Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
Buon Giorno, Amici!

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Reviews, No More Politics and Opera ... Meet Update ...DOC says ...


The Elegance of the Hedgehog … a French novel by Muriel Barbery (DOC must be upchucking his corn flakes about now) is a fun read that at times frustrated me no end due to my deficient vocabulary (and a handy dictionary); one can spend as many hours researching some of the vocabulary in this novel as reading the story … which revolves around a middle-aged, frumpy, self-taught (autodidact—yeah, I had to look that one up too) determined to maintain the stereotypical image of a concierge (as the wealthy sees her/them). There’s a reason she’s so frightened of being exposed as someone with knowledge outside her “class” and the story is an interesting one, but while Renée (the concierge) impresses us with her broad and deep range of knowledge, the vocabulary (at least for me) was too often off-putting (to quote a particular editor who said that about something I once wrote). The other main character is a precocious 12-year-old girl (Paloma) determined to commit suicide on her 13th birthday. She’s a wonderfully super-smart youngin’ with a sharp as razor tongue who riffs off some great one liners. An elderly Japanese retiree enters the scene (and the building) later in the novel (somebody say deus ex machina) with a genuine love of all things Tolstoy. Upon first meeting our concierge, Mr. Ozu recognizes Renée’s quick one liner, “All happy families are alike” and responds with “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” There’s more than just a knowledge of the Anna Karenina opening as each has named his/her cat(s) after characters in the Tolstoy classic. From Russia with love or the start of a beautiful, albeit short, relationship? No spoilers except to say I would’ve enjoyed this one much more if a) I wasn’t so vocabulary challenged and/or b) the author hadn’t let the concierge make a few references (to show she’s one of us) that I was at polar opposites with (her choice of popular crime fiction didn’t work for me) … although she did redeem herself somewhat when she quoted from Eminem’s 8 Mile (the movie version of which, like American History X, should be required viewing for every high school student in this country).

Naomi … Jun'ichirō Tanizaki’s novel about obsession (from the girl he’s obsessed with to her obsession with Western culture) … Joji Kawai is the rube/cuckhold/gernude in this story that begins when he (at age 28) spots a 15 year old Eurasian-looking girl at a café. Quickly obsessed with the girl he wants to help, at first by helping raise her and later by marrying her, Joji quickly loses control and is (literally) on his hands and knees (and that happens more than a few times) in subservience to Naomi. You’ll want to slap Joji from time to time, although there are times you feel for the poor SOB (but not many and not for long). A quick, light read that can be as frustrating (in a good way) as it is ironic.

Call It Sleep ... I’m currently in the middle of a few of the suggested readings from the documentary, Stone Reader and the list shared between the filmmaker (Mark Moskowitz and author Dow Mossman). I’ve always had an interest with all things Jewish in culture. I imagine it comes from being brought up in Canarsie, Brooklyn, which was mostly inhabited by Jewish and Italians back in the day. It could also come from my paternal grandfather (the original Carmelo Stella), who did a lot of business with the Jewish community before he went bust holding onto apartment buildings in the South Bronx too long (apartment he eventually donated to Father Louis Gigante (yeah, that Giganti) for tax purposes. Gramps Stella first introduced me to oy gevalt, gelt, putz and other yiddish words/phrases. This one reminds me of Bernard Malamud (one of my favorites) and his novel, The Assistant, although Henry Roth’s novel begins much earlier (1907) and at this point is even more gripping. It has been very difficult to put this one down and we’ll have a more detailed review of a young boy’s struggle with his miserable, paranoid, jealous father and his loving over protective mother when we finish the read. So far it is nothing short of brilliant.

No more Politics … Why, you ask? It’s too frustrating, depressing, boring and pointless to waste any more time and/or energy. So long as both major parties hold the keys to the car, it ain’t going nowhere. Now that Fredo has figured out he could’ve pushed single payer through with 51 votes (fucking DUH), he’s backed off like the absolute clueless wimp he’s turned out to be (what he’s willing to pass as legislation for “the people” is yet another Democratic sellout). So much for Harvard (Fredo) and Yale (Bush). You want change? Let’s try a few graduates from schools where the degrees actually have to be earned by people who actually have had to work at some point in their lives. With Bush we should’ve known better; the moron child gifted a Yale degree because of Dad’s connections, he ruined everything he touched (businesses) and then bankrupted the country and started wars he had no clue how to win or end. Obama/Fredo never worked a day in his life and his voting record in the Illinois State Senate was more prophetic than anyone could’ve imagined. He’s slick on the stump but that’s where it ends; so far he’s been as useless as tits on a bull (although I’m sure he’s making Jimmy Carter feel good about his disastrous 4 years).

Between the never-ending parade of politicians getting caught in corruption scandals (after which some of them are actually re-elected), the bailout of corporate America at the expense of all of us, these fercocta (thanks, Dave Zeltserman for the spelling) wars that make no fucking sense anymore (not that they ever did) and the fact that gays in the year 2010 are still legally second class citizens in a country where “all men are created equal” … there’s no point in anything short of revolution and this country just ain’t there yet (not so long as blind faithers on each side of the aisle jerk themselves off about which side is right, wrong, smart, stupid, corrupt, well-intentioned, etc.). TK, at least for now, says: “It’s time to enjoy what’s left of life before it’s over.”

Largo al Factotum ... Okay, kids, so on that note, let’s have some fun. Leo Nucci remains one of my favorite baritones and here’s one of his signature roles, Figaro from Rossini’s, Il barbiere di Siviglia (the opera which originally hooked me way back in the day). It’s a hilarious opera and highly recommended for all yous rock-n-rollers, rappers and disco Dans. The video below, I’m pretty sure, is from the MET production in New York. I’ve seen this one a few times back in the day and originally saw a very scaled down version of it at John Jay college when they did the “Growing Up With Opera” program (which they still may do) for the yuppie city brats. I was there as the single parent trying to do the right thing. My two sons (maybe 6 & 8 at the time, went promptly to sleep) but the daughter stayed awake and enjoyed it thoroughly. I sure did. I took her to the MET production with Cecila Bartoli singing Rosina a few months later as a birthday gift and we were both hooked.

And here’s Leo ...

Here’s Ceclia with the great Bryn Terfel ... also from that opera featuring that barber.

Hey, since we’re in such a good mood (I can hear DOC now) ... here’s Mr. Terfel singing the most erotic aria in all of opera ... from my third favorite opera, Puccini's Tosca. The evil Scarpia’s Te Deum. “Tosca, mi fai dimenticare Iddio!”

Yeah, baby! That’s what I’m talking about ... Principessa, YOU make me forget God!

Okay, one more ... the GREATEST tenor of all time ... also from Tosca, Pavarotti singing Cavaradossi, E lucevan le stelle.

Powerlifting meet update ... the New Jersey States meet has been rescheduled for July 31-August 1st (oy vey) ... we're looking at an APA Open meet on March 27th meet in Edison, NJ for a try at the open fat guy division (under 341) ... the upside is I get to eat like a gavone until the end of the month.


And the DOC says ...

Okay, Chaz,

So from now on, in the interest of “fun”, Knucksline will deal exclusively with obscure book reviews and opera. Wow, that will be fun! With luck we can get labeled by the FDA as a legitimate cure for insomnia. What happened to cleavage? Last issue we at least had cleavage. I guess that would be too much fun, huh?

Politics can be frustrating, especially when, as you say, there isn’t a spit of difference between the two parties. Keep an eye on the Tea Party. This might be the third party that you have been whining for. At the very least, the two established parties are afraid of them. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

I also have a new response for President Fredo and his health care plan. This dates back to my days as the parent of a headstrong, know-it-all sixteen year old girl. The delivery is all important and the style was later stolen by Clint Eastwood for his Dirty Harry movies. The line must come from a parental, low, growled, near whisper.

“Go ahead, Fredo… pass your bill and you’ll see what happens.”

And when the bloodletting is over on November 3rd, he can join Jimmy Carter and build Outhouses for Humanity. They can reintroduce the Obama Chia pet and there will be no outcry this time. Within a year, he’ll be competing on Dancing with the Stars.

It seems that in April the Bamster will be giving a seminar on entrepreneurship for the Muslim world. Well, that just has to be a standing room only event. Imagine the opportunity to listen to the president of a country with 17% unemployment who has personally never run as much as a lemonade stand giving advice on how to start your own business to people firmly entrenched in the twelfth century who kill their children to preserve their honor.

It’s a two day event, so after the president speaks, Lindsay Lohan will host a seminar on the evils of strong drink. Dick Cheney will give pointers on hunter safety and for the grand finale’, Ann Coulter will perform a dramatic reading of love sonnets she has written for Rahm Emanuel.

With all due credit to Norman Schwarzkopf: “Starting a business without advice from Obama is like going deer hunting without your accordion.”

It’s a beautiful thing