Friday, May 26, 2006

"I'm a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk."

The Movie: The Maltese Falcon, 1941 (John Huston, director and screenwriter, from the novel by Dashiell Hammett)
Who says it: Sydney Greenstreet as master criminal Kasper Gutman
How you can use it: At any professional gathering.

I live alone and I work at home. I go days, particularly in the winter, without speaking more than about 100 words aloud, and most of those are to my dog. Now that I'm home again, I feel like I've crammed an entire year's worth of conversation into the past five weeks.

Not that I'm complaining. It was good to be on the road, and good to see everyone, and I'm actually sorry that I didn't get to chat with several people I really wanted to catch up with -- oh, well. But today, I'm happy to give my jaws a rest.

The weather is spectacular, and the lilacs are in bloom. As Dizzy and I walked home from the Common, one of my neighbors called from her kitchen door, "Hey, you comin' out to field hockey on Sunday?"

I sure am. For the rest of the weekend, I plan to see some stupid movies, read for pleasure, and possibly play a round or two of miniature golf. Fortunately, none of these things requires much conversation.

What I Read This Week

Marian Keyes, Anybody Out There? Marian Keyes has written three novels about the Walsh sisters -- Watermelon, Rachel's Holiday, and Angels, which is one of the most dead-on skewerings of Los Angeles you'll ever find. Anybody Out There? is the story of Anna, the fourth sister, who returns to New York after a very bad accident whose full impact we -- and she -- don't really understand until about halfway through the book. It's very funny and very sad, and the Walsh sisters feel like my own cousins.

Tony Spinosa, Hose Monkey. I scored some really good stuff at BEA, including this advance copy of the first Joe Serpe mystery from Bleak House Books. "Tony Spinosa" is the pen-name of a well-known mystery writer with first-hand experience of Joe Serpe's job, delivering heating oil on Long Island. Joe's an ex-cop who's lost most of what he ever cared about, but the death of a young, mentally-challenged colleague jolts him back to life. Shifting points of view highlight just how strong these characters are, and I'm glad the sequel is already in the works. Hose Monkey comes out in October.

Ken Bruen and Jason Starr, Bust. Sometimes I read for self-improvement; sometimes I read for work; sometimes I just read for fun. Bust falls solidly in the third category, and would be perfect for anyone's holiday weekend. It's a wicked homage to classic pulp fiction, a story of bad people doing bad things and reaping the inevitable bad karmic returns. Max wants to kill his wife; his girlfriend, Angela, knows just the man to do it, but doesn't tell Max the assassin is her own psychotic, alcoholic, herpes-infected lover. Uh, did I mention this one isn't for kids?

Zoe Heller, What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal. If I taught writing, I'd have students read this book as an example of how point of view makes a story. Retired teacher Barbara Covett sets out to tell the story of her colleague Sheba Hart's affair with 15-year-old student, but winds up telling the story of her own obsessive friendship with Sheba. Barbara tells us very little about what she thinks or how she feels; we learn everything we need to know simply from her narration of what she does. Fascinating, and excellently done.

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