Thursday, June 22, 2017

"Meh" Thrillers from (not-so) Great Britain...


The best books by John LeCarre may be behind us by now; but I keep on reading all I find.

Lately, that included "Single & Single", a post Cold War crime thriller, featuring violence, money laundering, vice peddling of all kinds, gun running and so on. A readable novel, certainly.

The relationship between the spymaster (or undercover agent runner, in this case) and his agent, the son of the money launderer who has "turned"is delved.  As in "Our Game", the agent goes rogue in former USSR Georgia; as in "The Night Manager", the agent flirts with love---this female character was stronger, more interesting than the ladies in either of the above.

Bad Bait:

I was interested to find a British novel, made and sold in the UK which somehow found its way to my local paperback exchange: John Harvey's "Good Bait". "No one in Britain is writing better crime fiction" gasps The Times on the front cover. I feel I was duped, or standards of crime fiction writing have declined in the UK. I enjoy fine British writers, etc. I was disappointed.

The novel was a standard, modern police procedural; the eastern Europeans are the bad guys in this novel, the police detectives felt quite contrived; one character was shamelessly used as a literary crutch, as the story limped along. The author peppers and pads the story with musical and literary references from mid-to-late 20th Century...that felt old, but that is because I've been there. I looked up the You Tube for the jazz selection "Good Bait"...I'm not a jazz lover.

This book was engaging enough to pass my "Thirty Page Test", so I was "trapped"; then the story fizzled for 300 more pages.  So I was not happy with "Good Bait" or John Harvey!


Monday, June 19, 2017

Lots of Renovation Projects in Paducah, KY


What a nice facade on this old retail and office building. I hope it will be saved.



Imagine the old hardware store in its prime. Clerks, customers, managers all busy; the place would have been brimming with stock. Look at those lonely shelves.



The old Public Market was converted into retail space and theater; lovely historic space.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Paducah!



Best "ghost sign" I've ever seen!






Paducah, KY is on the come back trail, I hope. After a long industrial past, the town is the center of a growing arts and touring destination, especially for people who enjoy or take part in, the textile arts.

I loved walking the main streets of the downtown, with many restored old store fronts from the various eras; many are in the process.

There is an entire museum dedicated to quilting; the art and workmanship makes this attractive to all but the tiniest children. My husband enjoyed it. No photography allowed inside the museum, or I would show some examples.

Paducah was fun.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Rowan Oak, home of William Faulkner, Oxford MS


The iconic view of the front entrance to the home (not so much a mansion as an old MS farm) built in the 1840's, purchased and named by Faulkner in 1930.  Probably the most photographed view in Mississippi.


Faulkner died young (by today's standards) from injury suffered in fall from a horse. The house was never occupied by other owners; was soon under ownership of Ol' Miss. Mostly, the house was left the way it was when the Faulkner's resided.  Perhaps and probably, he touched the door handle with is own hands. (when visiting homes of historic people, you don't usually feel the "presence"; here, you do.) His spirit might be amused to watch the dozens of reverent fans--young and old--trooping through the house, sitting outside on lawn chairs, some reading his books or writing in notebooks.


Faulkner's specially designed writing studio, with the typewriter he used. He would closet himself in this room for days on end--so there's a bed for resting while he was in process of writing. He would suffer no interruption!

Most of his books were conceived and completed from within these walls. And if you have read his work, you know it is very personal; specific to the locations that he knew and loved. That is why I believe his spirit still resides here.


 He would display his plot plans for himself on the walls of the study.  Directly outside the study room is a small, (once "full") bathroom; it is now the washroom for staff and public use; though some fixtures are new, the wash basin is old--vintage 1940's--so you can wash your hands at the writer's own facility.


 Faulkner was not an admirer of advanced, progressive technology; he used a standard, manual typewriter though electric brands where modern conveniences in his time. There was a family argument when his teenage daughter wanted a radio in the 1940's; she got it at the insistence of her mother. (The radio is in her bedroom upstairs to this day) The telephone was unavoidable but he didn't like it. As with other old places I've seen, important numbers were scrawled on the wall! The day after Faulkner's funeral, his wife had a window air conditioner delivered and installed for her comfort in her half of their bed-suite upstairs. The AC is up there, too.


This is the modern kitchen in the home. Previously, cooking was done in a detached, brick building in the yard. These were also called "summer kitchens", used so the heat from cooking did not heat up the house in hot, southern summers. I wonder if there was a fight over the freezer? I bet not.


The bed chamber--his half of the bedroom suite


Another view of Aunt Cally's house in the back yard. (his childhood nanny, who lived to be 100.)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Memorial Day is a Remembrance Time

Remembering my Grandmother's younger brother, Frederick Ambrose Feigel (1900-1944).

He was a civilian working on Mindanao, the southern large island of the Philippines when the Japanese invaded in December 1941.

He and others like him; men, women and children, were trapped on the island for the duration of the war, in most cases. Only toward the end of the war were allied submarines able to sneak past the Japanese and rescue some, like his wife.

He and other American men, joined the Philippine-American Resistance to try to discourage the Japanese on the islands.

In this endeavor, he was commissioned a Captain in the US Army.

During operations in July 1944, he was ambushed and shot by Japanese snipers.

His body was never recovered.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Reading "Faulkner" in Mississippi...




While William Faulkner was not a perfect person, he had compassion, empathy and even sympathy for good people of whichever race; and he scorned evil and cruelty in anyone, regardless of race.

I read "Go Down, Moses", a group of stories and short novels from the early 1940's. The stories were published individually for nationwide distributions in magazines like Atlantic Monthly or Saturday Evening Post; later gathered together to loosely form the flow of a novel about the former slaves, servants and tenants of the McCaslin plantation (17 miles from Jefferson) and how their history influenced young Isaac McCaslin (direct heir to the property of his Grandfather) to renounce his inheritance and assume a modest role in town, living on a small stipend, till near 80. (Considered very old in 1940).

"The Bear" is one of Faulkner's most well regarded works; I don't know how you read that story without the context of the preceding tales in this book.

"Was" tells the love story of Tomey's Turl and his future wife, Tennie Beauchamp; the sad but hilarious way they got to be together, as slaves on neighboring plantations just prior to the Civil War.
Their descendants are important characters in subsequent stories.

Except for the tragedy of young Rider in "Pantaloon in Black". The excellent young worker is simply a tenant on the McCaslin place and has an important, well paying job at the sawmill, until grief becomes his undoing.

Great Book. It was dedicated to Caroline Barr, "Aunt Cally", Faulkner's own childhood nanny, whose house is shown above, along with the old kitchen building from Rowan Oak in Jefferson...no, Oxford MS. Aunt Cally lived to be fully 100 years old, died in 1940.

I also reread "The Reivers", Faulkner's swan song. This was made into a crappy movie in 1969 which I refused to see even then. Whoever thought tiny Steve McQueen should portray Six Foot Four Boon Hoganbeck? I know, box office.

Aunt Cally appears as Lucius Priest's nanny in the story, which is, after all, a reminiscence.

Having recently read "Where the Red Fern Grows", it was interesting the similarities between the two little boys in either story; both saving up to buy themselves some hunting dogs in 1905, and getting into a peck of trouble on the way.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The final Resting Place of Wm. Faulkner and his wife, Estelle




As evidenced by empty liquor bottle and shot cups left graveside, people visit to drink a toast...or just tipple. He'd probably approve.  He was not a perfect person, not a perfect writer; but the body of his work adds up to "the Great American novel", in my opinion.