29 December 2010

New stuff and new old stuff

Found a copy of Walter Mosley's The Tempest Tales (2008) in Ashland yesterday. Mr. Mosley is best known for his Easy Rawlins stories, and as excellent as those books are, they are only a small part of his output and give little indication of the range and depth of his work. Check out Futureland and The Man in My Basement if you want to have your preconceptions about a "crime writer" challenged. As far as his crime stories go, Mosley is often compared to Graham Greene and Raymond Chandler, but I think of John D. MacDonald as his literary antecedent. Both are superb observers of their time and astute social critics, and manage to craft taut, fast-paced tales peopled by intriguing and sympathetic characters. That is no mean feat. Speaking of The Late, Great John D., I also picked up a Fawcett Gold Medal reprint of his 1954 novel Contrary Pleasure. It looks like a 1970s vintage but is in good shape despite the yellowing pages. I found the first of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series (Cop Hater) in a somewhat battered late-80s re-issue, and the second of Donald E. Westlake's Sam Holt mysteries (I Know a Trick Worth Two of That), recently re-released in trade paper by Felony & Mayhem. I also grabbed a hardcover omnibus of classic pulp called Tough Guys & Dangerous Dames, which is 600 pages of everyone from Robert E. Howard to Robert Bloch. It features a story by Paul Cain ("Black"), one of the best writers you've never heard of, and no relation to his more famous contemporary James M. Cain.

I also ventured into The Music Coop, where antediluvians like me can find actual albums on CD. I picked up John Prine's Sweet Revenge (1973) and Patty Loveless' Mountain Soul (2001). Like I said: new stuff and new old stuff. That ought to keep me entertained for a while.

26 December 2010


In the penultimate episode of Ulysses, Leopold Bloom returns home. He has Stephen Dedalus in tow, and they drink cocoa and converse about art and science. Bloom had forgotten his key and had to break in to his own house. Later, after Stephen leaves, he hits his head on some furniture in the dark as his wife Molly had rearranged things in his absence. Molly awakens when he comes to bed, and he tells her about his day. She had entertained her lover Blazes Boylan earlier in the afternoon. Bloom thinks about their long and difficult marriage and her many adulterous liaisons. It is hardly a heroic return to a faithful Penelope for the aggrieved Bloom. Joyce uses an impersonal catechism technique of question-and-answer that varies from precise, elaborate cross-examination to absurd, comical repartee. Bloom's fears and dreams are ruthlessly analyzed and made pathetic. The tone is despairing, but in the end Bloom embraces "abnegation" and "equanimity" before falling asleep. Joyce makes explicit the universality of Bloom's experience:
What universal binomial denominations would be his as entity and nonentity?
Assumed by any or known to none. Everyman or Noman.
The odyssey of this melancholy, cuckolded alien in a neglected city of a fading empire is bereft of heroes, monsters, and goddesses. It is a far cry from the Odyssey it purports to emulate. Joyce pulls down the lofty myth and gives it to all of us, making the Everyman the real hero of the modern world. He also pulls apart the novel as a form by refusing to follow its strictures and showing how almost any type of writing can tell a story and teach a moral lesson. The elaborate artifice and complex structure of Ulysses creates a contradictory effect in the reader--the characters are stripped of their pretensions and falsities and exposed for the shallow, grubbing humans that they really are. Molly Bloom takes over the remaining 45 pages. Her internal monologue, lying in bed next to her sleeping husband, is the final episode. I'll finish it up before the New Year so check back soon for my final thoughts on Joyce's famous creation.

25 December 2010

Storm's a-comin'

A stout south wind has been blowing all morning long. Now drops of rain dot the flagstones of the back patio and streak my window. There'll be a storm tonight for Christmas! It's warm enough that we'll likely only get rain in town, but snow will fall on the hillsides. I expect we'll be driving through the white stuff on Forest Mountain later this evening.

22 December 2010

Winter warmer

I saw the moon bathed in a warm, orange-red light late Monday night while it was eclipsed by the earth. The day had been gray and overcast, but the skies cleared after the sun went down. If you were standing on the moon and watching the total eclipse, you'd see the sun blocked by the earth. Sunlight would appear as a reddish ring around the earth--the lucky lunar crew would be seeing all the sunrises and sunsets at once! This refracted light is what colors the moon for earthbound observers. Monday's hue was the color of good bourbon. Good thing I had some good bourbon on hand, because we toasted the Winter Solstice with it the next day. Evan Williams Single Barrel is lovely stuff, and this particular bottle that we cracked on Tuesday was filled on the 14th of June, 2010, from 10-year old barrels. Where were we on the 14th of June? Why, at the ballpark watching the Giants clobber the Orioles! The earth covered the sun and colored the moon. The sun started its long journey back north. The Giants won the World Series. Happy Holidays!

20 December 2010

I lacked a proper motive

I still play music CDs. They sound a hell of a lot better than .mp3 files. Plus I like handling the discs and looking at the cases, though I can't read the tiny print anymore without aid.  I still have LPs and a working turntable. Records are a bit of a hassle, but are certainly much easier to read than CDs and I enjoy the art and layout of the albums. I've taped many of the albums I listen to a lot.  Both of the vehicles I own still have working cassette players--my 2002 Honda came with one. Suffice to say that I've been late to join the iTunes crowd. I don't have an iPod and I don't go running around with my ear buds in. I can rip CD music to my computer, I can stream a radio station, and I can listen to Pandora through my PS3--I'm not technologically challenged. I get the digital music thing. I just lacked a good reason to start a downloading frenzy from iStore (er, iTunes Store).

But no more. The Giants released a video called Giant! Perfect '10 in San Francisco. and it was only available via iTunes. Quicker than you could say Windows7 I had a program, an account, and the damn thing downloaded. All for just $3.99! Then I discovered they had games. I mean actual Giants baseball games, like the 2010 NLDS and NLCS and etc. Pretty cool, eh? And only a $1.99 per game.

I'm tuned in now.