Alice’s Restaurant – a Massacree on Thanksgiving

alices_restaurant_patch_file-1511293439-4222   Arlo Guthrie’s song – “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” has its fiftieth anniversary this year. Some radio stations, especially in the Northeast United States and around Stockbridge, Massachusetts – the song’s epicenter –  still play it each Thanksgiving,

Spencer Kornhaber for “The Atlantic” explains the song’s role as a Thanksgiving anthem:

“In the small canon of Thanksgiving-related popular music, Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” stands out for a few reasons, one of which is that it’s only barely related to Thanksgiving. The other reasons include its 16-minute runtime, and that it’s politically minded art of the sort worth revisiting this particular holiday season.”

As the son of legendary folk singer Woodie Guthrie (This Land is Your Land), Arlo knew how to send a message.  Listen to it by clicking on the title – Alice’s Restaurant –   and sing along now – Unknown

“You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant

You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant

Walk right in it’s around the back, just a half a mile from the railroad track

An’ you can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant”



Atlantic Article: Alice’s Restaurant, An Undying Thanksgiving Protest Song

Seven Books Under Two Hundred Pages to Read While the Turkey is Roasting

My mother roasted her Thanksgiving turkey overnight on such a low setting it’s a wonder we all survived, but it was deliciously moist. I always rose at the crack of dawn to start my feast, but today cooks know how to plan.  Articles from Bon Appetit and Real Simple magazines urge making the sides ahead and uncomplicated.  If pumpkin pie is too scary for its crust or soggy middle, I found a recipe for cookies to replace it – click here to see it.

Perhaps you will find yourself with time as you wait for the big bird to finish roasting this Thanksgiving.  Let the others watch football; you can read a short book to put you in the mood to feast.

Click on the titles to find my reviews for seven books under two hundred pages – maybe you’ll finish more than one:

  1. Girl in the Green Raincoat  by Laura Lippman (158 pages)
  2. Mrs. Dalloway  by Virginia Woolf ( 108 pages)
  3. The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald (192 pages)
  4. The Uncommon Reader  by Alan Bennett (128 pages)
  5. The Sense of an Ending  by Julian Barnes  (150 pages)
  6. Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (144 pages)
  7. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa



The Darlings

Cristina Alger offers her version of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme in her first novel – The Darlings.  Adding marital infidelity, crooked schemes by  unsavory lawyers, and a disgraced Securities and Exchange Commission, Alger mixes fiction with reality in her story of the New York Darlings – a wealthy family caught in the middle of illegal trading activities.

Billionaire Carter Darling, the head of the family and partner in a lucrative brokerage firm, carefully manages his wife and two grown daughters as well as his business, until a trusted family friend, his source for amazing investments that never seem to fail, suddenly jumps off the Tappan Zee Bridge on the day before Thanksgiving.  Alger cleverly distills the action into the holiday weekend, from revelation on Thursday to betrayal on Saturday and indictment on Monday. Within days, the Darlings descend from a life of privilege to one of crime and regret.

Shifting alliances – with every man for himself – carry some suspense: Will the culprits be able to frame innocent onlookers and go free themselves? Will Carter use Paul, his unsuspecting son-in-law as the fall guy, or will Paul become state’s evidence?  Will the headline hungry journalists uncover the truth?  But the story plods along, giving inordinate attention to the ritzy lifestyle and glamorous surroundings of the wealthy.  As a former debutante, Harvard graduate, analyst for Goldman Sachs, and corporate lawyer, Alger had a front row seat to the privileged life as well as to recent Wall Street horrors, and it’s hard not to imagine she is basing some of her characters on real associates and “friends.”

A quick read on a familiar scenario – a friend once told me she would finish a book that has a weak story, if the characters engaged her.  I wonder who in New York society is reading The Darlings to match the characters to someone they know.

Once Upon A River

Guns and girls?  Only Annie Oakley comes to mind, and Bonnie Jo Campbell’s sharpshooting young heroine in Once Upon A River, but the Charles Dickens themes of  “ignorance and want” seem to pervade  Margo Crane’s life along a Michigan river.

Margaret Louise (Margo) Crane is a quietly beautiful fifteen year old who prefers to shoot animals, fish with her grandpa, and connect with the Michigan backwoods.  Before her mother runs off with another man, she gives her a book

Annie Oakley

about Annie Oakley, and Margo decides to frame her life around the Western sharpshooter.  Living with her father, the only hints of homespun comfort come from across the river in her Aunt’s kitchen, but at the annual family Thanksgiving picnic, her uncle lures her into a barn – promising to show her how to skin a deer – and rapes her.  A year later, when she takes her revenge by shooting off the end of her uncle’s penis, her father is shot and dies in the ensuing scuffle.  Suddenly, at sixteen, Margo is on her own – with only her gun and the river for companions.

Rowing upstream in her grandfather’s teak boat, Margo goes in search of her deserting mother, who answers her letters with false postponements and avoidance.  Along her journey to find her mother and herself, Margo meets an assortment of men who take advantage of her beauty, youth, and need for comfort.  Sadly, her mother is not there to advise her, and her life becomes a series of unavoidable miscues.

“She folded up the letter she’d been writing to her mother – in it she’d asked what Luanne thought about being loyal to a man, what it was worth.  All these questions she was asking her ma added up to one question: how should Margo live?”

As Margo drifts from an older married man who eventually goes to jail for assault, to his brother – a drug dealer hiding his stash in their cabin, to a young divorced yuppie looking to find himself on the river, to a math professor searching for his Indian roots – Margo slowly grows up, but her life never seems to get better.  She is always ready to run, never feeling safe.   Inevitably, she gets pregnant and finds her mother, whose response to Margo’s plea for help is:

What about fun? What about pleasure? I think those things are the purpose of life.”

An old man on his deathbed finally gives Margo some comfort as she, in turn, helps him through his last months – a reminder of her grandfather.  In the end, her resilience and courage lead her to

“decide how she wanted to live…{learning} everything she could from people who were willing to share what they knew.  She would use the tools she was given to make her own kind of life.”

A combination of Huck Finn, Annie Oakley, and Tammy on the River, Campbell’s heroine is a survivor.    Once Upon A River backtracks to Margo’s story from one of Campbell’s earlier novels.  To find out what happens to Margo’s daughter, Rachel, read Campbell’s Q Road (2002) – if you can take more misery and strong- willed determination.

Thanksgiving in the Good Old Days

Thanksgiving has been fictionalized as fulfilling and filling family fun.  Sustaining the fiction in reality doesn’t always work, but Louisa  May Alcott does just that in her short story, An Old Fashioned  Thanksgiving. Read it online…

And Happy Thanksgiving!