Slow Screaming Bewilderment

I welcome the nihilism. Message received. Just these four words and a link. Sent from my friend Jeff, I clicked the link. The band’s name: Frigs. The first few seconds of sound sent me back in time to the days of post punk at their darkest and most glorious fringes.

The song Jeff sent is Talking Pictures (linked below.) It announces itself with a fast ringing guitar that is quickly joined by a thick, urgent drumbeat and clear bass. Frigs use their instruments like weapons, and the band’s atomic bomb is the voice of Bria Salmena. Her singing combines the best of rock and roll theatricality with sincere rage and desperation.

Bria Salmena – secret weapon.

Basic Behaviour is Frigs first full-length release and it’s a really great listen. It is filled with lots of intensity and lots of two-and-a-half to three-minute songs. There really is a strong whiff of nihilism hovering over this enterprise – and it is strangely purposeful and super satisfying.

Basic Behaviour by Frigs.

The group can take a tender turn, too. Songs like the beautiful and dreamy Gemini are keyboard driven and brimming with a spaced-out longing. There are also meltdowns like Trashyard, a tune that starts with a warm and assured bass groove and marches through its six plus minutes swirling into slow, screaming bewilderment.

Frigs 2018 North American Tour.

Frigs are based in Toronto, and have shared bills with the likes of Lydia Lunch, Protomartyr, and Deerhoof. They will support SUUNS for the Canadian leg of their North American tour this autumn. After that, a British tour with a couple of dates possible in Europe. I imagine that as a live act, Frigs are savagely affecting. Catch them if you can.

Take a few listens. From Basic Behaviour by Frigs (2018 Arts & Crafts):

Talking Pictures




13 September 2018

Posted in Music | Leave a comment

Lincoln Nebraska, around 35th & Holdrege, Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Fall semester is underway. Can you believe it?  It’s only mid-August. Cry as I may over the passing summer, time marches on and the students fill the halls of my building here on East Campus at UNL. Classes start Monday.

Truth be told, I would rather be on city campus. I like its hustle and bustle and proximity to downtown. But East Campus is where I work, and it has its charm. Its original layout, buildings sitting on the East

Old East Campus – looks almost the same today

Campus Loop, still exists today with buildings dating back to the first half of the 1900s. East campus is home to the Dairy Store – a must-visit spot for

Cheese makers on East Campus

out of towners, it features ice cream and cheeses made from products generated by the UNL Ag Program. The East Campus Student Union houses a tiny but full-service bowling alley that is the practice field for our five-time National Championship bowling team. On East campus you are as likely to see a freshman Agricultural Systems Technology major wearing a hubcap sized belt buckle and high school letter jacket for rodeo as you are to see a brightly dressed Textiles and Merchandising major wearing fashion forward clothing standing out like a prairie flower.

Yes. East campus is home to cow pokes and future fashionistas alike (and all industries in between that aim to clothe and feed the world). It is also home to UNL dental college and its annual Museum of Dental Oddities, The Larsen Tractor Museum, and a prairie themed botanical garden and arboretum. In addition, and I’m not saying you do, but if you want to view a three fourths size bronze statue of former Nebraska Governor and U.S. Agricultural Secretary Mike Johann’s, East Campus is the only place I know of to do that.


Sitting on the west side of the Loop, UNL’s original home Ec. building houses not just Nutrition and Textile Arts and Sciences, but administration and meeting rooms for the entire College of Education and Human Sciences. This is where I found myself this morning for a welcome meeting to the 2018-19 school year.

On my way there, I met up with this little fox who was no more afraid of the light pedestrian and bike traffic than are the campus squirrels. Fox sightings are becoming more common in town, but that hasn’t made seeing one any less thrilling. This one might as well have been tossing fairy dust as it trotted across the East Campus Loop. People were spellbound.

Enchanting Fox on East Campus

After the meeting, I took the opportunity to visit upstairs in the Home Ec building. On the second-floor hallway there is usually an interesting display. This month, the clothing of Mari Sandoz is the theme. Mari Sandoz was the child of immigrants and the oldest of 6 children. Like all children of settlers, she worked on her family’s farm in Western Nebraska throughout her young life. She did not learn to speak English until the age of 10. She was 17 when she finished the 8thgrade but did not go to high school. Yet, amazingly, she later went on to attend the University of Nebraska and became one of Nebraska’s most important authors. She, of course, famously wrote Old Jules, about her difficult and harsh father. She also wrote one of my favorite books, Miss Morrisa, Doctor of the Gold Trail. It’s historical fiction about a female doctor, Miss Morrisa, practicing in the rough and tumble western frontier. Because she was a woman, she was deemed fit only to treat Indians and white dying people if they were too far away to reach male physician who lived in the city. It’s a great western, plus good history of western Nebraska and its pioneer/Indian history. I highly recommend this book.

As an adult, Sandoz often wore pants when she went back to the prairie, however she had a sense of her public image as she gained notoriety writing and dressed for the part. Dresses from her professional wardrobe have been curated and are on display right now. She favored tailored stylish dresses always with a bit of brown, as a reminder of her connection to the land on which she was raised.

another little-known East Campus gem is the Robert Hillestad Textile Gallery. It is an intimate gallery space tucked away in the corner of the second floor of the Home Ec building. There is always something interesting and unexpected going on in there. This month on exhibit are painted cloths from India. They are intricately detailed and vividly colored,

and sometimes sparkling. The themes celebrate the sacred cow or the lives of the deities.

painted cloths of India

I’ve included a photo of detail from one of my favorites. It features a god head wearing a peacock crown on a cow body. The tail is that of a horse, but it is colored like a peacock plume. The feet are tiny peacock bodies. It’s wonderful.

I’ve included a photo of detail from one of my favorites. It features a god head wearing a peacock crown on a cow body. The tail is that of a horse, but it is colored like a peacock plume. The feet are tiny peacock bodies. It’s wonderful.



So, scramblers, while I’m woefully unready for the semester to start, and I continue to have City campus envy (#FOMOUNLCITYCAMPUS), East Campus, where I am planted, blooms. Today I stopped to smell the flowers.



Posted in Other Histories | Leave a comment

How to get a Free Cup of Coffee in Lincoln City, Oregon

How to get a Free Cup of Coffee in Lincoln City, Oregon

First you need to go way back. Say like 10 years.

  1. And then head to Wayside Waifs, a no-kill shelter in Kansas City, which is a real and kind place. It is so real in fact, the ragged edges that led to its creation may tear at you during a visit.
  2. On the day you wander into that building there is a little nagging thought in the back of your mind. It’s not well-developed yet but at the heart of it is a moving shape; it’s this: two kittens playing.
  3. You and Andy enter a room within a bigger room and it is littered with mewling crawling kittens. And even through their brains are thimble-sized most are self-aware enough to know what they are doing. One dark orange kitten named Gary sits above them all on a  carpeted shelf shimmering with light kitten fur. Gary orders the underlings about like a small lion. He alone does not want to be noticed by you, he simply wants to boss the passel. He makes no eye contact.
  4. You say to Gary as you move to the other side of the room, sliding along the edges to avoid crushing kittens with your extra-large feet, “You know Gary what they say about the futility of herding kittens?” Still, no eye contact.
  5. Gary’s miniature mouth opens and you are captured by the art of it, the orange and just-right pink and the evenly placed ivory points. Like many felines, Gary doesn’t appreciate a joke, even one that is likely fresh to him.
  6. You were told Gary’s name by the volunteer who let you into the room. You pointed at that guy who was all puffed up and bossing the passel from his furry perch. She laughs, “His name is Gary and he is not available. Everyone who works here wants him.”
  7. Already Andy is surrounded by bouncing fur balls. There is a particular kitten who is mottled of coat, a coat which is so akimbo and at-attention it could be used to scrub the mud off boots, well this one is the one for Andy, although he does not know it yet. He picks up the mottled kitten who is displaying an exuberant fondness for his shoes and places her back into the teeming puddle so others can have a shot at maybe getting a home outside the shelter. But the mottled one shows a single-minded determination to getting back onto Andy’s shoes and into his sightline. There is even a part of her she releases and orders to slip into the back regions of his mind and hunker there.

    T as a young kitten. Fresh from the shelter.

  8. The room reminds you of a scribble picture of moving random joy. Then there is one. A smaller one with an odd blue collar around her neck. The blue collar, which is the smallest diameter ever, contrasts well against the white and grey of her. She catches you looking at her, throws a side-eye and quickly looks ahead. She moves with purpose, her and her blue collar and short little striped legs. She picks her way around the diameter of the kitten mosh pit, she circles once and then circles again. Each time she passes you at the closest point she throws a side-eye. Just to let you know, she knows.
  9. Later you will tell people how Tenzing was smart enough to get noticed. She wasn’t the cutest, biggest, smallest. She was the most clever and you were simply caught by the trap she set. People will grow hazy-eyed when you tell this story. More than one person will interrupt saying, ‘You know she wasn’t really planning that out, right?” Their words formed of pure exasperation.
  10. Before you know it you are outside the kitten room pointing at two with the volunteer. Winner, winner the one with a scrub brush for a coat and the one with the blue collar, which you later realize is painters’ tape.
  11. That day at Wayside is a ‘two for one sale’. You will remind the cats -more than once- they were part of a larger fire sale. They return a sour-mouthed stare.
  12. You are also told the scrub brush kitten (later named Hopper) was dropped off at the shelter. Flat out abandoned. Her hind legs aren’t quite right, and you wonder if someone was worried about medical complications. But even now, more than a decade later, she jumps and runs with a random and powerful spark.
  13. The other one is named for Tenzing Norgay. She was found in a sack with other kittens on the side of a country road in Kansas just a few weeks earlier. Kansas; you can say it with a sneer or a sigh.
  14. Taken from the shelter, Tenzing and Hopper now live inside full time but they do have a cat tv where squirrels are lured onto a ledge next to a window. The cats grumble at the squirrels and this never grows old, unlike jokes about cats and fire sales.

    Watching Squirrel TV in KC.

  15. When they are 6 years old they travel by plane to Portland Oregon. They live the first summer there at the Oregon coast. It is the warmest summer on record and sunlight pours into the windows like an unfurled ethereal welcome carpet.

    T lounges in the back catio’s sun.

  16. By now their personalities are set. Hopper is brash and loud. She is a big female and an American tomboy trope. A friend begins to call her “Boy” when Hopper is still young, maybe 3. This handle remains an excellent fit years later.
  17. There are two catios at the beach house. Tenzing and Hopper take the morning sun in the back of the house and finish their day in the front catio, which is surrounded by 3 sides of windows. Big white and black birds sail by, temporarily blocking their sun. They grumble in Oregon too. Sometimes they watch the sun set over the ocean. Other times they choose to sleep through it.
  18. The years go on.
  19. Then week of July 22 in 2018, you all head to the coast (except Andy who works in the Midwest sometime) to avoid the Portland heat wave. Then Tenzing gets sick for no obvious reason. Her first round of vomiting contains food and you find gooey brown puddles of it hidden downstairs. Then gradually throughout the day the vomit turns into just foam, and she no longer can hide her sickness. You find splotches of the white foam throughout the house with your bare feet.
  20. Tenzing has grown into a brave cat. When someone visits she lingers to see what the change will bring. If people settle in to a chat, she sits near and waits to be engaged.
  21. Tenzing has honed a unique performance artist skill based on a documentary she sat through about Marina Abramovic. But instead of silently and intensely staring at visitors (which T perfected years earlier) T hugs visitors. Sometimes she hugs and presses her heart on the heart of the other. Other times she mummers a stillness spell.
  22. Sometimes Tenzing’s hugs are mink coats -luxurious and long that can end in little naps (hers, and maybe sometimes yours).

    MO and T. A healing hug while he sleeps.

  23. T may be a healer. After a stroke you take frequent naps and T appears from the nowhere and curls up next to your scrambled brain. Her purrs lower you into a structured sleep and you share dreams. They are mostly about hiding, hunting, and pouncing. In those dreams T is your teacher. There is a rigor to the dreams that straighten the ragged edges of your blurry brain.
  24. By the end of foamy vomit day, T’s stocky legs are splayed when she walks. And she falls into walls if she takes too many steps.
  25. By age 6 Tenzing takes to slow dancing and to Neil Young. The dancing is not unlike her hugging performance. Razor Love and Harvest Moon are her favorite songs. Or maybe they are yours. Sometimes her heart is not into the dance, but she gives in to you while staring out at birds on the wires outside over your shoulder.
  26. Most of that horrid foam vomit night you spend holding Tenzing close. She is holding on to you for what feels like for her own dear life.
  27. You leave her downstairs in a comfy bed with a saucer of water and hope she lives through the night.
  28. The coast house is in Lincoln City, which is really like saying ‘the country’. There are no 24 hour vets
  29. The next morning you wake up early, 5am, and find T has crawled up the stairs on her shaky legs to sleep in the bed with you. You hug away the hours until an early vet office opens.
  30. The vet in Lincoln City could only order xrays and blood work. The data indicate significant problems with her kidneys. This is shocking, you are in shock, and lean back into the chair with the news.

    Tenzing at the Lincoln City vet.

  31. Now listen, the vet says loudly while looking straight at you: Now you are going to go save your cat, drive to Portland and get into surgery right away.
  32. On the way out of town you stop at a drive-through coffee shop and realize then you are crying.
  33. So you drive 80 miles through the mountains and back into Portland where it is close to 100 degrees for the 7th day in a row and Portlanders are cranky and leaving town in tidal waves.  The roads are clogged, the sides of the roads dotted with vehicles that have been in accidents.  It is an Armageddon-lite scene complete with an unnaturally hot blazing sun and palpable citizen anger. And your cat is dying in the backseat.
  34. T mewls her discomfort only occasionally. She remains brave.
  35. You tell her stories about how you met. The one where she was wearing a blue collar of painters’ tape. The one where Hopper bit her eye. The one about her trip across the country to the house with catios and big windows.
  36. When you are in the emergency pet clinic in Portland you wait 4 hours as they work to get T’s vitals up. An hour later you are offered 3 options. Two of them end in death. The first way is quick (euthanasia) and 2nd option is a slow torturous treatment that mostly ends in death. The 3rd option is surgery, but surgery is in Corvallis, about 75 miles south of Portland. And you need to leave now. You are informed T needs around the clock care.

    T and Andy have a moment in Milwaukie.

    T and Andy have a moment in Milwaukie.

  37. You and Tenzing get back into the car and enter rush hour traffic to the south. The interstate is still clogged with citizens leaving the city. Almost all vehicles that aren’t commercial trucks carry too much gear—cars are loaded with trailers and bikes stacked on top of kayaks. Side windows are blocked with camping gear.
  38. T urinates in her carrier throughout this leg of the journey. You continue to tell T stories about her life. You soften the hard edges of the car with “I love you, don’t die” chants.
  39. At the clinic in Corvallis you meet 1 of the 2 doctors who will do surgery on T the next morning. There is an assistant with him, taking notes during the debriefing. The assistant is a big man, youngish. As you tell the story of T’s day and the windshield hours, the assistant begins to cry. You are both crying now. It is the sweetest thing, this big big man in a lab coat, nodding his head along to T’s story and wiping away fat tears. At one point he pulls a urine-soaked T out of the carrier and she hugs him as he paces.
  40. You tell him, “She is the best cat”. He nods and sniffles, “I can see that, yes yes”.
  41. There is no need for you now. You have handed her over to others who have a plan to heal her. You drive back to Lincoln City on a country road.
  42. It is the most beautiful of drives. The sky is clear and the sun has fallen behind the mountains and on its way down it tossed orange and pink high into the sky for a final folly. It reminds you of Gary the kitten and a young T.  The fields are golden and reflect the late light. Wildflowers line the road. There is something in bloom with a wispy head and is back lit by the setting sun. There is something divine inherent in the scene. The land here has always extended its comforting arms to you, offering up soothing moments and gentle reminders of its constancy.
  43. You now take the first sip of the coffee you got in Lincoln City 9 hours ago. And it’s only then you recall the words of the young man who works the window:
  44. “Here, just take this coffee, it looks like you’re having a bad day. I hope it gets better.”

    T takes a look at the world.

Posted in Other Histories | Leave a comment

Judy’s Summer Reading 2018

Hola Scramblers

Hope you’re all having a swell holiday weekend. Summer is here. Hail summer!!! It’s time to sit on the patio in shorts and a t-shirt and your flip-flops and drink cans of Miller Light like it’s pop.

I’m sorry about the long time it’s been since I posted anything. Part of the reason is I had such a busy semester at work. I took on a couple of extra responsibilities and I kind of had guilt feelings when writing anything that wasn’t work-related. And too also, (as Matt and I like to say to emphasize the coming excuse) … I didn’t have much brain space for reading. I’ve read a scant five books since January, I’m ashamed to say. I started many. But if they required too much thinking, I quit. I quit some good books I hope to get back to one of these days.

With my summer semester about to begin after Memorial Day, I thought I’d take advantage of some rare free time to tell you what I’ve read recently, just to keep in touch.

A local book reviewer who writes for the Lincoln Journal Star often reports on best sellers. Sometimes I’ll take interest in a book he likes and so, on the recommendation of Dr. Francis Moul, I picked up The Late Show by Michael Connelly. It’s a detective story. It’s got good detail, a lively pace, and a likeable interesting main character who doesn’t take any shit– Detective Renee Ballard. I like getting in at the beginning of a detective series, even though I’m unlikely to keep reading after book number two or three. I can’t tell you that you are in for any break in the detective genre formula, but if it’s an engaging readable story you’re after with a couple of light surprises, grab this one and head to the (name your summer reading location here). This one will keep you turning pages but not use up too much brain space.

Last week I picked out a sci-fi book that looked kind of interesting. Flipping through it, I thought it seemed like a fun quick read. No wonder, it turns out Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre, is a YA book. But I guess that’s about my competency level right now, so I kept reading.  The first part of it, I think, is a pretty blatant knock-off of The Hunger Games. The main character Zara Cole, is a hard scrabble teen, taking care of herself and a band of others by any means she can. She lives in “the Zone,” a tough part of New Detroit, where this futuristic story takes place. While on the lam for committing a serious crime against a well-known dangerous gangster, the one thing she can’t escape is the constant streaming media hype about the return of the latest “Honors” and the big question about who will be selected as the next “Honors.”  Honors are the few individuals selected from each region to be passengers on living alien ships called “Leviathons.” They’re called “Honors” and it’s supposed to bean honor to be selected. Honors are typically outstanding in math, science, or music. Even though Zara is rough around the edges, it’s not surprising (to the reader anyway) when she is selected as and Honor and it’s in her (and her family’s) best interest if she joins the Program willingly. See the obvious parallels to Katniss and the Tribute situation in The Hunger Games? Even some of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Honors process feels Hunger-Gamey.

The Leviathons, too, are not entirely original. They remind me of the Cylon ships in Battlestar Galactica, which were not really mechanical ships, but biological creatures – the flying version of the former androids-turned sentient beings. The Leviathons of this story have more personality than the flying Cylons of BSG though, and I like Zara’s Leviathon a lot. Its name is Nasim, and unlike evil power-hungry HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey (another ship that had a personality and yet another copy or tribute to sci-fi stories that came before – however you want to look at it), Nasim is seemingly an angsty youthful version of the full-grown mysterious race.

Zara and her Honor partner, Bea, live inside Nasim while they cruise around the universe. Nasim hosts them and makes special  and pleasing personal places for them to be during their journey. The purpose of the Honors Program is for ostensibly for humans to learn about the universe from the Leviathons. However, it is not quite clear what stake the Leviathons have in mentoring the humans in this manner.

You know I don’ t like to give away endings, and in this case, I can’t because I’m only half way through Honor Among Thieves. I can tell you that Zara and Nasim seem to be in love, which is really interesting given that Nasim is an enormous living alien ship and like Jonah in the belly of the whale, Zara lives within. I think Nasim is being bullied by older meaner and probably malicious Leviathons, so is hiding information from Zara. I think some sort of War is at hand and Zara, unknown to her, is the key player. The authors have created an interesting foundation on which the story can move forward. This should easily carry me through the holiday weekend with brain cells needed to start Summer courses intact.

How about you, what are your Summer reads?

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Cathy’s Summer Reading 2018

Happy Summer friends. I have a great pile of books just finished and a small mountain of new ones looking like a stack of colorful gift boxes. And now I have a favorite summer reading chair, so I couldn’t be more delighted with the season or better situated.

Outside reading chair.

I hope you can find some time to stake out a proper summer reading chair too (if you haven’t already) and then settle in with a cool drink and the warming sun on your face. Finally, consider these books to ramp up the pleasure on a perfect self-indulged summer day.

  • Little Fires Everywhere > Celeste Ng
  • Priestdaddy > Patricia Lockwood
  • Sarah Conley >Ellen Gilchrist
  • My Favorite thing is Monsters > Emil Ferris
  • The Kind Worth Killing > Peter Swanson

Let me start with Celeste Ng. Ng’s storytelling is like a broken necklace that slowly releases its shiny perfect pearls in a steady drop drop drop your way.

Ng begins Little Fires Everywhere with the ending — a house fire has likely been set by the youngest child of a 4-sibling pack. Ng uses this slick trick to engage readers immediately – she shares one of the biggest story revelations within the first sentences and the reader is left to wonder “why”; you just have to carry on, you must keep collecting those pearls. Celeste Ng’s first novel, Everything I Never Told You, begins like this: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.”


The book and the author.

There is a passel of high school kids roaming the pages of Little Fires Everywhere, and their friendships are the heart of this book. But the key drivers are 3 very different mothers — an affluent suburban mother, a mysterious and itinerant artistic mother with urban roots, and a vulnerable immigrant mother.

The story is set in Shaker Heights, Ohio which is a planned community built in the early 20th century. Wikipedia told me that Shaker Heights is known for its strict building codes and zoning laws which maintain the town’s unique identity. About 75% of the area is listed in the National Register of Historical Places. It’s obviously a unique and affluent city. Ng spent part of her childhood there.

The book and the author.

Mix the children, the mothers, and the city all together and this story becomes one centered on how a quintessentially American city turns for those women and children with a privileged sense of “home” and for those women and their children with no such privilege.

You can’t go wrong with either Little Fires Everywhere or Everything I Never Told You.

Oh man, please please pick up Priestdaddy and read it. I am so interested in your opinion. It is a memoir written by a young woman named Patricia Lockwood, who perhaps sees herself more as a poet than a writer but she is both. Priestdaddy is her first book and in 2017 The New York Times named it one of the 10 best books of the year. Imagine that accolade for your first book.

The author and her book.

Did you know that the Catholic Church allows married men to become priests? They do, but only under this condition, if they were ordained in another Christian religion and then discover they have a calling to the mighty Holy See. This is exactly what happened to Patricia’s father. He was a Lutheran minister drawn eventually to a Catholic vocation but only after he spawned 5 children with his eccentric funny wife, Karen.

Priestdaddy starts like this:

“Before they allowed your father to be a priest,” my mother tells me, “they made me take the Psychopath Test. You know, a priest can’t have a psychopath wife, it would bring disgrace.”

She sets a brimming teacup in front of me and yells, “HOT!”  She sets a second one in front of my husband, Jason, and yells, “Don’t touch it!”

The father and the author


I started Priestdaddy as an audio book with Patricia reading her own story. But the words she read were so luminous and funny that I felt compelled to look at those words on paper.

Patricia is young so her memoir isn’t a traditional one and she does not follow a linear path in the telling of her story. The book is closer to a David Sedaris collection than a modern memoir. You’ll find a bit in each chapter that will make you laugh aloud or at the very least there will be passages that will draw a long and easy smile from you.

Here’s an interesting aside about Patricia, she wrote a poem called “Rape Joke” in 2013 before she wrote Priestdaddy. It made her a little famous on the interwebs. I found the poem online and it will draw your body taut as you read.

Patricia Lockwood is new to me and her words are lush and they sparkle and I savored each chapter and experienced pleasure, yes pleasure, in reading her work. Ellen Gilchrist is not new to me. I’ve been reading her books for more than twenty years. Words like “lush”’ or “luminous” are not words someone would use to describe Gilchrist’s style.

Ellen Gilchrist does however tell her stories like a seasoned dart thrower; her language is undecorated and plain like the old neighborhood pub and her sentences come at you in short speedy staccato throws.

Here’s how I got turned on to Gilchrist. Somewhere somehow in the first years of the 1990s I came into possession of an early collection of Gilchrist short stories, one of which used Lincoln’s Zoo Bar as a partial setting and a real-life Lincoln murder as the subject of the story. The story focused on the killer/husband and the victim’s marriage. A few years later I would come to know the lawyer who had been asked to defend the killer pro bono. This is how small the world is.

Gilchrist’s key protagonists are usually brash and gifted women from eccentric southern families. They have great capacity to love, are magnificently desirable beings, and have endless strength to move on in search of more despite the trail of emotional detritus they know they will leave behind.

Sarah Conley is not a recent book. It was written in 1997 but it was displayed prominently in a used book store I wandered into recently and when I spied it, I was felt an old familiar longing for the Gilchrist girls and the Gilchrist style.

In Sarah Conley, Sarah and her best friend, Eugenie ( both are beautiful and brilliant of course and at least one comes from a rich family), marry two handsome brothers. Surprise, both women are in love with the same one, a fellow called Jack. But since Eugenie saw Jack first, she gets Jack (plus Eugenie is the rich one and so is Jack and so it goes) and their marriage is prosperous and long lasting. Sarah’s marriage falls apart though and along with that she loses custody of her son. Sarah resorts to channeling her anger through the creation of successful novels that are poorly disguised rehashings of Sarah’s youth spent with Eugenie and the brothers. The crew splits apart and Sarah is cast into the sea of Yankeeland.

Cut to the middle of the story and we see Sarah, now 50 years old and an editor at Time magazine. Eugenie lies dying in a hospital bed down South. After a deathbed makeup scene between the two women and a tearful goodbye, Sarah and Jack immediately hook up and decide to marry. But then Sarah is offered a screen writing gig in Paris…

As I said, it’s been awhile since I’ve read a Gilchrist book and this one seemed more abrupt than others and the characters felt a little colder, a little shallower. Yet I raced through the pages every night, not because I wanted to finish it, but because I wanted to learn what happened. I still believe in the Gilchrist girls and there is something Gilchrist consistently touches in me that wants her characters to end up happy (even though they are mostly spoiled asses).  But it comes down to this, this is summer reading fodder at its best –Ellen Gilchrist’s pop romances set comfortably against a gooey Southern Living backdrop. But maybe try reading Victory over Japan or Net of Jewels or Rhoda before Sarah Conley.

Wow, talk about summer sleaze. I listened to The Kind Worth Killing on Audible and sorta hated myself for liking it but honestly, I really liked it. This book is fast and filled with all kinds of hooks and twists.

The Kind Worth Killing is the young cousin to Strangers on a Train. In Peter Swanson’s take, Ted, who is wealthy, meets a beautiful woman named Lilly at an airport bar. They hit it off. After a few martinis, Ted confides to Lilly that his wife, Miranda, is having an affair and half-jokingly says he should kill her. Surprise! Lilly offers to help.

The book then begins to alternate between Ted and Lily’s points of views and in doing so we learn a lot about these characters’ pasts, including Ted’s relationship with his wife Miranda and Lily’s psychopathic behavior that started early in her life.

Of course, Ted begins to lust after Lilly but they keep some pretty big secrets from one another as they plot Miranda’s death. The reader can’t help but wonder how exactly the whole murder plot will fall apart. It has to. There is just too much deviousness for it all to hold together. I’m not a seasoned thriller reader and maybe the twisty plot is more of the same to people who read a lot of these types of stories but for me the book was full of unexpected turns and the end was jarringly clever. The end re-opens a deadly situation that someone thought was taken care of earlier on. So, I am guessing: sequel.

This book is being made into a movie and that is no surprise. The Kind Worth Killing is a great option for the sleazy and fun thriller one this summer.

Mother and Karen, as werewolf girl.

Finally, My Favorite Thing is Monsters is one of the best graphic novels of all time ever ever. It is certainly the most beautiful. I mean it. So buy it!

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is set in 1960s Chicago. It is the journal of Karen Reyes, an intriguing and odd young girl. Karen lives with her mother and her older brother, Deeze, who just happens to be a bit of a womanizer and an artist. But he is also protective of Karen and the two are close. One of Deeze’s redeeming qualities is that he is taking the time to craft a love of art in Karen.

Karen fills her journal with art lessons and sketches of her favorite paintings she visits with Deeze at the city’s art galleries. Even though Karen is uber cool and quirky she is an outcast at school for a variety of reasons. And because she identifies with monsters, Karen draws herself as a werewolf girl throughout her journal.

Being an outcast Karen doesn’t have a lot of friends and the ones she does call “friend” are their own kind of misfit toy. One of her closest buddies is a mysterious woman who lives in the upstairs apartment, Anka. Anka exudes an aura of tragedy and mysteriousness and Karen is captivated by that vibe.

When she was alive, Anka had a sad blue vibe about her that Karen saw.Karen, transformed into werewolf detective girl.

One day Anka is found murdered in her apartment and Karen vows to get to the bottom of it. Here’s where you will fall completely in love with Karen, Karen transforms herself from werewolf girl to full-on werewolf detective girl.

I won’t tell you more. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is brilliant and beautiful. Buy it, read it and I am sure you’ll love it. Your summer needs some bright beautiful comics in it.

Posted in Books | Leave a comment