s not. Machiavellian thinkin’. But that’s the way it is. ‘d get the same corruption if the proletariat ruled, without the benefits - see Russia, post nineteen-seventeen. Personal revolution never stops. Workin’ hard enough at yours? Changed at all last twenty years? Know your flaws now, still can’t correct ‘em. Probably fight ‘em to the grave. Not that they’re so terrible. Mostly annoyin’, mostly to yourself. Hitch-hiked cross-country, ran the marathon, dropped acid, jumped out of a plane, took an ad out in a swinger’s rag, seven novels, nineteen short stories - and barely changed at all. Opinions and beliefs fluctuate but character stays locked. Maybe a little more open and self confident, but only a little. Maybe should just accept the way you are and forget about tryin’ to change. Save a lotta grief. Would that be quittin’ or a sign of maturity? Would it make you happier? That’s the goal, isn’t it - happiness? Easy as that? Just accept your own quirks and flaws as easy as you do other people’s? Maybe can no more change our own than we can anybody else’s... When’d you wash your hair last? Yesterday? Day before? Can’t remember. Think. What’s it feel like? Can’t really tell. Too moist now. When in doubt, wash it. Adapted from comma usage rules "When in doubt, leave it out." Hate this. Amazing how lazy you can be. Three minutes and it’s done. Three minutes - and you whine. Any wonder you can’t change?
The music quote is from Iggy Pop's Winners and Losers.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Writer's Life 3/30 - ABC's & More

This summer Domino's will use a fleet of six-wheel robots to make deliveries in parts of Germany and the Netherlands. They will be confined to within a one-mile radius of the particular shop. Cars, scooters and e-bikes will be used for longer distances. I don't know how the devices will fare in Europe, but I suspect they would be brutalized by miscreants in the USA. In New Zealand, the company has been using drones, average delivery time five minutes.

13% of USA households have broadband but no cable TV package. Dave, a midtown Manhattan chef, told me yesterday he was cutting the cord. I would have done it long ago if I'd had the sense to purchase a digital TV. I won't do it until my current old-fashion set dies. Given my past experience, that may be another decade.

The late Dennis Farina had the thankless task of replacing the beloved Jerry Orbach on the the original Law & Order. Watching reruns, I'm so impressed by his excellence as Detective Fontana.

From an article in the NY Post, in my own words: John Higgins was one of the referees of the Kentucky-North Carolina NCAA tournament game, won by the Tarheels. Since then he has been the target of the Wildcats' fans venom. I did not see the game nor have I read anything that Higgins might have done to cause Kentucky to lose. Even if he made bad calls, does it justify death threats to what was supposed to be an unlisted number, and attacks on social media? The Facebook page of his roofing company has been bombarded with negative comments about the business. March Madness indeed.

Even many people who have no interest in hockey know what a Hat Trick is - a player scoring three goals in a game. I spotted a headline at Yahoo Sports about a player having had a Gordie Howe Hat Trick and, despite having followed the NHL since I was a kid, had no idea what it meant. It's a goal, an assist and a fight.

Also from Yahoo: Behold the Golden Urinal trophy, which is awarded to the best hydrated player on the San Francisco Giants.

My thanks to the gentleman who bought a kids' book on the ABC's, and to Tanya and Caroline, who donated a stack of books each. Also included among Caroline's gift - a CD compilation of Johnny Ray's hits. Ray made it big in 1951 with Cry, his only #1 in the USA. He had five other Top Ten hits, the last being Just Walkin' in the Rain, which rose to #2 in '56. Overall, nearly 40 of his songs cracked the Top 100. His popularity in the USA waned in 1959 but continued overseas, especially in the UK. He was considered a bridge to rock n roll and was known by several nicknames: Mr. Emotion, The Nabob of Sob and The Prince of Wails. He passed away in 1990 at 63. (Facts from Wiki, in my own words.)
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Writer's Life 3/29 - Naughty, Nice

In 1444 Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini wrote Historia de Duobus Amantibus. Translated from Latin that's The Tale of Two Lovers. Filled with erotic imagery, it was one of the bestselling books of the 15th century. The author (1405-1464) went on to become Pope Pius II. In his early years Piccolomini led the dissipated life of a gentleman of the day. I don't know if he changed his wayward ways once he ascended, but his papacy lasted from 1458 until his death. In those days the office was political. A pope wielded as much power as a king. No pontiff today would get away with the behavior of many of his predecessors. The office has evolved almost entirely to a religious one, influential only to a degree. Unfortunately, there isn't an excerpt of the novel available, and it has yet to be rated by any user, although it is selling modestly, judging by its rank: #817,040. There are more than 13 million books listed at Amazon. A 2010 large paperback edition lists for $11.90... That neat bit of info got me to thinking about another writer whose early work was risqué by the standards of his day, and who went on to become a cleric in the Church of England - John Donne (1572-1631). His poem The Flea is essentially about seduction. Since the flea has sucked blood from both the man and woman in question, the poet reasons that since their blood has already been joined in the flea, why not join bodies and swap fluids in sexual intercourse? In Go and Catch a Falling Star, the speaker argues that finding a woman who will remain faithful is as impossible as catching a falling star. Later in life Donne would write Sonnet X, also known as Death Be Not Proud, and Meditation 17, which was inspiration for Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls. (Facts from Wiki and various sources, in my own words.)

Finally - a day of sunshine. Non-fiction ruled the session. My thanks to Ira, who bought Kitty Kelley's unauthorized bio of Nancy Reagan, to the gentleman who parked his walker beside Twenty Steps to Power, Influence, and Control over People by H. W. Gabriel, and looked it over and bought it; to the kindly Russian old timer just returned from wintering in Florida, who purchased Yanks: The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I by John Eisenhower; and to Barry Spunt, author of Heroin and Music in NYC, professor of criminology at John Jay College, who recognized an author's name, an accused murderer released after 18 years on death row for the murder of three boys in what authorities believed was a satanic ritual. The book is Yours for Eternity: A Love Story on Death Row by Damien Echols and Lorri Davis, who married. In 2011, after a high-profile campaign for his release backed by Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder and Dave Navarro, Echols and two friends were freed under a plea deal. Today he and Davis live in Salem, Massachusetts, the site of the infamous witch trials (, in my own words.). As usual, Doctor Spunt overpaid for his purchase. He is a prince.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Writer's Life 3/28 - Work in Progress

Here's an excerpt from Present and Past, a work in progress. The two protagonists have embarked on a cross-country automobile trip. This is an example of the conversations they share throughout the novel. The incidents described actually occurred. I changed the names. The person who made the call was a friend named Sal:

"I'll never forget the night I found Robert Silverberg and his girlfriend. Geez, that's what? - almost twenty-five years ago. And I can still see it clear as day. I still say the nut shot 'er by accident, foolin' aroun’, then got scared and shot 'imself. That crap in the paper 'bout the double suicide 'cause he was a Jew and she was Catholic was bull. He didn't care about that. All he cared about was bangin' ‘er. Who woulda stopped 'im if he wanted to marry 'er? His mother and grandfather had no control over 'im. The papers made it seem like the family was to blame, but he was always nuts. I think that was when I decided to never believe anything in the papers again. They didn't even mention my name, and I was the one who called the cops. "
"Wasn't his father filled in Korea?"
Tony pondered a moment. "I think you're right. Or was that somebody else? I don't remember for sure. I can picture the ol' man standing on the stoop in his long Johns, leanin' on his cane, callin' for help, snot runnin' down his nose. It was freezin' out. I was the only one aroun'.  'Robbit, the girl, they're dead,' the poor bastid told me in his Jew accent. I went inside and there they were. There was blood all over the place. I was shittin' my pants. He musta put the gun in his mouth. There was no note or nothin'. That's another reason why I don't think he killed her on purpose. He was always crazy, but funny-crazy, not psycho-crazy."
"Remember how he'd drive around in that Catalina he had all primed up? He never got the chance to finish the paint job."
"I'd hear 'im tearin' aroun' the block in the middle of the night. I'd imagine him and Micky Mastroianni and those degenerate girls laughin' in the car laughin' it up, and me wishin' I was with 'em. I'd get atta bed and see 'em whizz by the window. One night they hit a cat. The thing cried for hours."
Amazed at the coincidence, at the past repeating itself, Freddie wondered if it were the same cat he'd shown Chucky. Subdued despite astonishment, he said: "And his mother never moved away. Talk about tough. Imagine what it must've been like for her to walk down the block or just go into the house."
"She still don't look nobody in the face."
"It has to be hard to hold your head up with a weight like that on your shoulders. Disease is one thing, but to be shot dead, especially by your own hand, has to be devastating. I felt so sorry for her I could never even look at her. I was afraid she'd think I thought it was her fault. But she never caused anybody any trouble. Robert was nuts."

How appropriate is it that the NFL's Las Vegas franchise will be the one that has caused the most controversy through the years, the Raiders?

The floating book shop was rained out. The forecast calls for a return of sunshine tomorrow after a four day hiatus.
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Monday, March 27, 2017

The Writer's Life 3/27 - Sequels & Bananas

Here are six movie sequels few fans know about, gleaned from a list at, edited by yours truly: Jake LaMotta entered into an agreement to adapt his book, Raging Bull 2, into a film, apparently in violation of an agreement he had with MGM, which granted the studio first right of refusal to any follow-up. In 2012 MGM filed a lawsuit to squash the film over claims its title was intended to confuse audiences, which says a lot about lawyers. Producers agreed to change the title to The Bronx Bull and made a public proclamation that it had nothing to do with the original. It had a video release in 2017. It stars William Forsythe as the older, and Mojean Aria as the younger LaMotta. Rated five on scale of ten at IMDb... Easy Rider: The Ride Back (2012) examines the life of Peter Fonda's character before the fateful road trip depicted in the original. Rated three... Zombi 2 (1979), an Italian release, is a descendant of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978), and was followed by a third and fourth installment. Rated 6.9... Jaws 5: Cruel Jaws (1995). Italian filmmaker Bruno Mattei decided to make an unsolicited contribution. It uses effects sparingly but liberally borrows plot points from the original. It uses footage from the previous flicks in the series, and samples the Star Wars theme... War, Inc. (2008) is an indirect sequel to Grosse Point Blank (1997). John Cusack had this to say on Twitter: “Sequel for sure.” Rated 5.7... Road to Hell (2008). Albert Pyun, a fan of the Walter Hill's Streets of Fire (1984), hired star Michael Paré for a low-budget follow-up. Rated 7.8, the only flick on the six rated higher than its predecessor (6.7)... The list includes Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), which is also rated a tad higher than its predecessor, and the 007 Thunderball (1965) remake Never Say Never Again (1983), but those two are well known.

Drug dealers continue to be creative. Spanish police have arrested two men for allegedly transporting large quantities of cocaine inside fake bananas. Among the real ones in the shipment were 57 made of resin, stuffed with seven kilograms (15.4 pounds) of coke. Pushers must be singing: "Yes, we have no bananas/ We have-a no bananas today..." That ditty is from the 1922 Broadway revue Make It Snappy. It was written by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn, sung by Eddie Cantor in the show, recorded by numerous artists through the years. Billy Jones' version was #1 for five weeks in '23.

The forecast was spot on today. It said the rain would cease in the afternoon. I left the apartment just after noon and ran to my car when I noticed the spot just past the bus shelter was open. I set up shop there so I wouldn't have far to go if the skies again opened up. That didn't happen, but neither did many sales. My thanks to the woman who bought the children's book The Story of Peppa Pig, which is published by Scholastic and credits no writer.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Writer's Life 3/26 - Fun Stuff

I noted in the newspaper that WNYC, channel 22 on Cablevision in NYC, would be running The Colossus of New York (1958) last night. Although the title rang a bell, I couldn't remember anything about it. I correctly assumed it's sci-fi. The story is initially compelling but breaks down completely half way through. Still, it's fun - and only 70 minutes. The plot is simple: a Nobel Prize winner/ humanitarian dies tragically. His dad, a surgeon, preserves his brain, which he manages to program to power a robot. As is often the case in the genre, things go haywire. Otto Kruger and Ross Martin play father and son, Mala Powers the grieving widow, John Baragrey the brother, Ed Wolff the Colossus. Wolff had only ten credits from 1925-'59, seven of them uncredited, as was the case here. The lack of work is easily explained - there aren't many roles for someone seven-feet-four. He passed away at 59 in 1966. The most notable aspect of Colossus... is the piano score by Van Cleave, who had a long career behind the scenes on the big and small screen. IMDb lists 131 credits under his name for Music Department, 45 for composer. He composed for The Twilight Zone, Naked City, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel and other shows. Although many of the movies he worked on were quite successful, he was not credited, which seems odd given the long lists that roll at the end. So here is a shout out to Mr. Cleave, who was only 60 when he passed away in 1970. And here's a shot of the Colossus:

An Idaho woman claims she crashed her car into a deer being chased by a Sasquatch, according to a brief article in today's NY Post. Police found no evidence of the crafty beast. Here's a rare shot of an instance when he/it wasn't at the top of its game:

It was a surprising session of the floating book shop, chiefly because it didn't rain, despite heavy cloud cover. My thanks to Monsey, who bought a book she left behind yesterday: Reaching to Heaven: A Spiritual Journey Through Life and Death by James Van Praagh, and to the elderly woman who insisted on paying for John Grisham's The King of Torts despite the fact that she donated six paperback best sellers. I had a visit from the killer B's: B.S. Bob, who still believes indictments of the Clintons are in the works; author Bill Brown, who made a quick exit because of the cold; and Bad News Billy, who grossly overpaid for a classical music compilation. He was wearing a jacket he was given recently at a reunion honoring the 1966 undefeated St. Francis Prep football team, on which he was the third string fullback. My thanks also to the local Super who provided the laugh of the day - four works of non-fiction, two on running an escort service, another on the entire sex trade, the other a simple guide to business acumen. I can't help wonder who in his building owned them.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Writer's Life 3/25 - Spirituality

Japan's Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees (Aokigahara) is on the northwestern flank of Mount Fuji. It is said to be haunted by ghosts, and is a place where many have taken their lives. The rate has led officials to place a sign at the forest's entry, written in Japanese, urging the suicidal to seek help. As a further deterrent, the numbers are no longer released to the media. Last night, courtesy of Netflix, I watched a film set largely in that area. The Sea of Trees (2015) stars Matthew McConaughey as a professor of science who has suffered a tragedy that has leveled him. In the forest he encounters a Japanese native, played by Ken Watanabe, despondent about business failure but who has decided he wants to live. The American tries to help him find his way out and eventually regains his will to live during a grueling battle for survival. Throughout, there are flashbacks of the American's recent past. The wife is played by Naomi Watts. The acting is first-rate, as is the cinematography. The film was not shot in the far east but in the Purgatory Chasm in Massachusetts, which is fitting, as at one point Watanabe's character suggests they are in Purgatory. As they chat, McConaughey's character says: "God is more our creation than we are his." He believes science can explain anything. His companion is given to spirituality. It's an interesting conflict, but I doubt anyone's opinion on these matter will change after viewing the film. I admire the sincerity but remain unconvinced regarding the matter, although I am by no means one who believes science has all the answers. Gus Van Sant was at the helm. He is a Hollywood stalwart, amassing 36 credits as a director, 25 as producer, 13 as writer, ten as actor, eight as editor. Other notable works of his are Drugstore Cowboy (1989), To Die For (1995), and Good Will Hunting (1997). Chris Sparling did the screenplay. He also wrote another flick I admire, Buried (2010). 6000+ users at IMDb have rated The Sea of Trees, forging to a consensus of 5.9 of ten. Several cite the slow pace. The tone is low key. The impatient should pass. It would appeal most to those given to spirituality. Is it new age gobbledygook or profound allegory? I lean toward the former, but I respect a work that delves into such matters and offers something different than the usual big screen fare. Here's a pic I found at It was among others of Aokigahara, so I assume it is the sign beseeching potential suicides to seek help. I hope this isn't another case of "You know what happens when you assume?"

Kudos to House conservatives for not allowing themselves to be pressured into voting for the health care proposal. There's no sense replacing a horrendous law with a bad bill. Yes, it's a setback for the president, but so what? Any new proposal that doesn't allow people to cross state lines to buy insurance should be a non-starter - and that's only one sticking point.

My thanks to the gentleman who bought a book in Russian that had an eagle on the cover, to Jack of Chase, who swapped ten books for Irving Wallace's The Seven Minutes; to Monsey, who purchased two self-help books; and to the woman who bought The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, Japan's Imperial Conspiracy by David Bergamini, a thick tome I thought might never sell, and Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose in Russian. I also thank the kind folks who bought books yesterday evening. I was so bummed by the zero return of the afternoon's session that I returned. I might not have if my car hadn't been in the most favorable position. I hadn't been affected that negatively in a long time. It may have been attributable to the forecast of four straight days of showers. It sprinkled again today, and I packed up early, as it was annoying to constantly cover and uncover the wares.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Friday, March 24, 2017

The Writer's Life 3/24 - Judgments

Brooklyn-based Dana Schutz is under fire for her painting Open Coffin, a featured work at the Whitney Museum Biennial in Manhattan. It depicts in abstract the horribly mutilated face of lynching victim Emmett Till at his 1955 funeral. Schutz, born in 1976, is white, and a growing chorus of African-American artists believe “it is not acceptable for a white person to transmute Black suffering into profit and fun.” Some take particular offense that Schutz is the same race and gender as the woman whose unfounded “wolf whistle” accusation led to Till’s killing, arguing that her work perpetrates “the same kind of violence” he suffered. To its credit, the Whitney refuses to remove the painting, but it also won’t interfere with protesters who maintain a vigil in front of the painting, obstructing it from view. The anti-free-speech yahoos want it not just removed but destroyed. Schutz created the work in reaction to Black Lives Matter protests. She has no intention of ever selling it. Asked if the protests would change the way she paints, Schutz replied: “I’m sure it has to.” Here's a pic of the painting, which I found at the Washington Post website:

What do the following atrocities have in common? Columbine, Oklahoma City, the Brink’s cop-killing robbery, the Gabby Giffords shooting, and the 2005 London transport bombings - all the attackers owned a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook, a step-by-step manual for revolution by William Powell, published in 1971 when he was 19. In an article in today's NY Post, Kyle Smith cites a new documentary, American Anarchist by Charlie Siskel, on the author. At one point Powell says he feels “remorse” but not “regret,” whatever that means. A child of privilege, now dead, he spent his life teaching the disadvantaged. If God exists, wouldn't it have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall when Powell received his judgment?

No luck selling books on the street today.
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Writer's Life 3/23 - My Bad

Donald Winkler, 83, was upset with the quality of care at Long Island's Nassau University Medical Center, so he checked himself out in the middle of the night. In the parking lot he spotted an ambulance that had its keys in the ignition, and stole it. He was found at a nearby 7-11, and admitted to the theft. He was arrested and taken back to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation. In a bedside arraignment, bail was set at $3,000. (From Yahoo's Odd News, reworded by yours truly.)

A Pennsylvania man mistakenly sent a text message to a Pennsylvania prosecutor, offering to trade marijuana for heroin. Later, he forwarded a photo of a plastic bag containing a green substance on a scale. John Raimondo, 29, was busted at the swap site outside a shopping center northwest of Philadelphia. He failed to appear for a hearing and is being sought by authorities. (Yahoo, reworded.)

A married Texas high school teacher arrested for an alleged sexual relationship with a student is beaming in her mugshot - because she's innocent, says her lawyer. Sarah Fowlkes, 27, taught - drumroll, please - anatomy and physiology! She once wrote on the school's web page: "I have very high expectations of myself as a teacher as well as of my students." In a photo on her Facebook page, she's dressed as a Playboy bunny. She is currently suspended. (Yahoo, reworded). Offers from porn producers must be flooding her mailbox and social media accounts. Maybe her big smile is attributable to the windfall the publicity will eventually bring - if she avoids jail time. At least she fulfilled the expectations of one lucky student. I don't think this is what Hall & Oates had in mind when they sang Sara Smile.

Parrots are flying high in India - on heroin. The birds quietly invade fields and peck at poppy plants, much to the dismay of the farmers who never see them coming. (From the Weird But True column in the NY Post, in my own words.)

My thanks to the kind folks who bought books today, especially the elderly woman who bought eight in Russian. The highlight of the session came when a young Russian woman asked me to recommend easy books to help her improve her English. "Do you like romance?" I said. "Yes," she replied. I handed her copies of Prime Time by Joan Collins and Blue Smoke by Nora Roberts. She was concerned they might be "literary." I assured her they aren't. As I was closing shop, a lanky gentleman who prefers classics showed, and I quickly rooted for a book I thought he'd like - The Birth of Tragedy and The Case of Wagner by Friedrich Nietzsche. He bought it. Damn, it was cold out there. I spent most of the first hour in the shade, and I never quite recovered, even though the afternoon got more and more beautiful.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Writer's Life 3/22 - Bones

Published in 2002, Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones became a worldwide sensation, eventually translated in 50 languages. I usually avoid works that feature cruelty to children. Sebold solves this problem within a page. The story is told from the point of view of a 14-year-old girl, raped and murdered, from a preliminary heaven not tied to any religion. This allows the reader the option of immediately putting the book aside. I was quickly hooked. The novel is powerful and heartbreaking. The world loses one of its treasures - an average kid, and the effect on the surviving four family members is profound and explored in depth. It is not another mystery focused on a serial killer, although the maniac, viewed objectively, appears throughout the narrative. It may open the tear ducts of all except the most tightly-wrapped emotionally. It did mine. Susie Salmon is a literary character that is likely to endure. 4600+ users at Amazon have rated TLB, forging to a consensus of 4.2 of five. I'd guess the naysayers object to the premise, which requires suspension of belief and, perhaps, to the fact that Susie is fine despite the horrific earthly fate she suffered. I was disappointed only once, by a brief supernatural turn, which I'd bet most admirers of the book loved. To that point it is completely grounded, despite the premise. I didn't like having to suspend belief a second time. I'm embarrassed to say I do not quite grasp the significance of the title, which comes in this passage: "These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections—sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent—that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events my death brought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous body had been my life." After finishing the book, I researched the author. Sebold was raped in 1981 while a student at Syracuse University, from which she graduated in 1984. The fact that she was able to return there says a lot about her character. Her first book, Lucky, is a memoir of the event. She has had only one other book published, the novel Almost Moon in 2007. 15 years after its publication, The Lovely Bones is still selling well. It is a mystery why it hasn't been snatched up at the floating book shop, where I've had a hardcover copy for months, and which would run the buyer all of two bucks. I read a large paperback version donated by Ruth, an elderly woman I've helped a couple of times. My thanks, madam. The novel was adapted to the screen in 2009. Although it was directed by the talented Peter Jackson and features a stellar cast, it received only mixed reviews and failed at the box office.

With a cold wind battering my usual nook, I took the book shop to an alternate location where only an occasional gust blew through. It was the right move, even though the returns were minuscule. My thanks to the gentleman who bought Danielle Steel's Heartbeat, and to the woman who bought a Barnes and Noble book on volunteering.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Writer's Life 3/21 - Winners & Losers

It's been said so often: "Careful what you wish for - you just may get it." Most people dream of scoring a large sum of money. Here are five winners whose luck ran out, gleaned from, heavily edited by yours truly: Abraham Shakespeare took a lump sum lottery payment of $17 million. He'd always been kindhearted and helped those in need. Whenever a person approached him on the street with a hard-luck story, he felt compelled to help. Dorice Moore offered to manage his money and opened a bank account for him. She spent a million on expensive cars and lavish vacations. It wasn't enough. She shot the poor soul twice in the chest and buried his body in a field. She told his friends and family he'd left town to escape those who kept asking for money. Moore sent Shakespeare’s son gifts, and messages from his cellphone. She staged sightings of him and even hired someone to pose as Shakespeare to call his mom. The family was not fooled. Police found his body and immediately suspected Moore. She was eventually sentenced to life without parole... Urooj Khan was delighted with his $425,000 lump sum. He planned to put the money toward his business and also wanted to make a donation to a children’s hospital. After a meal, he was not feeling well and went to bed. He awoke in agony, was rushed to the hospital, and died the next day. At first it was determined Khan succumbed to natural causes, a type of cardiovascular disease. His brother was suspicious and asked the medical examiner to re-investigate. A lethal amount of cyanide was found in his system. The case remains open... Andrew Whittaker received $113.4 million and immediately began making charitable contributions. He soon began facing lawsuits from the disgruntled and spent more than $3 million on legal fees. He was especially fond of his sole grandchild, Brandi, whom he'd helped raise. He gave the 15-year-old whatever she wanted, including large sums of cash, which attracted drug dealers. Soon she was hooked and eventually went missing. Her body was discovered wrapped in a plastic tarp. Whittaker and his wife divorced after 42 years of marriage... Jeffrey Dampier and his wife won $20 million and soon divorced, each taking a half share. Jeffrey dated Crystal Jackson and moved to Florida, bringing her two sisters along. He supported the three completely. One sister and her boyfriend kidnapped him, forcing him into a van, where he was shot to death. The murderers are serving life sentences... In 2005 Renne Senna’s life changed when he hit a $16.8 million jackpot. A double amputee, his wife had left him, taking his children. He dated Adriana Almeida, 25 years his junior, and soon married. She became the administrator of his estate. She convinced him to remove his eleven siblings from his will. He wrote a new one that left half his money to her. She took $580,000 from their joint account and placed it into her own. Senna was furious when she bought a penthouse. He confronted her about a suspected affair and threatened to remove her from his will. Days later he was at his favorite bar when two armed men on motorcycles rode up and ordered him to hand over his money. They shot him four times in the head. Police discovered that Almeida was behind the murder, and she was arrested, found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison. (This is only half the list. Visit the site for more sad stories.)

Here's something from Yahoo's Odd News that says a lot: A 74-year-old man living in public housing for the elderly faces drug-trafficking charges after cocaine valued at about $150,000, and roughly 450 grams of marijuana - more than a pound, was found in his unit.

My thanks to the two ladies who bought three books in Russian between them, and to my Tuesday benefactress, who re-emerged after a month's absence with a cache that included two beautiful pictorials and a mix of fiction and non.
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Monday, March 20, 2017

The Writer's Life 3/20 - Larger Than Life

RIP legendary columnist and NYC character Jimmy Breslin, 88. A Queen's boy who grew up in humble circumstances, he worked for many newspapers during his long career and was considered the voice of the working class. He won a Pulitzer Prize while at the NY Daily News. His page at Wiki lists 21 books under his name, several of which are fiction, the most famous being The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, which was adapted to the screen in 1971. He was blunt and it often led him into controversy. He wrote extensively on the Son of Sam and was accused of egging on the serial killer. He tried his hand at acting, amassing six credits, and was a frequent presence on talk shows. He even had a late-night show of his own: Jimmy Breslin's People, which lasted just 13 weeks in 1986. He was constantly perturbed that ABC allowed stations to air it at any hour, and finally placed a front-page ad in the NY Times: "ABC TELEVISION NETWORK: Your services, such as they are, will no longer be required as of 12-20-86 - Jimmy Breslin." In effect, he canceled his own program. He co-hosted Saturday Night Live, Season 11, Episode 17, 5/17/86, with Marvin Hagler, musical guests Level 42 and E.J. Daily. Here are quotes attributed to him: "The number one rule of thieves is that nothing is too small to steal." "Football is a game designed to keep coal miners off the streets." "Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers." "Media, the plural of mediocrity." "I don't know any other columnists, and I don't know what they do. I work the single! And nobody does what I do, anyway." Well done, sir. (From various sources) Here is Breslin at his favorite perch:

For the first time in eight days, the floating book shop returned to its regular perch. I had to scrape ice from the ledge of the garden that surrounds the apartment building in order to properly display my wares. That spot gets no sun this time of year. My thanks to the young man who purchased a large dictionary and to the elderly gentleman who kissed a volume of Chekhov before buying it. It was fun to greet and chat with folks I hadn't seen in a while. Mountain Man stopped by for a half-hour discussion. He will never see the glass as anything but entirely empty - no matter who's in office. I had donations from two sources. One of the porters of the building across the street brought over a bunch of paperbacks his wife said she had for me, and a gentleman working in building two of Atlantic Towers hauled a load of hardcovers across Avenue Z by handcart. All were very old, only half of them marketable. The person who discarded them must have been a medical student. The trouble with such tomes is that the advances of the past 30-60 years are absent. There were only two novels among the lot, The Seven Minutes by Irving Wallace, considered risque when published in 1969, and Evergreen by Belva Plain.
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Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Writer's Life 3/19 - Chuck & Company

RIP rock n roll legend Chuck Berry, 90, who performed all over the world, including the White House. His distinctive style influenced countless guitarists. I'll focus on his lyrics, which were so much fun. From Johnny B. Goode: "...Who never ever learned to read or write so well/ But he could play a guitar just like a ringing a bell..." From Maybelline: "...As I was motivatin' over the hill/ I saw Maybelline in a Coup de Ville..." From No Particular Place to Go: "... I stole a kiss at the turn of a mile/ My curiosity runnin' wild..." From Roll Over Beethoven: "...and my soul keeps on singin' the blues/ Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news..." From School Day: "...Back in the classroom open your books/ Gee but the teacher don't know how mean she looks..." From Rock n Roll Music: "...I took my loved one over cross the tracks/ So she can hear my man a wailin' sax..." Thank you, sir.

Last night NET, channel 30 on Cablevision in NYC, ran a Harold Lloyd talkie, the screwball comedy The Milky Way (1936), the story of a milquetoast who becomes a boxer. Lloyd may be unfamiliar to younger folks, but almost every film fan knows the iconic shot of him dangling from the clock-face of a skyscraper in Safety Last (1923). The great Adolphe Menjou plays Lloyd's beleaguered manager in TMW. I was taken by the performance of two supporting players, Lionel Stander, hilarious as a dim-witted crony, and Verree Teasdale as Menjou's long-suffering (15 years), wise-cracking mistress. I was familiar with Stander, but Teasdale was a complete mystery. She delivered the character's acerbic wit brilliantly. She was actually Menjou's wife from 1935 until he passed away in 1963. She has only 29 credits listed under her name at IMDb, the last in 1941. Maybe she was busy raising her child. She did a popular 1950's radio show with her husband. Meet the Menjous focused on various subjects. There is a CD of 20 of the shows available. Topics include: Michaelangelo And Great Artists, Traffic Problems, What Makes a Successful Party, People Who Live In Glass Houses and Writing Poetry. Here's a pic of the couple:
And here's one of the aforementioned photograph:

Business was slow at the floating book shop, despite the gorgeous day. My thanks to Bill Brown, author of Words and Guitar: A History of Lou Reed's Music, who purchased Running with Scissors: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs, which was on the NY Times Best Sellers List for two years.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Writer's Life 3/18 - Complete Unknown

Ever wish you were someone else? The main character of Complete Unknown (2016) takes it to a startling degree, changing identity nine times over a period of 16 years. I watched it last night courtesy of Netflix. It's a role perfect for an actress as gifted as Rachel Weisz, who is not reluctant to work in low budget productions such as this. The woman's latest incarnation has her working as a biologist studying frogs. Obviously someone of a genius IQ, she has been a surgeon as well as a magician's assistant, and traveled to exotic locations. Alas, even someone who lives such a life must get lonely, which leads her to wangle her way into the birthday party of her college lover, who is now married. He recognizes her immediately. Eventually, they separate from the pack and hit the streets of Manhattan, revealing a lot about themselves. The pace is slow. Fortunately, the running time is only 91 minutes. The storyline is grounded. It doesn't take a Hollywood turn into violence. Its most surprising aspect is the complete lack of sex, although it is obvious the two had something strong in the past. Michael Shannon does his usual fine work as the ex. The film is for those who want something different. It's the type that would probably appeal most to actors and writers, although emotions are largely repressed. 2900+ users at IMDb have rated it, forging to a consensus of 5.4 of ten, which I think is too low. I'm not saying this is a good movie, but it is an interesting one. Joshua Marston directed, his first stint at the helm of a full length big screen feature since 2004's Maria Full of Grace, the compelling tale of a drug mule. He did 15 TV shows in between. He co-wrote the screenplay with Julian Sheppard, whose career has just begun. I give them credit for daring to do something different and low key. If it's a failure, it's good one. Kathy Bates and Danny Glover appear briefly as a married couple, lending much needed pizazz to the proceedings. I was unfamiliar with the rest of the cast. As far as the title goes, I immediately thought of Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone, although the track is not used. Perhaps it refers to the inner self all human beings have and rarely share.

My thanks to the middle aged woman who purchased Iris Jonhanssen's Firestorm, the only sale of a day when the threat of precipitation was constant.
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