Category Archives: Reading

Cemetery of Forgotten Books

Or was it The Confession by Grisham?We gathered up a stack of books to drop off at a nearby library’s used book room. Among them: The Reversal, a recently published crime thriller by the great Michael Connelly. We had purchased it only a few months ago and read it straight through. One gulp. The last word on the last page had barely finished resonating before we stuck the bestseller on a shelf and returned to the grim demands of daily life.

Until this morning when it came off that shelf (where we found it next to Grisham’s The Confession) we had not given The Reversal a moment’s thought. We’d forgotten we owned it. We couldn’t swear that we had even read the novel. Flipping through the book, examining a passage here, a passage there, brought nothing of the story back to mind.

Okay, we know it featured a regular Connelly character named Mickey Haller, the “Lincoln Lawyer,” an ethics-challenged defense attorney, half-brother to Connelly’s police detective hero, Harry Bosch.

But we know all that mostly because it says so on the cover. We also spotted both names while we searched the book to jog our memory. Memory remained otherwise unjogged. What “reversal”? What crime? Who did what and why? How did Haller and Bosch triumph, and over whom? No image, no episode, no snatch of dialogue bubbled up from the depths. We were stumped.

We dropped The Reversal back atop the stack of books to be recycled and thought, “That has got to be the very definition of a great read.”

The Reversal by Michael Connelly. Highly recommended.

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Rocky Peak Adventure

Just outside of Nome.What you see here is the photo I took at the summit of Rocky Peak. At 2,750 feet, this rugged promontory, well-deserving its petrological title, is the third highest point in the Santa Susana Mountains which form part of the northern boundary of Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley.

If you want to enjoy the same vistas I gazed out upon from this lofty aerie — once, by the way, part of the vast real estate holdings of entertainer Bob Hope — your desire can easily be satisfied. All you need is a stout trek pole, sturdy boots, a boonie cap with a chin strap, three water bottles, two chicken sandwiches, a backpack full of Cuties™ mandarin oranges, an iPod loaded with I, Sniper, a Bob Lee Swagger novel by Stephen Hunter, a smartphone equipped with GPS, a camera for bringing back the proof of having reached the summit and the iron determination to plod wearily up thousands of feet of not-too-step yet all-too-steep much-fissured fire road.

My little guidebook calls the Rocky Peak Road an easy hike. So it is. Easy to take exit 32 off the Ronald Reagan Freeway. Easy to park in the turnout located to the south on Santa Ana Pass Road. Easy to cross north on the bridge over the Freeway to reach the trailhead.

After that less easy: an hour and half of glute-stressing climbing, followed — after a chicken sandwich break en plein air during which you can admire the view of the Pacific far to the west — by a wobbly-legged descent of similar duration. But not too demanding, even considering the cold, unceasing, buffeting wind way up top which may possibly slap you so silly that you, too, forget to snap the evidentiary photo celebrating your conquest.

Half-way twixt summit and trailhead — at the juncture of the Rocky Peak Road and the Hummybird Trail — a thoughtful park ranger has installed a restful bench.

Lines Written After Reading “Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant”

GLENDOWER:
I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

HOTSPUR:
Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?

—— From Henry IV, Part One, Act iii, Scene 1

Owen Glendower dissed by Hotspur, Henry IV, Part One, Act III, Scene 1

From Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant

…the two of them made some mutual arrangement. Then they smiled at each other, again without any sense of surprise or excitement, as if long on famiiar terms, and the waitress retired from the table. Barnby handed the stump of pencil back to Maclintick. We vacated the restaurant.

‘Like Glendower, Barnby,’ said Maclintick, ‘you can call spirits from the vasty deep. With Hotspur, I ask you, will they come?’

‘That’s to be seen,’ said Barnby. ‘By the way, what is her name? I forgot to ask.’

‘Norma…’

— Anthony Powell

Glendower Calls the Spirits

The world we touch and smell and taste,
The world we hear and see
Pays homage to the vasty deep
In which it soon will be,

But giving memory its due
(Which is to say: a lot),
The things we touch, smell, taste and hear
And see are all it’s not.

WikiLimereak

What fools these anarchists be.

There once was a man called Assange
Whose name did not rhyme with mélange.
“You must say it,” he said,
“Not like ‘mange’ but instead
“Like the Congolese river, Ubangi.”

Saint Crispin is Crispy Times Two

'This war is lost' -- Lord Harry Reid on the 'surge' in Iraq

From William Shakespeare’s Life of King Barry I, Act 4, Scene iii

LORD PETRAEUS:

O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men (or women)
That are out of work back in the U.S.!

KING OBAMA the FIRST:

What’s he that wishes so?
My servant McChrystal? Er, no, I mean Petraeus:
If they are mark’d to die, they’re enow
To do your country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men (or women), the easier to sideline and dismiss
As victims of post-traumatic stress disorder.
No, faith, lackey, wish not a man (or woman) or woman (or man) more:
Rather proclaim it, Petraeus, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him be interviewed by the Times.
He that outlives Afghanistan, and comes safe home,
He that ignores the recommendations of our VA deathbook and sees old age,
Will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had in Mazar-i Sharif.’
And the VA Admin will blink and wonder “Who? What? Where’s that?”

Old men (or women) forget: Kabul shall be forgot,
But some Oath Keepers will remember
What feats they did there: then shall our names,
Familiar in his (or her) mouth as barnyard words are in ours:
Barry the king, Gibbs the Jester and Axelrod,
Pelosi and Reid, Barney and Durbin,
Be in their flowing curses freshly remember’d.
Those few, those unlucky few, that band of outsiders;
For he (or she) to-day that sheds his (or her) blood in this
Illegal conflict I inherited from Bad King George
Shall be an outsider — Be he (not she) ne’er so vile,
One of my Czars shall manage to vilify him further:
And Democrat men now a-bed with each other
Shall think them accursed who were there,
And hold each other’s manhoods whiles any speaks
That languished in Afghan upon Saint Crispin’s Day.

For the original version of Henry V’s Saint Crispin’s Day (October 25) speech to the troops before the Battle of Agincourt, go HERE.

I Left My Heart in a Bowl of Rice-A-Roni™

Much more fun than cable TV.The onrushing cable car above hints at where we’ve been.

We spent a couple of carefree days strolling up and down (way up and down) the City by the Bay. Hadn’t climbed those  quadricep-challenging hills in years. We feared we might have to relearn that Awful Truth “What youth deemed crystal, age finds out was dew,” but San Francisco is one of the few places in this disappointing world that is exactly as nice as you remember it.

Even nicer in some ways. This giant hand, one of six, wasn’t there last time we passed through:

Three Heads Six Arms, 2008, by Zhang HuanNor, for that matter, was the present home of the Asian Art Museum where we spent about five times the amount of time we’d budgeted. After all, you can’t just rush by items like this seated Buddha from the 4th century:

There's a date inscribed on the back corresponding to 338 AD.It happens to be the “most published” item in their entire collection. Every book on Buddhist sculpture includes it, says the helpful placard nearby.

Then there’s this stern soldier — a “haniwa,” or Japanese funerary figure in terra cotta, made in the 3rd millenium BC  — who won’t let you pass until you pay your respects:

The entire figure is maybe three feet tall.And what would a sojourn in the Bolshiest city on the Bolshy left coast be without an hour browsing for lewd and seditious literature in City Lights Bookstore? This is the indy bookshop from which, in 1957, extruded Allen Ginsberg’s epic Howl. Signs in the upper story windows exhort passersby to “keep an open mind” and also to “turn left.” But can a passerby do both at once?

The best minds of MY generation were destroyed by Cocoa Puffs.We patriotically held out the palm and sneered “nyet!” to all the Bolshy blandishments, but before we could launch into our chant of “Sarah Barracuda” the Red Youth Brigade (now rather aged) spotted our red, white and blue hearts and ejected us into Kerouac Alley…

On the Road, In the Alley.… into which poor drunken Mr Kerouac had been tossed more than half a century ago from Vesuvio, a bar in which he had been demonstrating once again that the Beat Culture was more acceptable on paper than in the flesh.

But if you have to become so inebriated that crawling along the sidewalk becomes a reasonable mode of transportation, and street signs loom too far in the distance above your lolling head to help guide you to your SRO in the Tenderloin, don’t worry. San Francisco helpfully molds the street names into the concrete at every intersection:

Chewing gum splotches were Photoshopped out to protect your refined sensibilities.Next Post: A visit to San Francisco’s De Young Museum of All Kinds of Art.

Cold Case File

In one of the books, not this one, there are two detectives named Champaign and Urbanik.

If you are snuffling around for a new mystery series, and the Alex McKnight series by Steve Hamilton set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is new to you, and you happen to like the same stuff I do, I have a recommendation for you: the Alex McKnight series by Steve Hamilton set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

There’s the cover [see above] of the fourth book in the series, or what I think would be the cover if the book does indeed exist in the real world and not only on my Android phone. And there’s the cover [see below] of the fifth one, which I am in the middle of.

Take my advice and read them in order.The first book in the series is called A Cold Day in Paradise. It sets the scene: a one stoplight town called Paradise situated on the icy southern shore of Lake Superior in the U.P.. You also get the cast pretty much assembled, most notably Alex McKnight, a Detroit cop retired on full disability — with one of the disabling bullets still lodged near his heart — who mopes around in the snow, chops wood for the snowmobilers who rent his cabins, drinks gallons of Molson’s Canadian, and solves crimes. Many crimes. It turns out murderers swarm on the shores of Lake Superior even more than they do in the vast empty deserts of Tony Hillerman’s New Mexico, which is saying a lot.

So many murders it takes a SEVEN McKnight mysteries even to begin to describe them. Start with the first one, Cold Day, continue with Winter of the Wolf Moon, proceed to The Hunting Wind, then the two pictured above and finish up with two more after that whose names I don’t know.

If you are anything like me, after kicking through the six foot snow drifts for a volume or two, you will phone the author and say, “Author Hamilton, you have done well. Very well indeed, sir. I applaud you.” If you are unlike me, I cannot predict how you will react. Perhaps you will weep. Perhaps you will warble like a nightingale. If you are exactly like me, you will have read the books already and are even now writing an identical post.