Starting the New Year Going Into Town with Roz Chast

After Roz Chast entertained me with her clever graphic novel about her aging parents in “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant,” I couldn’t wait for her next installment of graphic humor, but her Going Into Town, a Love Letter to New York had me thinking I should carry the book with me the next time I visit the city. Not only are the illustrations and text hilarious, the chapter on how to use the subway could be very useful for my directionally clueless nature.

With her signature New Yorker comic strip art and her East Coast conversational style, Chast takes the reader from a basic layout of Manhattan, through “stuff to do…food…apartments” and all the practical basics for living, surviving, accessing Manhattan.  As promised, this is not a guide for tourists (although some might find it helpful) but an insider’s manual – “some maps, some tips…Nothing too overwhelming” created for her daughter, a freshman in college in Manhattan.  

Lately, I’ve been reading historic tomes full of man’s inhumanity to man, and it’s lovely to start the new year with a funny and optimistic view of one of my favorite cities. Might be a good new year’s resolution to read more like this.

Mysteries in the New York Times

imagesWannabee mystery writers looking for inspiration will find three possibilities in the news section of this Sunday’s New York Times.  I couldn’t help wondering why the elderly man was standing at the news stand, reading the front page – until I bought the paper.

The cover story – Twist in 97-Year-Old’s Murder: His Knifing was 5 Decades Ago – tells of a man knifed near Times Square over 50 years ago who survived until the old wound “done him in”  in old age.  Would he have lived to 100, were it not for that hapless encounter?  And whodunnit?  No clues – everyone is long dead.

Alan Cowell’s article – After Long Legal Fight, Inquest Is Set to Begin in Death of Putin Critic – recounts the mysterious death of a Russian who dared to criticize.  Death by poison in his tea by spies?  Could be fodder for the next John Le Carre thriller.

And best of all, the tale of a young editor at Dell, Vivian Grant, a frequent visitor to the Ayn Rand Murray Hill salon, who died of a botched abortion – but she was never pregnant.  This story may already be taken: Joanne O’Connor lives in Grant’s former Manhattan apartment and is researching the details – including finding her cat.

Great Sunday for “truth is stranger than fiction.”

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Try Writing a Haiku

poetry-clip-art-1Do you remember a well-meaning teacher assigning a haiku for homework – maybe to instill a love of poetry. The products often resembled Ogden Nash poems – lots of nonsense but without his wit.

Alan Feuer’s “The 3 Lines of the Haiku Train Make 61 Stops in Manhattan” – online at Haiku Challenge in the Sunday New York Times – offers a short review of the style and samples from New Yorkers who participated in the paper’s challenge to write about the city in the three-line verse. Poets wrote about Central Park, the subway, Times Square… My favorite came from an online reader in Dallas –  Sharon Cohen wrote:

Union Square Market
Blueberries for ten dollars
New York City blues

Thinking about the city I live in now, I am working on a verse to celebrate the end of national poetry month – ocean, sun, surfers – not that easy to create three lines with 5,7,5 beat – and a punch line at the end of the 17 syllables. The New York Times offers  “a quick 101 guide on writing a haiku”:

• Only three lines.
• First line must be five syllables.
• Second line must be seven syllables.
• The third line must be five syllables.
• Punctuation and capitalization are up to you.
• It doesn’t have to rhyme.
• It must be original.

Have you tried writing one?

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Still Life With Bread Crumbs

9781400065752_p0_v3_s260x420Anne Quindlen’s Still Life With Bread Crumbs is a fast read with a slow impact that lingers.  Her heroine is a sixty year old photographer with a stalled career who finds a new lease on life and love in a romantic comedy with a happy ending.

After renting a broken-down country house two hours away from the exclusive Manhattan apartment that she can no longer afford, Rebecca Winter inadvertently discovers new inspiration for her work in a dog, a roofer, and a series of roadside memorials mysteriously scattered throughout the woods around her cabin.  As Rebecca progresses through her self-actualization, the story includes romance and satisfaction in her new life and those around her – and the promise that life always has surprises no matter how old you are – some good, some not.  I always look forward to Quindlen’s witty tales, and this one did not disappoint.

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On the Road with Alice

I rarely take library books when I travel – much better to download stories onto my iPhone or Kindle, and throw in a few old New Yorkers and a paperback that can be left en route.  But just as I was about to suspend my library waiting list, Alice Hoffman showed up in her new book – The Museum of Extraordinary Things.   So Alice and I are travel companions.9781451693560_p0_v2_s260x420-1

Katherine Weber’s review in the New York Times promises Hoffman’s magic in “a lavish tale about strange yet sympathetic people, haunted by the past and living in bizarre circumstances.”  Brigitte Frase for the Star Tribune says the book “is a cunning weave of realism and fairy tale…containing suffering, betrayal and death, as well as pure love, fate and a happy ending.”  Wow – I can’t wait to settle into my seat and start reading.

Have you read any of Hoffman’s other books?  Check out my reviews for these:

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