“Just be yourself!” That is horrible advice. The “self” is a moving target. We constantly evaluate and re-define who we are. Our “personality” changes every time we get new input from what we hear from others and from what we tell ourselves in response to events. Usually, we’re not even aware that we’re re-thinking our […]
“A Christmas Carol” Dance Lessons
‘Tis the Season! For forgiveness, generosity, renewal! So, of course, we’re going to talk about A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol is a thin book, a novella really, that has resurfaced in many iterations: the 1938 movie with the Lockhart family as the Cratchits; the 1951 Alastair Sims version; and friend Laurie’s favorite, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas […]
i sleep with other people’s dogs
A guest review by Susan Caba Susan Caba is a writer who has been house – and dog – sitting around the country for the past few years, caring for beloved pets while their human companions travel. She and her son read many dog-focused books when he was a child, including Where the Red Fern […]
Who’s ready for a GOOD NEWS review? Yeah, me too!
For my birthday, Bill got me The Metropolitan Opera Murders by Helen Traubel. He knows I love opera, and I love murder mysteries. I have written about both. How did these two loves bring me to write this essay extoling the goodness of libraries? Well, read on!
Role Models: In Books and in Life
Scooch over, Lizzie Bennet and Jo March. Make room for Becky Paulson. For decades, my favorite literary role models have been Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice and Jo of Little Women. Both lived in the 19th century, Lizzie in England and Jo in New England. I admire them for their smarts, independence, and if the term is not too old-fashioned, “goodness.” […]
Black and White and Yellow
“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.” Debate continues about this line from the 1974 noir movie Chinatown. Interpretations include: You are in over your head. Things don’t make sense. You can’t win. In Chinatown. How should Chinese people consider this comment? Are we different? Charles Yu explores the question of being Asian in America in his National Book Award-winning novel Interior […]
State of Terror, the political thriller by Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny, is a satisfying romp. Sticking close to her bailiwick, Clinton casts her heroine, Ellen Adams, as the US Secretary of State. Ellen’s girlhood friend, Betsy, functions as her Counselor. I googled whether Secretaries of State really had Counselors. Yes, they do. Both women […]
Highway driving used to be like playing Pac-Man. I’d catch up to a car and gobble it up, or at least put it in my rear view. When did I get so timid? Fearful, even? Bill had already packed the car. We left at St. Louis at 8:15, only fifteen minutes late. For once, we […]
I’ve been thinking about death. Why? Could it be because US Covid deaths are closing in on three quarters of a million lives? Could it be because I’m 74 years old, and I’ve already lived the bulk of my life? Could it be that, just this week, I’ve had to write condolence notes to two friends? […]
Believe Your Beloved
Relationships are hard, Covid or no Covid. Many of us have squeezed into too-close quarters going on a year and a half. We assumed at the start of Covid that our enforced togetherness was make-shift, temporary. With the delta surge and vaccine-resistance, normality keeps retreating into the future. But, it’s not too late – or […]
Do We Really Know?
In 1960, we eighth-graders at St. Raphael’s Catholic school took a series of standardized tests. Solemnly, Sister Cyprian went desk to desk handing each student a multipage test booklet and a number two pencil. We were tested on language and math skills, and I don’t remember what else. For inexplicable reasons, the results came to […]
Remembrances of Just a Little While Ago
“Oh, it’s heavenly,” I said to Bill, as I bite into a piece of the piping hot lemon bread. The corners of the loaf were just this side of burnt, a bit of crust. The top had a sweet drizzle in contrast to the moist citrusy inside. (I associate this level of moistness with butter […]
Nothing fits! I tossed and turned. I was losing sleep over … the elections? Corona? Hurricanes and wildfires? No, no and no. I had just finished reading John Banville’s Snow, ostensibly a murder mystery, and my mind was churning over why I felt so unsatisfied. I started the book on election day because I needed distraction […]
Brilliant! Excellent! Amazing!
“We need to think about how to get you more readers.” Laurie says this like a dear aunt who might be concerned about a teenager’s grades or her social life. “I know, I know.” I bleat. We’ve had versions of this conversation for over a year. Why bother writing book reviews with a personal take […]
Food! Glorious Food!
Magic happens when dough meets sizzling oil. Donuts! Funnel cake! Churros! Indian fry bread! For us Chinese, it’s youtiao, or in English, OIL STICKS. What’s not to love? I’ve had a hankering for the foods of my Shanghai and Hong Kong childhood. Covid lockdown has made me nostalgic for, well, almost anything pre-Covid. Also, Incensed: A Taipei Night […]
We❤️ Our Grandkids
She wore clothes that I had only seen on servants: light blue tunic, dark pants and cloth shoes. She was short, almost squat. The nape-length hair went straight across. She wore no make-up. Her appearance was a sharp contrast to that of my mom and her lady friends. They wore tailored, silk qipao. They dabbed on lipstick […]
I can let my hair go gray! I haven’t seen my hair in its native state for two decades. I can catch up on my 23 episodes of This is Us and, coincidentally, my 23 episodes of Call the Midwife on my DVR. In what is the opposite of binge watching, I watch these shows […]
Love and Nordic Noir
Human desires are fickle. Human needs are constant. I am not trying to sound philosophical or profound. It’s just the conclusion I came to after my two-week vacation in Florida. *** “Another f***ing day of sunshine.” I can’t believe those words popped out of my mouth as I squinted at the bar of glary light […]
Willa Cather, Greta Thunberg and Me
Willa Cather’s novel about pioneer life in Nebraska — My Antonia — was published a century ago in 1918. This book casts a nostalgic look at the Midwestern prairie at the time it was being turned into farmlands and towns. Men and women from America and from Europe, primarily Eastern Europe, struggled to make a […]
No Tickee, No Shirtee
I recently reread Robert van Gulik’s The Emperor’s Pearl: A Judge Dee Mystery to see if his depictions of Chinese culture still rang true. This book is one of a series of mysteries set in 7th century China about a crime-solving magistrate. When I first encountered these books as a teenager in St. Louis in […]