Sunday, April 25, 2021

Fun at Home

Last night I was sitting in my chair reading that history of scripture I've been reading for over a year now. Don't you worry about my reading habits! Anyway, I got to a good part about Jonathan Edwards, the 18th-century preacher. I thought I'd tell Dr. Theresa, who was sitting right there on the couch, because she used to study ol' Jonathan Edwards quite a bit back in her college days. I said, "Hey! Listen to this! 'During Edwards' sermons, the congregation screamed and yelled, writhed in the aisles and crowded round his pulpit begging him to stop.'" I was right, she got a big kick out of that. We know how to have a good time.

Friday, April 16, 2021

I Choose to Believe

In this book about the making of the film GIANT, the author describes a photo of Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean, in which James Dean "looks like a small boy - or Jerry Lewis." Now, am I going to search for the photo in question, in order to ascertain the veracity of the author's description? No way! I don't want to ruin my happy dream. I will point out, however, that the "blog" has already noted the similarity of Jerry Lewis and James Dean ("click" here). I know you won't "click" there. How I hate you!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

I'll Never Know

I don't "blog" anymore, but I do mark it down whenever I read a book with an owl in it, because who else is going to bother? So Megan and I are reading a book about the making of the film GIANT, and director George Stevens refers to watching the dailies as "the owl show." Am I sure exactly what he means by that? Not 100%. Do I know whether it is an old show biz expression or just something that popped out of the mouth of George Stevens? Truth be told, I do not. Am I going to go to the trouble of looking it up? Nope.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

The Old Wood Owl Trick

Upon the recommendation of Lee Durkee, I read the new novel by Ethan Hawke. In it, a narrator who is definitely NOT Ethan Hawke (wink, wink) tells about being in a Shakespeare play, and how he has to really make himself THINK he's in the barn where his character is supposed to be. He has to FEEL it, he has to SMELL the hay, he has to HEAR the wood owl. Please understand, the overly dramatic caps are mine, not Ethan Hawke's, but the "wood owl" is accurate, Ethan Hawke really said "wood owl," making his novel a "book with an owl in it," which is something I keep track of due to a sad old habit, the origins of which no living person can tell. A couple of pages later, after most (not I) would have forgotten the wood owl, he's like (I'll paraphrase), "At this point in the speech, I might pretend to hear something. Oh, it's just the wood owl!" He's really making that imaginary wood owl work for its money. (See also.)

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Huge News

I keep meaning to mention that Square Books has new bookmarks. I am speaking of the free bookmarks that come tucked in your purchase, which have evolved over the years. I'm sure you all recall with fond weeping the column I used to have entitled "Bookmarkin'! with Jack Pendarvis," in which I would... what would I do? I think I would recommend which bookmark should go with which book. But then I had an epiphany...? Does that sound right? Anyway, this epiphany, if that's what it was, rendered "Bookmarkin'! with Jack Pendarvis" sadly obsolete. But I still like to tell you when Square Books ups their bookmark game. I haven't visited the store in person since the beginning of our current terrible times, opting for their excellent delivery service instead, but this new bookmark is getting me all worked up for the times to come.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Long Road to Owl Town

Am I "blogging" again? I honestly can't tell. But I know one thing! I do "blog" every time I read a book with an owl in it, because I have to add it to my long list of books I have read with owls in them, which I started keeping for reasons that are lost to history. Anyhow! This time we have a book with a book with an owl in it in it, which I think we've had before, but I'm tired. Maybe I'll try to look that up one day. It's a long way to our latest owl! It's complicated. Get yourself a drink. Get comfortable! Here we go. So! You know that Megan Abbott and I have formed between ourselves a little club, in which we read what I will loosely call celebrity biographies. Well! Now we are reading one about Louise Fitzhugh, the author who created Harriet the Spy. Everyone is in her circle, or in her circle's circle. To present just one small example, the last person I was forced to "blog" about, for entirely different reasons, was George Segal, and then his brother, of all people, pops up in this book! That's nothing. But I'm not here to talk about the exciting things. All I want to tell you is that one of Louise Fitzhugh's girlfriends was friends with a woman who dated Patricia Highsmith. So, after these two (Patricia Highsmith and Louise Fitzhugh's girlfriend's friend) broke up, they both wrote books in which they murdered characters based on each other! Patricia Highsmith's ex-girlfriend murdered her (figuratively) with a hammer, and Patricia Highsmith returned the favor (by other literary means) in a book titled THE CRY OF THE OWL. Hey! As long as I'm here, I'll tell you something else. What the hell. Louise Fitzhugh lights Janet Gaynor's cigarette, which transaction produces much the same magical benediction as when someone lights William Holden's cigarette in THE MOVIEGOER, the latter incident covered almost too thoroughly in my lamented nonfiction book about cigarette lighters.

Monday, March 08, 2021

Spy Sandwich

Last night I watched some of THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM. Two of your immediate questions might be, "What's that?" and "Why?" As to the latter, who the hell knows why I do anything. For example, I used to "blog," but then I quit, but then I started up again to cheer the world during a time of tribulation, but now I don't know whether or not I have quit again because in my opinion the world has been cheered up enough. But! One time when I surely "blog" is whenever I see something I should have included in my nonfiction book about cigarette lighters, which no one remembers, including me. To make a long story short (ha ha!) George Segal approaches Alec Guinness to ask for a light, and Alec Guinness produces his cigarette lighter, and they engage in some seemingly innocent banter, but it is all a secret way of saying, "Are you the spy I am supposed to meet? Because I am a spy also." And the answer: "Yes, I am a spy. Would you like a sandwich?" (Alec Guinness offers fellow spy George Segal a sandwich.) Now, there was a whole section of my cigarette lighter book about spies using lighters in their spy business, not limited to, but including, as a way to start a secret spy conversation. I had a whole epigraph about it, if I'm not mistaken. Every chapter had an epigraph! That's the kind of book we're talking about. No wonder I can't remember it. The epigraph, I do recall, came courtesy of Ace Atkins, thanks to his extensive knowledge of the James Bond franchise.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Just What He Had In Mind

"Only connect," said E.M. Forster, and this is just the kind of thing he had in mind: I've been dipping into that book about the CIA, and yesterday the author included, for no real reason at all, the details of one specific sexual encounter between John Wayne and Marlene Dietrich, which was also featured, more understandably, in a biography of John Wayne I read some years ago. Anyway, it was weird. Not the encounter, just its recurrence, verging on non sequitur, in a book about the CIA.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

McNeil Defeats Centenarian

So, I just saw this New York Times headline: "This 105-Year-Old Beat Covid. She Credits Gin-Soaked Raisins." I haven't read the article, because who needs to read the article when you have a headline like that? I would, however, like to point out that McNeil was telling us about the curative powers of gin-soaked raisins on this "blog" well over a decade ago ("click" here).

Monday, February 15, 2021

The Man Who Sold His Face

Dr. Theresa and I have been rewatching THE X-FILES and I have but one thought. Who is this guy (pictured) in the opening credits? He is presumably intended to represent a victim of a paranormal phenomenon such as is investigated by the protagonists of THE X-FILES. His face gets all stretched out and he looks as if he might be saying "AAAAHOOOOOOOOHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAOOOOOHHHHHH!" or making some similar wordless protestation. And I always wonder, does he get a tenth of a penny or something every time somebody watches THE X-FILES? Or did he sell his face to THE X-FILES for a lump sum? The answer, I suspect, could be easily found if I spent about three minutes on the "internet," but I just don't think I have the energy.

Friday, February 12, 2021

You Won't Care

Here's something you won't care about! It all started when I saw a little bit of the Frank Sinatra movie TONY ROME on TV. I noted that Nancy Sinatra (Frank's daughter, of course) sang the theme song, in which mothers are advised to "lock your daughters in" because "Tony Rome is out and about." And she IS the daughter (as previously stated) of the person of whom she is singing... himself a danger to daughters! Of whom she is one! Of his! The second thing I noticed as the movie began is that Tony Rome lived on his boat in Florida, just like Travis McGee. Given these two facts (were there two facts?) I struck up a conversation with Ace Atkins on the subject. Was Tony Rome a big Travis McGee rip-off? Such was the question that came to my mind. Ace said I should read the paperback of the first Tony Rome novel as homework and tell him. So he found a copy on the "internet" (the edition pictured above), purchased it, and dropped it contact-free (given our troubled times) on our front porch, where it sat for over 24 hours before I realized it was there. About two pages in, I made a startling discovery. Now! We're getting to the part you really won't care about, which I believe I put most succinctly in an email to my friend McNeil: "Travis McGee's boat is named The Busted Flush because he won it in a poker game with a busted flush. Tony Rome's boat is named The Straight Pass because he won it in a dice game with six straight passes in a row." Now, I naturally googled "tony rome" + "travis mcgee" + "busted flush" + "straight pass," which combo netted just seven results, some of which were duplicate texts, leading me to conclude that only three people, maximum, in the history of the world, have ever expressed proper outrage over the matter. [They didn't express outrage. - ed.] All right, are you ready for the kicker? Then Ace dropped the bombshell on me that the first Tony Rome novel appeared FOUR YEARS BEFORE the first Travis McGee novel. It is Travis McGee who is the rip-off! If a rip-off exists. Which I believe I have proven conclusively it most certainly does. Hello? Is anyone there?

Monday, February 08, 2021

Ha Comma Ha Comma Ha

One of the things I've been doing during the pandemic is finally reading a nonfiction book about the CIA that Lee Durkee loaned me, oh, five or six years ago. Yesterday I came across a quotation that fascinated me. "'The general was in fine form this morning, wasn't he? Ha, ha, ha!' Dulles would chuckle." Was Dulles laughing? Or was he speaking the word "ha" three times in succession? The dialogue tag "Dulles would chuckle" seems to indicate actual laughter... or at least chuckling. But encasing the "Ha, ha, ha!" in quotation marks, and carefully separating them by commas, as if indicating their individual distinction... hmm. It seemed to me (and a check of the endnotes proved me right) that this "Ha, ha, ha!" business was lifted from a secondary source. So another author had originally recorded Allen Dulles going around saying, "The general was in fine form this morning, wasn't he? Ha, ha, ha!" Then, I suppose, the author of the current volume, the one I am reading, had to make a decision. But if he really thought that Dulles was chuckling, why didn't he write "'The general was in fine form this morning, wasn't he?' Dulles would say with a chuckle"? That would not have violated the original author's "Ha, ha, ha!" (which, honestly, when standing alone like that, looks - thanks, in part, to the exclamation point - much more like forceful barking than a chuckle). Maybe he was hedging his bets. All right, I am done with this subject. I mean, I have other thoughts about the typographical representation of laughter as it has stylistically evolved, and what part that plays in my perception of the... eh... but... forget it. [Postscript, added after some hours of brooding consideration: I neglected to touch on the "would," that is, the fact, as reported, that Dulles "would" chuckle, implying numerous instances of the general being in "fine form," and so, perhaps, the accompanying chuckle became habitual, insincere, formal, rote, in which case, spelling it out as "Ha, ha, ha!" seems perfectly reasonable.]

Sunday, February 07, 2021

An Expression

You've probably been on pins and needles! Is that an expression? Anyway, in August I told you I was "blurbing" a book with an owl in it, but I couldn't tell you the name because I wasn't sure it had been announced. Now, thanks to the twitter account of Bill Boyle, I see that the forthcoming publication of the book has been announced, and it is a novel called IVORY SHOALS ("click" here to preorder), written by John Brandon. I hope you feel as relieved as I do!

Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Terrors of the Night

I was trying to think of the last time I saw Lee Durkee. First we bought a house and moved away from the town square, so we're no longer walking-distance neighbors with Lee... and then a thing happened where no one can go outside anymore anyway. I guess I last saw Lee at a reading at Square Books in late February for his novel THE LAST TAXI DRIVER. That was just a couple of weeks before we knew that going to readings was deadly! But Lee and I still keep in touch through the occasional email, like the one where he told me I'd like something called THE UNFORTUNATE TRAVELLER by a sixteenth-century writer named Thomas Nashe. Lee knows what I like! So I got out this book that has THE UNFORTUNATE TRAVELLER in it, and the piece right before that is also by Nashe... something called THE TERRORS OF THE NIGHT. So, just to paint you a picture in my expert way, the last page of THE TERRORS OF THE NIGHT is facing the first page of THE UNFORTUNATE TRAVELLER. So on the last page of THE TERRORS OF THE NIGHT, Nashe talks about "those doleful quiristers of the night, the scritch-owl, the nightingale, and croaking frogs." There it was when I opened the book, right in front of my face, proving once again my theory that every great book has an owl in it, if that's what my theory is.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

A Strange Year

You know, we still have a television, with channels and everything, the kind of television where you sit there and flip around the channels, and last night, after Dr. Theresa had gone to bed and I was still awake, I sat there idly flipping around the channels and what do you know, here was the live-action film version of THE FLINTSTONES, and just as I arrived at it, Kyle MacLachlan was lording it over Fred Flintstone, sitting in Fred Flintstone's office chair, putting up his feet on Fred Flinstone's desk. So, Kyle MacLachlan's feet were in the foreground, a la Quentin Tarantino, and I could not help but notice that the soles and bottoms of the toes were coated in what appeared to be a fine blue dust, like Kyle MacLachlan had gotten his feet dirty walking around on the set of THE FLINTSTONES. But! Of course, it was an artistic choice! (If it really happened. My eyes are not what they used to be... maybe those were shadows on the bottoms of Kyle MacLachlan's feet!) But I think either the makeup department or Kyle MacLachlan said, you know what? A caveman would have dirt on his feet. Put a little dirt on there. Make it sort of bluish dirt. Anyway, then they cut to a new scene, which began with a closeup of Elizabeth Taylor! And I was like, that's right, in the back of my mind I knew that Elizabeth Taylor was in THE FLINTSTONES. But it still didn't seem right or possible. Elizabeth Taylor! 1994 was a strange year.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Famous Fiery Skull Head

I thought I'd take this opportunity to talk about three movies, yes, three big hot up-to-the-minute entertainments that the whole world is talking about right now! 1. GHOST RIDER. Dr. Theresa and I watched GHOST RIDER. I could not help but note that the title character's famous fiery skull head set off a sprinkler system. Now, as you know, my cigarette lighter book contained a whole section about sprinkler systems being set off, and I certainly would have included this moment had I viewed it in a timely manner, if only for the novelty. 2. BOYS' NIGHT OUT. Hey! Remember when McNeil observed that every 60s movie had an obelisk in it? I was only too happy to confirm that Tony Randall stood next to an obelisk in BOYS' NIGHT OUT (see above). Furthermore, it was the SAME OBELISK that McNeil previously observed in DON'T MAKE WAVES and Dr. Theresa and I saw in AGENTS OF SHIELD, the latter of which is a TV show from present times (?), and not a 1960s movie, so I'm sorry I brought it up. 3. DEAD RECKONING. Recently, Dr. Theresa and I watched DEAD RECKONING, which takes place mainly on the Gulf Coast, the region whence I was spawned. During one scene, an attempt was made by the art department at Columbia Pictures to drape some Spanish moss artistically here and there in some tree branches, an attempt I appreciated, as it caused me to realize and exclaim, "I haven't seen Spanish moss in a long time!" And then I remembered how everyone down there loved to grab a person at every opportunity and shout in their face, "Did you know Spanish moss is related to the pineapple?" You cannot walk down a street on the Gulf Coast without someone telling you the little-known fact that Spanish moss is related to the pineapple. Why, I used to do it myself when I lived there! And I guess I am doing it now. You're not going to believe this, but Spanish moss is related to the pineapple. As I sat there during the exciting climax of DEAD RECKONING, thinking about such matters, I began to doubt myself. Spanish moss doesn't really seem to be related to the pineapple. Maybe I misheard! Maybe I misheard one hundred thousand times. So I googled for two seconds and found an article with the headline "Spanish Moss Is Related to Pineapples." That headline wasn't messing around!

Sunday, January 03, 2021

From the Clouds

"... better to fall from the clouds than from a third-floor window." Now, I know what you're asking yourself! "Has this 'blog' become nothing but a repository for quotations from POSTHUMOUS MEMOIRS OF BRAS CUBAS, by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, translated by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson?" I'm glad you asked! I don't know. Let's look at the facts. I stopped "blogging" on the day our TV blew up in 2016. Recently (not very recently), with the commencement of a worldwide health crisis, I took it upon myself to start up "blogging" again for the happiness and cheer of one and all. With the sudden and unexpected transition into the year 2021, all sorts of questions arise. I have answers for none of them.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Chicken Lit

Here's another quotation from POSTHUMOUS MEMOIRS OF BRAS CUBAS, by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, translated by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson: "There was a chicken wing on his plate, and he was dissecting it with philosophical serenity." When I read that, I thought of Kent! And how much he loves to eat chicken! And, specifically, the time he went to a restaurant and ordered a single chicken wing.