Friday, January 1, 2021

2020 BLOG, TWEET and BOOK REVIEWS



BLOGS 

1) COVID Vade Mecum  https://bit.ly/2Epr0XO

2) ANIMATION OSCAR NOMINATIONS 2020 https://bit.ly/37uYw8v  

. . .  and because I didn’t blog anymore than twice in 2020, here are some 

    writing ideas from prior years:

3) FRITTERING  http://goo.gl/zZ1djW  

4) THINKING  http://goo.gl/S7WMIq

5) LOOK BEFORE YOU WRITE http://goo.gl/bDITgS  

6) GENRE WRITING http://bit.ly/1OkBv8t 


TWEETS






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BOOK REVIEWS

This blogpost is dedicated to John Le Carré 

who was, with all due respect,

the best writer of our time.


1) THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS, Ursula Le Guin – For some reason I’ve been avoiding reading Ursula Le Guin. After wading through this book, I see why. All description and very clever invention of worlds & cultures but the characters are very much interchangeable and un-care-aboutable so I skipped a lot of pages. The first-person voice for both protagonists is confusing, too. Sweeping snows and pervasive cold are a lasting memory.

2) LE LAMBEAU, Philippe Lancon – Philippe Lançon is one of the survivors of the ghastly Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in Paris in 2015. A writer, he’s uniquely qualified to give us a rich, detailed, victim’s-eye-view of the attack and the consequences: his stay in hospitals (including Les Invalides!) and the surgery and medical people who fixed him up and sent him back out into the world. Nominated for the Goncourt 2020.

3) YOGA, a novel, Emmanuel Carrère – Also nominated for the Goncourt but disqualified due to legal wrangling. Emmanuel Carrère has made a career of telling the truth, not always a good idea for a novel. He often gets bogged down in tedious personal details but does give us some good characters and topical situations in the second half when yoga is no longer the subject. He too, was peripherally involved in the Charlie Hebdo terrorism.   

4) SAPIENS, Yuval Noah Harari – A vast work of hugely interesting connections in the development of humanity. I’ve always wondered what was going on elsewhere during some point of turmoil in the world I know and this book gave me that information. I skipped no pages but still found this thick book too short.

5) THE DIARY OF ANAIS NIN, Anais Nin is a Cuban/French/American writer, known for her descriptions of female sexuality, influenced perhaps, by her association with Henry Miller in Paris. Her characters are all herself and this gets boring very quickly. Her books are not really stories, just her reaction to small events in her life or others' reaction to her. She does write well, so the fact that her choice of subject doesn't match her talent is frustrating

6) DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, Walter Mosley – Starts with an elegant bang then the interesting characters get lost in complicated plot twists. Vivid writing with a lovable protagonist, Easy Rawlins whom we can find in subsequent books.

7) A SMALL TOWN IN GERMANY, John Le Carré – Magnificent portrait of a character defined entirely by others. The master, whom we are so sad to have lost this horrible year.

8) L’OBEISSANCE, François Sureau. Based on a true story of a French executioner who travels with his guillotine to Belgium to behead a prisoner. Odd and uninspiring; the characters are well-defined but contrived and predictable, as is the outcome. 

9) SINGLE & SINGLE, John Le Carré – Powerful opening scene: “This is not a gun.” Loveable and hapless protagonist becomes slightly less so in second half of the book. Again, the master of rich, relatable characters makes us identify with spies and millionaires and can define nastiness with a tiny tic or gesture. This is a good time to read/re-read his entire œuvre, never a dull moment or protagonist.

10) LE CONSENTEMENT, Vanessa Springora. Well-written autobiographical account of a young French girl sexually abused by a famous writer who is still at large. French misogyny is infuriating and hard to understand in a country so well-known for its equality and freedoms. I blame influential Balzac, whose female protagonists are all beautiful as well as “naturally” jealous, vain, vindictive, etc. and nothing but resources for his male protagonists who are all paragons of virtue, integrity and courage. Some say Balzac invented XIX century France and I see why.

11) L’ENFANT PERDUE, Elena Ferrante/Elsa Damien – Tome 4 in the series. Ferrante writes about the devastation and delights of her characters in a down-to-earth manner that makes them appealing and identifiable. Lena and Lenu have transcended cultures; we're all a little bit Lena and a little bit Lenu.

12) THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 2020 - I usually enjoy most of the stories in these annuals but not this year. The three best stories were: KEVIN WILSON's "Kennedy", which will make you think of the Simpsons, slap you in the face then rip your guts out.  "It's Not You" by ELIZABETH McCRACKEN features fine, crisp writing and the characters' magnificently distinctive voices in MARIAN CROTTY’s "Halloween" will inhabit you.

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BOOKS, AUDIOBOOKS, WRITERS, TWEETS, TWITTER,



Thursday, August 20, 2020

A COVID vade mecum



Have you too been told airily by a well-intentioned acquaintance, “Oh, the curve is flattening, the numbers are slowly going down”? If so, here are some useful links to check before ripping off your mask and rushing off to party:

CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) 

LOS ANGELES DAILY COVID DATA   (your city)

CALIFORNIA STATEWIDE COVID UPDATE   (your State)

TV and Twitter only sporadically provide updated COVID information and the situation constantly changes. Bookmarked city & State COVID websites can be quickly consulted before doing anything involving crowds or close contact. 


In case, like me, you’re confused about what the disease is called:

COVID19  (for the year it broke out), more easily referred to as COVID but also (confusingly) known as  “coronavirus” which is just part of the official acronym: 

COcorona virus (SARS-CoV-2) 

VI  = virus

D   = disease


MASKS do work and here’s scientific proof from a trustworthy source, THE LANCET Medical Journal:

MASKS cut transmission from 17% to   3.1% 

DISTANCING cuts it from     12.8% to  2·6%  

EYE PROTECTION cuts it from 16% to  5.5% 


Unclear language and euphemisms can be dangerously misleading and falsely reassuring; I thought a long hauler was a trucker, but no:

LONG HAULERS = persistent serious symptoms post-COVID.

If your City and State COVID UPDATE websites don't show 2 consecutive weeks of declining infections to a level below 5% (Calif is currently at 6.6%), stay home until they do. And when you do venture out, follow the 3 simple rules for avoiding COVID, you know what they are:

1) Wear an effective MASK (never with a valve which expels the virus with your breath). According to medical experts, universal mask-wearing would bring an epidemic under control within a few weeks.

2) Stay 6 feet (2 arm's lengths) away from people.

3) Wash hands often

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