The One Western Everyone Loves
I know a Good Story / January 30, 2015

I grew up during TV’s golden age of westerns and I hated every minute of them.  Those were the days of three networks (four if the cloud ceiling was low enough to bring in PBS) and twenty eight hours of prime time programming every week. On the year I was born there were thirty westerns on television.  If you do the math and remember most westerns were an hour long, (except The Virginian, which was 90 minutes) you’ll realize that almost half of the shows aired during family viewing time had rifles, spurs and bonnets in every episode.  The Duke was still alive and the go-to movie actor for many dads and Lois L’Amour sold enough paperbacks to deforest a small continent.  We were flooded with westerns, inundated with the damn things and it’s probably why my friends became comic book and sci-fi fans.  We couldn’t take one more stone-faced guy blowing the black-hats away and then saying, “Shucks, twarn’t nothing, ma’am.”  It would take an incredible yarn to make us trade our phasers for a horse and a great story is what we got.  Everyone loves Lonesome Dove, and it is a western, but a western that breaks the…

Sophie’s Choice
I know a Good Story / January 28, 2015

Google remembered the liberation of Auschwitz today.  For those who grew up in the latter half of the twentieth century, Auschwitz is the edge of a remembered nightmare, a disaster our parents and grandparents witnessed and passed in their memories to us.  My mother saw the newsreels of the liberation as a child and the images haunted her forever but some of my friends were even closer to the tragedy.  One college friend’s great-aunt was a survivor of the camps and when I met the lady, I marveled that this happy cookie-jar of a woman had faced such evil and still lived so joyfully, dancing with a tattooed number on her arm.  Another friend was the child of camp survivors who married after the liberation and their tenacity and PTSD were visible in her character.  Auschwitz left a lifetime of suffering and long memories in its wake and those of us not directly affected have been trying to grasp the motives and magnitude of the Holocaust ever since.  This is the role more and more of the world has moved into over the last seventy years and it’s a role William Styron talked about in his novel, Sophie’s Choice. Styron…

The Lessons of Loss and Sid Halley in Odds Against
I know a Good Story / January 25, 2015

Most people think you can’t learn much from popular fiction. I disagree.  For one thing, so many of the “classics” people revere were popular tales in their day and for stories to sell, they must have an emotional appeal. Either story is sensational, in the titillation sense, or it resounds with the reader.  Since the thriller novels of Dick Francis weren’t exceptionally sexy or gory, there was something besides the entertainment of the stories that kept readers coming back.  One of the continuing themes in his stories was coming to terms with loss and because he wrote about this well, readers kept returning.  It was a subject Dick Francis could speak on with authority. Francis had success as a jockey, although he lost his fair share of races, including the failure of Devon Loch in the home stretch of the Grand National.  To win so many races and ride for the royal family and then lose that race for those owners because your horse falls in the home stretch must be devastating. Not long afterwards, Francis retired from racing, still a young man but unable to pursue the career he loved because of one too many injuries.  These experiences became…

When reading leaves you in need of a doctor.
I know a Good Story / January 22, 2015

I’ve said that books are friends that move with you and I’ve got a few that have  done that for years.  From high school to college, to the Air Force, then marriage and apartment to house, about 100 stories have followed me around the country in boxes and trunks. My husband swears they’ll get packed into my coffin.  That’s fine with me.  I can spend an eternity with M*A*S*H. Okay, for anyone whose read this far, if you know the TV series M*A*S*H but not the book, withhold your judgment.   Same deal if you know the movie but never picked up Richard Hooker’s novel.  If you haven’t read the book, you don’t know M*A*S*H and you can’t really appreciate how the story morphed from one incarnation to the next.   I know all three and they are different.  I loved the series, I never miss a chance to re-watch the movie but the book….the first time I read it, I nearly ruptured myself laughing. The time is spring of 1976 and I’ve just undergone an unexpected appendectomy.   My best friend had left me some post-op paperbacks to while away the recovery time with (those were the days when people recovered in…

For those who love to read aloud…..
I know a Good Story / January 20, 2015

There’s something wonderful about discovering a new book.  It makes you feel like you have this great, golden, wonderful secret and you want to run up hill and down dale spilling the news.   At least it’s that way for me.  Nellie Forbush can sing all she wants about her wonderful guy but I need to start a parade:  I’ve found a wonderful book.   If you have children, go get this one because you’ll want it.   If you don’t have children, get it anyway and rent some kids to read it to because this book (besides being wonderful, scary, hilarious and thrilling) begs to be read out loud.   Seriously.   This is a fabulous read-aloud book. Ready? The Book is A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz and yes, it’s a salute to the Brothers Grimm.   As the narrator points out, fairytales these days have no resemblance to their dark and lovely ancestors once published by the Brothers Grimm.   Somebody else retold the story (and changed a few things) then someone else repeated the procedure, ad nauseum, ad infinitum until Disney got ahold of it and really turned the tale into literary pablum.   A shot of boredom, straight to the solar…

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