writers

Maeve Brennan on online dating

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The best observation on online dating well before there was a thing called online dating. Courtesy of the astute New Yorker Dubliner, Maeve Brennan, 1962, Midtown.

‘As he was fitting her chair in under her, the man said, evidently continuing their conversation, “All right, if you must have a definition, I am a socialist who is interested in lust.” I was fascinated, but he sat down and his voice dropped with him, and I heard nothing more from him until their lunch had been served, and then he said, in a loud voice, as though he were astonished, “The potatoes are very good here.” Another disappointing man, I thought…’

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The Universal Baseball Association. Robert Coover.

Sometimes I wonder about the sweetly maudlin characters from older novels compared to the overtly disenchanted characters in more contemporary works of fiction.  This excerpt from ‘The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.” seems to typify the older approach to handling broken characters who seek something beyond the everyday structure of the norm. (and btw, Robert Coover’s novel is unlike any baseball novel you’ll ever read…as if Flann O’Brien wrote a novel about America’s pastime.)

“I’ll think I’ll go to church,” Hettie announced.

“Which one do you go to??” he asked, hardly caring.

“Don’t matter. First one I come to.” She sighed, spraying crumbs.

“Absolve your sins?” he asked, feeling a little contentious, but meaning no sarcasm.

“Sins? No, I ain’t got any feelings about that,” she said. “I just want a place where I can go and mope in company without bothering nobody.” She started glumly into her coffee at the brown reflection of herself. “Let’s face it, I’m getting old and ugly, Henry.”

“Listen, Hettie,” he said. He dug into the billfold, found another twenty. “Here. Go buy a new hat or something. Flowers on it.”

“Flowers are for Spring,” she argued.

“Well, old dry leaves then. Anything. A new girdle or some fancy drawers, I don’t care. I just want to see you happy.

She smiled, patted his hand gently. “Ain’t that easy,” she said. “But thanks, Henry. That’s nice.”

Novels…1st lines.

“Three o’clock in February. All the sky was blue and high. Banners and bunting and people bunched up between. Greetings and sadness.”

“I was lost, it was already dusk, I had been driving for hours and was practically out of petrol.”

“Some places are too evil to be allowed to exist.”

“Above all, the darkness of the river was what impressed Dr. Sanders as he looked out for the first time across the open mouth of the Matarre estuary.”

“Music school? Are you kidding? I learned to play the sax in Pontiac Reformatory.”

“When Frieda Schwartz heard from her Shmuel that he was (a) marrying a black girl, the blood soughed and staggered in all her conduits as she pictured the chiaroscuro of the white-satin chuppa and the shvartze’s skin; when he told her that he was (b) dropping out of school and would therefore never become a certified public accountant – ‘Riboyne Shel O’lem!’ – she let out a great geshrei and dropped dead of a racist/my-son-the-bum coronary.”

“There is no warning of daylight here.”

We Were Kings featured on Kirkus’ 20 Summer Crime Novels

Great article about this summer’s crime releases. Honored to have ‘We Were Kings’ listed alongside such great novels as Michael Harvey’s ‘Brighton’ and Megan Abbot’s ‘You Will Know Me’. Cheers to J. Kingston Pierce and Kirkus Reviews.

“Thomas O’Malley and Douglas Graham Purdy’s initial historical grabber, Serpent in the Cold (2015), somehow escaped my radar. The same won’t happen with its equally Boston-based sequel, We Were Kings. After the icy, desolate winter that back-dropped Serpent, we’re offered here the skin-peeling heat wave of 1954, when “currents of lightning sparked and raced” across the sky without inciting rain, and Scollay Square—a once-vibrant urban quarter, fallen on seedy times—was being razed in a racket to make room for today’s Government Center. Tipped off that a ship bearing contraband intended for Irish Republican Army partisans will land at the Charlestown docks, local police lock down the harbor, only to turn up an empty vessel and an unidentified body tarred and feathered, perhaps left behind as a warning to other prospective IRA “rats.” Homicide detective Owen Mackey, worried about Beantown turning into a conduit for Ireland-bound armaments, asks his widowed cousin, Cal O’Brien—a former cop, now heading a private security outfit—to infiltrate the Irish community, see what can be learned. O’Brien, in turn, recruits his ex-heroin addict friend, piano player Dante Cooper, and together they dig among the city’s clubs, funeral parlors, and underworld dives until they expose a terrorist scheme of no small import…”

Read the full article here.

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Serpents in the Cold – paperback out tomorrow (5.24)

SERPENTS IN THE COLD paperback comes out tomorrow, May 24th.

Noir meets historical crime fiction in a dark tale of redemption during the worst winter on record.

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Critics and authors praise SERPENTS IN THE COLD:

“Brutally realistic . . . The authors give us one last, lingering look at the good-bad old days.” Marilyn Stasio, New York Times

“This is a bone-crunching, gut-wrenching novel.” Kirkus Reviews

“Serpents in the Cold is a startling work of art, a beautifully rendered, atmospheric tale of crime and punishment set in mid-twentieth century Boston.” Reed Farrel Coleman, award-winning of Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot

“[The authors] have delivered a love-letter to a Boston that’s long gone.” Publishers Weekly

“Serpents in the Cold lovingly revisits the hardboiled noir.” Stewart O’Nan, author of West of Sunset

“Serpents in the Cold is a great addition to the canon of gritty Boston street fiction, a no-punches-pulled look at a bygone era.” Chuck Hogan, author of The Town

“Melancholy as a lonesome train whistle, beautifully written, as well as thrilling, Serpents In The Cold is a tight little gem of characterization and suspense.” Joe Lansdale, author of The Thicket

“Purdy and O’Malley resurrect the neighborhoods of 1950s Boston in faithful, brutal detail — and in language so lush and gorgeous that you’ll fall in love with reading it all over again.” Elisabeth Elo, author of North of Boston

Gravesend: Some Kind of Sad

‘Gravesend’ is a sad, downtrodden ballad to Brooklyn. No tongue-in-cheek subversive commentary about the new trendified and gentrified borough – that self-mocking shit can take a hike. This is hard life in earnest: stories of losers, chumps, and failures. The tales within come from a place where Hubert Selby and David Goodis inhabit – the no-exit school of storytelling – but Boyle makes the tragic template his own. ‘Gravesend’ is a deceptively simple novel that spits in your face, layers in a heartfelt desire of becoming somebody you’re not, whether abandoning your neighborhood in hopes of bigger and better things, or trying to make an old high school crush fall in love with you. But second chances don’t reach that far into the grid of Boyle’s Brooklyn, where certain corners, blocks and storefronts slightly change, but the characters stay the same – lives of stasis and carrying the same hand-me-down funk from one generation to the next.

And that in itself is what makes ‘Gravesend’ modern noir – the absence of full light, hope, chances of success. It’s noir wearing an oversized Yankees jersey, eating a $1 slice of corner-store pizza, one stop away from oblivion under the rusted rails of the El. And in the end, all it takes is one bad decision to lead to a lifetime of hurt.

A heartbreaking, top-shelf novel.

A Meaningful Life, L.J. Davis

There is no other novel like it.

A Meaningful Life is a seething assault on what it means to live in New York City, how a life of little substance gets absorbed into the great melting-pot mass and slowly loses its shape, its purpose, its meaning. This is urban existentialism and dread narrated with acidic reflection, brimming with metaphors that are ugly, mean-spirited, but downright hilarious in how they skewer the ruined psyche of the main character, Lowell Lake. How Davis manages to be so bleak and so damn funny at the same time is truly a marvel. He peoples his world with characters who are all unlikable. They come in and out of the narrative like demented caricatures, indifferent losers, miserable blowhards. Nobody likes living in the city yet nobody can escape.

Read this as a parody lined with razor wire, a biting commentary on gentrification, or a scalding critique of the WASP mindset, but also read it for the playful cruelty that Davis indulges his descriptions with. On every page, he’s like a cat playing with a crippled mouse. There is so much to love about this grotesque little book. Parts Bruno Schulz and Hubert Selby, Joseph Heller and Gilbert Sorrentino, this book will change the way you look at real estate and home renovation, as well as marriage and family. A major book about a minor apocalypse, this one goes to my top shelf.

Excerpts:

‘Not even the spectacle of his wife coming in the door at her usual time could rouse him from his torpor; his psyche was in limp tatters, like an old kleenex dredged up from the bottom of a purse.’

‘The little girl and an even smaller boy were seated rigidly side by side on an enormous, spavined, yellowish sofa that was much and questionably stained and which stank to high heaven with an odor that resembled a superhumanly protracted fart.’

‘He regarded the bag of shit that was about to fall on him with a kind of fatalism. He’d always known this was going to happen.’

‘The drunks next door never said a thing. Lowell had a bad moment the first time he had to pass them, but they just sat there and looked at him with a very total kind of indifference as if he were a traffic accident or a fly.’

A Writer’s Place – Harry Crews

This passage speaks to me, and it should speak to most writers.

‘When I awoke, I knew that this day was to be worse than the day that preceded it and that I could not hope to get down from where I was, until I was safely home with my books and my typewriter and all the crippled and ruined manuscripts lying about on the desk. I wanted to get back to the place where I had resisted so many things, and failed at so many things, back to the place where even when I succeeded I failed because it was never good enough.’

-Harry Crews, Climbing the Tower

 

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