There isn’t a writer I know who would turn down the chance to read a new novel by Daniel Woodrell, and I sure wasn’t about to start with his latest, The Maid’s Version. Unraveling stories within stories is always intriguing when done well ... and here it's done brilliantly. Young Alek spends a summer with his enigmatic grandmother (Alma) and relays the tale of a tragic event at a local dance hall several years earlier (1929). Alma’s sister and many other people (42) were killed in the inexplicable explosion. Theories abound as to how it all happened, and that’s the most interesting aspect of this economic and brilliantly written novel. Woodrell exposes the economics, politics and social strata of his beloved Ozarks throughout.
Alma’s clan is dirt poor working class, and class distinctions are quickly and clearly demarked when we learn how her boys (Alek’s father, eventually abandoned, included) often depended on what their mother could grift from the wealthier class of employer she worked for (including one who’s been having an affair with her sister).
No point in unraveling it for yous here. Do the work, amici. Buy the book. Read it. Read it twice, as I did (because the writing is so friggin’ brilliant) … and then smile the way I did when hall of fame pitcher, Bob Gibson, was touted as one of the characters’ favorite people. In a recent Daily Beast interview titled “How I write”, Woodrell ends it with this gem when asked about his next project: I am increasingly interested in stories about men and masculinity and the immense struggle to hold on to decency as the years roll by, and the endurance and consequent scar tissue a full life requires. Sounds candy-assed in the abstract, maybe, but not the way I’ll sing it.
I know I can’t wait to read it.
Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham … brilliant writing and some precious life philosophy throughout … that said, I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to slap our protagonist (Philip) in the chops for his pursuit of Mildred, while she dragged him through emotional mud for way too much of his life … but I suspect we’ve all been there, however briefly (or however too often), and although the end of the novel/story was a disappointment for me, I highly recommend it for the writing, the life's lesson, and the emotional tension throughout.
And having just read Michael Harris’ Romantic History (reviewed here; click on the link), I found some connective tissue between Philip and Paul and Mildren and Maggie (and how about the two P’s and M’s) …
I enjoyed Romantic History a bit more, but the very same emotional tugs run throughout both wonderful novels.
On their way to Bouchercon in Albany, Michelle (the Godmother) and Tommy Isler will be stopping in beautiful downtown Fords, New Jersey, for dinner with the ugly Knuckster and the Principessa Ann Marie for our version of the Feast of San Gennaro ... Texas meets New Joisey in the Casa Stella Bowl ...
This week in the NFL …
The wife says to me, she says, if I get excited again watching my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills she’ll "smack the shit out of me."
I believe her.
Okay, so now what yous’ve all been waiting for … TK’s NFL locks of the week …
First: Bet all your IN-KNUCKS-WE-TRUST-BUCKS ON the Cheatriots over the Yets 13-10 with a second half married by torrential rains and wherein receivers should be called “droppers.” It’ll be great to watch the Moonachie Green Team (a.k.a. Yets) control the time of possession by not only breaking from a huddle, but by running the ball down the Choketriots throats most of the game. Rookie QB Gino Smith will eventually come unglued after a solid start and throw 3 bad interceptions in the fourth quarter. And NFL fans around the country will finally get to see Tom Brady throwing hissy fits at his receivers on the field and off … which makes one wonder if that’s the kind of guff he takes at home from Giselle …
Unfair, yous say, since they played last night, and here I am posting this the next day? Well, listen to me:
Let’s just hope my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills fans up in Orchard Park are wearing Flava Flav clocks around their necks this Sunday with the hope that maybe Coach Doug Marrone can get the point … giving the other team all that extra time of possession not only give them extra chances to score, it keeps our young defense on the field …
Oy vey … so, here it goes:
Bills over the Pantherless, 24-23
Vikes over Cutler’s Cubs, 24-20
Washingtonians over the Packing Co., 30-24
Colts over the Fillet of Fish, 27-21
Ramettes upset the Boids (Falcons), 24-20
The Aints bury the Bucs, 37-13
Jags upset the Raiderettes, 21-17
Browns shock the Wes Cravens, 24-20
The Chefs rope the Cowgirls, 30-20
The Texas two-steppers dance on the Titans, 34-24
The Eaglettes squeak over the Chargerless in OT, 34-31
The Lionettes crush the Redboids (Cards), 27-10
And it’ll be Moonachie Blue and Eli over big brother and the Broncettes, 31-24
The Forty-Whiners over the She-Hawks, 30-20
And on Monday night, the Bagels will humiliate the Steelers, 30-17
A TK timeout ... A new writing project will keep the journalists, editors and porters here at TK a bit less active (especially regarding book and movie reviews) over the next few to six months … but we’ll do our best to poke our nose in your life from time to time (hopefully with something of interest and less and less to do with politics) … but not because we fear your boredom and/or dislike of our political views… nope, that’s not it. Mostly because we can’t even fake taking interest in any of the political bullshit shoveled our way anymore.
In fact, wake us up when the revolution begins.
And after last week …
Still … I can’t help myself … it’s truly an addiction …