Thursday, June 01, 2023


It seems that I have six books going at once, a feat (?) not equaled since July 2020. I don’t know what it means, but it can’t be good, can it, given that timing? Troubled times! The usual number of books “going” is one or two. I have calculated, in fact, that it is always one or two, with the twin exceptions, from now and then, of six. It is never three, four, five, or seven. How can this be true? At some point they must have piled up, one by one. Furthermore, as two books cannot be finished simultaneously (can they?), the stack must likewise dwindle, 5, 4, 3, if only for the span of a word or two. One must also consider, I suppose, whether a "next book" is waiting to slide into its spot, complicating matters, but I'm already so tired. Now, I thought for a moment that I might escalate to seven, but I (ironically?) finished Megan Abbott’s new novel (maybe her best yet: dreamy and dangerous, with a gothic punch!) just before I was due to start another book that Megan Abbott and I are reading in our tiny book club consisting of only ourselves. Now! You may ask how I know a book is “going.” I can only answer that I know when a book is NOT going – when it has been abandoned. Not one of these books has been abandoned. Two of them may look that way to the untrained observer, but they are merely being read at a rate impossible to detect, much as someone told me in a dorm room once (was it McNeil?) that glass is nothing but a very slow-moving liquid (a claim for which I have sought no evidence in the three decades or so since I passively absorbed it - the claim, not the glass). For example, I was only a couple of pages into a Stephen King novel when Megan’s book arrived. The former, therefore, may appear as though I have not even begun to read it. But I have. In the case of Mann’s DOCTOR FAUSTUS, I may have come close to abandonment, but now I am too far along. It has attained a kind of glacial momentum. Here, I must admit that I was tempted to abandon THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN quite a few times during the first hundred pages or so. I’m glad I didn’t, as the final 800 or 900 pages really rollick along. They have a rootin’ tootin’ time in that tuberculosis sanatorium! In conclusion, for a book to be “going,” it must be made for reading (from cover to cover), as opposed to browsing, a distinction that I regret to say is not up for further exploration within our current framework.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Nestled Together

I'm rusty at the old jotting game. As you know, it used to be that when I went on a trip, I jotted everything for you in one of my dear old jotting books. Everybody was simply crazy about that! But then I stopped "blogging," and the last time I went to Los Angeles, why, I hardly even mentioned it. But since then, I quit social media, and as a result, I no longer have anything to do aside from the ocassional jot. Bearing that in mind, I shall now attempt to make you one of those lists that I used to make that everyone adored so much. 1. I asked a question at the front desk of the hotel and the desk clerk said he knew my voice! He said, "Are you Root Beer Guy?" I screamed back in his face, "YES!" That has never happened to me before (being recognized as Root Beer Guy, I mean; I have screamed enthusiastically into many faces), and, I dare say, never will again. (Full disclosure: on a later date, I overheard him telling a coworker "Did you know that guy is the King of Root Beer?" So maybe he didn't have the solid grasp on my character that I thought.) 2. I don't usually use conditioner on my hair. In fact, I would almost go so far as to say I never do. BUT! I figured, what the hell, this hotel conditioner is free. I'm going to put it on my hair! What's the worst than can happen? I also cleaned out my wallet. 3. Rode around with Richard, the chillest Uber driver in the world. If you're ever in California and need a ride, ask for Richard! 4. Remember the drugstore where I famously bought my expensive brush? And, let me double check, did I buy an expensive comb there? Once again, I scream, "YES!" Anyway, that drugstore is gone now! It's just not there. How could they have gone out of business? They must have been raking in a fortune on brushes and combs alone! All kidding aside, I miss you, fancy drugstore. Go with God! 5. I had steak Sinatra two nights in a row, once at Dan Tana's and once at The Smoke House. (I think I have erroneously called it "The Smokehouse" a few times in the past, but their official signage separates the smoke from the house.) I may have formerly insisted that Dan Tana's steak Sinatra is superior to the steak Sinatra at The Smoke House. On this ocassion, however, I must advance the opposite claim! The old Smoke House waiter stood and mixed the spaghetti in with the steak and peppers right at the table, but not with showy theatricality, no, just in the background, in a workmanlike fashion, getting the job done without undue fuss, which, of course, did not add to or subtract from the toothsome nature of the dish in question... OR DID IT? The result, in any case, was delectable. 5. I had stars in my eyes whilst consuming my steak Sinatra that night, for across the table from me sat Jesse Moynihan and his brother! Now, I have never met Jesse's brother before, and, as I have often boasted (most recently a few seconds ago), I quit social media. The only thing I miss about social media is "Pickle Minute," a thing that Jesse and his brother and some of their friends do on Instagram. I'm a big "Pickle Minute" fan! And there, at The Smoke House, I felt I was in a live episode of "Pickle Minute," as Jesse's brother took a photo of me pointing at a fried pickle. For, yes, having spotted fried pickles on the menu, how could two of the hosts of "Pickle Minute" resist placing that order? They could not. 6. Also at dinner, a guy named Joe I met at a party in 2012 and haven't seen or talked to since, but I remembered him, because you meet so few people you can talk about Anthony Braxton with! 7. Had a meeting scheduled at the Bob's Big Boy restaurant where David Lynch used to go every day. It turned out that Bob's Big Boy was too crowded to host the meeting, to my deep chagrin, as I thought it a wonderful coincidence that Lynchian muse Laura Dern was at Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, whence I had come, at the very same time! 8. After the meeting, I walked around the neighborhood with a person who had been in the meeting with me. We wandered about, talking about the meeting, and what it meant, and sharing our regrets about the salad place across the street from Bob's Big Boy, where we had ended up. Finally, in our circular perambulations, we saw Bob's Big Boy looming before us. "Should we?" said the person. To which I again screamed, "YES!" By now, its lunchtime rush concluded, Bob's Big Boy was quite accommodating. The person ordered a slice of strawberry pie, because the Bob's Big Boy menu stated that the strawberries were "nestled together." When the pie came out, this person observed joyfully, "They ARE nestled together!" The person went on to declare the strawberry pie at Bob's Big Boy "maybe my favorite piece of pie." 9. I brought some Henry James to read on the airplane. I always found him tough going in the past. Anyway, this time, his characters were making lots of wisecracks and I was getting into it. 10. Well, I have left out many of the nice people I saw on the trip, and interesting events, but my jotting is not what it used to be. Special mention must be made of Hanna K Nystrom, who was flying in from Sweden just as I was about to fly back to Mississippi. She thoughtfully made time for breakfast in the brief Sweden-Mississippi overlap we enjoyed. We talked about how cold and gray it was. (Los Angeles was chilly and gray for the whole of my stay, once again lending some weight to the Lorenz Hart lyric.) Hanna said it was colder than Sweden!

Friday, May 19, 2023


It brings me no pleasure - or maybe it does; I can't tell - to report that I found a typo on page 369 of this edition of Mann's DOCTOR FAUSTUS. It's an "it's" for an "its," truly an all-timer of a typo, a typo for the hall of fame, must be one of the top 10 typos in English. I'm looking at you, Vintage International paperbacks!

Monday, May 08, 2023

What a Great Time

Lsst night Dr. Theresa and I were watching the Hitchcock movie FAMILY PLOT, and the bad guys were going to release their kidnapping victim, but he (the victim) said "I haven't finished my chicken yet." To which I hilariously responded "Who did they kidnap, Kent Osborne?" Because he loves to eat chicken! Only in our house could that line get a laugh, though, come to think of it, Dr. Theresa did not laugh. (See also.)

Monday, May 01, 2023


I was reading the Thomas Mann novel DOCTOR FAUSTUS (though it seems to be on pause now) and there were a lot of allusions to LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST, so I did what anyone would do and picked up a copy of that Shakespeare play at good old Square Books. Thumbing through the introduction, I read about a 1978 production in which a "genuine owl" from outside the performance area, in the trees somewhere, joined in on the final song. Now! I thought to myself, will I have to put this on my big list with an asterisk, as I did once before for a volume with an owl in its scholarly introduction, hedging my bets as to whether that really counts? But it seemed to me that I knew just where to peek to find out whether the play itself contained the necessary owl. Knowing that LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST concludes with two absolute bangers ("click" here for more information about how I started using the term "bangers"), and reading closely the commentator's verb choice in observing that the owl in question "reinforced" the songs, I concluded that there might be an owl at the very end of LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST. And there is! "When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl/ Then nightly sings the staring owl." You know how it is!

Thursday, April 13, 2023


Square Books called yesterday to let me know that my Peter Falk memoir had come in: it's the next selection in the Megan book club! Well, I had a doctor's appointment later that afternoon, so I moseyed to town a little early and ran into Shadan on the sidwalk... she's one of the excellent booksellers at Square Books, and let me emphasize that she wasn't even at work. She was just on the sidewalk in the middle of town, and she stopped to remind me that she and I like a lot of the same books, to which I replied that indeed we do. So she told me about a book she thought I would really enjoy: THE BLIND OWL by Sadegh Hedayat, and she even described in detail where I would find it in the shop, like a human GPS! This was just a friendly gesture on her part, I had caught her outside of work - now, that's what I call a bookseller! And she didn't even know about my owl problem. So I went to the bookstore, and the book was just where she had said it would be, and I read on the back cover that it is "a haunting tale of loss and spiritual degradation," or, as I call it, "The Bill Boyle Seal of Approval." In fact, if I knew anything about Venn diagrams, or what they are, I could show you how a certain subset of books perfectly overlaps in the preferences of Bill, Shadan, and myself. But the adventures of the day were just beginning! Off I went to the doctor. The nurse who took my blood pressure recorded the results on a piece of paper, and as she did so, she said, "Wow, this pen is great. I wonder where I stole it from." That's an exact quotation! So I said, "What kind of pen is it? I'm always on the lookout for a good pen!" And she looked at the side of the pen and read from it the brand name "EnerGel." And that is what is so damn weird, I tell you! Just ONE DAY EARLIER, I had "posted" a chapter of my serialzed novel SOUR BLUEBERRIES, in which one of the protagonists similarly uses a pen that does not belong to him, is amazed by its high quality, and discovers that it goes by the brand name EnerGel! WHAT! I conclude by assuring you that I am no paid shill for the EnerGel corporation, it is just a weird thing that happened.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

McNeil Special

Typing "McNeil Special" made me hungry for a J.J. Special, ha ha, good times, that allusion is only for me, not to mention which, it is the truth. Very similarly, and much like the time Public Enemy and Jerry Lewis appeared on the same episode of The Tonight Show, this "post" is only for McNeil. I am sure you will recall - because you are McNeil - McNeil's interest in the generational ubiquity of the "Globe Illustrated Shakespeare." That is why I snapped this photo of it (above) during a recent viewing of a film entitled MARRIED TO IT. For those who are not McNeil, if any, it is the chunky red number on the top visible shelf over Cybill Shepherd's head, characteristically daubed with gilt - the book, that is, not Cybill Shepherd's head, which is in need of no such embellishment.