Saturday, September 29, 2012

FADE by Robert Cormier

Finished Sa 9/29/12

My Post at Good Reads-

This is an engrossing, yet disturbing read. The novel turns on a character who has the ability to become invisible, "The Fade", but it is not at all a book about someone with fantasy 'super powers'. 

FADE is very much an example of Transgressive Fiction in that it deals extensively with taboo subject matters such as, sex, violence, incest, pedophilia, and crime.

The novel is divided into a few sections that occur at different times, and feature different narrators.

It is very unusual that the gift of invisibility would be presented as a liability or a curse, and I think that this fact alone is enough to read the novel. I really liked the book, but it's grim and bleak, and the novel ends on a note of almost melodramatic desperation.

My notes:

This is the first in an attempt to read books from my collection rather than checking out books from the library.

The novel is divided into several sections, but it is about a gifted writer who tells of his ability to disappear, or  'Fade'.
PAUL is the first section-
Relates the story of a photograph where his uncle disappears. Tells of his experiences with 'the fade'. At first, he is not aware that he is invisible. At a Klan rally a drunken klansman is right in front of him, fails to see him, but Paul assumes that the man was just drunk. And, one time a bully chases him, and he unconsciously made himself invisible to escape. Paul blames Toubert for the labor riot where his father was stabbed, and this is one of the reasons that he stabs him. The section ends with the murder, and one line about the death of Bernard.
Paul Roget (He uses the name Paul Moreaux in his fictional stories). Novelist and short story writer. BRUISES IN PARADISE. Died in 1967 at the age of 42.
Uncle Adelard- Paul's uncle who also had the ability to fade. The power is passed from Uncle to Nephew, and they are not sure where it began or where. The novel is set in Frenchtown in Monument, MA. The characters are French Canadian.
Armand- Paul's older brother, and he becomes active in the labor union at the comb factory where his father is a union official. His uncle is also involved in the union.
Bernard- The youngest brother of Paul who dies of a congenital heart ailment. Paul blames himself when he stabs local gangster, Rudolphe Toubert, to death. This man ran the town's paper-routes and was a lover of his aunt, Rosanna. This woman was the love of Paul's life.

SUSAN is the next section-
Susan Roget is a cousin of Paul Roget, and she is working in the publishing field and is given the manuscript that we have just read. She wonders (with her boss, Meredith Martin) whether this is a fictional work, or is the Fade something real.

PAUL is another short section in which Paul continues his story, and tells of how his sister, Rose, gave up a child for adoption. He has felt that there is another Fader out there, and this would be his nephew, so he realizes that he must locate this child of Rose's. She tells him that it was a Catholic institution in Ramsey, Maine. He wants to help this child deal with the power like his uncle Adelard was not able to do for him.

OZZIE (Oscar Slater) is the penultimate section, and this is the child of Rose who has the power, but doesn't understand anything. He was given up for adoption, and ended up in an abusive family. His mother was an Irish alcoholic, and his stepfather (who gave him the name 'Slater') beat him regularly, and destroyed his nose. Now he always sniffles, and the nose does not look natural. He now lives with the nuns, and he is close to the nun that helped his real mother when she gave him up. Her name is Sister Anunciata.

He is friends with the village drunkard, Old Man Pindar. He later kills this man, or 'the voice' inside has him kill Pindar. Paul locates Ozzie, meets with him, and finally must stab him to death. Paul had made a promise that he would not use the power after killing Toubert. Ozzie makes him demonstrate The Fade, but Ozzie's voices have gotten the upper hand, and Paul kills him in self defense. Ozzie was attempting to strangle him.

SUSAN is the final chapter, and she finds that no such orphanage exists in Maine, but she does find an incident in which students and teachers were burned to death at a school dance, and there was an unexplained explosion at a chemical plant in Sherwood, NY. She doesn't know what to do about these incidents, and the novel ends.

"And I don't know what to do about it
God, I don't know wht to do"

Robert Cormier was a journalist and known for controversial books for young adults. Wrote I AM THE CHEESE. Also, made into a movie. Born in Leominster, MA, and still resides there.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Finished Mo 9/25/12
Link to Wikipedia

My post on Good Reads-

One of the best written biographies of Addiction. I think that what sets this one apart is that Jerry Stahl was an unlikely candidate for habitual dependency. He was a Pushcart award winner, and a talented man who seemed destined for success and wrote for several very successful television shows. Yet his book eloquently uncovers his dark and twisted motivations, and the reader is treated to a front row seat to his utterly wretched downfall. Jerry Stahl seemed to have had it all, yet Jerry Stahl turns into his own worst enemy.

The prose is incisive and penetrating, and also reveals his rather sordid and seedy view of the life of a professional writer. Sometimes Staal's insights are darkly hysterical, and bitterly sarcastic.

Friday, September 21, 2012

SHOW ME THE MAGIC by Paul Mazursky

Finished Th 9/20/12

Link to Wikipedia

My post at Good Reads-

An enjoyable biography about one of the most popular directors in Hollywood. The title of the book goes on to list around fifty celebrities that he knew and worked with, so, without a doubt, the man is 'connected'. The book is chock full of personal anecdotes, and the sections in the book where he describes his experiences with Peter Sellers and Shelley Winters are priceless.

The book gives you a real peek at what it was like to work in America's entertainment industry from the 1950's to the 90's. Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1930 Mazursky's first acting gig just happened to be Stanley Kubrick's first film, FEAR AND DESIRE, and he continued to act in film and television for over four decades. He also wrote for TV, especially The Danny Kaye Show, and many other series, and also he enjoyed a fairly successful career as a stand-up comedian.

The first film that he wrote was, I LOVE YOU ALICE B. TOKLAS, and in 1969 he directed the classic, BOB & TED & CAROL & ALICE. I think that all of his films are worth a look, and my two 'MUST SEE' films are, AN UNMARRIED WOMAN and HARRY AND TONTO.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

STATE OF WONDER by Ann Patchett

Finished Tu 9/18/12

Contemporary Book Club pick for September 2012

Marina Sing- Doctor at Vogel Company, Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Father was Indian. Has a complex about him leaving her-he did. In an affair with Jim Fox, head of Vogel.

Anders Eckman- Missing in Amazon and was sent to find out the status of the work on a drug to keep women fertile for life. He is married to Karen, and has three young boys. Worked in the same lab with Marina for seven years, and probably makes a bit more in salary than she does.

Dr. Swenson- Head of the study in the Amazon and professor at Johns Hopkins. Marina was an advanced student of hers, and left the program when she preformed a Cesarean, and blinded the child.  Dr. Swenson was in love with Dr. Rapp, the original head of the expedition.

Chapter 9, p. 253 The discussion of how the tree and the mushrooms work.

Jackie and Barbara Bovender- Live in Manaus and are supposed to keep out inquisitive people into the expedition.

Manaus- nearest town to the Lakashi.

The Saturns- Dr. Alan and Dr. Nancy. Nancy is sometimes referred to as 'Saturn Two'. Two doctors on the expedition.

Easter- twelve year old boy who is deaf and probably from the headhunter tribe who live near the Lakashi tribe.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Finished Th 9/13/12

My post at Good Reads-

A fairly interesting Murder Mystery with a female protagonist, but this has been done many times before by many different authors. It's pretty familiar territory all the way from the Nancy Drew series, through V.I. Warshawski and Sue Grafton. If you are a fan of these type of novels, GETTING LUCKY is right up your alley.
The novel is set in a fictional suburb of Chicago,  Fowler, Illinois. However, there really is a Fowler, but it is in downstate Illinois just west of Beardstown and almost to Quincy, IL.

Set in Fowler, IL-  A fictional Chicago suburb. Fowler is actually west of Beardstown near Quincy.

My notes:

Robyn Guthrie- Stringer for "Fowler News and Record", Bix- her dog; mother, Lizze, with beginning dementia, and lives in Dryden Manor (semi-nursing home). Nita- editor at The Record.

Mick- Ex-jockey and boyfriend of Robyn. They are on the outs about whether or not to have a baby.

Clair Powell- Hit and Run victim while walking her dog, Scoop. It was really a murder, she knew information about toxic land deal.

Kurt Vrana- Kind of a 'Green Peace' undercover agent. Friend of Clair, and helps solve the case.

Gretchen- Mick's secretary and trying to end her career as an escort. Her sister works as a nurse on the night shift. She takes Scoop, Clair's dog, and has a client (Joe Kendrick) die on her (heart attack). Mick, Kat, and Robyn take the body and park the car, and make it look like he died while trying to reach a hospital.

Glenn Patchen- He is the architect on the Green Project, "Cedar Ridge". Alcoholic and he hit Clair while drunk and left the scene.

Joseph Kendrick- He is one of the investors of the Cedar Ridge project.
Working with Ed (Lucky) Leoni who is an obnoxious mob figure who first purchased the land that was poisoned with dioxins. Mercedes is his obnoxious daughter, and Tabitha is his very nice wife. She is the daughter of a prominent  mob figure, Christopher Grecco. He's friends with Mick, and Mick and Robyn go to his house at the end of the novel. Lucky enters witness protection, and his daughter and granddaughter are free of Lucky.
Katherine (Kat) Kendricks- Married to Joseph and she went to high school with Robyn. She snubbed Robyn and was in the popular group at the school.

Mary Alice Tucker- She and her two sons bought a townhouse at Cedar Ridge. Robyn concocts a scheme so that she doesn't lose her money.
-----They use Vrana to propose that the original investors buy back the property so that they can then invest in a large casino operation. The casino deal doesn't go to them, but they have repaid Cedar Development.

Monday, September 10, 2012

BORDER RUN by Simon Lewis

Finished Su 9/9/12

My entry at Good Reads-

This is a rather slim novel that I read in one afternoon, and is a fast-paced Action piece without a lot of character development or background. The plot is simple. Two young men are on vacation near the Chinese/Myanmar border, and meet a local drifter who suggests that they come with him to a scenic area that is known only to the locals. Events rapidly spin out of control. First, there is trouble with local border authorities, and a policeman is accidentally (?) killed. Now, the three men must make an immediate plan of action, and the novel demonstrates how ethics get discarded after the first felony, and cover-ups only quicken the downward ethical spiral.

BORDER RUN is a pleasant diversion, and offers some insight into how 'normal' men change in ways that they would never imagine as they deal with situations that are far beyond their experience. This novel would make an excellent film.

My notes:
Jake- Suggests the trip and kills the cop with the cross-bow. He seems the most 'ethically challenged' of the two friends.
Will- Seems to be on the trip to try and patch things up with his girlfriend, Jessica. He reluctantly agrees to the side-trip, yet not aware of any potential criminality, but doesn't seek anything beyond the ordinary 'tourist' attractions. He has a camera and seems to take on the role of a voyeur, and prefers this barrier to the action.
Howard- He is the local who suggests the trip to Jake, and, at first, it appears that he might be a very evil character, however, he is probably only a local White Guy (claims Canadian citizenship, but that could have been a lie), who is trying to get along any way that he can. He is a smuggler, and when it is first presented you imagine him dealing in pounds of heroin, but actually he is a petty operator and taking live animals across the border. He's quite a bit older than Will and Jake, and this might be why he seems 'badder'. However, a lot of his advice just seems more realistic, and he has been living with the locals for some time.
'Pangolins' are like armadillos and the scales are used in medicine, and Howard sells them to restaurants and people claim that the pangolins add a 'wild flavor'.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Finished Su 9/9/12

Delia Grinstead is more or less 'happily married', but subconsciously she is aware that her family is taking her for granted, and something's got to change. She isn't aware that things are quite that bad, until one day while on family vacation to the seashore, she just walks away, and starts a new life. What's great about the novel is that because Delia isn't really cognizant of the true significance of her motivations or actions, you really feel as if you are sharing in Delia's adventure as it happens to her.

And, as in all of Anne Tyler's novels, it's packed with an abundance of well-written and off-beat characters. I loved this book, and I never knew what was going to happen next, and neither did Delia. I think you could call this book a 'Coming of Age Tale For Middle Agers'.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

FREE TO TRADE by Michael Ridpath

Finished Tu 9/4/12

A very tepid murder mystery which is set in the high-pressure world of the London Bond Market. I expected to get some kind of insight into the workings of global financial markets, but came away with little new information, and the nefarious incidents in the novel were cluttered with very predictable 'red herrings' and fairly obvious villains.

Paul Murray is an ex-Olympic runner and works for London investment traders, De Jong & Co. He uncovers a very byzantine, complicated, and possibly illegal bond deal shortly after one of his co-workers, Debbie Chater, dies in an accident/murder/or suicide. He travels to New York and Phoenix to conferences, and tries to uncover information about the millions lost on this bond trade, and to try to determine what happened to Debbie.

Although the Bond Market setting for this novel is a fresh idea, the construction, writing, and story-line has been done before with more pleasing results. Now, Michael Ridpath sets his novels in Scandinavia, and has completely departed from the financial world, and I read his novel, WHERE THE SHADOWS LIE, and I really enjoyed it. Maybe he's found his niche.

My notes:

Hamilton, Murray's boss at De Jong arranged the deal, killed Chater. He's ruthless and cares only about 'deals'. Murray is able to recover the money that the firm would have lost through a series of transactions that were almost too complicated to follow.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Finished Su 9/2/12

My post on Good Reads:

A very enjoyable story about a man who loses his family, and finds himself.

Smithson Ides's father and mother are killed in a car accident, and within hours of the funeral he learns that his missing schizophrenic sister has been located, and her remains are in a funeral home in Venice, California. Then, in spite of his addiction to alcohol and his morbidly obese physical condition, Smithson finds himself on his Raleigh bicycle heading West to California to 'save' his sister one final time.

I just loved this novel, and McLarty's characters are very finely presented, and they are one-of-a-kind personalities that don't seem like any other fictional creations. I read his novel, THE DROPPER, and it just didn't seem to work for me. But, THE MEMORY OF RUNNING might be my 'new' favorite Road Novel of all time!
My notes-

Smithson Ides- Named for Robert Smithson, shortstop for Cincinnati Redlegs who in 1884 made the first double play in baseball.
Bethany- His sister who suffers from schizophrenia.
Norna Mulvey- Next door neighbor that always loved Smithy. Bea is Norma's mother
Raleigh/Moto- Two brands of Smithy's bikes

Smithy loses his father and mother in a traffic accident while they are returning from a vacation cabin.
Wa Ryan's souped-up Volkswagen Beetle hit Norma, and she's paralyzed from waist down and in
Orlando Cepeda- Puerto Rican soldier that was killed when Smithy took a piss while on patrol in Vietnam. They were standing together by a river, and the Viet Cong homed in on the noise of the piss hitting leaves.

Norma talks with Smithy at the funeral home and mentions all the letters that she sent him when he was in the hospital for his 21 bullet wounds, but he doesn't seem to remember (or, maybe he never got them).

Count and Paula- Smithy's aunt and uncle. Count is nearly 300 pounds, has severe heart problems, and loves telling off color jokes. They had a beagle (Wiggy), and Bethany killed it and put it in their freezer the night before her wedding.

Just when Smithy comes back to his parents house after the funeral there is a letter from Los Angeles saying that Bethany, 51 had died of exposure and she was at the morgue in Venice. She had been gone for years.

Smithy rides his childhood Raleigh and ends up in the river. Saved by Father Benny Gallo. He's a priest that made some sexual remarks to a woman over the phone, and now is only an assistant priest. The gay priests were promoted. His bike is tuned and repairs, and the priest even gives him clothes. This is where Smithy decides to take the bike trip to California to get Bethany's remains.

Bethany dates a thug and goes to the prom with this guy and a friend and his date. Bethany puts him in the trunk and drives away. Bobby Meyers, her date, is brought up on rape/assault charges.

Smithy calls Norma to tell his job he won't be in. He works in a factory that makes action figures. It is a dull and pointless career.

On his cross country trip Smithy reads novels about the Old West. 'Iggy' a black cowboy, and 'Ringo' one armed one legged cowboy.'Suzanne of the Aspens'-Pioneer woman loses husband and son, but manages during the winter and befriends the Indians and never gives up.

Dr. Glenn Golden- One of Bethany's shrinks and this guy does as little as possible. Likes golf....a lot.

Bill Butler- Black soldier that saved Smithy after he was shot. Later in the novel Smithy bikes to East St. Louis to visit him, but he is gone and a wino and speaks with Bill's wife and son. Smithy almost gets shot by the son who hates his father for being a drunk and abandoning the family.

Carl Greenleaf- Hits Smithy with his pick up and is dying of AIDS. Although very hurt, Smithy drives the truck to the hospital, and they recognize Carl and think that Smithy is delivering him for treatment. He goes back to Carl's house and is very well treated by Carl. The nurse/doctor (Dr. Donna Trivitch) who admitted Carl (but not Smithy) thinks that Smithy is a bum, and brings a cop to throw him out the next morning. The cop beats Smithy, but then the nurse apologizes. Carl dies the next day, and Smithy must make all the calls to alert friends and family. His friend the nurse/doctor can't do it. but gets a brand new outfit, Moto touring bike, and cash.

Dr. Georgina Glass- Another shrink for Bethany. Smithy has a crush on this doctor, and later in the novel Bethany tells her that Smithy had been sexually abusing her for years, and Glass almost has Smithy arrested. Glass means well, but really has no idea about what she is doing. She doesn't appreciate how far gone Bethany really is.

Jeff Greene- Manages Benny's Home and Auto Store. He marries Bethany, but she disappears on their honeymoon. He really loved Bethany, but didn't know what he was dealing with. Thought she had recovered, but Bethany never will. Smithy and his father go to try and find Bethany and she might have stolen their car. Maybe this is how she ends up on the west coast.

Fort Garland-Smithy stops and takes the tour. This is where Kit Carson was a commander. Tour guide has no idea where Carson died.

"My name is Kenny"....Freak snow storm in Colorado, and Smithy saves this kid who had skipped school to go fishing. Parents (Roger and Kate- they live in an old silver mine; Kate makes rugs) are indebted to Smithy, but initially the police think that Smithy abducted the kid. And, he gets shot.

At Ash Fork, Smithy identically joins a bike club that is riding through the desert to Kingman, AZ.
Meets Chris who is with two of her friends and business partners in a day care center. She sleeps with Smithy but he rejects her because he realizes that he is going to be true to Norma.

Almost to California () Smithy stops at a 24 Hour Restaurant that won't open for an hour, and meets a black truck driver. Philip Wolsey. He tells Smithy about his college educated and brilliant brother, Walter, who became a writer on a Chicago paper, and then became a junkie. He killed there pastor father trying to steal silver, and then killed himself with a shot gun to the head. The truck driver takes Smithy and his bike to California because Smithy is sick with a very bad cold.

Chen Ho Funeral Home in Venice, CA where Bethany's remains are kept. Norma finds the address and sets up the meeting when Smithy arrives.

Running out of money he has two flats in California. Trades some of his stuff for the repair. 'Luis's Bike Shop' The shop owner and tells him the story of how his son fell off a truck, hit his head, and was killed. His name was Luis. He fixes the bike like brand new.

Stops to cleanup in a beach bathroom and his bike is stolen. Girl trims his beard and puts beads in his hair for free.

Bethany is waiting for him at the funeral home in Venice.