Archive for the ‘Literary’ Category


The Invitation – “One You Can’t Refuse” by Anne Cheiran

April 19, 2016

John and his dog, Spanky, review books, movies, DVDs, etc.


JOHN: Neither Spanky nor I are from India, but the conflicts between different generations and the disappointments, not only of a Harvard student who doesn’t want to continue or a MIT graduate who wants to become a cook, seem manifestations of what my parents must have felt.

SPANKY: And you, yourself, with their aspirations imprinted on you.

JOHN: I liked the book’s format, the simple structure of expectation, an event that brings all of the participants together (with a few surprises). It seems to really fit the many relationships.

SPANKY: Sometimes the number of people is confusing, but the near-death of a loser cousin at the graduation party makes everyone appreciate what to value in life: life.

JOHN: And readers will experience that too; in a way the Indian background of some of the characters makes this easier to do because that background seems so different from that of readers.

SPANKY: But the problems they face, we all face, are not remote at all and this book is a fine opportunity to place these problems in perspective. I give it five barks out of five.

JOHN: And I, five rosebuds.




A Man of Genius – “Wright, Not Done Wrong”

April 14, 2016

A Man of Genius by Lynn Rosen

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John and his dog, Spanky, review books, movies, DVDs, etc.

JOHN: Emotional conflicts of historic characters are not necessarily true, but, as humans, we know they are there. Rosen creates a fictional character that looks, talks and acts like Frank Lloyd Wright (“a small man with the mass of hair, clothed in a cape, and odd hat, who, when out of doors, was always holding a walking stick in a gloved hand. He presented a dramatic, dynamic figure, never at rest.”).

SPANKY: Of course he’s an architect who acknowledges a symbiotic relationship between man and his environment.

JOHN: His attorney friend writing this, is in italics and says stuff like, “It is generally accepted tat the past controls the pathway to our understanding of the present…I’ve now sat for many weeks refining Carlyle’s tale with my memories filling in the voids.” I think this is an elaborate way for Rosen to tell a fictionalized tale of a real event and a real man.

SPANKY: Which becomes very confusing because of the many characters she presents.

JOHN: Yes, but it does provide a longer time frame, and added suspense at the end.

SPANKY: The architect falls in love with a young mistress who looks like his wife once did. The wife confronts the mistress and one of them is murdered (along with two sisters who die in the architect’s fire to cover things up.

JOHN: We aren’t sure which person the survivor is (thanks to the general confusion you mentioned earlier. So after his death we are left with the dilemma of the man’s public reputation and personal indiscretion.

SPANKY: As we are with Frank Lloyd Wright. The supposed author says: It is the rare person who has the capability to explore down to the heart of the matter.

JOHN: But that is exactly what Lynn Rosen does in this book.

SPANKY: I give it fiver barks out of five.

JOHN: And I, five rosebuds.




The Art of Peeling an Orange – “Love and Lust”

November 22, 2015


The Art of Peeling an Orange by Victoria Avilan

This is a difficult book to comment on.

A woman is deserted by her fiancé the day they are to be married. He eventually dies and she angrily confronts the woman he deserted her for, a famous author. Later she falls in love with her and discovers the author is blind.

Why is this hard? For a man there are many lesbian scenes that are very explicit (perhaps why the book was free on Kindle), but for me it was the idea of seeing art through the eyes of others and doing it for that insight rather than satisfying your own ego.

I found the setting and characters hard to follow in this modern retelling of Orpheus Descending, yet the answers to the questions it raises are critical.

I read it to the end, and maybe that is the answer, we have to live the conflict both through the book and within our own lives.

4 out of 5


And the Mountains Echoed – “Truth”

June 22, 2015


And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini 

 This is a hard book to read. Not only are names confusing (a daughter named after a lost sister) but also it is filled with much pain. Unresolved pain we want a Hollywood ending to change. But that doesn’t happen, at least not in a way we expect.

Khaled Hosseini is a wonderful writer who doesn’t let his readers off easy. I can honestly say I learned things about living in Afghanistan that I would rather not believe are true, but know they are. Does that mean I would recommend this to others, reread it myself, look for other books by the author? No, let’s pretend life is simple. That people come through for each other, that…. But once we know what it’s like, we can’t pretend.

Believe in fairy tales. It is easier. The trouble with reading is that sometimes we discover the truth.

5 out of 5_edited-1


Message from a Blue Jay – “Please Watch Where You FLy”

June 15, 2015

Blue Jay

by Faye Rapoport DesPres

A friend wrote a book of poems called What the Postcard Didn’t Say and I think it could be an excellent title for this book. On one side of a card we get a beautiful picture of a mountain sunrise or Kensington Gardens or a blossoming flower with a caterpillar winding up its stalk. But on the other is a handwritten message revealing much more: what it is like go grow old, to have a mother-in-law who hates you dying of cancer, to be childless.

I found the contrasts in this book very moving and It caused me to think of the ups and downs of my own life: prostate cancer, divorce, bankruptcy. Easy to gloss over but at the time agonizing. DesPres writes: “No life is fully shared. Loneliness is always waiting, like the water beneath the wooden plank that Ralph placed over the creek.”

This is not easy writing to read, but sooner or later we all have to face up to the other side. This author provides the right mechanism to do just that.

PS Be sure to read her FB entries at the end. I have long believed writing let’s us live life more fully. But it is not all intense, like the finished product. Some of it is listening to the conversation at other tables in Panera’s.



Deviations – Unexpected

May 25, 2015


Deviations by Mike Markel

Usually I can tell without looking if a book is written by a man or a woman. But this one starts with a female narrator on the skids. Fired, an alcoholic. Sleeping around. Only when she is rehired and goes after some neo Nazis does the plot move from emotional to cataclysmic. The police and political procedures are credible. I particularly liked the behind-the-scenes university stuff. And at the end Detective Seagate does go beyond the primary crime’s solution.

I knew a neo-Nazi when I grew up in Chicago (a real jerk) and just wanted that part left buried anyway.

A male writer isn’t afraid to trash his main character (and her Mormon partner), but though this is part of a series, I would have liked to see more of a personal resolution for the female narrator (a female author would have provided that). But I guess that is what keeps us going to the next book. Anyway, I am out of Montana for awhile.

3 out of 5_edited-1


Intensive Therapy – “The Doctor Is In”

April 16, 2015

Intensive Therapy by Jeffrey Deitz


This is a long, complex book. It starts with multiple characters over multiple years. At the heart are patient/physician relationships.

I was intrigued because I discovered Freud in college and the book highlights interactions we tend to overlook in treatment.

I like the short chapters and the juxtaposition of past and present (though at first I found this difficult to keep straight). But life goes on and from pages 150 to 200 this book gets really intense. Read the rest of this entry ?