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Latest reads (and serial tv)

Apologies for neglecting this site. 

I’m always reading, and I’ve watched some wonderful serial television. Let’s start with books. 

Have I mentioned that I love a train wreck? Case in point, the life of superstar television wanderer Anthony Bourdain, who killed himself — over a girl — in 2018. Newly published is the biography of Bourdain by sportswriter Charles Leershen, “Down and Out in Paradise: the Life of Anthony Bourdain.”

I inhaled this book. Leerhsen is a top notch journalist and writer. He digs deep, back to Bourdain’s “boring” childhood in Leonia, N.J. That’s one theory for Bourdain’s bad boy persona, because he was too young for Vietnam and its protests. He wanted a fight. (Yes, there’s heroin, and cocaine, and steroids…) His was not a straight path to stardom, and he gave up the love of his life to pursue it. 

This is a rich read. 

Another train wreck: a young wife in Korea is troubled by nightmares, which leads her to give up eating meat. This simple act of autonomy causes her to lose her husband, her family, and her place in the every day world. “The Vegetarian” is by Han Kang, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith. 

Worth a read. 

Where do you find books to read? I found one on my son’s Substack, Evan’s Newsletter/EvanD/Substack. A bookseller in lower Manhattan, Evan writes about new and old books — and life — with substance and wit. I love his “Actually Pretty Good” posts about new fiction. 

In one of Evan’s posts, he called out Christopher Beha’s “The Index of Self-Destructive Acts.” This is a novel set in contemporary New York City. Columnist Frank Doyle, a society drunk, makes a racist comment about Barack Obama during a televised baseball game. Doyle’s punishment is swift: he loses his job. (He is his job.) There’s more trouble at home: wife Kit has squandered her father’s investment house; son Eddie, a veteran, makes himself penniless; daughter Margo pursues the (married) Midwestern journalist who’s assigned to write about Daddy. This is a delicious story of New York and its institutions, and a meditation on a young bride’s search for healing. 

A good long read. 

Finally, can we discuss George Eliot’s “Mill on the Floss”? I read her “Middlemarch” last summer in Vermont, on an island, with little else to do. (Bliss.) So I brought “Mill…” this year. Well! What happens to beautiful, spirited Maggie Tulliver will break your heart. I thought: that’s not fair! A few days later I realized that Eliot had laid out the truth about society’s treatment of women. Once tarnished, they will never be forgiven. 

More to come, sooner. 

Oops, I forgot to mention television. All worth a watch, in no particular order: 

“The Bear”

“The Empress” 

“The Sinner” 

 

Also in the blog

In the months after summer’s heat, Chicago’s crisp sunny days pull me, and my dog, to the beach. There’s no one there! My North Avenue beach is banked by man-made dunes. Get yourself beyond those and the beach offers a wide swath of sand pebbled with crushed shells. Also washed-up wood slabs from wave-smashed piers,

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The fight for Algerian independence from France began in November 1954. That brutal guerilla war would continue until 1961, when French president Charles de Gaulle gave up Algeria, an African colony France had ruled since 1830. Among the French, the war was unpopular and misunderstood. Still, they had as many as 450,000 soldiers in Algeria.

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I ran out of books earlier this summer at our lake house and vowed to bring enough for my latest two-week visit. Other folks go to Lac Pythonga to fish, hunt, hike, sail. I go there to unplug, read, swim, sun, spa and hike. Mostly, I read. I brought four books; I’ll tell you about the

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