All Fall Down, James Leo Herlihy … the father (Ralph) is a somewhat retired socialist/communist, and he spends way too much time in the basement doing jigsaw puzzles. When he’s out at bars (or used to go out to bars), he was extolling the virtues of the working class … a nice enough fellow, but maybe he’s taken it too far by disengaging from the real world? His wife, Annabelle, does her best not to annoy poor Ralph, but she isn’t very good at it. Clint, who writes down everything he hears/sees, is the youngest son caught in the headlights of big brother worship, which might not be too bad if the brother (Berry-Berry) wasn’t a scumbag. Berry-Berry took off and is always on the run, it seems. If he’s not robbing something, he’s running a whorehouse, and/or stabbing people, or asking for money from home. Clint wants to be with his brother, he wants to run off with him (and does for a short while, but only to find Berry-Berry is no longer where he said he’d be). Annabelle’s friend, Echo, becomes the love interest (or is it love?) of Berry-Berry, even though Clint has totally fallen for her as well. No spoilers here … there was a movie made from this novel by the multi-talented author, actor, playwright and poet (Herlihy), but the movie seems to have been panned. Read the book, it’s a good one … and so good was the writing, I immediately ordered two others of the author’s novels from similar used book stores on amazon (Midnight Cowboy and Season of the Witch) … and I can’t wait to get my mitts on them.
S., A Novel about the Balkans, Slavenka Drakulić … S. is giving birth in a Stockholm hospital to a rape baby she wants nothing to do with. Her son isn’t hers. She gives him up for adoption. She had been repeatedly raped by several different Serbian soldiers. She has no idea who the father is. The opening salvo to this gritty and compelling read ends with S. wondering what she will do with all the milk from her breasts. From that point on, the book returns to the scene of the crimes; the village from where S. was taken, how she was taken, to where she was taken, and all the abuses heaped on the women in the camps they are brought to by their enemy. Her father was a Muslim and that’s all that is needed to know in a country being shredded by civil and ethnic war. Ultimately, S. is a graphic war story about the victims of the Bosnian war who weren’t killed, but were insidiously tortured and raped instead. It is a compelling read, start to finish; from capture to liberation and beyond.
Mother of Mine … a heartbreaking movie about one of the many Finnish refugee children sent to live in Sweden during the Russian invasion of Finland. There is redemption in this story, although you’ll have to wait for it, and it is the wait that is every bit as touching as it is heartbreaking. A wonderful movie.
Terraferma … When Linosa (Sicilian Island) Fishermen save the lives of boat people/illegal immigrants, they catch hell for it (seizing of their boats, fines, etc.). Three generations of a fishing family are faced with the problem (and deal with it differently) in this very touching movie. The politics of immigration rear its ugly head everywhere, even on a poor island off Sicily. Two sides of an immigration are presented, although one side, the one sanctioned by the government (and police) and the second generation of this family, ignores the third side—that of the boat people. Highly recommended.
And as Patti Abbott alerted us to the Italian Film Festival running throughout the country, I wrote to them asking about New York. What can I say, I’m a dumbski … there’s the Angelica in the Village, et al for foreign movies … but they/Barbara were/was very helpful and provided me with a list of past Festival Italian movies to watch (and we will). So, Grazie, Patti and Barbara, and the Italian Film Festival.
Surely you remember our plugging of one of the SNHU MFA mentors, Leslie Jamison … Harvard and Yale and Iowa’s Writers Workshop are on her resume … so is a list of the best literary magazines, including Harpers. Read a review of her latest in from the New York Times The Empathy Essays here ... summed up quite nicely here: Ms. Jamison is that rare writer whose prose contains not a shred of self-help imbecility yet is capable of flatly declaring something like this: “I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones.”
Her tiny rogue beat box makes an indelible noise.
I ordered her new one, The Empathy Essays today and we'll review it soon as we get the chance to read it … in the meantime, get it here:
And here is Leslie Jamison reading from her wonderful debut novel (Ann Marie and I both loved this book), The Gin Closet …
Momma Stella and Ann Marie’s Omnipotent Card Reader …
Me: See the Rangers game last night? Marty St. Louis didn’t score again.
Me: Fourteen games in a row, no goals. Callahan has 5 already.
MS: The hell are you talkin’ about?
Me: The malocchio you put on St. Louis. It’s working.
MS: (waves me off) How’s Annie, you stupid bastid?
Me: She went to a card reader tonight.
MS: (sudden enthusiasm) Oooh, yeah?
Me: Yeah, she’s crazy too.
MS: Never mind. What she say, the reader?
Me: I don’t know, she’s not home yet.
MS: Where’d she go?
MS: I used to go.
Me: And you call me a stupid bastid.
MS: Shut up. Tell her to call me when she’s done. I want to know what they said.
Me: Seriously, you’re both nuts.
MS: Shut up. Tell her to call me.
Me: She said her niece predicted she’d have a baby girl and she did have one.
MS: They can do that.
Me: Wow. They have a fifty-fifty shot.
MS: Shut up.
Me: Annie took pictures with her.
MS: Yeah, I used to do that too. That’s what they do, work with the pictures.
Me: Yeah, they see I’m a horse and tell her there’s a fat man in her life.
MS: Shut up. Tell her to call me.
Me: Tell me again, ma. I forgot. You want her to call you?
MS: Shut up.
Me: (I put a hand to my ear) What’s that?
MS: Hey, moron, just tell her to call me.
Me: I think you’re both crazy, tell you the truth.
MS: That’s how I found out about your father cheating, moron.
Me: Which time?
MS: Shut up. It’s how I found out about Gang Bang.
Me: No, somebody told you about her. You told me that already.
MS: Shut up. Go home now. Tell Annie to call me when she’s home.
Me: Right. Meantime, we’re playing Montreal tomorrow night.
MS: Good for you.
Me: We gonna win?
MS: The hell cares? You should’ve asked Annie to ask the reader.
Me: Wait, I’m having a premonition. (I put a hand to my ear and fart). Ooops.
MS: Get the hell out of here, you sick bastid.
[We both laugh--me harder].
MS: You’re gonna shit your pants someday. And then—
Me: I’ll have to run out of here with shit in my pants. I know. A reader told me.
MS: (Still laughing, points to the door). Go, nut job.
I love my Mommy!
Momma Stella and her great granddaughter, Evelyn Amelia.
The Knuckmeter … like most forms of starvation, the medifast diet really does work well … I dropped 28 pounds in 28 days (with another 125 to go—the goal is an absurd one, but I intend to get there—202, preferably without the cancer that has killed off two my immediate family) … the food tastes like shit and I may wind-up glowing in the dark from the shit this stuff leaves on my bowls (literally, there are rings around the bowls after using their soups—and you have to scrub it off), but … but … but … it isn’t really starvation and isn’t nearly as difficult to do (for me) as attempting to lose weight the way we’re supposed to do (1-2 pounds every couple-three weeks). Forgetaboutit … I’m a compulsive MF’er and this is the ONLY way I can drop the tonnage (same way I did it a dozen or so years ago when I dropped 85-90 big ones). I also think this Medifast method will make it much easier to maintain a weight once the goal is reached (no matter where the needle ultimately lands) … but that’s putting the cart way before the horse (literally) for now … so, stay tuned.
Maestro Luciano Pavarotti … Ignore the dyed hair (and eyebrows) and some of the silly outfits … the man was one of the greatest tenors ever and had a heart as big as his belly (organizing and donating fundraisers for kids all over the globe, including those in war tone Bosnia-Herzegovina during and after the insane war there). This is a nice tribute and documentary for the King of the High C’s … the voice.