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


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, 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.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Day Spent in Oxford, MS: University town; home and inspiration to William Faulkner.

If you are a reader of the works of William Faulkner, to see the monument and town square of  real world Oxford is to be transported to 19th and early 20th Century "Jefferson", even with today's cars.
In "The Reivers", Grandfather's car was one of only two in town in 1905. Today, the square is packed with traffic.

During his life, some in the town did not wholly approve of Faulkner, especially due to a shocking little book called "Sanctuary"(shocking for the time, sadly; today the story is all to familiar from any days' news.) But his body of work is expansive and deep, his words ring true with tearful sadness all the way to rollicking humor--sometimes in the same sentence! This statue of Faulkner will keep you company with you sit next to him on the bench on the square.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Tanglefoot Trail goes through Pontotoc, MS.

After returning from Los Angeles, we stayed briefly at home, then drove off to Mississippi so Hubsy could bike the lovely trails offered by this state. I was just as interested in exploring places I'd never been before.

Pontotoc is a county seat town of about 6 thousand friendly people in North Miss'ippy, full of
photo-ops. While the others biked the Tanglefoot Trail, I explored the bustling little town. It has a rich history.

In some places, the sidewalks simply followed the curvature of the land; evocative entrance.

 Neat old neon side still remains, though the storefront is currently another business.

Ghost sign's trying to come back to life.

There once was a railroad through the town, of course, with passenger service (that is now the bike trail). So the red brick building looks like a nicely preserved but decommissioned downtown hotel. There is evidence of renovation going on within.

I met a dozen or so very hospitable people during the day, as I chose to stop and engage: a very elderly African American lady, high in her 90's (like a vision of a latter-day Callie Barr from a reference in a Faulkner book), another elderly person, a retired policeman in his 80's, now driving a golf cart to assist and protect those riding the Tanglefoot Trail (his wife of many decades recently passed away, it underscored the difficulty faced by elderly widowers who did not expect to survive there wives. Bittersweet), and a family group of lovely and energetic ladies at a bake sale raising funds for a trip to Florida for students' cheer leading composition. Bonuses! I found a new FB Friend and her young daughter won a major event, as it turned out!

Structures like this all around the town. Sorry I did not photograph a massive "cotton compression" building near what used to be the rail line.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Two (Much Better!) Books.

Several years ago, I happened upon an illustrated copy of "Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes" by Robert Louis Stevenson; I raved and resolved to read more of this classic author.

Lately, I found a copy of "The Black Arrow", a late medieval romp through the English War of the Roses. Written in Victorian times, it must have been a sensation, since it featured a young noble woman dressing as a young boy to escape a fiendish guardian (about to marry her off to another villain for money, while he also steals her rightful legacy). Similar outrages are done to the hero, young Dick Shelton; he was orphaned by this evil guardian (adapt at manipulating laws, in a lawless time.) Of course, Dick and Lady Joanna are destined for one another.

Once your eye adapts to the "Shakespeare-lite" dialogue, in contrast with the more modern Victorian style test, it's a breeze.

It doesn't matter about the plot, "good" eventually prevails. Stevenson's writing crams so much action, drama, image, natural scenery, emotion and intrigue into short little paragraphs; it is amazing what talent he possessed. He died young, that's sad. No wonder the entire world mourned his death.

I know how I missed "Christy" by Catherine Marshall (published 1967) all these years. The marketing for the book made it "feel" like a "Sound of Music"-plot; it seemed like it would be sappy.

But I found a copy and approached it with new eyes. Considering the book is already half a century old and relates the experiences of a young volunteer teacher in East Tennessee 50 years before that, the story is remarkably fresh and current-feeling. The author died in the 1980's.

Christy wants to be independent, not just hang around her wealthy family in Asheville, NC until she marries a local scion and settles down. So she takes on the teaching assignment in the back country and is greatly challenged by the difference between her expectations and the reality; the hardships.

If you ever were tempted to skip vaccinations for infectious diseases like typhoid, this book will remind you why these diseases were a scourge and best avoided!

Of course there is some romance; she has so much to learn. Most people my age have read this book if they are interested; younger readers who like romance, coming of age and history would enjoy the story.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

I'm Inspired by the Vibrancy of the Resurgence of Downtown Los Angeles.

Old buildings with new street art and graffiti each time we visit. This is near The LA Cafe, our most favorite morning coffee place on Spring St.

All kinds of people and activity going on at all times of day and night.

Old, iconic buildings of legacy LA, renovated!

Oodles of brand new, large construction projects everywhere you turn!

One of the nicest newer examples of street murals I noticed! Wow.